by Stuart M. Kaminsky

 Packner had never slept in a more comfortable bed.
 And the view from the windows leading out to the small balcony was overwhelmingly beautiful --  the line of snow-covered mountains in the not-very-great distance,  the valley of white dotted with chalets and the small ancient town with its houses huddled in the middle. The Inn sat on a high hill over the valley and since the snow and weather were perfect for skiing,  all thirty-five rooms were occupied.
 It was an ideal location for what Packner had to do today.   His name was not really Packner.  He had used many names.
 He slept in a pair of orange and blue University of Illinois shorts and no shirt.  He slept with his own
portable lock on the door.  He slept with a Charter Arms .38 Undercover Blue Revolver on the night stand within very easy reach.  Others in his profession would have thought this a particularly inefficient weapon given the options,  but Packner had shot his first man -- actually a woman -- with such a weapon.  It was almost like sleeping with a comforting stuffed animal nearby.
 For the work he had to do in the morning,  however,
he had brought a new .40 Smith & Wesson with a ten-shot magazine.  The weapon was small, easy to hide, with only a 3 1/2-inch barrel and had little recoil. Modification to almost completely silence the weapon had been difficult and expensive, but Packner would have paid far more for an efficient reasonably quiet weapon like this that would fit easily into a pocket or a hiding place.
 Packner always woke twice during the night, at 2:10 and 4:13 or within seconds of that time.  It had come naturally.  At those two times he surveyed the room he happened to be in and, if something seemed wrong,
he arose, took his weapon and found somewhere else to sleep, somewhere in a dark corner he had picked out when he had first entered the room.  Whether the room was in a hotel,  a home,  or in a supposedly "safe" house,  the procedure was the same.
 Every morning he awoke at 6:15,  showered,  shaved,
shampooed and put on the clothes he had selected the night before.  He had become an expert at packing during the twenty-six years he had been on the move.  Packner maintained an apartment nowhere.  Whatever he needed, he bought and except for very infrequent and carefully arranged visits he stayed away from home.  He always gave his shoes and clothing to the Salvation Army when he was through with them.  He saved nothing.
 Packner's face had changed as he grew older.  It had also changed twice as a result of plastic surgery.   The face in the mirror had been his for seven years.  He rather liked it.  It was a ruggedly handsome face, the face of a former athlete with neatly trimmed auburn hair.
It was the last face he planned to have. In his infrequent returns home, his father had eventually grown to accept the new image of his son.
 Shaved and showered now, Packner put on his black chino slacks and black turtle-neck cotton shirt.  Over that he put his black sport jacket. On his feet were black cotton sox and black Rockport shoes.  He thought he looked every inch the well dressed spy.
 Packner put the .38 in the holster under his jacket.  He was ready to go, to face what promised to be the most interesting morning of his life.
 He removed his lock from the door and put it in a drawer.  He did not bother to use any of the elaborate
electronic devices to check on whether anyone entered his room while he was out.  The people he was dealing with would know how to bypass all of them.  Instead,  he used the simplest of all detection devices,  a hair from his
own head, loosely attached to the door.  If anyone entered, the hair would fall.  Even if the intruder knew about the hair,  he or she would not know how high or low he had fixed it to the door.
 He did not expect anyone to enter his room.  He was dealing with other professionals who would know that he would leave nothing that would be of use to them.
 Packner placed the hair, closed the door very gently and put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.  Then he went down to the dining room for breakfast.  The view from there was every bit as beautiful as from his room.
 There were fifteen people having breakfast when he arrived.  The sun was bright and the vacationers looked ready for a day of skiing.  Packner could ski quite well.
It was not something he was interested in doing recreationally.
 He found a table for two in the rear of the room, ignored the chat around him and ordered coffee, three pieces of toast with jam and a bowl of fruit,  making clear to the waiter that he wanted only fresh fruit even if that meant he would have only a bowl of sliced oranges.
There was a basket of fresh breakfast rolls on the table,  along with a plate with pats of butter and a white porcelain container of orange marmalade.
 There were men, women,  many languages.  If he wished, he could focus on any of the nearby tables and hear what they were saying.  He had no interest in doing so. Packner looked out the window and nibbled at a piece of breakfast roll he had torn off.
 "I hate Switzerland," came the voice.  "May I join you?"
 "Of course,"  said Packner.
