VOLUME: the SECOND
ENTRY: the FIRST
– being –
‘Death and The Empress’
– or –
‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’
“…and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell follow’d with him.” Revelation 6:8
1st December, 17_ There was no name upon the headstone, simply an ‘H’ – for highwayman. Behind me, the Vicar’s voice broke the silence: “That’s the grave of the Gentleman Highwayman, the one who died in the fire at Seven Dials. Nobody knew his name, so whoever commission’d the headstone, and paid for his grave, just put an ‘H’. Most uncustomary, but I allow’d it.” I did not reply. But had chosen an ‘H’ to keep my true identity hidden. But now that ‘H’ stands for ‘Hell’, as I am in it. Yet it was not my own grave I had come to visit. But those who had been newly buried. Those who, after I penn’d my last adventure, had all been ruthlessly kill’d – because of me. The majority of the P.M. was spent standing in the rain, mourning among the melancholia of the graveyard. Seeing one grave in particular burn’d me more than the flames in Seven Dials could ever have. I read her name upon the headstone, then plac’d a rose upon it.
The Vicar ask’d how well I had known the many deceas’d. My reply was guard’d, but my grief was clearly not, as the Vicar, in an attempt at comfort, stat’d “God said Vengeance is mine. God will bring justice, so trust in that.” He then point’d to my own grave: “He would have sav’d them, he always did, despite what many said about him.” Looking more closely at me, he ask’d what my name might be. I remov’d from my pocket a tarot card, viz. the Empress, and look’d upon the names hand written upon the reverse in a fine script. Turning to the vicar, I answer’d his question: “I am Death, and I ride to vengeance, to drag the murderers back to Hell.”
It is with great pain, and heavy guilt, that I now recount the events leading to the above. Thus I begin the morning that follow’d my fiery ‘death’ in Tyler’s safe house…
SIX MONTHS EARLIER
19th May, 17_ Awoke in complete darkness, the world silent, my arms and legs restrain’d by the sides of the large coffin-like casket that contain’d me. Push’d open the lid, and tumbl’d out upon the stone floor of Tyler’s cellar in Seven Dials. Looking up I could see the grey light of early morning shining through the many gaps in the cellar’s ceiling, the house above having been completely burn’d to the ground. The large trunk in which Tyler had conceal’d his stolen valuables had proven a most successful temporary ‘coffin’, viz. anti-fire strongbox. Taking the many jewels that were contain’d within, including several brooches which had, to my discomfort, harpoon’d me during my hours of seclusion, discretely climb’d from out the cellar, and the charr’d remains of Tyler’s house. Thence to the Bawdy House, there to meet the girls I had sav’d from Tyler and his gang the day last.
Arriv’d at the Bawdy House, jovial and full of my own success. Was warmly welcom’d by the girls throwing themselves upon me. All believing I had died in the fire at Seven Dials. One girl in particular was reliev’d to tears of my survival – my favourite girl of the house, viz. Molly. She being one of the three girls Tyler had held hostage in exchange for the crown he demand’d I stole from the Tower’s Jewel House. Sitting with the girls, Molly’s arms wrapp’d around me, I sipp’d port while regaling them with the finer details of how I had enabl’d their rescue, and had my theft of the crown pinn’d upon Tyler and his gang. The girls enquiring as to their own safety, I assur’d them of it. Tyler being by then arrest’d together with the majority of his gang, and who were now all safely imprison’d pending trial for treason. Having taken some jewels from my ‘fire-coffin’, distribut’d them among the girls. Molly then demonstrat’d the depth of her personal gratitude by practicing her full professional repertoire upon me for the rest of the day… and throughout most of the night. NOTE: The heat of the fire in Seven Dials prov’d cold…compar’d to Molly’s accommodating desire to show her passionate appreciation.
The morning after, explain’d the necessity of keeping my survival secret to all the girls, it being essential to see the last part of my plan to fruition, viz. ensuring Tyler would be of no further risk to them, or any one else.
Before I left, Molly, taking my hands, told me that she want’d no other but me. However much I desir’d to make Molly happy, intimat’d how I could not ignore my ardent amour for the Lady of the Fans. Thus, despite the evident upset in Molly’s moistening eyes, she express’d her understanding. I kiss’d her, and thence depart’d.
