from RED CHRYSANTHEMUM
Edo, Genroku Period, Year 11, Month 6
(Tokyo, July 1698)
rumbled in the summer dawn. Storm clouds absorbed the light
breaking above the hills outside Edo while ashes drifted upon
smoke from a fire during the night. Up a broad avenue in the
daimyo district, where the feudal lords had their city estates,
rode a squadron of samurai. Their horses’ hooves clattered,
disturbing the quiet; their lanterns flickered in the humid
air. Night watchmen slouching against the high stone walls
that lined the street jerked to attention, surprised by the
sudden excitement at the end of a long, uneventful shift. Windows
opened in the barracks that topped the walls; sleepy, curious
soldiers peered out as the squadron halted outside the gate
of Lord Mori, daimyo of Suwo and Nagato Provinces.
Hirata dismounted, strode up to the soldiers guarding the
portals, and said, “I’m here to raid this estate.
Let us in.”
Even as offense crossed their faces, the guards swung open
the gates. They’d spied the triple hollyhock leaf crest,
symbol of the ruling Tokugawa regime, that Hirata and his men
wore on their armor tunics. Even the powerful provincial lords
must bow to Tokugawa authority. And they recognized Hirata
as the shogun’s sosakan sama—Most Honorable
Investigator of Events, Situations, and People. They dared
not disobey him.
As Hirata invaded the estate with the hundred men of his detective
corps, he walked with a limp from a serious injury that had
healed but still caused him pain. Yet he kept up a quick pace
at the head of his troops. Cries of confusion erupted as Lord
Mori’s troops swarmed the courtyard.
“Round everybody up,” Hirata ordered his men. “No
one leaves or enters the estate until we’re done. Search
this whole place. You know what to look for.”
The detectives hastened to comply. Shouting, defiance, and
tussles met them. Hirata, accompanied by a team of troops and
his two principle retainers, Detectives Inoue and Arai, marched
through the inner gate. Across a formal garden of rocks and
twisted shrubs loomed the daimyo’s mansion, a large,
half timbered structure with multiple wings and peaked tile
roofs, mounted on a granite foundation. A samurai bustled out
the door and rushed down the stone path to meet Hirata.
“I’m Akera Kanko, chief retainer to Lord Mori.” He
was some fifty years of age, pompous and stout. “Why
are you intruding on my master?”
“He’s under investigation for treason,” Hirata
said as he and his men advanced on the mansion. “I’m
going to inspect his premises and interrogate everybody here.”
“Treason?” Akera huffed in outrage; he ran to
keep up with Hirata. “With all due respect, but Lord
Mori is no traitor. He’s a loyal subject of the shogun
and an ally of his honorable cousin Lord Matsudaira.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Hirata said.
Several months of investigation had convinced him that Lord
Mori was conspiring against Lord Matsudaira, who ruled Japan
through the shogun. During the four years since he’d
seized power after a war with an opposing faction, Lord Matsudaira
had evolved from a just, reasonable man to a tyrant fearful
of losing his position. He’d demoted and banished officials
he didn’t trust; he’d subjected the daimyo to strict
supervision and harsh fines for perceived offenses. This had
spawned widespread disgruntlement and many plots to overthrow
While Hirata mounted the stairs, excitement flared in him.
Today he would find proof of the conspiracy. His investigation
would end with the arrest, conviction, and ritual suicide of
a traitor. Hirata would serve his honor by defending his superior
at a time when his honor badly needed serving and his reputation
with Lord Matsudaira and the shogun could use some improvement.
He was thirty one years old, with a career as a police officer
behind him and three years in this post, and he should be able
to stay out of trouble, but it seemed he never could.
Now Akera looked terrified. Everyone knew that the penalty
for treason was death, and not just for the traitor, but all
his family and close associates. “There must be a mistake!”
“Where is Lord Mori?” Hirata asked.
“In his private chambers,” Akera said.
“Take me there,” Hirata said.
“No one is allowed to disturb Lord Mori without his
permission,” Akera objected.
“I don’t need his permission,” Hirata said. “I
have Lord Matsudaira’s orders.”