 The woman sat across from him.  Though he saw her rarely, the woman currently known as Sandra Freid was, as always, perfectly groomed, perfectly understated in her dress.  She was nearing fifty but could easily pass for forty or less and she was darkly handsome.  She wore a gray knit dress that fit her perfect body snugly. Over the dress, she wore a black designer jacket that nearly matched Packner's. Her hair was cut quite short,  almost boyish and she wore a necklace of large, perfectly matched black  pearls and matching earrings.
 "What are you eating?"  she asked in English.
 "Simple fare," he said, smiling with white capped teeth.
 He motioned for the waiter who came immediately.
 "I'll have what he is having,"  she said.
 The waiter nodded and hurried away.
 "Why do you hate Switzerland?"  he asked.
 "How much can one ski?  How much chocolate can one eat?  How much courtesy and politeness can one stand?"
 "It is peaceful,"  he said looking out the window.
 "On the surface.  Look out the window.  It's a postcard for tourists.  And this hotel."
 "Chateau,"  said Packner.  "Or Inn if you prefer."
 "Chateau Yodel,"  she said sarcastically, shaking her head. "These people have no history of warfare and their army knives are known throughout the world.  They are an eternally neutral nation which makes deals with monsters and engages people in our profession when it suits them.  Money."
 "And chocolate."
 "And cough drops," she said allowing herself a smile.
 "Knives, cough drops, chocolate and banks, all essentials of civilized humanity," he said wiping crumbs from his fingers and putting his napkin in his lap. "They have, I have reason to believe, produced several very capable people in our profession.  Thank you for coming."
 "You are welcome,"  she said,  her eyes on him,  her smile apparently sincere.  "Not that I had a choice."
 "There are always choices," he said looking at her.
 "Not always viable ones.  The others, do they have viable options I don't know about?"
 "You know about the others,"  he said, not in the least surprised.
 "I saw Tain and the big one who used to be called
Montrose in the lobby when they checked in last night,"  she said as the food came to the table.  The fruit cups included strawberries, pineapple and blood oranges.  They were fresh.
 "And they saw you?" Packner asked casually putting the grape jam he had been brought on a slice of toast.
 "I wanted them to see me,"  said said lifting her delicate cup of coffee.  "I assume they know as little about this as I do.  I thought it was a good idea to suggest to them that I was comfortable with being seen."
 "Yes,"  said Packner eating slowly.  "You know the room number where we will be meeting?"
 "I was hoping that we would go together now after breakfast."
 "Of course,"  he said.
 "Do you  know why we are here?" she asked lifting
a spoon of fruit to her mouth.
 "Yes,"  he said.
 She nodded.  She knew that if he wished to tell her what he knew,  Packner would do so.  If he did not,  there was no point in asking him.
 "The big man is using the name Alex Korchinski,"  said Packner.  "Tain is still David Tain."
 "And you are...?"
 "Still Packner,  at least until we leave here."
 They finished at a leisurely pace, cautiously discussing nothing.  He signed the bill.  She let Packner do so.  It was a small matter.  A big matter was obviously coming up.   The woman called Sandra Freid refrained from walking too closely to Packner. That was not the role to play. It might make Tain and Korchinski suspicious should they see her coming through the door or walking down the corridor on Packner's arm.  The room itself was isolated from the rest of the inn down a corridor with no rooms on either side leading to two doors.  Packner reached for the handle of the door on the left.
 The meeting room that he had reserved was, as Packner had ordered, stripped down to a small drawerless table and chair against each wall.  The chairs faced the center of the room where a round wooden table rested.  Atop the round table was a large, wooden box with no top.  A ceiling-to-floor window stood behind one of the chairs and tables.  The curtain was drawn. Some sunlight came through and the overhead chandelier gave off ample supporting light.
 Tain was seated behind one of the tables,  the one opposite the curtained window.   He wore a dark suit and conservative tie.  His glasses had rectangular lenses with
gold frames.  Tain's mother was Swedish.  His father was Chinese.  At thirty-five,  he was the youngest person in the room and would be taken as oldest by anyone who chanced to see them.  He looked like a businessman,  which was what he wished to look like.  Before him on his table was a black briefcase.
 "Tain,"  said Packner as he and the woman entered the room.   "It's been a while."
 Tain nodded at Sandra Freid.  They had met four times in the past.  Three of those times neither had acknowledged that they knew the other.  On the fourth occasion that had joined to assassinate a Serbian general turned negotiator in Amsterdam.
 "Two years and a month,"  said Tain.
