Treason at Lisson Grove (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt)

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9781455855919: Treason at Lisson Grove (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt)
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The man who lies bleeding to death in a London brickyard is no ordinary drifter but a secret informant prepared to divulge details of a potentially devastating international plot against the British government. Special Branch officer Thomas Pitt, hastening to rendezvous with him, arrives a second too late, preceded by a knife-wielding assassin. As the mortally wounded man’s life slips away, so too does the information Pitt desperately needs. The killer in turn flees on an erratic course that leads Pitt in wild pursuit, from London’s cobblestone streets to picturesque St. Malo on the French coast. Meanwhile, Pitt’s supervisor, the formidable Victor Narraway, finds himself accused of embezzling government funds. With Pitt incommunicado in France, Narraway turns to Pitt’s clever wife, Charlotte, for help. The man who badmouthed Narraway and ruined his career with innuendo can be found in Ireland — so Charlotte agrees to pose as Narraway’s sister and accompany him to Dublin to investigate. But unknown to Pitt and Narraway, a shadowy plotter is setting a trap that, once sprung, could destroy not just reputations but the British empire itself.

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About the Author:

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Buckingham Palace Gardens and Long Spoon Lane, and the William Monk novels, including Execution Dock and Dark Assassin. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as seven holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Odyssey, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Scotland.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

C H A P T E R

1
“Tha t’s him!” Gower yelled above the sound of the traffic. Pitt turned on his heel just in time to see a figure dart between the rear end of a hansom and the oncoming horses of a brewer’s dray. Gower disappeared after him, missing a trampling by no more than inches.

Pitt plunged into the street, swerving to avoid a brougham and stopping abruptly to let another hansom pass. By the time he reached the far pavement Gower was twenty yards ahead and Pitt could make out only his flying hair. The man he was pursuing was out of sight. Weaving between clerks in pinstripes, leisurely strollers, and the occasional early woman shopper with her long skirts getting in the way, Pitt closed the gap until he was less than a dozen yards behind Gower. He caught a glimpse of the man ahead: bright ginger hair and a green jacket. Then he was gone, and Gower turned, his right hand raised for a moment in signal, before disappearing into an alley.

Pitt followed after him into the shadows, his eyes taking a moment or two to adjust. The alley was long and narrow, bending in a dogleg a hundred yards beyond. The gloom was caused by the overhanging eaves and the water-soaked darkness of the brick, long streams of grime running down from the broken guttering. People were huddled in doorways; others made their way slowly, limping, or staggering beneath heavy bolts of cloth, barrels, and bulging sacks.

Gower was still ahead, seeming to find his way with ease. Pitt veered around a fat woman with a tray of matches to sell, and tried to catch up. Gower was at least ten years younger, even if his legs were not quite so long, and he was more used to this kind of thing. But it was Pitt’s experience in the Metropolitan Police before he joined Special Branch that had led them to finding West, the man they were now chasing.

Pitt bumped into an old woman and apologized before regaining his stride. They were around the dogleg now, and he could see West’s ginger head making for the opening into the wide thoroughfare forty yards away. Pitt knew that they must catch him before he was swallowed up in the crowds.

Gower was almost there. He reached out an arm to grab at West, but just then West ducked sideways and Gower tripped, hurtling into the wall and momentarily winding himself. He bent over double, gasping to catch his breath.

Pitt lengthened his stride and reached West just as he dived out into the High Street, barged his way through a knot of people, and disappeared.

Pitt went after him and a moment later saw the light on his bright hair almost at the next crossroads. He increased his pace, bumping and banging people. He had to catch him. West had information that could be vital. After all, the tide of unrest was rising fast all over Europe, and becoming more violent. Many people, in the name of re- form, were actually trying to overthrow government altogether and create an anarchy in which they imagined there would be some kind of equality of justice. Some were content with blood-soaked oratory; others preferred dynamite, or even bullets.

Special Branch knew of a current plot, but not yet the leaders be- hind it, or—more urgently—the target of their violence. West was to provide that, at risk of his own life—if his betrayal were known.

Where the devil was Gower? Pitt swiveled around once to see if he could spot him. He was nowhere visible in the sea of bobbing heads, bowler hats, caps, and bonnets. There was no time to look longer. Surely he wasn’t still in the alley? What was wrong with the man? He was not much more than thirty. Had he been more than just knocked off balance? Was he injured?

West was up ahead, seizing a break in the traffic to cross back to the other side again. Three hansoms came past almost nose-to-tail. A cart and four clattered in the opposite direction. Pitt fumed on the edge of the curb. To go out into the roadway now would only get him killed.

A horse-drawn omnibus passed, then two heavily loaded wagons. More carts and a dray went in the other direction. Pitt had lost sight of West, and Gower had vanished into the air.

There was a brief holdup in traffic and Pitt raced across the road. Weaving in and out of the way of frustrated drivers, he only just missed being caught by a long, curling carriage whip. Someone yelled at him and he took no notice. He reached the opposite side and caught sight of West for an instant as he swung around a corner and made for another alley.

