The truth was Ed Stanko was as terrified of death as any man, though once he got used to it it didn't seem so bad, only lonely, far lonelier than he ever had imagined. At first he felt the searing knife sunk through his gut like a falling anchor until it stuck, caught on a bone or rock deep in the muck and hooked there, steadying him. Then fire. For awhile he was blinded by the blue rage in the woman's eyes but after a time that too grew familiar and vaguely distant like the anchor within him. Then he became slowly aware of the smells in the killing room, lilacs and the damp, metallic smell of blood, musk perfume, faint clove, and the oily smell of the steel blade, the familiar stench of shit in his drawers. Something else, the smell of a woman in sex.

He pulled the water over him like a blanket and slept, lonelier than he had ever been.