It is the moment in between heartbeats, a polaroid picture that somehow captures every crime and every sin in that instant. There is a thin mist of blood in the air. This probably has something to do with the bullet that is currently sailing through the head of a secret agent who will tumble to the floor, dead, as soon as time lurches back to its plodding normality. The air smells of cordite- the smell of ejector seats and discharged firearms. And in the centre of this room, sitting casually in an armchair, is Leopold Grimshawe-known also as the Alchemist- who holds in his hands a weapon, an old breech-loading British army service rifle, courtesy of Messers James Paris Lee and William Ellis Metford. A puff of smoke sneaks out from the barrel of the rifle suggesting that the bullet emerged from there.
Grimshawe looks like a retired Oxford professor. He wears a tweed coat and a checkered vest where a fob watch sits snugly in a pocket. He looks utterly at home in this room filled with dead bodies, as if he's listening to a gramophone in a smoking room, puffing on a pipe. The only giveaway to the beast that resides within his soul are his eyes. They are the eyes of a predator-black and merciless with flecks of grey. It is like looking into the face of Azrael. Grimshawe looks up from what he is doing (i.e. killing someone) as if I've interrupted him pondering a crossword clue and says in a slow, deliberate voice, 'So....you've finally arrived.'
Each word feels like its a teak furniture or a Chippendale cabinet being placed in a hallway. I know I am moments away from dying.