The hansom cab lurched around the corner, throwing Pitt forward
almost onto his knees. Victor Narraway, his companion, swore. Pitt
regained his balance as they gathered speed towards Aldgate and
Whitechapel High Street. The horse's hooves struck hard on the
cobbles and ahead of them traffic was scattering out of the way.
Thank heaven this early there was little enough of it: a few
costermongers' carts with fruit and vegetables, a brewer's dray,
goods wagons, and one horse-drawn omnibus.
"Right!" Narraway shouted at the driver. "Commercial Road! It's
The driver obeyed without answering. It was fifteen minutes before
six on a summer morning and there were already laborers, hawkers,
tradesmen, and domestic servants about. Please heaven they would be
in Myrdle Street before six o'clock!
Pitt felt as if his heart were beating in his throat. The call had
come just over half an hour ago, but it felt like an eternity. The
telephone had woken him and he had gone racing downstairs in his
nightshirt. Narraway's voice had been crackly and breathless on the
other end. "I've sent a cab for you. Meet me on Cornhill, north
side, outside the Royal Exchange. Immediately. Anarchists are going
to bomb a house on Myrdle Street." Then he had hung up without
waiting for a reply, leaving Pitt to go back upstairs and tell
Charlotte before he scrambled into his clothes. She had run
downstairs and fetched him a glass of milk and a slice of bread,
but there had been no time for tea.
He had stood a cold, impatient five minutes on the pavement outside
the Royal Exchange until Narraway's cab arrived and slithered to a
halt. Then the driver's long whip snaked out and urged the horse
forward again even before Pitt had fallen into the other
Now they were charging towards Myrdle Street and he still had very
little idea what it was about, except that the information had come
from Narraway's own sources on the fringes of the seething East End
underworld --- the province of cracksmen, macers, screevers,
footpads, and the swarming thieves of every kind that preyed on the
"Why Myrdle Street?" he shouted. "Who are they?"
"Could be anyone," Narraway replied without taking his eyes off the
road. Special Branch had been created originally to deal with Irish
Fenians in London, but now they dealt with all threats to the
safety of the country. Just at the moment --- early summer 1893 ---
the danger at the front of most people's minds was anarchist
bombers. There had been several incidents in Paris, and London had
suffered half a dozen explosions of one degree or another.
Narraway had no idea whether this latest threat came from the
Irish, who were still pursuing Home Rule, or revolutionaries simply
desiring to overthrow the government, the throne, or law and order
They swung left around the corner up into Myrdle Street, across the
junction, and stopped. Just up ahead the police were busy waking
people up, hurrying them out of their homes and into the road.
There was no time to look for treasured possessions, not even to
grasp onto more than a coat or a shawl against the cool air of the
Pitt saw a constable of about twenty chivvying along an old woman.
Her white hair hung in thin wisps over her shoulders, her arthritic
feet bare on the cobbles. Suddenly he almost choked with fury
against whoever was doing this.
A small boy wandered across the street, blinking in bewilderment,
dragging a mongrel puppy on a length of string.
Narraway was out of the cab and striding towards the nearest
constable, Pitt on his heels. The constable swiveled around to tell
him to go back, his face flushed with anxiety and annoyance. "Yer
gotta get out o' the way, sir." He waved his arm. "Well back, sir.
There's a bomb in one o' . . ."
"I know!" Narraway said smartly. "I'm Victor Narraway, head of
Special Branch. This is my associate, Thomas Pitt. Do you know
where the bomb is?"
The constable stood half to attention, still holding his right hand
out to bar people from returning to their homes in the still,
almost breathless morning air. "No sir," he replied. "Not to be
exact. We reckon it's gotter be one o' them two over there." He
inclined his head towards the opposite side of the street. Narrow,
three-story houses huddled together, doors wide open, front steps
whitened by proud, hardworking women. A cat wandered out of one of
them, and a child shouted to it eagerly and it ran towards
"Is everyone out?" Narraway demanded.
