Table of Contents
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Epub ISBN 9781409035930
Reissued by Arrow Books 2009
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Copyright © Richard Montanari, 2001
Richard Montanari has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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First published in 2001 by HarperCollins Publishers
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About the Author
Richard Montanari is the Top Ten
bestselling author of
The Devil’s Garden
The Rosary Girls
, as well as the internationally acclaimed thrillers
The Violet Hour
. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Praise for Richard Montanari
‘A relentlessly suspenseful, soul-chilling thriller that hooks you instantly.’ Tess Gerritsen
‘Readers of this terrifying page-turner are in the hands of a master storyteller. Be prepared to stay up all night.’ James Ellroy
‘A specialist in serial killer tales . . . a wonderfully evocative writer’
‘A no-holds-barred thriller that thrusts the reader into the black soul of the killer . . . those with a taste for Thomas Harris will look forward to the sure-to-follow sequel’
‘Montanari’s superior thriller . . . [is] a welcome change from the gore typical of the serial killer subgenre. Likewise, Byrne and Balzano possess a psychological depth all too rare in such fiction.’
‘One of the most terrifyingly evil stories I have read. Yet, with all its violence, it is balanced by much compassion and beauty. I just couldn’t put it down. This could be the book of the year.’
Norman Goldman, Barnes & Noble
Also available by Richard Montanari
The Violet Hour
The Rosary Girls
The Skin Gods
The Devil’s Garden
For my mother,
who first gave me a spoon.
Kes lusigaga alustab, see kulbiga lobetab,
Kes kulbiga alustab, see lusigaga lobetab.
If there be demons, there must be demonesses.
TWO YEARS AGO . . .
Michael Ryan sits in a gray leatherette swivel chair, in a dimly lit hotel room, tapping his right foot to some unheard song from the nineties, thinking: This is so much better than sex, it doesn’t even show up on the radar; thinking:
this lunatic moment
, is why he became a cop in the first place.
His pulse rages.
The Glock 9 holstered under his left arm feels as long as a cannon and twice as heavy.
The young woman sitting on the edge of the bed in front of him is a tall, graceful beauty, uptown in a manner of fashion and speech and poise that had always driven Mike Ryan around the bend, even when he was just a cocksure, working-class kid from the wrong side of the Cuyahoga. Tonight the woman is wearing a teal blue dress, sexy heels, diamond earrings. Try as he had, he had not been able to evict her from his thoughts for more than fifteen minutes during the past two weeks, had seen her face in every movie, every magazine, every catalog.
She is not a classic beauty, but to Michael Ryan she is perfect: long, shapely legs; porcelain skin; dusky, almost-Asian eyes. It had taken four meetings to get her and this amount of money in the same room, and at each of those meetings she had looked better — sweats to jeans to slacks to this damned
In the back of Michael’s mind, Dolores Alessio Ryan, his Sicilian-tempered wife of fifteen years, threatens castration. This woman had gotten
under his skin.
He wants this over.
“I’m happy,” Michael says. “You?”
“Yes,” she replies, softly.
He had just handed her the envelope. She, in turn, had just handed
the four stacks of cash. Ten thousand dollars, small bills, well worn. Invisible. Except for the twenty-dollar bill on top of one of the stacks. The twenty on top had some kind of red mark on it, a strange little drawing of a bow and arrow.
After handing him the money, she had grabbed the slender sterling flask that had been sitting on the nightstand between them, smiled, unscrewed the top, brought it to her lips. She had handed the flask to Michael and Michael had known—known as fully and completely as any lesson he had learned in his forty-six years—that he shouldn’t. But he did anyway. Two big swallows to steady his hands. It was Cuban rum, top-shelf. It warmed him.
And now it is showtime.
In the instant before Michael can make his move, the woman stands, reaches into her big leather bag. Michael is sure that, when she withdraws her hand, it will be holding a pistol. This is a certainty. He freezes, the breath catching in his throat, his muscles tightening.
It is not a gun.
It is instead . . . a Montecristo? Yes. Michael goes cool for a moment, dimpled with relief. He can smell the sweet tobacco, even from five feet away. “What’s this?” he asks, his face risking a half-smile.
The woman doesn’t answer but rather begins to wordlessly perform the cigar smoker’s ritual—sniffing, rolling, end-cutting, gently spinning the cigar as it is being lit with a wooden kitchen match. After a few puffs, she kneels in front of him, rests her hands on his knees. Her touch electrifies him. Michael, a two-pack-a-day man, doesn’t cough, isn’t bothered by the smoke in the least.
It’s just . . .
A woman like this smoking a Cristo?
Then, for the first time since they’d met, through the silvery haze of smoke made blue by the muted hotel TV, through the sudden, heady fog of her perfume, Michael notices the pristine blackness of this woman’s eyes, the cruelty that lives there, and he is frightened.
He tries to stand, but whatever hallucinogenic drug was in the rum seizes his world and makes it stutter and weave and lurch in front of him. He reaches for his gun. Gone, somehow. His heart races to burst, his legs feel thick and useless. He falls back into the chair.
“Here comes the dark, officer,” the woman says, jacking a round into the Glock’s firing chamber. “Here comes the night.”
Before the darkness, in a breathtaking panorama behind his eyes, Detective First Grade Michael Patrick Ryan of the Cleveland Police Department observes a thousand dazzling visions at once. Some are so brutal in their majesty, so radiant, that tears come to his eyes. Most are terribly sad: Carrie, his young daughter, forever waiting for him on the front porch, her wheelchair gleaming in the late-afternoon sun. Dolores, mad as hell. Dolores’s father had died in the line of duty, you see. Every morning, for fifteen years, Michael had promised her he would not die in the line of duty.