Sunday, December 23rd , the present
The bullet tore into Cotton Malone's left shoulder.
He fought to ignore the pain and focused on the plaza. People rushed in all directions. Horns blared. Tires squealed. Marines guarding the nearby American embassy reacted to the chaos, but were too far away to help. Bodies were strewn about. How many? Eight? Ten? No. More. A young man and woman lay at contorted angles on a nearby patch of oily asphalt, the man's eyes frozen open, alight with shock-the woman, face down, gushing blood. Malone had spotted two gunmen and immediately shot them both, but never saw the third, who'd clipped him with a single round and was now trying to flee, using panicked bystanders for cover.
Dammit, the wound hurt. Fear struck his face like a wave of fire. His legs went limp as he fought to raise his right arm. The Beretta seemed to weigh tons, not ounces.
Pain jarred his senses. He sucked deep breaths of sulfur-laced air and finally forced his finger to work the trigger, which only squeaked, and did not fire.
More squeaks could be heard as he tried to fire again.
Then the world dissolved to black.
Malone awoke, cleared the dream from his mind-one that had recurred many times over the past two years-and studied the bedside clock.
He was lying atop the bed in his apartment, the night stand's lamp still on from when he'd plopped down two hours ago.
Something had roused him. A sound. Part of the dream from Mexico City, yet not.
He heard it again.
Three squeaks in quick succession.
His building was 17th century, completely remodeled a few months ago. From the second to the third floor the new wooden risers now announced themselves in a precise order, like keys on a piano.
Which meant someone was there.
The Paris Vendetta