Steve Bein: Year of the Demon

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Steve Bein Year of the Demon
  • Название:
    Year of the Demon
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    Penguin Group, USA
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    Фантастические любовные романы / на английском языке
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A MASK OF DESTRUCTION Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has been promoted to Japan’s elite Narcotics unit—and with this promotion comes a new partner, a new case, and new danger. The underboss of a powerful yakuza crime syndicate has put a price on her head, and he’ll lift the bounty only if she retrieves an ancient iron demon mask that was stolen from him in a daring raid. However, Mariko has no idea of the tumultuous past carried within the mask—or of its deadly link with the famed Inazuma blade she wields.  The secret of this mask originated hundreds of years before Mariko was born, and over time the mask’s power has evolved to bend its owner toward destruction, stopping at nothing to obtain Inazuma steel. Mariko’s fallen sensei knew much of the mask’s hypnotic power and of its mysterious link to a murderous cult. Now Mariko must use his notes to find the mask before the cult can bring Tokyo to its knees—and before the underboss decides her time is up....

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 Year of the Demon

Fated Blades 2


Steve Bein


Readers have been telling me they’d like a little guidance how to pronounce all the Japanese names they find in my work. Ask, dear reader, and ye shall receive. Three general rules tell you most of what you need to know:

1. The first syllable usually gets the emphasis (so it’s MA-ri-ko, not Ma-RI-ko).

2. Consonants are almost always pronounced just like English consonants.

3. Vowels are almost always pronounced just like Hawaiian vowels.

Yes, I know, you probably know about as much Hawaiian as you do Japanese, but the words you do know cover most of the bases: if you can pronounce aloha, hula, Waikiki, and King Kamehameha, you’ve got your vowels. Barring that, if you took a Romance language in high school, you’re good to go. Or, if you prefer lists and tables:

a as in father

ae as in taekwondo

ai as in aisle

ao as in cacao

e as in ballet

ei as in neighbor

i as in machine

o as in open

u as in super

There are two vowel sounds we don’t have in English: ō and ū. Just ignore them. My Japanese teachers would slap me on the wrist for saying that, but unless you’re studying Japanese yourself, the difference between the short vowels (o and u) and the long vowels (ō and ū) is so subtle that you might not even hear it (and if you can’t see a difference between them, it’s probably because the e-reader you’re using doesn’t support the long vowel characters). The reason I include the long vowels in my books is that spelling errors make me squirm. What can I say? I’ve spent my entire adult life in higher education.

As for consonants, g is always a hard g (like gum, not gym) and almost everything else is just like you’d hear it in English. There’s one well-known exception: Japanese people learning English often have a hard time distinguishing L’s from R’s. The reason for this is that there is neither an L sound nor an R sound in Japanese. The ri of Mariko is somewhere between ree, lee, and dee. The choice to Romanize with an r was more or less arbitrary, and it actually had more to do with Portuguese than with English. (Fun fact: if linguistic history had gone just a little further in that direction, this could have been a book about Marico Oxiro, not Mariko Oshiro.)

Finally, for those who want to know not just how to pronounce the Japanese words but also what they mean, you’ll find a glossary at the end of this book.



(2010 CE)


Detective Sergeant Oshiro Mariko adjusted the straps on her vest, twisting her body side to side to snug the fit tighter. The thing was uncomfortable, and not just physically. Mariko hadn’t had to wear a bulletproof vest since academy. Even then it had been for training purposes only; she’d never strapped one on in anticipation of being shot at.

“Boys and girls, listen up,” Lieutenant Sakakibara said, his voice deep and sharp. He was a good twenty centimeters taller than Mariko, with a high forehead and a Sonny Chiba haircut that sat on his head like a helmet. He looked perfectly at ease in his body armor, and despite the heavy SWAT team presence, there was no doubt that the staging area was his to command. “Our stash house belongs to the Kamaguchi-gumi, and that means armed and dangerous. Our CI confirms at least two automatic weapons on-site.”

That sent a wave of murmurs through the sea of cops surrounding him. CIs were renowned for their lousy intelligence. Narcs with holstered pistols, SWAT guys with their M4 rifles pointed casually at the ground, all of them were shaking their heads. They all spoke fluent covert-informantese, and in that surreal language “at least two” meant “somewhere between zero and ten.”

Mariko was the shortest one in the crowd, and if she looked a little taller with her helmet on, everyone else looked taller still. Police work attracted the cowboys, and the boys really got their six-guns on when they got to armor up and kick down doors. Being the only woman on the team was alienating at the best of times, and now, surrounded by unruly giants, Mariko felt like a teenager again, awkward, soft-spoken, trapped in the midst of raucous, rowdy adults and just old enough to understand how out of place she was.

It was no good dwelling on how she felt like a gaijin, so she returned her attention to Lieutenant Sakakibara. “There’s going to be a lot of strange equipment in there,” he said, though he hardly needed to. SWAT had downloaded images of all the machines they were likely to encounter. The target was a packing and shipping company, an excellent front for running dope, guns—damn near anything, really—and the machinery they’d have on-site would offer cover and concealment galore. Everyone knew that, but Sakakibara was good police: he looked out for his team. “Weird shadows,” he said, “lots of little nooks and crannies, lots of corners to clear. You make sure you clear every last one of them. Execute the fundamentals, people.”

Again, everyone knew it, and again, everyone needed the reminder. Mariko marveled at how some of the most specialized training in the world boiled down to just getting the basics right. In that respect SWAT operations were no different than basketball or playing piano.

“B-team, D-team,” Sakakibara said, “you need to hit the ground running. I want to own the whole damn structure in the first five seconds. Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” said twelve cops in unison.

“C-team, same goes for you, but don’t you forget”—Sakakibara pointed straight at Mariko as he spoke—“Detective Sergeant New Guy is a part of your element. The Kamaguchi-gumi has put out a contract on her. I won’t have her getting shot on my watch, got it?”

“Yes, sir,” Mariko said with the rest of C-team.

The first of the vans started up with a roar, and the sound made Mariko’s heart jump. She chided herself; she was thinking too much about those automatic weapons, and now even the rumble of a diesel engine sounded like machine gun fire. She reached down for the SIG Sauer P230 at her hip, taking yet another look down the pipe of the pistol she already knew she’d charged.

“The seven-oh-three gets here in”—Sakakibara checked his huge black diver’s watch—“six minutes. That gives you five and a half to get where you need to be. Now mount up.”

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