I extended my hand and opened my fingers. The dirty raindrops spattered on my flesh and ran away, pattering onto my once-beautiful red dress. Had I been the poetic type, I might have equated it to drops of the moments in our lives, or some such rubbish. As it stood, it told me all I needed to know about the state of our poor world.
I shuddered to think of my once-beautiful white hat covered in this filth.
“They’re late,” Wilson said, checking his pocket watch for the fifth – or was it sixth? – time.
“So I hear.” I turned my hand over, letting the rainwater paint black streaks on my skin.
“Can no one in this world be trusted anymore? What happened to common courtesy?”
“It went with the plague, and beside, they’re not of this world,” I said.
He looked at me and narrowed his eyebrows. It made him look like a mole in a top hat. “What are you doing?”
I showed him the back of my hand. “I’m not quite sure. The rain is getting worse, but it’s pretty just the same.”
He pulled the handkerchief from his shirt pocket. “Good heavens, woman, sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” He seized my hand and wiped at the muck. “Really, isn’t it enough that we have to stand outside this dreadful factory like common…”
Lightning crashed overhead – or was it something else? I couldn’t be sure, and apparently neither could Wilson. He withdrew in a hurry, cramming the handkerchief back into his pocket as he scanned the skies.
“Do you suppose that was them?” he asked.
Movement caught my eye. I turned and pointed, to the left. Something stirred in the yellow murk left behind by the Germans’ buzz-bombs. “There.”
He swiveled. “I don’t know that I see…” But he did. He had to. They had sent three to find us: three black shapes that took form as they strode toward us, their features resolving as the murk opened for them and then rolled away.
Three identical, handsome faces, with quite well-shaped bodies and exquisitely crafted clothing: waistcoats and trousers of the elite, no doubt, victims of the bloody Purge who no longer had any use for them. Give these creatures credit, they did not believe in waste.
“You have waited for us,” said the lead one. His voice was possessed of their odd cadence, too polished by half, the words flowing over one another like the rain on my hand.
“Hardly had a choice, did we? Not if we wanted to survive, at any rate,” Wilson said, and approached the three, leaning on his cane.
“You have what we requested then?” said another.
The corner of Wilson’s mouth turned up. “I need your assurance that you will take us.”
“Do you doubt our word?” asked the lead.
I stepped behind Wilson, nodding to the lead.
“I trust no one’s word. Not any longer. Simply doesn’t serve one-”
I produced the blade from inside my sleeve and stepped forward, driving it into Wilson’s back, right in the spot that the lead had shown me the week previous. The spot that would pierce his frozen heart.
I could only regret that he faced the trio. I would rather have enjoyed the look of betrayal on his face, I imagined. A pity.
He fell to his face in the mud, and I knelt over him, pulling the small, square device from his hip pocket.
The lead gave two slow claps. “Well done. You are a killer.”
I rose and handed one of them the square, my fingers passing over its shiny, printed surface. “I am what I must be. What is it?”
“Information. Beyond that, you would not understand.”
“You will take me with you?”
He inclined his head. “We salute your potential among us. But come, we must be off.”
I gazed down at my dead husband for one last moment, the filthy rain staining the back of his neck before draining into the mud surrounding him. The earth would claim his body in about a week. I wondered if I would even remember him in the new world.
At last I looked to the trio and nodded. “Let us be off.”