The well seemed like the best place. Deep enough, and old enough to deter any of the curious, or worse, the lucky. Brackish water makes a good grave. But that was on the edge of town, and getting there unnoticed wouldn’t be easy. Other options were needed. Back-ups. Dismantling it and quietly dropping the pieces as he walked sounded good in his head, until he though how obvious is was to him, and therefore obvious to his pursuers. Sweat started to bead on his forehead, and he felt his breathing want to quicken in his chest. All his ideas seemed so obvious. It was too big to eat, and hiding it in or around his body was an amateur move at best. He looked at his watch. Not enough time, never enough time. Looking out the window, the street was silent, an empty cobblestone corridor, lit only by a lonely lamp. One of the old, victorian lamps, he thought, saving himself from exactly one second of panic. Time to go. He opened the window an inch, waited ten seconds for the screaming to start. When none came, he opened it another few inches, and squeezed through. The drop was further than he’d anticipated, and he made a clumsy crunch as he his boots connected with the cobblestone. A curse tried to escape his mouth, but he managed to catch it in his throat. Enough noise. West. Head west. Head west, and hope. He didn’t like hope, had always preferred to control his own situations, but hope was the last thing he had left. Having shunned it for so long, hope returned the favour, and left him with only the repressing, ever-constant threat of panic taking over all and everything. West, then. He headed west.
He could feel it, heavy in the inside pocket of his coat. Heavier than it seemed a few moments ago. Being one of theirs, this was entirely possible. Throwing his overcoat around him, he tugged up the collar and skirted along the road, keeping as close to the wall as he could, where the shadows held and the grass grew, drowning his silhouette, silencing his footsteps. He caught himself about to take a full step into the town square. Back-peddling rapidly, he slipped on an errant stone, and fell flat on his back, stamping on the bellows of his lungs, taking his air away. Rolling over, he coughed hard, and leant against the wall, letting it take his weight. Pushing himself up, he caught what was left of his breath and cursed himself. Smooth manoeuvre, J. Edgar. Leaning one delirious eye slowly around the side, he saw that it was deserted. An empty town square, the fountain surrounded by unoccupied benches and dead space. Soft light from no clear source. This was meant to entice him. The whole square was an arena. Designed to look safe, to seem silent. They’d given themselves away by turning the fountain off. Too obvious. He turned and headed south, to cut around the square. The well was still his best option, although not much. He caught himself wishing. Like hoping, he wasn’t a fan. But he wished hard he’d set up a tertiary drop box. Finding the previous two, or rather not finding them, was unnerving enough. Better to find them smashed and broken, than simply missing. Brute vandalism is so familiar. Reassuring. Their method was to simply punch holes in the world. A postbox deleted. The back-up locker, simply gone, no trace it was ever there but the memory in his head. They took an eraser to your life, took what was needed to turn you against yourself. Make you paranoid enough to start to think you really might be insane. He turned the corner of the last thin alley, and found himself on the main road. A hundred metres to the west lay his best, last hope. He patted his jacket pocket. He patted it again. It wasn’t there. He stuffed his hand wrist-deep into the pocket, grasping only air. He’d dropped it. Somewhere on the way? When he’d fell, by the town square. As he’d rolled over. Panic flooded his veins with adrenaline, his body forgot how to breathe, then remembered with a vengeance. He tore down one alley, then another, blind to danger, caution be damned. Slipping, sprinting, he arrived at the town square, but at the wrong entrance. The south entrance. Too late, too late. He made a mad dash for the alley he’d slipped at earlier, but only made it half way before he caught the movement in the corner of his eye. A man. Sitting quietly next to the fountain, unassuming. Feeding crumbs to a single crow. This was how they worked. Made you paranoid to the point of insanity, then, at the last moment, proved you right. The man turned, and with one hand, held up the package. That’s it, then. A fatalism came over him, a cold relief in knowing that it was over. That there was no need to run any more. The man patted the seat next him, motioning him to sit. So he sat, and wondered if you heard the gunshot, or just felt it. The man fed the last of his bread to the crow, which, figuring no more was to be had, took flight into the ink sky. The man turned, and leaned in to whisper.
‘Fancy a job?’ he said.