The beginning of my new webnovella. I threatened it, and now it’s happening. I’m going to try and do it a little differently to OYGYDTOTL, longer chapters and slightly more regularly, but we’ll see. Certainly longer chapters. We’ll see how it goes, shall we?
To say that it is rare I have visitors would be somewhat inaccurate. I never have visitors, they tend to get in the way. The entire purpose of being a master thief is to blend into society and disappear, to move through the people without leaving a single wave, and you can’t do that if people keep popping round for afternoon tea.
I’d moved house recently, came into some serious money, and decided the best thing to do would be to move to the least popular and most crime-ridden district in town. The sort of place where not even the tax man tends to roam, so visitors are even less likely. I was a hermit, but an exceedingly rich one.
So I was somewhat surprised to be awoken by someone hammering on my front door.
I crossed to the door, not hard in my new house, and put my ear to it. This proved to be idiotic, as another loud knock on the door nearly deafened me. I reached for my sword, handily placed in an umbrella stand next to my bed, and opened the spy hatch I had installed. Ordinary spy hatches are rather noticeable, and to combat this I had been forced to install mine into a lower part of the door than is usual, where people tend not to look. As such, all I could tell from my peeping was that my visitor was rather male.
‘Leander Crane,’ came a voice from beyond the door. ‘Open this door!’
The man used a tone that heavily implied he would break down my door if I didn’t comply. That said, the same tone also implies that if I do comply he will most likely break something attached to my body. Knees are the gentlemen’s’ choice. Seeing that I use my knees on a regular basis, I opted to keep the door closed.
‘I have a matter of business to discuss,’ the man continued. ‘I pay exceedingly well, in many different currencies. I do, for instance, have it within my power to address certain grievances between you and another party, one of significant influence, for instance.’
It was one of those sentences that instantly hooks you. I might have lied a little while ago when I told you of my moving house, more an omission really, but needless to say, this man seemed to know the whole story. He certainly knew at least enough to use it against me. I unbolted the door and opened it a crack.
Sunlight shone through the door and blinded me for a moment. Noon? When had noon happened? All this opulence was making me soft. This provided the man the perfect opportunity to kick my door wide open, but to his credit he did not. That is not to say I wouldn’t have been prepared for him to do that, sword and all, but it would be bothersome to dispose of a body so early in the day. That is indeed how I think. I never said I was a nice guy.
When my vision returned, I got a nice long look at the man behind the door. He was taller than me, but thinner, and wearing one of the new smart suits that I would rather be seen dead in than alive (the dead should always look more poncey). He had a kind face, as my mum would have said, but a killer’s eyes and hair: grey and wispy, both of them. He reached into his suit and procured a small rectangle of card. He passed it to me.
Mr W.T.T Wolf
Purveyor of the taboo and the exotic.
(Not those sorts)
An honest to goodness business card! It even had the little code at the bottom to direct messengers to his office, because it’s well known that messengers don’t have time to read an entire address. Mr Wolf was clearly part of the vanguard of modernisation, a group who had already lost. Honestly, how could you expect to be taken seriously when you want to use rocks to power lights?
‘You have more than your fair share of initials, sir,’ was the wittiest thing I could manage at that given moment.
‘I have more than my fair share of most things, Mr Crane,’ he said evenly. ‘May I come in, or would you rather have this conversation in the street for all to hear?’
I glanced over my shoulder at the state of my house. Then I pushed Mr Wolf back into the street and shut the door behind me. I heard the bolt slide back into place automatically. Sometimes it’s best if your clients don’t see what a massive pigsty you live in.
‘The street it is, then.’
I put on my most welcoming face. ‘You mentioned a spot of business. I’m not sure how you found me, but I’m not a contractor. I don’t do other people’s work for them. Self-employed, not freelance.’
‘You seem to be labouring under two separate misapprehensions. Firstly, that the job I need your skills for is not something you already intend to procure. The second being, of course, that you are assuming you have a choice.’
Of course, the non-threatening threat. Classic.
‘I’m not planning to steal… Procure anything right now.’
‘Liar. You were considering procuring something from the museum. That obscenely large diamond they just happen to be exhibiting.’
That was true. Unlike most of my jobs, however, it wasn’t for the money. It’s hard enough to fence small diamonds, let alone ones twice the size of my head. Only amateurs steal them for the cash. Professionals, like me, do it for the prestige. We’ll slink in, pluck it out from under their noses and leave a calling card (very different from a business card). Two days later we’ll return the goods with a thank you note, and the curator will have the decency to call off the guards. There’s a code. Not that I wouldn’t steal it if there wasn’t a code, just that with one it becomes risk free.
In fact, for enough money I’d even consider selling the diamond to this fellow. Clearly that was what he was after. Purveyor of the taboo and the exotic obviously meant gigantic diamonds for shady characters.
‘It’ll take a lot of money to get me to sell you that diamond, chap.’
Wolf grinned, and I saw where he got his name from. His teeth were just a little bit too fang-like. ‘I don’t want the diamond. I just want you to make a detour and pick up a package for me.’
‘A package? I’m not an errand boy!’
‘Well I didn’t say the package belonged to me, did I? No, I want you to steal it for me. It won’t be too much effort, the building’s right next door to the museum, after all.’
The building in question had been derelict for the last ten years, had been bordering on both condemned status and being just a little too good to be a hostel for a while now. If there was something in there that needed stealing, it would likely be guarded. You don’t leave valuables in shit holes and hope people don’t wander by. That’s not how it works.
‘I need more details,’ I said. ‘I need to know the size of the package, how heavy it is, what it is, that sort of thing. I also need to know who I’m taking it from, where it’s going, how much it’s worth…’
Wolf held up a hand. ‘You want to know an awful lot, for a thief.’
‘A master thief,’ I replied. ‘You think it’s a title I’ve awarded myself through hubris?’ It was, but he didn’t know that. ‘It takes a lot of work to be as good as I am, and a lot of planning. You have to be ready for everything before you go in, or you don’t come out.’
Wolf mulled it over. It was the standard speech, but as I didn’t often contract my services out to others it wasn’t well rehearsed, and that made it a little more real. You can always tell when someone has rehearsed a speech, and it makes it less effective. You might want to make a note of that.
Finally, Wolf nodded. ‘Very well, but not here. Meet me at the address on the card at some point tonight. I’m always there.’
‘Except when you’re not,’ I wittily muttered sotto voce.
‘I’m always there.’
Then Wolf turned and vanished into the flow of scumbags a few feet from my doorway. He did that a little too well.
I looked at his business card once more. I couldn’t see an address on it, just the messenger code. Bastard, he meant that! He wanted me to find his office using the messenger’s code? That meant breaking into the office of one of the many messengers around the town, and probably in broad daylight too.
I didn’t often steal information, it doesn’t tend to have a high resale value you see, but I’d make an exception in this case. Besides, there was always a chance I could find a nice list of rich people I could eventually rob, and that information paid for itself.