Sequel to The Demons of Whitechapel
Neurotic Detective Inspector Simon Stark of the London Metropolitan Police Homicide Division is facing the toughest case of his short field experience: A ritual murder that looks like an awakening ceremony. An awakening ceremony to bring back an old evil to London -- The Demon King.
Simon has to delve deeply into the ancient lore of witchcraft to make sense of what is happening and solve the murder. He also has to delve deeply into his own feelings, because now that he and his sergeant, Ralph Golding, are fast becoming an item, Simon has to learn how to handle a relationship, which something the voices in his head do not take kindly to. But Simon is determined to make it work.
Can he solve the case and win Golding’s heart, too?
When Simon arrived at the police station, it was almost noon. He was glad to see some things return to normal: His full team, including DC Flemming, were at their desks. Simon didn’t approve of them eating at their workstations, but he had accepted months ago that there were some things he had to let go or risk losing team morale. He did shoot them a deploring glance and demonstratively opened the window in his office to get rid of the Indian Bazaar like smell. With one ear he overheard Flemming telling her colleagues about her experience with DI Waters.
“Those poor kids,” he heard Flemming lament between mouthfuls of samosa. “They were so scared and dirty. What’s going to become of them now?”
“Not sex slaves to some twisted tycoon,” Pollard remarked. “So that’s a big improvement in any case.”
“Did you really find all the missing street kids?” Heart inquired.
“The ones that went missing in the last couple of months, yeah. Well, all but one.”
“Job well done,” Pollard said.
“Still,” Flemming replied, “they deserve better. We shouldn’t just chuck them back out on the streets.”
“Nobody’s gonna chuck ‘em out, don’t you worry about that,” said Ralph. “They’re in the system now. They’ll be alright.”
“When Saoirse was in the system,” that was Heart’s voice, “was she alright, you reckon?”
“She was doing okay. They took decent care of her.”
Simon cut the chit-chat short at this point and demanded Ralph’s presence in his office with the door closed. Flemming made a theatrical sound effect that made Simon realize how nice and quiet things had been while she’d been gone.
“I gave them an overview of the old case you gave me,” Ralph said after he had closed the scribbled-on door that was now also an effective screen. He let himself fall into the armchair next to the desk and swiveled so he sat facing Simon. “Intriguing. I hadn’t thought about cults or secret societies, but I guess it makes sense -- an acolyte of some sorts or initiate.” Ralph further explained that Flemming was checking out that angle online. Heart and Pollard would go around Whitechapel and speak with sources after lunch to see what would come up.
“What did the lawyer say?”
“Among other things,” Simon tapped the now torn open envelope he had placed in the exact middle of his desk, “I inherited this.”
Ralph looked at him, patiently waiting for an explanation. Out of the envelope, Simon shook a small key. He held it up once before he handed it to Ralph and let the other man inspect it.
“Looks like it goes with a safe deposit box,” Ralph pondered. “I wonder what secrets it will unlock.”
“You cannot put secrets in a safe deposit box,” Simon contradicted, but Ralph smiled at him.
“Not the kind you whisper into a lover’s ear; certainly not.”
Simon felt a telltale hot flush on his face. He blurted out, “I’d like to see you tonight,” at the same time Ralph said, “Come back to my place tonight.”
For the second time, they laughed together.
The demons were quiet, even though Simon almost dared them to chastise him. The fear of being unprofessional began to seep away, he noticed, perhaps it was being replaced, bit by bit, by the warm, glowing feeling he experienced in the presence of the other man.
“Let’s go see a man about a safe deposit box,” he announced.
Simon got up and made for his coat and scarf on the expensive hallstand. “It could just as well be a woman,” he corrected.
“It’s a quote.”
“I don’t actually know. It’s about a man and a dog originally.”
“Why a dog?”
“Why did you say safe deposit box instead of dog?”
“I don’t know. Why is a dog like a safe deposit box?”
“Don’t be so literal.”
Ralph shimmied into his winter coat and wrapped his own scarf around his neck as he strode across the incident room.
“We’re off earning our day’s worth of bread and butter,” he announced to the team, who were just clearing away their lunch break utensils, “and so should you,” this to Heart and Pollard, “Chop chop!”
Simon couldn’t help himself. He tried to hold it back, but the words came out anyway, and before he had time to even put his hand over his mouth to cover it, he had admonished the constables to take their rubbish out to the bins in the parking lots so the empty food cartons wouldn’t stink up the incident room.