"Yes, sir, far as we can tell --- "
The rest of his answer was cut off by a shattering explosion. It
came at first like a sharp crack, and then a roar and a tearing and
crumbling. A huge chunk of one of the houses lifted in the air then
blew apart. Rubble fell crashing into the street and over other
roofs, smashing slates and toppling chimneys. Dust and flames
filled the air. People were shouting hysterically. Someone was
The constable was shouting too, his mouth wide open, but his words
were lost in the noise. His body staggered oddly as if his legs
would not obey him. He lurched forward, waving his arms as people
stood rooted to the ground in horror.
Another blast roared somewhere inside the second house. The walls
shivered and seemed to subside upon themselves, bricks and plaster
falling outward. Then there was more flame, black smoke gushing
Suddenly people started to run. Children were sobbing, someone was
cursing loudly, and several dogs burst into frenzied barking. An
old man was swearing steadily at everything he could think of,
repeating himself over and over.
Narraway's face was white, his black eyes like holes in his head.
They had never expected to be able to prevent the bombs going off,
but it was still a searing defeat to see such wreckage strewn
across the road, and terrified and bewildered people stumbling
around. The flames were getting hold of the dry lath and timber and
beginning to spread.
A fire engine pulled up, its horses sweating, their eyes rolling.
Men leapt out and started to uncoil the big, canvas hoses, but it
was going to be a hopeless task.
Pitt felt a stunning sense of failure. Special Branch was for
preventing things like this. And now that it had happened there was
nothing comforting or purposeful he could do. He did not even know
if there would be a third bomb, or a fourth.
Another constable came sprinting along the street, arms waving
wildly, his helmet jammed crookedly on his head. "Other side!" he
shouted. "They're getting away on the other side!"
It was a moment before Pitt realized what he meant.
Narraway knew immediately. He twisted on his heel and started back
towards the hansom.
Pitt galvanized into action, catching up with Narraway just as he
swung up into the cab, barking at the driver to go back to Fordham
Street and turn east.
The man obeyed instantly, snaking the long carriage whip over the
horse's back and urging it forward. They went to the left, crossed
Essex Street barely hesitating, and glimpsed another hansom
disappearing north up New Road towards Whitechapel.
"After them!" Narraway shouted, ignoring the morning traffic of
delivery carts and drays, which swerved out of their way and jammed
There had been no time to ask who the bombers might be, but as they
slewed around the corner into Whitechapel Road, and past the London
Hospital, Pitt turned his mind to it. The anarchist threats so far
had been disorganized and no specific demands had been made. London
was the capital of an empire that stretched across almost every
continent on the earth, and the islands between, and it was also
the biggest port in the world. There was a constant influx of every
nationality under the sun --- recently in particular immigrants had
arrived from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, seeking to
escape the power of the tsar. Others from Spain and Italy, and
especially France, had more socialist aims in mind.
Beside him Narraway was craning forward, his lean body rigid. His
face turned first one way then the other as he sought to catch a
glimpse of the hansom ahead. Whitechapel had turned into Mile End
Road. They passed the huge block of Charrington's Brewery on the
"It makes no damn sense!" he said bitterly.
The cab ahead of them turned left up Peters Street. It had barely
straightened when it disappeared to the right into Willow Place and
then Long Spoon Lane. Pitt and Narraway's cab overshot and had to
turn and double back. By that time there were two more cabs
slithering to a halt with policemen piling out of them, and the
original cab had gone.
Long Spoon Lane was narrow and cobbled. Its gray tenement buildings
rose up sheer for three stories, grimy, stained with the smoke and
damp of generations. The air smelled of wet rot and old
Pitt glanced along both sides, east and west. Several doorways were
boarded up. A large woman stood blocking another, hands on her
hips, glaring at the disturbance to her routine. To the west one
door slammed, but when two constables charged with their shoulders
to it, it did not budge. They tried again and again with no
"It must be barricaded," Narraway said grimly. "Get back!" he
ordered the men.
