“Yes,” Runcorn agreed, then rushed on. “Sarah Mackeson, an artists’ model.” He said the words with distaste. “Looks as if they were killed pretty well at the same time.”

Monk shifted his weight a little from one foot to the other. “You’re handling the case yourself. .”

“Short of men,” Runcorn said dryly. “Lot of illness, and unfortunately Evan is away.”

“I see. I. .” Monk changed his mind. It was too abrupt to offer help.

“What?” Runcorn looked up at him. His face was almost expressionless, his eyes only faintly belligerent.

Monk was annoyed for having got himself into such a position. Now he did not know what to say, but he was not prepared to retreat.

Runcorn stared down at the desk with its clean surface, uncluttered by papers, reports, or books of reference. “Actually, Mrs. Beck’s father is a prominent lawyer,” he said quietly. “Likely to run for Parliament soon, so I hear.”

Monk was startled. He masked it quickly, before Runcorn looked up again. So the case had a different kind of importance. If Kristian’s wife had social connections, her murder would be reported in all the newspapers. An arrest would be expected soon. Whoever was in charge of the investigation would not escape the public eye, and the praise or blame that fear whipped up. No wonder Runcorn was unhappy.

Monk put his hands in his pockets and relaxed. However, he did not yet take the liberty of sitting down uninvited, which irked him. He would once have sat as a matter of course. “That’s unfortunate,” he observed mildly.

Runcorn looked at him with suspicion. “What do you mean?”

“Be easier to conduct an investigation without newspaper writers trampling all over the place or the commissioner expecting results before you begin,” Monk replied.

Runcorn paled. “I know that, Monk! I don’t need you to tell me! Either say something helpful or go back to finding lost dogs, or whatever it is you do these days.” Then instantly his eyes were hot with regret, but he could not take back the words, and Monk was the last man to whom he would admit error, let alone ask for help.

At another time Monk might have relished Runcorn’s discomfort, but now he needed his cooperation. However much they both disliked it, neither could see how to achieve what he wished without the other.

Runcorn was the first to yield. He picked up a pen, although he had no paper in front of him. His fingers gripped it hard. “Well, do you know anything useful, or not?” he demanded.

Monk was caught out by the directness of the question. He saw the recognition of it in Runcorn’s eyes. He had to allow him to taste the small victory. It was the only way he could take the next step. “Not yet,” he admitted. “Tell me what you have so far, and if I can help, then I will.” Now he sat down, crossing his legs comfortably and waiting.

Runcorn swallowed his temper and began. “Number twelve, Acton Street. Cleaning woman found two bodies this morning when she went in around half past eight. Both roughly in their late thirties, the sergeant guessed, and both killed by having their necks broken. Looks like there was a struggle. Carpet rumpled up, chair on its side.”

“Do you know which woman was killed first?” Monk cut in.

“No way to tell.” There was resentment in Runcorn’s voice but none in his face. He wanted Monk’s help, whatever the emotions between them; he knew he needed it, and at the moment that overrode all past history. “The other woman was apparently Allardyce’s model, and she sort of half lived there.” He let the sentence hang with all its ugly judgments.

Monk did not skirt around it. “So it’s going to look like jealousy of some sort.”

Runcorn pulled the corners of his mouth down. “The model was half undressed,” he conceded. “And Allardyce was nowhere to be found this morning. He turned up about ten and said he’d been out all night. Haven’t had time yet to check if that’s true.” He put the pen down again.

“Doesn’t make sense,” Monk observed. “If he wasn’t there, why did Mrs. Beck go for a sitting? If she arrived and found him gone, is she the sort of woman to have sat around talking to the model?”

“Not if that’s all she went for.” Runcorn bit his lip, his face full of misery. He did not need to explain the pitfalls for a policeman faced with proving that the daughter of an eminent figure was having an affair, one so sordid in its nature that it had ended in a double murder, with an artist.

