John made it into his office early. For the first time in a long time, the traffic was not all that bad. The hordes of vacationers must have been too sun beaten to drag themselves out of their hotel, he thought happily. As he walked briskly to the back door of his office, he still could not shake the urge to look over his shoulder for a quick glance at the hotel down the beach. He dreaded that he would end up like those war veterans who suffered lifelong memory flashes of seeing their buddies gunned down in combat. Or, he thought hopefully, maybe the edge will wear down and sooner or later he would forget about it.

He unlocked the back door and kicked it open with his foot. With Tammy now the landlord things might be a little different. No so much pressure to drum up a case, he thought. Or it might get ugly should they part ways. He dropped the box he had been carrying on the floor beside the door and out of habit, flipped on the light. And out of another habit, he looked down at the answering machine he had plugged back in. No messages.

As he moved around and set things back up to the way they were, the wheels turned in his mind. Things were going to get better, he told himself. From this day on, he made a promise that he was going to actively work on his music and his business would finally be successful. At other times in his life, he remembered getting close to success and then subconsciously sabotaging himself. A new and improved John was needed. The truth, he really wanted to show Tammy what he was capably of given the chance. And it would not hurt if Joyce found out about some of his success, but it was more than that.

"Getting settled back in, John," a man's voice spoke softly from the open back door.

John brought his head up from behind the desk. A short man wearing eyeglasses was standing in his doorway. He held a black, snub-nosed Smith and Wesson in his hand pointed at John.

"Don't look so shocked, John. You knew I wouldn't just walk away from this."

John stood slowly.

"Stay right there. And don't even go for a weapon. I was in here last night and checked all the drawers in your desk. It's clean." He smiled a devilish, easygoing smile that crept under John's skin like a virus.

"You got me, Hank. What do you want?"

The gunman backed up and glanced out of the open doorway. "Pretty morning," he commented. "Looks just as it did on the day you dodged my bullet."

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