Chapter 1

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Chaäptor Voonden (Chapter 1), Janooargen Thirggen (January 3)

IN A dismal courtroom, Marty Stu Bonkvist sat behind a desk, feeling sorry for himself, as the judge read out the verdict.

The judge glared over his own desk. "Bonkvist, you have been accused of libel and slander of the businessman Hans Weinerstorm. You are a financial journalist for a small magazine called Centennium, and heard a tip that Weinerstorm was behind a corporate fraud from an old friend, but then you got another anonymous tip accusing Weinerstorm of illegal gun running, corporate fraud, and stealing candy from babies. You wrote an article about it, but it turned out that everything you wrote was made up, thanks to a complex system of manipulation, false documents, and lies, orchestrated by your enemies. For that, you have been found guilty."

Marty Stu frowned. "Uh, sir? I already know all that."

The judge glanced around before whispering, "I know, but we need to dump as much information as possible right here at the start so people understand what's going on."

"Oh, okay."

The judge aimed his gavel. "Therefore, Mister Bonkvist, I sentence you to three months in gaol."

"What's gaol?"

"It's another word for prison."

"Oh, okay." Marty Stu stood up. "Well, that's not so bad. So now what? Do I have time to say goodbye to my family and friends?"

The judge waved his gavel. "Oh, sure. You're free to go."

"Free to go? Don't I have to go to gaol right now?"

"Nah, whenever you get around to it, just check yourself into the nearest gaol. Take your time. No hurry."

Marty Stu rubbed his chin. "That's kind of odd. I mean, don't people normally go straight to gaol after they get sentenced? And how do you know I won't just run away and not go?"

"It's the Swedish way of doing things."

"No, it's not," said Swedish people.

The judge made pushing motions with his hands. "Whatever. We need to keep this story going. Now, shoo, off with you."

Marty Stu shrugged and walked out of court. He was an incredibly handsome and resourceful man, someone with a powerful chin and huge muscles, but also incredibly loyal and dedicated to fighting evil wherever it may be. Everyone loved the author - I mean, Marty Stu Bonkvist - except for bad people, who don't count.

As he stepped out of the courtroom, a horde of reporters waiting outside rushed up to him. They thrust microphones and cameras into his face while yelling questions.

"How do you feel?" one reporter called out.

Marty Stu shrugged. "Oddly enough, I feel fine. You'd think having my reputation destroyed and having to go to jail - I mean, gaol - would bother me, but it doesn't."

"Why didn't you defend yourself?" another reporter asked. "I mean, you claim that all of this was orchestrated by Weinerstorm. Shouldn't you be determined to prove that? Shouldn't proving your innocence be the driving force of your life right now?"

"No. For some reason, I've decided to just accept my fate and not do anything about it. I won't try to solve the mystery of how and why Weinerstorm tricked me into committing libel. I'm just going to go to gaol and deal with having my life ruined. Maybe another more interesting mystery will come along."

The reporters nodded and murmured agreement that another mystery besides Marty Stu's libel case would be much more interesting.

Another reporter asked, "Mister Bonkvist, are you aware that we're in Sweden?"

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