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The residence of 12 Clove Garden was a stunning brick manor floating atop an adequately sized sea of emerald grass. No lights shone from the wide windows, leaving the manor adrift on the verdant waters. The brick steps were swept of leaves. A weeping willow dominated the grounds, its thin branches weaving in the coastal breeze. Ivy crept along the southern walls. In the moonlight, the manor was an eerie but beautiful sight to behold.

Located in the affluent Winfield neighborhood of Verweald's western residential district, 12 Clove Garden sported five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a two-car garage, a bricked drive, a modern kitchen, and a detached guesthouse opposite the pool with its own private garden.

Of course, Janet Ling knew the precise specification of the manor because she owned it. And because she had killed for it. Literally.

Janet sat in her vintage Jaguar outside the garage. The garage was vacant; Hu wasn't home yet. The house remained dark as it patiently awaited the return of its tenants, and Janet blew smoke out the open car window before snubbing her spent cigarette. The blue ambiance of her cell phone illuminated the flawless beauty of her face and glittered in her narrow eyes. Janet drew a manicured nail along the swell of her lower lip, perfecting the smudged gloss.

Like her boss, Janet Ling was all about appearances.

"The authorities are scouring K.I.I. files for discrepancies, convinced the motive lies within the corporation's business dealings," Grace Amoroth said, her words humming with ferocity through the static on the line. "Naturally, they won't discover any of those potential discrepancies, but the company's, ah, extracurricular retainers will have to conduct their business with extreme delicacy. Do you understand me, Janet?"

"Yes, ma'am," Janet said, frustrated and frowning. Even with her numerous connections within the hitman community, Janet didn't know the identity of the Klau Killer. No one did—and the bastard was cutting into Janet's bottom-line. As a low-profile retainer on Klau's payroll, Janet and her activities were coming under scrutiny. Everyone was, but not everyone was a white-collar assassin like Janet.

"Good. Take a vacation. I'll call when your services are needed again." Klau's CEO hung up. Disgusted, Janet chucked the phone into her designer bag. If given the opportunity, she would gut the Klau Killer for jerking business out from under her heels.

Janet exited the car and made her way to the back entrance through the yard gate. She lit another cigarette, exhaling thin clouds as she walked and admired the velvet reflections of moonlight upon the pool's placid surface. The smell of jasmine floated across the water from the guesthouse garden. She finished smoking and headed inside.

She went into the kitchen without turning on the lights, plopping her purse onto the island counter. It hit the granite with an unexpected thud. Janet began to open the refrigerator before remembering Hu was supposed to bring takeout home with him. She sighed and rubbed her stiff neck. Her husband was late. As usual.

A thump sounded upstairs. Janet's eyes snapped open as her body tensed. Though the noise was subtle, it came again, echoing from the room above the kitchen. Janet's office. She went to her purse and unclipped the clasp as she stared at the ceiling, gaze fixated on the faultless surface. She retrieved the small .22 caliber pistol without looking away.

The foyer opened onto two mirrored halls and two separate sets of stairs. The mezzanine above overlooked the foyer and the chic chandelier hung from the open space above. From the ground floor, Janet could crane her neck and see the door to her office. It was open. She never left it open. Janet shed her spiked heels and swiftly maneuvered through the dark house, her feet silent upon the polished hardwood. She held the gun up, prepped and ready. She had forgotten the silencer in her haste but would have to make do without.

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