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The best answer goes something like this: “Write the book you’ve always wanted to read.” Now that might sound easy enough, until you sit down at a computer for twenty minutes wondering where the hell to begin. After attending a zillion workshops and taking notes that will probably never be read again, I can honestly say the formula for creating a powerful story is relatively simple, provided you include a few key ingredients. You see, in fiction, the writer’s job is to entertain, to draw an emotional response from the reader. The reader is often looking for suspense, action, and to go on a journey they have not been on before, one they will not easily forget. Readers want to get drawn into and experience the story for themselves. They want characters they can relate to and form a personal connection with. But most importantly, they want a good book. One that leaves them anxiously awaiting each turn of the page. With this in mind, here are the elements I consider essential to writing great fiction.

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Well-developed characters: The characters in the book must be well developed and believable. The characters should remind you of your teacher, your lawyer, your doctor, or maybe even your best friend. Even though they are fictional, they come alive for us in the story.

Action: A good fiction book needs to be filled with action. The good guys are after the bad guys, the doctor needs to find a cure. From the beginning to the end, the reader can’t bear to stop reading because the action just keeps coming.

Great Plot: The writer keeps the reader guessing right to the end by using surprising, realistic plot twists. Just when we think we know “who done it” – bam – a new twist creeps up and a story involves more. As we near the end we wonder if there is time to solve it? Will it have a happy ending? Most readers long for a good ending to their story as they grow fond of the characters in the book and want to see the best happen to them.

Enjoyable to Read: Readers want to have fun. They want to escape into this book and for the moment forget the day’s events and challenging issues that face them. They want a personal connection with the characters and also they want a story that inspires them to make a difference.

Keep Your Audience in Mind: When writing fiction it’s important to remember to keep the audience in mind. These are the people who will be picking up your book and buying it and also hopefully recommending it to a friend or family member. For your particular book, what do they want to read? What will keep them on a Friday night turning each page to see what happens next. It’s different with each book, but once you capture your audience you have the makings for a success.

Writers write about what they know. They can bring the sounds, colors, and images of their world to life in their story. Fiction is where writers get the opportunity to bring you into that world and keep you there until, “the end.”

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SEVERED THREADS by Kaylin McFarrenSEVERED THREADS Cover Jpg

Creative Edge Publishing, 330 pages, (paperback) $12.95, 9781475186529 (Reviewed: February 2016)

STARRED REVIEW

A romantic adventure set in the exciting world of salvage diving, treasure hunters, and modern-day pirates, Severed Threads is an action-packed, crowd-pleasing page-turner.

Four years ago, Rachel Lyons’ father died in a mysterious diving accident, ending her love affair with the sea, as well as her love for her current flame, Chase Cohen, who was there when Sam Lyons died. Chase disappeared from Rachel’s life shortly thereafter, with no explanation. Since then, she has buried herself in a new corporate job and new life devoid of treasure hunting.

However, things are starting to get complicated. Rachel’s brother is in deep trouble with some dangerous people, and one of her father’s close friends needs a priceless Chinese artifact to end a deadly curse. In order to save the ones she loves, Rachel must team up with Chase to find the Heart of the Dragon and other promised riches. Their shaky partnership is thrown off balance by secrets, hidden motives, and unmistakable romantic tension.

McFarren expertly blends Chase and Rachel’s personal story with an exciting treasure hunting narrative punctuated by detailed diving knowledge. One moment Chase and Rachel are fending off sharks and discovering ancient treasure; in the next, their sizzling chemistry lights the pages on fire.

The plot develops quickly, while action, intrigue, sensual romance, and surprising twists and turns abound. The author’s descriptions of an underwater world are vivid and breathtaking, and a supernatural edge colors the search for legendary treasure. The main characters, Chase and Rachel, are wonderfully flawed and are surrounded by interesting and well-developed secondary characters that add depth to the story.

Severed Threads is an exciting and engaging read, simply perfect for fans of romantic suspense.

Also available as an ebook and audiobook.

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Interested in reading my latest release and providing your honest to goodness review? Much-anticipated Banished Threads  the third book in my Threads series, featuring treasure hunters and adventure seekers Rachel Lyons and Chase Cohen, will be coming to Amazon, B&N and independent book stores this spring (Creative Edge Publishing LLC, March 20, 2016). If you’d like to receive an advance copy, please let me know and I’ll try my best to accommodate the hosts of review sites willing to spread the word.

