Authors: Anne Perry
Copyright © 2015 Anne Perry
The right of Anne Perry to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2015
All characters in this publication – apart from the obvious historical figures – are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN: 978 1 4722 1949 7
Jacket photographs: Old Royal Naval College © John Gay/English Heritage/Arcaid/Corbis; figures © Heritage Images/Getty Images
Jacket design by Craig Fraser
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Author photograph © Diane Hinds
Anne Perry is a
New York Times
bestselling author noted for her memorable characters, historical accuracy and exploration of social and ethical issues. Her two series, one featuring Thomas Pitt and one featuring William Monk, have been published in multiple languages. Anne Perry has also published a successful series based around World War One and the Reavley family, and the standalone novel
The Sheen on the Silk
. Anne Perry was selected by
as one of the twentieth century’s ‘100 Masters of Crime’.
The Inspector Pitt series
The Cater Street Hangman
Death in the Devil’s Acre
Silence in Hanover Close
Half Moon Street
The Whitechapel Conspiracy
Long Spoon Lane
Buckingham Palace Gardens
Betrayal at Lisson Grove
Midnight at Marble Arch
Death on Blackheath
The Angel Court Affair
A Christmas Journey
A Christmas Visitor
A Christmas Guest
A Christmas Secret
A Christmas Beginning
A Christmas Grace
A Christmas Promise
A Christmas Odyssey
A Christmas Homecoming
A Christmas Garland
A Christmas Hope
A New York Christmas
The William Monk series
The Face of a Stranger
A Dangerous Mourning
Defend and Betray
A Sudden, Fearful Death
The Sins of the Wolf
Cain His Brother
Weighed in the Balance
The Silent Cry
The Twisted Root
Slaves and Obsession
A Funeral in Blue
Death of a Stranger
The Shifting Tide
A Sunless Sea
Death on Blackheath
Blood on the Water
Corridors of the Night
World War I series
No Graves as Yet
Shoulder the Sky
Angels in the Gloom
At Some Disputed Barricade
We Shall Not Sleep
The One Thing More
The Sheen on the Silk
One night, in a corridor of the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich, nurse Hester Monk is approached by a terrified girl. She’s from a hidden ward of children, all subject to frequent blood-letting, and her brother is dying.
While William Monk’s River Police fight to keep London safe from gun-runners, Hester takes on a new role at the hospital, helping to administer a secretive new treatment. But she slowly realises that this experimental cure is putting the lives of the children at risk. Attempting to protect the young victims, she comes under threat from one rich, powerful, and very ill man who is desperate to survive . . .
‘Give her a good murder and a shameful social evil, and Anne Perry can write a Victorian mystery that would make Dickens’ eyes pop out’
New York Times Book Review
‘Redolent with Victorian atmosphere, from the hypocritical snobbishness to the rigid social conventions of the time’
‘There is a freshness about [Perry’s] writing which makes it truly exceptional and I was gripped until the final page’
‘Rich in plot development, believable characters and period detail, this entry will only add to the already sizable ranks of Perry’s admirers’
‘That rare breed of novel that’s a page-turning thriller yet literary’ Jeffery Deaver
‘[An] engrossing page-turner . . . There’s no one better at using words to paint a scene and then fill it with sounds and smells than Anne Perry’
‘Elegantly constructed and nail-bitingly tense’
Good Book Guide
‘Stirs your conscience as well as your soul’
To my editor at 10/18, Valentin Baillehache, and to Marie-Laure Pascaud in Publicity.
THE SMALL gas lamps along the walls of the corridor flickered as if there were a draught, but Hester knew that, it being well after midnight, all the doors were closed. Even the windows on the wards would be shut at this hour.
The girl stood motionless. Her eyes were wide, her skin as pale as the nightgown that hung just past her knees. Her legs were matchstick-thin and her feet bare and dusty. She looked terrified.
‘Are you lost?’ Hester asked her gently. She could not think what the child was doing here. This was an annexe to the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich. It backed on to the Thames, well down river from the huge Port of London and the teeming city beyond. Did she belong to one of the other nurses who had sneaked her in rather than leave her alone at home? It was against the rules. Hester would have to make sure no one else found her.
‘Please, miss,’ the child said in a hoarse whisper. ‘Charlie’s dying! You gotter come an’ ’elp ’im. Please . . .’
There was no other sound in the night, no footsteps on the stone floors. Dr Rand would not be on duty until the morning.
The child’s fear vibrated in the air. ‘Please . . .’
‘Where is he?’ Hester asked quietly. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’
The child gulped and took a deep breath. ‘’E’s this way. I left the door stuck. We can get back, if yer ’urry. Please . . .’
‘I’m coming,’ Hester agreed. ‘You lead the way. What’s your name?’
‘Maggie.’ She turned and started to go quickly, her bare feet soundless on the chill floor.
Hester followed her down the corridor, round a corner, and along another passage even less well lit. She could only just see the small, pale figure ahead of her, glancing backwards every few moments to make sure Hester was still there. They were going away from the wards where sick and badly injured sailors were treated, and further into administrative areas and storerooms. Hester did not know the hospital well. She had volunteered to do temporary night duty as a favour to Jenny Solway, a friend who had sudden illness in her own family. They had served together with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. That was almost fourteen years ago, but the experiences they had shared on those fearful battlefields like Balaclava, and in the hospital in Sebastopol, forged friendships that lasted for a lifetime, even if they did not meet for years.
Hester caught up with the child and took her small, cold hand.
‘Where are we going?’ she asked.
‘To ’elp Charlie,’ Maggie replied without turning her head. She was tugging at Hester now. ‘We gotter ’urry. Please . . .’
One more turn in the corridor and they reached a door that was flush with the wall, and appeared to have no handle. A piece of string knotted to make a short rope was wedged to stop the door from closing completely. Maggie let go of Hester’s hand, slid her thin fingers under the string and eased the door open.
‘Ssh!’ she warned. Then she stepped sideways through the crack and beckoned for Hester to follow her. When Hester was through also, she replaced the string and then pushed the door closed again.
Hester went in a step behind Maggie. They were in another ward, smaller than the ones for the sailors, but holding six cots. The night lamps on the walls showed that there were small forms in all of them, lying still, as if asleep.
‘Where are we?’ Hester whispered.
‘This is our place,’ Maggie replied. ‘Charlie’s over there.’ She took Hester’s hand again and pulled her towards the furthest bed near the doorway of the ward. It was closed, and Hester had lost her sense of direction to know even which way it faced.
Maggie stopped beside the bed where an ashen-skinned boy about her own size lay propped up against the pillows. He turned towards her very slightly and tried to smile.