INTANGIBLE LEGALITY: In order to ensure that Tyler could never again harm, or be any form of threat to anyone ever again, it was necessary to ensure his conviction. As the ‘King’ of Seven Dials, his criminal network was far reaching, and I strongly suspect’d it extend’d into the higher reaches of society. Although he was not directly responsible for the treason he was currently charg’d with, viz. stealing the crown, he was undeniably guilty of the deaths of countless innocents. His rule of the criminal world was harsh, ruthless, and completely uncompromising. He deserv’d his conviction, and I would ensure it was fully realis’d.
Arriv’d in Bow Street, spoke to F & F. They having once contract’d me to rescue the daughter of one of them from Tyler (which I achiev’d). It took little to convince them of my request to lift my reward, deny any reports I had surviv’d the fire in Seven Dials. Thus publicly maintaining I had died in blaze. During that time, I agreed to uncover who Tyler was bribing within government, and prevent any acquitting evidence from reaching the court room. Doing so would ensure Tyler’s conviction, together with the seven men arrest’d with him.
Having identifi’d Tyler’s lawyer, viz. a Mr. Sebastian Constantine, set about leaving him to build his case, and compile Tyler’s defense. I want’d him to use up his time, and his resources, viz. to put all his eggs in one pudding. Throughout the summer months I was presum’d dead, Bow Street did their best to keep my exploits as quiet as possible. Each report that appear’d in the news sheets regarding my survival, Bow Street denied. Thus, by late Autumn, it was time to start extracting any evidence and legal documents from those defending Tyler and his men.
In the LONDON EVENING POST:
‘ROBBERY in Hyde Park! On TUESDAY night last, Mr. Sebastian Constantine, a lawyer, was robb’d in his coach around midnight while travelling through Hyde Park. He was stop’t by a mask’d man on horseback, who robb’d him of thirty guineas, a gold watch, a gold ring, silk handkerchief and a large folio of paperwork. Mr Constantine declar’d the man a blaggard, causing the mask’d highwayman to strip him semi-nak’d and then tie him to a nearby tree, much to the shock of a passing coach of ladies the following A.M. One lady describ’d Mr. Constantine in his nak’d form and freezing state as “a great mountain of lard, quivering like a poorly turn’d out jelly from its mould”. Mr. Constantine had of late been defending a Mr. Tyler who is currently imprison’d within the Tower on charges of treason. The folio of paperwork stolen by the highwayman was, according to Mr. Constantine, essential evidence in Mr. Tyler’s defence, and he has demand’d that Bow Street make immediate efforts to recover it, together with the other items he was robb’d of. It was also stat’d to Bow Street that the highwayman closely resembl’d the late GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN also known as the RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN, and who reputedly died in a fire in Seven Dials. Bow Street deny the possibility, declaring the aforemention’d highwayman dead, and that this robbery was ‘surely just another rogue trying his luck upon the road.’
The folio I stole from Constantine prov’d a vast proportion of evidence for Tyler’s defense. The majority of it being falsified, and includ’d statements given by men and women either brib’d, or more commonly, beaten into signing them. Yet they also reveal’d a name, that of the man in Government who Tyler was bribing, viz. Lord Porthbugh. In exchange, Porthbugh was keeping Tyler’s reign in London as free from Bow Street’s interference as possible.
Porthbugh, I had learn’d, was responsible for managing Tyler’s London imports from the Counties of Devon and Cornwall. Among some of the paperwork I extract’d, there was also reference to someone else, but no name was mention’d, but simply referr’d to as ‘SHE’. Whoever ‘SHE’ is, she appear’d to have a great hold over Tyler and Portbugh. Yet I could find no means of identifying her.
Requiring further information about Porthbugh, visit’d an aged friend of mine at his estate outside London, thus also providing a welcome break from the city. Arriv’d at the seat of Lord Carbuncle. Was shown in by his butler, viz. Borage. Borage, even older than Carbuncle, is a frail yet dear old gentlemen, who moves about the great house bent double. His spectacles having the inimitable habit of falling off mid conversation, follow’d by his wig when he tries to catch them. Knowing this I present’d him with several new pairs, feeling it politic for him to have a supply of spares. Carbuncle provid’d me with as much information as he could regarding Lord Porthbugh, including how he kept the key to his strong box hidden within his wig. As Carbuncle’s guest, spent several days indulging in claret, beef, pies and a few hunting trips. The former being the cause of Carbuncle’s large red nose. Thence I return’d to London. NOTE: One of Porthbugh’s young kitchen maids provid’d a most admirable and regular service each night and early A.M. NOTE: Particular favourites of mine were her sweet buns.
