The wind howled around her, clawing at her cheeks, nose and lips. The yachts moored in the harbour through winter, clattered together like sodden barflies competing to get a last order in. Snow was being whipped into her eyes and face, ice daggers hurled from the water towards the shore, embedding into any inch of exposed skin it could find.
The woman brushed errant strands of ginger hair out of her face and pulled the hood of her parka coat up tight around her head, the ferocious snarl of the blizzard suddenly muted and left to ravage the world outside. Her gaze ran over the islands of Sirpalesaari and Liukasaari. They lay like giant beasts out in the freezing waters. A pang of envy shot through her gut, a longing to experience such peace and tranquillity as the islands boasted at this time of night.
She let her eyes stay with the islands and the water, drinking it in. Finally, she tore her eyes away towards the ground and turned from the water’s edge, walking northwards through the Meripuisto.
The snow hadn’t been allowed to settle through the daytime, the rush of pedestrian footsteps kicking the crisp white snow into a grey, sludgy mush at the side of the pathway that connected Merikatu street and the edge of the harbour. But now, in the late hours of the evening, nobody passed this way and the snow had not abated. The thin blanket crunched under her steady, measured footsteps. A small flash of colour caught the corner of her eye and wrenched her attention back to the world around her.
The colour was a small, frail fox. The fox stopped in its tracks, watching intently to see what the woman would do. She sighed to herself and smiled towards the animal. In a heartbeat, there was an orange blur streaking across the grass towards thick bushes and the fox was lost from view. Her smile fell and she trudged further along the path, hands plunged into her coat pockets.
As she crossed Merikatu and continued north along Kapteeninkatu, her hands fiddled absentmindedly with items in the pockets. In the left was a bulging, zip locked plastic bag and a metallic utility knife with the blade withdrawn and safety clasp locked. In the right was a bundle on Euro notes and a handful of loose coins. Forming loose fists, she collected the coinage and allowed the change to fall between her fingers.
Stopping at the junction of Kapteeninkatu and Pietarinkatu, she turned her eyes to the misty window of a Japanese restaurant. Inside, a waitress was wiping down a table and straightening chair arrangements, getting ready to shut up shop and get home. A young couple stepped out from the door, arms interlinked and heads bowed with wide, genuine smiles in the amusement of a shared joke. The woman’s hair bounced in tight black curls around her narrow, olive skinned faced. The man was tall, blonde hair swept to one side and gelled into place. Shielded by the large hood of the parka, the woman smiled at the idea of how much it looked as if the couple could have been stepping right out of an IKEA catalogue or Starbucks advert.
The couple ignored her, brushing straight past as they were wholly engrossed in their loving whispers. As they left, her ears pricked up at the sound of vehicle breaking system’s high pitched whine. The bus eased to a stand-still next to a Perspex and steel shelter, the doors unfurling and, after a few moments, an elderly man shunting a weathered, ancient looking shopping trolley ahead of her tottered down the vehicle steps on to the pavement.
She briskly crossed the road and hopped onto the bus steps and approached the driver.
“Espa.” she muttered in a low tone, keeping the hood up and her face towards the floor.
The driver said nothing as he punched a button on the console next to his steering wheel and a ticket duly stuttered out from the chuntering printer. She snatched it away from the machine and handed over a few coins before making her way to the back of the near empty bus.
Slumping down into a seat three rows from the rear, she studied the other passengers. Two old, bearded men propping each other up, ones head lolling back at what should have been a brutally uncomfortable angle, the other snoring gently against his companions chest. Cans of cheap beer clanged against their feet, the liquid spilling from the cans and pooling under the seats.
Further up, closer to the driver’s position, a slender young looking man sat, fidgeting with his mobile phone nervously. He shot worried glances around the near deserted transport, as if he was anticipating all sorts of misfortune to befall him at any moment.
Satisfied neither the individual young man or pair of sleeping drunks would cause her any hassle, the woman with the ginger hair subtly pulled the utility knife from her pocket and placed it in her lap. Then she dug into the other pocket and unzipped the plastic bag within. From the plastic emerged a small, maroon coloured booklet. Gold lettering shimmered in the weak interior lighting, a lion and unicorn both rampant on the booklet’s front cover.
