Alastair Stone was having a pleasant dream.
It was very late. The house was dark and silent, save for the tiny sounds of the grandfather clock tolling the half-hour far off in the distance, the light wind blowing outside, and the normal creaking noises of a settling old house. None of these disturbed Stone as he slept in his leather chair, his head bowed over his chest. In the fireplace, the last traces of the embers died away with the sound of the clock.
He was dreaming of a woman, standing there in front of him, silently smiling down. She was beautiful, ethereal...He felt he should know her, but he could not place her face—each time he tried, it changed. He could smell her perfume, hear the rustling of her long dress. In a soft, seductive voice, she whispered, "Wake up, Alastair..."
In his sleep, Alastair Stone smiled. She was so beautiful...Lightly, her hand brushed his shoulder, shaking him with almost no force, like the wind. Again, the persuasive, sexy voice, husky and inviting: "Alastair, wake up...It's time to die now..."
Time to die now... What an odd thing for her to say. Languidly, he stretched and changed position in the chair. Time to die...such a strange thing... Slowly and with great reluctance, he came awake—
His eyes widened at what he saw before him. He stiffened, instantly fully awake, but an iron-strong hand clamped over his mouth before he could call out. He stared at the intruder with eyes full of fear and sudden recognition as the figure bent over him, laughing quietly to itself...