“Yes. That’s the only reason I can put off my buyers,” Louvain answered. “You’ve got no more than eight or nine days at the outside to find my ivory and get it back, whether you get the thief or not. We can prove his guilt later.”

Monk raised his eyebrows. “Of murder? Wasn’t Hodge your man?”

Louvain’s face hardened, his eyes as cold and hollow as a winter sky. “How I deal with my men is not your concern, Monk, and you’d be advised to remember it. I’ll pay you fairly, or better, and I expect the job done my way. If you catch the man who murdered Hodge, so much the better, but I’m concerned with feeding the living, not revenging the dead. You can take your evidence to the River Police. They’ll hang whoever’s responsible. I assume that is what you want?”

A sharp retort rose to Monk’s tongue, but he bit it back, and merely agreed. “Where is Hodge’s body now?” he asked instead.

“At the morgue,” Louvain answered. “I have made arrangements for his burial. He died in my service.” His mouth formed a thin line, as if the knowledge caused him pain. Monk found it the first comforting thing he had seen in Louvain. He no longer feared that Hodge’s killer would escape any kind of accounting. It might be river justice, so the burden upon Monk to make sure he had the right man was even greater, but perhaps he should have expected that. He was dealing with men of the sea, where judgments had to be right the first time because there was no mercy, and no appeal.

“I need to see him,” Monk said. He made it an order rather than a suggestion. Louvain would have no respect for a man he could dominate, and Monk could neither afford his contempt nor stomach it.

Wordlessly, Louvain took the lantern from Monk and turned to begin the climb up the ladder again through the hatch and out onto the deck. Monk followed him. Up on deck the wind was harder, like a whetted knife edge as the tide came in. The heavy gray skies made it close to darkness already, and there was a smell of rain in the air. The wash from a string of barges made the ship strain a little at the anchor and set the boat rocking where it was waiting for them, the waterman steadying it with his oars.

Newbolt was waiting for them, his arms folded over his barrel chest, swaying to keep his balance.

“Thank you,” Monk said to Louvain. He looked at Newbolt. “Was there a change of watch during the night?” he asked.

“Yes. Atkinson was on midnight to four, Hodge from four till eight,” Newbolt replied. “Then me.”

“And no one came on deck before eight in the morning, when you found Hodge?” Monk let his surprise show, and a degree of contempt, as if he considered Newbolt incompetent.

“ ’Course they was on deck!” Newbolt growled. “Nobody went down the ’old, so they din’t find ’Odge’s body.” His eyes were level and angry, the way a man’s eyes are if he has been unjustly accused-or is lying.

Monk smiled, showing his teeth a little. “What time?”

“Just arter six,” Newbolt replied, but his face betrayed his understanding. “Yeah. . the thieves came arter four an’ afore six, an’ that’s cuttin’ it fine.”

“Why wouldn’t they come between midnight and four?” Monk asked him, temporarily ignoring Louvain. “Wouldn’t you. . if you were a thief?”

Newbolt stiffened, his big body motionless. “What are you sayin’, mister? Exact!”

Monk did not flinch or move his eyes even a fraction. “That either we have the facts wrong or we have a most unusual thief who either chooses, or is obliged, to carry out his robberies on the river in the last couple of hours before dawn, rather than the middle of the night watch. Do you disagree with that?”

“No. .” Newbolt admitted reluctantly. “Mebbe ’e’d tried other ships an’ either the watch were too spry or they din’t ’ave nothin’ as ’e wanted or could move easy. We was ’is last chance for the night.”

“Perhaps,” Monk agreed. “Or could he have picked Hodge’s watch for some reason?”

Newbolt understood immediately. “Yer sayin’ as ’Odge were in on it? Yer wrong, mister. ’Odge were a good man. I know’d ’im fer years. An’ if ’e were in on it, ’ow come the poor sod got ’is ’ead bashed? Don’t sound ter me like a bargain even a fool’d make!” He sneered at Monk, showing strong, yellowish teeth.