She hurriedly flicked through the pages, her eyes flicking upwards to see if anyone was paying her any attention. She stopped flicking at the thick plastic back page and dropped her eyes to the booklet. A younger, clean faced version of herself stared back at her, expression totally neutral and hair tied back away from her face. She thumbed the safety clasp of the utility knife and extended the blade. With a careful but firm hand, she scored two horizontal lines into the back page, making the words “Sandra” and “Jessop” illegible.
She felt a weight slip from her shoulders with that action. She breathed in, deep and this time more freely than before. She smiled warmly, not caring if the drunks were to wake up and see her grinning like a loon, knife blade in hand.
Placing the booklet flat against the soft empty seat next to her, she went back to work. Firstly, the date of birth was neatly scored through, then the 3.5cm X 4.5cm portrait of her was cut out and lifted from the booklet. The booklet was then closed and the blade punched through the middle. Whilst trying to remain somewhat discreet, the woman dragged the knife through, cutting the booklet in half. She repeated the action to each half and then once again to each new square, creating 16 roughly equal squares of confetti, which she stuffed into the pocket with the right hand pocket of her coat.
With this ritual successfully performed, she beamed out through the grubby window to the snow covered streets outside. She smirked at the pedestrians waging individual battles against the elements. She grinned mischievously into the dark alleyways and side streets that whipped past her.
Realising her destination was the next stop, she stood and walked awkwardly towards the doors, nearly tumbling over as the vehicle rattled and bounced along the roads. The creaky, metal behemoth lurched to a halt and the mechanisms called into action groaned as the doors eased open.
With a spring in her stepped, she casually pulled her fist from the right pocket and splayed her fingers out wide, allowing the confetti’d remnants of Sandra Jessop dance down and settled amongst the snow in the gutter of the road. Come morning, the inches thick layer of snow and ice would melt, and the last documented proof of Ms Jessop’s existence would be serenely washed away into the Helsinki sewer system.
Her gait was lighter and more jovial as she turned right past the row of shuttered eateries and shops towards the southern entrance of Esplandi. The moustachioed pensioner wearing a thick knitted jumper and flat cloth cap was manning a 24 hour coffee stall, the only other soul on this stretch of street. She sauntered towards the stall and the gruff looking older man nodded to take her order.
“Mustaa kahvia, kiitos!” she said proudly, no longer making much of an effort to hide her native south London accent. The man nodded and slowly waddled into the depths of the stall, returning shortly with a polystyrene cup of steaming black coffee. She nodded her thanks and handed over the entire bundle of Euro notes, backing away with a slight curtsy. The man eyed her warily, but said nothing. He watched her waltz away and grunted to himself, settling back into his vigil.
The woman formerly known as Sandra Jessop glided ace the cobbled streets and into the Esplandi. Sipping on the hot drink, she found a rickety wooden bench, brushed the settled snow from the seat and sat down, gazing out at the stillness of the city park.
Since her actions aboard the bus, she truly felt…free. It brought a warm glow of joy to know that not one person on the planet who could identify her by name knew where she was, and equally that none of the individuals she had seen that evening knew a single detail as to her identity. She hoped the actions taken would mean that those who knew her and those who knew her location would remain morally exclusive for ever more.
She laughed softly to herself and drained the coffee.
Once more fished into the coat pockets and unzipped the plastic bag she carried with her. This time, she withdrew a Beretta M9 pistol. Bought and paid for in cash a week ago behind a shipping container in Malmo. She checked the weapon was loaded, cocked it and jarred the muzzle under her chin. Closed her eyes, counted to three and yanked down on the trigger.
Sandra Jessop slowly open her eyes. Blinking, she took in the sights and sounds of her environment. The telephone on the desk behind her rang urgently and insistently yet went unansered. The Lenovo branded laptop in front of her was alerting her that closing this window would result in all unsaved work being lost. To her left stood Jason, her colleague in Accounts Payable, a novelty coffee mug depicting a cartoon cat who hated Mondays.
“Fancy a brew, Sandy?”