Lexi watched the coming and goings of the building from the comfort that the alley’s shadow provided. This part of the city was all but abandoned, and yet for such a decrepit structure there had been an unusual amount of activity, with many hooded figures milling around the entry way, speaking in hushed voices that only just barely carried across the deserted street.
‘We should have it soon.’
It’s proving difficult.’
‘We don’t have much time.’
‘It is the will. It shall be done.’
‘It shall be done.’
Despite the assurances the men had given each other, Lexi knew it would not be done. Not as night came, the streets once again growing quiet as the men returned inside.
Slipping away from her hiding spot and stepping out into the street Lexi stared up at the building. At four stories it wasn’t particularly high, and with plenty of cracks in the masonry and a number of boarded up windows it wouldn’t be hard to scale.
She took a moment to make sure her long, black hair was safely settled in place insider her hood and gave her scarf one final adjustment before bounding towards the building. Pressing one foot against a large gorge in the wall, she launched herself straight up, her fingers finding the ledge of a window. With minimal effort she pulled herself up the side of the building, making sure to avoid the few windows that remained illuminated.
Reaching the top floor, she made her way to a darkened window. With careful movements she pulled a thin knife from her belt and wedged it under the windowsill.
She winced slightly as the window let out a soft creak as she twisted the knife and forced the window to open ever so slightly before it caught against the latch and refused to budge any further. Lexi took a deep breath before sliding the knife quickly to the side, as hard as she could.
The sound of the lock breaking was far louder than she would have liked, but after a full minute of no one coming to investigate, Lexi was confident she hadn’t been heard. Slowly she pushed the window open enough to pull her lithe figure through.
She was in.
Truthfully, this was not how Lexi would have preferred to go about this request. If it had been up to her, she simply would have kicked in the front door and eliminated whatever was in her way, but the client had asked for a more discreet method, if possible.
‘If possible’ was the reason a very large sword was strapped to Lexi’s hip, along with the litany of other weapons along her body.
Moving to the door, she pressed her ear against the wood and listened. When only silence greeted her she slowly nudged the door open a crack.
The hallway was completely dark, save for a few rays of light coming up from the stairs at the end of the hall. Drawing a small throwing knife Lexi padded down the hallway and to the staircase.
As she stopped at the edge of the first step it became immediately clear why there had been no one on the top floor. The flight of stairs leading up had been destroyed, making this level virtually impossible to get to. Lexi tilted her head as she stared at the gap before her.
In theory she could make the jump. However, she could not guarantee she would land quietly enough not to raise suspicion. Furthermore, there was no way to know what state her landing spot would be in. The rotting wood could easily give out beneath her.
After a moment of contemplation she let out a soft breath.
There was no way around it, she would simply have to make the jump.
With enough time wasted thinking about the issue Lexi did not take more to prepare. Throwing herself forward she hung in the air for a moment, her body crossing out of the shadows and back into the light as she formed into a crouch, absorbing the impact of her landing to minimize the noise as much as possible.
Even so, there was still an audible thud as she landed. She had to move before anyone came to investigate. The item she had been sent to retrieve was heavy, so it was unlikely that they would have taken the time to carry it up the stairs. It would be somewhere on the bottom floor, she was sure of it.
She hurried down the stairs, keeping as close as possible to the wall to reduce the chance of the wood squeaking beneath her foot. She had just reached the bottom step when she spotted movement out of the corner of her eye. She threw herself back, tucking against the shadowy corner where the staircase met the wall.
A shirtless man came stomping out of a room to her right, walking right past her as he rubbed at his eyes. Lexi stayed completely still as he leaned back and let out a groan of frustration before kicking the nearby table, knocking the lamp over and sending the room into darkness.
“Damnit!” he roared as he fumbled to relight the lamp.
A robed man entered the room. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Obviously. I thought you were good at this?”
“Again, you were chosen because of your supposed skill.”
“I can get it open. I just need more time.”
