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The Mediterranean sun blanketed the forest of tables, lacing their parasol canopy.  Only the waiter, off to the side, disturbed the courtyard's tranquillity.  Tyler, the sole patron, ignored him, his attention on the gate to the quiet side street.  He spared a glance at his watch.  In another minute his guest would be uncharacteristically late.

A languid movement to his side turned him to again dismiss the waiter.  He stopped short as Foile took the seat opposite.  The white suit and shirt, glaring where they caught the sun, appeared as immaculate as his dark hair, but those flat eyes drew focus from an unremarkable face.

"Mister Tyler," said Foile, his tone silk dragged over gravel.

He'd almost forgotten the disquieting stillness of the man.  Irritated by the wrinkles of his own clothes, a light grey suit, and the sweat not mirrored on that face, he strove to at least match the steel in those eyes.  "Our employer's unhappy."

"The assignment for which your employer contracted me is complete."

"Not to their satisfaction."

"To their specifications, it is.  They wished a country killed.  It has been."

Tyler selected his words, careful not to run his hand over his freshly shaved head as it itched in the heat.  "The contract was to eliminate the government."

"No."  Foile turned, signalling the waiter.  "While the government was declared a problem, the actual wording, if you recall, was that they wished the country killed.  I'd hardly emerge from retirement for something as prosaic as killing a few politicians."

As the waiter disappeared from sight, Tyler's suspicious gaze returned to Foile.  "The government is the country."

A faint, indecipherable, smile graced Foile's lips.  "The government is not the country.  A few may remain in power long enough to become inseparable from national identity, but most nations, Trensavia included, would hardly adopt a new name with each administration.  Does national identity truly change that much between governments?  No, at most a government is the brain, or maybe just the state of mind.  Either way, directing the activities of the nation is its primary role."

"A brain-dead country would've been fine."

"Many live contented lives with little sign of brain activity," Foile sniffed.  "But after a period of instability, another government would have emerged, and Trensavia would still exist as a country."

Tyler maintained an amicable tone, not wanting to irritate him.  "A new government which we'd have ensured was amenable to our interests."

"Then your employer would seem to have erred in contracting me to kill the country."

The waiter arrived, laying a pair of cups before them.  Tyler held his tongue until they were alone.  "I've tried contacting you for the last year.  They're also unhappy about your isolation."

Foile sipped his drink.  "No time limit was placed on the contract, and I stated at our previous meeting there would be no contact until the job was completed.  The research alone took five months.  You could hardly expect such an undertaking to be the work of an afternoon."

Cautious that his irritation and the heat wouldn't inflame his temper, Tyler raised the cup to his lips, halting just short, his eyes flicking between Foile and the waiter.  The assassin's eyes showed nothing beyond possible amusement.  Poison wasn't his usual weapon of choice.  And he had little to gain from eliminating the messenger.  Refusing to back down, Tyler sipped the liquid.  It seemed okay.  "So you believe you've succeeded?  Seems to me Trensavia's still there."

"It's dead.  But with its brain isolated it has yet to realize the fact."

"You think discrediting the politicians was enough to neutralize the brain?"

"Compromising secrets leaked to the media, stretched over the course of the assassination to maintain the wound, while somewhat sadistic, served to erode public confidence.  And strategic revelations alienated them from the military, so that when the situation descended into civil war, they could exercise little control over the situation.  The politicians were the easiest to neutralize, and only a few revelations required fabrication."

Since Foile seemed eager to orate, it could make getting the information their employer wanted easier.  He'd just need to guide the conversation and not irritate the killer.  "The unrest was down to you?"

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