It’s been a couple weeks since I posted here, partly because I’ve just been too busy to write anything, and partly because it’s been hard to think of anything to post. So I started thinking about it this morning and decided to try writing a really short story. And I did. Let me know if it’s actually any good.
Davin paused on the balcony and looked around to be sure he was alone. The alley below was deserted. A warm breeze off the ocean stirred the palm trees, their fronds dark silhouettes against the starry sky. Somewhere off to his left, a cat yowled. And to his right, probably three or four streets over, laughter and the sounds of a party.
Here, it was quiet.
It better be. When Carl told him about this particular job, he’d been a bit leery. A nobleman’s house completely empty this time of year? When the snows blanketed the capital and even the hardiest of court hangers-on deserted Ampistad for warmer climes?
“It’s a sure thing,” Carl had said. They sat at a table enjoying the sunshine and balmy temperatures that winter brought.
Davin smirked. “A sure thing? That doesn’t exist in this business.”
Carl grinned at him. “Tonight it does.”
He studied his friend who also served as his fence. Carl had never steered him wrong before. “I don’t know. It’s my birthday. I was planning on going out tonight.”
Carl leaned forward. “So go out afterwards. I’m telling you, this one is worth delaying your celebration. And he’ll be back by tomorrow morning. This is your only chance.”
“As sure as death and taxes. Diamonds, Davin. Loose diamonds. Untraceable, too. I can unload them for… I’d say sixty percent of market value.”
Sixty percent? Well, considering thirty percent was a good thing, maybe it was time to rethink not working tonight.
“All right. But you be ready. I want to party after. Have the money, because I don’t want to wait.”
Carl had grinned and said, “You got it. You’ll have a birthday in style this year, my man.”
So here he was, crouched on a balcony in the better part of town, about to sneak into the winter residence of one of the most powerful men in the realm, at least according to Carl. Davin didn’t pay much attention to politics, so he had no way of knowing.
He eased onto the balcony’s floor, went to the sliding door, a new invention he had little experience with. But a lock was a lock, and less than a minute later, he had it open.
Another pause to look around. The cat yowled again, and the party still raged on. No Nightwatch in sight, though, which was good. Just getting into this walled-off neighborhood had been tough, and he was thinking sixty percent was just about right for a job like this.
He stepped inside, slid the door almost shut. Better to leave it slightly open in case he had to make a hasty exit.
It was quiet in here. He stood for a full minute, getting a feel for the place, something he did on every job.
Okay. The diamonds were downstairs. Carl had suggested using the balcony because, thanks to their newness, sliding doors were easier to get through than the banded oak numbers on the ground floor. Those would have taken considerably more work.
His feet didn’t even whisper on the carpeted floor. He mumbled one of the few spells he knew, and the darkness receded a bit. Just enough to keep him from bumping into something and knocking it over, but not enough to let him see clearly.
He’d never been that good at magic.
Down the stairs, turn to the right. The safe was kept in the huge hall this guy used for throwing parties. Seemed a strange place, but Davin had seen stranger. The door to the hall opened silently on well-oiled hinges.
He paused. Something wasn’t right. That empty, abandoned feeling that had pervaded the rest of the house was gone. The room felt occupied, and by more than one person.
Had Carl set him up? Had the watch caught him and turned him?
Whatever the case, Davin wasn’t hanging around to find out. He was just turning to leave—as quickly as possible—when light bloomed all around him.
Temporarily blinded, he almost forgot to let go of the magic that let him see, but when he did, he found not the Nightwatch, but….
“Surprise! Happy Birthday!”
Warmth flooded his cheeks. A huge crowd of his friends—and business associates—stood attired in party clothes, holding champagne glasses. Streamers fell from the ceiling, and balloons bobbed in the air.
And right in the middle of it all stood Carl, grinning from ear to ear, raising a glass in his direction.
And then he saw the diamonds they’d laid out for him. Not rocks, but tasty desserts that cost plenty themselves.
Carl practically pranced over and put an arm around his shoulders.
“Told you it was a sure thing,” he said, that grin never leaving his face.
Davin laughed, then narrowed his eyes at his friend. “Okay, you got me. But just remember—your birthday is coming up.”
“I’m looking forward to it. Now let’s party.”
The diamonds were all they’d been promised to be.