>NEVER A FRONTWARD STEP, PART FIFTEEN

>“Don’t look so sullen,” said Yvette. “I kill fish for a living. And whatever bait I’m using. Which is, essentially, two deaths for the price of one.” She had managed to untangle the fishing line; she looped it around her hand and placed it, in a neat circular coil, back in her lap.

I was shocked and yet calmed by her matter-of-factness. “I killed someone yesterday,” I said.

“Really.” Yvette’s face didn’t move an inch.

“Well, I didn’t kill them. They got killed because of me.”

“Why was he killed?”

I thought about this. “I had to send a rather important message. And that’s about the best way to get noticed.

“So what are you searching for that’s so important people get killed for it?”

I looked at her. “It’s not a what, it’s a whom. I’m trying to find someone very elusive.”

“Are they good at hiding?”

“Better than that,” I said, “they’re dead.”

Yvette smiled, her sunshine smile. She said, “You don’t do things by half, do you.”

That’s when I felt it, not the rosy head-wound of love—as my fizzing brain first computed— but a real warty whack on the back of my head that stunned me for a moment before pain screamed in and my indignation was replaced by a death-drop of memory and a frictionless struggle through air. Too late, cried my head, too late. The expert noises of fear were next: icicles grew shrieking in my chest and before I knew it my lungs had filled with freezing water that filled me completely until I was a shimmering aqueous thing, a deep-sea creature glimpsed in obscured camera stock in some long-forgotten documentary only shown to school children who just didn’t care because they were only waiting for the lunch bell.

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