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Authors: John Donohue

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Deshi

J
OHN
D
ONOHUE

YMAA Publication Center, Inc.
PO Box 480
Wolfeboro, NH 03894
1-800-669-8892 •
www.ymaa.com
[email protected]

ISBN Paperback edition
978-1-59439-249-8

ISBN Ebook
978-1-59439-248-1

© 2006, 2013 by John Donohue

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Cover Design: Axie Breen

POD0713

Publisher’s Cataloging in Publication

Donohue, John J., 1956-

Deshi / John Donohue. -- Wolfeboro, NH : YMAA Publication Center, c2013.

p. ; cm.

ISBN: 978 -1-59439-249-8 (pbk.) ; 978-1-59439-248-1 (ebook)

"A Connor Burke martial arts thriller"--Cover. First published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2005.

Summary: Asian scholar and black belt artist Connor Burke labors as a deshi (a disciple) under the
tutelage of a master warrior-- a practice that draws him into the murder of a Japanese businessman in
Brooklyn. An enigmatic message left at the murder scene leads Connor to the lethal samurai heritage of
a mysterious martial arts sensei, a Tibetan clairvoyant, and finally to an elite mountain temple
in Tibet, where his deadliest challenge awaits.--Publisher.

1. Burke, Connor (Fictitious character) 2. Americans--China--Fiction. 3. New Age
movement--Fiction. 4. Martial artists--Fiction. 5. Tibet Autonomous Region (China)--Fiction. 6. Martial arts fiction. 7. Suspense fiction. I. Title.

2013945345
1308

PS3604.O565 D264 2013
813/.6--dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Printed in USA.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PROLOGUE: PATH

1. SPRING WIND

2. DEAD ANGLE

3. SPLATTER

4. RUMBLE

5. TARGET

6. HOLY MAN

7. DISCIPLES

8. SEEKER

9. DARK VALLEY

10. PATHWAYS

11. SCRAMBLE

12. DHARMA CENTER

13. STARE

14. PUZZLE

15. ARROW

16. KIRI

17. FLICKER

18. FLASH

19. LINKS

20. KIMON

21. TRUE BELIEVERS

22. TANREN

23. WARRIOR’S PATH

24. STEEL RAIN

25. FAR MOUNTAIN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY JOHN DONOHUE…

BOOKS FROM YMAA

DVDS FROM YMAA

To Kitty, with love,
for gently holding a writer’s heart

Deshi
(The disciple)

The deshi
believes he learns from the master
And moves on
The sensei knows
In truth, they are linked
Along the same Path
In separate places
A yoke of flesh and steel, bound together
Like two wheels on the same cart
—Yamashita Rinsuke

PROLOGUE: PATH

Everyone wants something: it’s one of the few points of philosophy my brother Micky and I agree on. Desires shape the arc of life’s trajectories, leading us to unimagined destinations.

The Buddhists say desire creates illusion, which is the source of all suffering. In the Catholic Church I was raised in, desire was equally disparaged. There are few things in life really worth wanting, but we are cursed with an almost limitless capacity for imagination and need. The truly wise know that what we really need are those things that permit our true natures to emerge. We’re born with that knowledge, then quickly forget it and spend a lifetime trying to remember it again.

The path a life takes is the product of that remembering. We wander along in search of the selves we once knew. The way isn’t easy: it’s stony, studded with obstacles. And we’re not alone on the lurching journey: there are forms crumpled in the brambles by the wayside, markers to those who’ve lost their way. And, when the path dips, there are others, still watchers waiting in the dim woods. Ghosts hungry to snatch us. The way winds and dips. There are times when the path is unclear. Faint tracks lead the unwary off to their doom. But, high up ahead, we can all glimpse the hint of something beautiful. It’s faint and hard to see, but it pulls us nonetheless.

A good teacher tells you to keep looking at that gossamer image. I don’t know whether it’s kindness or cruelty. But it keeps the yearning alive; it makes you stay on the right path. And it prevents you from looking down. Because when you do, you see that there is blood on the rocks.

1
SPRING WIND

You think about them so much—the victims and the murderers. You go over and over the details you string together until, after a while, the reality of a stranger’s experience becomes your own. And then, the facts come alive and echo in your brain.It’s a vivid and painful resonance.

