The milliner had been given only two hours to deal with her target. She had arranged it so that he would come to her. It was imperative she got in, and got out. She couldn’t risk her identity. As far as the authorities knew, she wasn’t even in the country, so being caught would spell certain catastrophe for not only her – but the cause too.
She was dressed casually, and with her hair pulled back into a tight bun, she looked just like any other library frequenter – except for the black ballet pumps laced firmly around her ankles – easier to perform in. No-one would presume that she was one of the deadliest creatures on the planet.
She sat at the end of a long, wide, wooden desk, reading Balzac quietly, with a polystyrene cup containing her espresso to hand. Even though she could barely see her surroundings, she resisted the temptation to switch on one of the desk lights, knowing the dim lighting would allow her more of the element of surprise. This part of the New York Public Library, the rare books section – with its crowded shelves but few visitors – was deserted save for her.
Like clockwork, he appeared. Smart navy-striped suit, possibly Saville Row. Grey hair, broad shoulders, bulky physique. There were three desks between hers and the one he had chosen to sit at.
As far as he was concerned, he was finally getting to meet a representative of the group he had risked so much for. He had sold out some good people to finally get his fingers in a few pies. This was everything he had ever wanted. Money, power, success. He could smell it, taste it almost, and he wore his best suit for the occasion. That morning, when he got the message to meet, he had not thought for a second that he would be placing himself in danger. He was not even concerned that the message came from an unknown source. He was simply overtaken by excitement at finally getting what he deserved. Status.
He had joined the resistance to get knowledge of their inner workings, hoping it would gain him respect from Officium if he could find out enough about their enemy. He was fed up of being an underachiever, a mediocre excuse for a man, and a disappointment to his wife and son. He’d never been fit and strong enough to become an agent, since a childhood illness left him without his left foot. He needed more than to be a simple tailor, in a dwindling and dying market. When a client of his, Hamish Maddon, told him about a resistance group he knew of, he had leapt on the opportunity to get in on it. He made promises about using his clientele to gather information. But he had secretly had a very sinister, ulterior motive. He had unwittingly given up Maddon, who had died along with his wife, after he had revealed the location of RAO’s meetings in New York. However, he had not carried out the act, so as far as he was concerned, he was without sin or recrimination. He simply knew he needed more from life, that’s all, and now he was there – deliriously expectant.
A mildly attractive woman suddenly appeared before him, standing with a book in hand. She smiled sweetly and asked, ‘Excuse me, but do you have the time? I can’t seem to find a single clock in this place.’
‘Of course,’ looking down at his watch, he said, ‘It’s a quarter to two.’
‘Thanks so much, that’s very kind of you.’ She continued smiling at him and stayed standing there. He felt it would be too rude to ask her if there was anything else, but his contact could arrive at any moment, and he became anxious.
She noted, ‘I hear the police are making headway into finally getting hold of the person responsible for the Maddon killings. You know, the heart surgeons? Apparently their loss will now mean at least four dozen people will have to wait six months longer for bypasses.’
He looked up at her face, shock spreading across his. He wondered, but it couldn’t possibly be… He had been so careful… hadn’t he? He nervously stood up. He looked into her eyes, but he struggled to gauge what was behind them. She stood there with hardly any expression whatsoever. That scared him more than anything.
‘Who are you?’ he asked.
‘I’m a friend of the dressmaker. You might have heard of her?’
He wanted to bolt out of the place. He was desperate to just start running.
‘Yes, it was a grave shame about the Maddons. Their daughter is without both her parents now. Imagine that, a young woman without her mum and dad. Being without one would certainly be bad enough, but without both…’
She didn’t seem intimidating, standing there casually holding her book between both hands in front of her. However, her words almost shocked the life out of him. He started to move away from behind the desk to make his escape. However, her book suddenly fell and he was drawn by its flight toward the floor.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an almost inhuman shadow move with incredible velocity. She leapt up onto the desk he had moved away from, suddenly threw her body in the air and expertly sent a foot crashing into his chest to ensure he had taken his last breath. Then there was nothing. His mass fell to the floor, and she walked toward the exit to the stairwell.