“Time, unfortunately, is not something we have an abundance of. The plan, however, cannot proceed without our success. I trust you understand this.
“Of course I do.”
“It’s almost morning. Take a break and rest. If you somehow manage to break it in your haste, Jer will-”
“I know that, Tanner!” the shirtless man slammed the still unlit lantern back on the table. “Wake me in twenty minutes.”
Tanner watched him go before producing a box of matches. “Fool.”
He struck the match and the room was filled with a soft, amber light. Lexi pushed herself tighter against the corner as the light washed over her for a moment before pulling away as Tanner began to fumble with relighting the lantern. The moment he did, she would be completely exposed.
Reaching back she pressed her hands flat against the wall and sucked in a silent breath. Closing her eyes she slowly curled her fingers against the darkness, finding purchase in the shadows. Ever so gently she pulled the shadow from the wall. It resisted her, going taunt and threatening to snap out of her grip, but she held on tight. Through the resistance did not fully subside, she was still able to wrap the shadows around herself and fade back into the darkness just as the lantern was lit.
Opening her eyes she stared through the veil as Tanner put the lantern back on the table and hesitated. His eyes slowly panned across the room, coming ever closer to her hiding spot. Lexi braced herself, resisting the urge to dispel the magic and reach for her weapon.
Tanner’s eyes fell directly on her, and continued on, before he let out a soft sigh and rubbed at his head.
“I hate this,” he grumbled before heading up the stairs.
Lexi managed to hold onto the magic for a few seconds longer before the spell was forcefully broken and she collapsed down to her knees. Her breath came in short, sharp gasps as her heart hammered wildly against her chest. A beat of sweat trickled down the side of her face and she wiped it away with her sleeve before returning to her feet. Fighting off the wave of nausea that threatened to send her back to the floor, she staggered into the room that the shirtless fool had stormed out of.
The room contained a single table with a small cube set up right in the center. All around it were various tools, many of them broken. Lexi approached the table and carefully reached out and picked up the cube. Or tried to. The client had not been exaggerating the weight. With slightly more effort she managed to lift the cube up and tucked it beneath her arm before producing a replica from inside her cloak. The replica was far lighter, and completely worthless, but the client had requested the job be completed in this manner and Lexi had no qualms with that.
With nothing left to do Lexi turned on her heel and simply exited through the front door. Stepping into the night she faded away into the darkness, moving through the shadows at a brisk pace. It was a long way to her destination.
The sun was already high in the sky before she reached the city square. Despite the warmth she kept the hood positioned firmly on head and the scarf secure over her face. The hours of walking had left a ache in her legs, but she did not slow her pace.
Making her way into a small hotel she headed up to the third floor. The door was unsurprisingly locked and she rapt sharply on the door. Then did it again when she received no answer, this time with slightly more force. From inside the room she finally heard a small groan followed by the sounds of heavy foot steps.
A sleepy eyed man opened the door. Rubbing at his eyes he gave a weak wave. “Morning Lexi.”
“It’s the afternoon, Banksy.”
“Hey, just be happy I showed up,” Banksy said with a yawn and a shrug. “So what’s up?”
Lexi held produced the cube. “Ready to work?”
Banksy’s mouth closed and his fingers flexed as a small grin filtered onto his face. “Always.”
“Alright baby, talk to me.”
The mantra helped to clear his head and he rarely attempted a crack without it.
To his left he could feel Lexi roll her eyes at his antics, but he ignored her. She didn’t understand, she couldn’t. Every job was different. Each one required its own special care and understanding, especially a safe like this, one guarded by magic.
His dark fingers moved softly over the metal. He could feel the power coursing through the entirety of the piece. Whoever had done this, had been strong, very strong.
“No weak points,” he said after a moment, sitting back and throwing Lexi a smile as he tugged on a lock of his curly hair, thinking. “This one is going to take some time if I mess up at all. Who was working on this before me?”
