Assassin ? Anne Perry Book 15 William Monk Series ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT NINE TEN ELEVEN TWELVE ? ? ?
Waterloo Bridge loomed in the distance as William Monk settled himself more comfortably in thebow of the police boat. There were four men, himself as senior officer, and three to man thefour oars. Rowing randan, it was called. Monk sat rigid in his uniform coat. It was Januaryand bitterly cold as he and his companions patrolled the Thames for accidents, missing craft,and stolen cargo. The wind ruffled the water and cut the skin like the edge of a knife, but hedid not want anyone to see him shivering.
It was five weeks since he had accepted the position leading this section of the RiverPolice. It was a debt of honor he already regretted profoundly, the more so with everyfreezing, sodden day as 1863 turned into 1864 and the winter settled ruthlessly over Londonand its teeming waterway.
The boat rocked in the wash of a string of barges going upriver on the incoming tide. Orme, atthe stern, steadied the boat expertly. He was a man of average height, but deceptivesuppleness and strength, and a kind of grace exhibited as he managed the oar. Perhaps he hadlearned in his years on the water how easy it was to capsize a boat with sudden movement.
They were pulling closer to the bridge. In the gray afternoon, before the lamps were lit,they could see the traffic crossing: dark shadows of hansoms and four-wheelers. They werestill too far away to hear the clip of horses' hooves above the sound of the water. A man andwoman stood on the footpath close to the railing, facing each other as if in conversation.Monk thought idly that whatever they were saying must matter to them intensely for it to holdtheir attention in such a bleak, exposed place. The wind tugged at the woman's skirts. At thatheight, where there was no shelter, she must have been even colder than Monk was.
Orme guided the boat a little further out into the stream. They were going downriver again,back towards the station at Wapping where they were headquartered. Six weeks ago InspectorDurban had been commander and Monk had been a private agent of enquiry. Monk still could notthink of it without a tightening of the throat-a loneliness and a guilt he could not imaginewould ever leave him. Each time he saw a group of River Police and one of them walked slowlywith a smooth, ambling stride, a little rounded at the shoulder, he expected him to turn andhe would see Durban's face. Then memory came back, and he knew it could not be.
The bridge was only two hundred feet away now. The couple were still there against thebalustrade. The man held her by the shoulders as if he would take her in his arms. Perhapsthey were lovers. Of course, Monk could not hear their words-the wind tore them from thecouple's mouths-but their faces were alive with a passion that was clearer with every momentas the boat drew towards them. Monk wondered what it was: a quarrel, a last farewell, evenboth?
The police oarsmen were having to pull hard against the incoming tide.
Monk looked up again just in time to see the man struggling with the woman, holding herfiercely as she clung to him. Her back was to the railing, bending too far. Instinctively hewanted to call out. A few inches more and she would fall!
Orme, too, was staring up at them now.
The man grasped at the woman and she pulled away. She seemed to lose her balance and he lungedafter her. Clasped together, they teetered for a desperate moment on the edge, then shepitched backwards. He made a wild attempt to catch her. She flung out a hand and gripped him.But it was too late. They both plunged over the side and spun crazily, like a huge, broken-winged bird, until they hit the racing, filthy water and were carried on top of it, not evenstruggling, while it soaked into them, dragging them down.
Orme shouted, and the oarsmen dug their blades in deep. They threw their backs against theweight of the river, heaving, hurtling them forward.
Monk, his heart in his mouth, strained to keep the bodies in sight. They had only a hundredfeet to go, and yet he knew already that it was too late. The impact of hitting the waterwould stun them and drive the air out of their lungs. When at last they did gasp inward, itwould be the icy water laden with raw sewage, choking them, drowning them. Still, senselesslyhe leaned forward over the bow, shouting, "Faster, faster! There! No ... there!"
They drew level, turning a little sideways. The oarsmen kept the boat steady in the currentand the changing balance as Orme heaved the body of the young woman over the gunwale.Awkwardly, as gently as he could, he laid her inside. Monk could see the other body, but itwas too far away to reach, and if he stretched he could tip the boat.
