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"Excuse me," Remo told Smith. "Wait here." He jumped lightly over the boardwalk railing, down onto the hot sand, and ran over to the little girl and the wreckage of the castle.

Tears streamed down her cheeks. She looked at Remo with hurt in her face.

"You were 'upposed to watch out for dragons," she said. "And now look what happened."


"Don't get on my case," Remo said. "We're not married yet. Anyway, we'll fix it up again."

"We will?"

"You betcha," Remo said. He sent the girl to fill her pail with water, and with skilled hands, he quickly rebuilt the castle, even taller and grander than before. As he worked, the girl rocked from foot to foot, watching him, barely able to contain her happiness.

When he was done, she looked at him with love, and he brushed the tears from her eyes. She said, "You know I'm not allowed to get married. My big sister Ardaff said I'm too little."

"I know," Remo said.

"But when I'm bigger, I'll marry you."

"I hope so," Remo said.

"Because you're nice," the girl said.

"Thank you," Remo said. He stood up. "Now, you play here and have a nice time, because I have to go."

"Do you want to go?"

"No," said Remo. "But I've got something to do."

"Will I see you again?"

"No," Remo said.

"Oh," she said, accepting that with the resignation of children to whom most of Ufe is still a sad surprise. "I love you."

"I love you, too," Remo said.

He walked away from the girl, down toward the next beach where a cove created by two long rock jetties caught the waves and created enough turmoil from the usually placid ocean to allow for minor-league surfboarding.

The big blond surfer stood on a small hillock of


sànd overlooking the beach, like a Greek god surveying his domain. His surfboard was stuck in the sand in front of him like a Persian shield.

Remo walked .around in front of him. The young man was bigger than Remo and huskier. He looked as if he drank suntan oil for sustenance. .

"You're in my sun," he said unpleasantly.

"You knocked down that little girl's sand castle," Remo said.

"She shouldn't build things in the traffic lane," the blond said.

"That's not why you knocked it down," Remo said.

"Oh? Why then?"

"Because you're not a nice person," Remo said. "Now, I am. I have it on the very highest authority that I am a nice person."

"Nice guys finish last."

"Not anymore they don't," Remo said.

He lifted the surfboard out of the sand, raised it a foot above the level of the beach, then slammed the fiberglass panel back down into the sand. To get there, it had to pass through the toes of the young man's right foot. It did.

The man looked down at his foot. He lifted the front of it and saw that his toes were missing.

"My foot, my foot," he yelled. "My toes." He looked at Remo. "What . . . ?"

Remo smiled.

"Hang five," he said casually, as he walked off.

He walked straight back to the boardwalk, where Smith still sat on the bench.

"Smitty," said Remo, "I've got something to tell you, but first I'm going to do you a favor. Does Ruby know you're meeting with me?"


Smith said, "Yes."

"Then she knows what's on your mind," Remo said. "She knows what you came here to tell me. I'd suggest you make sure that she didn't plant a bomb in your car."

"It's all right," Smith said. "I came down on the bus."

"You would," Remo said.

"You said you had something to tell me?" Smith said.

"Yes. You can take this assignment and stuff it. You can take this job and stuff it. I'm done."

"Just like that?" Smith said.

"Just like that," Remo said.

"Mind telling me why?"

"No. I don't mind. I'm too nice to work for you people. That's why."

Remo turned and walked away. At the steps leading to the sidewalk, he paused, then walked back to Smith.

"As long as it doesn't matter anymore," he said, "I'm going to satisfy my curiosity." He slapped aside Smith's hands and opened the gray leather briefcase. '

Inside was a portable telephone and a pill bottle. There was one pill inside.

"Mind telling me what this is for?" Remo said.

"Of course not," said Smith. "The phone's hooked up to CURE's computers. If I need to, I can dial a number and erase everything that's on our tapes, all trace of our having existed."

"And the pill?" Remo asked.

"If I have to erase the tapes," Smith said, "I'd have to erase me, too. It's for that." He looked at Remo, his face as bland and unconcerned as ever.


The answer gave Remo little satisfaction. He slammed down the lid of the case. "I hope you don't ever have to use it," Remo said.

"Thank you," Smith said.

Remo walked out into the small town. He wandered the streets of small, garage-size houses that for the most part constituted New Jersey shore architecture. The tough part was still to come. How to explain to Chiun, his teacher and trainer, that he had quit CURE. Remo had quit before, many times before, but something always seemed to bring him back. This time, there would be no coming back. He was sure of it and just as sure that this would offend Chiun, the reigning Master of Sinanju, head of an ancient house of Korean assassins who had been assassin to king and shah, emperor and pha-raoh, and to whom the only thing more sacred than fulfilling one's contract was the necessity of getting paid on time. Preferably in gold.

Chiun would not understand. He had taken Remo soon after Remo, then a young policeman, had been framed for a murder he didn't commit and sent to an electric chair that didn't work, and Chiun had trained Remo Williams to work for CURE. And in the years of training, he had changed Remo's body and his mind, had made him something more than other men. He had made him a man who used his body and senses fully, but he had never been able to make Remo a Korean. And he would not understand Remo's wanting to leave the service of an employer who always paid on time. To Chiun, Smith was the best of Emperors.

Remo had thought he was wandering aimlessly, but when he looked up, he was back in front of the Norfield Inn, where he and Chiun were staying,


and now he walked in the side entrance and up the worn carpeted stairs to their second-floor room.

Chiun was not there. Remó thanked God for small favors and packed his overnight bag with his only belongings—a change of underwear, a toothbrush, a razor.

He slipped off his bathing suit, showered, and changed into black chinos and a black T-shirt. Maybe he was a nice person after all. He had been raised in an orphanage, but who knew, maybe he came from a long une of nice people. Maybe his ancestors had always been nice.

"Nice guy, Remo Williams," he mumbled to himself. "Proud descendant of an unbroken string of nice guys."

He took his bag and walked down to the small backyard swimming pool behind the ancient hotel and found Chiun sitting in a corner of the yard, underneath a tree, his hands folded quietly in his lap. Light breezes blew the wisps of white hair alongside Chiun's lined parchment face. The ancient Korean was staring ahead at the water of the pool, which was rippling slightly from the agitation of the filtering system.

Remo stood in front of him silently until Chiun looked up.

"Chiun, I've quit."


'Tor good this time."

"Why?" Chiun asked.