As bad as things were in Thage, from what she heard from wanderers and traders, it was worse everywhere else.
“I could always just stop stealing for a while,” she said.
“I don’t know about you,” Hannibal said. “But I don’t feel like starving.”
It was the elephant in the room. Even with the odd jobs Hannibal picked up repairing machines, the money he brought in didn’t match Dido’s income from her day job in the factory. And that wasn’t really enough for one person to live on. The Docks were filled with families slowly starving to death, both parents working twelve hour shifts. Her brother was right. Stealing kept them alive.
“He offered to give me the emerald, the Collector,” Dido said.
Her brother’s expression asked the question his brain was too tangled to voice.
“He wanted a little competition, to test my reputation,” she said. “If I win, I get the emerald. If he wins, he’ll give me the emerald, but only if I let him take me out to dinner.
After the second solid minute of laughter, Dido punched her brother in the arm until he shut up.
* * *
It only took a little digging to realize there were precious few opportunities for Dido to get her hands on the emerald. The gem was stored in the Mechanist’s vault in the museum when it wasn’t on display. The Mechanist’s College had installed their vault right in the middle of the museum. It was even part of the tour.
Before Hannibal’s accident, he used to put on his best clothes, scrub his hair and face for an hour, and pretend to be a bored kid from a rich merchant family. He’d wander the halls of the museum until Dido snuck in to come get him. She didn’t remember much, but she did remember the vault. They said it was uncrackable. She wasn’t so sure about that, but it would take at least a team of six working for a couple hours to get it open. Not really a viable option.
So the only choice was to grab the emerald while it was on display. Which meant parties. Dido hated parties. Not that she really had a lot of experience with them, but just the idea that there were people so rich they could competitively rub it in each other’s faces every weekend made her sick. It was thoughts like this that kept her from feeling guilty for stealing.
Her life had gotten complicated awful quickly. The job with the ruby was supposed to solve all her problems. Instead, it had just multiplied them. Now she was dragged into another high stakes job and she wasn’t going to have anything to show for it even if everything went according to plan.
Hannibal sensed his sister’s head wasn’t in the game, so he took over the lion’s share of the planning. Even after years, he still remembered the basic layout of the museum. He supplemented that with public records and a few careful questions to people he knew. It wasn’t until a few days ticked by and Hannibal started making some big decisions for her that Dido snapped out of it.
“I’m not going to rob the emerald during a costume party,” she said. “That’s sure to have the biggest crowd. Why not the botany dinner? I’m sure they’ll all be old and nearsighted there.”
“The crowd will work to your advantage, because you’ll be able to blend right in,” Hannibal said.
“Bull, I don’t think it’s the kind of costume party where you can dress in dark clothes with a dirty scarf wrapped around your head.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Hannibal, you can’t mean. You didn’t…”
But he most certainly did. Dido swore so loud when she saw the dress, she woke the neighbors.
* * *