Resigned yet nervous, Akera led Hirata, Inoue, and Arai to
a compound at the heart of the estate. There, a spacious garden,
landscaped with lush trees, was so quiet that Hirata could
hear frogs peeping and crickets chirping. Insects swarmed over
a reed fringed pond coated with green scum. A cloying, sweet
scent of flowers mingled with the rank odor of privies. At
the center stood a rustic villa. Ivy draped its barred windows;
deep eaves sheltered the veranda. Hirata and his companions
approached the villa along one of several covered corridors
that extended from the main mansion. They bypassed the guards
stationed outside and stepped into the entryway.
The detectives shone their lanterns beyond, illuminating a
maze like space divided by partitions. The air was warmer and
staler than outside. Hirata had a sudden impression that something
was wrong. He and the detectives exchanged frowns. At the same
moment they heard whimpering. The sour, metallic odor of blood
Behind them, on the veranda, Akera said, “What is it?”
Hirata motioned Akera to keep quiet. He and his men tiptoed
through the maze of rooms, skirted partitions, edged around
furniture. The whimpering grew louder, punctuated by sobs.
It came from the villa’s far end, where a gap yawned
in the partitions. The smell of blood grew stronger. Hirata
and his men halted and peered through the gap.
Inside was a bedchamber inhabited by two nude figures, one
a man, the other a woman. The man’s heavyset body lay
prone on a futon. The woman knelt close to the man, bent over
him. Her long black hair veiled her nakedness and her face.
She whimpered, sobbed, and gasped as she shook his shoulders.
Where his genitals should have been, a red wound glistened.
Blood that had spilled from the wound, and from gashes in his
torso, drenched the bed and spread in a thick puddle on the
tatami floor. A chrysanthemum rested in the puddle, its cut
stem submerged, its white petals stained crimson. Nearby, alongside
a heap of robes, lay a dagger with a bloodstained blade and
the man’s severed penis and testicles.
Hirata and his men exclaimed in horrified unison. Akera, who’d
followed them, cried, “Lord Mori!”
The woman looked up. Her hair fell aside to reveal her bare
breasts and swollen abdomen. Red smears of Lord Mori’s
blood colored her pale skin. Her delicate, pretty features
were contorted by shock and terror, her eyes wild. As she tried
to cover herself with her hands, Hirata noted that she was
some four months pregnant.
Akera rushed into the room and fell to his knees beside Lord
Mori. He shouted his master’s name and seized his hand,
but Lord Mori neither answered nor stirred.
Detective Arai crouched, felt Lord Mori’s pulse, and
bent over to listen for breath. “He’s dead.”
But Hirata barely listened. He and the woman stared at each
other in amazed mutual recognition. “Lady Reiko,” Hirata
said in a voice hushed with disbelief.
She was the wife of Chamberlain Sano, the man Hirata called
master. Hirata’s horror at the mutilation and death of
Lord Mori increased tenfold. “Merciful gods, what are
you doing here?”
Reiko shook her head as if dazed. She cowered under the men’s
scrutiny, while outside the thunder boomed and rain fell in
Akera staggered over to her. “She murdered Lord Mori!” he
cried, his face livid with rage, his finger jabbing at Reiko
in accusation. “She cut off his manhood and killed him!”
The rain poured down on Edo. Townsfolk waded through flooded
streets. Merchants peered out from behind storm shutters
pulled across their shops. Curtains of
water veiled the hill upon which Edo Castle stood. Within the castle, guards
huddled in turrets and enclosed corridors atop the high stone walls. Soldiers
in dripping armor patrolled the soaked passages. But inside his office in
a compound near the palace, Chamberlain Sano sat dry and
comfortable with General
Isogai, who was commander of the Tokugawa army, and two members of the Council
of Elders that was Japan’s chief governing body.
“We’ve requested this meeting to discuss some
disturbing recent developments,” said Elder Ohgami Kaoru.
He had white hair and pensive, youthful features. He was in
charge of the Tokugawa government’s relations with the
“The first is an incident in Bizen Province four days
ago,” continued Elder Uemori Yoichi, the shogun’s
chief military adviser. He inhaled on his tobacco pipe and
let out a deep, phlegmy cough that shook his loose jowls.
“I’m aware of the incident,” Sano said. “The
outlaw rebels have struck again.”
During the three years since the war, the former chamberlain
Yanagisawa’s underground partisans were still fighting
Lord Matsudaira’s regime within the Tokugawa regime.
Many had been captured and executed, but the survivors had
recruited new troops from among peasants, gangsters, and disgruntled
Tokugawa vassals. They concentrated their attacks on the provinces,
where the Tokugawa forces were less numerous.
