Cover Art: Les Byerley
Publisher’s note: His Beautiful Samurai has been extensively revised for release with Ai Press. It is a VASTLY different story from the 2006 edition from Torquere Press.
Sex and murder don’t mix but Detective Toshiro Genjin and psychic John Holmes do…
John Holmes comes to Tokyo to help stop a killer. Through the use of his psychic abilities, he can help find out things that no one else sees. Toshi is a policeman who reluctantly accepts John’s help, but from their first touch, John knows he wants more than that. He wants all Toshi can give him, and the heat between them surprises, and delights him.
The modern killer, a historical murder of two samurai, and Toshi’s need to honor other commitments combine to make the blooming love between John and Toshi difficult. And dangerous. The more deeply they delve into the past, the more unsure the future looks. Could the heat between them be the only thing that can solve the mystery, despite all of the difficulties that stand in their way? Can they find a way to keep what is most precious to them? Haunting and powerful, His Beautiful Samurai is a murder mystery, a romance, and a study in the supernatural. Get your hands on it today!
Tokyo, Japan, Present day
Toshi stared down at the fresh corpses. Around him, the flashbulbs of the crime scene photographers went off like tiny fireworks. Shimatta! He’d failed again and now stood, helpless, staring at the victims’ grisly fate.
His hands already encased in latex gloves, he pressed his palms together, steepled in front of him, and bowed his respect to the dead. As did his partner, Natsuka Yamamoto, beside him.
The victims of this third killing in nearly six months, their naked, stiffening bodies still intertwined, had been skewered. The weapon, as with the other victims, a samurai’s katana, long sword.
His stomach churned, as it never failed to do when he found the Ronin Killer’s victims.
Natsuka delicately covered the victims with a white cloth then approached Toshi, shaking his head sadly. The katana tented the cloth in the most macabre way. “You ready for them to go?”
Toshi sighed. Forensics had already done the preliminary, time and cause of death. As if they didn’t already know the cause. His hand went into the inner pocket of his jacket, rummaging for the cigarettes he’d made the mistake of trying to quit the week before. Then stopped. No smoking on a crime scene. He’d have to wait. “Go ahead,” he murmured to his partner. Natsuka nodded and went to give the order.
With his mind ticking off the ways he’d failed to prevent yet another killing, Toshi surveyed the room while the Identification Division people finished up. He began to look around. Though he wasn’t sure why. Not one crime scene had turned up any useful leads. All they had so far in all this time was that the form of the murders was identical and that the victims were either married people having an illicit affair or a couple together whose relationship was rocky.
Natsuka had a theory that the killer’s motive was at least in part a sick desire to keep them together. As good a motive as any. But that still didn’t explain the fact that each time they got a trace on a suspect, that same suspect ended up dead two days later back in their own home, dead from a fatal coronary and the word “Naomasa” carved into the deceased’s forehead. Autopsies showed that the wounds were self-inflicted moments before death. Men and women, both in service jobs, both solitary types. Profiling had gotten them that far. And only that far. Where were they getting the damned swords?
The murder weapons turned out to be original swords smithed by one Koto Naomasa, one of the great sword smiths of nineteenth century Japan. However, they’d been unable to trace where the weapons were coming from, and the expert they’d questioned knew of only one other original Naomasa in a private collection in the United States. They seemed to be coming out of thin air. The case was nothing but dead ends, literally and figuratively. There had to be a cult of some kind they’d yet to find. Somewhere in the shadows, another Charles Manson was sending out his brainwashed minions to kill.
Natsuka went to round up the hotel staff and to have the manager contact off-duty employees to come in for questioning.
As always, the room yielded no clues. It seemed the killer did what he always did. Entered the room, unnoticed by the lovers engaged in the act, speared them together then turned around and left. There was nothing to do now except wait for forensic reports and to speak with the staff.
Toshi watched the sheet-covered stretcher being carried out of the room. He shook his head, fighting down a wave of nausea. The sick feeling was as much from frustration as from horror. How the hell was he supposed to prevent further murders if the killer continued to slip through their fingers like sand on the beach? If he and Natsuka had been the only ones working on this case, he might have understood the difficulty of turning up leads, but a team of twenty men and women working around the clock?
His cell phone rang. Toshi pulled off a glove and retrieved the phone from his pocket. One glance at the ID window showed the caller was his superior. He took a deep breath.
“Moshi moshi. Keishi-san.”
“Keibu Genjin. Same situation as always?” The superintendant spoke in his gravelly voice.
He exhaled. “Yes, Keishi-san. I’m sorry.”
The chief’s irritation radiated through the phone line. “Next Tuesday makes six months. We’re not doing anything to promote the citizens’ faith in Tokyo’s police force.”
