Read The Bloodless Boy Online

Authors: Robert J. Lloyd

Tags: #Ian Pears, #Umberto Eco, #Carlos Ruiz Zafon, #An Instance of the Fingerpost, #Dissolution, #Peter Ackroyd, #C J Sansom, #The Name of the Rose, #The Hangman's Daughter, #Oliver Pötzsch

The Bloodless Boy

BOOK: The Bloodless Boy
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Table of Contents

About the Author

The Bloodless Boy


Observation I Of a Body

Observation II Of Saltpetre, Sulphur, & Charcoal

Observation III Of Infusion

Observation IV Of Presentation

Observation V Of Release

Observation VI Of Transparency

Observation VII Of a Cipher

Observation VIII Of Assistance

Observation IX Of Distraction

Observation X Of Concealment

Observation XI Of Deciphering

Observation XII Of Openness

Observation XIII Of the Red Cipher

Observation XIV Of Civil War

Observation XV Of Snowshoes

Observation XVI Of Enthusiasm

Observation XVII Of Angels

Observation XVIII Of Illumination

Observation XIX Of Instruction

Observation XX Of Identity

Observation XXI Of Petrified Bodies

Observation XXII Of the Chelsea Physic Garden

Observation XXIII Of Ingenious Pursuits

Observation XXIV Of a Catholic Design

Observation XXV Of Trust

Observation XXVI Of Delegation

Observation XXVII Of Albion

Observation XXVIII Of Correspondence

Observation XXIX Of Nocturnal Creatures

Observaiton XXX Of Further Articles

Observation XXXI Of the Nerves

Observation XXXII Of Rest

Observation XXXIII Of the Morice Waterwheels

Observation XXXIV Of Anatomizing

Observation XXXV Of a Flea

Observation XXXVI Of the Letters Deciphered

Observation XXXVII Of the Wartime

Observation XXXVIII Of a Blood-Covenant

Observation XXXIX Of the Observations

Observation XXXX Of Temperature

Observation XXXXI Of the Power of Words

Observation XXXXII Of Sickness

Observation XXXXIII Of Falling Bodies

Observation XXXXIV Of Further Opinions

Observation XXXXV Of Bleeding the Tongue

Observation XXXXVI Of a Proposal

Observation XXXXVII Of the Power of Prayer

Observation XXXXVIII Of the Heart and Blood

Observation XXXXIX Of Expiration

Observation L Of Maternity

Observation LI Of the Air-Pump

Observation LII Of Combustion

Observation LIII Of Conflux and Diflux Bloods

Observation LIV Of a Preparation

Observation LV Of a Burial

Observation LVI Of the Light of Grace

Observation LVII Of the Popish Plot

Observation LVIII Of Ashes

Observation LIX Of Simulacra

Observation LX Of Assassination

Observation LXI Of Anger

Observation LXII Of a Proposition

Observation LXIII Of Elucidation

Observation LXIV Of Conclusion

Author’s Note


About the Author

Robert J. Lloyd is a writer and secondary school teacher.
The Bloodless Boy
is his first novel.

He gained a First Class BA degree in Fine Art, and an MA in the History of Ideas, when he discovered Robert Hooke and his New Philosophical Club.

He is married and has three splendid children, and lives in the Brecon Beacons.

Follow him on Twitter as @robjlloyd.

The Bloodless Boy

London, 1678. The blood-drained body of a young boy is discovered in the snow on the bank of the Fleet River. Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Justice of the Peace, sets out to investigate this sinister killing with the help of Robert Hooke, Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society, and his assistant Harry Hunt. On Sir Edmund’s orders Hooke and Harry preserve the body as evidence at Gresham College.

When a solicitor delivers a coded letter to Hooke, he recognises the code as being one used during the Civil War thirty years before, and discovers that Sir Edmund had in fact used it at that time to assist King Charles II’s escape to France. Hooke becomes suspicious of Sir Edmund and forbids Harry from continuing the investigation. But Harry ignores Hooke’s warnings.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the Earl of Shaftesbury, his secretary John Locke, and Lefèvre, an assassin.  They are plotting against the King and intend to exploit the anti-Catholic feeling in London to cast blame for the plot on innocent Catholics. Shaftesbury’s employees give false evidence to Sir Edmund about the dead boy, and as they intended, rumours start to spread of a Catholic plot and the finding of a ‘devil-boy’ drained of his blood.

When another young boy is found dead, Hooke, Harry and Sir Edmund are summoned by the King to examine the body.  But before they have time to find the serial killer, Sir Edmund is discovered dead, wedged in the waterwheels under London Bridge. The King commands that the Justice’s murder be kept secret to avoid more anti-Catholic hysteria.

At the autopsy, which is carried out by Robert Hooke with Harry assisting, a piece of paper is found in Sir Edmund’s stomach.  On it is written the keyword for the Civil War secret code, CORPUS. Harry makes the connection between the keyword and the writings of Thomas Whitcombe, a pioneering scientist who carries out experiments in blood transfusion.

