She nodded and put the glass down on the table untouched. Then the man did something strange for someone who looked so sober. He nudged the table with his knee, a clumsy sort of movement, but almost as if he’d done it deliberately. The glass toppled and the drink spilled to the floor.

And they had only one vial of the stuff. They watched as the older guy led her onto the terrace, out into the starry evening where the people were dancing to the slow jazz beat.

So the couple did what they were trained to do: they improvised. Their communication was all in the eyes and minute gestures undetectable to anyone who didn’t know why they were there. In seconds they had a new plan. To hang around, merge into the background. Slip through a door and stay hidden in the house until the guests left and she was alone. Easy. They were in no hurry. They moved quietly out onto the crowded terrace, leaned against the wall and sipped their drinks.

They observed some kind of tension between the target and the older man. The two of them danced for a while, and he seemed to be attempting to persuade her of something. He was whispering in her ear, looking anxious but trying to keep it discreet.

Nobody noticed except the couple. Whatever he was saying, she refused. For a second, it looked like an argument was brewing. Then he backed off. He ran his hand down her arm in some kind of conciliatory gesture, pecked her on the cheek and then left the party. The couple watched him walk to his Mercedes and drive off.

It was eleven thirty-two.

By quarter to midnight, they saw her glancing at her watch. Then, unexpectedly, she began making moves to usher the remaining guests out of the villa. She turned the music off, and the quiet was abrupt. She made her apologies to them all. She had an early flight in the morning. Thank you all for coming. Have a great night. See you sometime.

Everyone was a little surprised, but nobody was too upset. There would be plenty of other parties going on across the island on a warm summer night.

The couple had no choice but to leave with the others. There was no chance to slip away and hide. But they hid their frustration well. It was only a minor glitch, nothing to worry about. They walked quietly back to where the car was hidden under the shade of the olive trees, and got in.

‘What now?’ said the driver.

‘We wait,’ the woman replied from the back seat.

The fair-haired man scowled. ‘Enough of this bullshit. Give me the gun. I’ll go and get the bitch. Right now.’ He reached over and snapped his fingers. The driver shrugged and unholstered the 9mm pistol under his jacket. The fair-haired guy grabbed it from him and started getting out of the car.

The woman stopped him. ‘Low profile, remember? We keep this clean.’

‘To hell with that. I say -’

‘We wait,’ she repeated, and flashed him a warning look that silenced him.

That was when they heard the motorcycle.

It was exactly midnight.

Chapter Two

Near Galway Bay, west coast of Ireland

Two minutes later, 10.02 p.m. British Time

Ben Hope had been standing there a long time in the darkening room, long enough for the ice in his whisky to melt away to nothing as he stared out of the window. The sun was dipping behind the Atlantic horizon, the sky streaked with crimson and gold, clouds rolling in from the west as night fell.

He stared at the waves as they crashed against the black rocks, lashing spray. His face was still, but his mind was racing and filled with a pain that the whisky couldn’t help him with. Visions and memories that he couldn’t shut out of his mind, and didn’t truly want to. He thought about his life. The things he was sorry he’d done in the past. The things he was sorrier he’d never be able to do again. The emptiness of the only future he could imagine lay ahead. The way that the lonely days kept turning into lonely nights.

Perhaps it didn’t have to be that way.

The bottle stood behind him on a low table. The whisky was a fine malt Scotch, ten years old. It had been a full bottle that afternoon. There were just a couple of fingers left in the bottom now.

Beside the bottle lay a Bible. It was old, leather-bound, worn with use. It was a book he knew well.

Next to that lay a pistol. A Browning Hi-Power 9mm, well used, clean and oiled, thirteen shiny rounds in the magazine and one in the breech. It had been lying there for hours, cocked and locked, the sleek copper nose of that first round lined up with the barrel and its tail exposed to the striker, ready and waiting for him to make his decision.

That one bullet was all it would take.

From somewhere in the shadowy room, the phone rang. Ben didn’t move. He let it ring until whoever was calling him gave up.

Time passed. The sun slipped down into the sea. The waves darkened as night crept across the sky and he could see only his reflection standing there in the window staring back at him.

The phone rang again.

Still, he didn’t move. After half a minute the ringing stopped, and the only sound in the room was the distant roar of the Atlantic.

He turned from the window and walked across to the low table. He put down his empty glass and reached out for the pistol. He picked it up and weighed the heavy steel in his hand. Stared at the weapon a long moment as the moonlight glimmered down its length. He clicked off the safety.

Very slowly, he turned the pistol towards himself until he was looking down the barrel, holding it backwards in his hands, thumb on the trigger. He brought it closer. Felt the cold kiss of the muzzle touch against his brow. He closed his eyes. In his mind he could see her face, the way he liked to remember her, smiling, full of life and beauty and happiness, full of love.

I miss you so much.

Then he sighed.

Not today, he thought. Today’s not the day.

He lowered the pistol to his side and stood there for a while, letting the weapon dangle loosely in his hand. Then he clicked the safety catch back on. He laid the pistol down on the table and walked out of the room.

Chapter Three


12.03 a.m. Greek time

Zoe Bradbury felt the cool wind in her hair as the big Suzuki Burgman scooter carried her up the winding country lane.

As she rode, she noticed the strong headlamps of a car behind her, lighting up the road ahead. The lights flashed at her. She wondered who it might be. Maybe the last straggler leaving her party?

Strange, though. She hadn’t noticed any cars left outside as she closed the shutters and locked the place up to leave.

She rode on, twisting the throttle a little harder. Trees flashed by on either side as she gained speed. The wind tore at her hair and clothes, and the lights shrank away in her mirror.

She smiled to herself. She was glad that Nikos had taken all her gear away to his place. It was too much to carry on the Suzuki, and this way she could enjoy her last ride before going home to Oxford in the morning. The 400cc scooter was fast enough to scare her – and thrills and risk were things she loved. She opened up the throttle

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