Ruby Red 9

Shivering as she pulled the door open, Dido gave her eyes a moment to adjust.  The inside of the vault was unlit and the gas lamps from the hall didn’t seem to illuminate much beyond the first few floor tiles.  Then she caught a glint in the darkness.  It was a rich red, like the color of wine.  As the darkness slowly gave up its secrets, Dido started to salivate.  She couldn’t help it.  She was staring at a ruby the size of her fist.

That was the treasure she’d been sent after, and why it was more than worth it to walk past all the other valuables dotting the Natouri mansion.  The client who’d given her the layout of the palazzo was probably promising only a fraction of the full value, but it was still enough for her and Bull to live comfortably, someplace away from the docks and factories.  She wasn’t about to risk fencing it herself.  A stone that size would be too hot for any fence she knew and besides, unhappy clients had a tendency to cause problems.  Now that her eyes were used to the gloom, Dido started towards the gem’s display case.  She took each step carefully, feeling in front of her with her toes before committing her weight.  That needle had her more than spooked.

She was acutely aware of her vulnerability.  She needed to leave the door open so she could see where she was going, but it was also like posting a sign that said ‘robbery in progress.’  Dido picked up the pace as her worry of patrolling guards started to overwhelm her fear of more traps.  Soon she was kneeling in front of the glass case.  Something under the glass caught her attention.  There was another pressure alarm built into the stand, either tied to the glass cover or the ruby itself.  She didn’t have time for this—she didn’t know how long that guard would be sleeping on the job.  For a split second she considered just breaking the glass, grabbing her prize, and making a run for it.  She made herself take a few deep breaths and reached for her tools.

Once she pried open the wooden stand, it was obvious that the alarm was tied to the glass and the gem.  The hoses connected to the glass had all the same decoys that’d been in the door, but the gem itself had only one line going to it.  Taking a quick sampling of the pressure, Dido sealed off that tube without any trouble.  She still had a few tricks up her sleeve.  A glass cutter with a suction cup attached was the next gadget to appear.  Pressing the contraption against the side of the display case, she held the cover steady with one hand and cut out a perfect circle with the other.  As she pulled the piece of glass free, she pressed down on the top of the display, trying to match the weight of the cutout exactly.

Using her teeth and second hand to remove the suction cup, Dido placed the disc on top of the cover.  One more deep breath and she reached in through the hole and plucked out the gemstone.  After everything she had done to get here, it seemed a little anticlimactic.  As though the Fates had heard her thoughts, a click burst from the pedestal, followed by the whir of gears.  Dido was already sprinting toward the hallway when the alarm sounded.

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