As word spreads of Harry’s investigation into the mysterious deaths, he finds his life in grave danger, not knowing any longer who to trust when he finally realises the horrible significance of Whitcombe’s research and the terrible consequences of experiments gone wrong in the name of Science.


Robert J. Lloyd

Copyright © Robert J. Lloyd 2014

The right of Robert J. Lloyd to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This book is sold subject to the condition it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be copied, lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated in print or electronic means without the publisher’s prior consent in any form.

ISBN 978-1-78036-192-5

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described, all situations in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

Published by

Peach Publishing

. . . these creatures do not wound the skin, and suck the blood out of enmity and revenge, but for meer necessity, and to satisfy their hunger. By what means this creature is able to suck, we shall shew in another place.

Micrographia or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon.
Robert Hooke (1665)


HARRY HUNT, Observator of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.

ROBERT HOOKE, Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, Architect, and Surveyor of the New London.

GRACE HOOKE, Robert Hooke’s niece.

MARY ROBINSON, Robert Hooke’s housekeeper.

TOM GYLES, Robert Hooke’s apprentice.

HENRY OLDENBURG, Secretary of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.


SIR EDMUND BURY GODFREY, Justice of Peace for Westminster.

WELKIN, the Justice’s man.

GABRIEL KNAPP, a Constable.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the EARL OF SHAFTESBURY.

DR. JOHN LOCKE, Shaftesbury’s Secretary.

AIRES, Shaftesbury’s man.

ENOCH WOLFE, an Intelligencer for Shaftesbury.

LEFÈVRE, an assassin.

TITUS OATES, Clergyman, perjuror.

ISRAEL TONGE, a Fanatic.

COLONEL MICHAEL FIELDS, an old Soldier for Parliament.

MOSES CREED, a Solicitor.

TURNER, proprietor of the Angel coffee-house.


THOMAS WHITCOMBE, a virtuoso natural philosopher.

NOBLE FISHER, a builder.

JONATHAN LATHAM, a carpenter.

CHARLES II, the King.

SIR JONAS MOORE, Surveyor-General of the Board of Ordnance.

FRANCES TERESA STEWART, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox.

HORTENSE MANCINI, the most beautiful lady in the Kingdom.

ANNE LENNARD, COUNTESS OF SUSSEX, Hortense’s lover, and daughter of the King.

Observation I
Of a Body

The water began to stick, splashes fattening on the glass.

Harry Hunt, Observator of the Royal Society of London for Improving of Natural Knowledge, stopped to view more closely this change in form, as rain turned to snow. Fingers stiffened and reddened by the chill, he wiped at his spectacles, and watched the first flakes settle onto the brown leather of his coat sleeve.

He moved on, the soles of his boots beating percussive strikes on the cobbles edging the muddy lane. The early morning sky was violet, the colour of a bruise. His purposeful stride took him east by the Roman wall, past the Bethlehem Hospital sprawling over Moorfields, smudges of light escaping its windows.

He had a slight frame and pale London skin.

South down Broad Street. The narrow buildings shouldered one another, pressing together for warmth.

Untouched by the fury of the Conflagration, they followed the old scheme.

He made his way towards Gresham’s College, the mansion used by the Royal Society, to see the Professor of Geometry and Curator of Experiments there, Mr. Robert Hooke.

The snow fell thickly, already settling despite the wet ground.

Harry’s steps echoed through the archway leading to the College’s quadrangle. In the stables the horses snorted, and he heard the grate of their shoes. He turned for the south-east corner, and stopped at a door.

A window clattered open above him and the head of a boy appeared.

‘Mr. Hunt! Mr. Hooke is already gone!’

Harry put his finger to his lips. Tom Gyles, with a pantomime grimace, acted out his understanding. Ah, discretion was required. No less loudly, he called down again.

‘I shall come to you! Mr. Hooke would desire no stranger hear the business.’

Harry let himself in with his key, shaking off the snow from his coat onto the lobby’s neat flagstones.

Did a philosophical business engage the Curator? Robert Hooke was kept busy demonstrating experiments to the Fellows of the Royal Society. He also worked as Surveyor to the City of London, with Sir Christopher Wren. A far more lucrative employment, rebuilding the new London. Perhaps he went to perform a view.

The rest of the boy belonging to the head arrived, hopping from one foot to the other as if his young bladder was about to burst. A rope of hair stuck up from his crown, giving him the look of a shaggy sundial.

Harry looked past him, eager to see the Curator’s niece, Grace. At this hour she still lay in her bed. A little wistfully, he returned his thoughts to Tom.

‘Mr. Hooke is gone to the Fleet, at the Holborn Bridge, to meet with Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey! The messenger’s knocking woke us all.’

‘I shall return then later, when his business is done.’ So Grace was awake . . .

‘He asks that you join them there.’ Tom looked slyly up at him, watching the widening of Harry’s eyes, pleased with the result of his information, happy that he had held it back for most effect.

Harry stared at him, feeling a pulse of anxiety. He had no desire to become involved with the Justice; Sir Edmund was renowned throughout London as a pervasive and threatening presence.

‘I shall go there,’ he replied reluctantly. ‘Oh, I have forgot – a Happy New Year’s Day to you, Tom.’