 "Ah, the rejected lover recalling each anguished day," she said.
 Tain did not answer.  All three knew that any relationship between those in their work had to be kept professional.
 "You know what this is all about?" Tain asked.
 "I know,"  said Packner taking the chair and table
with the window behind him.
 Sandra Freid sat at the table to his right with the door a few paces behind her.
 "You've checked the room?" Packner said.
 "Yes,"  said Tain.  "I believe we will not be overheard, but, as you know, it is impossible to be certain.  If one has the proper electronic equipment..."
 "They could probably point it in our direction from Geneva and pick up every word," said Freid.
 Packner looked at his watch.  It was two minutes after the designated time for this meeting.
 The door opened and the man who filled the doorway looked around at the seated three and the only seat remaining.  The big man wore a tailor-made navy-blue suit and a white shirt with no tie.  His face was unlined and
youthful.  His hair was gray and cut very short.
 The only sign of caution was in his eyes. His face revealed nothing. "Sorry I'm late," he said in French not bothering to exchange polite greetings with the others.
 "Apology accepted,"  said Packner who had expected
Korchinski to arrive even later. It probably meant that he had searched one of their rooms before coming to the gathering.  It was Korchinski's way.
 The big man moved to the only remaining seat.
 "First,"  said Packner.  "Is English acceptable?"
 No one objected.
 Second, no weapons.  Weapons go in box on that table.  All of them and Mr. Tain's briefcase."
 There was a long silence as Packner rose, went to the center of the room and placed his .38 in the box, sat and folded his arms.  Sandra Freid moved next, lifting her dress and removing a small .22 strapped between her legs.
 "Why?"  asked Tain.
 "I'll tell you when all weapons are on the table,"  said Packner.
 Tain looked at Korchinski who was staring at Packner.
 "Why are you in charge?"  asked Korchinski, his voice
a pleasant baritone.
 Normally,  Korchinski played the laborer, the farmer, the fool though he had a doctorate in Romance languages and literature from Brown University and a very private passion for the work of Proust.
 "When the weapons are in the center of the room,"  said Packner pleasantly.
 Tain and Korchinski rose together.
 "The weapon you're carrying and don't forget the briefcase,"  said Packner.
 Tain nodded and took his briefcase to the center of the room placing it carefully on the table with his pistol on top of it.  Korchinski placed his Magnum next to the briefcase and both men went back to their seats.
 "Tain, do you have any objection to Korchinski opening the briefcase?"
 Korchinski opened the briefcase, examined it, closed it and announced, "A few papers."
 "Now," said Packner as Korchinski closed the briefcase and returned to his place, "your other weapons.  We will search each other."
 No one objected.
 "To our right,"  Packner went on.
 "To our left would be much better,"  said Tain.
 Packner understood. If Packner were working with Korchinski, the big man might allow Packner to keep a weapon.
Similarly, if Packner were working with Freid, he might allow her to retain a weapon. A change in direction for the search was prudent.
 "Fine,"  said Packner.  "May I suggest we begin
with a look under Mr. Tain's table."
 Tain smiled,  reached under the table and pulled out a pistol taped within his easy reach. It had been the real reason he had arrived early for the meeting.
 "Anyone else wish to volunteer a weapon before being searched?"  asked Packner.
 All four in the room produced knives.  Korchinski produced another pistol, a very small .22.
 The search went quickly, efficiently. Musical chairs.
When Sandra searched Packner, she paused between his legs.  It was effective though brief. Packner then searched Korchinski who looked at the ceiling and said nothing.
 Two more knives were found. No weapons.  The pile in the center of the room was now worth several thousand dollars to any arms dealer. Modifications and weapons were state of the art.
 "One more search," said Tain, "of the person across from us."
 Following this search, Packner sat and said,
 "Our Greek and Italian contacts wanted us to meet.
You all know that the Kadara was shot two weeks ago."
 None of the other three bothered to acknowledge that they knew.  Besides,  the question was clearly rhetorical.
 "Supposedly, he was shot by a Kurd terrorist,"  said Packner.  "But one of us knows that he was not."
 "One of us killed the Turk?" asked Korchinski.
 "There can be no doubt,"  said Packner.  "He was killed at Yalu Bai Leef.  The Kurds could not know he would be there. We knew. We knew he was there to eliminate the Turkish Prime Minister.  We knew he had been hired by the Iranians.  We knew because we were all told to stay away from Yalu Bai Leef on Monday and if any of our clients wanted us there we were to refuse the assignment."