In the LONDON EVENING POST:
‘THEFT FROM THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER! On Thursday morning last, a mask’d man was seen climbing from a window at the Palace of Westminster. The eminent whig politician, Lord Porthbugh, fir’d a pistol shot after the man, missing him narrowly. According to Lord Porthbugh, the thief stole documents relating to a legal cafe Lord Portbugh has a personal interest in. Since the robbery in Hyde Park of the lawyer Sebastian Constantine’s papers, the documents stolen from Lord Portbugh, were, according to Portbugh, the only evidence left to acquit a man currently held in the Tower under charges of treason. It was also report’d that the thief stole Lord Portbugh’s whig, declaring it “so full of mice I intend to give it to my most frequent’d bawdy house to feed their cat”. The mask’d man’s description matches that of the highwayman who robb’d Sebastian Constantine, causing further speculation that the GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN, also known as the RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN, is still alive and did not die in a fire at Seven Dials, as previously assum’d.’
Having retriev’d from Porthbugh further paperwork concerning Tyler’s defense, rummag’d within his wig to find the key to his strong box. But with no luck, he had remov’d it some time before.
In THE LONDON EVENING POST:
‘HIGHWAY ROBBERY! Lord Porthbugh robb’d by mafk’d highwayman on Hounflow Heath.
Three nights last, Lord Porthbugh was robb’d in his coach while travelling upon the Bath Road. Whereupon, during their traverse of Hounslow Heath, the coach was stopp’d by a mask’d highwayman who immediately demand’d him to “stand and deliver” his valuables. Lord Porthbugh, recognising the fellow from the theft of his private papers at the Palace of Westminster, insist’d the coachman shoot the rogue with his blunderbuss. The coachman, being weak will’d of disposition, instead dropp’d the blunderbuss upon the floor. This caus’d it to discharge, and some shot to shallowly penetrate the rump of Lord Porthburgh – apparently to great amusement of the highwayman. After robbing Lord Porthburgh of his valuables, and his wig, (being the second instance of the latter), the Highwayman made his retreat. Lord Porthburgh has since insist’d to both Parliament and Bow Street that it was the GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN, viz. RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN, that denials of his return should cease, and the reward on his head be unfrozen and rais’d to 300 Guineas. Bow Street, however, continue to deny the possibility, leading to further mystery surrounding the highwayman’s death. Some more esoteric observers have speculat’d, however, that the man is in fact a ghost of the late highwayman, that being the reason he can be neither kill’d nor captur’d.’
Despite the belief by some that I was still alive, Bow Street continu’d to keep my path clear of too much suspicion, maintaining I was dead.
‘STATEMENT FROM BOW STREET
Concerning the GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN
THE INCREASE in both highway robbery and debauch’d activities currently being report’d in London and its environs, and connect’d to a highwayman, are little more than further examples of ever increasing crime within the Capital. Despite reports that the late GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN, also known as the RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN, did not die in the fire at Seven Dials in May last, we have, as yet, seen no evidence to support them, and he is still confider’d deceas’d. The crimes thus far committ’d, and which the populace appear eager to place his name upon, are, from the evidence we have thus far seen, but an assortment of unconnect’d malefactions and sporadic breaches of morality. As such, the reward of 200 Guineas formerly on his head is still frozen, and unable to be earn’d until convincing evidence of his survival is present’d to us. F.& F’
Having stolen Porthbugh’s wig, remov’d the key to his strong box he kept hidden inside, then gain’d entrance to his home. Found his strong box, and remov’d all the paperwork therein, together with close to one thousand guineas. It was the remaining documents that he and Constantine could have used to acquit both Tyler and his gang members. Within the documents were further references to the mysterious ‘SHE’. Whoever this ‘she’ was, it is clear she possesses formidable and utterly ruthless power over many in England.
Desiring my greatly miss’d excitement of the road, against the wishes of Bow Street, still undertook the occasional highway robbery. unconnect’d to my current task in hand… even if they did not always go quite according to plan.
In THE LONDON EVENING POST:
‘HIGHWAY SEDUCTIONS! Three young women debauch’d by a highwayman while en-route to church!