Pitt felt a chill. Narraway must fear the anarchists were armed. It
was absurd. Less than two hours ago he had been lying in bed
half-asleep, Charlotte's hair a dark river across the pillow beside
him. The early sunlight had made a bright bar between the curtains,
and busy sparrows chattered in the trees outside. Now he stood
shivering as he stared up at the ugly wall of a tenement building
in which were hiding desperate young men who had bombed a whole row
There were a dozen police in the street now and Narraway had taken
over from the sergeant in charge of them. He was directing some to
the other alleys. Pitt saw with a cold misery that the most recent
to arrive were carrying guns. He realized there was no alternative.
It was a crime of rare and terrible violence. There could be no
quarter given to those who had committed it.
Now the street was oddly quiet. Narraway came back, his coat
flapping, his face pinched, mouth a tight, thin line. "Don't stand
there like a damn lamppost, Pitt. You're a gamekeeper's son, don't
tell me you don't know how to fire a gun! Here." He held up a
rifle, his knuckles white, and pushed it at Pitt.
It was on Pitt's tongue to say that gamekeepers didn't shoot at
people, when he realized it was not only irrelevant, it was untrue.
More than one poacher had suffered a bottom full of buckshot.
Reluctantly he took the gun, and then the ammunition.
He backed away to the far side. He smiled with a twist of irony,
finding himself standing behind the only lamppost. Narraway kept to
the shadow of the buildings opposite, walking rapidly along the
narrow shelf of footpath, speaking to the police where they were
taking as much cover as there was. Apart from his footsteps there
was no other sound. The horses and cabs had been moved away, out of
danger. Everyone who lived here had vanished inside.
The minutes dragged by. There was no movement oppo- site. Pitt
wondered if they were certain the anarchists were in there.
Automatically he looked up at the rooftops. They were steep,
pitched too sharply to get a foothold, and there were no dormers to
climb out of, no visible skylights.
Narraway was coming back. He saw Pitt's glance and a flash of humor
momentarily lit his face. "No, thank you," he said drily. "If I
send anyone up there, it won't be you. You'd trip over your own
coattails. And before you ask, yes, I've got men 'round the back
and at both ends." He took a careful position between Pitt and the
Narraway grunted. "I'm not waiting them out all day," he said
sourly. "I've sent Stamper for some old wagons, something solid
enough to take a few bullets. We'll tip them on their sides to give
us enough shelter, then we'll go in."
Pitt nodded, wishing he knew Narraway better. He did not yet trust
him as he had Micah Drummond, or John Cornwallis when he had been
an ordinary policeman in Bow Street. He had respected both men and
understood their duties. He had also been intensely aware of their
humanity, their vulnerabilities as well as their skills.
Pitt had never set out to join Special Branch. His own success
against the powerful secret society known as the Inner Circle had
contrived an apparent disgrace, which had cost him a position in
the Metropolitan Police. For his safety, and to provide him with
some kind of job, he had been found a place in Special Branch to
work for Victor Narraway. He had been superseded in Bow Street by
Wetron, who was himself a member of the Inner Circle, and now its
Pitt felt uncertain, too often wrong-footed. Special Branch, with
its secrets, its deviousness, and its half political motives,
required a set of skills he was only just beginning to learn. He
had too few parameters by which to judge Narraway.
But he was also aware that if he had gone on to further promotion
in Bow Street he would soon have lost his connection with the
reality of crime. His compassion for the pain of it would have
dimmed. Everything would have been at second hand, particularly his
power to influence.
His situation now was better, even standing outside in a chilly
lane with Narraway, waiting to storm an anarchist stronghold. The
moment of arrest was never easy or pleasant. Crime was always
Pitt realized he was hungry, but above all he would have loved a
hot cup of tea. His mouth was dry, and he was tired of standing in
one spot. Although it was a summer morning, it was still cold here
in the shadow. The stone pavement was damp from the night's dew. He
could smell the stale odor of wet wood and drains.
