Shadow Man

The Face of Death

The Darker Side

This book is for David, my father.

The one who raised me and taught me to

be a man. Without him, I’d never have

found my way back to shore.


Thanks go to my agent, Liza Dawson, as always. She’s my constant cheerleader and therapist combined. To my able editors, Danielle Perez and Nick Sayers, as well as all of those I’ve yet to meet who are doing such a great job with my books in various parts of the world. To Chandler Crawford—I want her frequent-flier miles, but I don’t want her job. To the readers now and the writers past.

A shout-out to a particular author, Mr. John Connolly. I was nearing the last third of this book and feeling less than inspired. I’d lost my way, or at least I thought I had, and any writer can tell you that your mental outlook is a lot more than half the battle. I was flying to San Francisco, and I happened to start reading one of his novels, The Unquiet, on the plane. I continued reading it while I was there on my business, over room service and bleak morning coffee. By the time I finished it, I had been jump-started, and I proceeded to write like a madman in that San Francisco hotel. It never stopped.

We’re constantly inspired and influenced by our peers, but sometimes it deserves a special note. John’s a writer’s writer, and this book owes him a debt.



Everyone is alone. That is what I have learned, in time.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a man. And when I wake up in the night, and he is there next to me, and I can touch him and maybe wake him and smell him and fuck him, feel him in me as he sweats and his hands wander over me like a badland, I appreciate it. I share the private knowledge that few share (not none, but few) of what his flesh feels like against my flesh. The velvet steel of it. I know our unique sounds, our sharing and wanting and crying out, me and only me, and I feel a certain selfish pride about it all. I am, in those moments, a possessor of secret knowledge. A holder of hidden things.

But in the end, nothing changes the truth: He doesn’t know, in that dark, what I am thinking in my heart of hearts, and I don’t know the same of him. This is the truth. We are all separate islands.

I am okay with that now. There was a time when I fought against the idea, as I guess everyone does. We want to know everything about our partner, share every last detail. We want to read minds and have our mind read. We want to erase all distance between us, become one person.

But we’re not one person. However close we get, some distance will always remain. Love, I’ve come to realize, lies not only in sharing each other but in being at peace with those parts that will never be shared.

I turn on my side, my cheek against my hand, and look at my man. He’s beautiful, I think. Not beautiful in a feminine way, but beautiful in the “man” of him. In his quiet ruggedness. He is sleeping deeply, and he sleeps with his mouth closed. I’m afraid to stare at him for too long. He might feel my gaze and wake up. He’s alert that way, because he, like me, knows that death is a real thing. An ever-possible moment. You learn to sleep lightly when you do what we’ve done, see what we’ve seen.

I turn onto my back and look out the open balcony door to the night sky beyond. We’d left the door open so we could hear the ocean. The temperature here allows it. We’re in Hawaii, on a five-day vacation, my first in more than a decade.

We’re staying on the Big Island, the land of fire and ice. When we drove away from Hilo Airport, Tommy and I looked at each other, wondering if maybe we’d made a terrible mistake in our choice of islands. All that had been visible, as far as the eye could see, was black volcanic rock. It was as if we’d landed on the surface of a hostile moon.

We’d gotten more hopeful as we approached our resort. Off in the distance we could see Mauna Kea, almost 14,000 feet high and snowcapped. It felt odd to look out the car window and see evidence of snow in Hawaii, but there it was. Trees and sparse grass had begun to clamber out of all that rock, striving for life and giving insight into the changes destined in the geologic future. Someday, the grass would overcome the rock and make it soil and things would change again. Tommy and I and our ancestors would be long gone, but it would happen. Life is always striving. That’s what life does.

The reception area of the resort had taken our breath away. It looked out over the endless ocean and the perfect beaches, and a temperate breeze had kissed our cheeks as if to welcome us here. “Aloha,” the young man at the reception desk said, white teeth against tan skin, seeming to agree with the breeze.

We’ve been here for four days now, doing much of nothing. Hawaii took us in gently, ignoring the blood on our hands, telling us with its beauty to rest for a while. Our hotel room is on the third floor, and our balcony is no more than fifty yards from the ocean. We spend our days lying on the beach and making love and our nights walking on the beach and making love and marveling at the overwhelming panoply of stars in the ancient sky. We watch the sunsets until the moon calls the night sky to the sea.

It’s a temporary peace. We’ll go back to Los Angeles soon, where I head the local branch of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime—or NCAVC. The NCAVC is based in Quantico, Virginia, but someone in every FBI office in every city is assigned as the NCAVC coordinator. In many places, that job is a second hat, worn only occasionally. In Los Angeles, it has been a full-time endeavor, and I’ve been in charge for more than twelve

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