Rule #17: Train yourself to be a light sleeper. Inevitably, your home or hotel room will be broken into while you’re sleeping. You don’t want to be caught off guard.

I wake up. I can’t remember the last time I woke up. I mean, I must have done it fairly recently, but I just can’t quite recall when. My eyes open, even though I didn’t ask them to. They stare up at the ceiling above me. A ceiling. I’m inside, obviously, but inside where?

I ask the rest of my senses if they can give me any more clues as to where I am. I’m in a bed, a soft one. It’s warm in here – warmer than it is outside, at least. I can smell food being prepared. It smells good. I hear the sound of music, of singing. It’s muffled – there’s at least one wall in between me and its source, if not two or three. I swing my legs around so they’re dangling off the edge of the bed. I sit up.

I sit there for a minute or two before standing up. I’m wearing flannel pajamas. I’ve never even seen them before – let alone worn them – but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re very comfortable. They’re just a little too big for me, which happens more to me than most people would expect. I’m a large man, but since I’m wider than most people my height, most clothes for large men don’t quite fit me.

I follow the smell of food to a small kitchen. The first thing I notice is her. She’s standing there, stirring a big pot of something. She’s singing softly to herself, at a volume just below normal speaking level. The singer on the radio seems to be taking their cues from her, as she is singing the words just a fraction of a second before the radio gets there.

The second thing I notice is the knife block. I notice it because my hand is currently removing the largest knife from its slot. It feels good, but not great. My other hand grabs the second-largest knife. This feels… better. I clear my throat, loudly enough that I can be heard over the radio. She turned around to face me. In one hand, she’s holding a wooden spoon. The end of the spoon is covered in whatever’s in the pot. A faint wisp of steam drifts off of it. In the other hand, she’s holding a gun.

She smiles at me. She always did have a beautiful smile.