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Authors: Tom Bradby

The Master of Rain

BOOK: The Master of Rain
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TOM BRADBY
DOUBLEDAY
New York London Toronto Sydney Auckland
Contents
To Claudia, Jack, Louisa, and Sam.
And Mum and Dad.
 Thanks to Mark Lucas, the world’s greatest agent; Bill Scott-Kerr and Jason Kaufman,
a supportive, clever, and extremely insightful editorial team;
and, most of all, to Claudia, my inspirational wife.
Shanghai
1926
ACCORDING TO CHINESE LEGEND,
AFFAIRS IN THE “OTHER WORLD”
ARE MANAGED BY BUREAUS OR MINISTRIES.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT OF THESE IS
THE MINISTRY OF THUNDER AND STORM,
PRESIDED OVER BY THE MASTER OF RAIN.
IN THE CLOSE, INTENSE HEAT
OF THE SHANGHAI SUMMER,
THE MASTER OF RAIN STANDS ABOVE
THE DARK CLOUDS THAT HANG OVER THE CITY,
BROODING UPON ITS FATE. THE RAIN IS IN HIS GIFT,
AND THUS HE CONTROLS THE FERTILITY OF THE LAND
AND THE PROSPERITY OF ITS INHABITANTS.
HE IS AN OMNIPOTENT AND CAPRICIOUS
BENEFACTOR—OR TORMENTOR.
One
F
ield 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 Shanghai?”
“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 toward 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 gray hair. “You’re Field?” His voice was deep, with a broad Scottish accent.
“Yes, sir.”
“Follow him down.”
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 Griffin.”
“No.” Officially, he’d finished his training a month ago and had spent the intervening time being bored to death with routine office tasks. He was grateful to get out. Granger had told him that his job was to check that the murder was not politically motivated and keep an eye on the Crime Branch.
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.
BOOK: The Master of Rain
11.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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