USReview Book Image

Book Summary: While vacationing at the Cumberforge Manor in Bellwood, England, Rachel and Chase attend an elegant dinner party hosted by her uncle, Paul Lyons, and his aristocratic wife, Sara. Before the evening ends, a priceless collection of Morris Graves’ paintings are stolen from her uncle’s popular gallery, throwing all suspicion onto his wife’s troubled granddaughter Sloan, and turning Rachel and Chase into crime-stopping sleuths. Determined to clear Sloan’s name and, in the process, win Paul’s favor, Chase scours the countryside looking for answers. In his absence, the police accuse Rachel’s uncle of an unsolved murder and secrets surrounding her grandmother’s death and the deaths of Sara’s former husbands turn his wife into the most likely suspect.

With the true villains hell-bent on destroying Paul and his family, solving both crimes while ensuring her uncle’s freedom not only endangers Rachel’s life but that of her unborn child. Will Chase save them before the kidnappers enact their revenge or will the ultimate price be paid, as predicted by a vagabond fortuneteller?

Read the book to find to out! Send your request for Banished Threads to Kaylin@kaylinmcfaren.com.

Thank you!

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SEVERED THREADS – A NOVEL
REVIEWED BY: EDITORIAL BOARD
The Editorial Board of The Columbia Review accepts submissions from authors, publishers, directors, agents, producers and fans. http://www.TheColumbiaReview.com

“Severed Threads” by Kaylin McFarren is the first installment in romantic suspense series. It provides an engaging mix of mystery, action, and drama that readers are sure to enjoy.

The story’s protagonist is Rachel Lyons, who is devastated after her father dies from a terrible diving accident. Rachel copes as best she can by choosing a life path that seems safe and comfortable. Her path soon becomes not so safe and comfortable, however, when she is drawn very reluctantly into an endeavor to recover a priceless relic from a sunken Chinese merchant ship. Because a former love interest named Chase Cohen is involved in the adventure, Rachel strongly desires not to be involved:

“Word had it, Chase Cohen, the renowned treasure hunter, was more determined than ever to leave his mark. He’d rifled ocean plots stretching from Spain to Key West, selling off remnants of other people’s lives. She had hoped their paths would never cross again.”

Despite her adamant hope to stay away, however, Rachel finds herself pulled into the situation as a result of yet another traumatic event. A drug-dealing gangster kidnaps Rachel’s brother and holds him ransom for $2 million. After learning about this horrific situation, Rachel determines that she has no choice but to become involved in the recovery of the ship’s relic…because it also holds the Heart of the Dragon, which she must steal to save her brother. The whole process forces Rachel to relive the circumstances of her father’s death, an experience that she finds incredibly challenging:

“She pulled the covers under her chin and longed to be lulled to sleep by the ship’s rocking motion—to be transported to a peaceful place. However, whether her nightmares were triggered by being aboard Stargazer or in the proximity of the place where he had met his untimely death, they had grown in intensity. They had become so horrifying and real with each passing night that she got little or no sleep at all. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the sound in the room.”

Through this adventure, Rachel must overcome her greatest challenges and biggest fears and ends up learning more than she realized about herself and her father’s death along the way.

“Severed Threads” offers a psychologically thrilling and adventurous story that includes surprising twists and turns sure to keep its readers at the edge of their seats. The novel will delight readers of all ages with interesting characters, clever plotlines, and an engaging combination of romance, villainy, and the supernatural. Highly recommended!

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USReview Book Image         Pacific Book Review

The saga of Chase Cohen and Rachel Lyons continues in book three of the Thread Series! The inimitable treasure-hunting business partners sail to England in the hope of asking Paul Lyons, Rachel’s uncle, for his blessing. Rachel, on the other hand, is not only dealing with morning sickness atop thoughts of her soon-approaching marriage, she is also riddled with a flurry of “what-ifs.” Chase’s relationship with Paul is rocky at best. Yet that pales in comparison to the serious family issues—more like skeletons in the closet—that are at stake in the Lyons household, especially when Sloan, Paul’s step-granddaughter, and Rachel are kidnapped.

Mistress storyteller and award-winning author Kaylin McFarren spins another action-packed adventure shrouded in mystery in her latest sequel. McFarren opens with a supposed tryst that morphs into an unexplained death. Grabbing her audience’s full attention, McFarren quickly shifts gears to the emotional and sexual tension brewing between Chase and Rachel, her two featured characters. Critical to McFarren’s writing style is how she slyly weaves in an array of colorfully complex characters—many of which function as foils for the purpose of building her dynamic cast—while undergirding her story with themes of the lovers’ anxiety and their unfolding relationship. Equally critical is the inclusion of a handful of supportive characters that play distinctive roles in the development of both the storyline and series.