ON SUNDAY last, a coach containing three young ladies bound for church was stopp’d by a mafk’d highwayman. According to the coachman, upon realising there were no male passengers aboard, the Highwayman apologis’d for the inconvenience he had caus’d. It was upon delivery of his apology, that the three young ladies, desirous to know the highwayman better, invit’d him into their coach. To this he happily accept’d, exclaiming ‘It being Sunday, it would surely be heresy to turn down an opportunity to worship three such beautiful examples of God’s creation.” The coachman was order’d to drive on, and has since stat’d that during the journey, he could hear many sounds of worship, including ‘speaking in tongues’, and at one point the highwayman’s voice exclaiming “absolutely, madam, prostration is indeed you bent forward in front of me,” All of which apparently culminat’d in a merry madrigal of euphoria. Upon arriving at the church, the highwayman, thanking the young ladies for the ride, was likewise thank’d in return for opening them up to deeper learning. The coachman report’d how the highwayman closely resembl’d the Gentleman Highwayman, viz. the RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN, who he had formerly seen among the want’d posters. Despite Bow Street denying he surviv’d the fire in Seven Dials, speculation surrounding the return of the GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN appear to be ever increasing.’
With all the evidence having now been collect’d, Tyler’s trial went ahead. So it was, to my great relief, and doubtless to many others, he was successfully found guilty of treason. Together with seven of his men.
In THE LONDON EVENING POST:
‘NOTICE OF EXECUTION: ON THE MORNING of the 13th November, seven male malefactors are to be hang’d at Tyburn, having been try’d and condemn’d to death for ‘Crimes against the Crown’. From seven o’clock of the aforemention’d morning, they shall begin their departure from Newgate Prison to Tyburn. Their bodies thereafter to be sent to Surgeon’s Hall for the purpose of learning, viz. anatomisation. A MR. TYLER, found guilty of Treason, will be execut’d upon the same morning within the confines of the Tower. His dead body to be hung in iron chains outside the Tower and within view of the Jewel House ‘until such time that the ravens have remov’d both his dead eyes’. MR.TYLER’S sentence, it has been announc’d, will be privately execut’d and ‘without audience or spectacle’. It is currently unclear of what treasonable activities these eight men have been found guilty of, as they were try’d and sentenc’d within a Clos’d Court. Yet it has been report’d that the seven men were close associates of MR. TYLER, and were each responsible for countless violent crimes against both men and women within the Capital.’
Disguising myself as a yeoman warder in order to be fully convinc’d of his death, observ’d Tyler’s execution within the confines of the Tower. While he stood, waiting to swing, he appear’d to recognise me, or at least met eyes with me. He said nothing, but instead smil’d. It was a cruel smile, suggesting he had some dark knowledge that I did not possess. He was pull’d up to the gallows, and took but little time to stop kicking. Tyler was finally gone. I let out a great breath of relief, the man who had been a constant threat to both myself, and many others, had finally gone. Yet Tyler’s last smile concern’d me greatly – did he have but one last plan up his sleeve?
In the LONDON EVENING POST:
‘On the morning of the 13th November, Mr. Tyler, having been found guilty of treason, was hang’d within the confines of the Tower. Upon the same morning, seven other men, formerly under the employ of Mr. Tyler, were hang’d at Tyburn also on charges of treason. The bodies of those seven men were thence remov’d to Surgeon’s Hall for anatomisation, the body of Mr. Tyler can currently still seen hanging in chains at the Tower. As all eight men were tried in a clos’d court, the particulars of their crimes are not known. It is believ’d, however, that Mr. Tyler was responsible for countless crimes within the Capital, and that was the individual at the centre of London’s criminal activities, the man known as ‘King of Seven Dials’.
The Lady of the Fans, as with the rest of London, was still under the impression I was dead. Once again secure in my own safety, thence to visit her. There to announce my survival, and express the true depth of my feelings towards her. Regretfully, it prov’d to be in vain.
IN THE LONDON EVENING POST:
‘23rd November. The night last, a ‘mask’d man, whose general demeanor suggest’d he was a gentleman, was seen leaving the residence of one of London’s most celebrat’d ladies of quality. The lady in question, being well known among London society, had, by the conversation overheard, spurn’d her mask’d suitor in favour of another. In response to an apparent challenge, the lady’s words “he will never duel you” were heard shout’d from her balcony window. This in turn distract’d the mask’d man, causing him to narrowly miss being run down by a speeding carriage. His response being – “then good luck with your wealthy lover from the Play House!” The mask’d gentleman was then pursu’d across London by ten members of Bow Street. Due, according to one report, on account of his threat to steal her lover’s velvet coats to give as gifts to the inmates of Bedlam.’