"Port!" he instructed, although the oarsmen were already moving to do it. He reached overcarefully to the half-submerged body of the young man, whose coat was drifting out in thewater, his boots dragging his legs downwards. Awkwardly, straining his shoulders, Monk hauledhim up over the gunwale and in, laying him on the bottom of the boat next to the young woman.He had seen many dead people before, but the sense of loss never diminished. From the victim'spale face, smeared with dirt from the river water and plastered with hair across the brow, heappeared about thirty. He had a mustache but was otherwise clean-shaven. His clothes were wellcut and of excellent quality. The hat he had been wearing on the bridge was gone.
Orme was standing, balancing easily, looking down at Monk and the young man.
"Nothing we can do for either of 'em, sir," he said. "Drown quick going off the bridge likethat. Pity," he added softly. "Looks no more'n twenty, she does. Nice face."
Monk sat back on the bench. "Anything to indicate who she was?" he asked.
Orme shook his head.
"If she 'ad one of 'em little bags ladies carry, it's gone, but there's a letter in 'erpocket addressed to Miss Mary 'Avilland o' Charles Street. It's postmarked already, like it'sbin sent and received, so could be it's 'er."
Monk leaned forward and systematically went through the pockets of the dead man, keeping hisbalance with less ease than Orme as the boat began the journey downstream, back towardsWapping. There was no point in putting a man ashore to look for witnesses to the quarrel, ifthat was what it had been. They could not identify the traffic that had been on the bridge,and on the water they themselves had seen as much as anyone. Two people quarrelling-or kissingand parting-who lost their balance and fell. There was nothing anyone could add.
Actually, as far as Monk could remember, there had been no one passing at exactly that moment.It was the hour when the dusk is not drawn in sufficiently for the lamps to be lit, but thelight wanes and the grayness of the air seems to delude the eye. Things are half seen; theimagination fills in the rest, sometimes inaccurately.
Monk turned to the man's pockets and found a leather wallet with a little money and a casecarrying cards. He was apparently Toby Argyll, of Walnut Tree Walk, Lambeth. That was alsosouth of the river, not far from the girl's address on Charles Street off the WestminsterBridge Road. Monk read the information aloud for Orme.
The boat was moving slowly, as only two men were rowing. Orme squatted on the boards nearArgyll's body. On the shore the lamps were beginning to come on, yellow moons in the deepeninghaze. The wind had the breath of ice in it. It was time to trim their own riding lights, orthey would be struck by barges-or the ferries going crosscurrent- carrying passengers from onebank to the other.
Monk lit the lantern and carefully moved back to where Orme had laid the woman. She lay onher back. Orme had folded her hands and smoothed the hair off her face. Her eyes were closed,her skin already gray-white, as if she had been dead longer than just the few minutes sincethey had seen her on the bridge.
She had a wide mouth and high cheekbones under delicately arched brows. It was a very feminineface, both strong and vulnerable, as if she had been filled with high passions in life.
"Poor creature," Orme said softly. "S'pose we'll never know wot made 'er do it. Mebbe 'e werebreakin' orff an engagement, or somethin'." The expression on his face was all but masked bythe deepening shadows, but Monk could hear the intense pity in his voice.
Monk suddenly realized he was wet up to the armpits from having lifted the body out of thewater. He was shuddering with cold and it was hard to speak without his teeth chattering. Hewould have given all the money in his pocket for a hot mug of tea with a lacing of rum in it.He could not remember ever being this perishingly cold on shore.
Suicide was a crime, not only against the state but in the eyes of the Church as well. Ifthat was the coroner's verdict, she would be buried in unhallowed ground. And there was thequestion of the young man's death as well. Perhaps there was no point in arguing it, but Monkdid so instinctively. "Was he trying to stop her?"
The boat was moving slowly, against the tide. The water was choppy, slapping at the woodensides and making it difficult for two oarsmen to keep her steady.
Orme hesitated for several moments before answering. "I dunno, Mr. Monk, an' that's thetruth. Could've bin. Could've bin an accident both ways." His voice dropped lower. "Orcould've bin 'e pushed 'er. It 'ap-pened quick."
"Do you have an opinion?" Monk could hardly get the words out clearly, he was shaking somuch.
"You'd be best on an oar, sir," Orme said gravely. "Get the blood movin', as it were."
Monk accepted the suggestion. Senior officers might not be supposed to row like ordinaryconstables, but they were not much use frozen stiff or with pneumonia, either.
