The railroad station was deserted. Not a soul in sight. Bryan West had arrived before
the others, it seemed.
What if no one else showed up? No, the invitation had been too intriguing to pass up. Still, it was over
three hundred miles from Los Angeles. The sun had beckoned after him when Bryan had left the hub of southern California this
morning; here glowering thunderheads were strung across the sky like No Trespassing signs. Best to wait inside.
It would be a
well-earned vacation. Bryan had been working too hard, pushing himself to build an empire out of the bankrupt carcasses of
his competitors. A ruthless game, but it had to be played.
Absently he fingered the knotted cord dangling from his neck, the
necklace Prissy had made for him. If it were not something that could be damaged in the shower, it would never leave his body
at all. Was it only yesterday he had last seen her? Thursday… yes. Twice a week he saw his sister, regular as clockwork.
all victims of the kidnapping, Bryan thought. Mom. Dad. Priscilla.
Bryan glanced around the large, ghostly station. He was alone. He slipped the note from his jacket pocket and read it once
again with a frown. Typed. No clues as to the author. All his adult life he had been investigating threats like this to other
people; but now that it was personal, he understood why his clients had always been so unnerved.
The unexpected sound left him little
time to thrust the note back into his pocket. A creaking of metal and slow muffled footsteps echoed behind him.
and you’re dead.” The footsteps drew nearer. “Now raise your hands and turn around. Slowly.”
With arms raised, Bryan turned, green eyes faintly aglow, to confront the muzzle of a small silver handgun.
Bryan studied his
assailant. Taller than Bryan, with a wiry frame. Sleek black hair swept carelessly across a tawny forehead, wrinkled with
care and browned as much by the sun as by his Latin heritage. Cool brown eyes with a hunted look, like a man running from
“Well, if it isn’t the late great Bryan West,” said the newcomer.
Bryan glanced at his wristwatch.
I’m a bit early.”
“Still the same old wise guy. Just like when we were partners. Cool-headed, always one step ahead
of your adversary. Fiercely competitive, to the point of stealing clients from rivals.”
“Funny, you never complained when
my tactics failed. Only when they worked.” Bryan stared at the gun. “Do you really need to point that thing at
“I do if I want to shoot you.”
The explosion muffled Bryan’s protest before he could utter it.