Lightly punctuating her third person narrative with omniscient viewpoints, McFarren provides readers with windows that take snapshots into her character’s thought processes and inner turmoil, especially when she places them within life-threatening scenes. Although the bulk of her story is grippingly fast-paced, McFarren keeps readers engaged by throwing in a variety of sexual scenes that range from steamy to downright disturbing, as well as off-the-wall unexpected moments. Great “unexpected” examples include Chase inadvertently overhearing a sexually skewed hypnotic session and artistic representatives attending a posh dinner with bags on their heads, just to name a few.

Amid chapters replete with alternating character scenes, plenty of un-clichéd scenes, and romance—all set within suspenseful environs, McFarren’s tale would be incomplete without the infusion of a bit of history. Inspired by her love of the arts as well as owning and operating her own art gallery, McFarren aptly sprinkles in elements of art, giving particular attention to the works of the eccentric abstract painter Morris Graves. Also of interest is the way she portrays aspects of London, such as the infamous Soho district.

As with Severed Threads and Buried Threads, book three closes on a cliffhanger—one that indubitably will keep readers on edge anticipating its sequel. Well written and absolutely enthralling, Banished Threads is a wonderful addition to McFarren’s award-winning series!

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Reader Views Winning Certificate

Buried Threads wins 1st Place for Romance in the 2014 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards!

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Kenji Ota didn’t fit the description of a bloodthirsty killer. Upon meeting him, it would be difficult to believe he’d gotten away with murdering at least twenty-five men. He was intelligent, intuitive and physically attractive. His black hair was kept short and neat, and from the professional manner in which he dressed and carried himself, he could have been mistaken for a television announcer or successful business executive. He socialized in mixed circles – with stockbrokers, politicians and street-smart hoodlums alike – and his charming, larger-than-life personality drew the attention of women everywhere. However, after meeting Mariko Abe, his taste in the fairer sex had been spoiled forever. No one in his mind would ever compare to Kyoto’s most beautiful geisha or be foolish enough to keep her away from him.

At 8:45 P.M., he stepped inside RAIN, one of the hottest nightclubs in Japan’s Roppongi district with his face hidden behind a katou anime mask. He knew only the “big” people in Tokyo could gain access to this place, and at the age of 29, he was already considered one of the largest. His loyalty to his yakuza family, the Zakura-kai, carried great weight and had earned him three rankings within the Japanese syndicate: Kaito Mitsui’s body guard, his personal advisor, and captain of his own crew of soldiers. Yet his hard-earned promotions were not the result of monies earned, smart business dealings or his ability to entice new, ambitious recruits. They came as the result of his eight-year incarceration on behalf of his boss for a botched extortion scam.

With renewed interest in the noisy scene before him, Kenji pulled off his mask and tucked it into his black studded belt. He ran his hand across the back of his sweaty neck – the irritating result of another muggy August night. Unlike the devoted men in his crew, he shied away from solid black suits by wearing tight jeans and a loose white shirt most days. And although the police had released him only four days earlier, across his back he carried a red wakazashi– a lethal 31” sword.

Associates who were below Kenji’s rank moved quickly aside and bowed in respect as he passed. On more than one occasion he’d proven himself a deadly adversary with his sweeping blade, the most memorable occurring ten years earlier. Boss Mitsui had called a meeting between Katsu Nagura and all the underbosses in the Zakura-kai to discuss territorial issues. Foolishly, Nagura had challenged their supreme leader, bringing him to his feet.

“You’re not even worth killing! You stupid ingrate!” Kaito Mitsui yelled at the top of his lungs.

Dedicated to his mission to protect his boss at any cost, Kenji appeared in front of Nagura in the blink of an eye. He whipped out his sword and slashed the yakuza boss’s face twice across both cheeks. Within seconds, four of his men jumped in and were dropped to their knees with gaping wounds and severed arteries. The ones that could stand scrambled to get out of there. The two that couldn’t were carried off and deposited in a common grave. Strangely, the whereabouts of these men were of no interest to local officials or members of Nagura’s group. Kenji was never confronted for his part in the bloody incident and was left to conduct business as usual in the Zakura-kai with the same unaffected attitude he exhibited tonight.