He moved to the center of the boat and took up one of the oars beside Orme. After severalstrokes he got into the rhythm and the boat sped forward, cutting the water more cleanly. Theyrowed a long way without speaking again. They passed under Blackfriars Bridge towards theSouthwark Bridge, which was visible in the distance only by its lights. The wind was like aknife edge, slicing the breath almost before it reached the lungs.
Monk had accepted his current position in the River Police partly as a debt of honor. Eightyears ago he had woken up in hospital with no memory at all. Fact by fact he had assembled anidentity, discovering things about himself, not all of which pleased him. At that time he wasa policeman, heartily disliked by his immediate superior, Superintendent Runcorn. Theirrelationship had deteriorated until it became a debatable question whether Monk had resignedbefore or after Runcorn had dismissed him. Since the detection and solving of crime was theonly profession he knew, and he was obliged to earn his living, he had taken up the same workprivately.
But circumstances had altered in the late autumn of last year. The need for money hadcompelled him to accept employment with shipping magnate Clement Louvain, his first experienceon the river. Subsequently he had met Inspector Durban and had become involved with the MaudeIdris and its terrible cargo. Now Durban was dead, but before his death he had recommendedMonk to succeed him in his place at the Wapping station.
Durban could have had no idea how Monk had previously failed in commanding men. The formerpoliceman was brilliant, but he had never worked easily with others, either in giving ortaking orders. Runcorn would have told Durban that, would have told him that-clever or not,brave or not-Monk was not worth the trouble he would cost. Monk had been mellowed by time andcircumstance, and above all, perhaps, by marriage to Hester Latterly, who had nursed in theCrimea with Florence Nightingale and was a good deal more forthright than most young women.She loved him with a fierce loyalty and a startling passion, but she also very candidly
expressed her own opinions. Even so, Runcorn would have advised Superintendent Farnham to findsomeone else to take the place of a man like Durban, who had been wise, experienced, andprofoundly admired.
But Durban had wanted Monk, and Monk needed the work. During his independent years, Hester'sfriend Lady Callandra Daviot had had the money and the interest to involve herself in hiscases, and support them in the leaner months. Now Callandra had gone to live in Vienna, andthe grim choice was either for Monk to obtain regular and reliable employment or for Hester toreturn to private nursing, which would mean most often living in the houses of such patientsas she could acquire. One could not nurse except by being there all the time. For Monk to seeher as little as that was a choice of final desperation. So here he was sitting in the thwartof a boat throwing his weight against the oar as they passed under London Bridge heading southtowards the Tower and Wapping Stairs. He was still bone-achingly cold and wet to theshoulders, and two dead bodies lay at his feet.
Finally they reached the steps up to the police station. Carefully, a little stiffly, heshipped his oar, stood up, and helped carry the limp, water-soaked bodies up the stairs,across the quay, and into the shelter of the station house.
There at least it was warm. The black iron stove was burning, giving the whole room apleasant, smoky smell, and there was hot tea, stewed almost black, waiting for them. None ofthe men really knew Monk yet, and they were still grieving for Durban. They treated Monk withcivility; if he wanted anything more, he would have to earn it. The river was a dangerousplace with its shifting tides and currents, occasional sunken obstacles, fast-moving traffic,and sudden changes of weather. It demanded courage, skill, and even more loyalty between menthan did the same profession on land. However, human decency dictated they offer Monk tealaced with rum, as they would to any man, probably even to a stray dog at this time of theyear. Indeed, Humphrey, the station cat, a large white animal with a ginger tail, was providedwith a basket by the stove and as much milk as he could drink. Mice were his own affair tocatch for himself, which he did whenever he could be bothered, or nobody had fed him withother titbits.
"Thank you." Monk drank the tea and felt some resemblance of life return to his body, warmthworking slowly from the inside outwards.
"Accident?" Sergeant Palmer asked, looking at the bodies now lying on the floor, facesdecently covered with spare coats.
"Don't know yet," Monk replied. "Came off Waterloo Bridge right in front of us, but we can'tbe sure how it happened."
Palmer frowned, puzzled. He had his doubts about Monk's competence anyway, and this indecisionwent towards confirming them.
Orme finished his tea. "Went off together," he said, looking at Palmer expressionlessly. "'Ard to tell if 'e were trying to save 'er, or could've pushed 'er. Know what killed 'em allright, poor souls. 'It the water 'ard, like they always do. But I daresay as we'll never knowfor certain why."
