Ruby Red 5

The first floor was too risky.  Too many lit windows.  Dido decided to try her luck with one of the darkened balconies on the second floor.  Like everything else about the Natouri’s compound, the floors were too big.  The top of the balcony had to be close to forty feet above her.  The smooth stone of the palazzo walls was almost completely without blemish.  Even the drains seemed to have been built into the stonework.  Dido pulled the protective cap off Bull’s cylinder.

Pressing the button, gas whined and hissed as it shot from the tube, launching the grappling hook into the air.  A thin cord twisted out behind the expanding metal claw.  Even though she’d been warned by her brother, the power of the little contraption caught Dido by surprise.  The grapple sailed over the second floor balcony and almost hit the third before falling back with a clang.  Dido cringed.  Pulling the cord tight, she climbed up as quickly as she could.  Luckily she was pulling the cord up with her as she went, because someone stuck their head out of a first floor window just as she moved out of view.

Dido crouched on the darkened balcony, trying to catch her breath.  Her panting had less to do with climbing so fast than with the scare of the near miss.  Reaching into another one of her pouches, she pulled out her lock picks.  This set was probably older than she was, but they hadn’t failed her yet.  Here on the Hill, above the smog, there was just enough moonlight to see what kind of lock she was dealing with.  She could handle the rest by feel alone.

Slipping in a tension wrench, she stuck her pick in at an angle and started gently working the tumblers.  Dido closed her eyes and turned her ear toward the door.  This was a very good lock.  The tumblers were almost silent and it had a special release that reset them all if any wrong ones were triggered.  If a thief wasn’t careful, this kind of lock could break the tip off your wrench.  But Dido was careful, and very, very good, so in just under a minute she clicked the last tumbler into place and the lock snapped open.

As the door slid open, Dido was holding her breath.  She needn’t have worried, because the hinges were well maintained.  Her eyes adjusting to the deeper darkness in the room, she pulled the door closed behind her.  Only after it had shut completely did she slowly release the handle and let the latch slide quietly into place.  Pulling back the corner of a curtain so she had just enough light to make out a few details, Dido saw she was in some kind of guest room.  It didn’t look like it was currently being used, but with a few sheets and candles in the holders it would be opulently inviting.  Dido’s gloved fingers rested on a couple of the more portable decorations.  Silver candlesticks and gold picture frames would bring a decent price.  Unfortunately, she was on a very specific mission and she couldn’t afford to jeopardize that.  Maybe on the way back out though…

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