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 door.
"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
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, Field?"
"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."
"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 here."
"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 aside."
On the way back to the car, Caprisi asked, "How's your Shanghainese?"
"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 lift.
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
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
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 bathroom.
"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
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?"
"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
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 doing?"
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby Copyrightę
2002 by Tom Bradby. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced
or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.