Most notably the book did not burn when he chucked it in the fireplace. He had tried tearing the paper but it was of better stock than he expected. So he snapped it shut and tossed it onto the logs. It sat there while the logs crumbled to embers and ashes, no more perturbed than upon a bookshelf. The green alligator binding glowed, scales playing tricks with the light as if it were winking at him in silent laughter. Its smug adiathermancy was to be expected.

He pulled his pipe out of his pocket but then remembered he was not in his own home. He was doubly reminded when the light switched on in the drawing room and a young woman gasped at him and his disheveled overcoat. “Evening, ma’am,” he said.

“Who are you?” she squeaked. “What are you doing in this house?”

“Now, now, ma’am,” he said, trying to keep her calm. She was not calm, so he would have to drag her back to calm or jump out the window. “Didn’t mean to disturb you it’s just that that book attacked me.” He pointed to the glowing tome in the fireplace. Maybe a log snapped or maybe it barked.

“Did you track in all this mud?” she said. It was one of the maids, he decided, a thin little scrap of a girl shaking in her dressing gown.

“Yes I did,” he said, “but I’m real sorry about that. Your garden’s wet and I needed to just check out this one book. There’s a spell, y’see, so I’ve been told, that flash bakes unwary accomplices.” Seeing that time was running out, he decided to give her all the facts at once: “Look it’s all a bit technical, my name’s Charlie Ben Studdard, I’m a private investigator.”

For some reason that’s when the woman decided to scream. The whole house awoke like angry elephants. Charlie shoved his pipe back in his pocket and fished the book out of the fireplace with the poker. It was hot and snapped in his fingers and he tried to wrap it in his coat as he fell over an ottoman and a chaise longue and tangled up in a duvet and vaulted a love seat and knocked over a leather armchair on his way to tripping out the window.

For more Charlie Ben Studdard & the Amulet Caper:

Part 2Part 3Part 4

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