Chapter One

Chapter Two

Into the Night

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. —James Madison

Jack didn't like killing. In fact, he abhorred it. As a small child, he would stop other little boys when they picked on animals. His mother had raised him to believe that all life was precious and therefore worth protecting.

His father, a decorated World War II veteran, had taught him that all killing was horrendous, no matter how honorable or justifiable it seemed at the time. His dad would have known, for he'd done his share of it in the skies over Germany.

Yet here he was, on the way to his first planned execution, one he would personally commit. He was sixty years old now, and his parents were long since gone.

He sat in the rear seat of his personal jet and stared out the window into the cold night sky. His German shepherd, Sadie, was asleep at his feet. The twin engine, eight-passenger Cessna was cruising at 41,000 feet somewhere between Orlando and Manhattan.

Jack was on his way to kill a monster named Ralph Jeffries, but he didn't seem concerned. In fact, the only thing that really bothered Jack at the moment was whether or not he'd brought the right clothes to keep warm.

Jack looked out the left window of the jet and thought about the lights below him. It was Christmas time, and he imagined the people in the towns that they were passing over getting ready for the holiday. It was a time he loved. Fond memories filled his mind as he looked down on the winter landscape. He thought of his mother cooking in the kitchen of his boyhood home in upstate New York. It was always bitter cold that time of year, but the smells coming from the kitchen warmed the whole house.

He remembered the Christmas tree in the living room and his father sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace. He could still hear the fire crackling. And the kitchen—what wonderful food came out of that kitchen! He could still hear his mom calling them to dinner. As he thought of these things he smiled. Those had been wonderful times.

"About forty-five minutes, sir!" the gruff voice of Frank, chief pilot, jolted Jack back to reality.

In deference to the cabin noise Jack nodded to Frank, who had been his air boss for years. Frank had retired from a major airline, and sometimes it seemed to Jack as though he were still a captain. He barked orders to his co-pilot and expected them to be followed, even in Jack's plane, which he considered his own even though Jack paid for it.

Sadie woke with a start at Frank's voice and put her front paws on the seat across from Jack to look out the window. She had flown long enough to know what Frank's commands meant. Soon she'd be on the ground.

Jack unlocked his black leather briefcase and removed the weapon, a gun he knew well. He picked it up and examined it carefully. Here, away from any prying eyes, would be the last time he would inspect the firearm. The four seats in front of him ensured the pilots could see nothing, unless they left the cockpit. But they were too close to Teterboro Airport, just outside of Manhattan, to leave their seats.

He heard Ralph, the co-pilot, on his headset talking to the air traffic controllers, who instructed the Citation jet downward through the cold night sky.

He removed the bullet clip from the .380 automatic weapon, ensured its chamber was empty, and checked its action. The weapon was a well- built machine. He had owned the Walther for over thirty-five years and as a policeman had carried it throughout most of his career. How ironic, he thought, that the same weapon I carried to protect people as a cop, I'll now use to kill monsters.

The weapon checked out fine. He inserted the clip and chambered a live round. He had never needed more than one clip and didn't expect that to change this trip.

"Fifteen minutes, sir!" announced Ralph, the co-pilot.

Jack put the Walther, now fully loaded and hot, back in his briefcase, alongside his credentials as a retired police officer. Security didn't check passengers at the private executive airports, which he had never understood. But if they did this time, he would simply say he forgot to leave the weapon at home and hope his badge helped him explain it all away.

He heard the landing gear drop down and lock in place. The wind became noisier as the cold air and landing gear rushed at each other. Their descent had begun.

They landed at Teterboro at 7:15 pm. A light snow was falling as they touched gently down at 120 miles per hour.

He had always loved New York City at Christmas time.

He put on his overcoat and hat and clipped the leash on Sadie.

At the doorway, he looked at Frank and said, "I'll call you, Frank. Shouldn't be but a couple days' business. I'll be at the Warwick, on Fifty-Fourth and Sixth."

"Roger that, sir," Frank said. "We'll be ready when you are."

Frank didn't like many people, but he liked Jack. He respected his twenty-year police career and the fact that he'd been smart enough to start and build a very successful multimillion dollar company after his law enforcement career.

Damn shame he lost his wife, though. What a tragedy, he thought to himself. She used to love New York this time of year. They all missed her.

Jack exited the jet with the big shepherd on her leash, held tightly to his side. Sadie wouldn't harm anyone unless he told her to, but she had the tendency to scare the hell out of people.

As they walked toward a waiting limo, an attendant, on his way to the jet to retrieve the rest of Jack's luggage, said hello.

Jack tipped his hat to him and said, "Merry Christmas."

Jack held Sadie with his right hand and the briefcase that carried the Walther with his left. At each side he held an instrument of death.

The crisp night air helped him refocus on the reason for his visit, and that was murder. It was killing time.