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David Becker had never held a gun, but he was holding one now. Hulohot’s body was twisted and mangled in the darkness of the Giralda staircase. Becker pressed the barrel of the gun against his assailant’s temple and carefully knelt down. One twitch and Becker would fire. But there was no twitch. Hulohot was dead.

Becker dropped the gun and collapsed on the stairs. For the first time in ages he felt tears well up. He fought them. He knew there would be time for emotion later; now it was time to go home. Becker tried to stand, but he was too tired to move. He sat a long while, exhausted, on the stone staircase.

Absently, he studied the twisted body before him. The killer’s eyes began to glaze over, gazing out at nothing in particular. Somehow, his glasses were still intact. They were odd glasses, Becker thought, with a wire protruding from behind the earpiece and leading to a pack of some sort on his belt. Becker was too exhausted to be curious.

As he sat alone in the staircase and collected his thoughts, Becker shifted his gaze to the ring on his finger. His vision had cleared somewhat, and he could finally read the inscription. As he had suspected, it was not English. He stared at the engraving along moment and then frowned. This is worth killing for?

* * *

The morning sun was blinding when Becker finally stepped out of the Giralda onto the patio. The pain in his side had subsided, and his vision was returning to normal. He stood a moment, in a daze, enjoying the fragrance of the orange blossoms. Then he began moving slowly across the patio.

As Becker strode away from the tower, a van skidded to a stop nearby. Two men jumped out. They were young and dressed in military fatigues. They advanced on Becker with the stiff precision of well‑tuned machines.

“David Becker?” one demanded.

Becker stopped short, amazed they knew his name. “Who . . . who are you?”

“Come with us, please. Right away.”

There was something unreal about the encounter‑something that made Becker’s nerve endings start to tingle again. He found himself backing away from them.

The shorter man gave Becker an icy stare. “This way, Mr. Becker. Right now.”

Becker turned to run. But he only took one step. One of the men drew a weapon. There was a shot.

A searing lance of pain erupted in Becker’s chest. It rocketed to his skull. His fingers went stiff, and Becker fell. An instant later, there was nothing but blackness.