Revenge in a Cold River

BOOK: Revenge in a Cold River
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Revenge in a Cold River
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Anne Perry

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

and the
colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Originally published in the United Kingdom by Headline Publishing Group, London.


Names: Perry, Anne, author.

Title: Revenge in a cold river : a William Monk novel / Anne Perry.

Description: First edition. | New York : Ballantine Books, [2016] |

Series: William Monk ; 22

Identifiers: LCCN 2016023121 (print) | LCCN 2016028841 (ebook) | ISBN 9781101886359 (hardcover : acid-free paper) | ISBN 9781101886366 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Monk, William (Fictitious character)—Fiction. | Private investigators—England—London—Fiction. | Murder—Investigation—Fiction. | London (England)—History—19th century—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION /Mystery & Detective / Historical. | FICTION / Historical. | FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Traditional British. | GSAFD: Historical fiction. | Mystery fiction. | Suspense fiction.

Classification: LCC PR6066.E693 R45 2016 (print) | LCC PR6066.E693 (ebook) | DDC 823/.914—dc23

LC record available at​2016023121

ebook ISBN 9781101886366

Book design by Karin Batten, adapted for ebook

Cover design: Kathleen DiGrado

Cover painting: view of the River Thames and Palace of Westminster at night, © 1851 (artist unknown), Guildhall Library and Art Gallery, London/HIP/Art Resource



of the boat and climbed up the stone steps from the river, leaving Hooper to tie the vessel to the bollard and follow him. As he reached the top, the November wind struck him with chill, although it was a clear day. Or perhaps it was the figure of the customs officer McNab, waiting for him with one of his subordinates, that made him so aware of the cold.

How long had they known each other? He had no idea. In the coach accident nearly thirteen years ago, in 1856, his entire life up until then had vanished. He knew of it only through deduction, and other people's memories. He had bluffed it brilliantly. A handful of people closest to him knew. Each one of them, in a sense, held the quality of his life in their hands.

McNab hated him. Monk did not know why, but he knew very well why he hated McNab. McNab was behind the failure of the gunrunning arrest that had ended in open battle on the deck of the smugglers' ship, and Orme's death. He just did not know exactly how McNab was involved well enough to prove it. It was months ago now, but Monk still grieved for Orme, who had been his mentor, right-hand man, and above all friend, since the day Monk was appointed as commander of the Thames River Police.

McNab was waiting for him now, a solid man with his feet planted firmly on the dockside, the wind tugging at his heavy coat. He turned as he caught sight of Monk, and his blunt face assumed an expression of anticipation.

“Morning, Mr. Monk,” he said loudly enough for his voice to carry above the distant sounds of chains being hauled, the slap of water on the steps, and the shouts of bargees and lightermen out on the tide. “Got one for you!”

“Good morning, Mr. McNab,” Monk replied, stopping beside him and looking down at the lumpy outline under the canvas tarpaulin in front of him. The message that had brought him here had said that a body had been pulled from the incoming tide.

Monk lifted the tarpaulin off the corpse. It was a middle-aged man, fully dressed in well-worn working clothes. He was very little bloated from the water, and Monk judged he had probably been in it for only a few hours. His face was vacant-looking, but not disfigured, apart from a couple of bruises and a little swelling. Obviously that had happened before he died. Monk did not need the police surgeon to tell him so. When the heart stops, so does the bleeding, particularly into bruises.

Monk leaned forward and felt the thick, sodden hair. His fingers moved slowly, searching for an injury, either a lump, or a soft depression where the skull might be broken. He found nothing. He opened one of the eyelids and saw the tiny red spots in the white of the eye that indicated a lack of oxygen.

Monk looked up at McNab to see if he had noticed the spots, and saw in his face a moment of unguarded satisfaction. McNab smoothed it away instantly and his face became expressionless again.

Strangled? There were no marks on the throat; the larynx was not broken or crushed. Drowned? It was not uncommon in the Thames. The water was deep, filthy, and ice cold, the current fast and treacherous.

