This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all; yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Ecclesiastes 9:3


Another tear splashed down on the expensive wood. It was hard, orange-and-black-grained cocobolo with alternate inserts of dense, reddish-tan tulipwood from Brazil. A trickle of tears had caught in the lashes at the corner of her eye and now they spilled over, dripping down her cheek and onto the arm of the love seat in her richly appointed bedroom. The tears beaded up on the arm of a piece of furniture that had cost more than some men bring home in a month. Yet, to her, the elegant surroundings were nothing more than a comfortable prison.

Her name was Tiff. She was fourteen years old. She was crying because she was sad, hurt, angry, frustrated, and frightened. She was a good girl. Why was this happening to her? How could her mother have deserted them? How could her father have treated her the way he had? One day everything had been so nice and overnight it all went bad, and what had she done to deserve this? I'm all alone now, she thought, and her shoulders shook with convulsive sobs. Crying her eyes out, as the saying goes . . .


Part One


Lax was a bitch he could live without. He thought of it as a she, thinking of her as one might think of a lady of the night who appeared sexy, flashy, bright from a distance, but proved to be soiled and unpleasant-smelling up close. Some airports were the essence of their respective cities. Rome and Paris, Dallas and D.C. — but none more than LAX.

Fresh off a contract hit, Frank Spain took in a cautious lungful of L.A.'s airport perfumes and detected traces of a life-supporting pungency. That good ole allotropic, triatomic, Southern California fresh air. He hated L.A. and thought of the airport as nothing but an overpriced hooker who sucked when you came and sparkled when you left. And he'd never been happier to kiss the bitch good-bye than this morning.

She looked rough without her makeup the glitz of the night-lights and the drama of darkness to cloak her in velvet and sparkle. Now she just looked busy and used. He was glad he was leaving. In fact he couldn't wait to get on the TWA flight, but he had stopped and bent to retie a lace that didn't need rety-ing. Something a little out of place. Something tickling his nose a little. At first he mistakenly thought it might be coming from the clot of cops obviously greeting some VIP at a nearby gate. He could sniff out copper the way some animals can smell a hunter. He tied the shoe and walked into a small shop at the edge of the concourse. Lay back a bit, he thought. Just check it out.

Natural to be a little tight. The thing he'd come out for had been problems from square one and he'd had to jump back and put somebody between himself and the target. Ended up jobbing the Greek out to a couple of local kids. Airheads. He told the one on the phone:

'You don't want to make anybody nervous on this,' and the kid goes, 'Shit. Ain't no nervous about it. Let's rodeo.'

'Just don't come up shy,' he'd said to the kid. Let's rodeo? Jesus. That should have told him right there. And sure enough they just about screwed it every which way but straight up, and Spain wanted

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