 "So,"  said Tain.  "Lahn-Ho, North, and Martino
also knew.  Where are they?"
 "Dead,"  said Packner.
 He paused so the others could absorb the information.
 "You have answers to the obvious questions?"  asked Sandra.
 Packner shrugged.
 "They died were killed over the past month.  Professionally,  very professionally.  The reason may have been revenge, to eliminate competition, because the four of us and the four dead might discover something that
would mean the end for one of us.  Maybe all of us."
 "So,"  said Tain.  "You surmise that one of us eliminated these people and plans to eliminate others in this room?"
 "Yes,"  said Packner.  "Which is why I wanted the weapons in the center of the room.  When we discover who our killer is,  the three of us remaining can overpower him or her and..."
 "The evidence is weak,"  said Korchinski.
 "Lord yes. Very,"  Packner agreed.  "But there is one more thing.  Our Greek contact saw it.  It may be a coincidence. Our four dead fellow eliminators died in reverse alphabetical order,  K,L,M,N."
 "Silly,"  said Freid. "Coincidence."
 "Those of us in this room have last names beginning G,H,I and J," said Packner.  "Our real names. Our Greek contact believes our killer knew this,  saw the coincidence of last names and whimsically decided to eliminate in reverse alphabetic order, which means I am to be next."
 "I see,"  said Freid.  "If we had our weapons, the killer could simply shoot the rest of us right now."
 "Or one who is not the killer could shoot the others to protect himself,"  said Korchinski.
 "But that would leave the impression that the survivor
is the renegade,"  said Tain.  "The Greeks and Italians would mark him for elimination."
 "I would guess,"  said Packner, "the killer has a plan to eliminate all of us and come out covered by a story."
 "I can think of several scenarios,"  said Korchinski.
"None of which I wish to share."
 "Seven of us would then be dead in a period of a little over a month,"  said Tain.
 "Each of us has eliminated far more in our careers," said Packner.
 "All right,"  said Korchinski.  "We are here.  How do we identify the betrayer?"
 "I suggest,"  said Packner,  "that each of us provide what they call an 'alibi' in America.   Where were we a week ago on Monday when Kadara was killed and can we prove it?"
 There was a knock at the door.  No one rose ready to leap for their weapons.  If someone wanted to dispose of them,  they would not be knocking.
 "Entre," called Packner and the door opened.
 A thin, almost completely bald man with a pink face, a little mustache and a waiter's uniform entered balancing a tray in one hand.
 "Kaffe,"  said the waiter professionally ignoring the seating arrangement and the box in the middle of the room.
 "Danke,"  said Packner.
 Conversation ceased while the waiter, who looked at least seventy, went from table to table offering coffee and providing milk and sugar for those who wished them.  He put the two-liter pot on a trivet on the table in front of Packner and left the room.
 Eyes were on Packner waiting to see if he would drink.
Packner smiled.
 "Any one of us could have gotten to the waiter," he said.  "I didn't order coffee, but I understand it is a regular courtesy here for business meetings."
 He drank.  His coffee was steaming and black.  The others also worked at their drinks as Packner said,
 "Alibis. Alibis. Alibis. I'll begin.  A week ago on Monday I was in Hong Kong to discuss an assignment for a former member of the old colonial government. I did not meet with the former member of the government but with four of his representatives, all of whom are known to you. I will provide their names and each of you is free to contact all of them or whichever ones you choose."
 "It compromises your relationship with them if we contact them,"  said Sandra.
 "Can't be helped,"  said Packner.  "This is too important.  Not only is one of us trying to kill the others but if we fail to find out who, it will certainly result in the Italians and Greeks deciding to eliminate all four of us to be safe. Ours is not an easy profession and it is getting harder by the week.  Alibis anyone?"
 "I was with a friend in Rome,"  said Sandra.  "A male friend. We had spent the weekend together at a small hotel behind the Piazza De Poppolo in the direction of the Spanish Steps. The one across from the Lion Book Store."     "The one that used to be a whore house," Packner said.
"Thin walls."
 "I can provide his name and that of a mutual friend who joined us.  You will find their corroboration unimpeachable when I tell you who they are,  which I want to consider for a while."
 "A short while,"  said Packner.
 "Of course,"  she said picking up her coffee cup.
 "I was in a city I do not wish to name,"  said Tain.
"I also have two witnesses who can verify that I was there all day Monday."
