Well, he was on his way out of New Orleans, so that became less of a likelihood with every passing moment. Besides, the article in question was a Saints cap, and half of the city seemed to be similarly attired. The team had had a good year, had done far better than anybody expected them to do, and the whole country had elected to see in their performance the resurgence and regeneration of the city itself. If the Saints could make the playoffs, the reasoning seemed to hold, then certainly New Orleans could get over a dinky little thing like a hurricane.

Homer Simpson had set him apart, even while it made his face less recognizable. The Saints cap did every bit as much to conceal his face, but did so by bonding him with the people among whom he walked.

He grinned, gave the brim a tug.

The street he was on was called Euterpe. The first time he saw the street sign he’d been unsure how to pronounce it, though he could have narrowed it down to a couple of likely choices. Then he encountered other parallel streets with names like Terpsichore and Melpomene and Polymnia, and they didn’t quite do it, but then Erato and Calliope turned up and he worked it out. He knew from crossword puzzles that Erato was one of the nine muses, and it seemed to him that Calliope, in addition to being a steam instrument you might encounter on a carnival midway, was another. And that was why Euterpe had been faintly familiar, because she’d turned up in a crossword puzzle once or twice herself, and that meant you pronounced it You-Tour-Pee, with that long e on the end of the word, as in all those Greek names, Nike and Aphrodite and Persephone and, well, Calliope.

Imagine naming streets after the nine muses. Where else would it ever occur to them to do that? Well, Athens, maybe, but where else?

He walked along Euterpe and came to Prytania, who as far as he knew wasn’t a muse at all. Rule, Prytania, Prytania rules the waves… He crossed Prytania and walked another block to a street called Coliseum, which was Roman, not Greek, and which bordered a small park that might have been two football fields laid end to end. Except Coliseum, which had been laid out either by a drunk or by someone imaginative enough to name streets after the muses, or both, meandered like the mighty Mississippi itself, making the resultant park wider than a football field in some parts and narrower in others.

Which was just as well, Keller thought, because in order to play football there you’d have to cut down a couple dozen live oak trees, and anyone who’d do that ought to be hanged from one of them instead. They were magnificent trees, and while it might not be the best route back to his car, it was worth a few minutes just to walk on the greensward among these majestic oaks, with the light fading and the day drawing to a close and—

A woman screamed.


“Stop! Oh, God! Somebody help me!”

His first thought was that someone had screamed at the sight of him, recognized him as the Des Moines Assassin and cried out in terror. But the thought was gone before the scream had ceased to echo in the still air. It had come from fifty yards away, off to the left and halfway across the little park. Keller saw movement, screened partly by a tree trunk, and heard another cry, less distinct this time, and cut short.

A woman was being attacked.

Not your problem, he told himself, immediately and unequivocally. He was the object of a nationwide manhunt, and the last thing he was going to do was get involved in somebody else’s problem. And it was probably just a domestic quarrel, anyway, one of Nature’s noblemen kicking the crap out of his slattern of a wife, and if the cops came she’d decide not to press charges, and might even take her husband’s side and go after the cops then and there, which was why cops hated responding to calls of that sort.

And he wasn’t a cop, and didn’t have a dog in this fight, as they would put it in the states he’d been spending time in lately. So what he would do now was turn around and leave the park and walk back up Euterpe — pronounced You-Tour-Pee — and figure out a route that would get him back to his car, and then find his way out of this town as quickly as he possibly could.

That was the only course of action that made the slightest bit of sense.

But what he was doing, even as he was working all of this out in his mind, was racing full speed toward the source of the screams.

No question what was going on. There was nothing remotely ambiguous about the scene that confronted Keller. Even in the dim light, it was unmistakable.

The woman, dark-haired, slender, was sprawled out on the grass, one hand braced against the ground, the other held up to ward off her attacker. And the guy was your stereotypical mad rapist from central casting, his hair a ragged dirty-blond mop, his broad flat mug sporting a week’s growth of patchy beard, and a teardrop jailhouse tattoo on one cheekbone to let you know he wasn’t just another pretty face. He was crouched over her, tearing at her clothes.


The man whirled at the sound, bared his teeth at Keller as if they were weapons. He came up out of his crouch, light glinting off the blade of his knife.

“Drop it,” Keller said.

But he didn’t drop the knife. He moved it from side to side as if trying to hypnotize a subject, and Keller looked not at the knife but at the man’s eyes, and reached behind his own back for the gun in his waistband. But of course it wasn’t there, it was tucked away in the glove compartment of a locked car, damn it all, and he’d be lucky if he ever saw it again. He was facing a man with a knife, and all he had was a plastic bag from Walgreen’s. What was he going to do, give the guy a haircut?

