Monk was sitting at his desk at the Thames River Police Station at Wapping. From inside, muted river sounds could be heard: the whisper of water as the tide rose, slurping against the stone steps up to the quayside; the occasional voices of lightermen calling to one another; the clank of metal as a chain was hauled through a winch; the cry of gulls fighting over food.
Sunlight came in through the open door, pooling in bright patches on the floor and desk, and catching the pallor in Orme’s face. He looked tired, and the white in his hair was more pronounced than it had been even a few months ago.
Orme had served on the River Police all of his working life and he was now nearing seventy. He had been Monk’s mentor since his coming here, the one who had taught him without lecturing or criticism, and never in front of the other men. It was Orme who had rescued him from the few serious errors he had made, without ever referring to them again. But he was growing tired. He did not need to tell Monk that he wanted to retire; it was there in the tone of his voice, the stiffness in the way he climbed the steps up from the water’s edge to the dock, and the frequency with which he spoke of his daughter and his grandchild. Quietly, in his own way, he was desperately proud of them.
“Is Laker back yet?” Monk asked.
“Yes, sir,” Orme replied immediately.
“Send him in,” Monk told him.
Orme nodded and went out silently.
A moment later the door opened again and Laker came in, closing it behind him. He was young, just over thirty, and he stood almost to attention, facing Monk impassively. He was totally unlike Monk in appearance, with fair skin, vivid blue eyes, and the sort of hair that the sun bleached flaxen blond on the top. He was good-looking by any standard, and he was aware of it.
Monk was both amused and uncomfortable. There was something in the quiet arrogance of the younger man that, he gathered, was like he himself had been a few years ago, before the accident that had robbed him of all memory, except occasional, disturbing flashes. People had spoken of him in just the words he would have used to describe Laker. Laker had all the quick wits that Monk had, and the self-assurance he had once had, before the total amnesia had taken away his safety.
He identified with Laker. He was arrogant, often funny, and sometimes right when others who were slower saw only part of the picture.