"So I wasn't sure why Vito Corleone stabbed that old fat Don," Tricia said in her English accent. She put down the spindle of yarn and rubbed her neck. "I know it was supposed to be for revenge, the old Don had killed the rest of his family, but he'd gotten away from Sicily. What would he gain by killing the man?"
Kit Cameron listened to this with an amused smile. "You don't understand what revenge is all about, do you?" she asked with her soft southern accent. Like her friend Kalliste, she was short and slender, with dark hair. She had olive skin, and a triangular face. Tonight, like every night she was at the Northwestern University Women's Co-op, she was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt, one with Washington County Sheriff's Department across the front in bold letters; she'd let everyone know she was a detective in that North Carolina department so nobody would be surprised at things she said or did.
"I suppose you do," Tricia said. "I thought you were from the tidewater part of North Carolina, Kit. And I thought those feuds were back in the hills of places like Tennessee and Kentucky. You know, like the Hatfields and the McCoys."
"Upper class people have their feuds, too," Kit said. "How many remember the TV show Dallas? That was filled with feuds and revenge."
"So what should they have done in The Godfather?" Tricia asked.
"The same thing they did. What you don't realize," Kit continued, "is that revenge should take a while. You have to let them think everything is over and that they're safe, that they've won. And they you strike from out of nowhere. And when you do, you have to do it in such a way that the feud won't start up again. Let me give you an example."
"A story like Kalliste's?" Anna asked from the desk where she was paying the bills.
"Sort of," Kit said. "This is from a file of unsolved crimes."
"Why not? Kalli is off on some dig somewhere, and we haven't had a story in weeks."
"Cassie, Cassie, Cassie," Joshua said. "It's a minor thing, just a quick business meeting. I'll be back before you know it. And later we'll go dancing. They say that Strauss has a new waltz he's introducing tonight."
She reached around her husband, adjusting his cravat. "Be careful," she said, kissing him on the neck. "I have this bad feeling about you going out. I don't know why, it's just a bad feeling."
"It's just a business meeting," Joshua said. "Lord Eagleston and I discussed this last night over cards, and we have a few things to finish up this morning."
" ... just a business discussion." She shook her head. She felt a warning stir deep inside her. Something was trying to tell her ... something was warning her. She had a flash of a golden threat tinged in red, but she dismissed that. She couldn't put her finger on what was wrong. She shook her head again, dismissing her worries. They were in the middle of very civilized Vienna. This wasn't one of those cow towns where people walked around with guns all the time.
"Well, hurry back," she said. "I have a new dress I want to wear tonight, and I have something important I need to tell you."
He laughed. "A new dress—I can barely wait. I love to see you happy." He turned to kiss her, holding her safe in his strong arms. "It's too bad we're leaving for home so soon. This has been a wonderful trip."
"Denver will seem so somber after Paris and Vienna," she said. She laid her head on his shoulder, inhaling his scent. "But I wouldn't have enjoyed it without you beside me."
He glanced at the clock. "This won't take long, my sweet Cass. And then we can have breakfast and you can tell me this important news."
For just a moment she hesitated, wanting to tell him now. But it would be even more of a surprise over breakfast, and it might distract him during his business discussion. With a feeling of unease she watched him leave. She busied herself about their hotel room, adjusting the flowers, laying out her new dancing gown, and selecting his handsomest coat.
They had been three months on this trip, a constant whirl of balls, dinners and sightseeing. It seemed like only yesterday they had been a poor prospector grubbing for a stake, and his wife who ran a kitchen feeding a hundred men at a time at 5¢ a plate and doing their laundry on the side. But then he'd found silver in the hills above Leadville. After that were other strikes, more silver from other miners he'd staked, business deals that had paid off, hunches of hers he had followed, and before she knew it they were living the life of the idle rich in Denver while others dug in the ground or served hungry miners.
This trip was their reward for fifteen years of hard work, fifteen years of sweat, chances taken and careful investments, fifteen years of struggle where his decisions and her decisions had built a fortune that was the envy of everyone. For three months they had let all those cares and worries slip away. For three months they had danced and feasted across Europe. For three months they had enjoyed the best life had to offer them. And for the last month of it she had harbored a hope that she was going to give Joshua the one thing she had not yet been able to give him yet, a son. Yesterday she had known for sure. She was carrying the one thing that would make their life complete.
