Azrael - A Clifford Driscoll Mystery Page 0,1

could break your head.”

Roger came closer, then hit Keith in the temple with the mossy side of the rock, a short, straight blow that did the job with merciful efficiency. Keith slumped over sideways without making a sound. Roger lifted the boy’s body carefully and brought him down to the stream, to the place where he’d slipped and picked up the rock. He put the stone back in its place, mossy side up, then took Keith’s head between his hands and held it under the surface. Roger’s lips moved.

When it was done, Roger looked around for traces of his presence. He had walked where he’d leave no footprints, and the rough natural surfaces of the rocks and trees would take no fingerprints.

Someone, some uneducated person, might wonder about the serene expression on the boy’s face, might say that if he’d slipped and fallen and hurt his head, there should be a surprised look there.

Someone might say that, until someone of superior knowledge informed him that there was no scientific basis for that kind of assumption.

Roger wasn’t worried about it. There was a good chance that there would be no recognizable expression on the face by the time the boy’s clay was found.

Besides, Roger had no intention of changing the boy’s expression, even if he could. Keith had done no one any harm. He deserved the peace.

Roger looked down at him for a long moment, then took a deep breath and walked away. He was careful to step only on stones, to leave no traces of his having been there.


The heat and humidity had steamed the neighborhood clean. There was a patch of shimmer above the sidewalk, and swing sets and tricycles sat gleaming and abandoned in small front yards behind low privet hedges.

This was the Flats, the lower-middle-class section of Kirkester (there were no poor), but life was pleasant here all the same. All the men of the neighborhood, and most of the women, were out working in air-conditioned offices or printing plants or stores or restaurants or at the new Quality Inn near the Hudson complex. Those who didn’t work would be lying down in air-conditioned bedrooms after a tough morning’s housework or with their children at the James Hudson, Sr., Memorial Pool.

No one would see him, Roger was sure, and if someone did, no one would recognize him. He looked like an exhausted door-to-door salesman. Kirkester was a town that still got door-to-door salesmen; the police kept them away from the fancier neighborhoods.

Roger had a sweat-stained hat on his head, a pair of lavender-beige summer suit pants on his legs. He carried the jacket. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, his tie was loose and his collar was open. He was carrying a sample case that was obviously heavy. He was trying very hard to look like a man who was just hoping to make it to where his car was parked on the next block.

He was, in fact, headed away from his car. Well, not his car. It had been provided for him by his employers. Untraceable. They were good at things like that.

He followed the sound. As his groundwork had shown him, it was very likely to be the only sound in the neighborhood, aside from the hum of air conditioners. This sound was the clang of metal on metal to a rock beat. Roger was close enough to hear the lyrics of the song now. It seemed the singer (presumably, but not demonstrably, a male) wanted to make love to a girl during a nuclear holocaust. Roger shook his head and followed the music up a driveway.

Louis Symczyk was lying on his back under a wheelless sports car supported by blocks. Every once in a while an oily hand would appear and grab one of the wrenches arrayed just in reach. From under the car came alternating grunts, first of effort, then of, Roger supposed, musical ecstasy.

The song—it was coming from a tape player—was very loud, and Roger walked quietly.

He stood and watched the young man for a minute. He never went more than ten seconds without changing wrenches, and he never touched more than one wrench each time he reached for one. It was a pleasure to watch someone at work who knew what he was doing.

Roger sometimes wished someone would appreciate what he did. But his employers judged him only by results; technique didn’t come into it. And of course, Roger didn’t dare breathe a word about purpose. Not theirs, and definitely not