INSIDE THE DENVER HOME at 209 Walnut Street, a dog with very short legs jumped frantically up and down, struggling to get on the sofa that stood in front of his living room window. Anyone watching the basset hound would have told him that with his short legs and long body, he was attempting the impossible.
He clawed and pulled at the sofa’s seat pillows with his front paws as he dug his right back leg into the loose fabric on its front while his left leg hung limply beneath him. In what would seem nothing short of a miracle, he managed to pull himself onto the sofa, plant his paws on the windowsill, and stand upright. The black Lexus was out front again. The hair on his back stood up. He bared his teeth, growled, and barked loudly.
But the only sound inside the Lexus was the husky voice coming from a man’s phone. The heads of the two men who sat in the car were turned toward a house on the opposite side of Walnut Street, the home of twelve-and-a-half-year- old Pearline Jayne Profitt and her family.
Mr. Hall, the dog’s elderly master, stepped from his shower, threw on his robe, and ran to see what all the loud barking was about. He tripped over a hassock, lifted his right leg, and reached to grab his foot. “Ouch! Quiet, Bernie.”
By the time he had hobbled his way to the sofa, the Lexus had pulled away from the curb and was out of sight. A trembling Bernie sat quietly staring out the window, and his master began gently scratching one of his long, silky ears.
“What is it, Bernie? What’s wrong?”
A dark shadow appeared just below the ceiling in one corner of the room and silently crept down the wall. Bernie turned from the window, tensed, and sounded another warn- ing, this time a very low, very long guttural growl. Something drew his attention to the room doorway, and his body relaxed. He barked a couple of deep, resonant barks and began to wag his tail.
Mr. Hall did not turn to see the silver-haired man who appeared just inside the living room doorway. He wore a deerskin shirt, moccasins, and leggings. His shirt and the breechcloth that hung from his waist were decorated with colored beads. Two thin braids hung on either side of his face among his long straight hair, and a few large feathers stood up from the back of his head. He slowly lifted his arm to point toward the shadow.
The silver-haired man and the shadow disappeared just as a jogger made his way south down the sidewalk directly across the street from Mr. Hall’s house. At the end of the block, he turned the corner heading west away from Walnut Street.
The jogger was soon making his way down an alley where many trees and bushes offered an attacker the element of surprise. When he passed the end of the high, weathered fence on his right, he would have only twelve seconds to observethe backyard and house that would come into view.
After five hundred hours of training, the lanky young man was on his first assignment as a security officer for a global security company providing protection for high-profile clients in high-risk environments. It was a demanding assignment, considering the firm had accepted him into its program only six months earlier.
A threat assessment had been completed by company personnel. The threat was serious because murders had been committed and all indications were that more would be attempted. He stopped short of the end of the fence, bent over, pulled some grass from beside the path, and started to smudge it onto his too-new-looking white running shoes. A crackling sound of twigs being snapped came from the yard of the house that was to be the focus of his attention.
The young man quickly stood up. His right hand went to the gun in the shoulder holster under his running jacket, and he took a step beyond the fence. The move was a gamble that he was not running directly into a dangerousconfrontation.
Just as his front foot landed on the ground, all went black, causing him to stumble and pitch forward. He released his hold on the gun and lifted his arms to right himself. “What the heck?”
The air turned cold. The earsplitting sound of rolling thunder came from nowhere. As he stood shivering in the darkness, someone bumped him from behind and wound something tightly around his ankles. He tried to keep his balance but finally went down, landing hard on the path. When the jarring sound softened and then disappeared, a whisper broke the silence.
“Are you really ready for a job requiring quick action and the possibility of needing to fire your gun into a group of innocent civilians?”
Then the darkness was swallowed up by the bright Colorado sunlight, and in its warmth, his shivering stopped. The global security officer sat with his ankles tightly bound by a leather strap. He grabbed it and unsuccessfully tried to loosen its hold before raising his head and looking into a blinding sun that offered him only the silhouette of two very large figures standing over him.