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Chapter One

Where do they begin, the roads that lead a man to hell?

...With a ritual...

Lien Takananda sat at the kitchen table wearing her bathrobe, her short helmet of black hair still rumpled from sleep. She held three Chinese coins, concentrating, though aware of her husband Harry upstairs in the bathroom, singing a lascivious parody of a saccharine popular song as he shaved. Almond eyes on the copy of I Ching before her, she asked the same question she had every morning for over fifteen years, since Harry joined the San Francisco police: “Will my husband be safe today?” Then she threw the coins.

The six throws produced hexagram number ten, Treading. Treading upon the tail of the tiger, the text read. It does not bite the man. Success.

She sighed in relief, then smiled, listening to Harry sing. After a minute, she gathered the coins again, and as she had done for most of the past year, asked on behalf of Harry’s partner, “Will Garreth Mikaelian be safe today?”

This time the coins produced hexagram number thirty-six, Darkening of the Light, with two moving lines. She bit her lip. The text of both the hexagram and the individual lines was cautionary. However, the moving lines produced a second hexagram, forty-six, Pushing Upward, which read: Pushing upward has supreme success. One must see the great man. Fear not.

She read the interpretation of the text just to be certain of its meaning. Reassured, Lien wrapped the coins and book in black silk and returned them to their shelf, then began preparing Harry’s breakfast.

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