 "And you will give us the names of these two?"  asked Packner amiably.
 "Like our Miss Freid, I will consider it and provide the name of the city and the two people after I consider
how to do so without compromising them. I think you will find them acceptable."
 "That leaves..."  Packner began.
 "I was in a meeting in the morning,"  said Korchinski.
"One of our occasional clients in the French government.  There were others present.  I had lunch with them in the room where we met. Names and location of the meeting will be provided when I know it is essential."
 Packner shook his head.
 "It doesn't surprise me that we all have alibis and witnesses to support them,"  he said.  "One will, however, fall after examination."
 "Maybe not,"  said Tain.  "The people vouching for any of us could be people who hired us to dispose of Kadara."
 "Complicating things even further," said Sandra Freid finishing the coffee in her cup.  "Add coffee to that list of Swiss specialties I gave you at breakfast.  It's very good.  I think there's a drop of chocolate in it,  though.  Maybe more than a drop."
 "Ideas anyone?"  said Packner.
 There was no answer.
 "Well, I don't care for the idea that we might leave this room,"  he said, "and try to kill each other."
 "It would be very odd if you did.  The best of us might succeed,"  said Tain.
 "Or the luckiest,"  said Korchinski.
 "Well,"  said Sandra Freid,  "this has been interesting, but I think all four of us know who killed Kadara."
 "Enlighten me,"  said Packner.
 "Why you did," she said looking at Packner and smiling.
 "Ah,"  said Packner sitting back.  "And how did you come to this conclusion?"
 Korchinski and Tain were listening carefully, their eyes aimed at Packner.
 "Putting our weapons in the center of the room was your idea and a rather odd one,"  she said.
 "But effective,"  said Packner.
 "This room was your choice,"  she said.  "You could have planted a weapon here."
 "Tain searched the room before we got here,"  said Packner.  "And found..."
 "Nothing," said Tang.
 "I'm sure you could find a way, especially if you assumed that one of us might be searching this room," she said to Packner. "You are a professional."
 "Thank you,"  said Packner.  "Go on."
 "You would know that given our choice of seats,"  she went on,  "we would avoid the seat with the window to ones back.  You chose the window seat. A bullet could easily come through the glass."
 "Not to mention,"  added Tain, "that you are perfectly outlined against the light, an easy target."
 "You knew you would get that seat," said Freid.
 "Conclusion?"  asked Packner.
 "You have a weapon hidden there in case you are revealed as the betrayer or you decide to eliminate the three of us and go into hiding."
 "Sandra," said Packner.  "I don't think this is going to work. Convince the others, get rid of me,  and walk away from what you did, is that the plan?"
 "Another problem,"  said Korchinski.  "You gave us that ridiculous story about eliminating those in our profession in reverse alphabetical order.  At least two on your list do not have real last names with the letters you indicated."
 "I see,"  said Packner.  "Might one reasonably assume that you might be lying and have no such information about real last names, that you have simply leapt behind the tumbrel which is being constructed for me,  that when we leave this room we will find that I am right about the names and that your alibi does not hold?"
 "It holds,"  said Tain.  "Korchinski was with me a week ago on Monday. As was Miss Freid. Actually,  we were together in Paris the entire week before and the day after when we heard of Kadara's elimination."
 "A coincidence?" asked Packner shaking his head. "A menage a trois coincidence?  You've gotten together and decided to give me to the pack and,  may I guess,  you've
also agreed that whoever has been eliminated our fellow professionals will stop, secure that his safety will be insured by the belief that the killer has been eliminated.  Any more deaths of one of us and those for whom we work will know that the assassin has not been caught. Your safety would depend on the killings ceasing. If we were ever to hold a convention, it should have been last year.  It seems we may be down to very few members before the morning ends."
 "No,"  said Tain.  "We each suspected you and got together to wait for you to strike again which would prove that we were not responsible and that you were."
 "You gathered us not to find the killer,"  said Korchinski,  "but to find out what we might know and who you might best blame."
 "Those who spend their lives in conspiracy are the most likely to fall victim to conspiracy,"  said Packner pouring himself more coffee.  "Go on."
 "There really isn't anywhere to go,"  said Tain as Packner shook his head and sat back, balanced on the two back legs of his chair.
 His eyes turned to Korchinski who had removed a gun from his jacket pocket.  The gun was small.  It was aimed at Packner whose right hand slowly came up with the larger gun that he had retrieved from the under the wooden slat of the window ledge where he had placed it the night before.  He had carefully,  but loosely, placed the slat back so that he could tilt it up and get the Short Forty as he had just done.
