Edinburgh November 1745 As the nights grow longer in the depths of a Scottish winter, Robert Young, Captain Travers, their families and friends, chase the darkness away as they gather to celebrate a joyful engagement. But grim news casts a pall over the happy atmosphere. A sobbing woman has carried the body of a child into the headquarters of Edinburgh’s Town Guard. In her hand she still clutches a bloody dagger. What at first was thought to be no more than a domestic tragedy soon becomes a hunt for a cold blooded killer who runs the worst possible sort of brothel. Robert Young faces a race against time to find the guilty and save other children from the same fate. His investigation will bring him face to face with his deadliest and most ruthless adversary to date and leave him fighting for his life!
“A murder is it?” the man said with no flicker of emotion on his face. “You had best explain further captain”.
As quickly as he could Charles outlined what he knew of the crime. From when the woman had entered the Guardhouse covered in blood bearing the body of Kirsty MacDonald, through to her assertion of other children being held in a brothel. Point by point he went through every detail while the councilors listened in a stony silence without questions or interruptions. Only when he asked again that the woman be turned over to him was there was any display of interest. One man to his right sat forward to look towards him as he said, “do you think there is any truth to her claims captain?”
Charles quickly nodded in response. To reveal he himself thought it more than likely that the prisoner was lying to try and save her own neck was not something he wished to share with these men. “It seems possible sir. We know that several dozen women and children were left behind when the rebels departed the city. Most exist by begging but I believe some of them may have turned to prostitution to get by. If some of these children have been lured from the streets and forced to work in a brothel I think it would be worthwhile to investigate and if possible free them from such a cruel fate…”
“A cruel fate!” another man suddenly laughed. As every face turned towards him he continued with bitterness clear in his voice, “These damn rebels invaded our homes! They took what they wanted and made us thank them for the privilege of being robbed! They strutted the streets like cockerels with their blue bonnets and swords and stinking tartan! Why in the name of God should we concern ourselves if some of the bitches and whelps left in their wake are starving now? I think the Town Guard would be of more use to the city if they rooted these vagabonds out and sent them back to the wilderness they call home!”
Several heads nodded and there was a murmur of agreement at this sentiment. Emboldened by this show of support he added with a sneer, “and what will become of these children supposedly held in a brothel sir? You rescue them – hurrah! – and then what? I’ll tell you what captain! They’ll end up being placed in the work-house where we shall be expected to feed and clothe them! Can you explain why we should pay for the upkeep of these stinking caterans that blight out streets?”
Charles was struggling to contain his irritation at this man but forced his voice to remain calm as he replied carefully, “sir, it is children being forced to work in a brothel that I am talking about. Surely as Christians we cannot allow small children to be used for so foul a purpose?”
The man scowled and spat out “Papists!” He then shook his head but said no more as he studied the papers on the table before him. Another man now raised a finger to attract Charles’ attention. “While we can all share your feelings towards the cruel fate of these children it has to be admitted that they are not the only children who find themselves in such a predicament are they? Why sir, only last year I recall your men closing down just such an establishment and the city found itself responsible for…five children if I recall correctly? Five children sir who must be fed, watered, clothed and cared for and these were children of Edinburgh sir! They were not some flotsam washed down from the Highlands in the wake of the invaders!” He shook his head. “No sir, I can fully understand your concern but really, is it worth the bother and the risk of allowing a murderer free rein to roam our streets? I can see no benefit to the city in this. What if she, the prisoner I refer to here, were to be rescued from your custody by confederates and accomplices sir? What then indeed? From what you have told us, you have the guilty party safely locked away in the Tollbooth where she can get up to no further mischief and I for one think it best that is just where she should remain!”
Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.
He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spent most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.
Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.
He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.