Upstairs, the bedroom was pristine, a testament to his long weeks away. Matt threw his suitcase down on the pale pink counterpane and began to undress. Only then did he see the envelope propped up against his bedside lamp. His name was on the front, in Raquel’s distinctive large-looped handwriting.
Matt’s stomach lurched.
Stop thinking the worst. It might be a welcome-home card.
But even as he tore open the letter, he knew that it wasn’t.
IT WAS THE BANGING THAT ROUSED him. It was deafening. Lying on the floor, a small pool of saliva staining the peach shag carpet in front of his face, his first thought was, Someone’s trying to demolish my house. With me inside it.
His second thought was, Good luck to them.
Raquel was divorcing him. He’d driven her away and she was never coming back. At that moment few things seemed preferable to being crushed instantly to death by a giant pile of rubble, the debris of what had once been a happy home.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
Not a wrecking ball. A fist. On a door. An angry fist.
“Open up, Matt. I know you’re in there.”
The voice was familiar, but Matt couldn’t place it. Then again, after two bottles of wine washed down with the dregs of a bottle of vodka left over from last New Year’s Eve, Matt had trouble placing his own legs. Tentatively he lifted his head off the floor, pushing back with his arms so that he was on his knees. The bedroom swam around him in peach swirls. He retched.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
“I’m coming! Jesus.” Matt staggered downstairs, clutching the banister like a paraplegic in a bounce house. Every step was torture, but he had to stop the noise. He opened the front door. “Oh. It’s you.”
Claire Michaels wrinkled her nose as a waft of alcohol fumes hit her in the face. Her brother looked as if he’d aged ten years.
“Raquel’s left me.”
“I know,” said Claire matter-of-factly. “She stopped by my place to leave a stack of unpaid bills for you, ‘in case you should ever deign to come home,’ as she put it.”
“What am I gonna do?” sobbed Matt hopelessly. “I love her, Claire. I can’t live without her.”
“Oh, baloney,” said his sister, pushing past him into the hall. “Go upstairs and take a shower and I’ll make you some breakfast. You can tell me about France. Oh, and Matt…? Drink a bucket of mouthwash while you’re up there, would you? Your mouth smells like something that died two weeks ago.”
CLAIRE’S BREAKFAST WAS DELICIOUS. FRESHLY MADE pancakes with blueberries, walnuts and maple syrup, smoked salmon frittata and a huge pot of strong Colombian coffee. Afterward, Matt actually felt semihuman again.
“She’s already filed for divorce, which has to be some kind of world speed record,” he told Claire gloomily. “She wants half of everything.”
“Except the bills.”
“Except the bills. Which I totally can’t pay. When they slice my credit cards in half, I’ll make sure to send her her share.” He smiled weakly. “What the hell am I going to do?”
Claire began clearing away the plates. “You could always try working. You know, getting a job? It’s this thing where you go into an office and do stuff for other people, and they pay you for it. It’s really catching on.”
“Ha ha,” said Matt. “I have a job. I’m a filmmaker.”
“Oh!” Claire’s eyebrows shot up sarcastically. “I see, Ingmar Bergman. And how’s the great opus going? Was France everything you dreamed it would be?”
“It was great.” Matt’s eyes lit up for the first time that morning. He told his sister about his meeting with Danny McGuire and the unexpected developments in the Didier Anjou case, with Irina leaving her husband’s estate to charity, just as the other two widows had done. “I know it’s the same killer, the man who killed our dad. And I’m pretty sure McGuire knows it too, though he’s cagey about promising too much.”
Claire frowned. “Andrew Jakes was not ‘our dad.’ Dad was our dad. Jakes was just some fucking sperm donor.”
Matt was taken aback by her anger. “Okay. Maybe he was. But he didn’t deserve to have his head hacked off by some psycho, and for the guy to get away with it.”
