The 22nd of December.

He knew that he was being followed. The feeling of being watched, being tracked, had been with him for the last three minutes as he had walked along Fleet Street in the cold December evening. It was nearly eight o’clock and most of the traffic had thinned out; most of the commuters had gone home or were comfortably ensconced in bars and pubs. He would be in the cocoon of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese shortly, enjoying the company of friends and a glass of Islay scotch (no water or ice) as long as he could escape whatever was pursuing him. He would have to create the opportunity to deal with the threat, as usual. The street lights were almost extinguished in the alleys which led off from the ancient thoroughfare. There were no CCTV cameras there, either. A moment later he ducked into the narrow passage which led to Hen and Chickens Court. There was no room to swing a chicken there, let alone a cat. Perfect. He began reaching under the right side of his pea-coat, feeling for the familiar blade. After five paces he turned sharply, drawing the weapon from under his jacket as he pivoted, only to see a figure dressed like an undertaker, pointing the tip of a gladius at his throat.

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