“My scalp itches,” Dido said.
“That’s because you don’t bathe enough.” Hannibal crinkled his nose as he spoke.
“Shut it, Bull.” Dido used, like always, her childhood nickname for her brother.
“You need to stop being so superstitious. Your scalp doesn’t really itch every time someone is watching you.”
“Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.” Dido peaked out between the drapes for the tenth time or so. There was only darkness, the moon was hidden by clouds of ash spat out by the factories to the north. The fires there never stopped. Dido couldn’t remember the last time she had a completely clear view of the sun or the moon.
She’d watched the Collector leave and then doubled back and forth across the rooftops of the Docks for a half hour before risking going home. To say she didn’t exactly trust the greatest thief in the city was a bit of an understatement.
Hannibal was busy repairing his pneumatic grappling hook. He had a strange set of glasses on, with overlapping lenses that you could flip in front of the frames to increase the magnification. When he looked over at Dido, his eyes bulged out of his face.
“I’ve always wondered how volatile heated Aether is,” he said. “I’d have thought it would’ve exploded, or at the very least caught on fire.”
She’d told her brother about her escape, but she hadn’t gotten around to mentioning her run-in on the way home.
“Well gee,” she said. “I guess you’re glad I got away safely.”
“No, it’s not that at all. It’s just interesting.” Hannibal gave a helpless shrug.
Dido understood, she was just teasing. Hannibal lived for inventions and gadgets, especially after his accident. Her twin took off his strange glasses and grabbed his crutch. Dido didn’t even notice her twin brother’s missing left leg anymore unless he was walking. Then his knee swung in the air, moving like the bottom half of his leg was still there.
Looking out the window again, Dido saw the moon had finally made a weak appearance through the clouds. There were no shadows lurking on the nearby rooftops. None that she could see.
There was a hiss of steam as Hannibal began repressurizing the grappling hook. The rush of air became a high-pitched whine and then he twisted the valve to shut off the flow.
“What aren’t you telling me, D?”
Her name was short, but not short enough for Hannibal.
“I may have met the Collector on the way home.”
“Oh, I was worried someone—wait, you met who?”
He dropped his crutch and almost fell over. Dido was under his arm in a flash, helping him hop back to his stool.
“You gave me a fit there. Did you really say the Collector?”
“Yep,” she said. “He tracked me from the bar.”
“Did he attack you? Try to rob you?” Hannibal asked.
“A little of both.” Dido regretting saying that as soon as she saw her brother’s expression. “Don’t worry, nothing serious. He grabbed the note from Sturgeon off me.”
Hannibal’s eyes went to where the letter rested on their tiny, uneven wooden table.
“So he knows about the emerald. D, we need that gem. If you don’t get that to Sturgeon, we’ll have to flee the city.”