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Much Ado About Dragons - cover



So one day, I was thinking. I know - that's never a good start, right (blush)? I wanted to try an experiment. There's a rule in the 'Great Books of HowToWrite' that you want your readers to be able to sympathise with your Main character. At least a little bit, anyway. So I thought, what if I wrote a character who nobody could sympathise with? And then, only at the end, showed them something that... well. That would be a Spoiler, right :-)? So I did it. Or I tried. Thing is, I sent the start of what I'd written to three people who had read most of what I'd written (and weren't actually in therapy as a result (blushes again), and asked what they'd thought. One of them said how, if the character didn't somehow redeem himself before the end of whatever I wrote, she'd never read anything of mine ever again. One said I'd totally blown it - because he was flat out funny. It was the third one who really worried me. At the time she was a retired, 72 year old former teacher. She wanted Jack's phone number. Thing is, he's a heartless assassin, and I didn't know if she wanted to offer him a contract - or date him (blushes again)!

So I did it. I gave in - and carried on writing. And, um, didn't send her Jack's number... This was the result. Who do you think was right? Over to y'all...


Jack Shadow - Shadow Dance (Prologue - Lead Guitar in a Lead Zeppelin)

The name don't matter none.

Jack Shadow. ShadowJack. Like the lady said in the song, the name don't matter none, 'cause it's all the same. I do my job right, you ain’t never heard of me. Never met me. And them that do meet me—mostly they don’t tell anyone.


If it can hurt you, I likely used it some time. I'm the guy you passed in the street, the guy you never saw. Maybe I bummed a cigarette. Maybe I dropped some change in your tin. Maybe you were my friend. Maybe I killed you.

Maybe both.

Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard ‘em. Every one of ‘em. They all start out the same. The jokes. "See … this guy walks into a bar….” Well, that's not me. That guy, I mean. The guy who walked into a bar. I'm the guy who walked out.

No. It's not amnesia. Or at least they don't say it is. Near as anyone knows, I just don't have a past. Near as anyone knows—or admits to. I don't walk round a corner, and some guy from a car shoots at me because long ago I—well, sure. Guys shoot at me. Hell, women too. But not for long ago. Mostly for last week, where 'last week' is any week you choose. No, I just walked out of a bar. Or so they tell me. The Dragon.

The Dragon? Look it up. It’s all out there. ‘Order of the Dragon’. Hell, ‘Sárkány Lovagrend’ if you speak Hungarian. Which I don’t. Yup, the Internet’s a wonderful thing. Guy who had the idea was Dragon. The Dragon loved it so much, they gave him a Special Commendation. I know that for a fact. They sent me to deliver it—the Commendation.

See, you can’t have good ideas being talked about. Ever.

Mind, I said it was out there, about the Dragon. Never said it was true. It isn’t. None of it. That’s the Dragon way too.

Oh, they looked, the Dragon. They really looked for me. Me before the bar, that is. And there isn't much the Dragon can't find if they want to. But there it is. What they told me, one day I walked out of a bar. Were there piles of dead bodies behind me? A stacked deck I was dealing, or one I was dealt? I don't know. I walked out of the damn place. I never walked back in. Just … just away.

But they were waiting, and they took me. The Dragon. They tell me they do that a lot. Wait. Till the time a beat of a gnat's wing can topple an empire. Me? I guess I'm a gnat.

I walked out of a bar. The rest … the rest will be history. Some day. Not that I'll be in it. Nobody remembers the gnats. Not if they did their job right.

What's a gnat? It's like they say: if you gotta ask, I can't tell you. But maybe a story would help. Not that it ever happened, of course. You comfy? Of course you are. I took care of that.

As airships go, it flew like a lump of lead. That might have had something to do with me shooting the Captain and both deck crew, and locking the hydrogen release valves wide open.

The ship had taken off with some big-ass ceremony. A guy with more money than sense had paid some guy with more sense than money to try to do what the Hindenberg had told people not to do. So the guy with no money had done some thinking, then some other guys did some making. Now the guy with no money had money and the guy with lots of money had an airship. Big-ass airship, big-ass launch ceremony. So with all the smoke and mirrors, it hadn't been hard to get on board. The flight from London to New York meant the blimp had to go real high, to catch the jet stream. I figured there'd be time.

OK. So you're thinking the big shot, right? Hell no. He had the smarts to think maybe being on the maiden voyage wasn't such a hot idea. So he'd got on with all the cameras flashing and then sneaked off out the back. Left some dumb look-alike stand-in with the reporters to make happy faces and tell them funny stories. No. There was a band on board, to keep things poppin'. The Dragon wanted to make sure the bass player never made it to New York.

Why? Damned if I know. They don't say, and I don't ask. It's a job, that's all. Just another job. That's the Dragon. Some say it's all about the balance. Some say it's the harmony. Some say Dragon’s just a bunch of mean sons of bitches out to rule the world. ‘Course, most of them as say that won’t say it any more.

Not ever.

Me? I say it's just a big pot, and sometimes it needs stirring. Nobody needs to tell the spoon nothin'. I'm a spoon.

So I did what needed doing, and now the ship wasn't going anywhere but down. Along the way, some people got brave. So they got dead. No big. At least it was quick for them. But the chute I had was only good at low altitude and the damn ship was dropping real slow. Time to kill. So there I was. Sliding down the sky jammin' real bad Nobody's Fault But Mine on a dead guy's axe, till I could pop a window and open my chute.

Real bad? Hell. I never said I could play.

That's what it's like in the Dragon. Sure, they tell you you’re a hero. Saving the world. And if you believe it, what do you get? Well, you get to play bad lead guitar in a lead zeppelin.

I ain’t no hero. Like I said: I'm a gnat.

So there it is. Let's try that joke again. See, this guy walks out of a bar…

I can tell you're wondering. Why we here, you and me? Why we talking? Why am I telling you all this?

Well, see, every job needs that moment. The moment you bang the side of the pinball machine and rock the ball, without ringing tilt. A distraction. So. Consider yourself distracted. But don't take it personal. It's just a job. I'll make it quick.

Oh, and don't worry. I won't feel a thing.