The Assassin’s Assassin
by Benjamin Parsons
Copyright 2013 Benjamin Parsons
Smashwords edition, license notes
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Very early one cold, overcast January morning, it came about that I was crossing the river at St. Paul’s to reach the south bank; and as I began to mount the arc of the new bridge, I happened to look down to my left, over the rails, and was surprised by what I saw below.
When the tide goes out, the receding waterline reveals intermittent stretches of stark beach under the embankments— dirty fringes of sludge and rubble— and there, contrasting as a pale gleam with the squalid detritus around her, was a beautiful woman, finely dressed in a long and sumptuous white coat, open in front, with a mere slip beneath. Her bare toes peeped from the hems of her attire, but she neither stepped with timidity, nor lifted those fine clothes out of the muck; and the fledgling seagulls, flecked with brown, which were stood huddled all along this shore, neither flinched nor cawed at her approach, even as she moved among their numbers. Her face was full of anxiety, and a sort of breathless urgency that was matched by her movements as she advanced between the sorry, rotted palings sticking up at intervals from the shallows. She moved to the very lapping edge of the water and paused, a picture of terrible but lovely anguish, staring out into the silver-grey body of the river.
I wondered, for a moment, whether the pockets of her elegant mantle might be stuffed with broken bricks, picked from the silt on every side, and that, thus weighed, she meant to rush into the strong flood and drown herself; but as soon as I realised who she was, I knew I was wrong— and so, like a true Londoner, I hurried on my way, ignorantly, and did not look back to see what happened next.