Blenk was surprised that he quite liked them. At least the part of them that happened before other people woke up and spoilt them.
There was something peaceful about the early morning streets, empty and quiet. Doing the job he did, Blenk spent quite a few early mornings walking back to his residence down those empty quiet streets. Not that he ever really had time off, people in his line of work could never relax, but those quiet early mornings were the closest he ever got to peace and tranquillity.
It was those quiet early mornings now that he enjoyed the most. His had never been a job he could say he enjoyed, although there were moments of satisfaction when it all went well and there was little blood on his hands or his clothes to wipe off as he made his escape before the alarm was raised. That too was a time of quiet satisfaction, he supposed, being able to walk out, even past the guards, before the alarm was raised.
Much better than all that undignified fleeing across rooftops, or – even worse, he shuddered – through the sewers. Someone of his wealth and quiet reputation should not need to know so much intimate detail about the city’s sewers.
Blenk’s hands this morning were clean. Quick, quiet work with his favourite knife and a troublesome merchant was no more. The poor would struggle to pay more for their bread once again, but that was not for Blenk to worry about. If he worried about the ethics of it all, the morality of what he did, then he would be much poorer – and probably forgotten – in some pauper’s grave.
And at his age what other choice did he have?
Blenk paused at a corner, casually looking behind him at the deserted street, checking the shadows and the doorways, alleys and other half-hidden places. He paid particular attention to the places where he would hide were he going about his business trailing a target.
There was no-one there. No-one knew Blenk’s real identity. The names of his… clients and those they wished removed in Blenk’s particular way, and the money to pay for it, came through a string of intermediaries and dead drops. Those intermediaries too were made well aware of the fate of their predecessors who had asked too many questions, or tried to find out more than they needed to know.
Over the years, Blenk had created a career, outlasting all of his contemporaries, or – at least he thought so. It was hard to tell with such a profession. Although, he now knew probably far more than any politician, ruler or – especially – aristocrat about how the city worked and fitted into the world around it. He knew better than ask too many questions himself.
He felt old.
Too many mornings like this, walking down the quiet, empty streets, but still cautious, worried, alert. Perhaps he should retire. He selected a shadowed doorway and stepped into it, peering back up the street for any sign of movement.
There was someone there.
Blenk became the shadow, his black clothes blending into the sharp morning shadows.
It was only a whore, staggering back to her lodgings after what looked like a hard night.
Blenk relaxed, let her past and stepped out into the street.
It was time for him to retire.
The arm choking his neck made him splutter and cough, gasping for air. He could feel the strength in the arm. The tip of the knife touched his neck once. He felt the warm blood trickle from the prick it made.
Blenk knew better than to struggle.
‘You know better than to struggle.’ A woman’s voice in his ear.
Out of the corner of his eye, Blenk recognised the whore’s sleeve.
‘You should have retired when you had the chance, Blenk.’
He nodded, slowly, carefully, knowing they would be the last words he’d ever hear.