There was a rumble on the cobbles at the far end of the lane, and
an old cart turned in, pulled by a rough-coated horse. When it
reached the middle of the lane, the driver jumped down. He
unharnessed the animal and led it away at a trot. A moment later
another, similar cart appeared and was placed behind it. Both were
tipped on their sides.
"Right," Narraway said quietly, straightening up. His face was
grim. In the sharp, pale light, every tiny line in it was visible.
It seemed as if each passion he had experienced in his life had
written its mark on him, but the overwhelming impression he gave
was of unbreakable strength.
There were half a dozen police now along the length of the street.
Most of them seemed to have guns. There were others at the back of
the buildings, and at the ends of the lane.
Three men moved forward with a ram to force the door. Then an
upstairs window smashed, and everyone froze. An instant later there
was gunfire, bullets ricocheting off the walls at shoulder height
and above. Fortunately no one staggered or fell.
The police started to fire back. Two more windows broke.
In the distance a dog was barking furiously, and there was a dull
rumble of heavy traffic from Mile End Road, a street away.
The shooting started again.
Pitt was reluctant to join in. Even with all the crimes he had
investigated through his years in the police, he had never had to
fire a gun at a human being. The thought was a cold pain inside
Then Narraway sprinted over to where two men were crouching behind
the carts, and a bullet thudded into the wall just above Pitt's
head. Without stopping to think about it, he raised his gun and
fired back at the window from which it had come.
The men with the ram had reached the far side of the street and
were out of the line of fire. Every time a shadow moved behind the
remains of the glass in the windows, Pitt fired at it, reloading
quickly after. He hated shooting at people, yet he found his hands
were steady and there was a kind of exhilaration beating inside
Higher up the street there was more shooting.
Narraway looked over at Pitt, a warning in his eyes, then he strode
across the cobbles to the men with the ram. Another volley of shots
rang out from an upstairs window, cracking on the walls and
ricocheting, or thudding, embedded in the wood of the carts.
Pitt fired back, then changed the direction of his aim. It was a
different window, one from which nobody had fired before. He could
see the shattered glass now, bright in the reflected
There were shots from several places, the house, the street below
it, and at the far end of the lane. A policeman crumpled and
No one moved to help him.
Pitt fired upward again, one window then another, wherever he saw a
shadow move, or the flash of gunpowder.
Still no one went for the wounded man. Pitt realized no one could,
they were all too vulnerable.
A bullet hit the metal of the lamppost beside him with a sharp
clang, making his pulse leap and his breath catch in his throat. He
steadied his hand deliberately for the next shot back, and sent it
clear through the window. His aim was getting better. He left the
shelter of the lamppost and set off across the street towards the
constable on the ground. He had about seventy feet to go. Another
shot went past him and hit the wall. He tripped and half fell just
short of the man. There was blood on the stones. He crawled the
"It's all right," he said urgently. "I'll get you safe, then we can
have a look at you." He had no idea whether the constable could
hear him or not. His face was pasty white and his eyes were closed.
He looked about twenty. There was blood on his mouth.
There was no way Pitt could carry him because he dared not stand
up; he would make a perfect target. He might even be accidentally
hit by a ricocheting bullet from his own men, who were now firing
rapidly again. He bent and picked up the constable's shoulders, and
inching backwards awkwardly, pulled him over the cobbles, until at
last they were in the shelter of the carts.
"You'll be all right," he said again, more to himself than anyone
else. To his surprise the man's eyes flickered open and he gave a
weak smile. Pitt saw with heart-lurching relief that the blood on
his mouth was from a cut across his cheek. Quickly he examined him
as much as he could, to find at least where he was hit, and bind
it. He kept on talking quietly, to reassure them both.
He found the wound in the shoulder. It was bloody but not fatal.
Probably hitting his head on the cobbles as he fell had been what
had knocked him senseless. Without his helmet, it would have been
Pitt did what he could with a torn-off sleeve to make a pad and
press it onto the site of the bleeding. By the time he was finished
--- perhaps four or five minutes later --- others were there to
help. He left them to get the man out, and picked up his gun again.
