Montefalco is a small town in Umbria which is quintessentially Italian. It is built at the top of a hill, features ancient and narrow cobblestone streets, and an abundance of good restaurants. Situated in the heart of the Umbrian wine district, it has many local vineyards that produce red wines using either the better-known Sangiovese grapes or the Umbrian unique Sagrantino grape.
Although Montefalco is a tourist location, and welcomes throngs of Europeans and a rising number of Chinese tourists in the summer months, during the rest of the year it is quiet and devoted to pleasing the locals.
On the outskirts of the town is a small stone house where a stranger has lived for several years. The house had been built two centuries previously and while it had significant charm, its age meant that the plumbing and electrics had been added to the walls internally. While they were functional, they were not optimal, and aesthetically, they were tragic. The central heating was minimal and, in winter, small fireplaces in three of the rooms served to boost this; it still required keeping a sweater on. The house had two bedrooms and a single bathroom. It also had a very fast broadband internet connection.
The current occupant was a man of medium height and although obviously strong, he was not heavily muscled. He walked with a slight limp which, his neighbors assumed was from an accident earlier in his life. He was in his late twenties and while he frequented many of the restaurants, he was not very socially active and kept to himself.
He was known to his neighbors as an “Inglese” called Tony Jones.
Each morning, he walked down the short path to his mailbox to check whether he had received any mail. He rarely had any. Besides, his main means of communications was by email or text. He checked these regularly. Again, though he rarely received anything, when he did, he needed to react rapidly and decisively since this was the starting point to earning the income that he needed to live on, and to put towards his retirement.
This morning he had received a few brochures for products and services for which he had no interest and he tossed these into a bin on his way to the second bedroom which he had converted into a study. There he had a high-end laptop computer with a separate large screen and keyboard/mouse combination and a wireless printer. He booted up his PC and saw that his email inbox revealed a waiting message. He stood up, walked to the window and looked out at the lush green of the fields and hilltops and thought back to his earlier homes in the Middle East where it was dusty and hot, even early in the morning.
He accessed the message which was brief and terse. But it was enough to signal that he was being asked to provide a service for one of his clients.
The email read: “Please let me know how best it is to contact you.” It came, in English, from a Gmail account which gave nothing away about the account owner’s identity. However, it was worded in such a way that told him that it was from his partner, Barbara Kraus. It also indicated the ultimate client for whom he would provide the service.
He smiled since this client was a good payer and the services he had performed previously had gone well and had enhanced his reputation.
It had not always been the case. Things that could not be imagined could go wrong and an operation may be less than perfect. The best-laid plans of mice and men, he thought. His mind always went back to a particular operation in Dubai when he had needed two runs at his target to make the kill. The first time, his target was giving a political speech in an outdoor car park. He had the target in the sights of his M24 sniper rifle when some idiot protester shouted insults and the target’s bodyguards hustled him off the stage.
His client had been furious that the chance had been missed but he delivered the killing shot two weeks later at another rally. However, his client had still been annoyed by the delay and he felt a sense of professional disappointment at not fulfilling his contract as originally agreed.
Tony Jones’ real name was Abdul, and he was an assassin. The email communication he had just received signaled the start of a series of events that would impact major players and nations and bring Abdul up against a new enemy – Purple Frog.