His best friend has been murdered, some of his acquaintances have been murdered and now he is the next victim on a vicious assassin's list. Darren Poole discovers that he cannot trust a police chief who is protecting the killer's employer. Tired of hiding, Darren's only hope of staying alive is to place himself in jeopardy.
Wednesday, December 22, 8 p.m.
The magnetic latch clicked as Amber closed the shower door while simultaneously pulling the oversize bath towel from the towel bar. Bending over, she let her long, naturally blonde hair fall into the folds of the towel. As she supported her hair with her left hand, she took a corner of the towel in her right and briskly dried the back of her head, gradually working her way forward until all her hair had been toweled. Amber finished drying off and haphazardly tossed the towel
over the top of a clothes hamper as she walked toward the vanity.
Totally nude, she paused in front of the mirror to verify that her bathroom scale was not exaggerating the weight she had lost on her most recent diet. It had taken her a month to undo the Thanksgiving overindulgence that her mother's superb cooking always induced. As she turned and strained to get a glimpse of her derriere, the reflective flash from a metallic object caught her glance. As she turned away from the mirror to see what caused the bright light, Amber had only a millisecond to live.
The finely honed blade penetrated Amber's skull and embedded itself deep within her brain, killing her instantly. The assassin, frozen in the striking pose, did not need to extract the weapon, as Amber's lifeless body limply fell away, freeing the blade. The assassin used Amber's damp towel to wipe away the blood before sheathing the blade, and then turned to the task of documenting the murder.
* * *
Friday, December 31, Midnight
A series of bright, synchronized flashes, followed by loud explosions snapped John to attention and momentarily diverted his gaze toward the window. Regaining his composure, he focused his attention back to the girl.
Her hair, long enough to reach half way down her back, was so saturated with blood it was almost impossible to see that she was a blonde. John wondered if her shocked expression was testament to the pain she felt before death won out. Unfortunately for him, the bloody hair failed to obscure the massive gash that had been opened in her skull.
John could see from the full-length photograph that the nude body belonged to a fairly young woman, probably less than thirty, slender and with long legs. He could not help but wonder, if one were to wash away the blood from her face, would a natural beauty be revealed? Yes, he thought to himself, and she was probably a model, judging by her figure. John was confused by the image his brain was trying to process--a beautiful woman and a gruesome death scene, the two did not belong together.
John thought he was being careful as he moved around the large desk to take a seat in the high backed leather chair. He figured he had found the perfect location to view the fireworks that would be propelled to heights equal to, and sometimes greater than, his sixteenth floor viewpoint. It was perfect, until he accidentally knocked the briefcase off the credenza.
John turned on the high-intensity desk lamp so he could be sure to find everything that had fallen out of the case and onto the hardwood floor. On his hands and knees, he carefully began stacking the various documents on the desktop, while mumbling to himself about his talent for clumsiness. It was then that he noticed the large manila envelope that had been partially hidden by the chair. John did not see the open flap as he lifted the envelope and helplessly watched as its contents, some photographs and a bundle of letters spilled onto the floor. That is when the headshot photograph caught his attention. Picking it up he could see the anguished face and the blood-covered hair. He slowly picked up one of the photographs and studied it for a few seconds before moving to the next one.
Initially John thought he was looking at crime scene photos that the lawyer, whose office he was using, needed for his client's defense. I do not think I could defend someone responsible for such brutality, he thought to himself. He then noticed the half-dozen envelopes bound together with a rubber band. John picked up the stack and could see that the first envelope was addressed in a delicate handwriting, suggesting a female sender. He read the return address and
indeed it was from a woman named Amber Wilson. A cursory glance indicated that the envelope contained a hand written letter. Flipping through the stack, each envelope looked the same as the one before it, the only difference being the postmarks.
As John was reinserting the photos in the manila envelope, he noticed that there was writing on the back of one of them. Curious, he read the message and immediately wished he had not been so nosy. Whoever wrote the note was expecting "final payment" within twenty-four hours and clearly specified that failure to comply would not be well received. The note made it perfectly clear to John that these photographs were given as proof that the woman had been killed "per agreement." John shuddered at the thought and could feel the sweat beading on his forehead. His assumption that the lawyer was preparing a defense for a client went out the window the moment he noticed that the message was addressed to "Edwin Mayfield," the same name on the framed certificates that adorned the office walls.
John was considered to be a reasonably intelligent guy, by those who knew him well, but it was doubtful they would have sanctioned his next move. Jumping to the conclusion that the lawyer must be responsible for the woman's death, John made the snap decision to take the documents with him. First he put the photos in the left inside pocket of his sport coat, and then he put the small bundle of letters in the opposite pocket. Just then Andrea rushed in, threw herself into John's arms, and kissed him passionately.
"Happy New Year, darling."