Chapter One

KO

Manhattan, South Of Canal Street

Winter, 1999

The old man said, “Ko, I’ll have my cigar now.”

Ko stood behind the old man’s left shoulder, regarding me without emotion. From what I’d seen in the past, Ko didn’t find emotions to be all that useful. He preferred to indulge his appetites.

I was quick, but without a weapon, I harbored no illusions about my chances against Ko.

He was five-nine, but as wide as two men pressed together. The city’s most talented tailor made Ko’s charcoal-grey suits fit as well they did. However, even that master craftsman was unable to mask a visible tightness in certain lines of the cut. Tonight, in addition to a blood-red silk tie knotted over his crisp pale yellow shirt, Ko wore invisible restraints forged by his respect for the old man.

He stood waiting, perfectly balanced, and every now and then, with the slightest motion, he would lean towards where I sat. It gave me the impression that I had placed myself too close to the wrong end of a stretched bow or a cocked revolver.

If the old man let him have his way, Ko would happily choke the life out of me while thinking of it as a light workout. Perhaps daydreaming about such a pleasant activity was the reason that he responded too slowly to the old man’s request.

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