Why would anybody want her dead?

More chapters from A Year Without Killing

A VG Serial: A Year Without Killing

Chapter 9

The bullet was headed straight towards my eyes. Would it strike my brow just above my nose?

The markings in the lead from the rifling of the barrel made it easy to see the rotation.

Here comes death.

In ultra-slow motion.

Somehow, I was aware that I had fired the round myself from a hotel room across the street. Claudia continued to write in her journal. Her hand shook like the last leaf on a maple tree in an October wind. How can I ever fire a weapon again? My discovery by Star Braun has unnerved me like nothing before. This is the third journal entry tonight. Now it’s 4:27 A.M. and I haven’t had more than an hour of sleep. Can’t count the number of nightmares. This was the most terrifying, to see the arrival of death. It was a sight none of my victims saw.


Claudia and Star left Marker’s separately. After Star was gone, Claudia had another vodka and cranberry and sent a message to the bartender to “make it a double.” She sat alone after she finished her drink. She waited for almost a half hour. I’ll have a hard time getting to sleep tonight, no matter how much I drink. She walked back to her hotel and stopped at the front desk, “I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning but for tonight, I have to have a different room on a different floor.” She didn’t wait for a response from the host, and added, “Now, please.”

Twenty minutes later she was in a new room with the door secured by both the deadbolt and the chain.

The next morning she had breakfast in the hotel and she added a white scarf to her outfit. Before she finished eating, Mr. Debert joined her. After the usual pleasantries, she looked him in the eye and said, “Star Braun paid me an unscheduled visit. She knows about the third man.”

Debert responded with silence.

Claudia continued, “I had planned on spending the day painting. Now everything has changed.”

“Where are you going?” Debert asked.

“She wants to see me again in a couple of weeks.”

“How will you contact her?”

“Disposable cell phone. She gave me a number and an e-mail address, too, which I’d never use.”

Debert took in the news and finally asked, “Where will you be in two weeks?”

“I’ve got business in San Antonio and Louisville. Not sure in which city I’ll get to first or how long it will take. I’m in no hurry and no intention of making her next visit convenient for her. She’s got to really want to see me.”

Debert smiled and said, “Why don’t you go to Europe?”

“Nowhere is a problem for Star. She’s got money and connections. She can meet me anywhere anytime—literally.”

“Her awareness of the third man puts her on what I suspect is equal footing with me. You’ve never given me all the details. Do you care to?”

“My first kill…”

Debert frowned and his mouth turned down at the corners, “Do you mind? I’m no prude, but do you have to be so, aaah, graphic?”

“Okay. We’ll skip the first one, that was my own doing. Avenged my father.”

“You’ve mentioned that before.”

“My first job for pay was a well known character who in the South would be described as…”

Debert interrupted with, “Someone who needed killin’.”

“Yes, but with a few more syllables than you had.”

They both chuckled in an uneasy shared response.

She continued, “But the next assignment was someone who was a stranger to me. That’s when I had begun a habit that has continued. I was reading three newspapers a day and tried to catch the news on television at least twice a day. I accepted the job, flew to Sacramento and then drove down to San Jose. There was a convention of some sort going on. The assignor had provided me with a pass so I pressed the flesh and actually shook hands with the guy.”

“Did you strike up a conversation?”

“Please don’t make light of this. Yes, we made small talk but most of the time I spent watching his interaction with others and studied his movements. Distractions abound in a crowd like that and it would have been easy to disappear. It was a terrible venue for a long distance shot.”

“You had to get in close.”

“I dressed as a room service attendant and delivered an order to his door after hours. It was easy. His drug of choice had worked and he was unconscious when I entered his room.”

“No companion?”

“That was a surprise to me, too. I had watched him enter the room alone so I struck right away. Two .22 rounds to the head.”

“You could have made it look like a suicide.”

“The assigner insisted that his client wanted it obvious that it was a hit.”

“When did it start to bother you?”

“The next morning in the news. I shouldn’t have watched. He had an amazing rapport with those in attendance, even the ones who appeared to be opposed to his point of view. Everyone interviewed on the air was shocked and their sorrow seemed genuine to me.”

“So you began to research your assignments.”

“Yes, and I could find nothing to confirm the need for this man to have died. I did it for the money. My only regret has been that I never knew why anyone would want him dead.”

“Why would anyone want you dead?”

Claudia’s hand shook in response to the question.

Coffee spilled onto the white table cloth.

She looked at Debert with disbelief.

He replied, “Why else would Star have been able to find you?”


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  • Cindy Amrhein ( HistorySleuth)

    Excellent excerpt Chip. Your writing is top shelf. Love the bomb drop of the last sentence.

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the comment, Cindy. I appreciate it!