"Marco Bellus is a very charming man."
Tanya picked up the folder her boss had dramatically pushed across the desk with the tip of one forefinger, and began sifting through it. She pulled a photograph from off the cover of the background report.
"And handsome," she said, studying the flamboyant Italian-born gangster revealed in the grainy picture.
Jeff Richter snorted dismissively. "Even better looking in real life, so they say, but that's the best shot we could get of him. The iron curtain of secrecy has been extended to cover signor Bellus by our counter-parts in Moscow, and now the only way anyone gets to see him is if he wants to see them first. That's where you come in. There's a TWA flight leaving for Malpensa, Italy, from JFK in exactly 93 minutes. You're going to be on it."
"Time for my special services?" Tanya all but purred the question. "Personal contact, and then?"
"And then... the men upstairs want him dead."
The bare flicker of an emotion troubled the icy calm of Tanya's face. She nodded. "There's something we need to discuss first," she said.
"You can speak freely, " Jeff said. "You know that."
Tanya twisted to glance at the door behind her, as though she was expecting someone to burst in.
Jeff buzzed the intercom on his desk. "Kathy, no interruptions for the next half hour, please."
"Yes, mister Richter," came the tinny reply.
"Good enough?" Jeff asked. The first bullet convulsed him where he sat, pluming red from his breast, the second snapped his head back, throwing the glasses from his face.
Mechanically, Tanya removed the silencer from the Beretta and stashed both items in her clasp-bag, then she left the office.
"He doesn't want to be disturbed until further notice," she said to Kathy, her voice cracking towards the end of the sentence. Kathy idly wondered why she seemed so upset, but it hardly registered and she was soon giving Movieland her full attention again.
Everything was sitting ready in her car in preparation for the alternative flight she had booked to Italy two days earlier, but first she found a pay-phone in a diner a few miles from the airport.
Her head was spinning, reality catching up to the situation, as she traced out the numbers on the dial.
"It's done," she said. The line went dead. "Marco? Marco?"
Her head was pounding now, blood jack-hammering at her temples, and as the stuffiness of the crowded diner pressed in on her she clawed at her throat, desperately trying to breathe the super-heated air. The phone fell from her other twisted hand, and she slumped to the floor.
It wasn't until two days after she died in hospital that they were able to identify the poison that had killed her. The same contact toxin they were to discover hidden in Jeff Richter's house more than a week after that.
Marco Bellus was a very charming man.