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The Master of Rain

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Chaptor One

Field felt like a lobster being brought slowly to the boil. For a
moment, he closed his eyes against the heat and the humidity and
the still, heavy air. Only the clatter of typewriters hinted at
energy and motion.

He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his jacket
and looked again at the two figures gesticulating behind the
frosted glass. They were still arguing, and he had the
uncomfortable feeling that it might be about him.

Macleod's secretary had stopped typing and was appraising him with
a steady gaze. "You're new," she said, pushing her half-moon
glasses up from the end of her nose.

"Yes." Field nodded.

The woman wasn't showing any sign of discomfort, despite being
three times his size and wearing a cardigan. "Take your jacket off,
if you're hot," she said.

Field smiled, glancing up at the fan. It turned lethargically, with
no discernible effect on the air beneath it.

He put his hands in his pockets. Macleod's office door had the
words Superintendent Macleod, Head of Crime, engraved in the glass
and, although it was not Field's position to say, the security of
tenure this implied confirmed what he had already heard about the
confidence of the man.

Field looked up at the fan again, and the paint that was peeling
off the ceiling above it. For a moment, the sun broke through the
thick blanket of cloud that had been loitering over the city for
days, spilling light onto the desks at the far end of the room.
Despite the dark wood paneling, the tall windows made the place
seem less gloomy than the Special Branch office upstairs.

He tugged the corner of his collar away from his throat and wiped
the sweat from his skin with his index finger. He'd never imagined
heat like this.

Macleod's secretary was still staring at him. "How are you enjoying

"Fine, thanks."

She started typing again, fat fingers pounding the big metal keys,
then stopped and looked at him. "Slept with a Russian yet? Paid for
a princess?"

Macleod's door opened and a small, lean man with dark, slicked back
hair walked past him. "Caprisi?" Field asked, but whatever had been
going on in there, it had left Caprisi in no mood to talk. He
headed for his desk, took his jacket from the back of the chair,
pulled open a drawer, slipped a pistol into the leather holster
that hung from his shoulder and marched towards the lift.

Field turned to face Macleod, who stood at his office door, toying
with the chain around his neck. He was a burly man, almost bald,
with a thin crown of grey hair. "You're Field?" His voice was deep,
with a broad Scottish accent.

"Yes, sir."

"Follow him down."

For a moment, Field hesitated.

"Well go on man, what are you waiting for?"

Field got into the elevator after Caprisi and hit the button for
the ground floor. It cranked into action with a jolt and a loud
crack, and descended, as always, so hesitantly that it would have
been quicker to crawl down the stairs on all fours.

Not that anyone wanted to take the stairs in this heat.

"You're new?" The American asked.

Field nodded. "Yes."

"Still a trainee."

"Not officially, no."

Caprisi shook his head dolefully, before looking down at his shoes.
Field noticed how carefully they'd been polished--just as his own
had been ever since he'd come to the Far East and been relieved of
the need to do anything like that for himself. He remembered his
father's obsession with his lack of military discipline and allowed
himself a smile.

The American moved quickly through the lobby, his leather soles
slapping the stone floor. Outside, Field found himself squinting
against the sun, before it once again disappeared behind a bank of
dark cloud.

A Buick with a long brown body and a bright yellow hood stood at
the kerb, its engine running. As he climbed into the near side,
Field noticed there were three bullet holes in the panel by the

"Where's Chen?" Caprisi asked the driver, leaning forward against
the scuffed leather seat.

The driver was an old man dressed in a white tunic. He turned and
shook his toothless head.

Caprisi settled back and waited, looking out of his window, trying
to contain his impatience, rapping the glass with his knuckles.
Field saw that he had a large gold ring on the index finger of his
right hand.

"Come on, Chen," he said under his breath. "What's he doing?" he
asked the driver, though, so far as Field could tell, the man spoke
no English.

Field turned to see a tall Chinese emerging from the entrance of
the Central Police Station. He wore a full-length khaki mackintosh
and carried a Thompson machine gun. He climbed onto the running
board and ducked his head through the open window.

"This is a present from Granger," Caprisi explained, pointing at
Field. "He's a trainee," he said, ignoring Field's earlier
intimation that his training was complete.

