April 29, 1924: evening

When Cati arrived at her apartment, she dropped her purse on the settee in the front room and sat down heavily beside it. After a moment, she reached into the fabric bag and rustled around until she found her cigarettes and matches. She sat and smoked and stared absently at a stray piece of black lint on the cream-colored rug beneath her feet.

She was trying not to think.

She lit a second cigarette and picked up the receiver of the telephone on the side table. "Emma, love!" she said with whole-hearted false cheer. "Join me at the Cellar tonight!"

Cati finished her cigarette and reached into her purse again. This time her hand emerged with a flask, from which she took a healthy swig of gin. Grabbing her purse, she returned the silver container to its place as she hurried down the hall to her bedroom.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a figure move across the kitchen door. "Hello, Magda," she called out to her housekeeper. "I'm only here a moment. I'll be going out with Emma shortly."

Cati took her pistol out from where she kept it in her lingerie drawer. She slipped it into her purse beside the slim cigarette case, the little book of matches, and the tarnished flask. There was a sealed tube in there, too, with an odd, mercurial fluid collected in the bottom.

Putting its existence out of her mind, she turned and headed out to catch a cab.