Atkinson. “Mass murder. If they try to escape, shoot them-not to kill, just to cripple. Shoot them in the stomach.

“The third one is down below, possibly dead. Leave him. Just batten down the hatch. That’s an order. No one is to go below. Do you understand me?”

Orme stared at him in disbelief, then slowly understanding came, at least partially. “They’re river pirates!”


Orme was white. “They killed the whole crew?”

“Except Hodge. I suppose they left him because he was married to Newbolt’s sister.”

Orme rubbed his hands over his face, staring at Durban. Then suddenly he came to attention and did as he was commanded.

Durban walked over to the rail and leaned against it. Monk followed him.

“Are you going to arrest Louvain?” he asked.

Durban stared ahead of him at the churning water and the shoreline where the tide was rising against the pier stakes and washing ever higher over the steps. “For what?” he asked.


“The men will no doubt say he ordered them, even paid them,” Durban replied. “But he’ll say he didn’t, and there’s no proof.”

“For God’s sake!” Monk exploded. “He knows these aren’t his crew! He has to know they murdered everyone, except Hodge! It doesn’t matter whether he knows it was because they had plague, or because they simply wanted to take the ship!” He gulped.

Durban said nothing.

“If Louvain paid these men,” Monk went on, turning to face Durban, the knife-edge wind stinging his face, “he must have been aboard the ship to do it. Someone would have taken him, seen him. There’ll be a chain of proof! We can’t let him get away with it. I won’t!”

“There are a dozen arguments he can come up with,” Durban said wearily. “These are the men who killed the crew. We won’t be able to prove that Louvain even knew about it, much less ordered it. We can’t tell anyone his reason, and he knows that.”

“I’m going to find him,” Monk said, rage almost choking the air out of his lungs.


But Monk would not listen. If Durban would not, or could not, make Louvain answer for what he had done, then Monk would, no matter what it cost. He strode along to the ladder, swung over the rail, and scrambled down towards the boat, not caring if he skinned his knuckles or bruised his elbows. Louvain had cost Mercy her life-and seven other women theirs. It was only by the grace of God that Hester and Margaret had not died as well. It could have been half of London-it could have been half of Europe. Louvain had gambled that Hester would be prepared to give her own life to prevent it.

He landed in the boat. “Take me ashore!” he ordered. “Now!”

The oarsman took one look at his face and obeyed, digging the blades into the water with all his strength.

As soon as they reached the shore, Monk thanked him and stepped out, his foot sliding on the wet stone. He grasped at the wall and went up as fast as he could. At the top he turned straight for Louvain’s office without even glancing behind him to see the boat begin its journey back.

“You can’t go in there, sir, Mr. Louvain’s busy!” the clerk shouted at him as he went past, bumping into another clerk with a pile of ledgers and only just avoiding knocking the man over. He apologized without turning around.

He reached Louvain’s office door, lifted his hand to knock, then changed his mind and simply opened it.

Louvain was at his desk, a pile of papers in front of him, a pen in his hand. He looked up at the interruption, but without alarm. Then he saw Monk and his face darkened.

“What do you want?” he said sharply. “I’m busy. Your thief got off. Isn’t that enough for you?”

Monk had to make an intense effort to control himself, even to keep his voice from shaking. He realized with amazement that part of him had respected Louvain, even liked him. It was that which made his rage so nearly uncontrollable now. This was the same man who had been dazed by the beauty of the great landscapes of the world, who had longed to sail beyond the horizon in the great clippers with their staggering beauty, a man he had almost confided in.

“Did anyone tell you that your sister died?” he asked instead. He was not even certain what made him say it.

Louvain’s face tightened. It hurt him, and he could not conceal it. “She was very ill,” he said softly.

“Not Charity. .” Monk saw Louvain’s eyes widen. In using her name he had at once told Louvain how much more he knew. He drove home the far deeper pain. “I meant Mercy. You knew Charity would die when you took her to Portpool Lane, and you didn’t care. Seven other women died as well, and we’d all have died if Hester and the others hadn’t been prepared to sacrifice their own lives to keep it in.”

Louvain was staring at him, his eyes wide, his hands on the desktop white-knuckled. “You’re speaking as if it’s over?” he said hoarsely.

“In Portpool Lane it is.”

Louvain leaned back and let his breath out slowly. “Then it is over everywhere.” His body went limp. He almost smiled. “It’s finished!”

Monk forced his next words through clenched jaws. “And what about the crew of the Maude Idris? McKeever died of it, and so did Hodge. How about the rest of them?” He watched Louvain intently.

“If they haven’t got it now, they won’t,” he answered, and Monk saw barely a flicker of regret in his face.

“Let’s go and see,” Monk suggested, straightening his body, his hands sweating, his breath uneven.

“I’m busy,” Louvain answered. His eyes met Monk’s, and they stared at each other across the silent room. Monk thought of Mercy, of Margaret Ballinger, of Bessie and the other women whose names he did not know, but mostly of Hester and the hell it would have been for him without her.

Louvain became aware of a change in the air between them. He sat back. The moment of understanding was gone. They were enemies again. “I’m busy,” he repeated, challenging Monk to act.

Monk wanted to smile, but his face was stiff. “Come with me to see them now,” he said softly. “Or shall I tell Newbolt and Atkinson what kind of a ship they’re on? Do you think they will wait there then? Don’t you think they’ll hunt you down anywhere, everywhere, for the rest of your life?”

Louvain’s skin blanched of every trace of color, leaving him gray-white. He drew in his breath to defy Monk, but knew that his face had betrayed him.

This time Monk could laugh; it was a grating sound choked inside him. “You know what they are!” he said. “You know what they’ll do to you. Now are you coming, or do I tell them?”

Louvain stood up very slowly. “What for? You’ll get nothing, Monk. You can’t prove I knew. I’ll say I paid off the others at Gravesend and these men brought the ship up to the Pool.”

“If you like,” Monk replied. In that instant he knew exactly what he was going to do; the resolve inside him set like steel.

Louvain sensed the change, and he also knew that he could not fight it. He straightened up and came around the desk. He was moving slowly, with the tense, animal grace of a man who knows his own physical power. “What if I say you attacked me?” he asked almost curiously, as if the answer did not really matter.

“You won’t,” Monk replied. “Because by the time you show there is any truth in that you’ll be dead. I will have shot you-not to kill! In the stomach. And Newbolt and Atkinson will still be there. McKeever’s dead, by the way. Plague, I imagine.”

Louvain stood still. “What do you want, Monk?”

“I want you on the Maude Idris. Go ahead of me-now!”

Slowly, both of them moving as if wading against the tide, they went out through the office. Clerks looked up but no one spoke. Louvain opened the outer door and winced as the icy air struck him, but Monk allowed him no time to collect a coat. There might have been a weapon in the pocket.

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