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"I want you dead."
The words, spoken in a calm, conversational tone, sent an icy trickle of dread down Michael Gabriel's spine. Slowly he turned away from the rim of the precipice and the three-thousand-foot drop to the Colorado River. He met the heated gaze of Robert Matthews. The man Michael had believed was his friend stood close--too close--behind him.
The first blow glanced off Michael's chin. He staggered sideways, careful, despite the ringing in his ears, to stay away from the deadly edge.
"What the hell?" he muttered, then ducked to avoid another well-aimed punch.
Michael deflected the next blow with his forearm. The impact resounded throughout his body, and he staggered backward, moving a few inches closer to the edge he strove so desperately to avoid. Now he knew why Robert had insisted that they view the river from such a dangerous and isolated position.
"What's the matter with you?" he shouted.
"Nothing that killing you won't fix. You betrayed me, Gabriel, and I'll never forget it."
Robert backed away for a moment, and Michael watched him closely for any hint of another attack. He'd known a confrontation was coming; that was why he'd agreed to come on this camping trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. In the desolate area few tourists braved so late in October, they could resolve any lingering anger in private.
When Robert suggested they go on the trip, Michael had hoped his friend finally had understood the ways of their world. Success was everything, regardless of the cost. Michael might not like those rules, but he had learned to live by them.
"Calm down and listen to me," Michael said, thenglanced over his shoulder to gauge the distance between himself and the edge. His heart rate accelerated; he turned back toward Robert and took a step forward.
His next words were cut off when Robert charged forward, hitting Michael in the chest with his shoulder in a running body slam. Michael fell backward, his hands grabbing reflexively for a hold on something--anything. He found Robert's shoulders and clung.
Together, the two men tumbled over the edge and fell into the nothingness beyond.