Prologue


A gunshot sounded, breaking the eerie silence of the night.

Missed him, by mere inches. Through fear filled eyes, he saw it blow passed him, just a little too far left.

The man running behind him swore, but his footsteps were still hard and steady.

He pushed himself harder, faster, his hands pumping at his side, his fingers curling into fists. He had abandoned his custom made tuxedo jacket long before, and his white dress shirt was stained red with blood. He wasn't an old man, but his pursuer was younger, and in better shape. You didn't need a degree from Oxford, like the one hanging in his office, to know who would win this race.

The pounding footsteps were closer now. His own fancy, leather shoes slipped on the slick cobblestones and he skidded for a moment; his thigh caught on the hard, wet stone and he let out a grunt of pain. He pushed himself back up, without stopping, forcing himself to run.

His heartbeat roared in his ears; blood trickled down from his temples, coating and matting his blonde hair. The world swam hazily before his darkening eyes. Buildings and doorways blew passed him in a blur as his legs thundered of their own will down the alley. He was almost to the street, almost to safety.

He heard the man cock his gun and knew this time he wouldn't miss. The sound of the bullet firing roared in his ears, and he dove, desperately, landing on the cobblestone street with a loud grunt of pain as the bullet slammed into his back.. He had been so close to the street…

He could feel the blood seeping through his clothing; almost dreamlike, he put his hands to his stomach. They came away red and slick with blood. His blood. Fire erupted in his belly and he screamed, loudly. It echoed in the deserted alleyway.

His killer was walking away, no doubt assured that his job was complete. Why waste another bullet? He had already broken his victim's ribs, punched him in the head a few times. A shot to the back would do the trick, no need to hang around.

He rolled on his back, moaning in pain. He regretted his medical training. It was very depressing to be lying in this alley, knowing that the bullet had pierced his stomach, had gone straight through his flesh. He could still move, so it hadn't shattered his spinal cord, but the acid in his stomach would be slowly leaking throughout the rest of his body, slowly poisoning him. The lack of blood too, would do him in.

He would be much more comfortable if he didn't know this, if he thought there was at least some chance of help. His insides were on fire, screaming with fiery pain. He stared desperately, blankly into the sky. His blue eyes flickered from side to side, searching for stars.

From another world, he heard a door open, saw the blazing brightness of a light as the darkness began to creep into his vision. Shrieks of surprise, of horror. Call the police, someone shouted, a woman, and had he not been near death, he would have rolled his eyes. Oh, right. Call the police. Fat load of good that'll do, now.

A face peered into his. Beautiful gray eyes.

"He shot me," he told the eyes. The gray eyes belonged to a face, a girl's face.

The face nodded. "I know."

Her voice was soft, quiet. Soothing.

"I'm dying," he told the face honestly.

The girl nodded, cradling his head in her lap.

"I know," she whispered again, her voice thick.

"Did you see the man who shot me?" he asked, grimacing. His face was flushed bright red with pain, and his warm, sticky blood was seeping into her clothes.

"I saw him," she said truthfully, shifting so his head rested more comfortably.

"Are you going to tell the police who it was?"

She hesitated, unwilling to lie to a dying man; "Would you mind terribly if I didn't?"

He gave a slight chuckle; but it jarred his ribs and caused a wave of intense pain to rock through his abdomen. He gasped as blank spots appeared and danced before his eyes. "No," he whispered, with the glimmer of a twisted smile, that he forced onto his face through the pain. "Because I'll already be dead, and he could still come after you."

He exhaled slowly, trying to move his fingers. He couldn't.

"Will you stay with me?" he asked, his lips becoming numb. He grit his teeth against the pain, blinking back feverish tears. "Will you pray for me?"

The sad gray eyes blinked at him; her hands were cool on his forehead. "I'll stay with you," she promised her voice like a caress. "And when you get to heaven, you can pray for me."

He turned his face into the warmth of her lap, feeling his legs began to seize up. He was so tired and in so much pain. His entire body felt alternately like he was freezing and on fire; he was becoming slightly delirious, but unfortunately, was still aware of where he was and what was happening.

A few minutes passed; water was dripping from the rooftops.

"What's your name?" he asked, beginning to shiver.

"Amy," she replied quietly. His eyes were blurring. He couldn't focus in on her face.

"Amy," he repeated, beginning to cough. He gasped for breath. "Amy..my name is William."

"Hello, William," she said shakily, and a tear fell on his face.

"No, no—" he coughed. "Don't cry. Don't. What do you have to cry about? I'm the dying one."

He thought he saw a watery smile. But he wasn't sure. Her cool fingers were stroking his forehead.

"Amy," he gasped. "I'm going soon. Could you do me a favor?"

"Of course," she whispered.

He gestured with a limp hand towards his pants pocket. "There is a letter in there. Give it to my brother."

Amy nodded. "Of course."

He was struggling to speak now.

"T-tell him…t-tell him…"

"Tell him what?" she whispered, encouraging, leaning closer over him. "Tell him what?"

"Tell h-him…"

But the body in her arms was suddenly limp and cold. She shook him, slightly, then harder, but there was nothing.

Amy blinked back tears, blood all over her arms and legs. Gingerly, she reached into his pants pocket, and pulled out a rumpled, yellow letter.

She crumpled it tightly in her hand and leaning down, held his wrist, checking for a pulse. There was none.

William was dead.