Simon Stark returns to Whitechapel in east London as a Detective Inspector in Homicide. But Simon fears fieldwork and interacting with a team, because he has a few … issues. He is severely OCD and voices in his head keep him pinned down to the Rules by which he must live his life.
In his experience, people dislike him, and the feeling is mutual. Simon expects resentment, especially from Detective Sergeant Ralph Golding, who's been leading the team since the death of their previous inspector. But to his surprise, the team warms up quickly to him.
Now Simon has to deal with the growing attraction between himself and Ralph while the Rules forbid such unprofessional behaviour. And when the demons living under Whitechapel begin to manifest, Simon has to face bigger dangers than just the voices in his head.
When Simon was done filling up Colin Murphy’s white board with the new information they’d collected, the team had gone home. The station lay quiet and dark, the incident room an island of eerie, fluorescent light in a puddle of tenebrosity. Even Ralph’s footsteps, who had left in the direction of the gentlemen’s room, were nowhere to be heard; all was drowned out by the soft, steady sound of water running down the windows on the outside. Not a sound that usually disquieted Simon, except today when there were old memories of the morning he had stepped into the family bathroom only to find his parents dead and water everywhere.
Rubbing sanitizer on his hands Simon told himself that he was dealing with it. It was just the rain. It would stop. But he couldn’t help but conjure up pictures of his dead parents in the walls of the building, bloated. Their eyes wide open. His mother’s nose bleeding.
Drip, drip, the water went; each droplet a laugh, each laugh a reminder. The voice of the Rules in his head taunted him mercilessly.
He couldn’t have saved them, he had been just a boy. He couldn’t have saved them, because he was still just a boy.
Hurrying footsteps yanked him out of the downwards spiral of his thoughts. It was Ralph rushing, scurrying back to the incident room. Not his usual pace. Ralph was almost running.
Alarmed, Simon turned around just in time to see his sergeant march through the doors into the incident room, slamming them shut behind him as if they were the gates to another world.
“Is something the matter, Ralph?”
Ralph glared at him. He breathed in noisily, then exhaled more calmly.
“There shouldn’t be anyone left, right?! So why do I hear things? She keeps telling me they’re there, but I’ve never heard them. Not until now. What does that mean? Why do I hear it now?” Ralph’s voice was excited and something else, angry; but Simon wasn’t sure if the other man was angry at whatever he had heard, or with himself, or with Simon. He thought back, then eliminated the latter from the list. Simon hadn’t done anything today to upset Ralph.
“What are you talking about?” he wanted to know.
Now the anger did direct itself towards Simon; such a cloud of it that he involuntarily swayed a little.
“Knocking! Bloody knocking! But each time I turn around there’s nobody there!”
With three quick strides Simon was beside Ralph. Involuntarily, his hands flew up to the other man’s shoulders to steady him. Ralph’s face was flushed. His breathing still came rapidly.
“Calm yourself, Ralph,” he hissed. It was supposed to sound soothing, but Simon didn’t manage to keep his own fear out of his voice. Perhaps it wasn’t anything, just the pipes creaking. Perhaps it was his parents who haunted the building -- but no, that thought was very close to madness. He shook the image off and tried again, this time more successfully: “I can’t have you lose it because of something you heard in your head.”
Ralph stared at him, his eyes steely. “I think you hear it, too,” he replied. “I think it’s this place. It connects with us.”
Simon shook his head. The words didn’t even make sense to him. It was exhaustion talking and the never ending rain. He couldn’t bring himself to let go of Ralph’ shoulders. His hands didn’t obey his command. So they stood like this for a moment. Simon holding on to Ralph, and Ralph looking into his eyes.
“I don’t know what to do now,” Simon confessed quietly. “Are you angry? Or scared? I can’t tell. What do I do?”