NOTE: Bow Street swiftly call’d off the pursuit after they realis’d my identity.
Thence to visit my prize agent, viz. Johann Rueben, there to deposit the money I had taken from Lord Porthbugh. Was welcom’d warmly, and serv’d several large brandies, together with a cornucopia of bak’d goods from Rueben’s lover, viz. Madame Pavot.
From thence to the Bawdy House, wherein Molly, reiterating her desire to be kept by me and me alone, was made happier by my agreement to maintain her, thus removing her need to work for another. The following morning, breakfast’d with all the girls at the Bawdy House, they each reiterating their thanks for my constant defense of their safety, and my efforts in ensuring Tyler’s conviction. Thence to my official residence to announce my survival to Penny Puddings. She being most happy to see me, bouncing up and down and declaring how her apple dumplings have never been so enjoy’d by anyone as they had by me.
DARKNESS REIGNS: I have always attempt’d to create my own justice where possible, albeit while breaking a plethora of laws myself. Yet I was to abuse my own power, and embrace, to my deepest regret, the power of others. I was to become a tool of another’s hand, and an instrument of my own rage.
That evening, was on the point of leaving to meet John Crow, the Chimera and Charles Blood, when the door bell rang loudly. It was a young man, pale, shaking and soak’d through from the rain that was beating down like nails being hammer’d into a coffin lid. Penny Puddings show’d him to my study. It was a young steward from the bawdy house. Broken, tearful, practically unable to speak and clutching his stomach. It was apparent he had a wound, and before he could speak he collaps’d upon the floor. Call’d for Penny Puddings, and tearing his shirt, reveal’d what appear’d to be a deep knife wound to his stomach. We dress’d his wound, and he lay upon a day bed, his life fading.
Briefly regaining consciousness, he began to speak. He had come directly from the bawdy house, it being storm’d by many men, one of whom had stabb’d him, leaving him for dead. His voice almost a whisper, he explain’d how he manag’d to get to me, hoping he could survive long enough to tell me what happen’d. His life almost gone, his voice practically inaudible, he stutter’d his final words. “They’re dead, all of them. Tyler’s men kill’d them all, He order’d it. All of them, every last girl, Molly includ’d. They’re all dead.” With a choking and bloody cough, while Penny held one hand, and I his other, he pass’d away.
My emotions are almost impossible to describe. A dark veil was pull’d over me, a great thundercloud of pain, rage and guilt. They had died because of me – of what I did to Tyler. I had fail’d to protect them, all of them. As it sunk in, I confess at the time I knew not what to do. I could not stand; I could not sit; I walk’d this way and that within the room, trying to believe it was not true. I was shock’d to my very core. My mind was a turmoil of confusion. Trying to understand what I had just heard, it was clear that murdering the girls was Tyler’s last order before he was hang’d. His revenge against me for his death. That was the reason behind for his cruel smile the moment before he swung.
I fell to my knees. All that I had upheld, my efforts to protect so many innocents from Tyler, had all been in vain. That is when it began, the change that came upon me. A darkness of cold resolve as I made my decision: I would find out who those men were, and bring them all to justice.
Return’d to my study, there to enter my armoury. Partially removing one of the books from the shelf, viz. ‘A Complete History of the Life of James Maclean’, the shelf click’d, mov’d forward slightly, then slid open. Stepping inside my armoury, to my surprise, in the middle of the room upon the floor, was a card. Picking it up, I observ’d it was a tarot card – the Empress. Upon the reverse, in a fine handwritten script was a list of names, twelve men in total. Above them was written the following.
‘I did not order their deaths. Had Tyler not hanged, I would have killed him myself for it. Below are the names of the girls’ killers – execute them.’
I knew not who or what had left that tarot card, yet I suspect’d it to be the very ‘She’ that I had so recently seen references to. Neither myself nor Penny Puddings knew how someone had gain’d entry to my home or my private armoury, yet I cared little; I had the names of the murderers. At that time, all I want’d was revenge and I could see but no other path to follow. By then I was blinker’d, staring down a dark tunnel with little light at the end. That subtle light ahead was my guide to vengeance, and I depart’d toward it immediately. The tarot card I receiv’d was the Empress, and thence it was, now to my eternal regret, that I became ‘Death’.
