THE man lives, or the man dies. It is a matter of the weather.
Tonight he will live: because the sea is smooth like watered silk beneath a crescent moon, the ship’s wake fanning out like a tear. The ship makes little sound: it is a still Mediterranean evening, and the timbers barely creak. A sailor in the fo’c’sle coughs; overhead a sail flaps and spanks the mast.
The man leans at the rail, looking out to sea; and the assassin stands back a little, also watching the wake of the ship as it slowly widens and ripples and disappears toward the empty horizon. He watches the incessant production of the wake, and scarcely glances at the man he has come to kill. La Piuma, “The Feather.”
It would be easy tonight, the assassin thinks. A murmured conversation at the stern rail, a quick blow to the head. Man overboard. Then the assassin might raise the alarm.
But that won’t do. The Committee wants La Piuma to simply disappear.
Better to wait for a wind. Cloud cover, more noise, the pitch and roll of the ship.
La Piuma can sleep in peace another night. He will eat another meal of fish, boiled chicken, and fruit with cheese, and drink his wine. Coffee will be served in the morning, if that’s what he wants.
Would he fight for this day’s grace? the assassin wonders, moving away along the deck. La Piuma was as good as dead as soon as the ship set sail from Bari to Istanbul. Would he be grateful to live even for one more dull, eventless day at sea?
He would, the assassin considers; yet he cannot answer why.
Copyright © 2014 by Jason Goodwin