The sound of the pistol shot was like a physical blow within the confines of the conference room. Buck Williams looked at the gun in his hands like he'd never known such things existed, watched as it slipped from his grasp and fell to the floor with a metallic clunk. Saw the gun lying there on the tiled floor, saw the thin streamer of blood flowing past it. His eyes followed the blood like tracing a river upstream on a map, until they reached the body of Nicholae Carpathia with a ragged hole in its chest. It seemed as though the blankly staring eyes were looking directly at him, as though the death rictus twisting the mouth was a grin, and Carpathia was sharing a secret joke.
"Jesus, Buck, what the hell did you do that for?"
Buck looked up. Every eye in the conference room was on him. He focused on the face of Hattie Durham as she spoke. "That was the frickin' Secretary General of the United Nations, Buck! What the hell were you thinking?"
"I . . . don't know," was all Buck could say.
Jonathan Stonagal's mouth was a thin, hard line. "I'm going to have to call the police, Buck."
The police! Buck felt the first twinges of panic rising. They would arrest him, send him to prison, perhaps even execute him! Did they have the death penalty in New York? As Stonagal pulled a cell phone from his jacket pocket, Buck blurted out, "No!"
Stonagal's hand froze, then slowly replaced the phone. His features smoothed out into an expressionless stare. "What should I do then, Buck?"
It took some time for Buck to realize what was happening. Stonagal was doing what Buck told him to do!
"Get out!" Buck ordered. "Get out of here. Go back to your office. Forget you saw anything happen."
His face still without expression, Stonagal rose from his chair and walked out of the room. To the others in the room, Buck repeated, "All of you, get out of here, and forget you saw anything happen!" Every face in the room mirrored Stonagal's blank expression as the others rose as one and walked out, ignoring the bleeding corpse on the floor.
When he was alone in the room, Buck looked back down at Carpathia's body. It seemed to him that he could hear the Romanian's voice. You have conquered, Buck. All that I had is yours. What is your will?
Becoming conscious of the power he now commanded, Buck Williams smiled at the thought that he would never have to sweat another story deadline ever again.
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