There was something magical about travelling through summer’s dusk.
She sat in companionable silence with him, enjoying his company. He had already started in on the bottle of gin and she knew that soon he would weep. But for now it was good. She felt none of the usual anticipation she usually had before a kill, and wasn’t sure why.
‘What are you thinking, my little Lacrimosa?’
‘Oh, that you are too funny, William.’
‘Even your cane is white.’
‘I like white.’
‘It must be something to do with your purity.’
He spat out the mouthful of gin he was enjoying, the neck of the bottle titled and spilled some of the spirits onto his waistcoat.
‘You are a bad girl. A very bad girl,’ he wagged his finger at her and then tried to brush the stain from his clothing.
‘Tell me,’ she snuggled up to him, ‘do you have a lover at present?’
‘No. The last man I was with met an unfortunate end.’
‘Ah. How sad.’
‘It was, actually.’
‘I have nobody at present. But I did have a delightful flirtation recently before realising that I was about twenty years too old for him.’
‘Probably for the best.’
‘He does have the most beautiful speaking voice though.’
They sat in silence again, she knew that they were nearly at the cemetery and she wished that time could stop, if only for an hour or so. At the same time, her senses thrummed and her heart sang out at what she was about to do.
‘Why do you keep doing what you do?’
‘You can’t sugar coat it. I do what I do because I am good at it. And besides, what else would I do?’
‘You could retire?’
‘Me, with nothing to do? Could you imagine it?’
‘You are still very young I suppose.’
‘I don’t feel it.’
‘Take a holiday, my dear. All sorts of people do you know.’
The sounds of the horses and the swaying creaking of the carriage filled their silence.
‘Do you enjoy doing it?’
‘That’s quite a question. Why all the interest in my work all of a sudden?’
‘Because I know you have come to kill me. Why, Lacrimosa?’
She didn’t answer, but watched as her dear friend swigged from his bottle of gin again.
He reached for his cane and for a moment she thought he was going to bring it down on her. But he merely rapped on the roof of the carriage and then reached out of the window to poke the driver on the arm.
Ever the gentleman, he held out his hand to Lacrimosa and helped her to alight.
‘You go on home to your lady wife,’ he yelled at the driver, ‘we shall walk or hire a passing cab.’ And, as an aside to her, ‘deaf as a post my dear. Deaf as a post. Hence the cane, it is not just an affectation you know, white or not.’
The driver tipped his hat and was gone, leaving a strangely bereft feeling assassin and her upbeat kill in front of the gates of the cemetery.
His footing was less than sure, and he stumbled as they walked on.
‘Would you have a cigar for old time’s sake?’
They walked on past the angels with their beautiful faces smeared with pain and moss. They wept ivy tears as the lions lay down with the lambs forever in a stony embrace.
He took Lacrimosa’s hand in his, the bottle swinging freely from the other, and led her to the Circle of Lebanon.
They walked around the great tree and sat on the stone stairs that led to the vaults below.
‘Do you think the dead can hear us?’
‘I do not.’
‘Do they haunt you?’
‘After the first time, no.’
He pressed his back against the steps, ankles crossed in front of him, and putting the bottle carefully to one side with a heavy hand, clipped and lit two cigars.
The night was drawing in, and the tombstones around them were tinged with a purple hue.
He blew smoke out.
‘Do you think it hurts to die?’
‘Most things hurt, William.’
‘Has your life been so bad?’
‘Not all of it. I am grateful for you.’
‘A small thing. No more than anyone would wish.’
‘You are not a small thing to me.’
‘Yet you will still kill me.’
‘And suddenly I want to say and do a hundred things, but none at the same time.’
‘It is a tricky thing to face death, especially if you know it is coming.’
He handed her the cigar and she drew deep.
‘Time draws close, does it not?’
‘Now, enough of this, I am a man, am I not? How do we go about this? Would you let me have another cigar and then finish off this bottle before, you know?’ he sloshed the remaining spirits in the bottle, and to her, it sounded like there was only about a quarter left.
His voice was slurred and she was sure he would pass out soon. He flicked the butt from him and it skipped down the steps to the ground below.
‘Indeed, why not?’
He started searching his pockets for the cigar and as his fumbling fingers failed to pull it out she took the knife from her boot and pushed it deep into his heart.
She took her friend into her arms. Watching as the light died in his eyes, she cradled him to her chest and wept.
Sometime later, much, much later as the shadows had gathered the gloom in a lover’s embrace, and the cherubs and angels were completely caped in black, she stood. Clipped and lit another cigar she had taken from his pocket. Brushed down her skirts. Looked mournfully down at him.
With a hard shove, she sent his body tumbling down the steps.