A Letter from Hell
Reply - Guido di Cesare
by Rhiannon

London, October 31,
1799.

Sir,

I do not know you, and, perhaps fortunately for you, will probably
never have the dubious pleasure of making your acquaintance. I have in
mind tonight all the old superstitions of my childhood, the ghosts and
ghouls that we attempt to deny as childhood passes, and continue, on
this night of all nights, to at least respect, if not to fear.

I sit here, remembering the tales my brothers told me, of phantom hands
and ghostly visitors come to warn of dire events, and I know, finally
and absolutely, that they lied. For were such visitations possible, Mr
Simpson, your letter would have been delivered in person, and that, I
know it was not. My brothers told me legends and fairy tales,
impossible, incredible, and almost certainly all untrue, and yet,
perhaps, it is these I need to remember, for how else but by some
supernatural means could a letter arrive from the depths of hell, in
the half-literate scrawl of a long-dead man?

I am, even on All Hallowsí Eve, a relatively rational being, sir, and
do not care to speculate on such matters. I take the evidence of my
eyes, and go no further into the realms of fantasy. Once this is
written, I will consign it to the flames with my own hand, thus
ensuring that it reaches you by the most direct means possible, and
consider my folly no longer, nor speak of it to anyone.

Over the past few months, I have, most carefully, studied the social
niceties essential to my survival in London society, and so feel bound
to introduce myself. I am the Conte di Cesare, former assassin and
one-time marksman, known as the Angel of Death only a year since. Over
the past four years, my duty has been simple. Men such as you are my
targets. I am the knife in the dark, the poison in the cup, the last
whisper of sound at the cusp of hearing, a single footfall in the night
that heralds death. Were you alive, you would be my quarry, a final
mark in my tally of victims before my retirement to the relative peace
of the intelligence service. But you are dead, and I have already left
my previous profession, and so this letter, which no-one but ourselves
will ever know of, is the only course of action available to me. Even
on this night, when the boundary between living and dead is tenuous
indeed, I can do no more.

Your letter to Mr Hornblower, inked in all the venom that your sorry
mind could hold, I found most ñ shall we say ñ enlightening. It cast
new light on a man I knew only as a rotting corpse, one whom I had
every reason to despise through hearsay, and one whom I would gladly
have dragged back from hell, were such a thing possible, to send you
back there once more, having benefited from my own particular brand of
education. Oh, yes, Mr Simpson. I am a master in the arts of torture,
and would gladly have demonstrated my expertise on you before
reconsigning you to the pit I hauled you from. However, such deeds are
not feasible, and I am confined to sitting here and musing upon legends
and fantastical bedtime tales to satisfy my desires. It is hardly
enough, but I fear it must suffice. In the imagination, one can be the
perpetrator of many deeds of which /one/ would perhaps be somewhat too
final in reality. On this matter, however, I fear I digress.

Your letter, which I stumbled upon in a quest for a borrowed shirt,
perplexed me at first, for in it I saw no resemblance to the men I
count myself privileged to have met and worked with. Indeed, were it
not for the reference to Mr Kennedy, I would have deemed it a bought
curiosity that spoke of other men, one of the fakes and forgeries
designed to rob the gullible of their money and add to the ghostly
legends that we tell on evenings such as this. But, as I have said, I
am not a man inclined to doubt the evidence of my eyes, and so I must
accept, however unwillingly, the truth of what I found. I have held in
my hand a letter sent from hell. I consider it both an honour and a
personal pleasure to respond, in order that I might reacquaint you with
your former shipmates, and disabuse you of some preconceptions that
hellfire does not, as yet, appear to have burnt out of you.

I do not know if your effect on these men, during your life, was as
great as you claim, for you seem to me to be a man whose sense of self
is somewhat disproportionate to your worth, but I can tell you one
thing with utter certainty. You affect them not at all in death.
Whatever it was you intended to accomplish, sir, you failed, and never
have I considered a manís failure with such pleasure. Neither is dead,
nor imprisoned, nor lost hope or loyalty or that bright sense of honour
which I so admire in each. You have failed, sir, you have failed in
all you set out to do, failed to destroy either these men or their
friendship. Is the taste of this knowledge bitter to you? For I have
more, wormwood and gall to add to the searing flames that torment you
even as I write. They were long since promoted to lieutenants, a
position I believe you were never deemed quite worthy ñ or indeed
capable ñ of attaining.

I watched them fight an enemy worse than even your fondest imaginings
of yourself could be, fearless and unfaltering as the world they knew
was turned on its head into insanity. They saved my name and my life,
time after time and without questioning my worth, gave me back belief
in honour and good through days when I could barely support my own
existence. So long as there are men like this, then the world I so
unwillingly inhabit, the world of shadows and politics and corruption,
will never be the driving force of the country I fight for. They
taught me that there is a greater strength in laughter and friendship
than there is in the sharpest of my blades. How could you ever have
thought yourself capable of destroying men of such worth?

You have created your own hell, Mr Simpson. The agony you tried to
cause did nothing but strengthen these men, the despair you so fondly
imagine yourself to be responsible for is not present now, if indeed it
ever was. The reason you never found the vulnerability in Mr
Hornblower that you longed for so greatly is because it was never
present, and not even your machinations could destroy a spirit as
bright as Mr Kennedyís. There can be no consolation such as you speak
of in the place where you now reside, and I am delighted to be the
author of its removal.

I wish you joy of the knowledge I now consign to the flames, and add
one cautionary note. Pray hard for the redemption of my soul, Mr
Simpson, for should my crimes be called to judgement on the day of my
death, as I believe is inevitable, I will be soon be in your near
vicinity. As I told you, it is fortunate for you that we never met.
Pray that this happy state of affairs continues through eternity, for
should it cease, you will deem the hell you now find yourself in to be
a veritable paradise.

I remain, in my own service and no other man's,

Guido, Conte di Cesare.