The crowd was horrified.

Walter Abendthaler was ecstatic. He was damned near positive he'd captured the very moment of the bullet's impact.

Chapter Two

'Ugly,' said Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters.

'Ugly is right,' Nelson Sampaio, Silva's boss and the Director of the Brazilian Federal Police, agreed.

He pushed another photo across the burnished mahogany of his desktop and tapped it with his forefinger.

'Here. Look at this one.'

The photo, like all of the others in the stack, was in color. The bishop was staring down at the red hole in his chest. His miter had tumbled from his head and the camera, clearly working at a high shutter speed, had caught it frozen in the air. Silva couldn't see the prelate's eyes, but he could imagine the look of mingled shock and horror that must have been written there. When the death was quick, as it was in this case, such looks often remained on the face of the corpse.

'We're on the spot,' the director said, dealing out another photograph as if he was manipulating a deck of oversized playing cards. The photo would have slid off of his desk and onto his thick green rug if Silva hadn't caught it with his fingertips.

This time the bishop was already prone, and the top of his head was partially obscured by the bloody red mist that ensues when a high-velocity bullet penetrates a human body. Silva had seen the same effect before but never in a photograph.

'That's the last one in the sequence,' the director said. 'Did I mention that the Pope called the president?'

Twice, Silva thought. 'Really?' he said.

At that moment, Ana Tavares, the director's gray-haired secretary, came in without knocking. Silva had known her for fourteen years, thirteen longer than the director had. She put some papers into one of the elegant hardwood trays situated to her boss's left.

'Good morning, Director,' she said.

'You can't just murder a bishop,' Sampaio went on, ignoring her. 'This is Brazil, for Christ's sake. Brazil, not some little Central American pesthole.'

Ana raised her eyes to heaven and walked out, gently closing the door behind her.

Central American pesthole? Then Silva remembered: A bishop, murdered while he was celebrating a mass. Salvador? Nicaragua? One of those places. They'd made a movie about it.

'And this guy wasn't just any bishop, either. This guy was on a fast track for promotion to cardinal.'

'How do you know that?'

'Because the president told the minister of justice and the minister told me. And for all I know, the Pope told the president. Now look, Mario, I don't care what else you're doing-'

The director broke off abruptly, his attention caught by a hangnail on the forefinger he was pointing at Silva. He opened his top drawer, rooted around until he'd found a nail clipper, and applied himself to the offending digit. Silva crossed his arms and waited. About ten seconds later the director tossed the instrument back into the drawer and took up exactly where he'd left off.

'-but whatever it is, drop it. From now on, and until you catch the fitho da puta who did it, this is your first priority.'

Sampaio sounded as if Dom Felipe's murder had been an offense to him, personally.

Silva knew that was unlikely.

The director, an appointee without a single qualification in law enforcement, had the politician's gift of being able to hide his true emotions behind a fog of words. In this instance, the fog probably concealed an underlying nervousness. And with good reason: If the murder of the bishop went unsolved, Sampaio's enemies would smell blood. They'd be all over him like piranhas on a wounded tapir and they'd pressure him to kiss his political ambitions goodbye.

Not, Silva thought, that there was any chance whatsoever of the director doing that.

Anyone who really knew Nelson Sampaio also knew that the director reserved his kisses for his mistresses, photo opportunities with babies, and even occasionally his wife. His ambitions were another matter. As far as Sampaio was concerned, being Director of the Federal Police was just another step on his Long March to the Presidency and woe betide anyone who got in the way, including his top cop.

Silva reflected upon that and winced.

'Why are you doing that?' the director said.


'That thing with your face. What do they call it? Wincing?'

'It was that last photo,' Silva said, glancing out the window at the facade of the Ministry of Culture, 'All the blood and brain matter. It got to me.'

The director narrowed his eyes and said nothing. He wasn't buying it.

'So who took the photos?' Silva asked, in an attempt to get the conversation back on track.

'Some goddamned Swiss photographer,' Sampaio said, after a pause just long enough to let Silva know that he wasn't fooling anyone. 'He sold the lot. They'll be in tomorrow s papers.

'And how did they wind up with you?'

Sampaio's lips took on the aspect of someone who'd just been sucking on a lemon.

'Romeu Pluma dropped them off. Personally.'

Romeu Pluma was the Minister of justice's press secretary. He'd been a journalist and when the minister's term was done he might well go back to being a journalist. But one thing was for certain: He sure as hell wasn't going to serve in any ministry headed by Nelson Sampaio. Sampaio hated his guts.

'So the minister-'

'Knew all about it before I did. That's right. And is that supposed to happen? Is the Minister of justice supposed to know about crimes before the Director of the Federal Police does?'

'No, Director, he's not.'

'Damned right, he's not. You should have seen the look on Pluma's face. It was…'

Sampaio sought for the right word.

'Condescending?' Silva offered.

'Supercilious. It was downright supercilious.'

Silva imagined the scene and decided he rather liked Romeu Pluma. He tried not to let it show.

'He got all of these little snapshots,' the director continued, 'from one of his newspaper-editor buddies. And then he went right in and showed them to the minister. And what do you suppose happened next?'

'The minister called you?'

'Wrong. What he called was a press conference.'

'Oh,' Silva said. Merda, he thought. His concern showed on his face.

'You're not pleased?' Sampaio asked, picking up on it immediately. 'Well, I wasn't either. I don't suppose I have to tell you what he said?'

'Let me guess.'

Silva had been in Brasilia for a long time. He probably could have written the speech himself. 'Promised that the whole business was going to get his personal attention?' he hazarded.

'Right. Go on.'

'Said something about applying the `considerable resources' of the federal government?'

'Right again. What else?'

Silva sighed. He could feel a headache coming on. 'Something about assuring the public that the perpetrators would be swiftly brought to justice?'

'Actually,' the director said, 'the word he chose was `quickly,' not `swiftly,' `quickly brought to justice.' And

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