Hard Work never fails

Topics: 2007 singles, 2006 singles, Ciara Pages: 196 (58015 words) Published: December 24, 2013
The Naked Face
Sidney Sheldon

To the Women in my life Jorja

Chapter One

At ten minutes before eleven in the morning, the sky
exploded into a carnival of white confetti that instantly
blanketed the city. The soft snow turned the already frozen
streets of Manhattan to grey slush and the icy December wind herded the Christmas shoppers towards the comfort of their
apartments and homes.
On Lexington Avenue the tall, thin man in the yellow rain
slicker moved along with the rushing Christmas crowd to a
rhythm of his own. He was walking rapidly, but it was not
with the frantic pace of the other pedestrians who were
trying to escape the cold. His head was lifted and he seemed oblivious to the passers-by who bumped against him. He was
free after a lifetime of purgatory, and he was on his way
home to tell Mary that it was finished. The past was going to bury its dead and the future was bright and golden. He was
thinking how her face would glow when he told her the news.
As he reached the corner of Fifty-ninth Street, the traffic
light ambered its way to red and he stopped with the
impatient crowd. A few feet away, a Salvation Army Santa
Claus stood over a large kettle. The man reached in his
pocket for some coins, an offering to the gods of fortune. At that instant someone clapped him on the back, a sudden

stinging blow that rocked his whole body. Some overhearty
Christmas drunk trying to be friendly.
Or Bruce Boyd. Bruce, who had never known his own strength
and had a childish habit of hurting him physically. But he
had not seen Bruce in more than a year. The man started to
turn his head to see who had hit him, and to his surprise,
his knees began to buckle. In slow motion, watching himself
from a distance, he could see his body hit the sidewalk.
There was a dull pain in his back and it began to spread. It became hard to breathe. He was aware of a parade of shoes
moving past his face as though animated with a life of their own. His cheek began to feel numb from the freezing sidewalk He knew he must not lie there. He opened his mouth to ask
someone to help him, and a warm, red river began to gush out and flow into the melting snow. He watched in dazed
fascination as it moved across the sidewalk and ran down into the gutter. The pain was worse now, but he didn't mind it so much because he had suddenly remembered his good news. He was free. He was going to tell Mary that he was free. He closed

his eyes to rest them from the blinding whiteness of the sky. The snow began to turn to icy sleet, but he no longer felt

Chapter Two

Carol Roberts heard the sounds of the reception door
opening and closing and the men walking in, and before she
even looked up, she could smell what they were. There were
two of them. One was in his middle forties. He was a big
mother, about six foot three, and all muscle. He had a
massive head with deep-set steely blue eyes and a weary,
humourless mouth. The second man was younger. His features
were clean-cut, sensitive. His eyes were brown and alert. The

two men looked completely different and yet, as far as Carol was concerned, they could have been identical.
They were fuzz. That was what she had smelled. As they
moved towards her desk she could feel the drops of
perspiration begin to trickle down her armpits through the
shield of anti-perspirant. Frantically her mind darted over
all the treacherous areas of vulnerability. Chick? Christ, he had kept out of trouble for over six months. Since that night in his apartment when he had asked her to marry him and had
promised to quit the gang.
Sammy? He was overseas in the Air Force, and if anything
had happened to her brother, they would not have sent these
two mothers to break the news. No, they were here to bust
her. She was carrying grass
in her purse, and some loudmouthed prick had rapped about
it. But why two of them? Carol tried to tell herself that
they could...
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