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A woman moves into one of two cottages hidden in a Hertfordshire wood. When she meets her neighbour she realises that their paths crossed once before. She is a professional assassin - he is a retired detective, witness to a killing she carried out in London. He does not recognise her and as the months pass they form a relationship while she carries out her last assignments but retirement is not as easy as she imagines and forces beyond her control conspire to eliminate her. As she fulfils her assignments she trails behind her an exquisite scent, her perfume, one of the most expensive in the world - Les Eaux de Karnak.


‘Good evening, Madam.’ It is Chauncey, the restaurant manager. ‘May I escort you to your table?’


My instinct tells me to turn and leave but I smile, nod and follow his tall figure across the room to my usual table. He pulls out my chair, seats me, takes up my napkin and spreads it upon my lap. With his charming smile close to my ear he whispers, ‘Police,’ and I pick up the tension in the atmosphere and become aware of an unnatural silence that raises the hair on the back of my neck. Chauncey and I have enjoyed a romantic liaison during the week I have been a guest at this hotel on the beach at Umhlanga, just north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We both knew, from the moment we smiled at each other as I entered the dining room on the first evening of my stay that we would become, shall we say, entwined. I know him to be discreet and honourable so I take his warning seriously.


I carry a device in my head, a meter that registers peril on a scale of five: safe, uneasy, alert, imminent, extreme. Where is the murmur of conversation, so inherent to a dining room’s ambience? Why is there no clatter of cutlery upon china? I glance at the other diners. Children have always been a noisy feature of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Where are they? Where are their parents? Where are the thirty-nine guests that have dined here for the past five evenings? Thirty-nine. I have counted them. Why are they not at their usual tables chatting, eating, scolding their kids for getting ketchup on their clean T-shirts and dropping fries on the carpeted floor? The pointer in my head moves straight to “Alert”. Surely they cannot have ended their holidays and gone home? All of them? On the same day? My choice of this hotel had been deliberate. I wanted plenty of kids to rush about and get underfoot. I had thought no one would imagine a hunted felon would lodge at such a noisy, irritating venue.

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