Fate volunteered to go through the papers because she was, as she said, a "prodigy" who could read "2000 words a minute."

Meanwhile, Jo sat Inversion down in the dojo and said, "All right, let's get those assassin lessons started. Now we're going to skip all the parts about killing people, which makes the material a lot shorter, but you gotta remember, this is still just an overview. If you're serious, you're going to want to buckle down and really dive into all this stuff over time."

Inversion nodded.

Jo began to write on the chalkboard.

"Ok, number one," he said, writing a big number 1.

"Get a good night's sleep," said Inversion.

Jo paused. "Uh, right, I guess I did say that. I was kind of winging it but... ok, sure." He scrawled "Get a good night's sleep," on the board. "And while we're at it I think I told you a second one," he said with a sigh. "So let's get that out of the way."

"The air has ears."

"Oh, that's a good one," said Jo, writing it down. "All right, now we're on to the old material. Number 3. Your equipment." He wrote down EQUIPMENT, and then dashed 3 bullet points beneath it. Next to the first bullet, he wrote ALIAS. "Get ready to remember, and answer to, a lot of different names. You have a different name for every job, unless you have two jobs where you're going to run into the same people. You also have a go-to name for your day-to-day errands, and a couple of backup names. If you burn one, you come up with some more."

"What's yours?" asked Inversion.

"Timothy Barrel," said Jo. "For supply runs, mostly. So there's an art to picking a name. You don't want something crazy that stands out, but you also don't want something that sounds so ordinary that it stands out the other way, like John Smith. That just sounds like you're up to something. And absolutely no jokes or famous people."

"I want to be Tedward Scissorhands," said Inversion.

Jo nodded approvingly. "There you go. Nice, salt of the earth, working man's name. Make sure you have backups, and come up with separate ones for jobs. Now, moving on. The next thing you're going to need is a hat."

He wrote HAT on the board next to the second bullet point.

"Hats serve a lot of uses. They're distracting. People only have time to notice one or two things when you're running past them, and if one of them is your hat, then that's one less thing that could be your face. You can also keep extra weapons and all kinds of tricks in your hat. If you're locked in a cage trap, you can throw your hat to hit the lever. There's no end to what you can do with a hat."

"You don't have a hat," said Inversion.

"I'm not working right now. I've got 20 hats in my hat trunk." He jerked his thumb back toward his cabin. "You remember that guy with the axe? He had a hat. That's how you know he was serious. Now. Weapons."

He wrote WEAPONS next to the third bullet point.

"You're an interesting case," said Jo, wagging the chalk at him. "Sure, you don't want to kill anybody, but you might want bolas to tie up a pursuer, or a slingshot, or whatever it is you pacifists can stomach for self defense. Maybe you're just going to stick with your magic. I'm going to leave that up to you."

"But I'd say that, in a way, the greatest and most versatile weapon an assassin can have, even a non-killing assassin, is your words. I'd call it a non-lethal weapon but that's not strictly true."

"How can you kill someone with words?" asked Inversion.

Jo looked at him. "Guards, there he is!" he said.

"Oh, I see," said Inversion.

"Just one of many ways," said Jo. "Now, mastering your words takes as much time as mastering any weapon, but we can get you off to a fast start with a couple of special phrases. Like magic words. You all use magic words to do your spells, right? It's just like that."

Inversion scratched his head. He could only remember the words Fate had taught him to make the hat hole close.

"Ok, so you don't want to kill anyone, but you also don't want to die. Here's a couple of phrases that'll help you thread that needle. Repeat after me. 'Buddy, I don't want any trouble.'"

"Buddy, I don't want any trouble," said Inversion.

"That's right," said Jo. "You want to sound as harmless as possible. Take all the toughness out of it. But don't whine. That makes it worse. Everyone wants to punch you even harder when you whine. All right, now, 'I didn't see anything.'"

"I didn't see anything," said Inversion.

"Always helpful when you saw something you shouldn't have seen," said Jo. "You gotta be careful with this one. You gotta get across a certain amount of wink wink here, implying you're not going to tell anybody. But if you put in too much wink wink, then it might come across like you're trying to blackmail them, which makes things worse. All right, next. 'Maybe I can make it worth your while.'"

"Maybe I can make it worth your while."

"The question when it comes to offering a bribe," said Jo, "is say something, or don't say something. You're going to have to use your judgement on this. A lot of people like to take bribes but they don't like to think about the fact that they're taking a bribe. If you run into that kind, you want to help them out, keep it quiet. Slip it to them on the down low. Talk about something else while you're handing it over. Sports. Weather."

"I don't know anything about sports," said Inversion.

"You're going to have to learn," said Jo. "That's the work you gotta put in. Always have some small talk topics to get going about. You might need to talk to a bystander to distract them while your partner does the job, you might need to get your target off guard while you get close, you might want to strike up a conversation so you don't look suspicious waiting outside a building for your target to come out. Learn to chat."

Jo added another bullet point and wrote TOOLS. "Next, you're going to need some tools of the trade. Other than the weapons. You're going to need to pick some locks, force some doors, cover your tracks."

Just then, Fate burst into the dojo. "I think I found where she kept the money!"

"Ah, well, we can put the rest on hold for now," said Jo, putting down the chalk. "Here's the most important lesson of all: Get the bag." Looking at Inversion's bewildered face he added, "The bag refers to a bag of money."

"Ah," said Inversion.

To Chapter 9: The Girl In The Tower