Palmer waited for Monk to say something. The room was suddenly silent. The other two men fromthe boat, Jones and Butterworth, stood watching, turning from one to the other, to see whatMonk would do. It was a test again. Would he match up to Durban?
"Get the surgeon to look at them, just in case there's something else," Monk answered."Probably isn't, but we don't want to risk looking stupid."
"Drownded," Palmer said sourly, turning away. "Come orff one o' the bridges, yer always are.Anybody knows that. Water shocks yer an' so yer breathes it in. Kills yer. Quick's almost theonly good thing to it."
"And how stupid will we look if we say she's a suicide, and it turns out she was knifed orstrangled, but we didn't notice it?" Monk asked quietly. "I just want to make sure. Or withchild, and we didn't see that, either? Look at the quality of her clothes. She's not a streetwoman. She has a decent address and she may have family. We owe them the truth."
Palmer colored unhappily. "It won't make them feel no better if she's with child," heobserved without looking back at Monk.
"We don't look for the answers that make people feel better," Monk told him. "We have to dealwith the ones we find closest to the truth. We know who they are and where they lived. Ormeand I are going to tell their families. You get the police surgeon to look at them."
"Yes, sir," Palmer said stiffly. "You'll be goin' 'ome to put dry clothes on, no doubt?" Heraised his eyebrows.
Monk had already learned that lesson. "I've got a dry shirt and coat in the cupboard. They'lldo fine."
Orme turned away, but not before Monk had seen his smile.
Monk and Orme took a hansom from Wapping, westward along High Street. The lightsintermittently flickered from the river and the hard wind whipped the smell of salt and weedup the alleys between the waterfront houses. They went around the looming mass of the Tower ofLondon, then back down to the water again along Lower Thames Street. They finally crossed theriver at the Southwark Bridge and passed through the more elegant residential areas until theycame to the six-way crossing at St. George s Circus. From there it was not far to theWestminster Bridge Road and Walnut Tree Walk.
Informing the families of the dead was the part of any investigation that every policemanhated, and it was the duty of the senior man. It would be both cowardly and the worstdiscourtesy to the bereaved to delegate it.
Monk paid the driver and let him go. He had no idea how long it would take them to break thenews, or what they might find.
The house where Toby Argyll had lived was gracious but obviously was let in a series of rooms,as suited single men rather than families. A landlady in a dark dress and wearing an apronopened the door, immediately nervous on seeing two men unknown to her standing on the step.Orme was of average height with pleasant, ordinary features, but he wore a river policeman'suniform. Monk was taller and had the grace of a man conscious of his own magnetism. There waspower in his face, lean-boned with a high-bridged, broad nose and unflinching eyes. It was aface of intelligence, even sensitivity, but few people found it comfortable.
"Good evening, ma'am," he said gently. His voice was excellent, his diction beautiful. He hadworked hard to lose the Northumbrian accent that marked his origins. He had wantedpassionately to be a gentleman. That desire was long past, but the music in his voiceremained.
"Evenin', sir," she replied warily.
"My name is Monk, and this is Sergeant Orme, of the Thames River Police. Is this the home ofMr. Toby Argyll?"
She swallowed. "Yes, sir. Never say there's bin an accident in one o' them tunnels.'" Herhand flew to her mouth as if to stifle a cry. "I can't 'elp yer, sir. Mr. Argyll's not atome."
"No, ma'am, there hasn't been, so far as I know," Monk replied. "But I'm afraid there hasbeen a tragedy. I'm extremely sorry. Does Mr. Argyll live alone here?"
She stared at him, her round face paler now as she began to understand that they had comewith the worst possible news.
"Would you like to go in and sit down?" Monk asked.
She nodded and backed away from him, allowing them to follow her along the passage to thekitchen. It was full of the aroma of dinner cooking, and he realized absently how long it wassince he had eaten. She sank down on one of the hard-backed wooden chairs, putting her elbowson the table and her hands up to her face. There were pans steaming on the top of the hugeblack range, and the savory aroma of meat pie came from the oven beneath it. Copper warmingpans glimmered on the wall in the gaslight, and strings of onions hung from the ceiling.
There was no point in delaying what she must already know was coming.
