Not having rooms of my own, if I’m given a job that involves being out late, I like to crash on the sofa back at the den. Often, if I take my chances on the couch, Silvisa kicks me out and I am forced to find my own place. I have several cunning strategies, which do not involve sleeping on the streets, as once I did in fear and shivering. Those old experiences, have, however, made me scarcely fussed if I have no bedcovers, and I am not choosy when it comes to finding a place to put my head – just as well, perhaps, in my line of career.
Occasionally I raid the PCB bank account and book a room at one of the many small two-star inns in the network of streets round where I haunt, although it’s not regular that I can snatch the money, or the risk – Silvisa doesn’t seem to take too kindly to me when I resort to theft. Besides that, there is always the hazard of discovery. I may be anonymous to the police, and Silvisa may have a pact with them, but they know I’m here, and they know I’ve killed people, and if they can get hold of me and have me convicted without Silvisa knowing, they will do it.
Sometimes I use my eyes and pick locks. Front doors are shadowed in the twilight, and a black figure unseen. The houses I select are always temporarily vacated – some people go on holiday far too often for the good of their properties, and, alternatively, victims and investigators are unlikely to return to their homes for days after the death, if it has been contrived with skill – and if they do, I know all too well how to deal with it…
That particular morning, I had slept on the warm side of a door which displayed the sign, ‘No milk till Saturday, and, consequently, was forced to leave before daylight to avoid the watchful eyes of diligent neighbours.
I wandered a little, shopping for a dry loaf and some bitty cheese in a tiny black market shop I knew of in the area. We of the organised assassination profession are pristinely informed on the whereabouts of such places, and I knew exactly where to go. I knew the man; he was a gaunt guy of forty or so, unwashed and unshaven, who blew smoke rings through his nostrils and snatched the pennies from my palm with claws, bitten and twisted. He leered as he counted the coins, thrust the lot in his pocket, having realised that there were thirteen pennies extra in what I had given him, and glared me to the door.
On my roundabout route back to the den, I watched for suspicious behaviour as I swung my umbrella, Bertha. And saw nothing that I deem it important to tell, at this point in time.
When I reached the den, slipping in with the tall grace characteristic to a person with limbs too many and too long, it was just forty-one minutes past five in the morning. Dropping to the maroon couch and covering my body with a rough blanket of the same colour, I treated myself to a short nap.
When I woke about half an hour later, I was instantly aware of voices through the wall partition. They were pitched to a low frequency, but I instantly recognised the tones of Silvisa Welmoen, who simultaneously played the roles of my boss and my Nemesis, and Peregrine Waters, the only male member of the gang. He hasn’t been here long, and I haven’t spoken to him much, but he seems nice enough. Not the kind to go sleeping round with every girl he finds, which I respect. And yet he’s not the typical assassin. I don’t think he’s ever killed. He just writes the notes for Silvisa, which makes me think that firstly she has a thing for him, or else he has a thing for her, and secondly that he’s a bit wimpy.
Because I am an assassin, and therefore a sleuth and a spy, I could not endure the voices without the words, and so I did not hesitate to ease the blanket from my head and creep to the wall. With my ear against the plaster, I could hear every word.
“I see. So that is my mission?”
“I’m sorry it involves…that,” said Silvisa, her voice sounding strangely soft through the muffling of the wall. She never beat about the bush with anything. Maybe I missed a word spoken very quietly.
“I’ll be okay,” replied Perry bravely.
“I knew you would be. According to a recent report from Saoirse, I must warn you that there is a very slight possibility of complications.”
I recollected in an instant the ‘recent report’ mentioned by my chief. Just yesterday I came across a stray note in the gutter near the corner shop. I did not pick it up. I spat my chewing gum out onto the underside of my shoe, and placed my foot very deliberately over the paper. I remember yet what it read, though I did not consider it to be significant at the time – how naïve of me, each and every detail is everlastingly significant. But shall I tell you of what it read? No; I shall not, for it may be a trap, and Saoirse Whelan does not fall into traps, though she may be the instrument of many.
“What sort of complications?”
“That I cannot tell you. They may never come into being. But if anything crops up, keep focussed on your task and I promise that you will not be further distracted, harmed or discovered.”
“And if I do not keep focussed?”
“As I said, there will be consequences – for all of us.”
“I see. I will do my best.”
“You will do more than your best,” and her voice was hard once again. “You will succeed.”
I heard footsteps almost immediately, and let myself collapse back onto the sofa, yawning long and loud as if I had just got in.
Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and pushed myself back to my feet. I faced her square, and I saw that she knew I had heard the last part of the conversation.
Her eyes were narrow and angry as she stared me down – although I think now that she had smelled my presence before she had seen me – but I collected myself and stayed calm, slipping a hand to the inner pocket of my tight oiled-blue jeans and slapping a wicked silver key down on the table. Forgetting my unpardonable offence, she snatched up the key with her cold fingers, and turned her back on me.
“The man has been disposed of adequately?” her voice slipped from between her lips, smooth as butter but twice as cold and not half as yellow.
“Untraceable,” I said. “A small folding bomb with an evaporating shell. It will have terminated the man, and perhaps a few others near him. But untraceable.”