The knock on the door was a rude interruption.
"Yes?" she asked the man standing there. "If you're here to see my husband he's out right now, but he'll be back shortly."
"He's dead, ma'am," the man said somberly. He removed his homburg in a gesture of respect. "I—I'm sorry."
"Dead?" She stood there, unbelieving. "How—how can that be? I saw him alive only minutes ago. He was here with me."
"It was tragic, ma'am," the man said, shaking her head. "Tragic. He never stood a chance."
She heard the man babbling something about an argument over cards, of the duel this morning, of how the suave Englishman, instead of deloping had shot her husband, her Joshua, shot him dead with a single bullet.
She saw the truth in his face. She felt the sudden loss as all that had been, all that ever would be, and all that they had been together was lost. She felt the loss as it stabbed her through the heart. Pain she had suffered before, but this pain was worse than the others. This pain destroyed her, destroyed the future, destroyed them.
She stared in the man's sympathetic face, knowing what she must do. I'll take my revenge, she thought. But not just for me, but for all of the things Joshua and I would have been together. He denied me our future, and I will return the favor and deny him his.
"How can you make me a widow?" Lady Annabelle Eagleston demanded.
"The same way your husband made me one," Cassie said. She slipped the last bullet into the cylinder. "Eleven years ago your husband made me a widow, now I've come to return the favor." She dropped a few spare cartridges in the pocket of her maid's uniform.
"But I'll be left with nothing! Nothing, do you hear me, nothing! I've read his will. I'll be cast out, penniless."
Cassie smiled at Lord Eagleston's wife. "That's your problem, it certainly isn't mine."
"But how can you do this?"
"The 'how' is easy. The better question is why, and we both know the answer to that." She put the second pistol in her pocket and checked her hair. Perfect. She looked exactly like the hundreds of other maids who worked in this part of London.
"Revenge won't bring your husband back, you know."
"No, it won't." She checked the woman's bindings one last time. They should hold long enough for her to do this. "I can do nothing for my dead husband. This is for me. This is for everything your husband put me through when he murdered my husband."
She gave Lady Annabelle a pitying smile. "You English have never really understood revenge, and you never will. It's never about striking back, it's about balancing the accounts."
"I'd stay and chat," she said after fixing the gag, "but your husband and I have an appointment in a few minutes. Oh, and if I were you I would call my solicitor right after I rang the police. He will be of immense help straightening out your husband's estate, and you may learn what kind of man you married. Or perhaps you knew."
Six years after taking Joshua home for burial she had returned to Europe. She had found Joshua's killer, Lord Eagleston, and found where he lived in London. She did nothing, then. Instead she had returned to Denver. She began asking around among the men Joshua had staked years before. One of them had finally agreed to help her.
"Here they expect a woman knows how to shoot," Thomas said as he handed her a pistol. "The English won't, at least not a pistol. Now you say he had two men with him?"
"Yes, two. Apparently they're close friends. They go everywhere together."
"If they're with him you'll have to shoot them, too."
"If I have to, I will."
"I don't know, Cassie. You should let me do it. Joshua was my friend."
"They'd suspect a man, Thomas, you said so yourself. You think I can't do this?"
He sighed. "I know you can, Cass, you have that look in your eyes. I saw that look during the war. People with that look can kill someone without hesitation."
"This is something I have to do, Thomas."
He nodded. "All right, if you say so. Never got anywhere arguing with you, you were right too many times. Look, nothing fancy. Aim at the middle of the body and squeeze. Two shots each. After they're down, finish them off with the other pistol. Empty the spent cartridges on the floor. The police will see that two different guns were used and will think two different people did the killing."
He set up the target, and she'd practiced until her arms ached. It was the same routine every morning, draw the pistol and cock it in one motion. Center the sight and fire. Two bullets for each target. It was the same thing every night: draw, fire, and fire again, over and over and over. Soon it was automatic. And after that it became more than automatic, it was something she could refine until it was a part of her.