‘And to you, Mr. Hunt. A prosperous 1678 for us all.’

Harry left the boy, and walked across the quadrangle.

Behind him, Grace watched from her window, observing the trail his boots left, as they dragged through the snow.


The smell of fish, flesh, and fruit from the Stocks. Breakfast.

By the statue that looked over the market, the second Charles and his mount trampling the head of Oliver Cromwell, he bought a pastry and Dutch biscuits from a man half-asleep by his stall.

Up the gradual climb of Cheapside, the pastry too hot to eat, and too hot to hold, Harry swapped it from hand to hand as he walked. Past where the Cheapside Cross had stood until its destruction by Puritan enthusiasm. This had happened ten years before he was born, yet people still referred to it as a landmark, the more pious offering their thoughts on the Whore of Rome as they did so.

Friday Street, Gutter Lane, Foster Lane, and Old Change.

Here, all had burned in the Conflagration. In between these townhouses, warehouses, and shops, of brick and stone, built to the new regulation and standard, some spaces still remained. Sad patches of land, never reclaimed, their charred ruins dispersed over time, replaced by litter, nettles and dirt.

Lines of stones reached up from the wharfs; the largest took days to be dragged from the quayside. The new Cathedral awaited them, ribs and stomach open to the sky. Around it lay more stones, bricks, earth, and timbers, like organs cut from it rather than materials to build it up.

From where the arch of Newgate used to be, before it too was destroyed by fire, he walked carefully down the winding lane of Snow Hill, slipping, almost falling, and then on to Holborn Hill.

He wiped the last pieces of pastry from his fingers, and transferred his attention to a biscuit.

He was at the bridge spanning the Fleet tributary.


‘Hoy! Go no further!’

An old Constable moved out from the doorway of the Vulture and stopped him with a raised and shaky palm. His face, a cracked glaze of lines, peered out from under a shabby montero. The wool of the hat was wet through, sagging onto his shoulders. Despite his age, he was tough-looking, far broader than Harry.

‘What happens here?’ Harry asked, in as business-like a tone as he could muster, wiping biscuit from his chin.

‘A finding – no mind of yours!’

‘If Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey has done the finding, then I am to meet him. Mr. Robert Hooke accompanies the Justice, does he not?’

The man blinked at him.

‘I am Mr. Harry Hunt, Observator of the Royal Society, and assistant to Mr. Hooke,’ Harry added grandly.

With a cursory thumb the Constable sent him down to the river.


Robert Hooke had shaped this place, overseeing the Fleet’s straightening, deepening, and widening. The watermen in their wherries could now reach as far as the new bridge and beyond. Before, its main users had been floating dead dogs, their corpses bumping each other, appearing to sniff one another in death as they had in life. Further upstream, the Fleet disappeared into the hillside through an arch, its huge iron grating holding back the filth carried from the Turnmill Brook.

Hooke sheltered beneath the span of Holborn Bridge, wearing his favourite overcoat, a natural grey colour. The Curator’s hunched form was easily recognised, the twist in his back diminishing what would otherwise have been a tall stature. Without the cover of a wig, and untied, Hooke’s hair hung over his large forehead and stuck to his sharp chin. His long nose, nostrils red-rimmed with a busy gathering of hair protruding from them, had a dewdrop hanging from its tip. His protuberant silver eyes acknowledged the younger man’s arrival, but he said nothing to him.

Next to him, contrastingly upright, stood a tall, impressive man in a long black camlet coat, black leather gloves and a large black hat. A rapier, sheathed in a black scabbard, poked out behind him. His black periwig swept around a large head and down over his shoulders. This Puritan severity was lessened by a single touch of ostentation, a band of gold fabric encircling the hat.

He resembled, Harry thought, a large inquisitive raven.

Harry jumped from the quayside’s low wall down onto the bank. The river slid viscously over the mud, eroding the snow to a clean, frosty edge.

Hooke merely pointed further along the bank, directing Harry under the bridge.

Harry walked past the two men, through the shadow of the arch and back out into the brightness of the falling snow.


His reaction was not worthy of a New Philosopher of the Royal Society. Harry urged himself to become cooler, more dispassionate.

The dead boy, naked, possibly as young as two years, at most as old as three, had been left in a foetal position, on his side, back curved, head bowed, arms and legs pulled in to his body.

The snow falling over him softened his outline, making it look as if he came up from the ground, digested and then expelled.

‘Happy New Year’s Day to you, Harry,’ Hooke said ironically, now striding after him, his feet sucked at by the mud under the snow. His thin voice struggled through the phlegm at the back of his throat.

Sir Edmund followed them out from under the bridge. His head hosted a meat-coloured face, long with a strong jaw, and a mouth with lips so thin it looked like an incision. His complexion, with its furrows and broken veins, betrayed a life spent in the open air.

‘Mr. Hooke described you.’ Sir Edmund did not wait for Hooke to make the proper introduction. His voice resonated from his diaphragm; Harry thought that he felt it and heard it in equal parts. ‘Already I am impressed.’

BOOK: The Bloodless Boy
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