Voletta Black is in her chambers at the bottom of the ocean, lit by three candles. Her bedroom, unlike the other couriers’, is almost empty. A small bed with no pillows, a shelf holding twelve books, a record player with a single record, and the modest dressing table where she now sits, looking at a creased, blurred photograph, running her finger along its scalloped edge. It looks to be a young boy or girl, expressionless, standing in front of a gangplank.
She takes a sip of the drink Gustav brings her every evening at 6:45, churning in its glass like a sleet-packed cloud, terrifically cold. The wall intercom buzzes and she feels the familiar tingle. She waits a moment, as usual, then presses the button and says nothing.
“Hand delivery,” Margaret Feddema says, her voice crackling with distortion.
“What and where,” Voletta says.
“Hundred thousand dollars U.S. cash from his launderer to his little parlor,” Margaret says.
“There’s only Rufus at the moment. That other one died of stupidity, remember? The Hand needs it for a carrick game tonight. Can you get it there?”
“Of course I can get it there.”
“It’s curious. The Hand is requesting you more and more.”
“That is curious.”
“I don’t want you playing that game.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’d rather you get killed doing something noble, like making money for my company.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Bring something sharp.”
“You think?” Voletta says, releasing the button. She refolds the photograph and tucks it in a drawer, then pulls out a dagger and small whetstone. She hones the knife’s edge, stands, lets her kimono fall to the floor. She looks at herself in the mirror, breathes in, sticks her chin out, turns, gathers up her hair, examines the three parallel scars running along her back, barely visible in the candlelight. She runs the dagger under her arms, across the nape of her neck, along the skin below her navel, then blows the blade clean.