“So why am I here, Mr. McNab?” Monk asked. “Who is he?”

“No idea,” McNab answered quickly. His voice had a slightly rasping quality. “Not yet. Thought you ought to be sent for before we do anything. Wouldn't like to damage the evidence…” He let the remark hang unfinished. Then he gave a small, satisfied smile. “Let you look at him a bit more closely, like.”

Now Monk knew that there was far more to this than he had seen yet. McNab was waiting for him to find it or, better, to have to be shown.

He took the tarpaulin off the rest of the corpse and let it lie on the stone of the dockside. He looked at the hands and feet. The hands were whole, quite soft, without calluses and with nails clipped short, carefully. Not a manual worker. He felt the upper arms through the cloth of the woolen shirt. No heavy muscles.

The man's boots were ordinary brown leather, cheap but serviceable. No tears in his trousers. His coat seemed to be missing, or perhaps he had not been wearing one at the time he fell into the water.

McNab was still smiling, very slightly, and watching. It brought back to Monk some long-ago memory of buzzards sitting on high fence posts watching for small vermin in the grass.

What had Monk missed? A drowned man with soft hands…With difficulty, and no help from McNab or his colleague, he turned the man over, laying him on his face. Then he saw it: the neat bullet hole through the back. If there had been any blood or powder burns the river had washed them away.

Had he been wounded before he went into the water, perhaps fatally? No, because those tiny red blood dots in his eyes said he had struggled for breath. Had he been almost suffocated, escaped, and been shot after, when he was close to the water, or already in it?

Monk looked back up at McNab. “Interesting,” he said with a nod of agreement. “Better find out who he is.”

“Yes,” McNab agreed. “Not an accident, then, eh? Murder's your job. I'd help you if I could, of course. Cooperation, right? But I've no idea.” He gave a very slight shrug. “It's all yours.” He turned and walked away.

Hooper had secured the boat in which he and Monk had come, and he stood near the edge of the dock, waiting until McNab was gone. Now he came forward, his gaze still on the retreating figures until they disappeared round the side of the warehouse and he and Monk were alone on the quay. There was noise all around them of men unloading in the nearby docks. They shouted to one another. Mooring chains clanked. There were thumps and the creak of bales landing, the sharper sound of wooden kegs hitting the stone, and from below them the slurp of water.

“I don't trust that bastard as far as I could throw him,” Hooper said. Then he looked down at the corpse.

Hooper had taken over as Monk's right-hand man since Orme's death. He was in many ways a contrast. Orme had been white-haired, quiet, a compact man always in a pea coat except in the middle of summer. Good-natured, softly spoken, he had known the river better than most men knew their own backyards. He was devoted to his daughter and new grandchild, and had been just about to retire to a house on the riverbank. He meant to spend his last years with them, talking to old friends, sharing a few pints of ale, and watching the wild birds fly over toward the Estuary.

Hooper was tall and loose-limbed, almost gangling, and naturally untidy. He was probably at least thirty years younger than Orme. He too was quiet, most of the time, but he had a quick sense of humor. Orme had protected Monk, knowing his ignorance of the river to begin with, and his need to learn; Hooper was also loyal in a fight—loyal to the death—but he was not uncritical, as Monk had recently learned.

Now Hooper looked at the corpse's hands, turning them over and examining them, especially the fingers. As he did so, Monk noticed a slight stain so deep into the layers of the skin that the water had not removed it.

“Ink?” he said curiously.

“Well, he's not a manual worker,” Hooper responded. “And from his clothes he doesn't look like a clerk or a shopkeeper.”

“We'd better find whoever pulled him from the water.” Monk turned and stared up and down the broad river, crowded with boats. Nearest them were four- and five-masted schooners, riding at anchor, sails furled, waiting to unload their cargoes. A string of barges moved slowly upstream. Ferries wove their way across from bank to bank.

