Brides of Blood

Free Brides of Blood by Joseph Koenig

Book: Brides of Blood by Joseph Koenig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joseph Koenig
Tags: Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers
rolled up above one elbow. A shoelace was knotted around his scarred bicep; the vein bulged purple in sallow skin. A burning candle was glued to the desktop beside a spoon that was bent back against its rusted handle.
    “Hey,” Darius said. “Hey, you, wake up. The party’s over.”
    Farhad’s shoulder was a spindly lever that propelled him toward the floor when it was disturbed. Darius grabbed him under the arms and let him down slowly on his back. He pressed an ear to Farhad’s chest, but heard only his own blood pulsing through his head. Like an errant dart in the suitcase maker’s pants cuff was a hypodermic needle attached to a reddish eyedropper.
    Ghaffari arrived behind the morgue attendants, who stood out of the way while he photographed the body. With each flash the dead man’s image was fixed as indelibly in Darius’s brain as on film. Ghaffari swept a light into the corners, got down on his knees to follow a trail of white powder under the desk to a crushed bit of chalk. He took a second set of pictures to be safe, then went outside to wait with Darius while the body was strapped onto a gurney.
    “It’s a successful man who dies doing what he likes best, so it’s fair to say he led a fulfilling life.” Ghaffari loaded a fresh roll of film into his camera.
    “Besides, with an addict what else can you expect? I know what you’re thinking, but have you ever heard of one dying of old age?”
    “The timing is too convenient,” Darius said. “If he’d kicked off tomorrow, or the day after, then I might be persuaded it was accidental.”
    “That’s all it was. No one needed him silenced, because he had nothing of importance to say. He was toying with you. He didn’t know any more than we do.”
    “Possibly.” Darius was distracted by the corpse being carried out through a window. “Still, for my only witness to die just as we were about to talk—”
    “Is pure coincidence,” Ghaffari said. “Where do we go from here?”
    “You go with him to the morgue. Stay till Baghai tells you exactly how he died.” They walked across the street, and Darius poked his head through the beaded curtain of a wedding bower. Edged in candle stubs on a bed of withered roses was a framed portrait of a teenage boy who had died on the Basra front. Droplets of red wax clung to the cheeks like tears of blood. “I’m going back to Shemiran.”
    “Why?” Ghaffari snapped two pictures of the school building. “We’ve squeezed that lemon dry.”
    “What else is there?”
    The lights were on at the apartment complex, but OUT OF SERVICE signs were taped to the elevator doors. Darius climbed to the top floor, and worked his way downstairs through tenants who insisted they were asleep, or not at home when the body was placed in the court. The tenth-story landing resonated with Beatles music, which he traced to an apartment in the line whose fourth-floor resident was the old man with the rugs. He knocked. A noisy argument started up in another unit, and he let his eyes drift past the elevator and back along the other wall through the garbage strewn around the incinerator. When he turned to the door again, a pinpoint of light was focused between his eyes.
    “ Who is it? ”
    The voice was a husky contralto in counterpoint with the music. The fifth Beatle, he thought, like the Twelfth Imam—the Lord of the Age, who had disappeared in the ninth century—was fated to walk the earth unrecognized into eternity. He pulled out his ID and dangled it up to the peephole like a small fish he’d caught. “Police,” he said.
    “What do you want?”
    “Open up, please.”
    “I’m not that interested.”
    “Immediately.”
    Two dead bolts turned, and he was looking at a green-eyed girl whose straight blonde hair danced on her slight shoulders. The pale glow of her cheeks he credited to an insufficient diet and golden down that was faintly visible in harsh lamplight. More startling than her beauty was her boldness in not

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