Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Janus waited patiently, his card key in the front door lock as the picking device lifted the residual signature off the contacts and played it back. The occupants would have paid a small fortune to protect their home from broken windows or forced doors, but there was nothing to protect them from the ghost of their own key.

With a sigh the lock released, bolts withdrawing heavily and the door swung freely inward on well oiled hinges.

Janus pocketed the lock-pick and stepped into the foyer, pushing the door quietly closed behind him.

To the left would be the drawing room, to the right the dining area and beyond it the kitchen. Ahead of him a staircase reached up from the middle of the floor apparently unsupported to wind to the second level. It was this path he chose.

Off the landing at the top of the stairs was the entrance to the study, and Janus slipped quietly inside, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness, virtually absolute as he closed the door.

“You’d have been better off breaking a window, at least then you’d only have been stunned.” A desk-lamp burst to life, the speaker having one hand on the switch, the other holding a snub nosed pistol, the blue-gray metal blending almost seamlessly into the blue-gray silk pajamas the man wore beneath a terry housecoat. “Pickup the gun.”

On the desk between them lay the pistol’s twin, its barrel pointing towards Janus.

“Always the lawyer Phelps, the gun does what? Justifiable homicide? Self defense?”

“Not that easy Janus, if I kill you, they’ll just distill another from before your crime. As it is, you’re up for break and enter…”

Janus cut him off. “Right, B and E, twenty years tops, but with a weapon it’s first degree. Life. And with simultaneous instantiation prohibited, I’d get to rot out the whole term. Not very nice Phelps, but you’re mistaken.”

“What, you expect me to believe this is a social call?” Phelps stepped back from the desk, moved behind the halo of light into the shadow of the bookcase beyond, steadying his aim with his free hand.

“Oh no, I’m going to kill you, nothing social between us anymore, you made sure of that.”

There was a hint of uncertainty in Phelps’ voice when he spoke again. “Then where’s your weapon Janus? You’ll be wanting that gun then, go on, have a go.”

Janus stepped up to the desk, but instead of the gun he reached out to the lamp, lifting off its shade and wrapping his fingers around the bare bulb.

The room filled with the smell of burning flesh, and Phelps began to shake visibly, the barrel of the gun wavering but never leaving its mark.

“What are you playing at Janus, pick up the goddamned gun. I will shoot you then, get it over with, you can come back and take another crack, I don’t care, just pickup the goddamned gun!” He screamed the last.

Janus regarded him cooly. “It’s not that I don’t want to pickup the gun, as I’d love to show you just how bloody fast I am with it, it’s just…” He grinned as he raised his empty hand and pointed a scarred index finger at Phelps. The desk-lamp dimmed suddenly, and Janus crackled and hummed as the air in the room became electrified, the hair on both men standing on end. There was a violent burst of energy from Janus’ index finger that entered Phelps through both eyes and exited through his bare feet into the floorboards below. The gun dropped to the floor, followed a second later by Phelps himself, smoke pouring from his ears, nose and mouth.

“… I don’t need the gun.” Janus finished the sentence, letting go of the bare lightbulb and blowing gently on his blistered palm and fingers before retracing his steps to find the cool night air.

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