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Authors: David Rotenberg

A Murder of Crows

BOOK: A Murder of Crows
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Praise for
The Placebo Effect

“This novel heats up and never stops.”

—The Globe and Mail

“The success of his epic novel
Shanghai
, which was published in 2008, demonstrated that Rotenberg could break away from convention without loosening his hold on the imagination of his readers. Rotenberg blends the best of [his previous] books in his latest effort,
The Placebo Effect
.”

—National Post

“The Placebo Effect . . .
is a thoughtful, challenging novel masquerading as a . . . thriller.”

—Quill & Quire

“A moody speculative-fiction thriller.”

—The Winnipeg Free Press

Praise for
Shanghai


Shanghai
is heart pounding and brutal. It puts you right into the thick of the city, its people, its passions.”

—Jurgen Gothe, NUVO
magazine

“Rotenberg's Shanghai . . . is a place full of effective, unexpected entertainment.

—Publishers Weekly


Shanghai
is jam-packed with story and adventure.”

—
Maclean's

Praise for the Zhong Fong series

“Rotenberg has a real talent for characterization and place, taking readers right into the urban heart of Shanghai, with its eighteen million people and conflicts between tradition and modernization.”

—The Globe and Mail

“Rotenberg's take on the street life, bureaucracy, and sheer mass of Shanghai cleverly captures a wonderful, baffling city.”

—Toronto Star

“This delightful series . . . gets better with each new novel.”

—The Chronicle Herald,
Halifax

“A fascinating journey into a remarkable culture.”

—Ottawa Citizen

“Readers will be clamouring for more Rotenberg.”

—Booklist

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Contents

Epigraph

Chapter 1: Thoughts at T Minus 12 Days, 4 Hours and 16 Seconds

Chapter 2: A Bounty of Gifts—Before

Chapter 3: A Vagary of Vegas—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 4: An Island of Hicks—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 5: More Vagaries of Vegas—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 6: A Dream of Seth's—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 7: An Approach of Graduations—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 8: A Beginning of Betrayals—Eighteen Months Earlier

Chapter 9: A Friendship of Eddie's—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 10: A Book of Acting—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 11: A Searching of Decker—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 12: An Advance of African Trips—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 13: A Murder of Crows—T Minus 12 Days, 4 Hours and 8 Seconds

Chapter 14: A Singularity of Turd—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 15: A Differential of Town and Gown—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 16: An Extremis of Professors—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 17: A Void of Caring—T Equals 1 Month Plus

Chapter 18: A Dream of South Africa and Namibia—T Equals 1 Month Plus to T Minus 21 Days

Chapter 19: A Crossing of Borders—T Minus 16 Days

Chapter 20: A Drunkenness of Cops: Garreth Senior—T Minus 16 Days

Chapter 21: A Plotting of Crazy Eddies—T Minus 16 Days

Chapter 22: A Tentativeness of Approach—T Minus 14 Days

Chapter 23: A Crash of Rhinos—T Minus 12 Days

Chapter 24: A Fury of Blasts—T Minus 12 Days

Chapter 25: A Collection of Clues—T Minus 12 Days

Chapter 26: An Interview of a Janitor—T Minus 12 Days

Chapter 27: A Mass of Media—T Minus 12 Days to T Minus 8 Days

Chapter 28: A Mélange of Thoughts and Actions—T Minus 8 Days

Chapter 29: A Glory of Travels in Namibia—T Minus 21 Days to T Minus 7 Days

Chapter 30: A Solitaire of Moose—T Minus 7 Days

Chapter 31: A Hill of Ants—T Minus 7 Days

Chapter 32: A Snippet of an Airplane Conversation—T Minus 7 Days

Chapter 33: A Privacy of Thoughts—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 34: A Confusion of Riddles—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 35: A Reading of Minds—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 36: A Folder of Files—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 37: A Pile of Junk—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 38: A Statue of Scrap—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 39: A Student Affair—T Minus 6 Days

