Rats of Airspur

Interlude 4: 'Souvenir'

Caius Allswell waits, still at the tavern more than an hour since his agreed meeting time with that pallid up-town agent, Posticus. He fidgets with the shiny copper flywheel he wears on a chain round his neck and sneers out at the taproom in annoyance. Finally he snaps his fingers and pushes himself to his feet – he’ll be damned if he’s going to wait around for this servant fellow, and he’ll make a point to let Prasek know about all the damn time he’s wasted… when he eventually shows his weaselly face again. He whisks on his wide-brimmed hat with a flourish and stalks for the exit.

As the door closes behind him, Allswell pauses to pull up his collar, the wind blowing sheets of cold rain along the street. He reaches over and opens the shutter of the lantern by the door, lighting a thin black cigarillo from it. He draws deeply and blows out a billow of smoke with an impatient whistle, then steps out into the rain.

Allswell moves quickly through the streets, knowing the Collegium’s men are busy in the Curzian tonight. He cuts around the dock district, where all the fires had happened so recently, and after some small deliberation heads uphill towards the little garret house his mistress keeps in the lee of the cliffs. Hearing an odd echo from behind he turns and peers into the dimly lit street, but sees nothing. He stands for a moment in the rain, moving the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other thoughtfully. He turns back… to find a hooded figure standing close in front of him, in easy striking distance.

Allswell’s hand jerks down to the knife at his belt, but he is all too slow: a slim arm flashes forward and drives a dagger into his neck up to the hilt. The dagger is whipped back and as he staggers, his blood surging from the lurid gash in his throat. He staggers backwards, pawing at the wound with numb fingers. Backing into the wall he slumps down, sliding to the ground weakly. Blankly he notices the stub of his cigar doused by the rain on the street beside him. The hooded figure stalks forward and crouches over him, blotting out the stars. Allswell tries to push it away, but has no strength left to resist. With one deft movement the hooded figure cuts free the flywheel hanging around Allswell’s neck and, for a moment its hood falls aside.

Allswell gapes up, uncomprehending, at the slight smile on the face of Posticus, and then he dies.

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