TSoA: Chapter 11: Second Verse, Same as the First
Okay, can it, everyone—plot’s back.
-Joel Robinson, Catalina Caper, MST3K
As you might recall, Babylon Rising featured the murder-by-falcon of two security guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation, where Isis McDonald works. It was okay, though, because one was a not-spiritual guy who had a fat, ugly, nagging wife. The other…well, he made the fatal mistake of trying to stop Talon, who was there to steal a piece of the Brazen Serpent, and whose specialty is death by falcon. Also death by razor-finger.
You might think, after the brutal, yet mysterious deaths of two of their guards, the Foundation directors might choose to upgrade their security precautions.
You would be wrong.
But first, this very strange opening:
The full moon was making [the guard’s] job as a night watchman a breeze. From the top of the roof of the Smithsonian, he could see anyone entering the parking lot that flanked the back two sides of the building. As he moved diagonally across the roof to the other corner, he could see 5th Street, which ran north and south, and Milford Boulevard, which ran east and west. The traffic was light for a Friday night.
1. Am I missing something, or is there no Milford Blvd. anywhere around the Smithsonian?
There’s 5th Street, running north to south, but…the east and west streets are letter streets: E, F, G, etc. Did Bob Phillips just make up a street in Washington? If so, why? Why give the Foundation an exact location at all? Why can’t it just be The Parchments of Freedom Foundation, Washington, D.C.?
2. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE PARCHMENTS OF FREEDOM FOUNDATION IS PART OF THE SMITHSONIAN THE HELL???
I mean just WUT?? This was not mentioned in the first book at all. And now the Foundation is part of the frakking awesome Smithsonian???
MY MIND HAS JUST BEEN BLOWN BY THIS INFORMATION.
Oh yeah, the deaths of the new guards.
The above paragraph, by the way, comprises the totality of the shiny new security measures of the Foundation. Two guards were killed by a murderous thief, so the solution is to hire new guards, and place one ON THE ROOF.
Which is a great place to be when the murderous thief, WHO WAS NEVER CAUGHT, uses BIRDS to kill people.
Oh, and also: one of the guards is, in his own words, “an old guy,” and another suspects that he is slowly losing his hearing. And NO, he hasn’t seen a doctor OR informed his employers of this fear.
Talon once again uses a bird to kill, but it’s different this time.
This time, Talon is wrangling a STARLING.
I have no idea WHY Talon would want to use a starling, but it’s…different.
Here is how he uses it: Talon pulls his car into the parking lot of the SMITHSONIAN, fully intending for the guard to see him.
Suddenly [Talon] raised his hand, held it in midair for a few moments, then snapped it down against his thigh. Instantly Thielman [the guard] heard an earsplitting shriek behind him and swiveled to see a dark shape arrowing down toward his face. Fumbling at his belt, he instinctively took a step backward and tripped over a taut monofilament line stretched between two steel air outlets. Turning awkwardly, he managed to break his fall by gripping the guardrail surrounding the roof.
And then the rail snapped in two like a stale breadstick and he was plummeting through space…
And. He. Died.
And it was a stupid starling that was to blame.
Wanted for murder
(Picture from Wikipedia.)
So, instead of just having a falcon rip out someone’s throat like last time, Talon goes to all the trouble of sneaking onto the roof of the Smithisonian, setting up this wire for the guard to trip over, waiting until that night, showing up to catch the guards attention, then setting the starling loose and trusting the guard to fall in exactly the right way so that he will fall to his death.
That seems unnecessarily complicated.
Talon sneaks into the Foundation like he’s a one-man Leverage team or something. (Which is beyond stupid: he is an assassin for hire, not a cat burglar.
He comes across another guard and simply slashes him with his Razor Finger of Doom.
Talon heads on down to Isis’s office, after the piece of the ark for The Seven. Isis has fallen asleep at her desk because she is pulling an all-nighter. But Talon wakes her up and she goes for the gun in her desk.
That’s right: after her “adventure” in the last novel, Isis has taken to keeping “a .32 automatic—as yet unfired—nestled in a drawer amid a clutter of stationery.”
Okay, I am no expert in guns, but shouldn’t she have fired it previously? I mean, if she wants to use this for self-defense, wouldn’t she have taken a course and done some shooting at a range? It seems unlike Isis not to have made herself proficient.
Not that it matters, because Talon grabs her before she can grab the gun. And Isis is about to go the way of Laura Murphy, until the third guard comes upon them. Proving his versatility once again, Talon dispatches him with a throwing knife to the throat, then has to beat cheeks without killing Isis, because Guard #3 has started the alarm and the cops are coming.
I am sad that Isis could not hold Talon off by herself.
Next up: Murphy’s very sensitive reaction to Isis’s near-death experience.