The Adept Chapter 1

So a man wearing black clothes and black gloves is sitting under some trees in Scotland. He is clearly evil, because good people never wear black in these sorts of stories. All he needs is an Eyepatch of Evil and a cat.

The rear windows of Mossiecairn House were blind and dark. 

… except for that kid signaling UFOs from the attic.

Smiling slightly, the man in black zipped his leather jacket closer and pushed a black knitted watch cap up off his ears for better hearing, 

  1. But were his ears black too?
  2. Black leather? Okay, I take it back. If this is the Matrix, then he’s one of the good guys because…. black leather.
  3. But nobody in the Matrix would ever wear a knitted hat. So perish the thought.

So he walks down the hill, being evil as he goes.

He covered the distance swiftly, moving with the quiet assurance of a man well-schooled in night maneuvers, keeping to the shadows.

Is this guy a ninja? No, seriously, IS he a ninja? Because Scottish ninjas might be the coolest idea in history.

I am gonna be so pissed if these guys aren’t Scottish ninjas.

So he’s running over the lawn of this Mossiecairn’s lawn, and sits next to the kitchen. I’m pretty sure “Mossiecairn” means “grave covered in moss.” Then he breaks into the kitchen and starts skulking around, ignoring all the valuable shit that everyone with a brain would grab.

And because this book is basically aristocracy porn, we are told about ALL of them, right down to the paintings.

He spared not a glance for the shelved candelabra and punch bowls and ice buckets, or the drawers full of silver flatware, 

… and yet he notices that they exist and exactly where they are… including the stuff hidden in drawers.

Likewise disregarding a valuable tea service displayed on the dining room table,

… while also noting its value.

Again he paid little attention to the many valuable items on display as he swept his light around, avoiding the windows. The portraits were particularly fine, ranging from the Jacobean builder of the house down to the present owner. 

You know, one of the nice things about the third person perspective is that you can include stuff that the characters aren’t necessarily noticing. But when you spend like four paragraphs listing all the stuff your character is NOT paying attention to…. it kind of makes me believe the exact opposite.

Yes, we have a LOT of stuff that he is totally not noticing… until suddenly he starts noticing them.

 Noting one silk-tied lock of hair in passing, cased in a golden locket of breathtaking workmanship, the man in black wondered how the Stuart pretender had managed to have any hair left at all, by the time he escaped over the sea of Skye and then took up his sad exile in France. It reminded him of all the splinters of the true Cross he had seen over the years – which, if put together, would have made enough crosses to crucify a dozen Kings of the Jews.

How often do you see true Cross fragments anymore? I could understand this comment if we were talking about the Middle Ages, but now? Not so much. Carbon dating is a beautiful thing.

So he supposed the Scots could have their relics too. It mattered not to him. 

THEN WHY BRING IT UP?!

And the Scottish relic of tonight’s interest would bring a pretty sum.

The very first haggis!

The swept-hilt rapier and its scabbard lay on a bed of dark blue velvet, elegant tributes to the ornate style favored by Italian armorers of the late sixteenth century. 

Kurtz: “I’ve done SO MUCH RESEARCH and you are gonna read it all, dammit!”

So this sword is the Hepburn Sword, once owned by Katherine Hepburn. I mean Audrey Hepburn. I mean Sir Francis Hepburn, who was an actual historical figure known as the Wizard Earl. He scared the shit out of people. I have the feeling this book won’t live up to that coolness.

So the not-ninja breaks into the case and takes the sword… and immediately starts playing with it. I wish I were kidding.
 
 
The hilt of the sword fit his gloved hand as if made for it, and he felt a thrill of imagination as he drew the weapon from the case and tried its balance, sighting along its blade where the etching caught the torchlight. 

Only briefly savoring the rush of excitement he felt as he picked up the sword, the man in black flourished the sword in ironic salute to the portrait above the marble mantelpiece,
 
Look, I know you’re crazy overconfident, but you just broke into a house crammed with valuable shit. You should have set off about six dozen silent alarms by now.

And yes, Kurtz mentioned that the security is crappy at this place. But you know what? Unless all this HUGELY VALUABLE STUFF that by rights should be locked in a vault somewhere is TOTALLY UNINSURED, it should have very, very up-to-date security. They will not give you insurance on valuable stuff if the valuable stuff has almost no security.

Why, oh, why had he not been born a Cavalier?

Being born in the 20th century might have something to do with it.

Finally he remembers that he’s supposed to go somewhere and do something, which involves stealing the sword. So he puts it in a duffel bag, puts up a fake sign on the display, and then sneaks back out.

His transport was waiting – not the charger that would have been a Cavalier’s steed, but a powerful Japanese-built motorcycle

HOLY FUCK, stop masturbating over how awesome the Cavaliers were! Are you actually supposed to be a professional thief?