Bending low, he ran over to the men with the ram just as the frame
splintered and the door crashed open against the wall.
Immediately inside was a narrow stairway. The men ran up ahead of
him, Narraway on their heels, Pitt right behind.
There was a shot from above them, raised voices and footsteps, then
more shots in the distance, probably at the back of the
He went up the stairs two at a time. On the third floor up he found
a wide room, probably having originally been two. Narraway was
standing in the hard light from the broken windows. At the far end,
the door to the stairs down towards the back was swinging open.
There were three police cradling guns, and two young men standing
still, almost frozen. One had long dark hair and wild eyes. Without
the blood and the swelling on his face he would have been handsome.
The other was thinner, almost emaciated, his hair red-gold. His
eyes were almost too pale greenish-blue. They both looked
frightened and trying to be defiant. Simply and violently two of
the police forced the manacles on them.
Narraway inclined his head towards the doorway where Pitt was
standing in a silent instruction to the police to take the
Pitt stepped aside to let them pass, then looked around the room.
It was unfurnished except for two chairs and a bundle of blankets
crumpled in a heap at the farther end. The windows were all broken
and the wall pockmarked with bullet holes. It was what he had
expected to see, except for the figure lying prone on the floor
with his head towards the center window. His thick, dark brown hair
was matted with blood and he did not move.
Pitt went over to him and knelt down. He was dead. There was even
more blood on the floor. A single shot had killed him. It had gone
in the back of his skull and emerged at the front, destroy- ing the
left side of his face. The right side suggested he had been
handsome in life. There was no expression left but the remnants of
Pitt had investigated many murders --- it was his profession ---
but few were as bloody as this. The only decent thing about this
death was that it must have been instant. Still, he felt his
stomach tighten and he swallowed to keep his gorge from rising.
Please God it was not one of his bullets that had done this.
Narraway spoke softly from just behind him. Pitt had not heard his
footsteps. "Try his pockets," he said. "Something might tell us who
Pitt moved the man's hand, which was in the way. It was slender and
well-shaped, with a signet ring on the third finger, expensive,
well-crafted, and almost certainly gold.
Pitt turned the ring experimentally. It came off with only a little
effort. He looked at it more closely. It was hallmarked on the
inside, and there was a family crest on it.
Narraway held out his hand, palm up. Pitt gave it to him, then bent
to the body again and started to look through the pockets of the
jacket. He found a handkerchief, a few coins, and a note addressed
Dear Magnus. Most of the rest of the paper was missing, as if it
had been used for a further message.
"Dear Magnus," Pitt said aloud.
Narraway was looking at the ring, his lips pursed. In the hard
morning light his face was troubled and weary. "Landsborough," he
said as if in answer.
Pitt was startled. "Do you know him?"
Narraway did not meet his eyes. "Seen him a couple of times. He was
Lord Landsborough's son --- only son." His expression was
unreadable. Pitt did not know whether the heaviness in it was
sorrow, anxiety for trouble to come, or simply distaste for having
to break such news to the family.
"Could he have been a hostage?" Pitt asked.
"Possibly," Narraway conceded. "One thing for certain, I don't know
how he could have been shot through the window, in the back of his
head, and fallen like that."
"He wasn't moved," Pitt said with certainty. "If he had been,
there'd be blood all over the place. A wound like . . ."
"I can see that for myself!" Narraway's voice was suddenly thick,
emotion crowding through it. It could have been pity, or even sheer
physical revulsion. "Of course he wasn't moved. Why the hell would
they move him? He was shot from inside the room, that's obvious.
The question is why, and by whom? Maybe you're right, and he was a
"God Almighty, what a mess! Well, get up off the floor, man! The
surgeon will come and get him, and we'll see if he can tell us
anything. We must question these two before the police muddy
everything up. I hate using them but I have no choice. That's the
law!" He swung around and strode to the door. "Well, come on! Let's
see what they have at the back!"