Chapter 40: A Smugness of Small Minds—T Minus 6 Days to T Minus 5 Days

Chapter 41: A Joust of Journals—T Minus 5 Days

Chapter 42: The Sanctity of Chapel House—T Minus 5 Days

Chapter 43: A Voyage of Dreams—T Minus 5 Days

Chapter 44: A Celebration of Ground One Thousand—T Minus 5 Days

Chapter 45: A World of Wonders—T Minus 4 Days

Chapter 46: A Tale of Two Pads—T Minus 4 Days

Chapter 47: A Tale of Two Men—Before

Chapter 48: A Reality of TV Shows—T Minus 4 Days

Chapter 49: A Leverage of Promptor—T Minus 3 Days

Chapter 50: A Bibble of Eddie—T Minus 3 Days

Chapter 51: A Collision of Library Books and Red Mud—T Minus 3 Days

Chapter 52: A Mixing of The Grey-Haired Man and Funerals—T Minus 2 Days

Chapter 53: A Killing of a Supervisor—T Minus 2 Days

Chapter 54: A Cacophony of Outsiders—T Minus 2 Days

Chapter 55: A Calling to Order—T Minus 2 Days

Chapter 56: Scorpions and the Southern Sky—T Minus 2 Days

Chapter 57: An Agreement of Trade—T Minus 1 Day

Chapter 58: A Vision from on High—T Minus 1 Day

Chapter 59: An Arrival of a Lonely Man—T Minus 1 Day

Chapter 60: Another Agreement of Trade—T Minus 1 Day

Chapter 61: A Scream of Violas—T Minus 1 Day

Chapter 62: An Ocean of Grief—T Minus 1 Day

Chapter 63: A Response to Press—After

Chapter 64: An Object out of Place—After

Chapter 65: The Leaving of a Dreamer—After

Chapter 66: A Paucity of Good-Byes—After

Chapter 67: A Scheming of Crazy Eddie—After

Chapter 68: A Meeting of Old Acquaintances—After

Chapter 69: A Stifle of Mr. Ira Charendoff—After

Chapter 70: A Mother of Manhunts—After

Chapter 71: A Reverie of Mr. Walter Jones—After

Chapter 72: A Solitaire of Ms. Yslan Hicks—After

Chapter 73: A Wakening of a Leavenworth Convict: Yslan's Third Gifted Synaesthete—After

Chapter 74: A Spinning of Ms. Viola Tripping—After

Chapter 75: A Conspiracy of Mr. Leonard Harrison—After

Chapter 76: A Dream of Seth Roberts—Beneath

Chapter 77: A Solitude of Mr. Decker Roberts—Beyond

Acknowledgments

About David Rotenberg

I'd like to thank three doctors who are helping me through some pretty trying times:

Dr. Laurence Klotz, who goes the extra yard for me

Dr. Kasra Khorasani, who helps me keep my mind from going into overdrive

Dr. Ken Lipinski, who offers consultation and words of wisdom whenever I ask

To the three of you, this one's here because of your help.

And as always there would be no books without Susan, Joey and Beth.

The gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.

—A
LFRED
, L
ORD
T
ENNYSON

For fear of nightmares

Humanity will abandon dreaming.

Just watch 'em.

—
GRAFFITI ON
C
ANAL
S
TREET SUBWAY WALL CIRCA
1979

1
THOUGHTS AT T MINUS 12 DAYS, 4 HOURS AND 16 SECONDS

This is a foolish country. And this town with its obsessively symmetrical old church is ridiculous.

These people believe they will live forever. They hide death behind walls and bury it in places with names like Pleasant Valley and Peaceful Rest. We in the East know that death is neither pleasant nor restful.

Perhaps we spend too much time thinking about our deaths—but death is real. It is the only certainty. And to refuse to confront a certainty is a foolishness. A foolishness that all these Americans will be forced to abandon when we force them to understand that Judgement awaits everyone—everyone.

Look at all these kids and their parents. Look at them. So self-satisfied. So convinced they are special—the chosen ones. And they all love America. Well, why not? America is going to make most of these privileged kids rich. While backed by their military might this horror of a country makes the rest of the world its slaves. And these science profs up there on the stage invented much of the military prowess of this country while these students all around me are preparing to take their places.

All are soldiers of the oppressor.

But there will be justice—even here, on this pampered campus in upper New York State there will be justice. It will come. As surely as putting potassium permanganate together with glycerin will cause a massive explosion—it will come.

2
A BOUNTY OF GIFTS—BEFORE

LEONARD HARRISON, HEAD OF THE NSA, A TOMMY LEE JONES
without the snark—or the smile—was hiding something.

He's always hiding something
, Special Agent Yslan Hicks thought, but she wasn't going to be drawn into guessing what the hell it was. So she leaned back in her chair—and waited.

Finally he reached into his briefcase and pulled out her latest report and dropped it on her desk.

“Something wrong with it?” she asked.

“No. It's perfect—like all your work—perfect . . . as far as it goes.”

“Meaning what?” Then she quickly added, “sir.”

“Meaning that you've accurately stated what we know about the synaesthetes we've been tracking.”

She nodded for him to complete his thought.

He didn't.

So she prompted, “Yes?”

“But we don't know very much do we, Special Agent Hicks? After six years of tracking and investigating and spending millions of dollars, what do we really know?”

“Names, addresses, abilities—”

“And which ones are of no use to us.”

“Yes. Silly synaesthetes.”

“Knowing the smell of colours hardly helps us keep the homeland safe.”

“We agreed on that long ago and removed them from our database.”

“Leaving us with . . . our special synaesthetes.”

Yslan thought about that for a second, then said, “If they actually are synaesthetes.”

“Agreed. But we had to call them something.”

“Why not just call them what they are—gifted. Call them the Gifted.”

“Semantics.” He was suddenly angry. He was bright, diligent and incredibly detailed in his analysis, but when those qualities failed to solve a problem he seemed to somehow fall and his anger bloomed. As it did now. “Go through them one at a time for me,” he said, pointing at the file.

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