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... dumb, invisible, the spirit of the assassin waited in the mirror for an empty mind to pause ... uncaring and patient as the time it bided, the jumbie waited by the by, seeing every happening...

The room was a grand close of polished wood, a nest made safe by well-paid artisans' skill and sweat. This gleam of finest labor shone everywhere-in a dull glow from the paneled ceiling, from the sheen in the latticework of the wine cabinets, as soft glints on the straight-backed chairs standing sentinel around the long, smooth, mahogany surface at which the man sat.

Long of limb befitting the largeness of the room, condor-like, he sat with a lonely hunching-down of shoulders and neck towards the meal before him. With a silver fork, he pushed the food from spot to spot on the silver plate. After all the maneuvering, he stabbed the smallest bit and raised it heavily to his mouth. Then left it paused there, as do those who dine with minds already glutted.

... the mirror was a monstrous eye baring the big room and its single door ... spanning one wall, beginning knee-high, the ancient thing could contain the man's highest reach, though he was taller than most men ... the emptiness the mirror housed was also large, and mute, and yearning ... an ageless jumbie spread throughout the clear glass, fully containing the hungry maw of its waiting space...

The woman entered the room softly, glided along the table to the man and poised there a little to his side, silent as her image in the mirror. The man did not notice her. As she watched him shift the food about, a smile at once patient and resigned, tickled her mouth. It spoke same as her hands clasped low, the fingers woven into a basket of concern under her belly.

The man, sensing his space shared, looked at the mirror and saw her. With no more than that upturned glance, he watched her through the unblinking glass eye, stared as if she were an interesting idea slowly filling a puzzle in his mind.

Her attention fixed on the silver plate, the rejected food, the woman spoke softly: "You're not eating, Mozai."

Without response, Mozai appraised her through the mirror: the jaunty dress of regal blue velvet, jutting challenge at her breasts and flaring broad disdain down from her lithe waist, frilled collar framing the V of her neck; right in the heart's flutter at her throat, a ruby pendant pulsed from a fine gold chain. Her hair was combed into an upward cone, framing her face in the youthful way he liked. Still, as always, he couldn't keep his gaze from the jewel of spilled blood dancing borrowed life at her neck.

Half chiding, half indulgent, she said, "Mozai, you're going to get sick, my love. You're not eating at all. You're not sleeping in the night. You leave the bed all hours. You think I sleep through? What is it, Mozai? Oh, Mozai, can't you tell me?"

She moved closer as she spoke, just within arm's-length. He continued regarding her through the oversize mirror. "It's not so bad, Jhanni," he said. "You can't help." The voice spoke his mind from elsewhere as he scratched into the jumbled nappiness of his hair, looking at her. "You're beautiful, Jhanni," he added.

As if for a lost truth, she searched his face while he remained gravely watching her image. Finally, with doubtful cheeriness, she said, "I try, I try. Don't want you to forget me. And I'm soon going out. With Segol, to walk in the gardens. But don't change the subject on me, Moze. You seem so far away from everything. Is there nothing here'd interest you?"

Her manner suggested something specific, and only now Mozai turned and faced Jhanni.

She waited, longing for the smallest sign before she recognized the absence in his gaze-that it went past her, that his interested expression was remains of some previous impulse now withered and stillborn. She sighed quiet to the spasm of frustration quivering through her and re-clasped her twisting fingers under her belly. "Oh! Mozai, talk to me," she exclaimed. "Stop going away from me like this."

As if unhearing, he made no response as she turned and walked fast away. When she looked back before closing the door, Mozai was still staring at the space where she'd stood.

... without note of the woman's splendid beauty or her fury of caring, without heed of the man's worrying, the yearning spirit watched from the mirror ... lurking ... waiting only for some useful mind to enter the place where this man was most secure ... that absolute hunger its sustaining torment as time flowed on over the forever precipice...

It was very late. Mozai had used the hours hard, writing thoughtful letters-balm to sooth important opinions, reassurances that the rumormongers were selling false. Like a spider reinforcing its web, he'd assured his leadership was secure. Now, leaning back in his chair, he dug the heels of his palms into the sockets of shut-tight eyes, gouging away their protests with deliberate force. Yet when he stopped the punishment, he found the room unchanged, same way tiring, and the brightness grown painful. His bleary squint focused on the sheen of mirror. Perhaps it was the trouble, he mused, doubling the illumination by reflection, making too much light. In sudden decision, he called, "Here!"

