The assassin’s only miss in thirty years.

More chapters from A Year Without Killing

A VG Serial: A Year Without Killing

Chapter 31

Claudia gathered her sketch pad, pencils, and camera. She walked with Star Braun to the coffee shop at the beach house and listened. Star had mentioned several names and numerous titles in the explanation of her discovery of Claudia’s identity.

“If I were to draw out the organizational chart in your sketch pad, it would take several pages and lots of lines, arrows, and rectangles. Some of the boxes would be empty anyway. I had to improvise and in some cases, simply guess who would have access to those positions and the associated information.”

“And to make a long story short…”

“I slept with at least a half dozen people to finally get the missing pieces to the puzzle.”

“My sabbatical may turn out to be permanent now that you know.”

“Maybe not,” said Star.

Claudia took a sip of coffee and focused on the horizon. For a moment, she allowed a distraction and visualized her finished water color of the Chicago skyline.

Star sipped her coffee in silence.

After a few moments that seemed like hours, Claudia said, “You’re right, it might not end my career. My work has been my life. I have no desire to stop living. Interruptions of my usual activities are tolerable and even refreshing. The intervals between my assignments have seldom been more than a year, but it has happened, and I didn’t retire. I’m just not certain about going on knowing that someone else out there is in on my secret.”

“There’s a viable option you should consider,” suggested Star.

“I suppose I could just kill you now and get it over with.”

“You’ve had several opportunities to do just that,” said Star.

“And you’ve passed on some as well.”

“It was never a part of my plan or desire to kill you or your career.”

Claudia gazed over the top of her cup into the now cold steel blue eyes of her dueling partner. “What was your plan?”

“You’ve taught me some information and techniques to use to my advantage in a variety of situations. There’s more to learn and it would be of no benefit to me whatsoever for you to be unavailable.”

Claudia shook her head and placed her cup into the saucer with the precision of a skilled marksman. “You can’t be serious about working together. We both are best suited to work alone.”

“But there’s no reason we can’t complement each other with our individual missions.”

“Who would call the shots?”

Star clasped her hands, laid them on the table and leaned in towards her companion, “Claudia Barry doesn’t exist. It’s just your favorite alias of over two dozen. You’ve got as many credit cards and even more fake addresses. Your eyesight, aim and other talents will eventually deteriorate with age. There is no fountain of youth in the Great Smoky Mountains and your lover won’t be able to invent a bullet that will find its target when you’re no longer able to perform up to your traditional standards. You will one day retire, or die. Claudia Barry will live on if you take me in now as your protege. I’m twenty-three years your junior. You could write your memoirs while I’m still working.”

“I would continue to maintain contact with the assignor and either you or I, or possibly both of us, would complete the job.”

“Until you decide to quit.”

“I’ve got about six months left before I contact the office again.”

“And when you do, you can tell them you’ll never quit.”

“I’ve got my mind set on completing this painting you saw me planning today, then there’s a couple of people I need to see. What’s your schedule look like for the next five months?”

“I’m going to throw a lawyer out of his office window in the Sears Tower, then I’ve got to go to New York City and finally China. Take your time to make a decision.”

Claudia waved to the server for a refill of her coffee. “You seem to have no problem finding me. When you return from abroad, get in touch. Before you leave, I have one more question.”

“Okay.”

“Who was the weak link the chain of names and positions in your quest to learn my identity.”

“There were two, an elected official and the other was a person in an appointed position.”

“These mysterious people have names?”

“They’re both dead now. One was Olivia Byrd, Warren’s wife, and the other was Jay Thibaut.”

“I thought Byrd’s wife died on September eleventh.”

“She did. My search for you started over fifteen years ago.”

“And Thibaut?”

“You missed. John Hixon stepped in front of the bullet and you shot your own lover. But you know that. When that attempt on Thibaut’s life failed, those that wanted him dead took another route,” said Star.

“My only miss in over thirty years,” admitted Claudia.

“How does that make you feel?”

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  • Ice cold discussion of death, dying and alternatives. Fascinating, my friend.