“This time they ambushed Lord Ikeda’s army,” Sano
elaborated. They were after the allies that had supported Lord
Matsudaira’s ousting of Yanagisawa, and they’d
devised warfare tactics that utilized their relatively small
forces to maximum effect. These included sniping, ambush, and
arson, plus sabotage of buildings, bridges, roads, and agriculture. “They
killed twenty men, then escaped into the woods.”
Everyone looked none too pleased that Sano was so well informed.
He knew they’d like to control his access to news, the
better to control him. But he had a private intelligence service,
his defense against ignorance, a fatal weakness for the shogun’s
second in command.
“My troops are doing the best they can to stop the
outlaws.” General Isogai had a loud, forthright manner
and a bulbous physique. “But they’re spread too
thin. And Edo is vulnerable because so much of the army is
deployed to the provinces. Let’s pray that the outlaws
aren’t planning a major attack here.”
“We won’t know until it’s too late,” Ohgami
Uemori nodded. “The metsuke is spread as thin as the
army.” The official intelligence service had been working
overtime because Lord Matsudaira had its agents keeping tabs
on his growing opposition within the government.
Thunder cracked; rain cascaded from the eaves. “This
weather doesn’t help,” General Isogai muttered.
It had been an exceptionally wet rainy season, with serious,
countrywide flooding. Every news dispatch contained stories
of washed out villages, of families drowned or homeless.
“Nor does it help that so many townspeople have rushed
to take advantage of a bad situation,” Ohgami said.
“Crime is rampant,” Uemori noted. “Thieves
are looting flooded homes and businesses. Edo Jail is overflowing.”
“Many members of the bakufu have also taken advantage.” Ohgami
grimaced in disgust at his colleagues in the military government
that ruled Japan. “Officials have embezzled from the
treasury and stolen from the Tokugawa rice stores. Tax collectors
are taking bribes from daimyo and merchants to reduce taxes
and falsify the account books. We have such a serious shortfall
of funds that we may not be able to pay stipends to the thousands
of samurai in the regime.”
“Well, we know one cause of those problems,” Ohgami
said. “It is all the officials who are new to their posts.”
During the purge immediately after the war, many experienced
officials had been replaced by men whose main qualification
was loyalty to Lord Matsudaira. The novices didn’t know
how to discipline their idle, corrupt underlings.
Sano grew restless because the elders were prone to complain
rather than take action. “Well, unless anyone has any
solutions, may we adjourn this meeting?” He was nominally
their superior, but their seniority and age gave them special
standing, and he pretended to defer to them.
“Not so fast,” General Isogai said. “We’ve
one more topic to discuss.”
“It’s the methods you’ve used to solve
the problems,” Uemori said.
Ohgami hastened to say, “Not that we mean to criticize
you for taking action when others couldn’t.”
Sano heard the shared, unspoken thought that the shogun was
a fool, useless at administration, and Lord Matsudaira couldn’t
handle the problems either because he was too busy maintaining
his political power to bother with the specifics of governing.
“Please go on.” Sano knew from experience that
the men were about to criticize him, regardless of their disclaimers.
“You certainly have made progress toward straightening
out the regime’s finances,” Uemori said in grudging
Sano had sent his private spies to watch the treasury and
the rice warehouses. He’d caught thieves, recovered loot,
and restored the flow of money into the Tokugawa coffers.
“And you’ve reestablished a semblance of law
and order in the city,” Ohgami said. During the past
three years, Sano had built up a large personal army, which
he’d assigned to patrol the streets and help out the
“We thank you for taking on tasks that another man
in your position might perceive as below his station,” Uemori
Sano nodded, acknowledging that he’d been given the
dirty work of the regime. He’d done what he had to do,
and he couldn’t help being proud of what he’d achieved. “But
. . . ?” he prompted.
Ohgami spoke delicately: “Your methods have been rather,
shall we say, unconventional.”
That was not a positive attribute in a society that valued
conformity and custom.
“I’ll say.” General Isogai chuckled. “It
was brilliant of you to punish the thieving officials and the
idle bums by sending them to help out in flood disaster zones.
