It was supposed to be professional. Never personal. But that had been before the notes had started appearing at the scenes, written in perfect English and often proper beneath spent rifle casings.

After an assassination that took an innocent life: “I’m sorry about that bystander. But history will remember them now, when they would have been anonymous.”

After killing an opposition politician in a pet store: “That parakeet will be singing a very different tune from now on, eh?”

Each time, the assassin from the Other Side had escaped, leaving the counter-assassin from This Side to fume at the notes, at the bravado hinted at by them. But not this time.

The Other Side had gotten tired of their assassin, it seemed. They expected excellence but not bravado, and perhaps they feared that their trigger finger was getting out of control. So they let it slip to This Side when and where their agent would be.

The assassin slipped into the cathedral, a demon among the faithful on Ash Wednesday. Their target was a clergyman, an outspoken opponent of a regime with which the Other Side was very friendly. They didn’t particularly care if he lived or died, so long as This Side took the assassin down.

Like the hammer of destiny, the counter-assassin from This Side followed. The enemy was in a sniper’s nest in the attic, her high heels set to one side for a quick getaway.

But something unexpected happened next. Not a single gunshot, as the Other Side had hoped. But, rather, an embrace, as old friends might.

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