The dim figure continued to lurk in the dusking patch of tangled shrubbery until he was
completely enveloped in darkness. Then he choked and swore and frothed at the mouth and went down
on all fours. After a while, he clambered out of the shrubbery like a ghost, picked himself up deftly,
and wiped his hand across his brow. He was tall and had an athletic build. His hands were covered with
fleeced gloves, his face partially masked by a hood. He had a definite presence in spite of the aura of
repulsion that swelled around him like foul breath. For a spell, he stood in death-like silence, in a navy
hooded sweatshirt, a pair of matching pants, and black running shoes. His dark brown eyes studied his
environment like a bloodhound determined to unearth a misplaced object without losing its sense of
A short distance away, small cylindrical light bulbs cast an eerie glow over the lush greenery of
Glennon Park, capturing its beauty in a halo of kaleidoscopic brilliance. And then a throng of men in
fancy tee shirts and short pants intermixed with women in jeans and sleeveless tops, whisked into view.
The dim figure, hearing their muffled voices over the sound of the fountain’s cascading waters,
stiffened. Like him, the fountain stood in a poorly lit area of the park. Surrounded by luxuriant shrubs,
it was the place where randy youths prone to exploiting the semidarkness for romantic mischief loved
On this particular night, there were no lovers necking by the fountain, but there was something
else. A black diamond Cadillac was parked beside the fountain. The curiously unusual sight caused the
dim figure’s hands to shake with excitement. Cars were not allowed that far into the park, so whatever
fantasies within the limits of human accomplishment the Cadillac’s driver had conceived, this was the
wrong night for it, he mused. This’ll be my last murder, he decided, the climax of a long, enterprising
career as the greatest hit man of all time. He was a killer so efficient and so elusive that even the FBI
nicknamed him Shadow of Death for his uncanny ability to dissolve into a penumbra after every hit.
He immediately recognized the wonderful head of hair and the slender, sensual neck as the lone
occupant of the Cadillac appeared in silhouette against the fountain. Suddenly his pulse quickened. He
mopped his brow with a handkerchief and contemplated the lady’s mesmerizing beauty. It seemed odd
to him now to think of her as a victim. He had loved her once; in fact, he still loved her. And therein lay
the quandary—a lethal clash between his obsession and his survival instinct. The survival instinct, of
course, must win, he mused; for between them now stood the only thing that love could not subdue—a
very dark secret.
The Shadow of Death moved with stealth in the semidarkness toward the Cadillac, his hands
slightly shaking with excitement with every step he took. His only accomplice was his own shadow,
perceptible to no eye but his. It seemed innocuous even to him, like a specter, only there to see, not to
arbitrate. It moved when the assassin moved and stopped when he did, like a minion with no initiative
of its own, an android programmed to repeat the action of its mentor, silently, as only a ghost would;
and then saddled thereafter with the damning knowledge of the truth, a truth that would elude the rest
of the world—an everlasting witness, a ghost that would never die.
There was deafening silence inside the Cadillac. All around it, darkness closed in as slowly and
unfalteringly as the approaching evil. The assassin’s face was impassive, his heartbeat regular, but his
muscles were taut as he strained to open the driver’s door with his gloved hand.
She did not see him, could not see him, because she was leaning face downward on the steering
Gripped by a morbid fascination with death, he stared down at her, the roaring tension inside
him silenced by his cold determination. Everything would depend on this moment, this act, he mulled
over, darting a quick glance at the fountain. He did not want any interruption and there was none. He
reached for her throat silently, swiftly, giving her no chance to react.
There must be no error, he mumbled. His pressure on her throat was fierce. Time, thoughts,
fear, regrets, all ceased to exist as an eternity seemed to roll by in a matter of seconds. And then relief
flooded his being.
It was over, he almost smiled. It bore the mark of his usual professional touch—smooth, fast,
painless, and very peaceful.
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