Gwen’s hand trembled as she signed. She blew on the ink, then held out the cheque to Maria who deftly pocketed it and headed for the kitchen.
“Did you kill many people in Sarajevo?” she asked Maria’s brother, over the sound of cupboard doors banging and kettle-filling. He perched, dark and impassive, on the opposite chair.
After a minute or two of silence, Gwen pressed him. “Are you a good shot?” She reached out to cap the expensive fountain pen. It had been a leaving gift from work, personally delivered by her nemesis and replacement, the poisonous Chris Barry. Barry had looked at her with pity – guilt and pity – in her own front room. Her hatred for him still burned.
“I am good,” Maria’s brother said at last, accent thick, gold tooth glinting.
She smiled crookedly. “I am glad to hear it. It must be a clean kill. No possibility of survival.”
“I leave the time and place up to you.” She rolled the pen between her fingers. “I must know nothing about it.” Again he nodded.
When Maria returned with a tea tray, her brother kissed her cheek and left.
“Thank you, Maria,” Gwen smiled, accepting a cup. “Thank you so much.”
When Gwen’s daughter arrived just before six, Maria had washed up, prepared the vegetables and gone.
“I am glad you and Maria get on so well,” Lucy trilled, pacing the room, straightening cushions.
“She has been a godsend,” Gwen agreed.
“So, then. We’ll have no more of this talk about going to Switzerland.” Lucy passed her a glass of water and two of her huge white tablets.
“I’m not going to Switzerland,” Gwen said and swallowed the medication.
“Promise?” Lucy laid a hand on Gwen’s shoulder and Gwen covered it with her own.
“I promise,” she replied, feeling the first warm stirrings of relief in a long time.