“No, it wouldn’t be Hodge’s arrangement,” Monk agreed.

The dull color rose up Newbolt’s face. “Well it bloody in’t mine, yer son of a bitch! ’Odge is family ter me! I know’d ’im twenty years, an’ ’e’s married ter me sister!”

Monk felt a stab of regret. He had not even thought of personal loss until this moment. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly.

Newbolt nodded.

Monk considered the information. It was possible all of it was true, some of it, or very little. Atkinson might have been in collusion with the thieves, and been caught by Hodge at any time from midnight until four, or possibly even later. Monk turned to Louvain. “Get me Atkinson,” he requested.

Atkinson was a tall, lean man. The scar that ran from his brow across his cheek to his chin showed livid through the stubble of his beard. He moved easily with a feline sort of grace and he regarded Monk with faint suspicion. He looked to Louvain for orders.

Louvain nodded to him.

“What time did Hodge come to relieve you from watch?” Monk asked, although he knew the answer was of little use because he would have no idea if it was the truth or not.

“ ’Bout ’alf past three,” Atkinson replied. “ ’e couldn’t sleep, an’ I were ’appy enough ter let ’im do my last ’alf hour. I went away ter me bed.”

“Describe the scene you left,” Monk requested.

Atkinson was surprised. “Nothin’ ter tell. All quiet. Weren’t nob’dy on deck but me an’ ’Odge. Nob’dy near on the water neither, least not that I could see. ’Course anyone could be there wi’out ridin’ lights, if they was daft enough.”

“Did Hodge say anything to you? How did he look, sound?”

Newbolt was watching him, his eyes angry.

“Same as any time,” Atkinson answered. “Much as you’d be if yer’d come out o’ yer bed at ’alf past three in the mornin’ ter stand on a freezin’ deck an’ watch the tide rise and fall.”

“Sleepy? Angry? Bored?” Monk pressed.

“ ’e weren’t angry, but yeah, ’e looked rough, poor sod.”

“Thank you.” Monk turned to Louvain. “May I see Hodge’s body now, please?”

“Of course, if you think there’s any point,” Louvain said with frayed patience. He walked over to the rail and shouted for the lighter to come back, and waited while it did so. He swung over the rail, grasped the ropes of the ladder, nodded at Newbolt, then disappeared down.

Monk went after him, a great deal more carefully, scraping his knuckles again on the way and bruising his fingers as he was bumped against the ship’s hull by the movement of the water.

Once down in the boat he sat, and he and Louvain were rowed wordlessly back to the wharf.

At the top of the steps, a shorter distance with the turned tide racing in, the wind was keener and edged with rain turning to sleet.

Louvain put up his collar and hunched his shoulders. “I’ll pay you a pound a day, plus any reasonable expenses,” he stated. “You have ten days to find my ivory. I’ll give you twenty pound extra if you do.” His tone made it plain he would not accept negotiation. But then a police constable started at just under a pound a week. Louvain was offering seven times as much, plus a reward at the end if Monk was successful. It was a lot of money, far too much to refuse. Even failure was paid at a better rate than most jobs, although the penalty afterwards to his reputation might be dear. But he also could not afford to think of the future if there were no present.

He nodded. “I’ll report to you when I have progress, or need more information.”

“You’ll report to me in three days regardless,” Louvain replied. “Now come see Hodge.” He swiveled on his foot and marched along the wharf all the way to the street without looking back. As Monk caught up with him they crossed together, picking their way between the rumbling wagons. It was almost dark, and street lamps made ragged islands as the mist blew in and the cobbles glistened underfoot.

Monk was glad to be inside again, even though it was the morgue, with its smell of carbolic and death. The attendant was still there; perhaps this close to the river there was always someone present. He was an elderly man with a scrubbed, pink face and a cheerful expression. He recognized Louvain immediately.

“Evenin’ sir. You’ll be after Mr. ’Odge. ’is widder’s ’ere, poor soul. In’t no use in yer waitin’. She could be ’ere

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