“Cross is going to be here in thirty minutes, that’s how long you have,” she said, blatantly ignoring his question as she took a moment to adjust the scarf that covered the majority of her face from view, leaving only her dark eyes exposed. “Don’t lollygag, Banksy.”
Banksy chuckled deeply before turning back to the safe. It was relatively small, easy enough to hold up between his hands, but it was heavy. Far too heavy. Even using both his hands and considerable strength he had trouble lifting it. He placed his left hand onto the top of the safe and drummed his fingers for a moment, the nub where his middle finger used to be moving in time with the others, but not actually making contact.
“Can you open it or can you not?” Lexi snapped, sitting up straight after almost ten minutes of listening to the steady tap tap tap of Banksy’ fingers.
He flinched as the shadows in the room jumped and seemed to bend towards him. He took in a deep breath and rapped his knuckles on the safe. “It’s magic, alright? Last time I rushed a job, this happened!” He held up his left hand, which would have been giving a rather rude gesture had the digit not been previously removed. “I’ll get it open, why don’t you take a walk or something? You’re making me nervous.”
She stared at him for a long moment before finally nodding. With a shake of her head she stepped out of the room, closing the door firmly behind. For a moment the shadows around Banksy stayed angled towards, as if poised to strike, before finally relaxing back into their natural state. He let out a long sigh of relief and turned back to the safe. Reaching up, he hooked a finger under the collar of his shirt and fished out his necklace. Strung along the chain was an assortment of rings. Pulling a few ones free, he slid them onto his fingers and began to run his hands around the safe until he felt a small tug. Smiling he let the tug guide his hands until it was securely pulled to the right side of the safe. Bringing his hand back a few inches he gave the metal side a smart tap with the ring.
He pulled his hands away quickly as the metal box began to crack apart and reform, expanding over and over again until the safe had nearly tripled in size. “Ah.” He nodded. “That would explain the weight. Big girl aren’tcha? That’s good.” He ran a knowing eye over the still featureless front of the safe. He recognized this make now. He took in a deep breath before whistling a quick tri-tone. The surface of the metal shimmered, but still remained blank. Tilting his head he tried again, this time holding each note longer. The shimmer returned and after a moment, a single keyhole appeared in the center, surrounded by runes. He ran a finger over the markings.
“Property of… unimportant… do not open unless blah blah blah… insured by the Grand Pegasus Corporation… Well that’s good because they are definitely never getting any of this back.”
Banksy took a moment to laugh at, what he at least thought was, his own clever quip before reaching into his pocket and pulling out his pick set from a worn leather case. Humming to himself he inserted the tension wrench with gentle ease before bringing up one of the picks. He actually loved breaking into magical safes. For some reason, people never through to put very good traditional locks on their magical safe, probably thinking the magic was enough.
“No lock is unbreakable, no door forever sealed.” Banksy said happy as he clicked the first pin into place. The rest soon followed and after a moment he felt a give as the wrench turned fully and the safe was finally open. “Not when I’m around.”
“Gah!” Banksy jumped to the side, crashing against the bed as he grabbed at his heart with his hand. “Damnit Lexi! Don’t sneak up on people like that! It’s scary.”
“Mmmmm," she replied with little to no concern for his words. She swung the safe door open and rifled through the contents, allowing a hefty portion of currency and precious stones to fall to the ground. Banksy didn’t bother to chastise her as she finally pulled her hand free, holding up a small, folded up letter. “Package recovered Cross should be here within the minute.”
“What about the rest?” Banksy waved a hand over the valuables. Lexi barely gave it a glance as she exited the room.
“You can take the rest of his back with you if you want. I’m sure we can find a fence for the jewels. Leave anything that can be traced back to us or the client.”
“Will do… you crazy ass….” he muttered mindlessly under his breath as he ripped one of the dingy pillowcases from the bed and began to stuff it full of loot.
“I’m sorry Banksy, did you say something?” Lexi asked, her covered head appearing back through the cracked door. Banksy froze before rapidly shaking his head back and forth. Lexi narrowed her eyes before once again leaving. “Hmph.”