Reginald Roth laments his daughter's death and vows revenge on the man who killed her--J.B. Carver. Roth hires an ammoral hitman to assassinate Carver, but the killer delights in torturing Carver little by little before finally enjoying what he calls the "thrill of the kill."
Meanwhile, Carver is trying to reconcile with Lucille Winters, whom he spurned the previous year. In that time Carver came to realize that her love was the most important part of his life, and he is now willing to do anything he can to get that love back.
Set with a backdrop of a terrible civil war that is tearing their country apart, how can Carver possibly survive a man with endless riches at his disposal and a master of death, and somehow regain the love of Lucille Winters?
When Reginald Roth saw the dead man on the floor, he could only think of John B. Carver. Envisioning Carver’s face flickering in the hot fire, his glassy eyes staring at nothing as his life left his body, Roth was not repulsed but rather thrilled. It was an ebullience that Roth never thought he’d feel again after his dear daughter Charlotte had been murdered by that despicable Carver. Soon his body would be at Roth’s feet.
The young man’s corpse lay before the fireplace in Roth’s cottage outside Columbus. Situated east over the Scioto River, Roth had used it in the past as a retreat from his Columbus ironworks, but now he was loaning it to a business acquaintance. A man who took pleasure in murdering young men in cottages. A murderous Irish immigrant named Elijah Sullivan.
He had used Sullivan in the past, most recently to dispatch a troublesome employee in his mill who dared attempt to organize the workers to lobby for better working conditions. Now Roth had a new assignment for his Irish killer, and the body on the floor was only a harbinger of what was to come.
“My thanks for allowing me the privilege of using your abode,” Sullivan said in a cheerful tone void of any traces of his Irish lineage. He glanced down at the body and said, “We have what we needed from him. He was of no further use to us.”
Roth heard the perverted excitement in Sullivan’s voice. The man truly enjoyed ending lives. He would be the perfect choice to dispose of John B. Carver.
There was no sympathy for the young man on the floor as his blood drained onto Roth’s opulent multicolored Oriental rug; he was just another casualty in a hard world. America was entering the second year of a violent civil war and death was in the air. Roth had felt death’s cruelty; he had just recently been touched by its cold harshness.
Charlotte Roth was dead. The tycoon’s only child was a victim of maddened love. Roth’s child was taken from him by a Union agent named Carver. She had made the mistake of loving the wrong man, and for that Carver had shot her dead. Roth would avenge her soul, and Sullivan would be his instrument of vengeance.
“You’re certain of the prudence of killing this boy here?” asked Roth. The wooden floorboards creaked as he paced upon them.
“You’re certain nobody saw him coming here?”
“Nobody saw him coming here,” Sullivan replied. “I followed his path from the main road, more than three miles through the brush. He followed my instructions impeccably.”
“Then why kill him?” Roth asked.
Sullivan’s eyes flared in the crackling fire. “Why not?”
Roth smiled and envisioned Sullivan doing the same to Carver.
The two bodyguards stood near the cottage door. Roth turned to be certain they were within a reasonable distance before he approached Sullivan. “You’ve been hired for your ruthlessness,” Roth said, “and you’ve already amply demonstrated that. I’d be interested in any information you obtained from the messenger before you disposed of him.”
“He arrived under cover of darkness,” Sullivan said as he rubbed his thick beard. His droopy eyelids masked the brutality within. “He performed his task competently, and he reported diligently.” The strong scent of peppermint oil caught Roth’s nostrils. He turned his nose and stepped away from Sullivan and his oiled hair. “The man located our quarry in Cincinnati at a place called Burke’s Inn.”
“Quarry” was the established euphemism for John B. Carver. Roth liked the term, as it aptly described what he wanted Carver to become—a hunted animal who would ultimately be cornered and captured and slowly killed for the savagery he’d unleashed upon poor Charlotte.
The room was dark and empty, save for the hearth and the men standing near the fire. Roth’s bodyguards were invisible in the darkness behind them. The flickering flames cast grotesque shadows on the wood paneled walls of the cabin.
“What exactly do you propose?” Roth asked as he paced. Rarely could he keep still.
“I prefer to keep the details confidential,” Sullivan said. “For your protection, that is. A contingency to prevent any future events from being traced to you. All I will say is that considering our quarry is a resourceful man, I have several courses of action in mind in the event that something doesn’t go precisely according to plan. I assure you that nothing will be left to chance.”
Roth nodded. Nothing else mattered to him now. Not his riches, not his factories, not the war. He wanted Carver dead, and he always got what he wanted. John B. Carver must die.
Roth looked down at the corpse at Sullivan’s feet and again imagined that it was John B. Carver. Roth closed his eyes and saw Carver’s rough thin face gazing up at him, begging for mercy. He saw Carver’s square chin quiver and tremble at the notion of painful death descending upon him. When Roth envisioned thrusting his broadsword into Carver’s black heart, he was invigorated. All the pain that Carver had caused would be erased with his death. Roth opened his eyes and saw Sullivan watching him. So unpredictable, so vicious, those soft eyes made Roth uncomfortable. Roth was grateful he was paying Sullivan well, otherwise Sullivan would be a treacherous foe.
“You are correct,” said Roth, “the less I know of your plans the better. I want the quarry taken alive if possible. I want to see his wretched face before justice is served. If he cannot be taken alive, I want to see his body and know that my daughter has not died in vain.”
Sullivan removed his slouch hat and bowed. “Your obedient servant.”
Roth turned back to his bodyguards and motioned for them to open the cottage door. They would leave and allow Sullivan to tend to the grisly business at hand.