"I was ready to kill you, Dorothy. I did have the courage in the end." The man looked fondly at the photograph, turning it in his hands, reminding himself of its finish, the unostentatious decoration of the silver frame. It was one of a pair, the other enclosing his own likeness and left on the dressing table which he had refused to touch since that day in Spring.
"I knew how to do it, too." He let the heavy frame lie in his lap and held his right hand up to study it in the gentle light from the desk lamp. It was a strong hand still, he thought. The skin showed some signs of his age - dry here, strangely polished there, lined like the street map of some American city - but it was a hand which could have pressed the button on the morphine delivery machine. And kept on pressing it until the unit was empty. Then after a short wait - perhaps half an hour - it would have picked up the pillow to finish the job.
"Things will be different this time," he murmured, hugging the photograph to his stomach rather than face her again. "I still have the courage, and I won't be late again." Beyond the pool of light which took in one end of the solid wooden desk and the armchair in which he sat, the room was dark. "I have some friends to help me, one of the best..."
He leaned forward to pick up the brandy balloon, gave it a quick swirl in his hand. The subtle colour of the spirit was mysterious in the dull light, and he was at such peace with himself in the silence that when he finally took a sip he felt the warmth moving slowly from his mouth, down his throat and into his stomach, from the everyday to a place where even the nerves sent a different kind of message.
"I have two recruits, Dorothy, to help me finish my work." He took another sip, and closed his eyes. "One of them is willing, unquestioning. He owes me the biggest of favours. The other one, however..."