As he neared the DJ’s booth, the base-infused rock music grew louder. Hundreds of bodies were bouncing to the techno beat. Dresses were shimmering beneath flashing strobe lights and the surrounding bar was filled three deep with thirsty customers. By Kenji’s estimate, it was unusually busy for a Monday night, even with the discounted drinks and Rockabilia theme.

While he continued to eye the club’s glitzy interior, contemplating owning it one day, two girls crossed the dance floor and were heading straight for him. “Ken-chan, come dance with me,” the girl in the skimpy red dress called out. She was swaying her hips to the music provocatively and angling a come-hither look. Her friend in a micro blue skirt joined in, matching her move for move. In his book, with their thigh-high stockings and hemlines barely covering their assets, they looked like Sasebo bargirls. But another quick look around convinced him they weren’t alone in their meat market attire.

“You promised last time,” the girl in red persisted.

Right. Kenji feigned a smile. He knew these girls belonged to Tak – a “family” member who enjoyed cheap whores and spending his money in by-the-hour love hotels.

“He’s not interested in you,” the other girl said, tugging at his arm. “He promised to dance with me. Right, Kenji?”

He didn’t, of course. He had better things to do and would have remembered if he’d made a promise to anyone…especially these two. He pulled his arm free with little effort. “Sorry, Tak’s waiting. Maybe another time.” Kenji could hear their annoying little whines as he stepped away. Hustlers like these were more disappointed in the watered-down drinks you didn’t buy them than the time you weren’t willing to spare.

He edged his way around the crowd and spotted his friend at the back of the room. As usual, the acme-scarred rebel was holding court in one of the club’s high-back chairs with drinks on the table and two girls seated before him hanging on every word.

As he drew near, Tak’s eyes lifted. “Hey, man! Been waiting for you. What took you so long?” Unlike most of the people Kenji socialized with, Takashi Bekku lacked proper manners. He was slow at paying tabs unless there was someone at the table he needed to impress. Although he was street smart, his education ended at junior high. The knife scars on his arms and cheek came from his father and not from gang members as his girlfriends were lead to believe. But despite it all, Kenji Ota valued their friendship and was confident that if worse came to worst, Takashi would be there for him – watching his back all the way.

“Sorry I’m late,” Kenji said. “I had some business to take care of.” He pulled up an empty chair and two new girls came over to join them. They giggled, prattled away and padded his shoulder, but he paid them no mind.

By the look of excitement in Tak’s eyes, he knew exactly what Kenji was talking about. Earlier that night, Mitsui-san had ordered a hit on Nobu Kimura. He was a retired detective who had spent half his life trying to bring down the Zakura-kai. The man was clever, considering he was old, half blind, and favored a leg from a childhood injury. But he was also brazen and secretly corrupt. He had raided their clubs, planted wires and hassled their business associates. He even went so far as to interrupt the boss’s birthday party just when his cake arrived. All because Mitsui refused to drop a dime – hand him a boss on a silver platter to make him look good with his department heads.

Of course, it came as no surprise when Kenji got the order to get rid of him. Yet the recollection left him grimacing. He didn’t mind taking care of the competition or squirrely guys in the organization, but this was different. Kimura was an outsider, a well-known official people were likely to miss.

Tak was grinning over the top of his drink. “So how’d it go? As good as I’m guessing?”

Kenji glanced away, recalling the white bathroom’s blood-splattered walls. He grew anxious and started bouncing his heel under the table. Like chewing on fingernails, he found it hard to sit still and not move when surrounded by people.

“C’mon, gimme the gory details,” his friend insisted.

Kenji leaned in and lowered his voice. “I sliced his neck from ear to ear like I’m gonna do yours if you don’t shut up.”

Tak laughed and slapped his fist into his hand. “Aw, man! Nice. Quick death. Now if it was me, I would’ve delivered slow torture.”

“Yeah, that sounds like you. Anyway, you didn’t ask me to come here to discuss Kimura. There must be something else on your mind, right?”

The girl on his left handed him one of the beers from the table. He nodded his thanks and twisted off the cap. After a long pull, he sat back and waited for Tak’s answer. “I heard Satoru Yamada hooked up with an American treasure-hunting company and is flying in from Los Angeles tonight. The lead diver showed up three days ago and has been real tight with your sister Yuki ever since. They’ve been buying gear and going to libraries…checking out history and treasure-hunting shit. No one seems to know much, but I got a good feeling about this one.”

Kenji listened closely, thoughtfully nodding.

