The tall man with a scar on one cheek sat at the desk of his hotel suite in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. He was dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, and as he glanced in the closet door mirror he found himself inordinately pleased with the way it draped over his thin frame.
Hartford, he mused, was a city that — unless you peddled insurance — had little to recommend it, save one thing: it was situated at a strategic crossroads in New England. He had been confident, but not entirely certain, of his target’s next move. He had chosen this anonymous, centralized location in case he was wrong.
As it happened, he had not been wrong.
He shifted in the chair and glanced over the items arranged on top of the desk, taking inventory. Two heavy pairs of binoculars, one with night vision. A "burner" cell phone that could not be traced. A set of lockpicking tools. A bottle of absinthe. A small leather kit containing a variety of poisons and anesthetizing agents. A photograph in a silver frame.
And a road map of Massachusetts.
He heard movement in the adjoining room of the hotel suite.
"Are you ready?" he called out.
"I’ve been ready," came the poutish, feminine response.
"Then let us be on our way." Picking up a hand-tooled valise of Italian leather, he placed the contents on the desk into it, one after another. When he got to the photograph, he paused. It was a grainy, blurry image — evidently taken with a telephoto lens — of a man and a woman. His gaze lingered on the woman: young and willowy, with cropped dark hair.
"This time," he murmured. "This time, my darling."
He then slipped the frame into the valise, zipped it closed, rose from the chair, and soundlessly exited the room.
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