Angel of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon

There were problems, however. Nothing physical had yet happened between them. Sometimes Matt thought he could sense her staring at him as he sat at his computer or reading a book on the sofa. But whenever he looked up, her attention was elsewhere. Even so, an unspoken hum of mutual attraction seemed to linger in the air between them.

Last week, out fishing on Mirage’s private lake, Lisa had lost her footing on the bank and Matt instinctively slipped an arm around her waist. Lisa froze. But after a moment’s hesitation she did not object, gradually allowing herself to relax against Matt’s body. It felt wonderful. Matt longed to go further, but he knew better than to rush her.

I have to be patient. Let her come to me. She’s just lost her husband. She’s just been raped.

That was the other problem. Lisa never spoke about the night of Miles’s murder or her rape. As if by refusing to talk about it, she could make it go away. And much to his shame, Matt saw himself colluding in that silence. He wanted to forget the past as well. But this killer was not just a part of the past. He was out there, somewhere, watching and waiting, planning his next kill.

Matt had come to Bali looking for clues, clues that might help him unearth a serial killer, but he’d allowed his love for Lisa and his happiness in her company to distract him. Watching Lisa sip her tea now, he forced himself to remember:

The man I’m looking for raped and terrorized Lisa. If his past crimes are anything to go by, his next step will be to kidnap her. To have her “disappear” like Angela Jakes, Tracey Henley and Irina Anjou.

Lisa was in danger. And Matt still had no idea how, or where or when that danger might strike. The thought crossed his mind that his own prospects looked none too rosy either. This man, whoever he was, had a pretty gruesome track record of dispatching the men involved with his female victims. But it was Lisa’s safety that tortured him inside.

I can’t lose her. I can’t lose another person I love. If I do, I’ll lose my mind.

INSPECTOR LIU TURNED ON HIS TAPE recorder as Jim Harman began to speak.

An Englishman who had grown up in Hong Kong, the son of well-to-do expat parents, Jim ran his own security and electronics business on the island. He had personally overseen the installation of the alarm system at the Baring estate on Prospect Road.

“I’ll tell you this, mate,” he told Inspector Liu firmly. “There was nothing wrong with that alarm system.”

Tall and skinny, with a face like a weasel and small, widely spaced eyes, Jim Harman was prepared to defend his reputation vociferously.

“I installed it myself, with more fail-safes than the fucking White House, pardon my French.”

Liu asked calmly, “Then how do you explain the fact that Mr. Baring’s killer was able to get around it?”

“He didn’t ‘get around it,’” Jim Harman said matter-of-factly. “Someone let him in.”

“And why would they do that?”

Harman shrugged. “I’m a systems guy, not a detective, Inspector. You tell me. But the only explanation is that someone deliberately disabled the system and let the guy in.”

“And who knew how to do that?”

For the first time, the weasel-faced Englishman looked perplexed. “That’s the thing. No one. Mr. Baring and myself were the only ones who knew how to work that security system. It makes no sense.”

The interview over, Inspector Liu hopped on the DLR to Wan Chai, in the northern part of the island, in search of some lunch. The underground trains were clean and ran on time, a rarity in Hong Kong. Taking them calmed Liu and helped him to think.

“It makes no sense,” Harman had said. But it did make sense. Indeed, the possibilities were clear and satisfyingly finite: either Miles Baring had given his wife instructions on how to disable the security system, or Miles had disabled it himself, unwittingly opening the door to his killer.

Was it someone he knew?

Was it Lisa’s lover?

Was Lisa’s lover a friend of her husband’s?

Stranger things had happened.

Inspector Liu emerged from the subway blinking into the Wan Chai sunshine like a reluctant mole. His phone rang the very same instant.

“Liu speaking.”

“Sir.” It was one of his surveillance team, a small, elite group who’d been dispatched to Bali to keep an eye on the beautiful, headstrong Mrs. Baring. “We got some better shots of the villa today from the long-range cameras.”