 Packner had never searched Korchinski.  Sandra and
Tain had and they had let him keep his gun.
 "Impasse,"  said Packner pointing his weapon at Korchinski.
 "Actually, no," said Tain.  "I placed my briefcase so that the left end would be facing you.  Mr. Korchinski did not really searched it. In the side of the case is a narrow,  powerful fire projectile that will explode in flames on impact with you, the table, the window."
 Packner was sure the man wasn't bluffing.  Bluffing wouldn't work.
 "Noise will activate the projectile,"  said Tain anticipating Packner's next question.  "A gunshot for example."
 "I hate this technology," said Packner. "It removes
so much of individual initiate from our work."
 "Put your gun on the table,"  said Freid, "and you have a choice of accidents, ski or climbing."
 "I don't like skiing," said Packner rising.  "Someone might know. I may have mentioned it to the desk clerk when I checked in."
 "Thank you," said Sandra.
 "Glad to do your job for you," Packner said rising slowly and moving to put his gun on the table.
 They would not risk an accident scenario, Packner knew.  He was too dangerous.  But, they didn't want him shooting any of them.
 Packner, sensing that Korchinski was about to fire, threw himself backward through the window holding his weapon tightly.  Tangled in drapes,  he hit the snow on his left side as the flames whooshed through the window over him.  The room was on fire.  Inside the room, they would be heading for the door now.  He did not panic.  Getting free of the drapes were not as much of a problem as they might have been.  They had even protected him from the broken glass that he landed on.
 He was on his feet now knowing just what to do, just what he had planned to do should it come to this.  They would be coming from both sides of the inn. They would probably leave one person in the room in case Packner tried to double back.  They would come cautiously knowing he had a weapon and used it brilliantly.  Packner had a reputation.  Unless he succeeded in his back-up plan, that reputation and possibly his life were about to be lost.
 His footprints in the snow would tell his pursuers which way he headed and they would be right behind him.
Packner had no time to lay down false tracks.  The slope he was on had no cover till the trees almost fifty yards away.
 Another precaution Packner had taken for the morning's meeting was to have the window of the room next to the one from which he had just escaped left open.  He knew there was nothing scheduled inside.  Packner opened the window,
climbed in and moved toward the door to the corridor.  There was no point in taking the time to lock the window behind him.  His footprints in the snow would give him away.  What he could do was to remove his shoes.
 He avoided the tables and chairs in the room,  barely noticed the flip chart set up for a later meeting and went through the door, closing it behind him.
 Packner went back to the room he had leapt from, gun in one hand, shoes in the other.  He put down the shoes and had to balance a need for silence with an even greater need to move quickly.
 The door handle was not warm.  The fire was not blazing out of control inside.  He opened the door slowly,
carefully trying to pick up some clue, some idea of whether someone was waiting for him and, if so, whether their attention was focused on the window.
 Tain stood in the far corner, out of sight from the window but not the door.  He was aiming at the window
framed by burning drapes and smoldering wood.  Hotel staff would be rushing in soon.
 Packner fired twice.  It was not totally silent but close enough.  Tain turned away, his head resting for an instant in the corner as if he were a child being punished for unruly behavior, and then he slumped forward.
 "Tain,"  Korchinski's voice came from outside the window.  The drapes and the wooden frame were still blazing.  Korchinski could not see in nor could Packner see out.
 Packner considered answering, but he knew he could not fool Korchinski.  He slipped into his shoes without tying them as Korchinski repeated louder than before,  "Tain."
 If he weren't suspicious already,  he would be in seconds.  Where was the woman?  Were they both outside?
 Packner ran toward the window and, for the second time in five minutes, leapt out, this time through a frame of fire.
 He fired at the figure he sensed to his right and rolled over in the snow.  There was a return shot but it was four or five feet off.  He must have hit Korchinski.
On his stomach now, Packner fired four rapid rounds in the direction of the figure he had seen.  He was only able to see what he was shooting at after the fourth shot.
 Korchinski was on his knees, one hand holding his gun, the other clutching his bleeding neck.  The big man tried to level his gun at Packner but he was gasping for breath and his hand was shaking.  Packner considered firing again, but decided that it wasn't necessary.  The big man fell forward on his face into the snow.
 Where was the woman?
