Part Seven of the Sonata in Red series.
Part One: A Song of Glory
Part Two: A Choir of Intrigue
Part Three: Etude in the Sun
Part Four: A Requiem in the Dark
Part Five: Hymns of Terror
Part Six: Refrain from the Past
My reminiscing of the past is interrupted as I arrive. By the lantern lights around the building I see the restaurant is still open. The scent of kitchen prompting an enthusiastic growl from my stomach.
The bell jingles at my entrance. Harper, the server on duty, welcomes me into the almost empty establishment.
“The usual, Harper,” I announce, taking a seat at one of the booths. She disappears into the kitchen immediately, leaving the main room to me and the two men drinking nearer the fire. I sigh wearily, reminiscing always wears me out. I have no choice in the matter, the mind shall wonder where it will.
As Ben’s sole pupil, I was able to fill the hole left in the shadow his passing provided with myself. Seemingly overnight I’d gone from woefully deep in debt, to a free man with a future that promised wealth.
Never let greed guide you. That was Ben’s philosophy on choosing which jobs to take, and it had been one that I had adopted as well. Truly, it must have been fate that put me in her path. That job had seemed like it would be a breeze. The information came from a trusted employer and the targeted should have taken completely unawares.
It had been the depth of winter, in the dead of night when I had received the message. A coded missive hidden in plain sight amongst the advertisements that littered the walls of Night Town. An address in The Day and a time. Day work paid the best, and more often than not was easier than Night jobs.
I’d done my due diligence, tracing the source of the message by the company who delivered it, staking the address for nights prior to the meet, as well as checking with Olivia and some other shadows for concerning rumours. Everything came up clean. So on the night of the meeting I accepted the assignment from the intermediary with little concern.
The task was to plant a forgery amongst the administrative papers at a library. Most legitimate shadow work is exactly as dull as that. My plan was to visit the library during the day, conceal myself until they had closed to make the switch and vanish in the morning with the public. Getting in and concealing myself until nightfall went as smoothly as expected, but as I extracted myself from my hiding space I found myself in the company of a group of six people dressing all in black. I couldn’t believe I’d not heard them, it shouldn’t have been possible.
Instantly I dashed from the room, drawing darkness tight around me but one of them managed to notice me in spite of my skill. The figure gestured to the others who ran in the opposite direction, while she pursued me with an alacrity the surpassed ordinary limits. This surprised me, but I was a professional so I kept my cool and utilising every trick I had learned in my training and pushing the limits of my altered body as far as I could, I managed to lost my tail amongst the books. By this point I had considered my mission a failure and was just looking for means to escape or hide. As luck would have it, I found both within the administrative records of the library. One of the figures was there, rifling through the files. He never even heard me coming.
One by one I dispatched them. I could accept failure, but witnesses were a death sentence. They all went down like ordinary people, I did my best to give them a swift and painless death. All except for her.
I found her on the roof. She had left just enough evidence of her passing to make it look like I’d tracked her there. The slight change on the dust layer that lined the window was the kind of detail even I only noticed because I was searching for it. She caught me as I followed through after her.
“Never overlook the possibility that you’re walking into a trap,” Ben’s voice in my head chided me. The cold edge of a steel blade bit menacingly into my throat. My captor walked me to the edge of the building until I couldn’t go any further without falling the fatal distance.
“What’s your name, shadow?”
I answered quietly, knowing my life was entirely in the hands of the owner of the feminine sounding voice. I felt the blade removed from my neck, migrating to the centre of my back.
“Why are you following me Lucas”
I explained the danger of leaving witnesses in my line of work. Her laugh had an innocence to it that was out of place in our current scene.
“Do you believe in fate Lucas?”
That’s exactly the kind of insane question you don’t want to hear coming from the other end of a knife. Only the religious and the mad spoke about fate, and I doubted I was being held hostage by a lady priest.
“It would be rude not to give you my name, since you gave me yours,” she whispers, “If it is truly fate that led you to me, you can call me Sophia when next we meet.”
Her foot kicked hard into the small of my back, sending me tumbling from the roof into the night. I twisted with the momentum of the strike as I fell. The last thing I remember was the sight of her smiling face watching me from above.
I woke in the nest the next day. I felt like every bone in my body was broken. My darling Amelia was seated by my bed and as I stirred she leapt to her feet calling out for Olivia and a doctor. The doctor asked me questions about my pain and checked some things before stating that I would be fine with rest.
I don’t remember ever seeing Amelia so angry at me. She threatened me with hell fire and brimstone unless I gave up the shadows. I still feel guilty that I couldn’t do as she’d asked. She didn’t speak to me again for months. That hurt far more than my injuries.
Olivia told me that her baby birds had found my broken body laying in the wreckage of a wool cart. The sound of my landing had attracted them and frightened off the owner. One of them recognised me from my visits and they brought me back to the nest where Olivia had called for the doctor who had saved my life.
I wonder if perhaps I didn’t go a little mad while I was stuck in that bed. With Amelia refusing to see me, the only company I had was the memory of Sophia as I fell away from her. I expect I must have, for only the religious and the mad believe in fate.