Authors: Terry Hayes
About the Book
A young woman murdered in a run-down Manhattan hotel.
A father publicly beheaded in the blistering sun of Saudi Arabia.
A man’s eyes stolen from his living body as he leaves a secret Syrian research laboratory.
Smouldering human remains on a mountainside in the Hindu Kush.
A plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.
One thread that binds them all, one man to take the journey.
There is no terror so consistent, so elusive to describe, as that which haunts a spy in a strange country.
John le Carré,
The Looking Glass War
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished
The Simple Art of Murder
THERE ARE PLACES I’ll remember all my life – red square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother ’s bedroom on the wrong side of 8-Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man
waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theatre of Death.
But nothing is burnt deeper in my memory than a walk-up in New York – threadbare curtains, cheap furniture, a table loaded with tina and other party drugs. Lying next to the bed are a handbag, black panties the size of dental floss and a pair of six-inch Jimmy Choo’s. Like their owner, they don’t belong here. She is naked in the bathroom – her throat cut, floating face down in a bathtub full of sulphuric acid, the active ingredient in a drain cleaner available at any supermarket.
Dozens of empty bottles of the cleaner – DrainBomb, it’s called – lie scattered on the floor.
Unnoticed, I start picking through them. They’ve all got their price tags still attached and I see that, in order to avoid suspicion, whoever killed her bought them at twenty different stores. I’ve always said it’s hard not to admire good planning.
The place is in chaos, the noise deafening – police radios blaring, coroner ’s assistants yelling for support, a Hispanic woman sobbing. Even if a victim doesn’t know anyone in the world, it seems like
there’s always someone sobbing at a scene like this.
The young woman in the bath is unrecognizable – the three days she has spent in the acid have destroyed all her features. That was the plan, I guess – whoever killed her had also weighed down her hands with telephone books. The acid has dissolved not only her fingerprints but almost the entire metacarpal structure underneath. Unless the forensic guys at the NYPD get lucky with a dental match, they’ll have a helluva time putting a name to this one.
In places like this, where you get a feeling evil still clings to the walls, your mind can veer into strange territory. The idea of a young woman without a face made me think of a Lennon/McCartney
groove from long ago – it’s about Eleanor Rigby, a woman who wore a face that she kept in a jar by
the door. In my head I start calling the victim Eleanor. The crime scene team still has work to do, but there isn’t a person in the place who doesn’t think Eleanor was killed during sex: the mattress half off the base, the tangled sheets, a brown spray of decaying arterial blood on a bedside table. The really sick ones figure he cut her throat while he was still inside her. The bad thing is – they may be right.
However she died, those who look for blessings may find one here: she wouldn’t have realized what
was happening – not until the last moment, anyway.
Tina – crystal meth – would have taken care of that. It makes you so damn horny, so euphoric as it
hits your brain that any sense of foreboding would have been impossible. Under its influence, the only coherent thought most people can marshal is to find a partner and bang their back out.
Next to the two empty foils of tina is what looks like one of those tiny shampoo bottles you get in
hotel bathrooms. Unmarked, it contains a clear liquid – GHB, I figure. It’s getting a lot of play now in the dark corners of the Web: in large doses it is replacing rohypnol as the date-rape drug of choice.
Most music venues are flooded with it: clubbers slug a tiny cap to cut tina, taking the edge off its paranoia. But GHB also comes with its own side effects – a loss of inhibitions and a more intense sexual experience. On the street one of its names is Easy Lay. Kicking off her Jimmy’s, stepping out of her tiny black skirt, Eleanor must have been a rocket on the Fourth of July.
As I move through the crush of people – unknown to any of them, a stranger with an expensive jacket slung over his shoulder and a lot of freight in his past – I stop at the bed. I close out the noise
and in my mind I see her on top, naked, riding him cowgirl. She is in her early twenties with a good body, and I figure she is right into it – the cocktail of drugs whirling her towards a shattering orgasm, her body temperature soaring thanks to the meth, her swollen breasts pushing down, her heart and respiratory rate rocketing under the onslaught of passion and chemicals, her breath coming in gulping bursts, her wet tongue finding a mind of its own and searching hard for the mouth below. Sex today sure isn’t for sissies.
Neon signs from a row of bars outside the window would have hit the blonde highlights in this season’s haircut and sparkled off a Panerai diver ’s watch. Yeah, it’s fake, but it’s a good one. I know this woman. We all do – the type, anyway. You see them in the huge new Prada store in Milan, queuing outside the clubs in Soho, sipping skinny lattes in the hot cafés on the avenue Montaigne – young women who mistake People magazine for news and a Japanese symbol on their backs for a sign of