I lay there on my side, still. I watched at the scene below. Three assassins and me. Three assassins and Deanna Macpherson. And nobody else.
I always felt that something about you, Den, was fishy. Especially when it came to your sister, and what happened so long ago. But for some reason things had not clicked in my mind until then. It was the worst moment possible to realise it all. I was being hunted, and if I had not the skills of speed, caution and good fortune, there was nothing left to be said.
I must not give myself away. Lowering my head behind the soft blue pansies, turned to pools of purple in the moonlight, I suppressed an overwhelming sneeze. I recovered by dint of squeezing my eyes up and squaring my stomach somewhat painfully.
But that pain was of no importance. I realised this triviality as one of the men looked straight at my pansies. My blood chilled and icicles crunched in the capillaries of my fingers. A little pain did not matter, so long as I could get away alive. It was good that I was a practised sleuth. Sleuthing would help me now. My earlier life prepared me for this moment, surely.
Tears sprung from behind my eyes as my mind blurred with memories of my earlier life, but I blinked them back angrily. I had left the pain behind, the sorrow and the desolation. I had made my life gay and happy again. Hadn’t I? That had been my decision. I could never forget, and yet I had tried not to let it affect my life too much. It would not have been what my family would have wanted, had everything been normal, as in other families.
I immediately thought of you, Den. Again. Your family is not normal. In fact, your family is not unlike my own. To the contrary, your family has taken a different attitude to your tragedies. Your family has brooded in its dark and unkempt home for five time three hundred and sixty-five days and more. My family has re-conjured its happiness, though to a lesser level in camparison with previous times.
Presently the three men moved away down the alley. But I was not safe yet, as I was painfully aware. Raising my head I glanced at the roof above me. I calculated that I should be able to get up to it. It was not very steep, surely, and I felt myself to be agile enough. I just hoped it would not be slippery. It's damp at this time of year, as every time of the year in Douitchurch.
As I wriggled out of my socks, quite soiled by then, regretting my decision to come out without shoes of any kind in favour of the quieter method, I heard a sound behind me, sounding queerly like a cat falling off a fence. I froze.
A minute later I turned my head and, sure enough, a sleek black cat slunk eerily across the yard, fixing one chilling yellow eye on me. A true witch’s cat, if such is their existence.
I gave a sigh of relief, for I like cats, however supernaturally inclined they might appear. I am not in the habit of believing in fairytales or the paranormal. I accompanied my sigh with a quick shiver, recalling some strange sounds I have heard since I met you, Den. I scolded myself mentally for that shiver. In any case, I told myself reassuringly, those yellow eyes were very unsettling, and highly assured to make anyone shiver.
Made careless by this experience of a false alarm, I chose not to delay any further, and hauled myself into sitting position in my hanging flowerbox, praying that it would not give way and drop from the wall onto the porcelain tiles of the yard below. I eyed the crushed pansies a little mournfully as I took a step onto the roof tiles, supporting myself via the old-fashioned iron drainpipe standing erect parallel to the wall. The flowerbox swung a little, but I did not heed it.
That was my mistake.
A split-second later I felt a cold metal blade sink into the fleshy part of my left thigh. I looked around in panic, but no potential saviour was forthcoming from the dark shadows. Even the black cat had slunk away on some lawful or unlawful occupation, as the case may be, of its own, leaving me to my fate and my pain.
The next moment the chains of the flowerbox broke, and I fell, toppling off the roof tiles. The mosaic in the yard was a solid landing, and the impact jarred my brain. So I lay still, the smithereens of the smashed flowerbox making a winking aura about my still body. And I felt a growing pool of dark red paint dying the tiles with startling rapidity.
And the blue-cloaked murderer stooped down beside me, robbed my pockets of the few copper pennies I carried as a matter of course, and vanished into the black still night; the silent sleuth who slayed dark-haired dark-eyed girls of some connection with Den O'Derron.
And then stars flashed through the blurriness, the little light faded, the pain englufed my reason and I felt my thoughts slip away into oblivion.