 Packner scanned the area, sitting up as he did so.
She wasn't in sight.  He checked the windows of the inn including the one still burning.  Nothing.  He expected nothing.  Had she been there, he would be dead.
 Voices from inside the burning room.  They were speaking German and they had discovered the obvious, the fire and Tain's body.
 Packner ran to Korchinski's body, took the gun from the dead man's hand, and replaced it with his own gun.
If they checked, which he doubted they would, the local police might conclude that the dead man was responsible for Tain's death.  What they might have a problem with was how Korchinski could have shot himself in the throat. By then, however, Packner would be safe.
 Packner went back through the open window in the room
next to that in which Tain lay dead and the voices in German grew frantic.
 Seated at in a chair in the far right corner was Sandra Freid, her weapon leveled at Packner who stopped.
 "You've been very busy," she said calmly.
 "May I sit?"
 "I don't think you'll have time for that,"  she said.
"You are a very dangerous man."
 "Give me a minute, no more, to speak,"  he said every bit as calm as she was.
 "One minute,"  she said.  "You come to military attention and remain so.  Any movement and..."
 "The English hired me to kill Kadara,"  he said,  "not the Iranians or the Iraqis.  Kadara had been in London the week before and killed an English foreign diplomat. It was all very secret.  The network didn't know.  As for the others,  I didn't kill them.  I was in fact hired by the
Greeks and Italians to find out who it was as I said, to find out who and to eliminate them."
 "I believe you,"  she said.  "The problem is that it doesn't make any difference.  I'm the person you were looking for."
 Packner laughed.
 "Does it strike you that our small world is as mad as the world of the people who hire us and the world as a whole?"
 "It strikes me,"  she said.  "Your minute is up.  If you plan to attempt to dive out of the window or run for the door or...you know the possibilities.  Do it now."
 Her weapon came up.  She held it in two hands, arms extended.
 Packner made the slightest of moves in the direction of the window and then dropped to the floor. Her gun was neither silenced or nor muted.  The people in the burning room heard it.  One man was already dead.  There had been shots fired outside, had, perhaps, already discovered Korchinski's body.  None of the four men were terribly interested in finding out who was firing these new shots.
All three had a good idea that it was whoever had killed
the man in the corner.

 The policeman was sixty-one years old.  There had been only one murder in the thirty-five years he had been in the town and certainly nothing like this.  The policeman
had a small belly and though there was no rule that said
he had to wear his uniform,  Kurt Menges always did so while on duty.
 "And that is what happened?"  asked the policeman.
 They were in the small chalet of the waiter who had served coffee to the four people in the inn.  His name was Frederick.  He did not mention the guns and briefcase in the box in the middle of the room.
 Frederick had worked all of the night before.  His last duty before going home had been to serve the coffee.
This morning he had described the four people in the room.
The policeman already knew that the dead had been registered guests and a check of their rooms revealed
identification cards and passports under various names and countries.  Menges would turn over everything he knew and had to the national police or security,  whoever came first.  He would be happy to be rid of it.  Thank God, none of the dead or the missing survivor and probable murderer were citizens of this town.
 A door opened and a man in a shabby suit came out.
 "My son,"  said Frederick,  "Wilhelm. He came about a month ago.  I'm very proud of him.  He has been saving his money for many years and, keep this a secret, he plans to buy the hotel from Dorfmann."

 The man was bald like his father and even had a small mustache like his father. The similarity was unmistakable.
 "I think I remember him from his last visit,"  said Menges.
 "Pleased to see you again,"  Wilhelm said in German.
 "And you,"  said Menges. "Sorry it is under these circumstances."
 "Can't be helped," said Wilhelm.
 "I suggest you move fast on the hotel," said Menges.
"Offer a down payment.  Dorfmann has been talking about selling for years.  With three murders in one day,  he may be ready to sell very reasonably."
 "That is good advice,  Wilhelm," said the waiter.
 "Well,"  said the policeman with a sigh to indicate that his work was far from done.  "I've talked to everyone at the hotel.  I hope they don't ask me to talk to everyone in town.  My guess is that our killer skied out out through one of the passes and is in Zurich by now."
 The policeman got up and added,
 "I will see you when this is over.  We can have a few beers and not talk.  I am tired of talk.  I don't ski anymore myself,  but if your son wishes..."
 "I don't ski," said the younger man. "But I have always enjoyed my visits and I look forward to finding a nice woman and making this my permanent home."

     -The End-