"I'm sorry to tell you that Mr. Argyll fell off the Waterloo Bridge," Monk told her. "Mrs ?"
She looked at him, face blanched, eyes wide. "Porter," she supplied. "I looked after Mr.Argyll since 'e first come 'ere. 'Ow could 'e 'ave fallen orff the bridge? It don't make nosense! There's railings! Yer don't fall orff! Are yer sayin' 'e was the worse for wear an'went climbin', or summink daft?" She was shivering now, angry. "I don't believe yer.' 'Eweren't like that.' Very sober, 'ard-workin' young gentleman, 'e were! Yer in't got the rightperson. Yer made a mistake, that's wot yer done!" She lifted her chin and stared at him. "Yeroughter be more careful, scarin' folks all wrong."
"There's no reason to suppose he was drunk, Mrs. Porter." Monk did not prevaricate. "Theyoung man we found had cards saying he was Toby Argyll, of this address. He was about myheight, or perhaps a little less, fair-haired, clean-shaven except for a mustache." Hestopped. He could see by her wide, fixed eyes and the pinched look of her mouth that he haddescribed Argyll. "I'm sorry," he said again.
Her lips trembled. "Wot 'appened? If 'e weren't drunk, 'ow'd 'e come ter fall in the river?Yer ain't makin' no sense!" It was still a challenge; she was clinging to the last shred ofhope as if disbelieving could keep it from being true.
"He was with a young lady," he told her. "They seemed to be having a rather heateddiscussion. They grasped hold of each other and swayed a little, then she fell back againstthe rail. They struggled a little more-"
"Wot d'yer mean?" she demanded. "Yer sayin' as they was fightin', or summink?"
This was worse than he had expected. What had they been doing? What had he seen, exactly? Hetried to clear his mind of all the ideas since then, the attempts to understand and interpret,and recall exactly what had happened. The two figures had been on the bridge, the woman closerto the railing. Or had she? Yes, she had. The wind had been behind them and Monk had seen thebillowing skirts poking between the uprights of the balustrade. The woman had waved her armsand then put her hands on the man's shoulders. A caress? Or pushing him away? He had moved hisarm, back and up. Pulling away from her? Or making a motion to strike her? He had grasped holdof her. To save her, or to push her?
Mrs. Porter was waiting, hugging herself, still shivering in the warm kitchen with itsdinnertime smells.
"I don't know," he said slowly. "They were above us, outlined against the light, and almosttwo hundred feet away."
She turned to Orme. "Was you there too, sir?"
"Yes, ma'am," Orme replied, standing upright in the middle of the scrubbed floor. "An Mr.Monk's right. The more I think on it, the less certain I am as to what I saw, exact. It was inthat sort of darkening time just before the lamps are lit. You think you can see, but you makemistakes."
" 'Oo were she?" she asked. "The woman wot went over with 'im."
"Was there someone you might expect it to be?" Monk parried. "If they were quarrelling?"
She was clearly unhappy. "Well... I don't like ter say...." Her voice trailed off.
"We know who it was, Mrs. Porter," Monk told her. "We need to know what happened, so we don'tallow anyone to be blamed for something they didn't do."
"Yer can't 'urt 'em now," she responded, the tears trickling unheeded down her cheeks."They're dead, poor souls."
"But they'll have family who care," he pointed out. "And burial in hallowed ground, or not."
She gasped and gave a convulsive shudder.
"Were it Miss 'Avilland?" she asked hoarsely.
"What can you tell me about her?"
"It were 'er? Course, it would be. 'E din't never look at no one else, not ever since 'e met'er."
"He was in love with her?" Of course, that could mean many things, from the true giving ofthe heart, unselfishly, through generosity, need, all the way to domination and obsession. Andrejection could mean anything from resignation through misery to anger or rage and the needfor revenge, perhaps even destruction.
"Yes," she said quickly. "They was betrothed, at least 'e seemed to take it they was, thenshe broke it orff. Not that it were formal, like. There weren't no announcement."
"Do you know why?"
She was surprised.
"Me? Course I don't."
"Was there another person?"
"Not for 'im, an' I don't think for 'er neither. Least that's wot I 'eard 'im say." She gavea long sniff and gulped. "This is terrible. I never 'eard o' such a thing, not wi' qualityfolk. Wot would they want ter go jumpin' orff bridges for? Mr. Argyll'll be broke ter pieceswhen 'e 'ears, poor man."
