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Excerpt from Ruler of the Night by David Morrell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Ruler of the Night

Thomas De Quincey Mystery #3

by David Morrell

Ruler of the Night by David Morrell X
Ruler of the Night by David Morrell
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

ONE
THE LOCKED COMPARTMENT

London

On Thursday evening, 22 March 1855, a frowning gentleman studied a two-page document that lay on his substantial desk. His name was Daniel Harcourt. Fifty years old, the solicitor was stout, a consequence of his sedentary profession. His gray frock coat and waistcoat were of the finest tailoring. His gold watch chain indicated his respectability. The glowing coals in his fireplace worked to remove the damp chill from a recent rain, but at the moment, a fire wasn't necessary. As Harcourt looked up from the pages, he felt the internal heat of triumph.

"Are you quite certain about these details? The house in Bloomsbury? Everything?"

The man who stood on the opposite side of the desk wore a faded greatcoat of inferior quality. His raw face had the creases of someone who worked outside for long periods in all kinds of weather.

"I did the job myself, Mr. Harcourt. If you patrol the streets the way I did for ten years, you get to know who to talk to. Newsboys, crossing sweeps, water boys at cabstands—that sort don't miss a thing, and for as little as sixpence, they'll prove it. The best street artist in Bloomsbury drew the man's face. What I gave you is gospel."

Harcourt removed a piece of paper from a desk drawer and slid it toward the man. He dipped a pen into an inkwell and handed it to him. "Write your name."

"But you already know my name. It's John Saltram."

"Write it anyhow."

"You think I don't know how to write?" Saltram asked with muted indignation. "You think the Metropolitan Police Force hires constables who can't write?"

Harcourt set a gold sovereign next to the piece of paper. "Humor me. Write your name."

After a long look at the gold coin, Saltram obeyed, scratching with the metal nib. "There, you see," he announced, returning the pen and the piece of paper.

"This isn't the same handwriting that's on the pages you gave me," Harcourt observed.

"I said I could write. I didn't say I could write neatly. My missus wrote those pages. She put down what I told her. I wasn't about to trust it to anybody else."

"How do I know she didn't make a copy? How do I know you won't try to sell these pages to the man you followed?"

"That wouldn't be too smart of me, would it, Mr. Harcourt? I want steady work, not trouble, from a man the likes of you."

Harcourt thought a moment and put five more gold sovereigns on the desk. They were the equivalent of five weeks' pay for a constable.

"Here's what we agreed upon," he said. "Keep the other sovereign as a bonus."

"Thank you, Mr. Harcourt. Thank you kindly." Saltram stuffed the coins in a pocket of his trousers. "Any more work you need me to do…"

"I can always use a man who controls his tongue. In fact, your services might be required very soon. But right now, it's late, and I'm certain you want to return to your wife."

"Yes, Mr. Harcourt. Very good, Mr. Harcourt."

As Saltram backed away, he wiped a hand across his lips in a manner that suggested he intended to go to a tavern rather than to his wife. Harcourt watched him step into the lamp-lit corridor outside the office and shut the door. He listened until he could no longer hear Saltram's footsteps descending the stairs.

Only then did he allow the heat of triumph to thrust him into motion. He quickly removed his gold watch from his waistcoat. The time was twenty-seven minutes after eight. He seldom worked this late, but there hadn't been a choice—his meeting with Saltram had needed to occur when the building was deserted and no one would see the man arrive.

In a rush, he tossed the piece of paper with John Saltram's name into a wastebasket under his desk. Then he hurriedly put on his overcoat, gloves, and top hat. He shoved the two-page document into a leather case, grabbed his umbrella, extinguished the lamps in his office, and stepped into the hall. After locking the door, he swiftly descended the stairs, extinguishing more lamps as he went.

Excerpted from Ruler of the Night by David Morrell. Copyright © 2016 by David Morrell. Excerpted by permission of Mulholland. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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