The door opened immediately and Jhanni entered.

Mozai stood up sharply, exclaimed, "Jhanni! What're you doing here? Where's Aldo?"

She said, "It's okay. I sent him to bed. It's late."

"What time is it?" asked Mozai, crumpling back into the straight chair, where he stretched mightily, yawned to suit.

Jhanni went behind the chair, put her hands on his shoulders and began kneading them firmly. "Time enough," she said.

He nuzzled his head sideways and backwards, trapped a massaging hand.

"My big, strong, tired man," Jhanni murmured.

Mozai reached around and pulled her onto his lap. His free hand thrust up under her nightclothes as he glinted a wolfish smile. "Not that tired."

Jhanni closed her eyes and with a deep sigh, rested her head on his chest. Surrendering more comfortably to his probing desire, she raised one leg to the edge of the long, hard table.

... watching ... watching from behind the lights that multiplied too brightly in the private room ... the measure of the jumbie's interest was a nonce of all the time it had ... a greedy mind remained its only lust...

They lay on the carpeted floor just under the head of the big table. Jhanni's arms were tight about her man, grasping his heaviness close as she strained herself up to receive him. Around his broad back, her beautiful hands reached towards each other. At the corners of her eyes, tiny tears glistened. "Oh Mozai, my love, you're a good man." Her wistful voice convinced and pleasured.

"Stand by me, Jhanni. I depend..." Mozai mumbled, his drowsy thought unfinished.

After a while, she shifted slightly to better accommodate his weight. That tugged him back from the eddies of sleep, and he moved to lie at her side, he asked, "These last days, how've you been?"

"I'm all right," she answered quickly. "Been everywhere. You know, shopping, strolling the marketplace. I've found a marvelous new singer you must hear. And I gave the award at the schoolchildren's annual footrace. Oh yes, and we rode down to the harbor, to this trader's ship. The captain is Segol's friend. He was very nice-"

"Segol, or the captain?"

"Oh, Mozai. The captain, of course. Segol is always nice. But do you know the sailors really believe women on their boats bring bad luck? They're serious!"

A basso, drowsy "Hmm hmnn."

Fondly, Jhanni glanced at him and, despite his dozing eyes, continued her happy talk.

... the essence of the spirit swirled its empty self throughout the mirror, striving continuously without rate, relentless for the life of the mind it sought ... patient for its sentence to end, and time begin again...

The manservant entered the room and announced, "The gentleman's arrived, sir. He is waiting in the hall."

"Does he seem anxious, Aldo?"

"Yes sir, he won't sit."

Mozai nodded slowly. Then, remembering, said, "Ah, those lights. You must take some of them from around the mirror. They make the room too bright."

"I'll attend to it right away, sir."

Mozai was silent a moment, staring into space. Then he sat up straighter in the hard chair and ordered, "Send the gentleman in."

"Yes, sir," said the manservant, and went out.

Then Segol came into the room.

... the jumbie of the assassin began to come into the yawn of a leaking hole, it swirled and drained into itself, formed into one and was whole, complete in the manner that a breath is, finished in substance like a thought ... and as the newcomer stepped so near to the seated man, it deserted its big old eye of the hard mirror ... it had found its space...

At first, as they spoke, Segol thought Mozai's manner haughty and specious from uncertain authority. Later on, when Mozai smiled so easily in persuaded agreement, Segol re-measured him as shallow of cunning, without backbone. He never stopped wondering why a woman as beautiful as Jhanni stayed with such a fool. Then he thought of how soon it would all change.

... the spirit of the assassin waxed strong within Segol as he talked, and smiled, and brooded behind bland eyes ... mightily the jumbie swelled the passion of his revolutionary heart ... so distracting it conjured his future victories, he never noticed Mozai slip the rattler's venom into the silver wine cup ... and when Mozai proposed a parting toast, Segol grinned to conceal ironic guile as he wished "Good health" to Mozai before he drank his poison down...

. . .and the spirit of the assassin glutted on this materiel for continuance of its timeless way. . .