The Book of Doom - By Barry Hutchison

About the Publisher

“ES, GABRIEL. WHAT is it?”

“I bring news, sir.”

“News? Of the book?”

“Of the book. We have tracked it down.”

“You have? Excellent. Where is it?”

“It’s... well, it’s down below, sir.”

“What? On Earth?”

“Somewhat further down below than that, sir.”

“Oh. Right. Yes. Of course. The blighters. No surprise, I suppose.”

“Not entirely unexpected, sir, no.”

“Right. Well, now we’ve found it, what’s happening? They going to send it back?”

“No, sir.”

“No? What do you mean, ‘no’? They’re not playing silly sods again, are they?”

“They have requested that we send someone down to collect it in person.”

“You must be joking! One of us? Down there? You must be joking!”

“Alas, no, sir. They’re quite adamant about it. If we want the book back, we have to send someone to pick it up. They assure us it isn’t a trap.”

“It sounds like a trap.”

“They assure us it isn’t.”

“If I recall, Gabriel, they’re rather fond of lying. Rather adept at it too.”

“Quite, sir. But if they refuse to send it back, I don’t see that we have much of a choice in the matter. They have us over something of a barrel on this one. We need that book. What with the... current situation.”

“Yes, yes. You’re right, of course. Bless it all, we’re going to have to send someone. But who?”

“I anticipated you might ask that, sir. If I may be permitted to make a suggestion...?”

“Speak freely, Gabriel.”

“What if we didn’t send one of us, sir?”

“What do you mean?”

“They didn’t specify whom we should send. They just said we should send ‘someone’.”

“I don’t follow.”

“If it is, as we suspect, a trap, then it would seem unwise to send one of our own marching in. Better, surely, to send someone from down below?”

“A demon? How would that work?”

“Somewhat less far below than that, sir.”

“A human. Hmm. He wouldn’t like that.”

“He isn’t around to make the decision, sir. You are. With all due respect.”

“True words, Gabriel. True words. But whom would we choose?”

“I have taken the liberty of choosing for you, sir, so that you may distance yourself from any subsequent... unpleasantness.”

“Good thinking. Good thinking. Excellent. Off the record, though, who did you pick? No names, just the basics.”

“Someone disposable, sir.”

“Yes. Yes. Well, aren’t they all? But capable, I trust?”

“Oh, my word, yes, sir. He’s capable. He’s most capable indeed.”


He especially hated bullets that were travelling towards him at high speed, like the one that had just missed his head.

He kept low, zigzagging across the rooftop, his black outfit all but blending him with the night. There was a gap coming up, a space between this roof and the next. Three metres, he estimated. Three and a half at most. Not easy, but doable.

He sped up, straightened, threw himself over the opening. His shoulder hit and he rolled quickly, letting his momentum carry him back to his feet, and then he was up and running again.

He was halfway across the roof when he heard the shooter clear the gap. Private security. It had to be. Police couldn’t make that jump. Police would’ve given up long before now. Besides, the cops didn’t have guns, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t be aiming for his head.

The next roof was closer, but higher. He scrambled up the wall, caught the top ledge and pulled himself over. A chunk of stone pinged from the wall where his legs had been. He threw himself on to the rooftop, face-first, and a third bullet whistled by above him.

He raced forward, a dark shape against a dark background. The edge of the roof came up more quickly than he’d been expecting. He stumbled, tripped, then fell three metres on to the next roof.

The landing hurt, but there was no time to dwell on it. As he scrambled to his feet, something slipped from his pocket and landed with a clatter on the slates. He glanced up at the ledge he’d just fallen from, saw no one there, so wasted a second bending to retrieve the ornate gold cross he had dropped. When he stood up, a gun was in his face.

“You’re fast. I’ll give you that,” puffed the man with the gun. “You almost lost me back there. But that cross doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to my boss, Mr Hanlon.”

Behind his hood and mask, the figure in black remained silent. The gunman was in his early thirties, well built, with hair that was shaved almost to the bone. Ex-military, no doubt. Well trained and in good shape.

“Do you know what Mr Hanlon does