Such urgency was an ugly thing to perceive. The wheels of the hansom cab had set off a hundred miniature thunderclaps, one from every paving stone. The coachman’s face was smeared with contempt for everything that was not greater speed. Even the horses seemed dissatisfied by the cab’s progress through the busy market street. From the window of my garret, I watched the conveyance snort and shove its way through filthy urchins offering squash, melons, puppies. The smells of the fares on offer filled my senses but today was not a day for leisurely commerce, if this was the man I was expecting.
The hansom barreled toward the entrance to the inn, and a man leapt out. A cloud of coins flew over his shoulder as he disappeared from my view. Just seconds later I could make out his crazed footsteps below, climbing the four steep flights of stairs to my room. With each successive THWONK the end drew closer. I turned from the window and awaited the aftermath of this awful crescendo.
The panting messenger, the whites of his eyes flashing like a blade, gasped for air. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his greatcoat, and unburdened himself at last.
“Sometimes,” he snarled, “I change my passwords on websites just to get an e-mail from someone.”