Finish the Job

Mrs. Devonshire was sitting on the edge of the sofa, straight, her hands flat on her thighs. She was shaking. That was understandable, considering the gun pointed at her chest. I was sitting opposite her in the comfortable armchair. My hand wasn’t shaking. I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly if I couldn’t manage the stress.

“I tell you the truth, Mrs. Devonshire,” I said. “This isn’t a robbery. Though it will look like one after I finish here.”

I could see in her eyes that she slowly processed what I had said. She was beautiful despite some crow’s feet. Her blue eyes resembled sapphires. It made me sad to destroy such a beauty, but I had a job to do.

“I’m here because your husband hired me to kill you.”

Her eyes widened in shock. She covered her mouth with her hand and shook her head in disbelief. Having many years of experience, I can tell what’s going on in their heads. First comes the surprise with a real shock. What? How is it possible? Why? Why me? I guess Mrs. Devonshire found it unbelievable that her husband could be so cold-blooded to hurt her. Then comes the doubt. What if… You can finish the sentence by adding any malevolent reason. It can be money, jealousy, power, hate. Mostly money.

“No. No, no, no. Not possible!” her voice came out muffled from behind her hand.

“It will take only a moment. You won’t feel anything. It will be also silent. Nobody will hear anything.” I pointed at the silencer mounted on the gun.

She dropped her hand into her lap and her eyes were jumping from my face to the gun, then to her hands, and all over again. She came to the phase of doubt. I waited. Gave her time to think through the things going on between her and Mr. Devonshire. To find out that there could be indeed a reason his husband wanted her dead. From her eyes, I could see that she found it. I let her think some more. I had the time.

It’s amazing how many solutions human can find to protect their pitiful lives. I was sure Mrs. Devonshire’s mind was racing like a wild horse to think of something which can make me abandon my plan. I hoped she wouldn’t go for the option of running. I expected more sophisticated ideas from her. She didn’t run.

“I double your payment if…” she gulped, but continued, “… if you kill my husband.”

I pretended to think it over.

“Mr. Devonshire pays me one million,” I lied.

“I pay two,” she blurted.

“Hmm …” I said, pretending to think it through. “We can make a deal, I think. Is this amount available to you right now?”

“I have it on my account. I can transfer it immediately.”

“It’s agreed, then.”

She stood up, went to the table, and she sat at her laptop. I followed her and stood behind her, pointing my gun at her head.

“Please don’t try anything stupid. I’m quite familiar with computers.”

She didn’t answer, but logged into her home bank application. I gave her my Cayman Islands account number, and she made the transfer.

“Please, put your hands on the table, and stay put. We are waiting for the confirmation.”

I pulled my mobile out of my pocket and dialed the number. The bank clerk got on the line right away, and after giving my code, he confirmed that the amount has been transferred. I hang up.

“Very well, Mrs. Devonshire, it’s a pleasure making business with you. Now you are free to go.”

I stepped back and lowered my gun. First, she didn’t move. Maybe she couldn’t believe she had made it. Then she slowly stood up, and keeping an eye on me, walked carefully towards the door. When nothing happened, she run. She almost reached the door when I shot her in the back. The bullet went through her heart. I’m a fine shooter. It comes with the job.

She collapsed and stayed motionless on the ground. I checked her pulse to be sure. No pulse. Job accomplished. I dialed the number I memorized before.

“Yes,” said Mr. Devonshire at the other end of the line.

“It’s done.”

There was a brief silence. “I transfer the money now,” said Mr. Devonshire. I hung up without answering. It took a little while, but according to the bank agent, the transfer was OK.

I sighed. Now came the hard part: it had to look like a robbery. So I searched the house for jewelry. I must admit, the Devonshires ‘ collection of golden and pearl necklaces, earrings and watches impressed me. They all went into a plastic bag I found in the kitchen. Then I threw some ornaments on the floor, shattering them, and pulled out drawers scattering clothes all over the place. It really looked like a robbery.

Satisfied, I sat down and waited for Mr. Devonshire. I always finish the job I hired for, even if the client died meanwhile. He supposed to arrive home in a few hours. I pulled out a thriller from my pocket and got to reading. I had some time to kill.