Chen seemed less put out by Field's apparent intrusion than Caprisi
and reached across to shake his hand, before barking an order at
the driver and slapping the roof. He remained on the running board
as they lurched forward, the gun banging against the bodywork.
Field felt for his own pistol in his jacket pocket, suddenly aware
of the rapid beating of his heart.

They moved a hundred yards down Foochow Road. Field looked out past
Chen at the tide of humanity sweeping down the pavement beside
them, until they were brought to a halt once more. Caprisi leant
forward to try and see what was causing the hold up, then sat back
with a sigh.

"Granger told me you're from Chicago," Field said.

Caprisi turned to him, a thin smile playing across his lips.
"Granger is the intelligence chief, so he should know."

"What brought you here?"

Caprisi's face was impassive. "How long have you been in Shanghai,

"About three months."

"And you've not yet learnt the golden rule?" Caprisi smiled again
and Field realised he looked like a Caucasian version of
Chen--thick dark hair, bushy eyebrows, a narrow nose and an easy,
sly smile. The sleeves of his dark jacket were pulled up above his
elbows, revealing broad forearms, and bushy hair spilled out of his
open-necked shirt. "Take my advice, never ask anyone in Shanghai
about their past. Especially not a lady."

Field turned to the window as an old beggar woman thrust a bundle
of rags towards him. As Chen clubbed her aside with the butt of his
Thompson, he saw that the bundle contained a baby.

"Take it easy, Chen," Caprisi said, almost to himself. He leant
forward impatiently once more. "What's the hold-up?" he shouted.
Chen leaned through the window and shook his head.

"What's your name, Field?"

"Richard. But most people call me Field."


Field grimaced.

"You don't like Dick?"

"No one calls me that."

"What's wrong with it?"

Field looked at him, smiling. "There's nothing wrong with it,
Caprisi. It's just that no one calls me that. But if you want to,
be my guest."

"Spirit." The American smiled, approvingly. "You'll need that

"What's your name?"

"My name is Caprisi."

They had stopped again and could see now that a crowd of people had
gathered in the middle of the street. Caprisi opened his door. Chen
and Field followed as he shoved his way through.

The crowd parted reluctantly to reveal a scrawny man lying flat on
the road, a pool of congealed blood beneath his head and neck. The
upper part of his body was bare and still glistening with sweat.
The rickshaw, which had once been his livelihood, had been crushed
like a pile of matchsticks. For a moment, they all looked at him
silently. Field knew enough about the city to be certain that this
random accident was likely to plunge a large, extended family into
destitution. Caprisi was checking the man's neck for a pulse.

"What happened?" Caprisi demanded, before switching to Chinese.
Field only understood the last instruction: "Move aside, move

On the way back to the car, Caprisi asked, "How's your

"I'm getting there," Field said, walking fast to keep up.

"Congratulations." Caprisi's mood had soured. "Hit by a car.
Oldsmobile. Westerners, who didn't bother to stop."

Their driver edged through the crowd, before hurtling down Foochow
Road to an apartment building opposite the racecourse. There was
another police car parked outside, with two uniformed officers
standing guard by a sign saying 'Happy Times.' They nodded as
Caprisi and Chen headed into the ornate lobby. An elderly Chinese
in a red uniform with gold brocade sat behind a marble desk. He
smiled at them.

"Top floor," one of the policemen said as they stepped into the

Caprisi hit the button for the third floor and the lift began to
move. It was swifter and smoother than their own, with polished
wood panels and mirrors. Field tried not to look at himself, but
Caprisi was unselfconsciously removing something from his teeth.
Chen caught Field's eye and smiled. He was holding the Thompson
down by his side, its magazine resting against his knee.

The top landing was spacious, with two doors separated by a gold
mirror. Another uniformed officer was standing guard by the one on
the right.

Inside, the main room was not as big as Field had anticipated, but
the flat was a far cry from his own quarters. The wooden floor had
been recently polished. One wall was dominated by a long sofa
covered in a white cotton sheet and silk cushions in a kaleidoscope
of colours. There was a handsome Chinese chest beside it, upon
which sat a gramophone. A rattan chair had been pushed up against
the French windows, which opened onto a small balcony.

A bookshelf in the corner was lined with embossed leather spines
and photograph frames.

Field pulled at his collar again to ease the pressure on his neck,
before following Caprisi through to the bedroom at the far end of a
short corridor.

