“Did you kill him?” Dido was gratified that he jumped a little when she spoke.
“No. He’s knocked out,” the Collector said, pulling a thin metal dart from the man’s neck.
“A pneumatic dart gun, not a bad idea.” The Collector still had the weapon in his hand. She’d have to see if Hannibal could make her one.
“I do like my toys,” the Collector slipped the thin metal tube into a jacket pocket.
He took a step back and started looking the lock over. Not to be outdone, Dido slipped past him and dropped to one knee in front of the door. Rolling up her dress, she revealed a set of lock picks strapped to her thigh. She pulled out her longest pick and tension wrench. She was just slipping them into the lock when she felt eyes on her.
“What are you looking at?” she asked.
“Oh, uh. Nothing. I was just watching your technique.”
“Then you should probably watch the lock instead of my leg.”
The Collector couldn’t think of a witty reply. Dido worked her way through the tumblers. The lock was brand new or very well made. There wasn’t any wear or wiggle room, but she still clicked through the tumblers one after another. In seconds she had the door open. She stuck the lock picks through her hairdo in case she needed them later.
“Not bad,” the Collector said.
“Like you could’ve done it any faster. Now get out of my way. I picked the lock, so the emerald is mine.”
“I took out the guard,” he said. “So that makes the emerald mine.”
Dido yanked the door open so hard it hit him in the shoulder. Too late she realized she hadn’t checked for an alarm. She winced and waited for a bell calling the dozen or so guards right to them, but it didn’t come.
“Well that’s one way to see if there’s an alarm,” the Collector said.
“It’s your fault,” she said.
“Do you always blame other people?”
“You’re impossible. Just leave me alone.”
Dido stormed into the viewing room. But when her eyes honed in on the flickering green light in the middle of the room, she forgot her anger. Heck, she forgot her own name.
The Emerald of Lorn caught every ray of light in the room and magnified and multiplied it. It glittered on a thin wire stand, surrounded by a glass case. The Natouri ruby had been breathtaking, but the Emerald just might stop her heart. It reeked of money.
“It’s not going to steal itself,” the Collector said. She hadn’t even noticed when he entered the room.
Dido and the Collector slowly circled the display case. They looked for weaknesses, alarms, and traps. Dido was pretty sure the Mechanists wouldn’t risk poisoning their guests if someone accidently bumped the case, but you never know.
“That’s odd. It’s locked but I don’t see an alarm,” the Collector said.
Dido smiled. She finally had a chance to one-up the Collector.
“The alarm’s there all right. It’s one of those new pressure alarms.”
“Ah. I’ve heard of those but I haven’t run into one yet. Did you learn the hard way with the Natorui ruby?”
“No,” she said. “I got past two of them, but I was so focused on that I missed a regular old pressure plate.”
“Bad luck. At least the Mechanists don’t seem quite as paranoid as those Natouri. They probably don’t think anyone could get by all those guards.”
“I took the long way,” she said. “How’d you manage?”
“It’s a long, embarrassing story that involves me balancing on the head of a stuffed bear.”