Read The Incendiary's Trail Online

Authors: James McCreet

The Incendiary's Trail (41 page)

Returning home late one night a few days after his meeting with Mr Williamson, the inspector ate a light meal and drank a gin and hot water, as was his habit. He performed his toilet, changed
into his night shirt, extinguished the gas and got into bed.

As soon as his head touched the pillow, he felt the object beneath. Sitting up with a jerk, he stepped out of bed and fumbled to light the gas lamp. Then he took a pair of brass tongs from the
hearth and lifted the corner of the pillow as if a deadly serpent lurked there beneath.

The object was a dagger. Noah Dyson’s dagger: the one that the inspector had confiscated all those weeks ago and later been obliged to return. The same one that Noah had held at Vauxhall
Gardens and in the balloon.

Mr Newsome looked phrenziedly around him, expecting to see the man emerging from the shadows intent on bloody retribution. But there was only silence. He moved to the window and pulled the
curtains aside to look into the street, but saw nothing. He looked inside the wardrobe and under the bed and even in the bathroom before realizing he was overreacting. Noah was not in the

Back in the bedroom he lifted the pillow completely and saw that there was also a note. He unfolded it with trembling fingers:

Inspector Newsome

You cannot change addresses as I can. Nor can you hide. Your pursuit of me will end immediately and I will suffer no further attention from the Metropolitan Police for
as long as you live.

I wish you a long and healthy life.

Sincerely yours.

Noah Dyson

And thus the story concludes with Mr Hawkins’s hanging before the gates of Newgate. The patterers made more money on that day than ever before, hawking their tales and
verses of Bully Bradford, Lucius Boyle and the third in that infamous trinity of murderers. And even today, the characters in that bloody parable stir memories of the two-headed girl, the woman of
pleasure, the notorious murder of Mr Coggins, the death of a giant, the slaying of a priest. By and by, even the details of Mr Askern’s death emerged to further embellish the tortuous tale,
which in some circles took on supernatural interpretations.

Was Lucius Boyle
dead? they mused. He could not be killed, they said. He was still among them: wherever a face was covered, wherever unease rippled through a crowd, wherever flames
crackled and smoke rose – he was there.

Nonsense, of course. I have presented it all here as it truly happened. I may have taken the occasional liberty and embroidered the tale a little more than others who have sought to document it.
But what is a writer without a little fancy in his pen? What is the city – or the man – that can be seen only at its surface? My ink flows within it, above it, below it. I, the writer,
am its beginning, its middle and its end.



Thanks to the following, without whose help . . .

My parents, for waiting

Monika Wolny, for reading

Jennifer White – card holder

Jill Carey, for reading

Barry Nicholls, for nurturing

Will Atkins, for the chance

Martin Bryant – unsung hero

EAP – Lord help your poor soul


James McCreet was born in Sheffield. He taught English abroad for several years before returning to the UK, where he now works as a copywriter.


For my wife Moniczka

Kocham cie


First published 2009 by Macmillan New Writing

This edition published 2010 by Pan Books

This electronic edition published 2010 by Pan Books
an imprint of Pan Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited
Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world

ISBN 978-0-230-75557-4 PDF
ISBN 978-0-230-75553-6 EPUB

Copyright © James McCreet 2009

The right of James McCreet to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital,
optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be
liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

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