3-Act Story Structure Mind Map

I did a recap on the three act story structure doing a mini-course provided by Reedsy, and I created this mind map for myself. My brain works best if I see the overall picture of things, so this overview helps me to remember at one glance. I have put the structure into a timeline view. Feel free to use it.

For more information, and to get the Reedsy email course, visit their website. I don’t claim an ownership over the material, my mind map is only a high level view.

Click to enlarge:

The Black Girl in Black

The girl was black. Black skin, black skirt, black blouse and black sunglasses. The only white thing was the cord of her earphone coming from her ear and going to her black bag. I wondered about the sunglasses. We were on the train. Outside, the morning was cloudy with a touch of melancholy, which made the interior shadowish. She couldn’t possibly see properly. Maybe her eyes were sensitive to light, and the sunglasses were for protection. I would never know. What I did know was that I couldn’t see her eyes.

A minute ago, I was sitting next to the aisle, writing on my laptop. In the back of my brain it registered that the train had stopped at a station, but I was too busy with my novel. The girl just materialised in my peripheral vision. I saw her black socks and black skirt first. I looked up and saw her unsmiling, stoic face and her black glasses. The girl was just standing there without saying a word. She didn’t ask if the seat next to me was free. She didn’t ask me to move, so she could slip in.

However, I guessed what she wanted, and I stood up to give her room. Which didn’t happen as I expected. I had to stand up and step aside, next to my seat to let her pass to the window seat. But she was standing right on that spot, and she needed to step back so I could stand up. For a long moment, it seemed like she wouldn’t move. Finally she did, so I could give her the space, and she could sit down. The whole time I had the feeling that I was in her way, and I should have moved faster, and I shouldn’t have disturbed her ways.

She sat down without a word. No thank you, not a nod, no nothing. Then she sat motionless for the next thirty minutes. Which was OK for me, because I could continue writing undisturbed.

The whole thing made me thinking. What if it went down differently? 

What if…

I would write immersed in the story’s flow. I would realise that a black girl in all black stood next to me. I would look up slowly with dreamy eyes, still preoccupied with my writing, and for a while I would stare at a point in space behind her, then my eyes would return to the screen and I would continue typing. Would she ask me if she could sit? Or she would go away? Would I be the jerk, not understanding what she didn’t communicate, anyway? 


I would write immersed in the story’s flow. I would realise that a black girl in all black stood next to me. I would look up, smile at her, and ask if I can help her. Would she smile back and ask me if she could sit on the empty seat next to me? Would she bark at me: “Move!”?

What if…

I would let her sit, and I stopped writing and started chatting, and I wouldn’t shut up even if she was visibly dying of annoyance.

It could have gone many ways, and all of them would seem more normal than it actually felt. I was wondering if it had to do something with the modern teenagers not giving a fuck about social norms. Or maybe the girl was overly introvert. I would never know, because as polite as I always am, I just followed what my social brain dictated. But I still wonder how it could have gone down if I decided not to.


This Means War! by John Locke

“Anything yet?” Bronson asks.

I shake my head.

“All silent. Our guy is still asleep.”

I follow my routine of checking the camera feeds. The laptop’s screen is split into six windows, each shows a distinct part of the apartment we are watching. In the top right corner, our guy is sprawled in his bed, heavily snoring. Even though I exactly know where the guy is, I check all the feeds one by one.

Bronson sighs, gets up from the couch and walks to the desk where I’m sitting. He bends over to see the screen better.

“Lucky bastard,” he says. “I wish I had the time to finally have enough sleep.”

I notice the book in his hand he was reading. There is a silhouette of a woman on the cover, and the title says This Means War!

“Is it any good?” I nod towards the book.

“Certainly more interesting than watching this guy sleep, eat, take a shit and go back to sleep.”

“That’s surveillance for you.”

I check six feeds. The guy is still sleeping.

“What is it about?” I ask.

Bronson looks at the book as if the answer was written on the book cover.

“There is this guy, Donovan Creed, ex spy, now head of a security company, counsellor of the White House. He is obsessed with security threats and working out countermeasures. The White House didn’t act on his report on potential threats, so he makes an example–“

I lift my hand, stopping him.

