“Every one of them?” the apprentice asked.

“Every last one down to the pets.” Katalya shrugged. “You did not expect the company’s best fixer to be so bloodthirsty? We are not delivering flowers, Manya, but death.”

“Yes but…suppose they have children? What’s the harm in letting them live?”

“Banish all such thoughts. They are unbecoming of our profession, where one must have a chip of ice where one’s heart ought to be,” Katalya said. “My mentor, Andrei Nagant, once let a 12-year-old girl survive a job because she reminded him of his own daughter. Do you know how he was repaid for his kindness?”

“A somewhat shorter stay in purgatory?” the apprentice said.

“Cute,” Katalya said. “No, he was killed fifteen years later. Shot in the back in Maputo by that very same girl he’d spared. She had devoted her entire life to finding him and avenging her parents. Andrei’s stupidity and sentimentality caught him in the end. That is why I say every last one down to the pets, Manya. If that is disquieting to you, perhaps you are in the wrong line of work.”