And I like how you made the daimyo tax cheats run jails on
their estates. That’s turning rotten plums into good
Ohgami coughed. “The shogun and Lord Matsudaira appreciate
your competence. And you’re much admired by many people.” Sano
had built up a large following of military allies among daimyo and Tokugawa vassals who respected him because he was honorable
as well as powerful. They included the two elders—who
were top advisers to the shogun—and General Isogai, who
could lend the might of the Tokugawa army to anyone he wished.
“But you’re feared by others because of your
control over society,” said Ohgami. “You’ve
made a lot of powerful enemies.”
Which included people Sano had punished. General Isogai said, “How
many assassination attempts on you have there been this year?
“Four.” Sano had been ambushed, attacked on the
street, shot at, and almost poisoned. He now employed a food
taster and never went anywhere without bodyguards.
“Police Commissioner Hoshina hasn’t missed the
opportunity to lure your enemies into his camp,” said
Hoshina had been Sano’s foe for seven years; he’d
worked tirelessly to bring Sano down.
“I’m aware of that.” Sano’s expression
hinted that if the men had some news, they’d better come
out with it now.
“What you may not be aware of is that Hoshina has begun
a new campaign to discredit you,” Uemori said. “Some
of his new allies have great influence with the shogun and
“Lord Matsudaira can’t afford to lose their support,” Uemori
added. “No matter how much he respects you and depends
on you, he may give in to their pressure to get rid of you
because he’s afraid to offend them and have them turn
The possibility hadn’t escaped Sano’s notice. “I’ll
keep that in mind.” He experienced a twinge of surprise
at the life he led. How far he’d come from his humble
origin as a son of a ronin, earning his rice by teaching martial
arts! Such bizarre twists of fate had brought him here! And
his exalted status was a mixed blessing.
He hated living in constant fear for his life, with hardly
a moment of solitude or freedom. Politics was dirty business.
He would prefer a good, clean sword battle any day. And the
higher he rose, the greater the danger of falling. Most days
Sano was confident that he could stay on top, but he was almost
forty years old and sometimes he felt his mortality. His hair
was turning gray. Stiff muscles irritated him. A bad beating
three years ago, from an assassin dubbed The Ghost, didn’t
help. Still, his job as chamberlain was his destiny as well
as his duty, a source of satisfaction as well as trouble.
General Isogai said, “Here’s something else to
keep in mind: If you go down, so do a crowd of other folks.” His
gaze touched on each Elder before returning to Sano.
“The time may be coming when we and your other allies
can no longer afford to be associated with you,” said
“For the sake of self preservation, we may be forced
to make different arrangements,” Ohgami concluded.
Sano had foreseen the possibility of losing their support;
allegiances constantly shifted in the bakufu. But that didn’t
lessen his dismay that it could happen so soon. Should his
allies desert him, Sano would be doomed to demotion, banishment,
and perhaps death. His family would suffer even more.
“I appreciate your loyalty, and I understand your position,” he
said in an attempt to appease the men. “What would you
have me do?”
General Isogai answered, blunt, forceful: “Back off
on making any more enemies.”
“Placate the ones you already have,” Uemori said.
“Try to avoid getting in any more trouble,” said
During the tense, unfriendly silence that followed, Detective
Marume appeared in the doorway. “Excuse me, Honorable
Chamberlain.” The tall, burly samurai had been a member
of Sano’s detective corps when Sano was sosakan sama;
now he was a bodyguard and general assistant. “Sorry
to interrupt, but Hirata san is here to see you.”
Sano was surprised because although Hirata was technically
his chief retainer, they didn’t have much to do with
each other these days. While Sano ran the government, Hirata
kept busy investigating crimes.
“It can’t wait.” Marume’s expression
was somber rather than characteristically jovial.
Sano dismissed General Isogai and the elders. As he and Marume
walked down the corridor, Sano said, “What’s this
“Your wife. There’s been some kind of trouble.”
“Reiko?” Alarm jolted Sano. He hurried to his
private quarters. There he found Hirata and Reiko kneeling
in her chamber. With them was Reiko’s old childhood nurse
Hirata looked relieved to see Sano. “Greetings.”
“What’s going on?” Sano noticed that Hirata
appeared healthier, more fit, yet strangely older than the
last time they’d met a few months ago. But Reiko quickly
captured his attention.
She was wrapped in a quilt, shivering violently despite the
summer heat. Her hair hung in damp strings. Her face wore a
stunned, sick expression. Her complexion was blanched, her
lips colorless. O sugi hovered anxiously near her, holding
a bowl of hot tea. Reiko beheld Sano with blurred eyes, as
if she couldn’t quite figure out who he was.
