‘Sugar, my dear?’
A quick nod and Mrs Fitz plinks a lump of Demerara from eagle-claw tongs into the steaming mix of gin and water and swirls the liquid around the glass. Juniper vapours suffuse the dank air as a mittened hand clutches the tumbler.
‘We got troubles Mrs Fitz.’ the man growls in between loud slurps of the toddy.
She flicks her gaze up and down the bar, checking the custom. Just regulars, so no-one likely to run to the peelers.
‘What kind of troubles Mr Casey?’ she whispers.
Casey flicks aside the woollen comforter keeping the winter chill from his throat and reaches inside his shabby, black greatcoat. He extracts a newspaper and crackles it flat onto the wooden counter. A grimy thumb underscores the report in question. Mrs Fitz squints at the page. She can make out that it is The Examiner, and today’s edition – January 6th- but where his jagged, tobacco-stained nail creases the paper all she can make out are the words ‘Confederacy of the Police and Thieves’. A twinge of unease pulls at her guts. She flaps her hands in front of her face, though in truth it is so cold inside the Luke’s Head her breath is misting in the night air.
‘Now then Mr Casey, you knows I ain’t no good with reading them fiddly letters. You just give me the particulars.’
He leans forward so far his stubbled chin is in danger of scraping against her earlobe.
‘Charlie King, our bent copper, he’s been nabbed. That little runt Johnny Reeves squealed when they had him in the Westminster Bridewell.’ he leans back to let the news sink in, and grasps the rough stoneware jug from the bar and sloshes another gin into his glass.
Mrs Fitz’s eyes widen and her thoughts fly to the pile of silk and leather purses sitting on her bedstool; the haul from Boxing Day by the Serpentine when King had stood watch as Mr Casey’s boys did their dipping. Evidence enough to see them both transported to the Colonies. Twelfth Night or not, there is work needs doing.
[alert_standard] [one_fifth_first] This short piece is based on a true story. You can see the original report on the bottom right of this page from The Examiner on Twelfth Night 1855.The gruesome double murder in Warren Street is also fascinating.[/alert_standard]