The Sin Eater let his boot hit the puddles of the road, water splashing on to the hem of his trousers. He didn’t worry that the water was probably more shit than rain. He’d been around humans so long their barbaric and primitive practices no longer shocked him. He accepted it. That’s why whenever he was in London his trousers were only worn once and discarded; left for a chamber maid or concierge to wear if they wished. After all, the fabric was fine and expensive, and if they could sell them it was as good as a tip.

He just didn’t want to wear pants with shit on them.

The hovel in his sights was a pathetic structure, listing to one side, lucky to be propped up between two stone structures with much stronger foundations. It looked as though a squatter had put a front door on someone’s garden and then stretched a thatched roof overhead. It just didn’t fit. And neither did the dying man inside.

The Sin Eater could smell the man’s fear from across the street. It never ceased to amaze him how people could suddenly find their God and faith at the exact moment they got a whiff of the fact that they were not much longer for this world. For all their disgusting behaviors and rough manners, humans were delightfully hypocritical, hence his wealth and purpose in this life.

Or was this all just a slow, meandering death? It was hard to tell. His employer, after all, took delight in not always sharing the whys and ways of the immortality He bestowed on souls. The contingencies were always an uncomfortable surprise.

When the Sin Eater reached the door of the shanty he knocked for outward appearances’ sake, then let himself in as though invited.

The room stank not only of death but also of sin; the mingling smell of moldy onion and rotten meat. Not everyone could smell it that way, but the Sin Eater could. He could sense many things strictly by smell. Anger, fear, sorrow, frustration, deceit … even evil. And over the smell of death, it was the smell of evil that brought him to this house.

A small man was wasting away on a straw mattress, mumbling “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …”

The Sin Eater shook his head, pulling a wooden stool across the floor loudly and sitting at the man’s bedside. That’s when the man noticed he was there, and as though sensing the load the Sin Eater carried, he shrunk away from him.

“Who … who art thou?”

“Worry yourself not about who I am. Worry about the why of what I am.”

The man clearly wasn’t up for riddles, and frowned, his hands forming feeble claws and pulling at the thin, filthy blanket covering him. “I have no wealth, no money, no gold. Take what you want, but I am dying and know that it is a sin to steal.”

The Sin Eater barked a laugh at that. “Believe me, old man. I can tell you what is sin and what is not.”

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