invited Sir Henry and William Gregson to the meeting. Perhaps he might hand over to Gregson to explain where the government stood from a legal standpoint? Gregson ran through some preliminary details and stated that so long as any authority with a mandate relating to policing functioned under the guidance of a sitting magistrate appointed under the terms of the 1792 Middlesex Justices Act, it had the full sanction of the law.

Fox sank back into his chair, folded his arms and said nothing. Pyke made a guess that the ‘sitting magistrate’ selected by Peel and Gregson would be Brownlow Vines.

Behind them, Pyke could still feel the intimidating presence of the anonymous heavy-set man.

‘Now that’s been taken care of,’ Peel said, moving swiftly on, ‘and since all of us here share some kind of interest in these terrible murders, perhaps we can direct our attention to possible avenues of enquiry, so that Charles can properly proceed with the investigation.’ He looked across at Hardwick and said, ‘I believe Mr Hardwick here has some ideas he’d like to share with us.’

Whereas Peel had delivered his address from the comfort of his chair, Hardwick rose to his feet and turned to face the group, as though about to give a lecture. He was a weedy man, a bookish type who looked as though he had been bullied at school and had never recovered from the experience. In Pyke’s view, although this type might be successful in their adult life, they always remembered their humiliation at the hands of others and, as a result, set out to wield their intellect like a weapon. His hair had been oiled and slicked back and his face, even without powder, was so wan that he seemed almost transparent. It took him five minutes to outline his own credentials.

Pyke yawned loudly and did not bother to cover his mouth.

‘In recent years,’ Hardwick explained, ‘psychiatrists and criminologists have begun to devote their attention to a seemingly new phenomenon: examples of extreme violence usually enacted within domestic settings and displaying cruel and unusual properties that do not have a clear-cut explanation. We have called such a condition “homicidal monomania”. Let me give you an example. A man, let’s call him Edwards, without any record of violence or history of insanity, attacks a young child with a hammer for no ostensible reason. Why? Is this a passing outburst or a permanent state? And are both of these states mutually exclusive? At present the intervention of psychiatry into the realm of the law is only partial and questions such as these can only be answered provisionally, but having briefly looked over the details of this particular case, I believe it to be another example of homicidal monomania. As such, I would suggest that we are looking for a deeply disturbed man, not necessarily with a history of insanity in his family but one who displays, I am afraid to say, a pathology of the monstrous.’

Hardwick looked at his audience, expectant and pleased with himself.

Without raising his hand, Pyke said, ‘I’d imagine that - how did you put it - “the intervention of psychiatry into the law” will be personally beneficial to you. It’ll give you patients and, of course, status.’

Hardwick frowned, as though he had not understood the question. ‘I’m sorry? You are . . . ?’

‘I mean, I can see how you might personally benefit from inventing a condition such as - how did you phrase it? - “homicidal monomania”. You say something exists, so it exists.

And because it exists, it needs to be treated. And who can treat it but you? It’s like finding or, in your case, inventing a disease that only you have the power to cure. I’m impressed by the effrontery of the scheme, if not by its scientific foundations.’

The murmurs around the room were, he suspected, of consternation at his impudence, and Pyke wondered whether he had overplayed his hand.

‘And what do you know of science, Mr . . . ?’ Hardwick’s face was as black as thunder.

‘Pyke will do.’

‘What I am alluding to, and what a lesser mind such as your own might not have grasped, is that such ideas inevitably have much wider applications, Mr Pyke. At the heart of modern psychiatry and criminology is a belief that we have the power to treat and transform human behaviour. I’m sure if you had seen the fine work being undertaken by Philippe Pinel in France and Samuel Tuke in York in bringing to bear a moral regime on deviant behaviour, then you would not be so dismissive of the role psychiatry can play in bringing order to our world.’ Peel nodded his head and Hardwick smiled.

‘I have no personal experience of those places, but as is the case with all institutions, I’d wager that they are as oppressive in their own right as Newgate itself.’

That drew a thin smile from Hardwick. ‘Except that the condemned man in Newgate prison would tear you apart, given half a chance, while those under Tuke’s supervision would happily go on about their business. In whose company would you prefer to spend some time?’

‘And let’s say you were in physical danger from an invading army or were being bullied by someone stronger than yourself.’ Pyke stared at Hardwick and smiled. ‘Who would you turn to for help? A smiling lunatic or violent outlaw?’

‘Good God, man, criminals of any denomination should not be lauded as heroes. They are but children who lack the necessary self-discipline to control their excessive passion.’

‘Unlike you, Mr Hardwick, I grew up around such people and there is nothing childish or ill-disciplined about most of them. They are just poor, desperate people doing what has to be done in order to survive.’ Pyke decided it was time to move in for the kill. ‘And is that who murdered our newborn baby just delivered from its mother’s womb? A child?’

For the first time Hardwick’s composure seemed to crack. He stammered something about the difference between conventional criminal behaviour and homicidal monomania.

‘But practically speaking, Mr Hardwick, how does your diagnosis assist those of us actually involved in the process of trying to catch whoever murdered these people? Who, or what, are we supposed to be looking for? By the sounds of things, any of us here could be suffering from homicidal monomania, if the symptoms are undetectable under ordinary circumstances. Surely you don’t suspect one of us?’

A laugh rippled around the room. An indignant Hardwick was about to respond but before he had a chance Peel intervened, to bring their discussion to an end. He thanked Hardwick for enlightening them with his theories and, addressing Pyke, said, ‘If you find our friend’s ideas to be less than useful in this particular instance, perhaps you could share with us your own thoughts regarding what you witnessed and how they might assist us with the investigation?’

Pyke made a point of addressing the room from where he was sitting. As he had done to Fox and Vines, he explained what had happened, what he had seen and what it might mean. When he had finished there was a sober hush in the room. Peel glanced nervously at Charles Hume. Hume merely nodded. Peel thanked Pyke for his illuminating thoughts, and said he was sure his discoveries would be of tremendous use to the investigative team.

Charles Hume agreed. Hardwick sat in silence, scowling. Beside him, Pyke heard Fox whisper, ‘You stuck it to the bastards. Well done.’

As the gathering broke up, Peel came across to where he was sitting and asked Pyke whether he might be able to stay behind for a few minutes, so they could chat in private.

Fox answered him first. ‘I think we’d be prepared to discuss relevant matters in a more congenial atmosphere.’

‘I had rather hoped I might have a word with Mr Pyke on his own. I am assuming, of course, that such an arrangement might be acceptable to you, Sir Richard.’

‘Why on earth should it not be acceptable?’ Fox said huffily. ‘I will wait for Pyke in my carriage.’

Peel put his hands into his pockets. ‘You go on ahead, Sir Richard. It’s late and I’m already concerned that I have taken up too much of your valuable time. I’ll make my own carriage available to Mr Pyke.’

‘Really, I don’t mind waiting.’

‘No, really, I insist that you are delayed no more.’ His manner indicated that the subject was closed for discussion.

‘Well, I’ve been told, haven’t I?’ Fox said under his breath. Peel either did not hear him or chose not to answer him.

‘It perhaps does not need to be emphasised that any investigation, whether it’s carried out by Hume or yourself, should be a discreet one. The public is fickle and their willingness to sanction a new police force is conditional on the belief that its role will be one of prevention and not detection. It’s one of the areas where I disagree with Hardwick’s assessment. He sees detection as one of the characteristics of preventive policing,

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