This has bugged me for some time re an anthology of Dark Fantasy stories I read in the 1980's. The basic synopsis of the short story I remember best is that an assassin is contracted to kill a politician, little knowing he is an alien and is expecting him. I was sure the story went by the title 'a small kindness' which relates to how at its end when the assassin thinks better of what he is contracted to do his 'target' shields him from getting wet. Nevertheless I cannot track it down. I remember it having a number of good stories which I'd love to re-visit if some helpful soul could just point me in the right direction!


"A Small Kindness", a 1983 short story by Ben Bova. Any of these covers look familiar? (I don't have any of those anthologies, so I don't know, but none of them looks like a "dark fantasy" anthology.)

. . . an assassin is contracted to kill a politician,

Terminate Rungawa. That was his mission. Kill him and make it look as if he's had a heart attack. It should be easy enough. One old man, walking alone down the boulevard to his hotel. "The Black Saint" never used bodyguards. He was old enough for a heart attack to be beyond suspicion.

little knowing he is an alien and is expecting him.

As he came to within ten feet of Rungawa he raised the dart gun. It worked on air pressure, practically noiseless. No need to cock it. Five feet. He could see the nails on Rungawa's upraised hands, the pinkish palms contrasting with the black skin of the fingers and the backs of his hands. Three feet. Rungawa's suit was perfectly fitted to him, the sleeves creased carefully. Dry. He was wearing only a business suit, and it was untouched by the rain, as well-creased and unwrinkled as if it had just come out of the store.

"Not yet, Mr. Keating," said the old man, without turning to look at Jeremy. "We have a few things to talk about before you kill me."

[. . . .]

"I am not a human being, Mr. Keating. I come from a far distant world, a world that is nothing like this one."

. . . at its end when the assassin thinks better of what he is contracted to do

In a sudden paroxysm of rage and terror and frustration Jeremy hurled the gun high into the rain-filled night, turned abruptly and walked away from Rungawa. He did not look back, but he knew the old man was smiling at him.

It's a trick, he kept telling himself. A goddamned trick. He knew damned well I couldn't kill him in cold blood, with him standing there looking at me with those damned sad eyes of his. Shoot an old man in the face. I just couldn't do it. All he had to do was keep me talking long enough to lose my nerve. Goddamned clever black man. Must be how he lived to get so old.

his 'target' shields him from getting wet.

Keating looked at the sleeve of his trench coat. It was perfectly dry. The whole coat was as clean and dry as if it had just come from a pressing. His feet were dry; his shoes and trousers and hat were dry.

He turned and looked out the front window. The rain was coming down harder than ever, a torrent of water.

[. . . .]

As he went up the first flight, he heard a voice, even though he was quite alone on the carpeted stairs.

"A small kindness, Mr. Keating," said Kungawa, inside his mind. "I thought it would have been a shame to make you get wet all over again. A small kindness. There will be more to come."

  • 1
    Thank you user14111 that is indeed the story, now the next task to track down the dark fantasy anthology I first read it in. The story itself moved me when first read as as teenager and still does now as the 50 year old man I am books.google.co.uk/… – Peter Smollen Feb 16 at 11:36

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