"Mr. Argyll? His father?" Monk asked.
"No, 'is brother. Quite a bit older, 'e is. Least I should say so." She sniffed again andfished in her apron pocket for a handkerchief. "I only seen 'im five or six times, when 'ecame 'ere fer Mr. Toby, like. Very wealthy gentleman, 'e is. Owns them big machines an' thingswot's diggin' the new sewers Mr. Bazalgette drew ter clean up London, so we don't get no moretyphoid an' cholera an' the like. Took poor Prince Albert ter die of it, an' the poor Queen's'eart broke before they do it. Wicked, I say!"
Monk could remember the Great Stink of '58 very clearly, when the overflow of effluent hadbeen so serious the entire city of London became like a vast open sewer. The Thames hadsmelled so vile it choked the throat and caused nausea simply to come within a mile of it.
The new sewer system was to be the most advanced in Europe. It would cost a fortune andprovide work, and wealth, for thousands, tens of thousands if one considered all the navvies,
brick makers, and railwaymen involved, the builders, carpenters, and suppliers of one sort oranother. Most of the sewers were to be built by the open cut-and-cover method, but a few weredeep enough to require tunneling.
"So Mr. Argyll was a wealthy young man?"
"Oh, yes." She straightened up a little. "This is a very nice class o' place, Mr. Monk. Don'tlive 'ere cheap, yer know."
"And Miss Havilland?" he asked.
"Oh, she were quality, too, poor creature," she responded immediately. "A real lady she were,even with 'er opinions. I never disagreed wi' airin' opinions, meself, fer all as some mightsay it weren't proper for a young lady."
Having married a woman with passionate opinions about a number of things, Monk could notargue. In fact, he suddenly saw not Mary Havilland as she was now, white-faced in death, butinstead the slender, fierce, and vulnerable figure of Hester, with her shoulders a little toothin, her slight angularity, brown hair, and eyes of such passionate intelligence that he hadnever been able to forget them since the day they had met- and quarrelled.
He found his voice husky when he spoke again. "Do you know why she broke off therelationship, Mrs. Porter? Or was it perhaps a generous fiction Mr. Argyll allowed, and it wasactually he who ended it?"
"No, it were 'er," she said without hesitation. " 'E were upset an' 'e tried to change 'ermind." She sniffed again. "I never thought as it'd come to this."
"We don't know what happened yet," he said. "But thank you for your assistance. Can you giveus Mr. Argyll's brothers address? We need to inform him of what has happened. I don't supposeyou know who Miss Havilland s nearest relative would be? Her parents, I expect."
"I wouldn't know that, sir. But I can give you Mr. Argyll's address all right, no bother.Poor man's goin' to be beside 'isself. Very close, they was."
Alan Argyll lived a short distance away, on Westminster Bridge Road, and it took Monk andOrme only ten minutes or so to walk to the handsome house at the address Mrs. Porter had giventhem. The curtains were drawn against the early winter night, but the gas lamps in the streetshowed the elegant line of the windows and the stone steps up to a wide, carved doorway, wherethe faint gleam of brass indicated the lion-headed knocker.
Orme looked at Monk but said nothing. Breaking such news to family was immeasurably worse thanto a landlady, however sympathetic. Monk nodded very slightly, but there was nothing to say.Orme worked on the river; he was used to death.
The door was answered by a short, portly butler, his white hair thinning across the top ofhis head. From his steady, unsurprised gaze, he clearly took them to be business acquaintancesof his master.
"Mr. Argyll is at dinner, sir," he said to Monk. "If you care to wait in the morning room Iam sure he will see you in due course."
"We are from the Thames River Police," Monk told him, having given only his name at first. "Iam afraid we have bad news that cannot wait. It might be advisable to have a glass of brandyready, in case it is needed. I'm sorry."
The butler hesitated. "Indeed, sir. May I ask what has happened? Is it one of the tunnels,sir? It's very sad, but such things seem to be unavoidable."
Monk was aware that such mighty excavations as were at present in progress brought theoccasional landslip or even cave-in of the sides, burying machines and sometimes injuring men.There had been a spectacular disaster over the Fleet only days ago.