Toshi gritted his teeth and raked a hand through his hair, badly in need of trimming. Hunting a serial killer did not allow one time for such trivialities as personal grooming. Or sleep. “This is not the first time a serial killer has eluded the police.” Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer were famous instances, of course, but there were many others all over the world that often never made headlines for more than a few days, never mind history. Long ago back at Berkley, Michael, who was on the graduate track to profiling, had told him about many of them who’d managed never to get caught. It was a terrible response, but the only one he had in the moment. He, himself, lived in this area and had a vested interest in keeping it safe. He’d often wondered how long it would be before a victim would turn out to be one of his neighbors. “We won’t rest until we have results.”
Keishi Ito grunted. “You and Yamamoto-san finish up there. Leave the other teams to finish the inquiries and come in. I have something to tell you.”
Toshi sighed. “Yes, sir.” He flipped his phone shut, dropped it into his jacket pocket, then pulled off the other glove. With the crime scene now secured, he and Natsuka would have to come back in and search the place again in the morning. Which was really only a few hours away. Good thing there was a Starbucks right by the station. Green tea just didn’t cut it at times like these.
Natsuka was at the doorway of the room, looking at him. “Hayao and his partner are still speaking to everyone currently in the hotel. So far, no one here has seen or heard anything suspicious. I’m having a disc made of the security tapes now. They’ll send them over as soon as they’re ready. Management is still looking for all the off-duty employees.
They’ll have them here in a couple of hours, they said.”
Toshi thanked him and told him what the chief had said. Natsuka grumbled and clapped a friendly hand on Toshi’s shoulder. “Come, I’ll run interference for you with the press.” The press had been swarming around the entrance of each crime scene, ever since the Ronin Killer had begun his rampage through East Tokyo.
Toshi nodded. “Thanks,” he murmured and went again for his cigarettes. He followed the older man down the hall, into the elevator. His partner for the last four years had become a good friend, more like the father and well-meaning older brother he’d never had. His own father, a high-ranking diplomat, had always been stern and distant, demanding perfection. Mazao Genjin hated that his son was a policeman. Policing was a job for the son of blue collar men, as he had put it from his place across the table at dinner so many years ago. Not for the son of a diplomat and descendant of a samurai family. As if such social ranks still applied to modern day society.
Unfortunately, he’d still not shaken the effect of four years at Berkley in California. All that personal freedom and…well…Michael, had gotten into his blood. He’d tried to blame Michael for his complete inability to readjust all these years back in Japan, for having fed his inner drive. But honestly, it was his own doing. Or, rather his nature. Since he could remember, he’d suffered the soul-searing hunger to find answers, to get to the truth and get dangerous sickos off the street so they couldn’t hurt anyone else. In fact, were it not for his Uncle Musashi, the one person in his life who encouraged him, he wasn’t so sure he would ever have returned to Tokyo. He was beholden to his uncle, in spite of Musashi’s protests to the contrary. Musashi needed him in a way he couldn’t define, but which had had the power to drag him back from the States, and from Michael.
So, here he was.
Halfway down to the lobby, he realized his body had already begun to tense, bracing himself for what the chief would have to say. It couldn’t be good.
* * * * *
“In other world news tonight, in Tokyo, Japan, a serial killer has been terrorizing the eastern portion of the city for the last six months.”
John reached out to switch off the set, but something held him back.
“The Ronin Killer, has been dubbed so by Tokyo Metropolitan Police because of the use of a samurai sword to spear his victims.”
John sat at full attention, uncertain whether it was the military man in him, or the empathic psychic. Old habits didn’t just die hard, they went kicking and screaming. He stared at the screen. Police were loading sheet-covered corpses, apparently two bodies together, into the medical van outside of what appeared to be a fancy hotel. The top of the sheet protruded upward, attesting to the sword. It was obvious the killer had skewered his victims together. Christ…
“The Ronin Killer, so named after the masterless samurai warriors of Japan,” the anchorwoman went on, “refers to the manner in which the killer chooses his victims, seemingly at random, and then murders them with a samurai weapon. Police have been frustrated in the efforts to capture the Ronin Killer before his next strike. Their only clue is the manner in which two victims are killed at once, either in an embrace or during sexual intercourse.”
“Damn,” John murmured, a sick feeling rising in his gut. He continued to watch the footage.
“Police Inspectors Natsuka Yamamoto and Toshiro Genjin of the Criminal Investigation Bureau have been on the case since the first victims appeared nearly six months ago. They refused to comment on the string of murders.”
The cameras zoomed in on the two men. They were leaving the building. A middle-aged, shorter man walked in front of the other detective, seeming to shield him, but the cameras managed to catch glimpses of the second detective. A few seconds sufficed for John to see that the younger man was slim and handsome. John’s heart sped up slightly. The detective’s ebony hair framed an angular face in sexy layers that curled over his collar.