“Don’t spoil it. I might give it a shot. Tell me what did you like.”

“Well, it’s fast-paced. You can hardly can come up for breath as you follow the story. Locke doesn’t really bother with descriptions.”

“How do you know how the characters look like, then?”

“Of course, there is some description, but minimal. For example, you are told that Callie is a beautiful blond and has grey eyes, but not ouch more.”

“Hm…,” I say.

“Actually, I don’t mind.”

“How do you know how the places look like?”

“If I tell you a guy walks into a bar, you already have a picture in your mind about a bar. Maybe I throw in some details like glass and mirrors and shining chrome. Do I need more?”

“I can picture it.” I do another round of checking the feeds on the laptop. The guy is still snoring.

“Right. I don’t say I would mind some more details here and there, but I can live without it.”

“What else?”

“The characters are crazy.”

“In what way?”

“Mentally. Not asylum-crazy, but not normal like you or me.”

“We are normal?”

“Compared to Creed or Callie? For sure. We don’t kill people because we don’t like them, for one. We don’t kill people to achieve some higher purpose, either.”

“But Creed does.”

“Callie too. And a bunch of others.”

“It supposed to be a trait?”

“It sure makes it interesting. I wouldn’t read a book about six days of sheer surveillance boredom.”

“You have a point.” After almost a week of sitting on my ass and watching this guy, I want to kill someone myself.

“Is the story interesting?” I ask.

“Yeah, man. It keeps you guessing until the end. And when you think you don’t have loose ends, there comes the twist.”

“I like twists.”

“Sometimes the plot seems too complicated, but in the end everything comes together.”

Another round of video feeds, and I still got snores.

“I think I give it a shot,” I say.

“Start with the first one in the series. You need the backstory to understand everything. But you will go through them real fast, I promise.”

I nod, but before I can say anything, one feed catches my eye. I pick up the radio.

“Bravo team, this is Eagle nest. I need immediate intervention! Over.”

Bronson drops his book. “Son of a bitch,” he says, staring at the screen.

“This is Bravo team, copy Eagle nest. What is the situation? Over.”

“Intruder in the hall. Six feet, male, armed with a handgun, slowly advancing towards the bedroom. Over.”

“Twenty seconds until intervention. Bravo Team out.”

In less than a minute, the Bravo Team breaks into the apartment, and after some shooting, catches the intruder, wounded but alive. Our guy wakes and he is visibly shaken but unharmed. I save the recording for the report. Then I stand, stretch a bit to work out the kinks.

“We are done here,” I tell Bronson. He is already disconnecting the cables to pack the equipment.

“What is the title of the first book?”

It takes a moment for him to register that I’m not talking about the operation.

“Oh,” he says, “Lethal People.”

Sounds good. Let’s see what this Creed guy is up to.


Variations are good

Warehouse 13

My sweetheart and I watched Warehouse 13 again. You know, the show. You haven’t seen it yet? Man, it’s a must for sci-fi fans. Anyway, that’s not the point. When we watched the last episode of the last season, I realized I had bought a Warehouse 13 e-book at some point, and it’s been sitting in my Kindle library ever since. It was time to read it!

It seems to create the atmosphere of the series well, and the characters are nicely recognizable from the show. The artifacts around which the plot of the book revolves also fit among those that are collected and put on the shelf in the TV show.

However, there is something I noticed.

It was not obvious at first. The second time I saw it as a stylistic literary device. The third time, it was looking suspicious. After the third time, it had become boring, even a little annoying.

It is that the descriptions are always the same. Always. Every single time. I mean, they describe different things, but they feel the same. The author uses the same sentences: subject, predicate, maybe place, maybe an adverb. He describes things in the same style every single time.

Here’s an example, a quote from the book:

“She continued on her way, exchanging more greetings with old friends and neighbours. Old Mrs. Lozenko was out walking her dog. Dr. Stevens, the dentist, was picking up his dry cleaning. The Brubaker twins were racing their bikes on the sidewalk. Claire and Janice, who ran the coffee shop, were pushing a baby stroller. Deputy Joe was checking the parking meters. Dave, the UPS guy, was dropping off a package at the thrift store. Crazy Vic was sleeping it off on the bench. Leena smiled at them all. She petted the dog.”