Downstairs the sergeant on duty was defiant, as if Narraway accused
him of having let the murderer past.
"We didn't see 'im, sir. Your man came down the stairs, yellin'
after 'im, but 'e din't go past us! You must 'ave still got 'im
"Which man of mine?" Narraway demanded.
" 'Ow could we know, sir?" the sergeant asked. " 'E just came
runnin' down the stairs shoutin' at us ter stop 'im, but there
weren't no one ter stop!"
"We found two anarchists alive and one dead," Narraway said grimly.
"There were four men in that room, maybe five. That means at least
one got away."
The sergeant's face set hard, his blue eyes like stone.
"If you say so, sir. But 'e din't come past us. Maybe 'e doubled
back on the ground floor and went out the front, while you was
upstairs, sir?" It was said with an insolent edge. Some police did
not like being seconded to do Special Branch's arrest work, but
since Special Branch had no power to do it themselves, there was no
"Or went out and straight back into one of the other buildings?"
Pitt suggested quickly. "We'd better search them all."
"Do it," Narraway said curtly. "And look everywhere, in every room,
in beds, if there are any, cupboards, under rubbish or old clothes,
if there are lofts, even if it's only space enough to crawl. And up
the chimneys, such as they are." He turned and strode along the
length of the alley, staring up at the other houses, at the
rooftops and at every door. Pitt followed on his heels.
Fifteen minutes later they were back at the front door on Long
Spoon Lane. The full daylight was cold and gray and there was a
sharp edge to the wind down the alley. No anarchist had been found
hiding anywhere. No policeman from the front admitted to having
seen anyone or chased them inside the building, and no one had
emerged at the front. The sergeant at the back did not change his
story by so much as a word.
White-faced and furious, Narraway was forced to accept that whoever
else had been in the house where Magnus Landsborough lay dead, he,
or they, had escaped.
"Nothing!" the young man with the dark hair replied with contempt.
He was in the cell at the police station, sitting on a
straight-backed wooden chair, his hands still manacled. The only
light came from one small, high window in the outer wall. He had
said his name was Welling, but he would give no more. Both Pitt and
Narraway had tried to glean from him any information about his
colleagues, their aims or allies, where they had obtained the
dynamite or the money to purchase it.
The man with the fair skin and red-gold hair had given his name as
Carmody, but he too refused to say anything of his fellows. He was
in a separate cell; for the moment, alone.
Narraway leaned back against the whitewashed stone wall, his face
creased with tiredness.
"No point in asking anymore." His voice was flat, as if accepting
defeat. "They'll go to the grave without telling us what it's all
about. Either they don't know the point of it, or there isn't one.
It's just mindless violence for the sake of it."
"I know!" Welling said between his teeth.
Narraway looked at him, affecting only the slightest interest.
"Really? You will go to your grave, and I shall not know," he
continued. "That's unusual for an anarchist. Most of you are
fighting for something, and a grand gesture like being hanged is
rather pointless if no one knows why you go to it like a cow to the
Welling froze, his eyes wide, his lean chest barely rising or
falling with his breath. "You can't hang me. No one was killed. One
constable was hit, and you can't prove that was me, because it
"Wasn't it?" Narraway said casually, as if he neither knew nor
cared if it were true.
"You bastard!" Welling spat with stinging contempt. Suddenly his
pretense of calm was gone, and the anger exploded through him. His
face was slicked with sweat, his eyes widened. "You're just like
the police --- corrupt to the bone!" His voice shook. "No, it
wasn't me! But you don't care, do you! Just so long as you have
someone to blame, and anyone will do!"
For a moment Pitt was merely aware that Narraway had provoked
Welling into response, then he realized what Welling had said about
the police. It was not the accusation that stung, but the passion
in his voice. He believed what he was saying, enough to face them
with it, even now when it could cost him the last hope of
"There's a lot of difference between incompetence and corruption,"
Pitt said. "Of course there's the odd bad policeman, just as there
is the odd bad doctor, or . . ." He stopped. The scorn in Welling's
face was so violent it distorted his features grotesquely, like a
white mask under his black hair.
