Chapter Nine

The interior of the store reminded me of a museum, just a whole lot dustier. I sniffed the air, aware of the dust bunnies, and very nearly launched a nasal assault of sneezes.

He also kept the inside of the store dimly lit with the blinds drawn. He would probably say that the intense sunlight might harm the paintings that hung on the wall. I thought it would be because he wanted as much privacy as possible.

A little jingling bell went off as I walked in; a two-dollar alarm that worked better than the musicians Hjelm paid to set up shop outside. I smiled at the irony and waited for him to show himself.

While I waited, a quick glanced told me that the vast majority of people entering this place didn’t have the necessary coin to afford any of it. I saw a Japanese katana that looked like it bore the tang stamp of Masamune, supposedly the finest swordsmith that Japan ever produced. It was probably the only thing in the entire store that didn’t have a thin layer of dust coating it.

“You have an appreciation for swords?”

I turned and found myself staring at Hjelm only three feet away. However old the guy might have been, he was stealthy as hell. I’d have to remember that in the future or else he might easily get the drop on me.

I pointed at the blade. “It’s a Masamune, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” said Hjelm. “Do you know of his work?”

“Just that his blades are supposed to be quite good.”

Hjelm sniffed as if I’d just suggested he take up proctology as a hobby. “Forgive me, but saying that his blades are supposed to be…quite good, as you said, is like saying Albert Einstein was supposedly good at science.”

I smiled. “Well, perhaps a bit of schooling would be in order.”

Hjelm grinned. “Goro Masamune is widely considered the supreme swordsmith of Japan. Most of his work was done in the fourteenth century and his blades – both the longer graceful curved tachi and the short tanto knife style – were reputed to have been forged with the inner peace and calm so often missing from other smiths of his day and later years.”

© 2010 by Jon F. Merz All rights re­served

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