Pitt raced after him, but when he got there West had disappeared. “Did you see a man with ginger hair?” Pitt demanded of a peddler

with a tray of sandwiches. “Where did he go?”

“Want a sandwich?” the man asked with eyes wide. “Very good. Made this morning. Only tuppence.”

Pitt fished frantically in his pocket; found string, sealing wax, a pocketknife, a handkerchief, and several coins. He gave the man a threepenny bit and took a sandwich. It felt soft and fresh, although right now he didn’t care. “Which way?” he said harshly.

“That way.” The man pointed into the deeper shadows of the alley.

Pitt began to run again, weaving a path through the piles of rubbish. A rat skittered from under his feet, and he all but fell over a drunken figure lying half out of a doorway. Somebody swung a punch at him; he lurched to one side, losing his balance for a moment, glimpsing West still ahead of him. Now West disappeared again and Pitt had no idea which way he had gone. He tried one blind courtyard and alley after another. It seemed like endless, wasted moments before Gower joined him from one of the side alleyways.

“Pitt!” Gower clutched at his arm. “This way! Quickly.” His fingers dug deep into Pitt’s flesh, making him gasp with the sudden pain.

Together they ran forward, Pitt along the broken pavement be- side the dark walls, Gower in the gutter, his boots sending up a spray of filthy water. Pace for pace, they went around the corner into the open entrance to a brickyard and saw a man crouching over some- thing on the ground.

Gower let out a cry of fury and darted forward, half crossing in front of Pitt and tripping him up in his eagerness. They both fell heavily. Pitt was on his feet in time to see the crouched figure swing around for an instant, then scramble up and run as if for his life.

“Oh God!” Gower said, aghast, now also on his feet. “After him! I know who it is!”

Pitt stared at the heap on the ground: West’s green jacket and bright hair. Blood streamed from his throat, staining his chest and al- ready pooling dark on the stones underneath him. There was no way he could possibly be alive.

Gower was already pursuing the assassin. Pitt raced after him and this time his long strides caught up before they reached the road. “Who is it?” he demanded, almost choking on his own breath.

“Wrexham!” Gower hissed back. “We’ve been watching him for weeks.”

Pitt knew the man, but only by name. There was a momentary break in the stream of vehicles. They darted across the road to go after Wrexham, who thank heaven was an easy figure to see. He was taller than average, and—despite the good weather—he was wearing a long, pale-colored scarf that swung in the air as he twisted and turned. It flashed through Pitt’s mind that it might be a weapon; it would not be hard to strangle a man with it.

They were on a crowded footpath now, and Wrexham dropped his pace. He almost sauntered, walking easily, swiftly, with loping strides, but perfectly casual. Could he be arrogant enough to imagine he had lost them so quickly? He certainly knew they had seen him, because he had swiveled around at Gower’s cry, and then run as if for his life.

They were now walking at a steady pace, eastward toward Stepney and Limehouse. Soon the crowds would thin as they left the broader streets behind.

“If he goes into an alley, be careful,” Pitt warned, now beside Gower, as if they were two tradesmen bound on a common errand. “He has a knife. He’s too comfortable. He must know we’re behind him.”

Gower glanced at him sideways, his eyes wide for an instant. “You think he’ll try and pick us off?”

“We practically saw him cut West’s throat,” Pitt replied, matching Gower stride for stride. “If we get him he’ll hang. He must know that.”

“I reckon he’ll duck and hide suddenly, when he thinks we’re taking it easy,” Gower answered. “We’d better stay fairly close to him. Lose sight of him for a moment and he’ll be gone for good.”

Pitt agreed with a nod, and they closed the distance to Wrexham, who was still strolling ahead of them. Never once did he turn or look back.

Pitt found it chilling that a man could slit another’s throat and see him bleed to death, then a few moments after walk through a crowd with outward unconcern, as if he were just one more pedestrian about some trivial daily business. What passion or inhumanity drove him? In the way he moved, the fluidity—almost grace—of his stride, Pitt could not detect even fear, let alone the conscience of a brutal murderer.

Wrexham wove in and out of the thinning crowd. Twice they lost sight of him.

“That way!” Gower gasped, waving his right hand. “I’ll go left.” He swerved around a window cleaner with a bucket of water, almost knocking the man over.

Pitt went the other way, into the north end of an alley. The sudden shadows momentarily made him blink, half blind. He saw movement and charged forward, but it was only a beggar shuffling out of a doorway. He swore under his breath and sprinted back to the street just in time to see Gower swiveling around frantically, searching for him.

“That way!” Gower called urgently and set off, leaving Pitt behind.

The second time it was Pitt who saw him first, and Gower who had to catch up. Wrexham had crossed the road just in front of a brewer’s dray and was out of sight by the time Pitt and Gower were able to follow. It took them more than ten minutes to close on him without drawing attention. There were fewer people about, and two men running would have been highly noticeable. With fifty yards’ distance between them, Wrexham could have outrun them too easily.