Narraway did not interrupt. He watched Pitt, then Welling, waiting
for the next one to speak.
Pitt breathed in and out slowly. The silence prickled.
"Don't tell me you care!" Welling made it a stinging
"Neither do you, apparently," Pitt replied, forcing himself to
smile. That was not easy. He had been a policeman all his adult
life. He had devoted his time and energy, working long days,
enduring emotional exhaustion to seek justice, or at least some
resolution of tragedy and crime. To place a slur on both the
honesty and the ideals of the men he worked with robbed from him
the meaning of a quarter of a century of his past, and his belief
in the force that defended the future. Without police of integrity
there was no justice but vengeance, and no protection but the
violence of the powerful. That truly was anarchy. And this smug
young man in front of him would lose as much as anyone. He could
survive to plant his bombs only because the rest of society obeyed
Pitt let his own contempt fill his voice when he answered. "If the
police were largely corrupt, you wouldn't be sitting here being
questioned," he said gratingly. "We'd simply have shot you. It
would be easy enough to make an excuse afterward. Any story would
do!" He heard how harsh and on the edge of control he sounded. "You
sit here to face trial precisely because we keep the law you break.
It is you who are a hypocrite, and corrupt. You not only lie to us,
you lie to yourself!"
Welling's anger blazed. "Of course you could shoot us!" he said,
leaning forward. "And you probably will! Just like you shot
Pitt stared at him, and realized with rising horror that Welling
really was afraid. His words were not bravado; he believed them. He
thought he was going to be murdered here.
Pitt turned to Narraway, who addressed the prisoner. "Magnus
Landsborough was shot from behind," he said carefully. "He fell
forward, with his head towards the window."
"He wasn't shot from outside," Welling responded. "It was one of
your people coming up from the back. As I said, as corrupt as hell
"You've proved nothing," Pitt countered. "And it's only just
happened, so it could hardly be motive for bombing Myrdle Street.
Why Myrdle Street, anyway? What did those people ever do to you? Or
doesn't it matter who it is?"
"Of course I don't have proof of corruption," Welling said
bitterly, straightening his body again. "You'll cover it up, just
like you do all the rest. And you know why Myrdle Street."
"All the rest of what?" Narraway asked him. He was standing
elegantly, leaning against the wall, his thin body tense. He was
not a big man. He was shorter than Pitt and much lighter, but there
was a wiry strength in him.
Welling considered before he replied. He seemed to be weighing the
risks against the values of talking. When he finally did, he still
gave the impression of being in the grasp of anger rather than
"Depends where you are and who you are," he said. "What crimes you
get caught for, and what gets overlooked --- if you put a little
money the right way." He looked from one to the other of them. "If
you run a string of thieves, give a proportion of your take to the
local police station and no one'll bother you. Have a shop or a
business in certain places and you won't get robbed. Have it
somewhere else and you will." His eyes were hot and angry, his body
It was a massive charge he was making, hideous in its
"Who told you all this?" Narraway inquired.
"Told me?" Welling snapped back. "The poor devils who are paying,
of course. But I didn't expect you to believe me. You've a vested
interest in pretending not to. Ask around Smithfield, the
Clerkenwell Road, and south to Newgate or Holborn. There are scores
of alleys and back streets full of people who'd tell you the same.
I'll not give you their names, or next thing they'll have to pay
twice as much, or have the police all of a sudden find stolen goods
in their houses."
Narraway's face reflected open disbelief. Pitt did not know if it
was real, or a mask put on precisely to provoke Welling to continue
"Go ask Birdie Waters up the Mile End Road!" Welling charged. "But
he's in the Coldbath Prison right now. Doing time for receiving,
except he didn't even know he had the things. Silver, from a
robbery in Belgravia." His voice hurt with rage. "Birdie's never
been to Belgravia in his life."
"Are you saying the police put it there?" Pitt interrupted whatever
Narraway had been going to say.