“I suppose McNab didn't bother to tell us that,” Hooper said darkly. He spoke of it rarely, but he, too, held McNab responsible for the gunfight and therefore for Orme's death. He had not given up hope that one day they would be able to prove it. He did not want private vengeance any more than Monk did, but he did want justice. Orme had been not only a good man; he had been in the River Police almost all his adult life. There was a loyalty to be kept, for the sake of the future as well as the past.

“No,” Monk said wryly. “But he sent for the police surgeon, at least. That looks like him coming along the dockside now.” He inclined his head in a slight gesture toward the figure approaching. “I'll talk to him. Go and see what you can find out from the watermen along at the next steps.”

“Yes, sir.” Hooper set off, walking surprisingly fast. He had caught up with a group of stevedores and lightermen before Monk greeted the police surgeon.

“What've you got?” the surgeon asked, regarding the corpse without interest. He was a man in his sixties named Hyde, stocky in build with fair hair thinning at the front, and a keen face. Monk had worked with him several times before and liked his dark sense of humor.

“A man with soft hands, suffocated and shot in the back,” Monk replied with a twisted smile.

Hyde stared at him with very slightly raised eyebrows. He nodded slowly. “In a nutshell,” he replied. “Know who he is?”

“No idea. He was fished out of the water when he came up with the flood tide. If any of the watermen knew, they're not saying. Hooper's gone to see if he can find someone prepared to be a bit more exact.”

Hyde kneeled down beside the body and examined it gently and very carefully. He looked at the head, the neck, the hands and feet, the wrists, then turned him over to see the wound in his back, exactly as Monk had.

“It was McNab from Customs who called me,” Hyde said at last, straightening his knees to stand up and giving a little wince as his arthritis reminded him to be more careful. “I don't suppose he told you anything useful, Mr. Monk?”

So Hyde knew of the dislike between himself and McNab.

“Maybe he didn't know anything,” Monk replied noncommittally.

Hyde gave him a sharp, knowing look. “Maybe. And maybe we'll get three tides today instead of two.”

Evidently Hyde didn't like McNab, either.

“One thing,” Hyde went on. “Customs doesn't know him, or McNab wouldn't have called you. And he's not a waterman or he wouldn't have hands like an artist. But I'd stake a bottle of the best single-malt whisky that whatever his art is, it's illegal.”

“Was he shot first, or after he went into the water?” Monk asked.

“No idea. I'll tell you what I've found, after I've found it,” Hyde replied cheerfully. He walked over to the top of the steps and signaled for his men to come up and bring the stretcher on which to carry the body. The morgue was on the other side of the river, and by boat was the easiest way to reach it.

Monk waited until they were gone, and then went after Hooper to see what he had learned. The wind was rising and he felt colder.


hours to glean all they could, but it was not a complicated story. A lighterman moving out of his moorings early and making his way upriver had found the body tangled in a mass of rope and rotten wood wreckage near one of the many flights of steps going up from the water to the dockside. The steps were used for loading occasionally. Very often, the many ferries crossing from one bank to the other picked up fares there, or dropped them off.

The lighterman had waited for the next ferry, which arrived in a matter of a few minutes. Not able to leave his string of barges, he had told the ferry operator to call the authorities. In this case they turned out to be a couple of customs men checking an early load coming off a schooner moored nearby. At this time of the year, no daylight was to be wasted. McNab had been sent for, as someone of sufficient rank to deal with the matter.

Further inquiry turned up no one who knew the corpse. Apparently he was not a bargee, a ferryman, or a docker of any other sort. None of this information surprised Monk. He had deduced that much from the man's appearance.

He and Hooper were both back at their headquarters in the Wapping Police Station, when at about half past four, almost dusk, they received news that a boat had been reported stolen earlier from the south bank, a mile or two farther down. According to the local police, it was a small rowboat, easily managed by one man. They were linking this to another incident: A prisoner from Plaistow Reformatory had escaped custody while being questioned by customs officers. He was a master forger by the name of Blount, and he answered perfectly the description of the dead man.

BOOK: Revenge in a Cold River
9.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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