You see what I mean?


At least for a while. Then it gets annoying. I think it’s just laziness by the writer. Let’s see what would have happened if he had varied the length of the sentences!

“She continued on his way, exchanging more greetings with old friends and neighbors. The elderly Mrs. Lozenko came by, walking her dog. Leena smiled at the lady, and scratched Spykie by her ear, which was rewarded with a satisfied, joyful bark. Dr. Stevens trotted out of the dry cleaners, carrying the distinctive smell of cleaning detergents, his suit wrapped in nylon on his arm. He waved before climbing into his Buick, which was shining immaculately, as always. A suspicious noise came from behind Leena. She spun around. The Brubacker twins sped down the pavement on their bikes at a frantic pace, ringing their bells wildly to alarm passers-by. By the time Leena called after them to be careful, they were three shops away. Leena heard someone calling her by name. Claire and Janice, who ran the Coffee Time café, waved from across the street. Claire pushed a baby stroller, and Leena could see the little Audrey’s tiny pink-socked feet kicking. Cute baby. Moving on, she ran into Joe, the deputy chief of police, grunting under his thick moustache as he checked the parking meters. Leena said hello, and the reply could be taken as a good afternoon. Joe spotted Dave, the UPS guy, walking with long strides, a package under his arm, toward the thrift store. Joe followed him with narrowed eyes until he disappeared into the entrance, then returned to his parking meters and his growling. Leena’s path led past the park, as always. What was that pile on one bench? Ah, just Vic, who everyone referred to as Crazy Vic. He was probably just sleeping off his drunkenness.”

Doesn’t that make the picture more vivid? The variation in the length of sentences adds a lot to the text.

In fact, I’ve done more than play with sentence length. I have added little details, seemingly insignificant little things, which not only add colour to the scene but also help to shape the side characters.

Actually, there is a third thing: known in writing circles as “show, don’t tell”. Isn’t it more illustrative if, instead of “Dr. Stevens, the dentist, was picking up his dry cleaning.” we read, “Dr. Stevens trotted out of the dry cleaners, carrying the distinctive smell of cleaning detergents, his suit wrapped in nylon on his arm. He waved before climbing into his Buick, which was shining immaculately, as always.” Instead of telling what happens, I show the event so the reader can better visualize it.

So, I want you to promise not to bore the reader by making your sentences the same length all the time!

Wayward Magicians by J. R. Lewis

Wayward Magicians by Joseph Robert Lewis

“So, tell me about your findings,” the Curator says.

We are standing on the top of the ruins of the Old Town wall. On one side the silent ruins of Old Ankhar lay in the silence of centuries, keeping the memories of times when demons roared beneath the surface and people died terrible deaths. This portion of the wall, that surrounded the ancient Ankhar, is still standing, thanks to the prevention efforts of the Curatorium. The demolished buildings, destroyed homes, shattered stones of the old streets are still in their ruined form to remind the people that humans are fragile. It serves as a monument of horrible ancient powers, as well.

On the other side of the wall, Ankhar City buzzes with energy. The sun makes the White Towers so bright it pains to look at them. I hear the constant buzz of cars and people from the Malachi avenue near to us. I watch an airplane climbing higher and higher on the other side of the city, towards the white streaks that other flights left in the sky.

“The book might be original,” I say.

The Curator lifts one eyebrow. “Might be? It either is or isn’t.”

I quickly add, “I mean, the chemical tests proved that the paper and the ink are several centuries old.”

“We knew that already. Tell me about your trip.” The Curator turns and watches the ruins, as if waiting for an ancient demon to emerge to confirm his theory.

I hesitate. In the pub, with a bear in my hand, I would tell my story without hesitation. But the Curator isn’t a half-drunk buddy who would believe anything for another round. He is the head of the Institute of Archeology. 

“Don’t tell me you have spent the considerable amount we provided you with, for nothing.” His voice is calm, but I hear the menace between the lines. 

I clear my throat. “I found evidence.”

The Curator turns back to me, lifting both eyebrows.

“We started,” I continue, “in the ancient city under Old Ankhar. We found all kinds of artefacts that other archaeologists discovered already. Wooden cutlery, clay bowls and drinking cups, furniture and such. Everyday items. But we looked into places no one did before.”

