"Fishermen believed in demons and wraiths. Everyone knew stories about men who took their place at the family table a day after they had drowned. Or of a miraculous vision of Saint Angelo that calmed a storm. Or of a captain who ignored a warning from the Madonna herself and was sucked up by a whirlpool into the drink. Superstitions. Fables. Bedtime stories to scare children."

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"You're a secret romantic," she said.

"I'm a cynic", Arkady said. "I believe in car wrecks, airline disasters, missing children, self immolation, suffocation with pillows."

"What is it you don't believe in?"

"I don't believe in saints. They get people killed."

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Leningrad Station was a Venetian palace, Kazansky Station was an Oriental mosque and Yaroslavl Station wore a clown's face and cap. The night revealed a population that the daytime bustle had obscured: pickpockets, flyboys handing out directions to strip clubs and slot arcades, gangs of street kids ...

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            “All he does is drink and take my money. When I try to stop him he hits me. I warned him this was the last time.”
            “So now you want him....”
            “Dead and buried.”
            “Dead and buried.” Victor grinned. The detective liked a woman with zeal...

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“Be absolutely still.  Look over your left shoulder, between the two pretty birches.”
            Arkady turned his head as slowly as possible and saw a row of yellow eyes behind the trees. The air grew heavy. Insects slowed in their spirals.  Sweat ringed Arkady’s neck...

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“The Army talks about the incomparable Japanese character.  Well, you can tell a lot about character and intelligence by how a man approaches a woman.  A Japanese goes up to a woman and demands, ‘Give me a lay.’ Even a prostitute would say no. An American shows up with flowers..."

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In the quickening light floated a body as black and bloated as the inner tube it rested in.  Shirt and shorts were split by the body’s expansion.  Hands and feet trailed in the water; a swim fin dangled casually on one foot. The head was eyeless and inflated like a black balloon...

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The most beautiful women in the world were African. Somali women wrapped in robes suffused with purple, vermillion, pink. Around their necks beads of amber that, rubbed together, emitted electricity and the scent of lemons and honey. Women of the Horn who peered through veils of gold...

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The woman raised her glass. Blond hair was brushed back like a mane from her broad brow and broader cheeks, short chin, medium height, mid-thirties. Dark sunglasses, gold necklace, black short sleeved sweater – contrasts that were more sensual than pretty in any ordinary sense. Red nails. Fair skin...

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Like a beast, the net came steaming up the ramp and into the sodium lamps of the trawl deck. Like a gleaming pelt, mats of red, blue, orange strips covered the mesh: plastic "chafing hair" designed to ease the net's way over the rocks of the sea bottom. The rank breath of the sea made halo of the colors...

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The lead bomber settled lower to the ground. Joe could make out a green light within the plexiglass nose. A green bombardier pointed down and the phosphorous bomb, as bright as snow crystals, hit the valley floor. Out of the bomb came horses – brilliant with lather in the glare. Mustangs out of the mountains...

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A man thinks he is hardened to death; he has walked into hot kitchens covered from floor to ceiling in blood, is an expert, knows that in the summer people seem ready to explode with blood; he even prefers winter's stiffs. Then a new death mask pops out of the snow. The chief investigator had never seen a head like this...

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