Dressed in a wool coat and plaited undershirt, with a waistcoat, cravat, pantaloons and boots, Fox looked and sounded more like a military general than a magistrate.

Pyke remained silent.

‘And what about their names?’ Fox demanded, impatiently.

‘Stephen and Clare.’ Pyke waited for a moment. ‘I don’t know if they were married or not.’

‘Did you get a surname, dammit?’

Pyke nodded. ‘His name’s Magennis. One “g” and two “n”s.’

Fox took a moment to digest this news. ‘If I’m not mistaken, that’s an Irish name.’

Vines, who came from an Anglo-Irish background, said, ‘Indeed it is.’

‘I know these things are, how should I put it, rather complicated, Vines, but do we know whether Magennis is a Protestant or Roman Catholic name?’

Vines finally seemed to grasp the problem. ‘I believe it’s a name that can be associated with both traditions.’

‘I see.’

Pyke waited for a moment. ‘Stephen Magennis kept an informal diary. I read what little I could understand. It seems the two of them arrived in London together during the middle of last year. From Ulster. They took the boat from Belfast to Liverpool and travelled to London by coach from there. The landlady informed me he worked at the docks, as do most of her lodgers. There was a brief mention in the diary of his father. It seems he’s part of the Orange Order.’

Into the silence, Vines muttered, ‘God.’

Fox nodded. ‘And news of the murders has already spread far beyond these walls.’

‘Just take a look outside,’ Pyke said, digging his hands into his pockets to keep warm. ‘The lynch mob is beginning to gather.’

‘Yes, quite,’ Fox said.

‘Right now there are forty or fifty people downstairs. Any or all of them might know of the identity of the victims. No doubt there are others in the neighbourhood who also know, or soon will. Very shortly, I have no doubt, the street below us will be swarming with journalists from The Times, the Chronicle, the Post, the Herald, the Advertiser, the Public Ledger - need I go on? They will be gleaning this information from whoever will talk to them, and tomorrow we will all be reading about how two honest, upstanding Protestants and their newborn baby were slaughtered in their beds by a papist assassin dispatched by Satan himself.’

Fox stared at him, aghast. ‘Very imaginative, I’m sure, Pyke, but I don’t see how that helps us.’

Pyke shrugged. ‘I’m just trying to outline the seriousness of the situation to everyone in the room.’

‘I think we’re aware of the seriousness, without your vulgar theatrics,’ Vines said, hotly.

‘Are you? Then how might news of these murders affect the mood of the Protestant mob I saw earlier today heading for Hyde Park and a showdown with O’Connell’s supporters?’

Vines did not have an answer.

Fox looked at Vines. ‘On this occasion, the confrontation in Hyde Park passed off without incident but only, I have to concede, owing to the fine work of my men.’ He paused for a moment, to smooth out the tips of his moustache. ‘But the whole business of Catholic emancipation has poisoned the atmosphere. Pyke’s right. This could not have happened at a more inopportune moment.’

Having read the newspapers, Pyke knew that Catholic emancipation had become a hot political issue because O’Connell had recently thrashed the duke of Wellington’s candidate in a County Clare by-election and demanded to be allowed to take up his seat in Westminster. As Roman Catholics were barred from serving in high public office, O’Connell’s demands could only be fulfilled by changing the existing legislation. Pyke had also read that, as a blue- blooded military man, the duke was instinctively against granting relief to Catholics but, in his capacity as Prime Minister, he also understood that compromise was inevitable. Pyke appreciated that Peel, risking the ire of his Tory peers, was preparing to change sides and throw his support behind Catholic emancipation.

‘I, for one, am greatly perturbed by the prospect of a Protestant mob, swarming through the city attacking anyone who crosses their path,’ Fox said. ‘And until any changes to police affairs are sanctioned by the House, we are expected to enforce civil obedience and the rule of the law.’

Vines nodded glumly in agreement.

‘Sir Henry insisted that I go to Whitehall tonight and report directly to Peel.’ Fox looked at Vines, then at Pyke. ‘Perhaps I could call upon one of you for some assistance in this matter.’

Vines said, quickly, ‘I would be more than happy to accompany you, Sir Richard.’

Fox rubbed his chin. ‘In part, it is my responsibility to present our initial findings to the Home Secretary. In such a role, perhaps you could outline what you might say at the meeting.’

Vines glanced nervously at Pyke. ‘Well, I shall report exactly what has happened and what steps we’ve taken to secure the area and find the man, or the men, who did this wicked thing.’

‘Yes, quite so. But we will be addressing intelligent men, and therefore cannot offer them flimflam. How would you describe what might have taken place in that room?’

‘I would say that it was the work of a maniac, a madman,’ Vines said, pacing around the landing.

‘Is that it?’

‘You don’t think it was the work of a sane, reasonable man, do you?’

‘Perhaps not.’

‘Well, I don’t see how one can draw a more definitive conclusion at this early stage in the investigation.’

Fox nodded briskly. ‘Perhaps you might share your thoughts on this subject with us, Pyke. After all, you were the one who found the bodies.’

‘What does Pyke know?’ Vines asked, glaring at him. ‘And reason would suggest that we can’t parade a man of Pyke’s dubious standing in front of the Home Secretary. His type are the very reason Peel’s got it in for the Runners.’

Vines had long suspected some of Pyke’s actions erred on the side of illegality but had been consistently unable to prove his complicity in any wrongdoing.

‘You mean the type whose physical exertions involve inevitable risks and whose intimate knowledge of the city’s less salubrious environs garners results?’

‘What rot,’ Vines said, turning away. ‘You should hear what this Flynn character has been saying about Pyke. We can’t shut the Paddy up. The man’s clearly—’

‘A stinking liar,’ Pyke interrupted.

‘He’s a receiver. Swears Pyke here paid him a fee for looking after items that had been stolen . . .’

‘Enough,’ Fox barked. ‘For the time being we have more pressing matters.’ He glared at Pyke and then at Vines from under his greying eyebrows. ‘Tell us what you saw in that room and speculate on what it might mean.’

Pyke told Fox he would try but was not sure that he had very much more to offer. Vines snorted. Pyke held in the urge to strike him and took a deep breath.

He described how he had discovered the bodies and briefly sketched out the circumstances that had led him to the building in the first place. He did not mention Lord Edmonton’s name or anything about the robberies he’d agreed to investigate. Fox chose not to push for the information but Pyke knew he would want to know about such things eventually. He explained that once reinforcements had arrived, he’d taken their lamps and re-entered the room in order to see what he might have missed. He had also given the victims’ possessions a cursory examination and found little of note: a necklace and ring, a pocket handkerchief, some letters and two Bibles.

As for the adult victims, their hands had been tied behind their backs with strips torn from their bed sheets. Although he could not be certain, it seemed probable that whoever had killed them had also bound them up. Both victims had suffered heavy blows to their heads and Pyke speculated that their attacker might have entered the room, knocked them unconscious and then tied them up; in that order. He did not know why this had happened. The door had a basic locking device but it had not been forced, which suggested either that the lock had not been used or that one or both of the victims had invited their attacker into the room. This did not prove that they knew him but it didn’t disprove it, either.

Describing how the strips of material had also been used as gags, Pyke noted that the two adults had not been blindfolded. He said he didn’t know what this meant. He had inspected the mouth and hand bindings and detected on them the unmistakable scent of urine. He had detected the same scent in the metal pail where the

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