“Anyway, it turns out this guy has been trying to line up a dive boat. Since you got one stored in that marina you own, this could be your chance to pull in some real dough…maybe even throw a few crumbs my way.”

Kenji snorted a laugh. “Yeah, right. What else do you know?”

“They’re getting together for a meeting on Friday night and Yamada invited that geisha Mariko Abe to join him. He was checking out rings before leaving town. Before the night’s over, they might be celebrating more than a partnership.”

Shit. Kenji swallowed hard. He lowered his crossed arms but managed to keep his eyes level, knowing the slightest sign of weakness could undermine his position. “Is that it?” he asked.

“So far. I’m going to do a little more snooping around to see if there’s anything worthwhile to report. Just wanted to give you a head’s up.”

Ah…now it made sense. The real reason Tak had called and insisted he show up. It wasn’t about his sister forming an alliance with Yamada. They’d been friends for years and were always covering for each other. But when it came to his boss, if the American was here to recover something of value, stealing it and handing it over to Mitsui could result in gaining his favor. Maybe even expedite a promotion.

“So, where’s this meeting going to take place?” Kenji asked. “If it’s anywhere near the Tanahashi mansion, you won’t make it in there alive. There are hundreds of guards surrounding that place. You’ll be cut into tiny pieces if you take one step on their ground.”

Tak was quick with a comeback. “No way in hell. You think I’m stupid? My connection at the Garden restaurant said they’re due at 6:30.”

“Fancy. Yamada must’ve swindled some rich gaijins out of their money,” Kenji said. “So you got any idea what they’re after?”

Tak half shrugged. “Not a clue.”

“Well, if you hear anything, I’d be interested in knowing.”

“Sure, you got it. Anyway, I’m thinking of crashing their party.”

Kenji huffed a laugh. “Why would you do that?”

“First hand information, of course.”

“Well, good luck with that.” Kenji stood up and started to leave.

Tak reached out and grabbed his arm. “Wait a minute! I need your help.”

“No way. It doesn’t matter how much I hate Yamada, I’m not going anywhere near him. Not without the boss’ say-so.”

Tak’s eyes narrowed. “Whatever I find out could benefit the Zakura-kai,” he reminded him.

It was no secret Kenji would do anything for the family: infiltrate investment companies, circulate meth, demand protection money…even destroy their enemies should he be called upon to do so. And even though friendships were short-lived, they were equally important. He didn’t want to waste the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Too many years had been spent that way.

Kenji heaved a sigh. If he didn’t go along to keep Takashi Bekku out of trouble, the next execution order he received could have his name written all over it. “All right,” he finally said. “What do you want me to do?”

“You’ll love it. I picked up a wig and borrowed some women’s clothes. I heard they’re looking for wait staff, so I thought we’d sneak into the restaurant pretending to be servers.”

Kenji unleashed a cynical laugh. “You’re kidding, right? Women’s clothes? And who do you think is going to wear those?”

Tak’s brow furrowed. “You got a better idea?”

“As a matter of fact I do.” Kenji thought about Yamada and Mariko, and the promise he made to himself to never let anyone have her…especially that ridiculous self-serving monk. “I might have to clean out half my bank account before I’m through,” he said, “but in the end, it will all be worth it.”

 

* * *

 

The doorbell buzzed again. Kenji laughed and walked to the front door of his apartment with his towel draped over his shoulder and his white shirt unbuttoned. He was getting ready to tell Takashi he wasn’t interested in his stupid plan or in hearing more about the container he was in the process of loading. But by the time he’d pulled the knob and begun to swing the door open, he realized he really didn’t know who was on the other side and almost slammed the door in the face of a nerdy-looking guy.

“Kenji Ota? I’m here about a plumbing issue. Sorry, am I interrupting?”

What the hell. Kenji looked him up and down. “Yes to the first, no to the second,” he said sternly. The guy had brownish hair, which was scattered ambiguously about his head. His face was freckled and he appeared to be middle-aged with neither the build nor the dress of a yakuza gang member. All and in, he looked perfectly harmless. Still, Kenji reflected, so had the others.

“I’m in charge of maintenance,” the man explained. “My name is Daiichi Asano. As you may know, there have been some concerns about possible water leakage in the building. We’re having a terrible time trying to find the source, though, and we’re reduced to looking at any suspect blip in our readings, no matter how insignificant. Uh, have you noticed anything leaking in your apartment?”

“I was using the shower earlier,” Kenji said. “Would that do it?”

