15th January

The Assassin (2)

When the postman came out onto the street, the man with the umbrella was just going in. The postman hardly glanced at him. Later he would have only a vague recollection of anyone having passed him. He would feel some guilt, but not much: it wasn’t his job to stop people going into buildings. He would also feel a thrill, knowing he had been so close to what happened.

The man with the umbrella climbed the stairs. People, he thought, didn’t realise that they were always on the edge of life, that something was always happening in the next house, in the next street.

The man with the umbrella did not feel guilt. He was past that. And he didn’t feel much of a thrill either, just a slight quickening of the pulse, caused mainly by a concern to make sure he left no trace of himself any- where along the route.

He had a moustache, a hat, glasses and a scarf. Later he would not have any of these. Nor would he have the umbrella.

The flat was on the fourth floor. He paused briefly on each landing, to catch his breath and to listen. Below him he heard a door being closed and locked. He waited while the woman – he could tell from her walk – went downstairs and out. When the street door slammed and all was quiet again, he proceeded to the fourth floor.

It was dry outside, but it might rain later. Many people were carrying umbrellas that day, as a precaution.

There were three doors on the fourth floor, which was also the top floor. The door he wanted was at the far end of the landing. He did not particularly like this situation, as there was only one exit route. On the other hand, there was little likelihood of his being disturbed.

He thought, if after I give the password he does not open the door, I will simply walk away. He will be too frightened to come after me. If, however, he opens it . . .

He unscrewed the cap on the tip of the umbrella. He was careful not to let the blade touch the ground.

He rang the bell.

Reader: Iona Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harp: Esther Swift
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