This is the final interview I've done with characters from my second novel, In the Enemy's Service, due out two weeks from tomorrow. Take a look at the first one, the interview with Anya, to read why I've been interviewing people from my world and where I got the idea in the first place.
I’ve chosen a table in a dimly-lit corner of the tavern, from which I can keep an eye on the door. Dannel sent word that he would meet me here, and I arrived early to pick out a spot where no one would overhear us. But I’m surprised when he materializes noiselessly out of the shadows nearby. I’ve been watching the door for the last ten minutes and didn’t see him come in.
“You’re in my seat.” He stands over me, smiling. “Please move.” Though his words are polite, something about the way he says them makes me shiver. I quickly get up and take the chair on the opposite side of the table.
“So. You wanted to talk to me?”
“Um, yes.” I glance quickly down at the paper I’ve brought. “I have a few questions, if you don’t mind.”
“By all means.” He gestures expansively. “I’ll be glad to give you whatever information you require. That is, after all, my business. But I’m sure you understand that I don’t work for free.”
I expected this, and have come prepared. I place a silver coin on the table between us. He raises an eyebrow at it doubtfully and then casts me a glance as though to say, Is that all my information is worth to you? But he shrugs and pockets the coin without a word.
1. Do you like your job? Why or why not?
Dannel chuckles. “I love my job! There’s nothing like the thrill of successful deception. Of course, that’s only a small part of what I do. I’m in the intelligence business, and deception is just one of the means I employ. It’s quite fulfilling, negotiating for the best possible price and then delivering critical information, usually to desperate people. But I offer other services too. If you ever need anyone taken out of the way, for example, I’m sure we could work something out.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I assure him. “Next question.”
Dannel affects a look of surprise. “You have more than one question? You’ve only paid me for one answer.”
I sigh and take out a couple more coins, which he accepts with a courteous nod of thanks.
2. Do you have any friends? Significant others?
“Of course not. That would require trust, and I would never make the mistake of trusting anyone.” Dannel glances around the tavern, his wary gaze confirming his words.
3. What is your idea of success?
“Infiltrating a target group, finding out exactly what I need to know while making them think they’re the ones I’m helping out, and convincing them to pay me for whatever I tell them I’m doing for them. Then simply disappearing afterward; and – depending on the mission – they might never see me again before they feel my dagger between their shoulder blades. And then returning to my grateful employer and getting paid even more to deliver the information I’ve learned, all the while planning the best time to sell him out to his enemies.”
I shudder, resolving to have nothing more to do with Dannel as soon as this interview is over.
4. What do you hate?
He doesn’t seem to have heard me, his eyes darting back and forth among the other patrons of the tavern. I resist the urge to glance behind me to see who he’s watching. Finally I realize why he hasn’t answered. Counting the questions remaining on my sheet, I reach into my pocket and hand him eight more coins. He counts them silently before sliding them into his own pocket.
5. What do you do in your spare time?
“Plan out the next job. Design disguises. Keep an eye on people and situations to see how I could use them for profit.”
“Surely you have some hobbies not related to work,” I press.
Dannel laughs. “You’d never believe me if I told you, so let’s just leave it at that.”
6. What did you have for breakfast?
“Today? Venison and fried potatoes at the Alasian army camp. They’ve been on short rations since the Invasion, so there wasn’t much of it. I bought some bread and fruit as soon as I got into Almar.”
7. Did you ever have a pet? Describe it.
“No. Pets mean attachment.”
8. Do you believe in luck? Why?
“Of course I do. I make luck. The ingredients are careful preparation and quick thinking.”
9. What is your favorite scent? Why?
He considers this for a moment. “Skin paint.”
“Skin paint?” I echo.
“It’s a handy mixture I designed,” Dannel explains. “I use it to give myself scars or a tan or other features I need for disguises. If I change the proportions a little, it works as hair dye too.” He smiles. “The scent of skin paint is the scent of danger, of excitement, of the thrill of a new mission and profit on the horizon.”
10. What is the strangest thing you have ever seen?
11. What is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to you?
Dannel’s eyes grow distant. “It was a long time ago, back near the beginning of my career. I was working for a group of seafaring raiders; you know, the ones who attack coastal towns in those fast little ships, steal what they can, and then disappear among the rocky offshore islands. They were paying me to help identify the best targets. Long story short, the Alasian navy finally caught up with them, and there was a battle off the northwest coast. I was on one of the raiders’ ships at the time; they were outnumbered, and we got boarded. We all jumped overboard and tried to swim for shore, but most of us were caught and hauled on board one of the navy vessels. It was winter, and I was wet and freezing and terrified I’d get killed or stuffed in a prison along with the raiders. I was very young back then,” Dannel explains apologetically. “But I managed to work it out in my favor. I talked the captain into a deal, and ended up trading the location of their base for my freedom, a set of dry clothes, and ten gold coins.” He sighs, remembering. “I still regret not demanding twenty.”
I glance down at my list to double-check that that was the last question. “Well, thank you, Dannel. This has been most informative. I appreciate –” Wait. I peer around, my eyes searching the shadows, but his chair is empty. “Dannel?” I twist in my own chair to examine the rest of the tavern, but of course there is no sign of him. I feel my shoulder blades twitch nervously. “Dannel?”
Click here to read my other character interviews.
Click here to read my other character interviews.