“Maybe he did deserve it?” said Claire, loading Matt’s dishwasher with a series of loud clangs. “Maybe he was a lousy SOB. Maybe they all were.” She turned to face her brother. “You’ve already lost your marriage, Matt. Mom’s upset with you, I’m upset with you. You’re flat broke. Isn’t it time you gave up this wild-goose chase and got your life back together? If three police forces and Interpol have all failed to solve these murders, what makes you think you can do it?”
“I’m smarter than them?” Matt grinned, earning himself a look of withering disdain from Claire. He knew she was right. He had to find paid work, and soon, if he was going to survive this divorce and keep a roof over his head. He could still work on the documentary, still keep in touch with Danny McGuire. But he couldn’t let the unsolved murders consume him the way they had been.
The phone rang. They both stared at it, thinking the same thing. Raquel.
“Keep your cool,” cautioned Claire. “Don’t yell at her. And don’t cry.”
Matt picked up the handset, shaking. “Hello?”
Danny McGuire’s voice sounded distant and tinny, but the excitement and adrenaline were both clear as a bell. “There’s been another murder. Last night, in Hong Kong.”
“Is it our guy?”
“Same MO,” said Danny. “Rape, bodies bound together, rich elderly victim. Miles Baring.”
Matt was silent for a moment. It took a few seconds for the full import of what McGuire was telling him to sink in. The killer was not only still out there. He was becoming bolder and more active. It had barely been a year since his last hit, and yet here he was, striking again on the opposite side of the world. Almost as if he knew that someone was watching him, knew that someone had finally found the scattered puzzle pieces and cared enough to try to arrange them into a coherent picture. After ten long years, he’s playing to an audience, Matt found himself thinking. He’s playing to me.
“Where’s the widow?”
The elation in Danny McGuire’s voice was unmistakable. “That’s the best part. The Hong Kong police have her in protective custody. I called the guy in charge and told him what happened with the other wives. Lisa Baring’s not going anywhere.”
Matt hung up in a daze.
“Who was that?” asked Claire. “Not Raquel, I take it?”
“Hmm? No,” said Matt. “I need to go pack.”
“Pack?” Claire looked at him despairingly. “Matthew! Have you listened to a word of what I just said?”
Matt walked over to his sister and kissed her on the cheek. “I have. And I agree with it all. You’re absolutely right, and I promise to look for a job the moment I get back from Asia. In the meantime, how are you fixed for time? I don’t suppose you could give me a lift to the airport, could you?”
HONG KONG WAS LIKE NOTHING MATT Daley had ever seen before.
He considered himself a man of the world. Not in the James Bond sense, obviously. No one could call Matt Daley sophisticated; still less, suave. Most days he considered it an achievement if he remembered to go out wearing matching socks. But neither was he some Midwestern farm boy who’d never been exposed to other cultures. Matt might have grown up in a small town, but he’d lived in New York and traveled extensively in Europe and South America when he was in his early twenties. Even so, Hong Kong filled Matt Daley with genuine awe.
Central, the island’s main commercial district, was packed with towers so impossibly tall they made Manhattan look like Lilliput. Lan Kwai Fong, the nightlife quarter and red-light district, glittered and screamed and stank, its narrow streets packed with some of the weirdest specimens humankind had to offer: juggling midgets, armless dancers, blind transvestite hookers and the ubiquitous, wide-eyed U.S. servicemen on shore leave, drinking it all in. It reminded Matt a little of Venice Beach, multiplied to the power of a thousand. Come to think of it, the whole of Hong Kong was like that. Intensified. The grass out in the New Territories was so green it glowed like a cartoon. In New York and London, shopping streets were crowded. Here they were overrun, infested, alive with humanity like a rotting corpse riddled with maggots. Matt’s overriding impression was of a place where everything happened in excess. Noises were louder, scents were stronger, lights were brighter and days were longer, apparently endless. Forget New York. Hong Kong was the real “city that never sleeps.” After a week Matt still couldn’t decide whether he loved it or hated it.