Chapter One: Meet Paul Farrington

Paul Farrington was a face-to-face guy. Want to talk business? Set up a meet. He didn’t mess with texting, conference calls, or e-mails. Nothing traceable.

Except when it came to family. Madge, his source of marital bliss for 23 years, and Isabella, his precious jewel, liked to talk on the cell before bed when they weren’t all home together, so here he was driving with a Bluetooth jammed into his ear.

"Hon, I get the picture, lots of rich people on and off campus. Still, she’ll fit in."

Two blocks from their home, the GPS screen mounted on his beloved Caddie’s dashboard blinked red three times. The modifications Brisbane had made were paying off, alerting him that someone had tripped the perimeter monitors on his property.

Farrington cut the headlights, spun the wheel sharply right, and plunged the car off the street and onto Mrs. Ferguson’s driveway. Sweet old gal would be sleeping for hours by now; no worries about borrowing her space. "Bottom line: did she like Yale?"

"With reservations, yes. Izzie wants to see the other campuses before making any decisions."

He popped the modified GPS off its dashboard perch and secured it right over his watch face. "That’s my girl," he smiled, tapping a button that caused the blinking light to be replaced with a directional indicator that pointed northeast and read .25 mi. "And, hey, we need to start calling her Isabella; what kind a name is Izzie for an Ivy Leaguer?"

"Don’t set your heart on it, sweetie, Izzie and I were just talking about whether we can even afford any of these colleges."

Switching off the interior car light, he opened the car door silently, slipped out, crept to the rear of the vehicle, popped the trunk soundlessly. "’Bella wrote a perfect score on the SATs, hon; she’s going to a top school. I’ll delay retirement a few years, so what? We will afford whatever she needs, and that’s final."
Farrington quietly shifted two pieces of luggage, allowing him to extract a 50 caliber Action Express Desert Eagle, personally modified by Brisbane with a silencer equal in length to the monster handgun.

"Whatever you say," Madge yawned, signaling both surrender and the beginning of their cherished nightly ritual.

He screwed the gun parts together. Now the gun looked like he was carrying a short cane. "So tomorrow you two head up to Boston, scout the colleges we agreed upon. If I can get an extra few days off, I’ll join you. If not, we switch luggage at Newark Airport Friday at 1700 hours, and fly out on Continental at 1800. I got your warm weather stuff all packed and in the trunk already."

"Our clothes will be a million wrinkles!"

He slid night vision goggles over his eyes. "Not the way I pack, hon. Semper Fi, baby."

"Izzie reserves the right to have everything pressed when we get to Disney World."

"You women have no faith in military training. Our schedules all set, boss?"

"Yes, thank you."

"So, we ready for goodnight smooches?"

She blew him a kiss. He did the same, then killed the line. One of the keys to success in their marriage was never saying goodbye; they just let the bliss continue.

Farrington pocketed the Bluetooth, turned off the cell, then disappeared silently into the foliage leading to his upper Rockland County home. He took his time, moving without sound toward the invader.

Fact was senior partners at The Company had been dropping lately due to "heart attacks," "aneurisms," and other natural causes from which rich people weren’t supposed to die. This little visit confirmed his suspicions; someone was orchestrating a sophisticated, silent coupe. And whomever it was had realized Farrington would be contracted for defense. Eliminating him was an understandable objective. But at his home? Where his wife slept? Where his daughter felt safe? Big mistake.

He approached their property from behind that little gurgling artificial waterfall Madge recently had installed. He never understood the attraction but the sound covered his approach; at least now he could write it off as a business expense.

He saw his target 50 feet away, laying in wait among those rose bushes Madge tended over slavishly. The would-be hit man was young. "Trying to burn the old man, huh," Farrington thought, bristling just a bit. "Take my place?" He raised the Eagle, using both hands to prep for the horse kick to come, and aimed for the assassin’s trigger hand. "You ain’t burning me, kid," he smirked at the notion, "I got bills."

Even with the extensive silencer, the shot sounded like muffled thunder. The assassin’s hand exploded. To his credit, the younger man came up firing with his other.

Admirable, but one calm trigger squeeze from Farrington and the shooter was headless. Couldn’t have bullets flying through neighbors windows; it would draw attention. Too bad about the kid’s head, though, Farrington noted. He would have liked to question the guy as he bled out, confirm who’d done the hiring, trim down his own To Do list.

The problem was clear, the solution simple. If his genius daughter, currently a high school junior, was going Ivy League as he dreamed, Farrington needed to work. Private special ops never made anyone a millionaire, despite what Hollywood movies suggested, and his line of employment didn’t come with 501ks, pension plans, disability or annuities. Unwilling to drain the nest egg to pay college expenses, he had to sustain the income his family was used to, and he was now too old to go out on the open market. Demolition guys, cleaners, fixers, black ops from the Iraq and Afghanistan messes were crowding the field these days. Sure, no one had the whole package like he did, but they were younger, worked cheaper, and were less demanding — a blight on the profession, to be honest, and a pain in his ass. Bottom line, he’d have to remove anyone who might have knowledge of this contract. It was the right thing to do; remove the obstacle set before his family. Simple logic.

The Company was about to get an overhaul, and he would not let it stick to him.

Breaking his no business calls policy, Farrington speed-dialed a number, listened to the pre-recorded greeting, then said, "Connect with IS – 3860."

A whirr, a click, and a hum later, he heard Brisbane’s perennially cheerful voice. "Scrambling are we? How Jack Bauer of you."

"We still on for tomorrow night?"

"Of course. Rich old sods rocking at 8, yes?"

"Let’s get there a bit earlier. I need to go shopping."

"Identity theft! How delicious."

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