Tales Within A Tale 4 – Barnabas Tooms

Now it’s just a bit more than two months until Skin Like Silver is published in the UK. That’s still plenty of time to introduce you to some of the characters. Not Tom Harper or Annabelle, not Billy Reed or Superintendent Kendall. Not even Ash. But some of the others who populate this book – there are over 60; I counted.

They’re relatively minor characters, but they all have their stories to tell. About once a fortnight until publication you’ll get to meet some of them. One of them could well be a killer. Or perhaps not. But when you read the book and come across them, you can smile and say ‘I know you.’

Read the first Tale within a Tale, about Patrick Martin, here, the second with Robert Carr here, and the third with Miss worthy here.

And, of course, you can read about Skin Like Silver here.

Like what you see? Order your copy here (this is currently the cheapest price by far!)

1870s Victorians 05

This time, it’s Barnabas Tooms

Barnabas Tooms sat at his usual table in the bar of the Griffin Hotel. He was holding a cigar between his fingers, a glass of whisky in front of him as he listened intently to what the other man was saying.

‘What you mean is there’s been a slight…misunderstanding?’ he asked when the man’s voice trailed away to nothing.

‘Yes. Exactly.’ He saw the relief spread across the man’s face. A ward man for the Liberals, a nobody, really. But they all came to him with their problems, hoping he’d be able to fix them, to give them an easy way out.

And usually Benjamin Tooms could do it.

They might have to spend a little money to make it happen, but that was the price to pay for an indiscretion. The greater it was, the more it cost. He made problems disappear and he was very good at it. And in return he stored up the favours, made a ledger of them, ready to demand when he needed.

All the politicians in Leeds, and those who wanted to be, knew him.

‘I think we can do something about it,’ Tooms said after a little thought. ‘Do you have ten guineas to spare?’

The man sitting across the table looked very serious now.

‘That much?’ he asked in surprise.

‘When you sat down, a solution seemed to be worth a fortune to you,’ Tooms pointed out. ‘On that scale I’d call ten guineas a bargain, wouldn’t you?’

‘I suppose so, the man admitted reluctantly. ‘But-’

‘No buts. It’s yes or no.’ He tapped ash from the cigar then took a sip of the whisky. Bloody fools. Coming here because they needed him then trying to bargain him down. This one had been caught with a prostitute. All it would cost was two pounds to the coppers for all mention to go away. Nothing for the girl; she’d be grateful not to end up in court.

Easy to fix. Like most things in life if you knew the right people and applied the right grease.

Life had been good to him. A room upstairs at the hotel, plenty to eat and drink. Rarely had to put his hand in his pocket for anything. But he was a self-made man. He’d done all this on his own. Started out with nothing in Armley and always been quick to spot opportunities. Quicker still to take them, before some other bugger did.

He’d worked hard, a bit of everything. Hadn’t minded getting his hands dirty when he was younger. A hard warning, a beating, he done it when he was younger. These days he paid to have it done; no shortage of willing men after a bob or two.

He’d grown into someone successful. Portly. Good suits made by a little kike tailor in the Leylands. Shirts, collars, and ties from the Pygmalion. Shoes of the best leather from the maker on Basinghall Street. He’d come a long way from the raggedy-arsed nipper scuffling around.

‘Well?’ he asked. He’d given the man enough time to make up his mind. They got worse each year with their dithering.

‘I’ll do it.’

Barnabas Tooms smiled. He’d never doubted the decision.

Enjoying the tale? Take a look at the book trailer and see if that whets your appetite more…

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