He recoiled at the smell and then the sight of blood on white
sheets, and tried to shield this reaction from Caprisi. A Chinese
plain clothed detective he did not recognise was dusting the
bedside table with fingerprint powder. A photographer was lining up
a shot and there was the sudden thump of a flashgun.

"Jesus," Caprisi said quietly.

The woman lay in the middle of the big, brass bed that occupied
most of the room. Her wrists and ankles were handcuffed to each
corner, her body half-turned, as if twisting to be free. She was
wearing silk lingerie: a beige camisole and knickers, a suspender
belt and stockings. She had been stabbed repeatedly in the stomach
and vagina and had bled profusely. The blood was now dry; it had
taken some time for her death to be discovered.

Caprisi made his way round to the far side of the bed, next to the
wardrobe. He glanced through a separate door into the

"Don't touch anything."

Field nodded, without moving or taking his eyes from the woman's
face. She had short blonde hair, and her lips were still pink with
lipstick. Her mouth was half open, giving the disconcerting
impression that her face was distorted with pleasure.

"Jesus," Caprisi said again.

Field did not respond.

"Ever seen a dead body like this?"

Field shook his head.

Caprisi leant forward, examining her. "Good looking girl." He sat
close to the woman's waist. Field tried not to look at the patch of
dark hair, which became visible as Caprisi took hold of the top
band of her knickers and began to lower them, until they were
around her knees. The corpse was stiff and he grimaced with the
effort. "She's been dead some time," he said. Field felt the
dryness in his throat as Caprisi leant down to take a closer look,
using his fingers to try and open the gap between her thighs. There
was dried blood everywhere, most of the sheet a dark red.

Caprisi wiped his fingers on the lower part of her leg, then pulled
the knickers back up again. He stood, looking down at the body,
frowning. "Hard to tell," he said, more to himself than Field. "But
I'm not sure . . ." He looked up. "What do you think?"

Field shook his head. "About what?"

"I don't think there's been an assault. A sexual one."

Field didn't answer.

"She's still got her underwear on," Caprisi said.

"That doesn't mean she wasn't assaulted."

"True, but there's no sign of any sperm on the camisole, underwear,
or stockings. None that I can see." He walked past Field towards
the door. He looked angry. "We'd better get Maretsky down here," he
said, stepping out into the corridor. "Chen, get Maretsky will you,
and tell him to get a move on?"

Caprisi returned to the other side of the room. "So tell me about
the woman, Field. Field?"


"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine."

"You're bunching your fists."

Field breathed out quietly and unclenched his hands.

"Tell me about her."

"In what way?"

"What's her name again?"

"Lena Orlov," Field said. "Granger asked records whether the
address rang a bell and Danny pulled out the file on Orlov straight
away. The photograph matches. I can see it's her."

Caprisi frowned. "Tell me about her."

"I'm not sure if I know all that--"

"Then why has Granger given us the pleasure of your company?"

"The file is not extensive."

"Save me having to look at it."

Field took a deep breath. "Suspected Bolshevik sympathizer.
Attended meetings at the 'New Shanghai Life.' Lived here. But we
don't have much more than that."

Caprisi had been eyeing the white photograph frame beside the bed.
He picked it up, took a closer look and then threw it across to
Field. Field noticed how he clenched his teeth when he was angry,
making the muscle in his cheeks twitch. He could see the American
suspected Special Branch had a separate agenda.

The picture was of a family, seated formally on a lawn in front of
a large country house. The mother was a thin, elegant woman; the
father sat stiffly in military uniform. There were five children,
three boys in white sailor suits, and two blonde girls in pretty
white dresses, leaning against their mother's knee. Lena had been
the elder of the two girls. Field, suddenly sombre, put the picture
face down on the bed. The body in front of him had been transformed
suddenly by this glimpse of a past.

"Her father was a Tsarist officer in Mother Russia, and you think
she's a Bolshevik." Caprisi shook his head. "You guys should do
your research."

The Chinese detective was still on his knees, brushing the bedside
table. Caprisi put a hand on his shoulder. "How are we

Excerpted from THE MASTER OF RAIN © Copyright 2002 by Tom
Bradby. Reprinted with permission by Doubleday, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


The Master of Rain
by by Tom Bradby

  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385503970
  • ISBN-13: 9780385503976