I swallow. Now comes the hard part.

“And?” The Curator’s voice is urging.

“We found a skeleton of a goblin.”

“A goblin? How do you know?”

“If you saw it, you wouldn’t question it. It was much smaller than a human skeleton, but not like a child’s, rather deformed, in places bent unnaturally, other parts were bigger than they should have been. And the skeleton. Believe me, it wasn’t human.”

“Tell me more.”

“We went deeper, down to the belly of the mountain, even down to the roots of the mountain. We found an entire city. Houses, smitheries, workshops, dining halls, remains of clothes. Every kind of everyday artefacts. They were small, as if made for children, but at the same time thick and strong and robust. The people that once lived there must have had been short ones, this high.”

I put my open palm at the height of my stomach.

“Dwarves,” the Curator says, I cannot miss the excitement in his voice.

“Dwarves,” I confirm. “We have found remains of other creatures too. They had wings, and they resembled bats.”

“Like in the book of Malachi,” says the Curator. He starts to pace, deep in thoughts. He motions with his hands urging me, “Tell me more.”

“We went even deeper. So deep we thought we would never see the sun again. And we have found the lake. And the throne.”

The Curator stops in front of me and grabs my shoulders. “THE Throne?”

“THE Throne.”

“Tell me you have brought evidence!”

“As many artefacts as we could carry. And we filmed everything.”

“I want to see them!”

“Or course. We left them with the guards in the House of Malachi.”

He paces again, excited.

“You realize what it means?”

I do. And I say so. “The book is accurate. Which means magic existed.”

I always believed that the Book of Malachi was a fairy tale. I mean, come on. Magic? Even when a lucky digger found the Wayward Magicians under an ancient ruin, everyone thought it was fiction. An adventure story to entertain yourself in your spare time. But when more and more archeological artefacts were discovered that matched the book, archeologists raised serious questions. And then they found the entrance to the underground city. It changed what we thought we knew about our ancestors.

“I trust you have received your payment?” the Curator asks. 

Indeed, the Institute paid me handsomely. Because I did what earlier expeditions failed to do: to push forward, to reach the deepest depths. The belly of the earth.

But I don’t tell him about my biggest reward. I’m not ready yet. Best to keep it as a secret until I master it.

“My detailed report will be in your inbox within a few days,” I say. 

“Well then,” the Curator says. “I let you rest after your hard journey.”

I get the message, and I say my respectful goodbye. He leaves with long, energetic steps, and I’m sure his way leads to the House of Malachi to see the artefacts with his own eyes.

I lean to the remains of an ancient wall and pretend to watch the ruins of Old Ankhar. When I’m sure I’m alone, I take out the Wayward Magicians from my satchel. I start to read, and it sucks me in again. The characters of the story are so different from us modern people it fascinates me. I drink in the parts about strange magic. I cannot have enough. This is not a normal adventure book I’m used to. Each chapter is told from another characters’ perspective, which feels strange at first, but it’s interesting at the same time. When reading a story, I always wondered how a minor character would perceive the story. This book gives me a taste. The perspective of the small lizard seems odd, but it’s funny if you think about it.

The sun sets on the horizon, painting the ruins with yellowish red and making the shadows stretch longer and longer. In the twilight, before full dark comes, I put away the Wayward Magicians, and grab another book from my bag. A copy of the Book of Malachi. 

I look around to be sure that no one is around, and then I open it to the page that I chose carefully. I read the instructions. I know them by heart by now, but I read them again. 

Then I brace myself before I say the words and do the proper gesture. Then, with a pumping heart, scared but determined, I do what I always dreamed of. I perform my first magic. 

Visit Joseph Robert Lewis’ website for the Wayward Magicians.

Age of Empyre by Michael J. Sullivan

Two of the three characters in the following unconventional review are invented by Michael J. Sullivan. I give him full credit. The third one is mine.

Dear Michael, I hope I don’t offend you with this unconventional review. I was getting bored by the “normal” reviews and added some spice to mine. The following piece is a tribute to you from me, your loyal reader.

