Black Lens: Part III

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Missed Part 1? Or Part 2? Read them first.


Blade in the Stream.

The movie ended and the great director moved to the screen, peered at the credits, sighed; so many of that illustrious cast had passed.

He thought as often in French as he did in the other languages he had been fluent in. Muttered softly

Quel dommage . . .” (What a pity.)

Sounds from the quiet Parisian street reached him, a woman singing off-key, a street vendor hawking his wares in that defiant tone that only the French could muster. He looked at his watch, a Patek Philippe, a gift from Harrison Ford, when they worked on that piece of cinematic fluff, like the horror of that pirate movie. A small smile touched his thin lips as he thought, peut-être, he was before his time, then along came Pirates of the Caribbean.  Johnny had been in touch a few weeks back to moot the possibility of the bio-pic of his life.

His children would be impressed with Depp playing their boring dad.

The plans for the next movie were on his desk and he wondered if he had the energy needed to regain the ruthless vision of the early wild days. Galliard were pressing him for an answer on his projected memoir.

A slight tremor of dread crept along his spine, reaching his neck and forcing a thin line of perspiration on his small brow. That call. A deeply respected and reliable source warning that his coming trip to Switzerland was a trap. The damn incessant Americans continuing their ceaseless crusade to bring him to their justice.

He snarled

“Guantánamo  Bay.’’



A brief montage of stills crossed his mind, black lens, Jack Nicholson’s house, the girl, the dope, the awful screaming, his own included.

Sacré bleu.”’

He exhaled, the camera of his mind lighting the scenes, the scenes that had forced him into exile. Hadn’t he lost enough? And still they came, with their Big Macs and bigger grudges. If, shudder, that extradition was ever to become reality, they’d bring him in chains. He knew, oh he knew, the deal was done, the vigilantes of the Bible Belt, the moneyed majority, who would never rest till he was dying in a cell.

He checked his watch again, remembering  on Contortion, the cast laughing at his constant checking of the time. How to explain to them a director’s obsession with light, how quickly it changed and a single moment that might never be lit again.

He moved to the long line of movies on his shelf, always . . . always skipped over, The Intrepid Werewolf Hunters.

Mon Dieu, his angelic Susan. Mais non, he would not,

Could not

Dwell there.

Such memories led to the final madness. His heart was pounding. He turned quickly, surprisingly agile still for his age, pulled out a hidden drawer that not even his trusted wife knew about. Looked at the sacred trophies therein. Pulled out an old pack of Gitanes, the Gypsy on the front of the pack uncannily like himself in young profile. He lit the old cigarette with a desk lighter, shaped in the form of a dildo, which his wife loathed. Clicked and the aroma wafted across the room. Been so long since he smoked, left behind with so many of the old habits. Crushed the foul thing out in the remains of his café au lait, muttered

Ce n’est pas vrai . . .” (It’s not true.)

The cigarette or his life. He didn’t discriminate between the two. He’d been saying “It’s untrue” for so long, he mostly believed it. He flicked his slender finger along the movies, paused between


. . . how he loved Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu.

But his spirit needed balm and he put on Three Colors: Blue. Never ceased to exhilarate and depress him, thought, “I should have been doing that.” His mind never at rest, speed-tracking ideas, projects, and the elusive French version of the holy grail, Citizen Kane.

He pulled the movie from the projector, angry, frustrated, and then slumped down in his old comfortable leather chair. Had been told it belonged to Kurosawa, and rarely for him those days, went American, said

“Yeah, right.”

Last week, he’d arrived too early last week to collect his children from the Institute. The old fortune-teller appeared at the window of his car. He was about to wave her off. But parts of him were forever enmeshed in that culture. A rite of passage during his youth in Eastern Europe, forced to flee from the Nazis, the strange guides covertly uttering signs and icons along the lethal way. She whispered

Ti gan mo.”

He’d nearly had a coronary, his mother’s pet name for him, a term not uttered in over seventy years. Seeking refuge in cinematic text, as always, he’d first thought

“Sam Raimi could make a movie of that.”

Handed the Gypsy a fifty-euro note and her smile, all gold-capped teeth, she hissed

“Beware the Wolf.”

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Ken Bruen has been a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards, and has won a Macavity Award, a Barry Award, and two Shamus Awards for the Jack Taylor series. He lives in Galway, Ireland. Learn more at

Russell Ackerman is Guillermo del Toro’s Development Executive. He is currently working on the film MAMA to be directed by Andy Muschietti, DROOD based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same name, adapted by Brian Helgeland, and MIDNIGHT DELIVERY written by Neil Cross, all set up at Universal Pictures. He lives in Los Angeles.