|“||Mr. Payne, it's time to show you the benefits of my brew. Be a good boy now.||„|
|~ Nicole Horne|
Nicole Horne also known as The Witch is the main antagonist of Max Payne.
She is a cold-hearted, sadistic, and unethical psychopath businesswoman, who is responsible for not only the crisis in the game, but is directly responsible for all the tragedy in Max Payne's life as well. She serves as the CEO of her company Aesir Corporation.
Nicole is the Chief Executive Officer of the Aesir Corporation, and one of the most powerful women in New York City. As the CEO, she orchestrated mass development of a hallucinogenic drug known as Valkyr. The drug was initially produced to be a performance enhancer, meant to be used by the U.S. Military, but the drug had dangerous side effects. The test subjects turned out to be lunatic killers and the project was officially cancelled. Despite of it, Horne illegally continued the production of the substance. She blackmailed the former members of the project into silence and as well used a powerful mafia crime family from New York for the distribution of Valkyr.
Before the events of the game. Max's wife Michelle, who works at DA's office, discovered information about the drug and its ties to the Aesir Corporation, and began investigating it. Infuriated, Nicole sent an overdosed group of drug addicts to butcher Michelle and her daughter at the Payne residence, in New Jersey.
Max, an NYPD cop, had arrived home from work to discover his home had been broken into. Max's first encounter with Nicole happened over the phone, as Nicole calls the Payne residence and informs Max she can't help him. Max ends up killing the addicts, but his wife and daughter are already shot to death.
Three years later, Max starts investigated Valkyr with the DEA with his friend Alex Balder. During their undercover work, Alex is killed, and the NYPD believe Max is the killer.
Max discovers that Mafia kingpin, Don Punchinello is behind the murder and is the one attempting to frame Max. When Max raids Punchinello's home, Punchinello pleads for his life saying that he was just doing what Horne had ordered him to do. Seconds later, Horne's personal army, known as the Killer Suits, breaks in and kills Punchinello, and capture Max. Nicole injects Max with a large dose of Valkyr in an sadistic attempt to kill him. Max after a strong hallucination however, survives.
Afterwards Max investigates a facility, which Horne referred to as "Cold Steel". During the infiltration, it is revealed, that Cold Steel is the place where Valkyr is being produced. Max also learns, that his family was killed due to the DA leak, which the leadership covered as an authorized a "field test" at Max's old address in New Jersey. Due to Max's investigations, Horne orders the destruction of Cold Steel to cover up possible connections to Aesir Corporation.
Max, after escaping from Cold Steel, confronts one of his partners at the DEA, who uses the code name "B.B.". Insulting him as the "Backstabbing Bastard", Max actually finds out, that B.B. is Horne's minion and that she used the corrupt DEA agent to frame Payne for the death of Alex Balder. Although B.B. attempts to flee, Max Payne ultimately kills Nicole's operative. Afterwards, Max receives a call from Alfred Wooden, who invites him to a meeting, promising, to reveal who Horne really is.
During the meeting with Wooden, Max discovers Horne's true identity and that she is the one pulling all the strings and blackmailing many officials in the New York area to keep her business successful - including Wooden and his associates, who were all former members of the project. He also discovers that Nicole was the one, who authorised the Valkyr field test, which resulted in his family's demise. Wooden tells Max, that if he assassinates Horne, he will make all the framed charges on Payne go away. Shortly, a raid takes place by Horne's henchmen, in the hope of killing Max and Wooden. The attempt fails, both of them manage to get away unharmed.
Max Payne, with nothing to lose, heads straight to the Aesir Plaza and storms it. As Max pursues Nicole on to a rooftop in the city, Nicole attempts to escape in her helicopter. Max shoots the wires holding up a massive antenna. The antenna falls onto the Chopper resulting in the end of Nicole Horne's evil empire.
- Nicole Horne was keeping a very low profile throughout her conspirator. Even Don Punchinello (Horne's minion) didn't know exactly who she was, believing her to be a government official.
- Horne was so powerful, that she even ordered the assassination of the major of New York; however, the order never seemed to get the green light.