Authors: Harker Moore
The events and characters in this book are fictitious.
Certain real locations and public figures are mentioned,
but all other characters and events described in the book
are totally imaginary.
Copyright © 2003 by Bluestocking, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Lines from “Let There Be Peace on Earth” by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller,
copyright © 1955 by Jan-Lee Music;
copyright © renewed 1983. Used by permission; all rights reserved.
Hachette Book Group
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New York, NY 10017
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
To angels past and present—Louise Ann, Charles, and Elle …
and to Gerry and Ike—the best of friends in this life, or any other
The author would like to thank Dr. Karen Ross, Herbert Erwin, Gerrie Singer, Robert Aberdeen, Lisa Cordon, Dr. Alfredo Suarez,
Bill Troy, Stirling and Migo Nagura, David Spiess, Dr. Hugh W. Buckingham, Rabbi Barry L. Weinstein, Jim Churchman, Chuck
Farrier, and others who helped lend an air of authenticity to James Sakura’s fictional world. Any errors or creative interpretations
are the author’s.
Thanks also to Mel Berger of William Morris and his assistant Donna, and to editors Jackie Joiner and Colin Fox. A special
thanks to Barbara Alpert for helping to make it all happen.
he man’s ear, an inch above the chest, listened for the silence. No breath. No beat of heart. His mouth longed to suck up
the brilliant light now seeping from the pores. Passing from his too human vision. A firefly pinched between the fingers of
There was a reverence in the manner in which he cleansed the body. And a meticulousness—depositing the soiled toweling and
alcohol wipes into the garbage bag he’d packed. Rolling and safeguarding the Visqueen that had lain beneath the body.
Now he straddled the waist, pulling the torso up toward him, angling the pale shoulder into his chest. In death there was
a kind of clumsy resistance that made his work difficult, though not unmanageable. Carefully he rotated the torso farther
to the side so that hips and legs remained parallel, the head in profile.
The scalpel slipped easily into flesh as though through softening butter. There was no blood. The time of bleeding had passed.
He inserted his latexed fingers into the deep pocket he’d made, severing more cleanly skin from muscle. The wound was precisely
under the shelter of shoulder blade.
Twisting the body to the opposite side, he made an identical incision. He bent the torso forward, head to knees, and slowly
inserted the sharp projections of cartilage into the open slits, careful not to damage the tissue. Cradling the juncture of
flesh and feather, he released the body back, flat against the bed. Arranged the arms and hands.
He got up from the bed and retrieved the camera, loading a fresh roll of film. Through the Nocta’s lens the body seemed satisfyingly
less human. He snapped the first photograph. The split-second illumination from the flash burned the white skin whiter, made
the dark recesses of the body blacker. He focused on a crevice, the point
where armpit fit chest.
Then down the long thin line of shadow tucked from groin to ankle.
He danced at the foot of the bed, moving from one side to the other. Clicking, clicking in rapid-fire succession, shots from
a gun, the artificial explosions from his camera mimicking the natural explosions of dry lightning jumping through the uncurtained
Big light. Little light.
The whole of the room emitting a kind of cosmic warning signal.
n the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.
Driving through dark streets to the scene of murder, Detective Lieutenant James Sakura repeated the words to himself, an
important reminder of weakness as well as virtue.
If not for his special FBI training, he would still be home in bed lying next to Hanae. But on Friday evening he’d been called
to the apartment of Luis Carrera, a dancer with the Metropolitan Ballet, who’d been found in circumstances that suggested
more than an ordinary murder. Now, less than seventy-two hours later, a second victim had turned up over an art gallery in
the East Village. The investigation had been officially transferred from the precincts to his Special Homicide Unit.
At three thirty-seven on a Monday morning, there was relatively little traffic on the Bowery. Sakura raced through intersections,
running lights like beads collected on string. When he turned off on St. Marks, homicide and radio cars were already jamming
the street. He pulled his own car halfway onto the sidewalk and got out.
The month had been colder and wetter than was normal for October, and tonight’s rain waited in an indeterminate sky that seemed
to feed on light. Despite the damp chilliness, a collection of street people from the nearby park had gathered at the lines
of yellow tape. One of the patrolmen, canvassing for witnesses in the crowd, spotted Sakura and walked over.
“Are you first officer?” Sakura flashed his gold detective’s shield.
“No, sir. Frank Kramer’s first. He’s inside.”
Sakura felt relief. Kramer was a good cop, a twenty-year veteran who knew how to protect a crime scene.
Inside the gallery detectives from the local precinct stood talking to the chief of detectives. Lincoln McCauley’s presence
at the murder scene was an indication of the importance that was being attached to the case. Sakura waited as McCauley detached
himself from the group and walked over.
“You made good time.” The chief of detectives reached into his pocket for the case that held his cigars. “Crime Scene’s still
photographing the bedroom.”
“Have my people been called?”
“On their way.” McCauley parked an unlit cigar securely in his teeth. Put the case back inside his jacket. “Dr. Linsky’s been
Sakura nodded. Linsky had been the medical examiner at the murder scene on Friday. Calling him tonight would insure continuity.
“Have you been upstairs?” he asked McCauley.
“Yeah, Jimmy. I’ve seen worse. But never anything like this.”
Sakura understood. Certain things weren’t measured in blood.
In the bedroom the smell of dead incense was a cloud existing at eye level. It crawled into Sakura’s throat, recalling the
death scene on Friday, feeding his awareness of what waited for him on the bed. He fought off the image. This room and what
it contained had to stand apart. Later, when he could reconstruct every detail in his mind, then the two murder scenes could
be compared. By then, anything that was different should shout at him as loudly as that which seemed the same.
The room, apart from the bed, appeared to be, if anything, too normal, without even the usual clutter of cast-off clothes.
There was no sign of a struggle. A collection of clay figures stood undisturbed on a shelf. Canvases on the walls hung straight.
There was no blood spatter on the rugs or wooden floor. Not a piece of furniture seemed to be out of place.
Sakura turned to the bed. It, too, was neat, seemingly undisturbed by the nude body that lay on top. There was no illusion
of sleeping. The man on the bed was dead, with the overwhelming sense of flesh
vacated. The arms were arranged, hands crossed over genitals tucked between the legs. The blue eyes, half open, fixed in an
expression that Sakura had observed many times.
was what the eyes seemed to say, as if dying brought the solution to some very simple riddle.
The spent sweet smell of incense was stronger near the bed, concentrated in the charcoal letters scrawled across the wall.
The same ashy residue stood out darkly on the victim’s chest in a pattern of roughly concentric circles, with other lines
Sakura moved closer. The bedspread beneath the body was a gray, heavy silk. Against its dull luster, the small blood pools
forming beneath the shoulders were nearly invisible. Leaking from incisions cut into the victim’s back, the stains were only
apparent because he’d known they would be there, overshadowed though they were by the large white wings that stretched across
He stared at what had once been human on the bed. For some detectives, the motive in finding the killer was a kind of sanctioned
revenge, and Sakura knew veterans who spoke sentimentally of victims in forgotten files who still cried out for justice. For
him, it was simpler. Murder, the most heinous of crimes, was the most disruptive of social order. To restore balance, one
must find and punish the killer.
Looking at the winged corpse, the indecipherable writing, he suddenly understood what it was about these crime scenes that
most unnerved him, what had kept him awake at Hanae’s side each night since the first murder. It was not doubt that he could
do the job, but a much more primal fear. In the undisturbed room, in the weird and careful ritual, lay a precise if bizarre
logic, the signature of a mind that, in its own twisted way, craved order as much as his own.