The woman was trying to tell him that the man had a knife, but he knew that. He didn’t listen to her but focused on the man, focused on his eyes. He couldn’t tell their color, not in that light, but he could see a keen manic energy in them, and he let go of his shopping bag and balanced his weight on the balls of his feet and tried to remember something useful from the various bits and pieces of martial arts training he’d had over the years.

He’d had classes and one-on-one instruction in kung fu and judo and tae kwon do, along with some Western-style hand-to-hand combat training, though he’d never trained in any disciplined fashion, never stayed with any of it for any length of time. But every trainer he’d ever known had offered the same instruction when you were unarmed and the other guy had a knife. The thing to do, they all would tell you, was turn around and run like hell.

The chances were considerable, they’d all agreed, that he wouldn’t chase you. And Keller was sure that was true with this drooling blond madman. He wouldn’t run after Keller, he’d stay right where he was and get back to raping the woman.

Keller watched his eyes, and when the man moved, Keller moved. He sprang to the side, kicked high in the air, and caught the wrist of the hand that held the knife. He was wearing sneakers and wished they could have been steel-toed work shoes, but his aim and his timing almost made up for whatever the sneakers lacked, and the knife went flying even as the man roared in pain.

“Okay,” he said, stepping back, rubbing at his wrist. “Okay, you win. I’m going.”

And he started to back away.

“I don’t think so,” Keller said, and went after him. The guy turned, ready to fight, and swung a roundhouse right that Keller ducked underneath. He straightened up and butted the guy in the chin, and when the guy’s head snapped back Keller reached out and grabbed hold of it, one hand closing on a fistful of greasy yellow hair, the other cupping the bristly chin.

Keller didn’t have to think about what came next. His hands knew what to do, and they did it.

He let go of the man, allowed the body to slip to the ground. A few feet away, the woman was staring, her mouth open, her shoulders heaving.

Time to go, he thought. Time to turn around and slip off into the night. By the time she pulled herself together he’d be gone. Who was that masked man? Why, I don’t know, but he left this silver bullet…

He walked over to the woman, held out a hand. She took it and he drew her to her feet.

“My God,” she said. “You just saved my life.”

If there was a response to that, Keller didn’t know what it might be. The only ones that came to mind started with Aw, shucks. He stood there with what definitely felt like an Aw shucks look on his face, and she stepped back, took a look at him, and then lowered her eyes to look down on the man at her feet.

“We have to call the police,” she said.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

“But don’t you know who he is? This has to be the man who killed the nurse three nights ago in Audubon Park, raped her and stabbed her ten, twenty times. He fits the description. And that’s not the first woman he attacked. He was going to kill me!”

“But you’re safe now,” he told her.

“Yes, and thank God for that, but that doesn’t mean we can let him walk away.”

“I don’t think there’s much chance of that.”

“What do you mean?” She took a closer look. “What did you do to him? Is he…”

“I’m afraid so, yes.”

“But how can that be? He had a knife, you saw it, it must have been a foot long.”

“Not quite.”

“Close enough.” She was getting her composure back, he noticed, and more quickly than he would have expected. “And you had your bare hands.”

“It’s too warm for gloves.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It was sort of a joke,” Keller said. “You said I had bare hands, and I said it was too warm to be wearing gloves.”


“It wasn’t all that great a joke,” he admitted, “and explaining it doesn’t do a lot to improve it.”

“No, please, I’m sorry, I’m just a little slow at the moment. What I meant, of course, is that you didn’t have anything in your hands.”

“I had a shopping bag,” he said, and found it and picked it up. “But that’s not what you meant.”

“I meant like, you know, a gun or a knife, something like that.”


“And he’s dead? You actually killed him?”

She was hard to read. Was she impressed? Horrified? He couldn’t tell.

“And you just turned up from out of nowhere. If I were some kind of religious crank I’d probably figure you were an angel. Well?”

“Well what?”

“Well, are you an angel?”

“Not even close.”

“I didn’t just offend you, did I? Using the term ‘religious crank’?”


“So I guess that means you’re not a religious crank yourself, or you’d be offended. Well, thank God for that. That was a joke.”

“I thought it might be.”

“It’s not very funny,” she said, “but it’s the best I can do right now, with just my bare hands. Ha! That got a smile out of you, didn’t it?”

“It did.”

She took a breath. “You know,” she said, “even if he’s dead, we’re still supposed to call the police, aren’t we? We can’t just leave him here for the Sanitation Department to pick up. I’ve got my phone in my purse, I’ll just call 911.”

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