Susan Burgher switched on the lamp and sat blinking in the dim light of the cheap bulb. She found the bottle in her purse, unscrewed the cap, took a drink then made a face. She had been sitting in the dark in a cheap room in a cheap part of a strange city. Now she was drinking cheap liquor by the light of a dim lamp while her job went farther away with every minute.
Her last earthly hope for that job had left her sitting there in the dark an hour ago. They were a couple of Cambodian thugs Oscar had paid a fifty thousand dollars–cash– to kill John and his “intern.” They had failed.
They’d returned to this part of Xian scared to death. Really scared. These were tough, cutthroat men who’d grown up in the midst of genocide, men who knew death, men who could handle danger. Susan could read men and she could tell these were frightened.
Not only were they were afraid to talk about what had happened, but she could tell they didn’t know that much. Apparently her targets were protected by someone who put the Fear of God into the thugs. They had advised her to give up the chase, go home and have nothing to do with these two.
Susan had sat in the dark for an hour thinking over the facts she had at hand. Contrary to popular belief she was not a bad journalist. She’d just never had to put her skills to work. Now she did.
John and the woman were still alive. Where would they go next? Why were they here to begin with? Who exactly was helping them? How could that helper outfox Susan, Oscar and their gunmen every time? Who exactly was the mysterious woman John was traveling with?
Susan was glad John was safe but regretted the turn of events that left her no other way out of the situation. She would’ve never chosen to kill John but things had gone too far and circumstances were out of her control. This was how it ended.
Obviously John and his companion were protected by someone who didn’t feel the necessity to kill her hired hands. Someone who considered the two Americans valuable enough to send a helicopter into the mountains to recover them. And someone who could do all this in China, a nation with very tight internal security.
Susan took another drink and made another face. She was gonna need a bigger boat. Three times they’d moved against the two and three times they’d failed. Trevor was missing, Jim was in the custody of… someone and she’d barely escaped thanks to her intuition. It was time to do something different.
Susan was alone and couldn’t count on Oscar for help. It was time for some unconventional thinking. She took another swallow of alcohol. Although she was in the country legally she’d brought in lots of cash, hired guns to kill someone and didn’t even speak the language. All her life she’d made her way up in the world by finding powerful protectors. Now she needed another one.
Susan drained the bottle and hoped it would dull her judgment enough to do what she needed to. She knew someone she hoped was powerful enough to take down those two. As Susan Burgher stood she mentally kissed John goodbye and suppressed the intuition she was making a deal with the devil.

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