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PROLOGUE

High in the sky, apartment windows were smudges of grimy yellow, and this passed for starlight in New York City. Loud Latin rhythms from a car radio drifted down First Avenue. The sedan turned sharply, brakes screaming, narrowly missing a small blond girl with fugitive eyes. The child stood on tiptoe, poised for flight, arms rising like thin white wings.

A book was knocked from the hands of a woman on the sidewalk as the little girl sped past her in a breeze of flying hair and churning legs, small feet slapping pavement in time to the music of a passing boom box a rock n roll getaway. The eyes of the running child were not green, not Kathys eyes, yet the startled woman saw her as a familiar wraith rocketing through space and years of time.

Fifteen years, you fool. And Kathy Mallory was not so small anymore, nor was she dead not the makings of a ghost.

Sweat rolled down Sparrows face. If not for the stolen book, would her mind have made that stumble? Again, the woman looked back the way she had come, but there was no sign of the man who had followed her from the bookshop. She had circled round and round, taking the long way home to lose him, and he had not hurried his steps to keep up with her. He had moved with inexorable resolve to the measured beat of a march. His body had no language, no life.

If a dead man could walk.

Sparrows hands were clammy, a sign of anxiety, but she blamed it on the weather so hot and muggy in this gray hour after sundown. And she blamed her costume for the stares from other pedestrians. The mutton-sleeve blouse and long skirt were too bizarre for a twenty-first-century heat wave. A match flared close beside her as a man, a harmless type, lit a cigarette, then passed her by. Her heart beat faster, and she rationalized away the second warning, taking it for guilt.

If not for the book -

She looked down at her empty hands and panicked then sighed. The precious paperback lay on the sidewalk at her feet, and she bent low to snatch it back. On the rise, another figure, quiet as smoke, moved alongside her in the half-dozen mirrors of a drugstore window. She could still be surprised by these chance encounters with herself, for the surgically altered face needed no makeup to cover a history of broken bones and ravaged skin. The blue eyes of her reflection looked back across a gap of seventeen years, fresh off a Greyhound bus from the Southland.

Sparrow nodded. I remember you, girl.

What an unholy haunted night.

She hid the book behind her back, as if a tattered novel might be worth stealing. In fact, she planned to burn it. But the book was not what the stalking man wanted. Sparrow looked uptown and down. He would be so easy to spot in this crowd of normal humans. Apparently, she had lost him at some turn of a corner. Yet every inch of her prickled, as though a thousand tiny insects crept about beneath her skin.

She hurried homeward, not looking back anymore, but only paying attention to a voice inside her head. Fear was a good old friend of hers, who broke into her thoughts to say, Hello, and then, Aint itgettin dark? And now, Run, girl!


For the Teachers | Crime School | CHAPTER 1