What’s wrong?” he exclaimed as he knelt beside
her. He started to take her in his arms, but she flung up
her hands to prevent him.
“Don’t touch me!” she cried. “The
blood. It’ll get on you.”
“We washed it off, little one,” O sugi said in
a soothing voice. “It’s all gone.”
“What blood?” Sano demanded, growing more confused
and alarmed by the moment. A disturbing thought occurred to
him. “Was it the baby?” He feared Reiko had lost
“No, the baby’s fine,” O sugi assured him,
but worry clouded her kind, wrinkled face. She held the tea
bowl to Reiko’s lips. The steam smelled of medicinal
herbs. “Try to drink, dearest. It will make you feel
Reiko pushed the bowl away. An attack of dry heaves doubled
Sano turned to Hirata. “What happened?”
Hirata’s grave expression warned Sano that the problem
was serious. “I found her at Lord Mori’s estate.”
Surprise jarred Sano. He couldn’t think what business
Reiko had there. “When was this?”
“About an hour ago,” Hirata said.
Sano hadn’t known that Reiko had left the house. On
most nights since she’d become pregnant this time, they’d
not shared a bed. Sano often came home late from work, and
he’d slept in a guest room rather than disturb her rest.
Now he was dismayed to realize that he had no idea what Reiko
did while he was busy running the country and fending off attacks
from rivals. They had so little time together; they seldom
talked. She could have been gone almost every night and he
wouldn’t have noticed.
“What was she doing at Lord Mori’s estate?” Sano
“I don’t know. She hasn’t said.” Hirata
glanced warily at Reiko as O sugi tried to comfort her. “But
. . . ” He inhaled a deep breath. Sano recalled the many
times when Hirata had fulfilled the chief retainer’s
duty of telling his master things he needed to hear but wouldn’t
like. “Lord Mori has been castrated and stabbed to death.
I found Lady Reiko alone with him in his bedchamber. She was
naked and covered with blood. I’m sorry to say that it
looks as if she killed him.”
Sano felt his jaw drop. Shock slammed him like a blow to the
core of him.
“If she were anybody other than your wife, I’d
have arrested her and taken her to jail,” Hirata added. “Instead,
I gave her the benefit of doubt and brought her home.
Even while Sano stared at Reiko in disbelief and horror dazed
him, his mind calculated ramifications. His wife caught at
the scene of a murder was bad enough. That the victim was
an important daimyo who happened to be a major ally of Lord
Matsudaira promised disaster. The penalty for murder was
death by decapitation, and although the law was lenient for
high ranking members of the samurai class, in this case even
Sano’s power might not protect Reiko even if she was
If indeed she was.
Sano experienced fresh horror at his thought that Reiko might
be guilty. This was his wife of eight years, the mother of
his son, the woman he passionately loved, whose character he
held in the highest esteem. She would never murder anyone!
Yet what had she been doing naked in Lord Mori’s bedchamber?
Possibilities that Sano didn’t want to consider multiplied
in his mind. Doubts gnawed at the trust between him and Reiko.
They’d drifted so far apart; did he even know her anymore?
He seized her shoulders and demanded, “Did you kill
“No!” Reiko’s reply was loud with hurt and
outrage at his accusation. But confusion drifted across her
gaze. “At least I don’t think I did.” Her
manner turned plaintive: “I couldn’t have, could
“Of course not,” O sugi said, staunchly loyal
But Sano was far from satisfied by Reiko’s answer. He
turned to Hirata, who shrugged helplessly and said, “That’s
what she told me.”
“Well, if you didn’t kill Lord Mori, who did?” Sano
“I don’t know.” Tears leaked from her eyes.
Impatience girded Sano against the sympathy that rose in him.
He shook Reiko. “What happened? Tell me!”
“I don’t know,” she wailed. “I can’t
Sano had heard this from too many murder suspects trying to
hide their guilt. “I don’t believe you. What were
you doing with Lord Mori? I want a straight answer.”
She drew a long, shaky breath, swallowed, and rubbed her face. “I
was looking for the boy. I was only trying to help.”
That made no sense. “What boy? Help whom?”
Reiko spoke over his questions: “I never meant to hurt
anyone. Lord Mori was a terrible, evil man.”
Coldness stabbed like ice crystals into Sano’s bones.
