There was a sharp tug on her heart strings as she glanced at the old photograph. The loving, mirth-filled eyes of a small boy in a sailor suit stared back at her from the yellowed paper. So innocent. How could she have known what kind of person he would turn out to be? She put the picture back facedown into the small, intricately carved cedar box . She closed the box filled with trinkets and momentos of her past. The past could not be altered. She slipped the box back into her drawer.

But the future could, she thought as she withdrew a slim silvery case. She opened it to reveal a shiny, black, doubled barrelled flint-lock pistol snuggled in crimson velvet. It had a mother-of-pearl inlaid handle and gold filigree along the barrel. A present. From him. For her personal protection. Now she she would use the gift against the giver not for her own protection but for the protection of the nation.

As she removed the gun and felt the cold weight of it in her hands, she closed her eyes wishing for what seemed to be the hundredth time that that someone else could take on the task that needed to be done. Someone whose heart was stronger, someone who didn't remember the sweet contagious laugh, nor the muddy faced kisses nor the golden-haired sleeping angel. But it had to be her. No one else could get as close. There was no one else he trusted as much. It was perhaps justice also. For who else had suffered as she had. To be forced to watch in silence as the boy became the man became the monster.

She slipped the gun into a secret pocket in the folds of her dress, put the metallic case away and stode out of the room.