They were in Commercial Road East, now, in Stepney. If Wrexham did not turn they would be in Limehouse, perhaps the West India Dock Road. If they went that far they could lose him among the tangle of wharves with cranes, bales of goods, warehouses, and dock laborers. If he went down to one of the ferries he could be out of sight between the ships at anchor before they could find another ferry to follow him.

Ahead of them, as if he had seen them, Wrexham increased his pace, his long legs striding out, his jacket scarf flying.

Pitt felt a flicker of nervousness. His muscles were aching, his feet sore despite his excellent boots—his one concession to sartorial taste. Even well-cut jackets never looked right on him because he weighted the pockets with too many pieces of rubbish he thought he might need. His ties never managed to stay straight; perhaps he knotted them too tightly, or too loosely. But his boots were beautiful and immaculately cared for. Even though most of his work was of the mind, out-thinking, out-guessing, remembering, and seeing significance where others didn’t, he still knew the importance of a policeman’s feet. Some habits do not die. Before he had been forced out of the Metropolitan Police and Victor Narraway had taken him into Special Branch, he had walked enough miles to know the price of inattention to physical stamina, and to boots.

Suddenly Wrexham ran across the narrow road and disappeared down Gun Lane.
"He's going for the Limwhouse Station!" Gower shouted, leaping out of the way of a cart full of timber as he dashed after him.

Pitt was on his heels. The Limehouse Station was on the Black- wall Railway, less than a hundred yards away. Wrexham could go in at least three possible directions from there and end up anywhere in the city.

But Wrexham kept moving, rapidly, right, past the way back up to the station. Instead, he turned left onto Three Colts Street, then swerved right onto Ropemaker’s Field, still loping in an easy run.

Pitt was too breathless to shout, and anyway Wrexham was no more than fifteen yards ahead. The few men and one old washer- woman on the path scattered as the three running men passed them. Wrexham was going to the river, as Pitt had feared.

At the end of Ropemaker’s Field they turned right again into Nar- row Street, still running. They were only yards from the river’s edge. The breeze was stiff off the water, smelling of salt and mud where the tide was low. Half a dozen gulls soared lazily in circles above a string of barges.

Wrexham was still ahead of them, moving less easily now, tiring. He passed the entrance to Limehouse Cut. Pitt figured that he must be making for Kidney Stairs, the stone steps down to the river, where, if they were lucky, he would find a ferry waiting. There were two more sets of stairs before the road curved twenty yards inland to Broad Street. At the Shadwell Docks there were more stairs again. He could lose his pursuers on any of them.

Gower gestured toward the river. “Steps!” he shouted, bending a moment and gasping to catch his breath. He gestured with a wild swing of his arm. Then he straightened up and began running again, a couple of strides ahead of Pitt.

Pitt could see a ferry coming toward the shore, the boatman pulling easily at the oars. He would get to the steps a moment or two after Wrexham—in fact Pitt and Gower would corner him nicely. Perhaps they could get the ferry to take them up to the Pool of London. He ached to sit down even for that short while.

Wrexham reached the steps and ran down them, disappearing as if he had slipped into a hole. Pitt felt an upsurge of victory. The ferry was still twenty yards from the spot where the steps would meet the water.

Gower let out a yell of triumph, waving his hand high.

They reached the top of the steps just as the ferry pulled away, Wrexham sitting in the stern. They were close enough to see the smile on his face as he half swiveled on the seat to gaze at them. Then he faced forward, speaking to the ferryman and pointing to the farther shore.

Pitt raced down the steps. His feet slithered on the wet stones. He waved his arms at the other ferry, the one they had seen. “Here! Hurry!” he shouted.

Gower shouted also, his voice high and desperate.

The ferryman increased his speed, throwing his full weight be- hind his oars, and in a matter of seconds had swung around next to the pier.

“Get in, gents,” he said cheerfully. “Where to?”

“After that boat there,” Gower gasped, choking on his own breath and pointing to the other ferry. “An extra half crown in it for you if you catch up with him before he gets up Horseferry Stairs.”

Pitt landed in the boat behind him and immediately sat down so they could get under way. “He’s not going to Horseferry,” he pointed out. “He’s going straight across. Look!”

“Lavender Dock?” Gower scowled, sitting in the seat beside Pitt. “What the hell for?”

“Shortest way across,” Pitt replied. “Get up to Rotherhithe Street and away.”

“Where to?”

“Nearest train station, probably. Or he might double back. Best place to get lost is among other people.”

They were pulling well away from the dock now and slowly catching up with the other ferry.

There were fewer ships moored here, and they could make their way almost straight across. A string of barges was still fifty yards down- stream, moving slowly against t...

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Perry, Anne
Published by Brilliance Audio (2012)
ISBN 10: 145585591X ISBN 13: 9781455855919
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