The night is scarier than I expected. If it weren’t about The Book, I wouldn’t have left the safety of the town at this hour. There is hardly any light, the moon is playing hide and seek with the clouds, peeking out sometimes as if to see if I have shit myself already. The abandoned ruins around me are full of shadows and evil places. I press myself to the wall of a broken tower, hoping that the men arrive at the promised time. Why in Novron’s name did I accept this god-forsaken place for the meeting? 

I hear something. It sounds like talons scratching on the stone. I shiver, trying to become one with the moss-covered stone.

Then I see a figure between two ruined buildings. He walks casually, as if strolling on the main street of the town. I know it’s Him, because I can see the silhouette of the enormous sword on his back. He carries three swords. Who would need three swords, anyway? Men have only two hands.

He stops in a stone-throw distance and waits.

“He’s alone.” The raspy voice comes from right next to me, and I jump and yelp. My heart wants to break out of my chest. A hooded figure separates from the darkness and stands in front of me. He is shorter than the other one, but somehow much more menacing. I cannot see his face, but I know he is watching me. It would unnerve me if I wasn’t already dead-scared.

“Now, now, my friend,” says the big one with the three swords. “No need to worry. I’m sure you understand that my partner, Roy wanted to be sure you didn’t bring unwanted company.”

I swallow but cannot say anything. He walks to me and stops next to his partner. The moon gives enough light to see his face, which looks amused. Now I remember his name: Hadrian.

“We’ve got what you wanted,” he says.

My excitement washes away the fear.

“Really?” I manage to ask.

“Sure. You hired us to get the book, so we got the book. We even got another one, if you are interested.”

I waited so long for The Book that my hands are shaking from the expectation. 

“Let me see it,” I blurt out.

“Of course,” Hadrian says. He pulls a thick book out of his satchel and hands it over to me. I touch the leather cover hesitantly, and I still cannot believe that The Book can be mine. Then I take it carefully as if it were a baby and look at it in wonder. In the moonlight, it’s beautiful. I run my fingers over the intricate patterns.

“Well, we kept our promise,” Hadrian says, “now it’s your turn.”

“Of course, of course!”

I push my purse into his hand. I cannot take away my eyes from The Book.

Hadrian puts away the purse with a satisfied grin.

“It was a pleasure doing business with you,” he says.  

“You don’t count it?” I ask.

He shrugs. “You look trustworthy, my friend. And smart. Smart enough not to cross us.”

He has a point.

“Are you heading back to town? You can come with us, it’s safer than wandering alone.”

There is nothing I want more than to read The Book, but he is right. It would do nothing good if I got robbed. I could lose my newly acquired treasure. The thought itself is terrible.

“Sure, thank you for your kindness,” I accept his offer.

We leave the ruins and walk along the road. Hadrian walks next to me with the confidence of a man bearing three swords. His partner disappears in the shadows of the forest next to the road.

“Don’t mind Roy,” Hadrian says, “he likes to scout ahead. And he isn’t that chatty person, anyway.”

I kind of feel better without him.

“So,” Hadrian says, ” you are a librarian.” It’s more like a statement than a question. “I like books too.”

I’m surprised. I never would have considered him as a reading type, the swords and all. But whoever wants to talk about books finds me an excellent company.

“Are you? What kind of books you like?

” I liked that one.” He points to the book I hold dearly to my chest. “It’s quite a good one. Did you know that…”

“Please don’t!” I interrupt him.

In the moonlight, I can see his arched eyebrows.

“Sorry,” I explain, “I want to read this book myself. I waited for it for so long, I don’t want anybody’s opinion to ruin my pleasure.”

“Hm, usually I prefer a storyteller in the inn with a mug of beer, but I think I understand your point.”

We walk in silence for a minute. I’m glad he accompanies me, the shrieks and howls from the forest make me nervous.

“What about the other book?” Hadrian asks.

“What other book?”

“You were so happy when you put your hands on that one, you didn’t even hear that we got another one.”

I spent all my savings on getting The Book, but I cannot resist talking about having another one. I’m a librarian, after all. Sometimes I think that letters are flowing in my veins instead of blood.

“What is it about?” I ask. It costs nothing just to talk about a book.