Left immediately, and although I recognis’d many of the names on the list, spent most of the night confirming them via my own network in Seven Dials. Thence I made my way straight to Bow Street. Upon arrival, discover’d they had already learn’d of the killings. Explain’d I had the names of their murderers, and demand’d F & F give me warrants for each of the men on my list. They agreed. In return, they request’d that I must allow each of the twelve men to be tried in open court. So, upon being found guilty, they could be publicly execut’d at Tyburn. My reply, “I give you my word they will all hang for what they did.” I was responsible for the death of the girls and of the steward. I had already decid’d to hunt these men down, and I myself would be their judge, jury and executioner. We all in agreement that Bow Street would maintain my anonymity, and continue to allow London to believe I was dead, depart’d to ensure the respectful burial of the girls.
1st December, 17_ Earlier in the year, I had ensur’d a coffin was buried and my own headstone commission’d, thus maintaing the belief I was dead. Now, however, it was real graves I paid for, ensuring each girl was respectfully interr’d, and also the young steward. I visit’d them the morning I set out to find the first man. I felt brutally wound’d upon seeing them all, and believ’d vengeance to be my only cure. Placing a rose upon Molly’s grave, silently swore I would avenge them all, despite the Vicar’s consolation that God would bring vengeance.
DEATH RIDES FORTH: Purchas’d a new ankle length coat – in black. Thus with my black three corner’d hat, black gloves, black boots and mask, I had become a wraith. Most of London still believ’d I was dead, and those who I would hunt down soon learn’d to fear my ghost. In truth I was indeed little more than a ghost, possessing no feeling of life within me. All I then possess’d was but my desire to bring death upon those twelve men.
ONE: 2nd December, 17_ The first man on my list open’d his eyes. To his surprise, he saw standing above him a highwayman, dress’d all in black, a ghost of the former Gentleman Highwayman, viz, myself. While he rest’d in his drunken slumber, I had plac’d a noose around his neck. The moment he open’d his eyes I show’d him my warrant which I then pinn’d to the front of his waistcoat. Below the authorising signatories, I had add’d a large ‘H’, for Highwayman, or for Hell. The end of the noose already tied off, dragg’d him out of bed and along the floor. Without hesitation, push’d him from the window. He fell, the rope tighten’d, and a crack announc’d his end. Depart’d the building to see a shock’d crowd gather’d below his motionless body.
TWO: 3rd December, 17_ Much as the first, despite his struggle, which creat’d a necessity to shoot him in the upper thigh. His repentance was ignor’d while I dragg’d him to the window, his cries reaching an abrupt stop when he ran out luck…and slack rope.
THREE, FOUR & FIVE: 5th December, 17_ These men, each of them having heard of the ghost that was now haunting their kind, had gone to ground together in an ale house cellar. Needing them to surface from their lair, they having barr’d the door from the inside, I lit a small fire in a lantern. Allowing the smoke to drift under the cellar door, shout’d “fire!” It was a short wait before they came fleeing from the cellar like rats from a sinking ship. There they met me, a blunderbuss peppering the legs of two, a pistol shot bringing the third to his knees. Each one did their best to crawl away, yet the butt of my blunderbuss render’d each one temporarily motionless. Dragging them to some scaffolding built around the house opposite, I plac’d a noose around each of their necks. Throwing the end over the scaffolding, tied it to a cart that had but recently deliver’d some ale to their place of hiding. With a warrant pinn’d to each of their chests, with my addition of an ‘H‘ upon them, I wait’d till they gain’d conciseness. The moment their eyes open’d, whipp’d the horse into motion, and pull’d them up to their deaths. Nobody stopp’d me; nobody want’d to, nor would anyone have dared.
In THE LONDON EVENING POST:
‘THERE have been a large number of unusual deaths of late. Each victim it appears has been kill’d by being hang’d. The number increases each day, the count now being 5. According to reports, each victim was under the employ of a certain Mr. Tyler, who was lately execut’d within the confines of the Tower on charges of treason. Upon each body has been found an official warrant of arrest, with the addition of a large ‘H’ written below the official signatories. Bow Street confirm the warrants are official, but will not comment upon the executioner besides stating: “All these men have been found guilty of multiple murders, and it is the task of Bow Street to employ anyone who will bring them to justice.” The rumours that the Gentleman Highwayman is alive appear now to be confirm’d by the many who claim to have seen his ‘ghost’, and that he has return’d to pursue some form of justice. The reward on his head is still not officially reactivat’d, nor are Bow Street making any further comments on that matter.’
