Ruby Red 4

Lanterns burned from brackets on the walls and from poles rising up into the night, illuminating a wonderful mix of sparkling storefronts, bubbling fountains, and even trees.  On Dido’s street, the only thing growing was a single box of flowers that perpetually stood at death’s door.  Seeing trees with actual leaves on them was unbelievable.  After marveling for a moment, Dido stopped gazing at the trees and started looking for people.

She saw two guards patrolling.  The city watch was almost as rare as trees down by the docks, but apparently they patrolled in force up on the Hill.  Once the pair moved past, Dido pulled herself up on top of the wall and started jogging along it.  Even though her feet were almost as wide as the narrow walkway, she felt perfectly comfortable.  She’d been running over rooftops for so long that her sense of balance was iron clad.

Climbing a drainpipe to get on top of an adjoining building, Dido paused now that she was higher above the street and further away from prying eyes.  She took out a little map, worn and creased from folding.  The sketch was pretty rough, but it was enough for her to tell that she was headed in the right direction.

As her sure feet danced over shingles and leapt over alleys, she soon found herself looking at her destination.  The Palazzo Natouri was not so much a mansion as a walled compound.  The mansion itself was clearly visible, but it sat back from the streets and alleys, surrounded by a wall capped with a wrought iron fence.  A personal garden for the Natouris lay between the two.  Piping enough clean water up the Hill to keep that many plants alive must cost a fortune.  Dido’s client had definitely sent her to the right place.

Reaching back for another handful of powder to dry off her hands, Dido rubbed them together to wipe the extra off.  Once she was ready, she began scaling the wall.  When she got to the fence, things got a little trickier, because she had to rely more on upper body strength.  Her arms were still tired from her climb up the Hill.  The old iron creaked and groaned.  Each sound brought a fresh wince from her, but Dido was eventually able to get over without raising any alarms.

Darkness slipped back around her as she dropped silently among the soil and flowers.  Dido coughed quietly into her scarf—the perfume of the blossoms was overpowering.  As she moved through the garden, she took slow, shallow breaths through her mouth.  Half the windows of the mansion were dark.  This late at night, she’d expected less activity.  She’d have to be careful.  Many of the still lit windows didn’t even have the curtains drawn.  This made it easier for Dido to see what was going on inside, but it also increased the danger of someone seeing her as she crept forward.

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