Hadrian pulls the book out of his satchel and holds it up for me to see. In the moonlight I see a leather-bound book with a contour of a dragon on it. It isn’t like The Book, of course, but still looks nice.

“This one is about adventure. Actually, I liked it more than the other one. Do you know what I liked the most?” He doesn’t wait for me to answer. “The dragon.”

“Really?” I’m not really into the cheap tales that storytellers tell, shouting from their podiums in dramatic voice, showing laughable pictures, trying to make it more interesting, then going around asking for payment for the poor show.

“Really. Especially because how it was made.”

“They made it?”

“With magic. A girl made the first one by sacrificing her best friend, a wolf. Then the elves made more and used them in the battle.”

“There is a battle?”

“Oh, yes! Between man and the elves. And there is this guy, Tesh. Amazing fighter. He learns sword fight from elite elven warriors called the Galantrians. I wish I could learn from those guys.”

He sounds wishful, and glancing at his giant sword, I understand.

“He kills almost all of them, because they destroyed his village and killed his family.”


“Don’t tell Roy, he has some elven blood running in his veins. Anyway, the elven were full of intricacy and conspiracy, and their head was full of themselves, so they kind of deserved what they got. I mean, in the book. You know that the elves were the ones originally using the Art?”

“No way!” I object. But then I realize he is talking about a story, not real-life facts. “Well, I didn’t know.”

“It’s true, according to the book. One of their tribe was the master of the Art and ruled over the other tribes. It’s kind of weird, but elves were elves, weren’t they?”

Hadrian distracts me from the terrors of the night, so I encourage him to talk more about the book.

“Listen, you must read it. The ladies in the book are amazing. They are strong and brave and beautiful. Well, there is this woman, Tressa, who isn’t… anyway, I wish I could meet one of them. I mean, I give all the courtesy to a delicate lady when I meet one, but when I will grow old and settle down, I want to spend my last years with someone as wise as Persephone or as brave as Brin.”

At the mention of Brin I perk up.

“What was she like? According to the book.”

“She was beautiful and smart. Did you know she invented writing? With some help from the gods, but still… Amazing girl.”

“Is it true that she died and came back?”


That’s a miracle in itself. My ears itch to hear more, but most probably I will read about all of this in The Book, so I don’t press.

“So, are you interested in the book?”

“What’s the title?”

“Age of Empyre.”

I haven’t heard about it.

“I would,” I say with a wishful sigh, “but I just gave you my last saved coins.”

“It’s a pity,” he says in a disappointed tone. He puts the book back into his satchel.

My mind works hard to find a way how to put my hands on more coins when Hadrian halts and puts his hand on my arm to stop me. He tilts his head, listening to something. I cannot hear anything. Even the forest noise has died out.

“What?” I whisper.

Roy appears next to us. He makes me jumpy again.

“Four men at the bend of the path,” he says.

Hadrian nods. “Not fair, but at least we can have some exercise.”

What in Novron’s name he is talking about?

Roy disappears again.

“Come on, my librarian friend, don’t make them wait, they might change their mind and flee.”

I don’t understand what’s wrong with that.

We walk down the path towards the bend. I let Hadrian lead and follow him. He has all the swords, after all.

My heart skips a beat when I hear the shriek. I stop and cannot make my feet to take even one step forward. My chest is so tight from the fear that I hardly can breathe.

A dark figure drops from a tree and attacks us. Another two jumps out from the bushes and run toward us with war cries. The moonlight shines on their swords. It happens so fast that I don’t have time even to think about running away. They are upon us before I could say library.

Hadrian meets them with two swords in his hand. How did he unsheathed them so fast? He blocks one blow with his long sword and another with his short one. The third never comes, the third man falls down to the ground, grasping to a knife that is sticking out of his chest. Hadrian blocks another blow and then he counterattacks. He slices the thigh of his attacker, who cries out. Hadrian is all over them, blocking and giving blows. In the moonlight, I gaze with aw at the three figures dancing. Or, at least Hadrian is dancing and the two others are trying to learn the steps.

“Finish them already.” The voice comes from right next to me and I yelp. Cannot this man approach someone without making him pee himself?

I cannot believe my ears, but in between the frightening noise of the colliding swords I hear Hadrian sigh. Then he makes a few fast moves and his two opponents fall. All the three are dead.