There would also be no way whatever of avoiding dragging Kristian into it. No man would take lightly his wife’s betraying him in such a way. In spite of himself, Monk felt a twinge of pity for Runcorn, the more so knowing his pretensions to social acceptability and the long, hard journey he had made towards being respected, rather than merely tolerated, by those he admired. He would never achieve what he wished, and it would continue to hurt him. Monk had the polish in his manner, the elegance of dress to pass for a gentleman, partly because he did not care if he succeeded or not. Runcorn cared intensely, and it betrayed him every time.

“Would it help if I were to see what I can learn in a round-about way?” Monk offered casually. “Through friends, rather than by direct questioning?” He watched Runcorn struggle with his pride, his dislike of Monk, and his appreciation of just how awkward the situation could become and his own inadequacy to deal with it. He was trying to gauge what help Monk would be and how willing he was to try. What did he want out of it, and how far could he be trusted?

Monk waited.

“I suppose if you know the family it might avoid embarrassment,” Runcorn said at last. His voice was matter-of-fact, but his hands were clenched on the desk. “Be careful,” he added warningly, looking up at Monk directly at last. “It may not be anything like it seems, and we don’t want to make fools of ourselves. And you’re not official!”

“Of course not,” Monk agreed, keeping the amusement out of his expression, bitter as it was. He knew why Runcorn did not trust him. Given the circumstances, he would have despised him if he had. It was a large enough admission of his vulnerability that he had confided in Monk at all. “I suppose you’re looking for witnesses? Anyone seen near the place? Where does Allardyce claim to have been?”

Runcorn’s face reflected his contempt for the unorthodox and bohemian life. “He says he was out drinking with friends in Southwark all night, looking for some kind of. . of new light, he said. Whatever that may mean. Bit odd, in the middle of the night, if you ask me.”

“And do these friends agree?” Monk enquired.

“Too busy looking for new light themselves to know,” Runcorn replied with a twist of his mouth. “But I’ve got men following it up, and we’ll find something sooner or later. Acton Street’s busy enough-evenings, anyway.” He cleared his throat. “I suppose you’d like to see the bodies? Not that the surgeon has much yet.”

“Yes,” Monk agreed, trying not to sound eager. His affection for Callandra and his regard for Kristian made it imperative he do what he could to help, but it also made it a personal tragedy too close to his own emotions.

Runcorn stood up, hesitated a moment as if still undecided exactly how to proceed, then went to the door. Monk followed him down the stairs and out past the desk. It was less than half a mile to the morgue, and in the density of traffic, easier to walk than try to find a hansom.

The pavements were crowded and the noises of hooves and wheels, the shouts of drivers and street hawkers, the creak and rattle of harnesses filled the air. Sweat and horse manure were sharp in the nostrils, and they could go only a few yards before having to alter course to avoid bumping into people.

They walked in silence, excused from trying to converse by the conditions, and both glad of it. They passed a seller of peppermint water on the first corner, and had to wait several moments for a lull in traffic before they could cross, dodging between carts, carriages and drays, and a costermonger’s barrow being pushed, oblivious of pedestrians. Runcorn swore under his breath and leaped for the curb.

A newsboy was shouting the headlines about Garibaldi’s campaign in Naples and the fact that there had been no further major battles in America since the bloody encounter at Bull Run two and a half months ago. No one was paying him the slightest attention. The few bystanders who had no urgent business were listening to the running patterer whose entertainment value was far higher.

“Double murder in Acton Street!” he called in his singsong voice. “Two ’alf-naked women found broken- necked in artist’s rooms! Stop a few minutes an’ I’ll tell yer all abaht it!”

Half a dozen people accepted his invitation, and coins chinked in his cup.

Runcorn swore again and plunged on, pushing his way between a large City gentleman in pinstriped trousers who blushed at being caught listening to the gossip, and a thin clerk clutching a briefcase who only wanted to attract the attention of the ham sandwich seller.

“See what I mean?” Runcorn said furiously as they reached the morgue and went up the steps. “Story’s got

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