SIX AND SEVEN: 8th December, 17_ By now, many in London were convinc’d I was a ghost, either that of the Gentleman Highwayman, or of some vengeful spirit come to take revenge upon the men I was hunting. Yet these two men, confident in their own safety, were still surpris’d to see me standing in front of them when they awoke one morning, they having shared a room to watch each other’s backs lest I came for them. Yet there was little surprise from the crowd that gather’d below their motionless feet, as they hung there from an upper window, cluster’d together like ripening game birds.
EIGHT: 9th December, 17_ This one ran the moment he saw me at distance. It took some time pursuing him. I hunt’d him through the streets of Covent Garden, Seven Dials and finally to St Giles where my pistol shot in his back brought him crashing to the ground. Strung him up, and as he danc’d his jig, was set upon by a group of men arm’d with cudgels. Presumably those he had paid to protect him. They last’d but a minute or two, then left them behind me, each with a sword wound preventing their further pursuit of me, or saving their employer.
NINE: 12 December, 17_ Flight was pointless, but it did not prevent this one from attempting it. He commission’d the fastest coach in London, and tore though the streets. I caught up with him near Hounslow Heath. It was a hard chase, yet my horse gather’d speed and eventually clos’d in enough to to place it within pistol shot. Shooting the driver, the coach eventually lost some of its control, and I clos’d in. By then, my prey had climb’d out and attempt’d to take control of the reins. Once in range, I jump’d from my horse onto the carriage, my target joining me upon the roof. The fight was short, despite us both having to avoid several low branches as the coach sped its way pell mell along the road. As I held him down, my spurr’d boot upon his head, tied the rope to the top of the carriage and plac’d the noose around his neck. Thence slung him overboard. Taking the reins, I drove the carriage on for another mile before bringing it to a stop. Pinn’d the warrant to his now dirty and blood stain’d chest, and meeting my own horse, gallop’d back to London.
TEN: 13th December, 17_ A simple job. He had taken refuge in a church. The following morning, when the congregation arriv’d for worship, to their surprise they found him hanging below the belfry.
ELEVEN: 14th December, 17_ Feeling nowhere in London was safe, he had hand’d himself into Bow Street. Thus myself arriving, F & F threaten’d me with pistols. Declaring I was not operating within the law, and as such would not let me have him. I remind’d one of them that he owed me the life his daughter. That this man had murder’d a woman, and may even have murder’d the daughter had I not once sav’d her from Tyler. They turn’d away, unable to pull the triggers. Dragg’d the man from his cell, and after rendering him unconscious, took him to the nearest point I found. Strung him up, my warrant with its ‘H’ upon his chest.
TWELVE: 19th December, 17_ By now, knowing he was the final man on my list, he had vanish’d. It took me some time to discover his whereabouts, but eventually found him hiding in an attic above a small shop in Seven Dials, dining on some anemic looking broth.
Deathly pale, clammy, he knew he was going to die, and had the face of a man that had accept’d it. As I stood before him, noose in hand, he then spoke. “You may kill me. but she will find you.” Not knowing to whom he referr’d, I ask’d him to enlighten me. His only response was a loud laugh. “SHE! Did you really think Tyler ran all the crime in London? He was a puppet, nothing more! SHE runs the criminal world in England, SHE appoints the King of each city, SHE appoint’d Tyler!” I replied. “Who! Who is this She?’ With a smile, he simply replied…“The Empress! Tyler met her, he knew who she was, but he is now dead! So you’ll never know.” Taking the tarot card from my pocket, hand’d it to him. He look’d at it, and then read the reverse. If there was any colour left in his face, it immediately drain’d from it. “She order’d this?”