His imagination transformed the black crash helmet into a tilting helm as he donned it 

Yes, this is someone you should definitely hire to steal valuable antiques for you: someone given to flights of fancy due to his short attention span.

and wheeled the machine out of the underbrush, giving a strong push with his weight behind it. As the motorcycle rolled forward, gathering momentum on the downhill slope, he mounted on the run, letting the machine coast down the zigzag trail. Only at the foot of the hill, well out of earshot of the house, did he kick in the engine – and within minutes was roaring westward up a two-lane country road, into the frosty Scottish night.An hour later, after an exhilarating run along the M8 Motorway, the rider was threading a more sedate course through the sleeping streets of Glasgow. Following precise instructions, he headed away from the city-center on a route that eventually brought him into a wilderness of abandoned buildings in the heart of the docklands of Clydebank. The low rumble of the engine echoed dully off the cobbles as he drew up outside the gates of a disused shipyard, going suddenly silent as he cut the ignition.
The man in black removed his helmet. Five minutes passed. The man glanced at his watch, got off his machine, and began slowly pacing back and forth, keeping to the shadows. His breath plumed on the frosty, salt-tinged air, and he stifled a sneeze.
Finally, as he turned in his tracks for the fourth time, his straining ears picked up the quiet murmur of a powerful car approaching. He returned to his machine. A moment later, a sleek, dark-colored Mercedes emerged from a side-alley and came to a smooth halt on the opposite side of the street.
As the headlamps were extinguished, the dark-tinted windows on the right side of the car glided down in automated unison. Pale face-blurs of a driver and a rear passenger showed in the darkness.
Relieved, the motorcyclist set his helmet on the saddle of his bike and sauntered over to the side of the car. Bending from the waist, he favored the passenger in the backseat with an ironic salute and drawled, “Morning, Mr. Raeburn.”
The backseat’s occupant acknowledged the greeting with a cool nod. “Good morning, Sergeant. I believe you have something for me?”
The sergeant pulled a cocky smile, exposing strong white teeth in a face weathered by years under Texas suns.
“Christmas gets earlier every year,” he replied. “Just call me Santa Claus.”
With an exaggerated flourish he unslung the duffel bag he still carried over his shoulder. The Mercedes’ passenger elevated an eyebrow.
“Did you encounter any difficulties?”
The American gave a derisive snort. “Are you kiddin’ me? I’d have had more trouble taking candy from a baby. What folks your side of the Atlantic don’t know about security must cost your insurance people a mint.”
As he began methodically unlacing the neck of the duffel bag, the man in the backseat of the Mercedes watched his every move.
“I trust,” said the man, “that you were not tempted to exploit the situation beyond the terms of our contract?”
His tone was conversational, but there was more than a hint of steel beneath the silken inquiry. It elicited a sharp glance from the sergeant, and an almost petulant disclaimer.
“Hey, I got a reputation to maintain!”
The man in the car smiled in chilly satisfaction. “You reassure me. Reliable help is not always easy to find nowadays.”
The American did not bother to acknowledge the comment. As he jerked open the mouth of the duffel bag and drew forth the sword by its hilt, a map light came on inside the car. The light glinted off the gold and cut-steel as he passed it through the open window, point first.
“It’s a pretty enough toy, I’ll grant you,” he remarked, “but I guess you know you could’ve had half a dozen fancy swords made for half what you’re paying me to steal this one.”
His employer took the Hepburn Sword in both gloved hands, briefly drawing the blade partway from the scabbard, then sheathed it with a sigh and laid it carefully across his knees.
“An object’s worth is not always to be measured in terms of money,” the man murmured.
The sergeant shrugged. “Whatever you say, Mr. Raeburn. You’re a collector, and you know what you want. Me, I’m a – an acquisitions agent.” He savored the sound of the title on his tongue. “And us agents do what we do for the money.”
“Of course,” said his employer coolly. “You’ve fulfilled your part of the agreement. I am now prepared to fulfill mine.”
He nodded to his driver in the rearview mirror. The man in the front of the Mercedes wordlessly reached into the breast of his coat and drew out a fat leather wallet, handing it through the open window without comment. The recipient opened it casually and riffled through the thick sheaf of American currency inside, one eyebrow raising in pleased surprise.
“As you see, I have included a small bonus,” the man in the backseat said.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Raeburn,” the American said with a broad grin. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”
“I think I may safely say the same.”
The man in the backseat drew the glove from his right hand. A signet ring set with a blood-red carnelian seal glittered richly on the third finger as he extended his hand through the open window.
The American accepted the proffered handshake. His employer’s clasp was surprisingly hard. The man in the car gave a savage downward jerk, and the thief found himself staring into the muzzle of a silencer – one of the sleek West German ones.
This alone the American had time to grasp, even as the man in the car pulled the trigger at point-blank range. He never heard the quiet cough of the first shot, much less the second or third.
His body crumpled to the pavement with a loose-limbed thud as his hand was released. When he did not move, his killer slipped the silenced automatic carefully under the seat and signalled his driver to go on. The sound of the Mercedes’ engine turning over was far louder than the shots had been, but neither raised any ripple of curiosity as the car crept almost soundlessly out of the Glasgow docklands.

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