“What did you keep for yourself on the Fermicelli job?” she asked.
“A test,” he said with a smile. “I see you don’t trust me. I would be offended, but it’s pretty much a requirement in our line of work.”
His eyes flashed while he spoke. It was pretty distracting. From the sound of his voice, he couldn’t be that much older than her, probably about the same age as Officer Scipio.
“That wasn’t an answer.”
“I kept a single silver spoon,” he said. “It brought down the value of the rest of the set. Made a bit of trouble for the fence.”
Dido debated whether she should quiz him again, just to make sure.
“If you need further proof,” he said. “Take a look at this.”
He pulled an envelope out of a pocket. Dido saw it was the same envelope she’d stolen from Clyde. He must’ve gotten hold of it while they were fighting. She lunged for it, but he spun out of the way and broke the seal.
“Just as I thought,” he said.
“Hey, that’s mine. Give it here.”
“Oh, he’s giving you quite the ultimatum here. If you don’t pull through on this job, he’ll send someone after you.”
Dido brought her heel down on his foot. As he yelped in pain, she plucked the letter out of his hand. With a hop, skip, and a jump, she was up another story, sitting down and reading the letter.
It was a typical note from a ticked off crime boss. She could almost hear growling as she read. Sturgeon was giving her one last chance, and she’d better not waste it. Her target was the Emerald of Lorn, currently on display in the Mechanist College’s Grand Museum. The Mechanists were the ones who built all the fancy gadgets that kept Thage running, from the factories, to the airships, to the traps that had almost got her caught on her last job.
Dido wasn’t exactly eager to see what kind of traps and alarms they’d use to protect their own valuables. Especially an emerald that was said to be the size of her fist. The Collector climbed up opposite her and slouched back against the roof.
“I’ve got a proposal for you,” he said. “Don’t look at me like that. I think you’ll find the terms agreeable.”
“Fine. What is it?” she asked.
“It’s more of a competition really. We both try to get the emerald and see who can steal it first.”
“That’s a horrible idea,” Dido said. “I need that emerald.”
“And I don’t,” he said. “Probably should’ve led with that. If you win, you can turn the gem over to your friend Mr. Sturgeon. If I win, I’ll give it to you on one condition.”
“If you have dinner with me.”
Dido’s mouth was hanging open behind her scarf. Then she started looking around for something to throw at him.
“No need to get angry,” he said, taking cover behind a chimney. “You just seem like my kind of girl.”
“You don’t know me. You haven’t even seen my face.”
“I’ve seen you at work, and if the rest of you is as pretty as your eyes, well then…”
The night air grew hotter as blood flooded Dido’s cheeks. Thankfully they were hidden by her scarf.
“Since you’re not trying to attack me anymore, does that mean you agree?”
Dido sat back down on her rooftop. Normally, when she prowled the city at night she felt almost like the Ghost that people had taken to calling her. Now her heart pumped and emotions tangled her brain. She was a living girl and not a shadow.
“It’s a deal,” she said.
* * *