Wherein Leander Crane details his own manner of directory enquiries.
The specific messenger I had chosen was the most popular one in town. As a result, their offices were absolutely massive. Ordinary companies, even the big ones, will have only a handful of offices, all on the ground floor, but this company had an entire building. I’d give you their name, but I never bothered to look it up.
A lesser thief would spend ages planning for this sort of thing, just as I would have done in my youth, but I was older now, and I knew a few things about how best to steal from a business. Like all wealthy parties, they expect a well thought out plan, but they are usually unprepared for someone to wing it. I’m good at winging it.
I checked my gear and swanned into the reception area. The key to going unnoticed is to look as if you belong. You don’t need to match the dress code, just look confident in yourself and people will tend to leave you alone. As I’m naturally confident, it takes people some time to realise that I’m not supposed to be there, by which point I have already stolen all their silver. Now and then, however, you will happen across a genuine paranoid chap, on whom no amount of confidence will work. The messengers had just such a girl on reception.
She was in her late teens and attractive, I suppose, in the way that all receptionists tend to be. Judging from the state of her desk, she hadn’t got the job for her filing skills. Her eyes widened as I strolled in, and she started clucking as if she wasn’t quite sure what to say. I couldn’t tell if the clucking was a result of her poor people skills, or my chosen outfit.
When I go out on a job, I have a very select outfit. Dark, well-tailored clothes, a black backpack tightly strapped to me, and a bandoleer of throwing knives secreted beneath it in the small of my back. I also have various lock picks concealed in the lining of my gloves. In all, it gives me a somewhat perplexing appearance, especially when coupled with the sword and scabbard hanging from my belt. Every gentleman should carry a sword.
I walked straight past the girl and gave her a polite nod. She blinked, dumbfounded, and floundered around on her desk as I proceeded into the hallway. It was one of the most depressing hallways I had ever seen. Offices on this scale were new, it used to be that people would have an office, not several stuck together like one giant mutant. When you weld more than one office together you get corridors like this; grey, hideous tubes with shiny floors and noticeboards. Their one saving grace is that, by design, they are very easy to navigate. I counted my way down the many doorways in the office until I found the records room.
Someone grabbed my shoulder. I turned around calmly, wanting to avoid a fight if I could, and was surprised to find that it was the receptionist.
‘Can I help you, sir?’ she asked.
I shook my head. ‘No need, miss. I’ve already found what I’m looking for.’
‘I don’t think you’re allowed to be down here on your own,’ she insisted. It was cute, like watching a puppy stand up to a lion.
‘My dear,’ I began, lacing each word with sincerest arrogance. ‘You are but a receptionist. Your role in life is to receive, to sit behind a desk and politely usher people into the bowels of this building. What you do is to welcome people, not hinder them.
‘Your jurisdiction, your zone of operation, is the front desk. The pens and papers your kingdom. You don’t know the ins and outs of what happens back here. Incidentally, the little trips your boss allows into his office don’t count. So, knowing all of that, can you really say I’m not allowed here? Do you have that authority?’
Her eyes glazed over for a moment, just as expected. It can be very easy to baffle the youth by talking quickly and condescendingly. At an ordinary speed, condescension will be noticed, but if you sustain it and ramp up the speed then it can become a valuable weapon. Right now, for instance, the girl was convinced that this was over her head.
Now that I had time to look at her, afforded by her stalled brain, I grew a little more impressed. She truly was quite the looker, but the ink stains on her fingertips told me that she actually did do her work as well, which was unusual. It was also a little endearing that she had actually followed me. I’m not that imposing, but to a lone receptionist in an eerily silent office, you didn’t need to be.
There was an almost audible clunk as the girl’s brain kicked back in, and I saw that she had made her decision. Now I would see whether she was the sort of girl who would just accept what she was told, or the type who would kick it up the ladder.
‘I’ll have to check with my boss.’
‘Of course, dear, of course. I’ll wait here shall I?’
She nodded and turned to leave.
Then I grabbed her, rammed her face into the wall and cut her throat with the sharpest blade on my bandoleer.
I’m not a murderer by habit, but sometimes a situation will arise where you just don’t have any other option. Ordinarily, my shield of confidence would get me through without any notice, my verbal skills getting me past any other problems. Not this time, though. I could have let her go and alert her boss, I would certainly have had enough time to slink into the archives and have a root about. Unfortunately for the girl, I didn’t know exactly where to look.
As her body started to slide down the wall I kicked open the door to the archives and threw her in. I kept my blood-stained knife at the ready, just in case any intern had been trying to get in good with the bosses and actually been researching something. The room was empty though, apart from an army of filing cabinets and loose paper folders.
I began the long search through the papers, the girl’s dead eyes watching me.
Her death wasn’t just a time issue. Thieves take great care to blend in and go unnoticed, as you may have gathered. We learn the right stance, the right walk, the perfect facial expression, all with the aim of appearing indistinct and generic. It’s a safety net, a way to ensure that you cannot be identified even if some random element manages to get a good look at you. But it’s a net that unravels if someone gets a little too close.
After ten minutes I found the right set of files, and started to furiously search through them. This company really was massive. They had files for every other business in the town, and even some in neighbouring cities. Most messengers were lucky if they had the details of five or ten businesses.
Eventually I found what I was looking for, a process that was somewhat delayed by the large amount of extra files I pilfered for potential future jobs, and noted down the address. A building in the richer part of town, where the guards guarded and the thugs avoided. Where else?
I bent down over the corpse and ran my hand across her skin. Then I took hold of the bottom of her shirt and used it to clean my knife. Blood can do terrible things to a blade.
Blade sheathed once more, I walked over the girl and back into the hallway, shutting the door behind me. The hallway was still deserted, just as I expected, but I still slipped back into the confident stride of belonging.
A good move. As I reached reception I almost bumped straight into two of the higher-ups. I could tell they were higher-ups by the solidified hair cuts and the angular suits. Gentlemen wore things with shape that flowed across the body, but entrepreneurs preferred the sartorial equivalent of balsa wood.
‘Where the hell is she?’ one of the men asked the other.
‘I don’t know,’ the other replied. ‘But she had best be back soon. I have a lot of steam that needs to be blown off, if you catch my drift.’
So I had been right about her.