The following is an excerpt from the novel “Dead Hand Clapping” by Zoe Drake, a crime thriller with supernatural elements, released Dec 15th 2019.
Detective Kondo never believed in the supernatural.
But then, he’s never met a serial killer like Mabus.
As a sergeant in the Homicide Department of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Seiichi Kondo is called in to investigate the bizarre murders of two prostitutes. The trail leads him to a visiting foreigner whose disturbing behavior gets him arrested as a suspect. It also leads him to a young girl who claims to have psychic powers, and warns him of an approaching holocaust.
But Kondo is a rational police officer. He does not believe in the supernatural …
Until he deduces that they’ve arrested the wrong man, and he starts to experience visions himself. False memories. Glimpses of the future. And the haunting, mocking presence of the killer, forcing him to question his own sanity …
“A girl found dead in Maruyamacho,” Seiichi Kondo asked. “It must be in one of the Love Hotels, is that right, sir?”
“Correct,” Sawaguchi replied, preoccupied with removing the plastic wrapper from a rice ball. He stared intently down at the snack, a lock of greying hair falling across his liver-spotted brow. “That’s why I dislike Love Hotels. These days they have everything but.”
The unmarked police car sped towards the Hachiko crossing in front of Shibuya station, Detective Sergeant Kondo at the wheel and Inspector Sawaguchi beside him. In the pre-dawn gloom of the Tokyo winter morning, the skyscrapers of uptown Shibuya were monoliths of shadow, the video screens high on their walls still blank and mute. Through the gaps between the buildings, the January sky was beginning to submit to the invading light, pale red ribbons of dawn surrounding the city on all sides.
In stark contrast to his superior, Kondo was in his late twenties, wearing a moderately expensive suit, hair trimmed in standard Japanese salaryman style. A face not exactly handsome, but certainly not ugly; on the border between memorable and unmemorable. Akio Sawaguchi was approaching sixty, the waxy skin of his face wrinkled and sagging, as if from a slow tire puncture taking decades to deflate. The odors of tobacco and stale shochu liquor wafted from his navy-blue polyester suit.
“Who’s on the scene?” Kondo asked.
“The police-box boys told me the Medical Examiner’s arrived. You know how quick off the mark Igeta is. Likes to get things tidied up fast so he can go back to his chess puzzles.”
A mob of crows in front of the car angrily took to the air, raucous cries echoing from cold concrete. Sawaguchi disposed of half the rice ball in one bite, the tang of cod-roe wafting through the car’s interior.
“You must excuse me, Sergeant,” he mumbled through a mouthful of vinegared rice. “Unlike you, some of us are in the habit of eating breakfast.”
“I used to eat breakfast, sir. I figured I didn’t need it.”
“I don’t know how your guts stand the emptiness.”
“Well, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. When it comes to lunchtime, I’m hungry whether I eat breakfast or not.” He flicked another glance at the Inspector, and gestured to his mouth. Sawaguchi put a hand to his face and removed the offending lump of rice from beneath his lower lip. “Excuse me.”
The car swung past the 109 building and into that part of Shibuya called Maruyamacho – or as most Tokyo dwellers knew it, the Love Hotel district. Hotels with rooms rented for the night or by the hour for couples of all kinds to perform their discreet assignations. Hotels with names such as Aladdin, Princess and Le Pays Blanc, their exteriors of grand architectural folly matching the names. Greek revival fronts with Ionic columns. Pyramidal roofs sheltering plaster frescoes of Pharaohs. Italianate villas with broad eaves, ground-mounted lamps illuminating their ice-cream colors. Reconstructions of rural Japanese inns, their unpainted wooden fronts behind tiny bamboo thickets, concealed speakers playing endless loops of Koto music and running water.
Sheltered from the traffic of everyday life, the Love Hotels huddled together in a maze of side streets and narrow alleyways atop the Maruyamacho hill. The streets leading up to them were peppered with bars, sex toy shops, pornographic video and DVD stores, host and hostess bars, dubious massage parlors, all greasing the pole that would bring their customers drunkenly falling into bed with each other just a few hundred meters away.
There was nothing, Kondo thought, nothing as drab as the Love Hotel district in the early morning. The elaborate facades surrounded them in the vague dawn light, their neon extinguished, as forlorn as discarded boxes of confectionery.
Uniformed officers waved Kondo’s Honda sedan past the cordon sealing off a narrow alleyway. Stopping the car behind several black and white patrol cars around the Hotel Cinderella, Kondo and Sawaguchi got out and approached the entrance, the uniformed officers manning the door bowing to them respectfully. Members of the Evidence Collection Team, in their caps and dark overalls, silently marched to and from their black minivan parked outside a noodle shop.
“The manager found the body,” Sawaguchi told his junior. “Apparently, someone opened the fire exit at five a.m. which set off an alarm in the manager’s office. The computer showed him the door to Room 405 had been opened just before.”
“Someone making their getaway.”
The other man nodded. “We’ll check the district CCTV cameras to see if we’ve got anyone on tape. The manager went up, found the girl dead and her escort nowhere in the hotel, then he called us.”
The two detectives took a sluggish elevator to the fourth floor. Bumping past more men in overalls with cardboard boxes in their white-gloved hands, they arrived at Room 405. Donning similar white gloves, they took off their shoes before entering.
It was a standard Love Hotel room – brown leather sofa, a TV set, a game console, a refrigerator, a king-size bed, all probably meant to look beguiling under soft light. The Evidence Collection Team went about its work with slow, careful movements, officers taking small steps across the carpet one at a time, pausing now and again to look up at the ceiling. They passed their white-gloved hands over the room’s shadowed surfaces, holding chemical sprays and fuming agents to develop latent fingerprints.
Kondo’s attention focused on the figure on the bed.
At first sight, it could have been a shop window dummy. Kondo was used to blood, the stains and smells of bodily fluids. The artificiality – the essentially decorative nature of the corpse – was a shock to him. But more than that, he was struck by the feeling the sight was somehow familiar …