What she’d said could be interpreted as a confession
to murder. He clutched Reiko tighter. “Maybe you don’t
realize it, but you’re in serious trouble. If you want
me to help you, you must tell me the truth. Now what happened?”
“I am telling you the truth!” Hysteria raised
Reiko’s voice. She twisted in his grasp. “You’re
hurting me. Let go!”
Sano held on, shouting at her in desperation: “Did you
kill Lord Mori? Tell me!” As Reiko sobbed and babbled
incoherently, he felt someone watching them. He turned and
saw Masahiro standing in the doorway.
“Mama? Papa?” Seven years old, tall and serious
for his age, Masahiro carried a wooden sword. His white jacket
and trousers were dirty and his hair tousled from martial arts
lessons. “What’s the matter?”
Sano was dismayed by the sudden awareness that he spent even
less time with his son than with Reiko. Masahiro was growing
up so fast that Sano barely knew him. Sano’s three years
as chamberlain had taken its toll on his family life. Now he
hastened to shield the boy from parental problems. “Masahiro,
“But why is Mama crying?” Masahiro said. “What
are you doing to her?”
“Nothing. It’s all right,” Sano said. “O
sugi, take him outside. Now!”
The nurse bustled Masahiro away. Reiko buried her face in
her hands and wept. “I can’t believe things have
turned out so badly! And I still haven’t found him!”
Sano shook his head in incomprehension. But whatever had happened,
he must take quick action to protect Reiko and minimize the
damage. Turning to Hirata, he said, “Who else knows about
“Just my men and myself.” Hirata reconsidered. “And
by now, probably everyone in the Mori estate.”
That would be hundreds of people, including the daimyo’s family members, retainers, and servants. Sano blew out his
breath. “Well, keep the news from spreading any further
for as long as possible.”
“I’ve already closed off the estate,” Hirata
“Good. What have you learned about the murder?”
“Nothing yet. I thought I’d better bring Lady
“I want you to go back to the estate and start figuring
out what happened,” Sano said. “I’ll join
you as soon as I can.”
“Yes, Honorable Chamberlain.” Hirata bowed and
Sano wished he could be in two places at once. He hadn’t
investigated any crimes in three years, but even though it
was no longer his job, he wanted to handle this one personally.
He reassured himself that Hirata knew what to do. Sano’s
immediate problem was Reiko. He grabbed her hands and pulled
them away from her face.
“Reiko,” he said, “listen to me.”
She gazed at him with red, streaming eyes. Sobs tore her
breath; tremors quaked her body.
“Lord Mori has been murdered,” Sano said, speaking
slowly and clearly. “You look so guilty that if you were
an ordinary citizen instead of my wife, you’d be executed.
You might still be, unless we can come up with a reasonable
explanation for why you were at the crime scene. Now tell me!”
“I did!” Reiko cried, her voice rising shriller
in fresh, insistent agitation.
“You have to do better than that, or not even I can
save you.” Fear and frustration turned Sano’s manner
harsh. “Now one more time: What were you doing there?”
Words poured from Reiko in a babbling torrent: “I went
to spy on him. I saw him do it.” Keening and sobbing,
she wrenched her hands out of Sano’s. “I wanted
to stop him, but I was too late!”
Madness this all sounded! In desperation, Sano slapped her
cheek. Reiko screamed. She drew back and stared at him, more
shocked than hurt—he’d never struck her before.
But she was suddenly quiet.
“I’m sorry,” Sano said, regretful and ashamed. “I
didn’t know how else to bring you to your senses. We
don’t have much time. And all this excitement isn’t
good for the baby.”
The mention of the baby seemed to revive Reiko’s awareness.
She clasped her hands protectively across her swollen belly,
sat up straight, and nodded. Her breath was still raspy with
sniffles and emotion, but steadier.
“That’s better,” Sano said, relieved.
“So many things happened. One thing led to another,” Reiko
murmured. “I don’t know where to start.”
At this rate, the news of the murder would spread all over
town and a maelstrom of hazard and scandal would engulf them
before Sano learned anything from her. He mustered his patience. “Start
at the beginning.”
The dazed confusion cleared from Reiko’s face, like
mist dissolving in sunlight. She looked more like her usual
alert, sharp witted self. “The letter. It started with
the letter. In cherry blossom time.”
Excerpt from RED
©Laura Joh Rowland, 2006
Published by St.