John watched the screen, his gaze glued on the taller figure of the young detective until he was no longer visible. The segment ended and John switched off the set. He shook his head. There was a time when he would have immediately booked a flight to Tokyo and turned up at the police station, offering his services to catch the killer. Hell, that Japanese detective was almost good-looking enough to pull him from his rest cure. However, his nerves were still shot from the series of cases he’d worked on with police over the last few years. Four months hadn’t proved to be enough of a vacation. His hands had only stopped shaking in the last week.
He pushed the image of that guy from his mind, fighting back the nagging spirals of heat whispering about in his long-neglected groin area. John Holmes filled his days with walks in the park, counseling at the VA, and whatever leisure and athletic activities would keep him fit between reading trashy detective novels and staring into space. No antique stores for him, nor any other place where the lives of the dead could crash in on him. No touching other people so he could experience all their grief and anguish and learn their deepest secrets. He didn’t even take his reading material from the library or get it at used bookstores because he’d sense the lives of the people who’d touched the book before him. He was resting until his own soul told him he was ready again.
His cell phone rang. The private, unlisted number that only his agent, Dick Watson had, not even his own family. Even though he was pretty close with his folks and siblings, he’d needed to reduce the number of times the phone rang. It had also been worth his peace of mind to invest in an agent to run interference with police stations, press and general curiosity mongers and tire kickers.
John’s stomach fluttered with a touch of premonition. “Dick? Hey.”
“Sorry to make the phone ring, mate.” The Aussie’s cheerful voice gave John momentary relief. “How are you?”
John sighed and leaned back in his chair. He propped his bare feet up on the glass coffee table. “The same. How’s the wife?”
“Sandy’s fine. She wants you to come to dinner soon.”
Dick and his family were the only people John allowed himself to socialize with since Brett had left. The pressure of a post-traumatic stress disorder suffering psychic as a lover had been too much for the guy. Yet, physical contact with him hadn’t been a joy either. Brett had secrets that, when John touched him, were no longer secrets. This combination really didn’t do a relationship good.
“That would be great.” John stared up at the ceiling. He definitely appreciated when someone else did the cooking. Baked beans from a can got awfully tiresome after a while.
“Is that why you called?”
Pause. Dick cleared his throat. “Um…well…no.”
The flutter in John’s gut kicked up again. “Don’t tell me.”
Sigh. “John, I really debated hard on this one. It’s the first call I’ve contacted you about in four months.”
John could only imagine how many calls Dick had actually turned down for him, in spite of the intense guilt he suffered. How many cases could be solved if he just helped? He just had to trust that his agent wouldn’t allow something like that to happen. Dick was shrewd and prudent and John trusted him implicitly. “All right, shoot.”
“Good man. Have you started watching the news again?”
“A bit here and there.”
Dick cleared his throat again. This was going to be a doozy. “Maybe you’ve heard about the serial murders in Tokyo? They’re calling them the Ronin killings, after the samurai?”
John felt his pulse throb in his wrist. This was too damn weird. “I just saw the clip a second before you called.” I saw that hot detective who’s on the case.
“Yeah, well, the third murder just happened yesterday, taking into account the time difference. And about five minutes ago, I got a call from the superintendent of that district, asking, no pleading, for your services. They’re desperate to get this guy before he kills again.”
“Naturally.” John’s heartbeat quickened slightly.
“Of course the airfare, lodging, et cetera is all taken care of. I’ll take care of briefing the police on what you do and what to expect when you examine a crime scene, although the superintendent I spoke with says he’s read about you in their police journals.”
“How nice. I’m famous.”
Dick chuckled. “Better than infamous, I suppose, mate.”
John joined him in the laughter. “Yes, I suppose.”
The moment of humor passed and they were both silent. John sensed Dick’s hesitation on the other end.
“If you want to take some time to decide, mate…”
John sat up in his chair. He sighed. “No. I don’t need time on this one. I’m tired of refusing to help. I think I’ll be able to handle it.”
“You’re a good man, John. Are you sure?”
John nodded even though Dick couldn’t see him. “I’m sure.”
“Are you ready for the briefing?”
“Just the bare facts. The victims are found slain with the sword. Roughly twenty-four to forty-eight hours later, a man or woman is found, dead of a coronary after having carved the name ‘Naomasa’ on his or her own forehead. Their fingerprints match the fingerprints on the murder weapon each time.”
“Jesus.” The details of murder never failed to horrify.
“Tell me about it. So far the police have not been able to establish a connection. No cults or religious groups that would be engaged in such activities. Nothing.”
John sighed. “That’s where I come in.”
“That’s right. Anyway, I’ll have your ticket for you this evening when I pick you up for the airport.”
“Dick, you’re the best.” Seriously, John didn’t know how he’d cope without his agent’s help.
Dick chuckled. “So my wife is fond of telling me. See you tonight, mate.”