“She still hasn’t left the property, then?”

“No, sir.”

Villa Mirage, the Barings’ Balinese retreat, was so secluded as to be almost completely inaccessible and extraordinarily difficult to photograph. Liu had tried to have the place bugged, but Mrs. Baring’s private security detail was excellent. None of his men had been able to get near her. He’d hoped he might have more success if, by a piece of luck, she should venture out of the place by car, but so far she had lived as a virtual recluse. It was as if her every action, or inaction, had been specifically designed to frustrate him.

“We do have some good news, though, sir. It appears there’s a man staying at the house with Mrs. Baring.”

Liu almost choked. “A man?”

“Yes, sir. A Westerner. They had breakfast together on the terrace this morning. They looked…”—the detective searched for the appropriate word—“intimate.”

Had Inspector Liu been a different kind of man, he would have punched the air with excitement. Lisa Baring’s lover! She’s smuggled him in! It was hard to believe that anyone could be so reckless. Surely she must know that the police would still be watching her? Inspector Liu had never been in love and he hoped he never would be. What fools passion made of people.

All they needed now was some physical evidence. If this man’s fingerprints or any trace of his DNA were found at the Baring house, they’d have enough evidence to arrest the two of them. Danny McGuire from Interpol had warned him that the killer was likely to stay close to Mrs. Baring. That as long as Liu held Lisa Baring, he held the bait.

The problem was that Inspector Liu no longer “held” Lisa Baring.

He had to get inside that villa.


ALONE AT THE CORNER TABLE OF a quiet café, Danny McGuire picked flakes from the top of his pain au chocolat and waited for his team to arrive. After Inspector Liu formally requested Interpol assistance, Danny’s boss, Deputy Director Henri Frémeaux, had reluctantly authorized a small task force to devote “no more than eight hours per week” collating evidence for the case now code-named Azrael.

“It’s from a poem,” Danny had explained to Frémeaux, back at headquarters. “Azrael’s the Angel of Death.”

Frémeaux stared at him blankly. He wasn’t interested in poetry. He was interested in statistics, facts and results. Danny had better justify this use of manpower, and quickly, if he wanted his agency support to continue.

By “small task force,” it turned out Henri Frémeaux meant two additional men. Danny chose Richard Sturi, a German statistician with about as much personality as the croissant Danny was currently eating, but with an uncanny gift for seeing meaningful, real-life patterns in unintelligible strings of numbers, and Claude Demartin, a forensic specialist. For the nitty-gritty detective work he would have to rely on himself and Matt Daley, his “mole on the ground” in Hong Kong.

So far, Daley had been his biggest disappointment. He’d seemed so gung ho in the beginning. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Matt Daley, the Azrael investigation would never have gotten off the ground. But after a fruitless first week in Hong Kong, Matt had sent Danny precisely one brief e-mail about “casting his net further afield” and proceeded to disappear on some jaunt around Southeast Asia. After weeks of unreturned e-mails and phone calls—other than a single voice mail left in the middle of the night assuring Danny that Matt was “okay” and “working on it”—Danny had officially given up. Inspector Liu threw him occasional tidbits of information, but like most local police chiefs, the man in Hong Kong was more interested in receiving data from Interpol than sharing his own. As Henri Frémeaux reminded Danny repeatedly, “This is a Chinese case, McGuire. Our job is merely to support and facilitate.”

It was then that Richard Sturi showed up, wearing his usual suit and tie and clutching his laptop like a security blanket. Sturi’s eyes blinked uncomfortably in his round, owl-like face as he took in the “unusual” meeting place Assistant Director McGuire had chosen. External team meetings were unusual at Interpol, and frowned upon, but Danny was determined to get his little team bonding and throwing ideas around outside of the stifling atmosphere of HQ. When he arrived moments later, Claude Demartin was also formally dressed, but being French, unlike Sturi, he was never averse to meeting in a café. He ordered himself a café crème and a croque-monsieur before things got started.

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