Daiichi sighed. “Ah, yes. I believe it would.” He fiddled with the seam in his pants, then seemed to notice himself and swiftly placed his hand in his back pocket.

“Did you want something else?” Kenji said.

“Well…I know this is a bit of a bother, but might I take a look around, just for appearance sake? If I can’t tell my boss I gave this an inspection, even a cursory one, he’ll have my head.”

Kenji hesitated, but decided that he might as well let the man take a look rather than arouse any kind of suspicion, however small. “Sure, help yourself,” he said.

Before Daiichi could respond, Kenji immediately walked into the kitchen. He took Kimura’s watch from the counter where he had left it and slipped it into his back pocket. When he looked up, Daiichi was peering around the corner, scrutinizing his movements.

“You keep this place pretty neat.”

“Well, you know…confirmed bachelor here,” he said with forced cheer.

The man nodded and flashed a wry smile, showing he didn’t have a clue. He followed Kenji through the kitchen and looked around. Surprisingly, his gaze passed over a steak marinating on the counter and the diamond-inlaid tanto knife Kimura had confiscated from a local hood – the same one Kenji had reclaimed on his sister’s behalf and intended to flaunt at their next meeting.

“Getting dinner ready?” Daiichi asked.

“Yeah. I hope you’re not planning on joining me.”

The man turned away with no comment. He stepped into the living room and didn’t seem to find anything of interest. Then he took a quick peek into the bedroom before withdrawing into the hallway.

“Well, I think we’re good here,” he said, smiling the wide smile of someone who didn’t really want to be there.

Kenji nodded and smiled back. He walked toward the entry and waited for Daiichi to follow. But as the inspector passed by the bathroom, he halted. “Oh, mustn’t forget!” he said.

Before Kenji could stop him, Daiichi ducked inside and took a look around. Kenji rushed after him, thinking up distractions. By the way the man was staring, it was obviously too late.

“What on earth is this?” he asked.

Wrong question, Kenji thought. The sudden urge to take this little man and put his head through the wall was threatening his self-control.

“I don’t believe it!” Daiichi said. “Have you been washing clothes in here?”

Kenji had the sense to look at the ground, feigning deference and biting the corner of his lip to hide the smile that was threatening to break out. “Yes, “he managed at last. “As a matter of fact, I have. Exactly. God, how embarrassing.”

“Mr. Ota, while I doubt that this habit of yours has anything to do with the water leaks, it sure isn’t helping to prevent them. We have industrial washing machines in the basement to take care of your laundry needs. Why don’t you use them instead of wasting water and doing this in your own home?”

While he was talking, Kenji had been staring at him, but now he glanced back at the pile of clothes in time to notice a tiny thread of blood weaving its way down the drain.

Daiichi’s eyes were stretched wide in horror.

Great. Kenji sensed that he was about to say something that would undoubtedly evoke a negative reaction. His faithful wakazashi was still hanging on the back of the bathroom door. It would only take two seconds to grab it. One quick swing and this annoying little creep would be silenced forever.

“Oh, that,” Kenji said, tracing his line of vision.

Daiichi tilted his chin. “Exactly. What’s been going on here?”

“Relax, Mr. Asano. I work part-time as a butcher. I ripped a carcass wide open earlier today and had to rush home to change for a date. Normally, I wear an apron when I work…especially when there’s a mess to clean up. But as you can tell, I left everything in the wash.”

Daiichi’s eyes dropped to Kenji’s ripped abs and the claw marks tattooed on his chest. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down with audible swallows. “Right…okay…great. I think we’re done here,” he said. “But if this happens again, I…well, never mind. Just finish what you need to get done.”

“Thank you,” Kenji said, smiling. “I always do.”

He shut the door behind the maintenance inspector and peered through the keyhole. As soon as Daiichi was out of sight, he leaned against the wall. This time it had been a little too close. His confidence was making him bold and careless. But at least now, he had a faithful ally – someone who would vouch for his innocence, if it ever came to that.

Kenji wiped his damp forehead with the towel from his neck. He went into the bedroom and mused over how easy it was to convince feeble-minded people of anything. Their blind faith wouldn’t allow them to see the worst in mankind. He knelt down in front of his clothes cupboard, opened it and reached deep inside, grabbing hold of a small box hidden behind his shoes and spare arsenal. It was heavy, and its contents clinked as he pulled it out. He removed its lid and dropped the watch on top of all the others. Then he stood back and looked into the sink mirror.

“Hmmm…how sad,” Kenji said aloud. “People just have too much faith these days.”

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