Edna Sharrow

Words and photographs by Paul McAuley

2.

Here's the place where she met her nemesis on a snowy night in February 1939, after the debacle at the Bank of England.

The two men bursting in while she and Kurt were loading the barge. Brave, beautiful, blond Kurt running at them with a boathook and Detective Sergeant Flowers shooting Kurt with his service revolver and Kurt's brains and blood jumping from his shattered head. And Mr Carlyle, that sly old fraud, whipping Edna's servants from her and scattering them into nothing at all in the cold black air.

Edna had the presence of mind to jump into the water and release her hold on the fire imp, and the barge had gone up in clap of white flame. She remembers seeing it burning through blowing snow when she'd surfaced a hundred yards away. Remembers that she flagged down a taxi outside the London Hospital later that night. Remembers the look of surprise and regret on the face of the cabbie in the moment of his death.

An hour later she was at the safe house in Tooting. The next day she was in France.

Standing on the canal towpath in plain daylight, Edna Sharrow can feel her old enemy to the east. Like a splinter of black light in the corner of her eye. Still in that house in Spitalfields no doubt. He was a creature of habit then, and she's certain that he won't have changed very much. Goody.

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