Authors: Christopher Smith
For my readers.
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any
similarity to persons living or dead (unless explicitly noted) is merely
coincidental. Copyright © 2012 Christopher Smith. All rights reserved worldwide.
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For their help with this book, the author
is particularly grateful to Erich Kaiser, his parents Ross Smith and Ann Smith,
Margaret Nagle, Kate Cady, J. Carson Black, Laura Baumgardner, Ellen Beck,
Jackie Kennedy, Angel Davis, Anna Dobson, Tyler Thiede, the team at Odyl, his
friends at the
Bangor Daily News
and at UMaine, Sandy Phippen, Debra
McCann, Diane Cormier, Lisa Smith, Deborah Rogers, Howard Segal, Brandi Doane,
and his amazing accountant and financial advisor, Jaime Berube. To all of you,
I appreciate it.
The author also would like to thank his
readers, who are the lifeblood of his work. Thank you for your patience and
your support. You are the first and last reason for every early morning and
late night. I’ll see you on
Additional thanks to the Amazon team; his
friends Ted Adams and Bari Khan for exposing him to the darker side of
Manhattan, even if they didn’t know they were doing so at the time; to those
other unnamed men and women who introduced the author to the real Manhattan
while he researched this book; and to friends, old and new, all of whom either
helped to shape this book or who offered support as it was written.
by Christopher Smith
In the United States
In the United Kingdom
By Christopher Smith
She was being followed. She was aware of
it. And she was prepared to act when they acted.
If they have a chance.
It was nighttime in Manhattan. Past
eleven. Earlier, she tried to sleep, but since sleep no longer came as easily
as it used to, she was walking down Fifth, because outside, the city offered
distractions she needed to lean on right now.
The Park was next to her. The cool fall
breeze carried with it the smells of the city—exhaust from the cabs
darting past her to her left, the rot of damp foliage off to her right, but
also a crispness that hadn’t been in the mix when she was here three weeks ago.
Winter was coming. It was right at her
back, not unlike the sound of those shoes keeping time with hers as she
strolled down the sidewalk.
Carmen Gragera listened to those shoes.
She first became aware of them when she turned onto Fifth from Eighty-First
Street, where she kept an apartment. At some point, she knew they’d find her,
especially since she was back in the city.
What they didn’t know is that she also had
come back for them.
She had returned to Manhattan three days
ago, after burying her fellow assassin and lover, Alex Williams, in Bora Bora,
where he was murdered while they were on vacation. There, they had been making
plans to leave their professional lives as assassins behind so they could be
together in a tropical paradise that offered a measure of security due to the
sheer remoteness the island provided.
But with his murder and the burning down
of her longtime home, it proved a costly assumption. For reasons that still
were unclear to her, the syndicate she and Alex worked for killed Alex and
tried to kill her. She managed to escape, but now they were after her.
After all, the sound of those shoes didn’t
She could tell by the definitive strike of
the footfalls that they belonged to a man. When would he act? She didn’t know,
but in her coat pocket was her Glock; her hand was wrapped around it and she’d
use it if necessary.
Unless he shot her in the back, which was
possible, though it would be stupid on his part given that they were on Fifth,
which was alive with traffic.
She could feel him behind her. The
footsteps were coming closer. She kept her pace steady, her body loose. Fifty
feet. Forty. Closing the gap and doing so in such a way that was so obvious, it
was amateurish. Why was he giving himself away like this?
He was probably twenty feet away from her
when she approached Seventy-Seventh Street. The traffic light was red and there
was a line of cabs waiting for the light to change. Grab one? Plenty were
empty. But if the light didn’t change quickly, he might be brazen enough to
approach the cab and shoot her, because otherwise, he would have missed his
chance and disappointed whoever hired him.
Best to move on.
She looked as far down the sidewalk as she
could and saw others coming toward her. The area was well lit, just bright
enough to quell a murder, unless the man following her was determined to take
her out. Again possible, but again, stupid. Still, who knew what his orders
were? Who knew if he was just young and naive enough to believe he could pull
this off? If he was, she was ready for it.
In fact, when the light turned green and
traffic roared to life, she decided she’d had enough. She stopped and faced
He also stopped. Their eyes met. He wasn’t
the young man she was expecting. Instead, he looked somewhere in his late
thirties. Tall. Brown hair. Good looking. Wearing a knee-length black coat to
keep out the cold and also to better conceal whatever he was carrying.