The breeze was warm that day and the air felt soft and laden with moisture. It was the time of year when a few good sunny hours could make the plants seem to explode with buds and blossoms. You could feel it: after a time of tense waiting, something was about to happen.

Edward Sakura knew about waiting. The people I spoke with told me that. He had learned to check the urge to act quickly with a calm, methodical discipline. The excitement and anticipation that were part of putting together a good deal never faded, of course. It was why he was in the business he was in. But he had mastered his impulses through years of trial and error. And it had paid off handsomely.

Shodo, the Way of the Brush, had been a constant teacher for over three decades in his quest for patience. It was one of life’s little ironies. As a young man, he had learned from his parents’ experience in Manzinar that safety in America was based on conforming to American culture. In retrospect, people of Sakura’s generation were puzzled as to why their folks did not grasp that one fact about America. After all, the Japanese themselves had a saying that the nail that sticks out gets banged down.

He had looked at the photos from the camps the American government had shunted his parents and other Japanese-Americans off to. The rows of slapdash wooden barracks, geometrically arranged in the desolation of the high American desert, would have been enough to drive the lesson home to even the dimmest of observers. And by the end of the war, Americans of Japanese descent had learned to look forward into the future, simply because the past was too painful. And, in so doing, they turned their gaze away from Japan.

Sakura had been a bright kid and he turned into an even brighter adult. After getting his MBA he had developed a taste for the high-octane deals increasingly being cut in the entertainment industry. And, over time, he succeeded quite well for himself. But with middle age, he had come to yearn for some sense of connection to his past. A high-energy man in a fast-paced business, he chose an endeavor diametrically opposed to the normal pace of his days.

For thirty years, every day, no matter where he was, Sakura surrendered part of his life to the Discipline of the Brush. As his teachers directed, he would set aside his worries. Enter a realm of a quiet focus. Then, kneeling before the purity of white paper, he would slowly, methodically prepare. The cake of dried ink would whir faintly against the stone as he ground it into powder. He would carefully add water to the mix, gazing intently at the liquid, thick with promise, dense and black with potential.

Then he would breathe, calming his hand, centering himself before picking up the brush. And, when spirit and brush were one, the ink trail would spool across the paper, leaving something of Sakura frozen in time, made manifest in the stark contrast of black ink and white background.

He had carried his art with him when he relocated to New York. The growing presence of Japanese companies like Sony in the entertainment industry meant that there were opportunities for a dealmaker like Sakura on two coasts. He worked in Manhattan and went home each night to a quiet, upscale neighborhood in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn. It was a community that seemed tidy and green after the sprawling concrete of Manhattan. You could smell the sea in the breeze that blew in from the Atlantic. And best of all, amid the blush of life in a spring garden, it contained Sakura’s small Shodo hut.

He had built it as far back away from the house as he could. The property lines in his neighborhood were set with high walls for privacy and thickly cushioned with trees. It made for a small island of tranquility. He felt drawn to it now more than ever, a stone that sat, still and isolated, in the rushing current of his life.

The hut’s location was why he didn’t hear his killer approach.

In this part of Brooklyn, people value their privacy. The streets are relatively narrow, the houses old and well established, their faces closed to the street. The lots that the houses sit on are irregular, with occasional backyards of surprising depth. The hum of traffic from the more congested avenues to the east is never absent. And one more Lexus tooling sedately through the late afternoon streets would not have excited much comment.

People think of hunting as essentially a chase. But professional hunters, the really successful ones, get that way by wasting very little energy and planning ahead. They can chase if they have to, but they much prefer to stalk. And, if possible, they would rather use the techniques of ambush. Know your prey. Know his patterns. Know where he will be. And wait there.

Did the killer sneak up on Sakura or was he already there, lurking in the undergrowth? It doesn’t really matter. He knew where to find his victim. And with the pitiless certainty of all killers, he moved in.

The old masters, the real
sensei
, say that any Way leads to the same point. Whether you pick up the brush or the sword, the focus and training changes you. It’s imperceptible at first. But it is cumulative. I later studied Sakura’s calligraphy, and it told me that his three decades of training had not been wasted.

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