Jandrax 36

He had not been surprised to find Helene’s door unguarded. He had seen the same tactics used on Hallam for the same holy ends.

The guards at the patriarch’s door were more obvious but harder to circumvent. Marcel Dumezil’s apartment was in the second story of the town hall, with guards lounging on the catwalk before it. The two windows were shuttered and each was five meters from the ground. They would be impossible to enter – or so the guards thought.

Jan reached the roof from the rear of the building and looped a line around the chimney, then rappelled to the level of the window. He was in shadow and around the corner from the guards. As long as he remained silent, he would go undetected. He listened and was reassured by the patriarch’s heavy breathing.

The shutters were latched from within but the hinges were leather and yielded instantly to his knife. He slipped inside.

Had the patriarch been a normal man, Jan could have awakened him and threatened him for the key, but the patriarch was a man of God and therefore unpredictable. He might cry out, either thinking himself invincible or valuing his life too lightly.

However, such threats would be unnecessary. On the table beside the patriarch’s head was a ring of keys. In a settlement with fewer than a half-dozen locks, there was no doubt that the key he sought was on it. The task was proving too easy and Jan hesitated, then realized that he was giving his enemy credit for too much sophistication.

The patriarch slept on. Jan’s knife was near at hand. It would only take one move, that yawning mouth covered to silence any outcry, and the zealot would be dead. With effective leadership gone, the purge might be ended.

A shaft of light from one of Harmony’s three moons fell across old Marcel’s face. Even in sleep his features showed no relaxation. A mystery Jan had all but forgotten flashed in his mind – who had thrown the grenade? Who had killed Tom Dennison, the navigator Jan had never seen in life? Who had ordered Jason D’Angelo’s death; who had ordered the attack on Valikili when he kept liaison with Helene? Whose actions had prompted this situation, their flight, Helene’s imprisonment, Valikili’s wound?

The patriarch – Marcel Dumezil. Even those crimes he had neither committed nor ordered could be laid at his feet because of his influence.

Jan raised his knife, running his finger along the edge. He had sharpened it before the night’s mission and the leather hinges had not dulled it at all. The blade would do whatever he set it to – silently and efficiently.

A vagrant breeze stirred the old man’s hair, sending a wisp to tickle his nose. He snorted, stirred, then subsided.

Marcel Dumezil, colonist, organizer, leader, a man of immense talents, immense potential for good in his community – what drove him to this purge?

He was so like old Daniel Andrax.

*****

This scene recurs in others of my novels, as well. The man (and once, the woman) who has a genuine grievance stands over his/her tormentor, and cannot drive the blade home. Sometimes it works out well; sometimes that forbearance leads to disaster. The issue is not morality, but a genuine incapacity to do the deed.

In the novel Cyan, in its first draft, Keir does drive the knife home – but it was all wrong, and deeply anticlimactic. It took me years to find Keir’s solution to the conundrum.

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