I answer’d his question: “I am doing this for the ones you murder’d, not for the Empress.” At this point he tried to run past me, forcing me to thrust my sword into his gut. As he collaps’d upon the floor, plac’d the noose around his neck, then dragg’d him to the window. Opening it, I look’d once more upon him, regret at my actions beginning to build. I hesitat’d, and sensing this, he quickly pull’d a knife from his boot, stabbing me in the thigh. I pull’d out the knife, and stabb’d it through the ‘H’ I had written upon the warrant pinn’d to his chest. Pushing him out of the window, I look’d below to see several people staring at his swinging body. They look’d up, observ’d me at the window, then ran swiftly away. Finally, it was over.
The days that follow’d were ones I find hard to remember, but I do know they were fill’d with regret, and with pain. I mourn’d the loss of those murder’d at the bawdy house, and also accept’d my departure from that which I believ’d to be good. The faces of those kill’d because of me will forever be imprint’d upon my mind’s eye, reminding me of my failure to protect them.
Several days later, feeling in need of something free from darkness, went to call upon the Lady of the Fans. There to make my peace with her after our last eventful meeting, and to wish her well with her new gentleman. Arriv’d, but to my surprise and sadness, found her home lock’d and board’d up, with nobody at home. A member of her former staff arriv’d and hand’d me a small box, saying “before she left, she instruct’d me to give you this”. I open’d it, and within was a bright blue and pink fan, upon which was written: “Good luck on the road, Highwayman, I shall be watching your exploits closely. Remember, fortune’s wheel is always turning”. Where she has mysteriously gone, or why, I know not, but I am certain our paths will one day cross again, and soon.
Met with John Crow, the Chimera and Charles Blood. They knew of my survival at Seven Dials, and of the events that had unfold’d over recent months. Yet I had kept them at distance for their own safety. We all embrac’d, and they hearing of my regrets, we toast’d the lives of those lost in the bawdy house. The Chimera, however, appear’d strangely distant throughout the evening. It almost appear’d to be some unknown coldness towards me, yet also a subtle hint of admiration. It was impossible to deduce what it was, yet it was clear she was withholding something from me. Put it down to shock from recent events, and spoke not of it.
Arriv’d home, and was on the point of pouring myself a glass of claret when I notic’d something upon my desk. Upon close inspection it prov’d to be another tarot card… The Empress. Upon the reverse was written the following… ‘Your skill exceeds that of all who I have thus far seen, as does your ruthlessness. I have been closely observing you since first you took to the road, closer than you could possibly imagine. Tyler was a fool. I allow’d you the deaths of his men. I now offer you the rule of London, and all the power that provides. I appoint you as the new King of Seven Dials, and of London. Refuse my offer, however, and the instant you interfere with my world again, you will die. You will not be safe anywhere in England. Its criminal populace are under my control. I am the Empress, and you are a Knave if you refuse what I am offering you.’
To accept her offer was to accept rule over all the violent crime in London. It would bring riches, power, and a dark form of freedom. Yet with it would come the inevitable loss of many lives. Perhaps, had the Empress offer’d the position to me during my ride of vengeance, I may have accept’d such a responsibility? I truly hope not. Yet now my mind is clear, and I have return’d to who I really am, though I shall never be the same again. I am now sharper and far more calculating than ever before. She may be the EMPRESS, but I am no KNAVE. I am no longer DEATH…but a KNIGHT.
I drew my sword, and look’d upon the words I had engrav’d upon its blade when I first took to the road all those years ago:
‘Rob those who deserve poverty,
Reward those who deserve riches,
Punish those who deserve vengeance,
And love those who deserve affection.’
Thus my choice was made, and decid’d NOT to accept her offer. Tearing the card in two, I threw the pieces out of the window. While I watch’d the falling halves of the card, my eyes being as sharp as my wits, notic’d a woman observing me closely from a coach window…her face partly hidden by shadows. Her face vanish’d back into the coach, the driver shook the reins, and the coach sped off at an angry speed. It was the Empress herself, I had absolutely no doubt of that. NOTE: Why did her face, despite the shadows, appear peculiarly familiar? Who IS she? NOTE: Despite the inevitable danger, potential death, &c., it is going to be a damn’d fine adventure trying to find out…and even more fun overthrowing her!
THE RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN HAS RETURN’D…
According to a wanted poster outside a charming little bawdy house…I’m dangerous, unapproachable and worth 200 Guineas to swing. According to others I’m a rogue, a rake and libertine. The truth is I am a gentleman, and I extract guineas, jewels and valuables from those who don’t deserve them. Gin Lane and Beer Streets are my locals, the road is my office, the 18th century is my home.