Roy casually walks to the one who fell first, pulls out the knife from his chest, wipes it off with the dead man’s clothes and sheaths it.

Hadrian sheaths his swords too.

“Why cannot I have some fun?” asks Hadrian from Roy. “I could have played with them some more.”

“You three were so noisy, you woke up the entire town.”

“You said there were four.”

“Initially. The fourth one is under that bush.”

Hadrian looks that way, but doesn’t bother checking it.

“Well, where were we?” He turns to me as if nothing happened. “Come on my friend, it’s time we escort you home.”

I couldn’t agree more. It was too much excitement already. I walk with Hadrian again, trying to overcome the shaking of my hand.

Fortunately, we don’t talk much, and my fear ease when the familiar town streets welcome us with the streetlamp lights.

“So, are you interested in the other book?” asks Hadrian once we stop in front of my house.

Strangely, I find myself quite interested. But I have to refuse.

“As I said, I don’t have coins left.”

“You know what? I give it to you in exchange of a favor.”

“You do? What favor?”

“Next time we come into this town, you help us.”

“Help how?”

“I don’t know, to find someone, to show us around, things like that. You know the place much better than we do.”

He probably has a point. I have a feeling that this favor might be a tad more dangerous than what I would like, but Hadrian has the book in his hand already and offers it to me. I hesitate, but I cannot resist at the end.

“Deal,” I say.

“Deal,” Hadrian says with a grin. “Good night my friend.”

He and his partner disappears in a side alley.

I rush in and bolt my door carefully. I light the candles in the candelabrum, then I hurry to my study and place the two books on the table. I put aside the Age of Empyre, I will certainly read it, but not now. Instead, I turn to the other one. I marvel at the beautiful cover again. 

Then I open it, and with thumping heart, I read the title: The Book of Brin.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the Book of Brin, but you can read the Legends of the First Empire series or listen to the audiobook which I highly recommend.

Buy a Bullet by Gregg Hurwitz

Buy a Bullet by Gregg Hurwitz New York Times bestselling author

I close the door behind me. Eight spikes slide into place. I walk to the kitchen island where I left my laptop earlier. I boot it up and log into the house alarm system. Six cameras shows distinct parts of the house. No movement. Good.

I pour a glass of vodka on ice, dim the light and settle down on the couch. I pull my phone from my pocket and press my thumb to the right place. No one else can unlock my phone, so no point in stealing it. Unless they take my thumb too. But they would have to come close, and that would be a mistake. I’m quite attached to my thumb. 

I sip some vodka. It’s ice cold, but burns my throat. I like it. 

I open the app and locate the file. I tap Download and watch the clock-like icon to grow and become full circle. The file is not as big as the others, but important nevertheless. 

I put my earbuds in and tap Play.

The story is brief, but tense. I know the man from another story, so I need no introduction. I follow how he notices the woman for the first time and realizes that she is with the guy against her will. The man recognizes the signs of rudeness and harassment. It comes with his profession. He must help the woman, and I agree.

He is a professional. He does recon at the guy’s house and hacks his alarm system. I’m happy that I introduced several layers of security, and any hacker who wants to get into my alarm is up for a surprise.

The guy is crazy. Drugs and guns crazy. But it isn’t a problem. The man dealt with his kind before. He has a plan.

As it turns out the guy and his bodyguards disagree with the plan, but the man doesn’t care. The guy is an animal who doesn’t deserve to live. 

There is blood. Shots are being fired. Knife is in use. And by the end, what has to be done is done.

The girl is free.

The file ends, and I sit in silence for a while. My glass is empty, and I like the nice fuzzy feeling the vodka left. Then I tap on my phone’s screen. I need to send back my evaluation to the people who provided me with the file. That’s the gentlemen’s agreement between us. I get a nice discount and they get my professional opinion. I tap the star on the right, and all five stars become yellow. Then I start to type and don’t stop until I write all. Then I tap Send.

I put away my phone and I think about the file. How I should have done it? Probably with more bullets and less knife-work. But in my profession there is no wrong or right way to do it. The result that counts. 

Then I get up to pour another vodka. There are more files to evaluate.