The Mirror Maze
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     She was tall and slim, with silky, platinum hair sweeping across one side of her face to her shoulder. Her eyes were a vivid green, which in strong light seemed to take on an inner iridescence of their own, like those of a nocturnal predatory animal. Her penthouse looked down over Madison Avenue just south of New York's Central Park. In the select, anonymous circles that engaged her professional services from time to time, she was known as "The Lynx."
     Outside, the evening was cool. It had just turned November. The Lynx sat as she had for the last fifteen minutes, gazing at the eight-by-eleven inch picture propped on the red leather top of the fitted desk unit at one end of the sunken lounge area. Around her lay the notes and instructions that she had studied, and to one side, the large yellow envelope that the dossier had arrived in earlier that day by special courier. She sat, slowly allowing her mind to blend the information with the face and to absorb the personality that she felt emerging. "Yes, now I think I'm starting to know you," she murmured.
     She got up and crossed the room to mix herself a martini, very dry—just enough to wet the olive—at the bar by the window. Than she tapped a command for a Mahler symphony into the pad lying on the bar, and stood for a moment watching the evening traffic below as she took her first sip. As the opening bars of the music swelled to fill the room, she returned to the couch and sat down again to resume contemplating the face staring back at her from the photograph.
     It was a pretty face, of a girl in her mid-twenties, with long, straight, fair hair, lean, nicely proportioned features that showed her cheekbones and accentuated he straight nose, a with mouth with soft outlines, and pale skin. "A pity," the Lynx murmured aloud, and sipped her drink again. She took in the soft curve of the chin and innocent roundness of the eyes, brightening with the beginnings of a smile. "I think I would rather have enjoyed seducing you instead. Have you ever had a woman for a lover, I wonder?" The Lynx wondered idly who would pay fifty thousand dollars to kill a physicist, and why.
     Some people who didn't understand the business thought that it wasn't good to get involved emotionally with one's assignments or to know too much about them. But the Lynx liked to know everything about them. Somehow the intimacy made the eventual finale not so much an execution as a consummation. The ability to keep the professional aspects of the job in a separate compartment of the mind was one reason why some of the best assassins were women. Another, of course, was the comparative ease with which they could lure many of the victims into secluded and vulnerable situations. But that was really ancillary. The main reason was that men were too emotional.
     Originally from East Germany, she had been trained and taught how to kill by the East German military intelligence service, in effect a local subsidiary of the KGB. By supplying her with false papers and a carefully prepared cover identity to reside in the West, they had provided the perfect opportunity for her to vanish and put as much distance between herself and the eastern frontier as possible. Now she was safely ensconced in the West under a new name, and, following the precepts of her new host country, dutifully devoting her talents and her training to the cause of private enterprise.
     The phone rang. She stretched out an arm and lifted the handset. The video circuit was already switched out. "Hello?"
     "This is Hilda."
     "Hey, baby! It's Max."
     "Max, darling. So good to hear from you."
     "Look, I've still got those tickets. I said I'd call you the day before the show, remember? So this is the night. How are you fixed?"
     "The show is tomorrow?"
     "Don't tell me you forgot."
     "No, I didn't forget. But I must have got the weeks confused."
     "You're not saying you can't make it? You'll break my heart. I'll jump off a bridge."
     "Oh Max, you idiot!"
     "No, seriously, you're not tied up, are you?"
     "Something has come up, I'm afraid. I have to go out of town for a few days, maybe a week."
     "Oh no. . . . What am I supposed to do?"
     "Come on. I'm sure you have a black book full of numbers of pretty girls who'd love to keep you company."
     "There's no way you can put it off?"
     "I'm sorry, Max. No, there isn't."
     "How about dinner next Friday, then?"
     "Make it the Friday after. I said I might be away for a week."
     "That's firm? No maybes."
     "It's firm. I promise."
     "Okay, I'll call in the meantime, just in case you're back sooner."
     "You're a sweetie."
     "So long for now, then, eh, beautiful?"
     "I'll see you in a week, Max. Behave yourself."
     "Huh? What the hell for? What kind of a life would that be?"
     "Take care, then. Good bye, Max."
     The Lynx hung up the receiver but kept her hand on it, thinking to herself for a few seconds and glancing at the papers from the dossier, strewn around her on the couch. The she picked the receiver up again, called the directory page onto the screen facing the couch from beside the bureau, and tapped in a number.
     "United Airlines ticketing. This is Mavis. Can I help you?"
     "Hello, Mavis, yes. I'd like to book a flight to Denver as early tomorrow as you can manage,
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