"Slipping"
by Darragh Hogan

SLIPPING

3:00 in the morning, and I awoke suddenly. I donít know why I woke up, but being a thief has given me an instinctive knowledge of when things are out of place. Oh well, I thought. Might as well grab some ale to help me catch some Zís. I walked to my cupboard, anticipating the nice buzz that was forthcoming. I grabbed the only thing I had- some cheap pisswater from a brewery by the docks. It doesnít taste great going down, but it does the job.

You could imagine my surprise when I noticed my gold challis was gone. What the hell, I thought to myself. Just then, a sinking suspicion came over me. I ran to my dresser. Damn! My purse was gone. Was it possible? Someone actually got away with ripping off me, Garrett? I had been drinking earlier, so maybe my senses were dulled due to my incapacitated state. I suppose it would be pretty tempting; To rip off the best would be quite a testimony. I didnít mind the fact that the challis was gone- it wasnít worth much anyway. Nor was I upset about my purse being stolen, even though there was a hefty amount in there. Itís just that I have a reputation to uphold. I thought for a second that my skills were slipping. If there was anyone in the room at the time, I would have jumped out my third floor window in shame.

Well, the only solution was redemption. I started looking around for clues. No sooner had I started when I spotted a feather on the floor. This particular feather was a from a pheasant, and I happened to know a certain fence in the area that specialized in transporting valuable birds that were acquiredÖwell, letís just say they were "off the books". His pheasants were very tasty, and I would occasionally "purchase" some from him when I felt like spoiling myself. Time to pay him a visit.

3:30 in the morning, and Iím outside Klinsmannís house. No need for niceties here. Klinsmann is a weak bastard, and easily intimidated, so I just decided to rope arrow to his open bedroom window and give him a shock. I barged in like a bull in a antique shop, ready to squeeze the information out of him, and, over the shrieks of his rotund, rat-faced wife, who was sitting upright in bed, I was ready to give him the beating he deserved. I assumed he was the lump hiding under the sheets, so I shouted out a string of profanities that any North Side thug would be proud of. I pulled back the covers over that shivering mound of cowardice, only to findÖthe stable boy, of all people. Initially overcome with the humor of knowing such a useful tidbit, I was soon reverted to anger. I asked Klinsmannís wife, rather sharply, where her husband was, and she replied that he went to Port George to sell some merchandise. I was so pissed, I didnít even give her a chance to finish her sentence as I jumped out the window. She did say something about not telling her husband about anything I had seen. Weíll see about that.

3:39 in the morning, and Iím walking back towards my place. After that embarrassing incident, I was only even more intent on finding this perpetrator. I decided that if it wasnít Klinsmann, it must have been one of his lackeys. Klinsmann runs his operation out of the Sleeping Mage Inn, so I immediately began heading in that direction.

On the way, I managed to pass under the window of Thomson, one of Klinsmannís henchmen. I actually never meant to check him out, but I guess I was in the right place at the right time. I never believed in luck, but Iíll take it when I can get it. He had some wench from Madame Brinewayís brothel with him, and if there is one thing that can provide juicy information, itís pillow talk. Sure enough, after a couple glasses of wine, the secrets were flowing like water.

"You know, we scored a pretty nice hit today."

"Really, honey? What did you get?"

"Oh, we got a pretty penny. Itís back at the inn. Marist is in charge of it."

No doubt, the little tart had her mind set on heisting the loot, but this stuff was rightfully mine, and I could never show my face in this town again if I didnít get it back. No time for Thompson; Iíll deal with him later. For now, I got to get to the inn and take back whatís mine.

4:02 in the morning, and I managed to crawl into the Sleeping Mage via the sewage tunnel. I always knew that the food here was bad, but thank (The Builder? The Trickster? Yeah, right) they donít use the stuff they throw away. I slip up to Maristís room, and he too was with one of Brinewayís whores. (Note to self: Case Brinewayís place. She must be pulling in a fortune) Anyway, since I have dealt with Klinsmannís crew before, I knew exactly were they kept the stuff from their heists. So, off to the basement I went. There is a secret room behind a wall that can be revealed by putting out three torches, in order from right to left. Childís play, really. I put out the sconces, anticipating to find my goods, as well as my respect. I approached the chest, picked the locks, only to find a crateful of dresses. "Dresses?" I thought. This was the hit Thomson was talking about. They had flinched the Annual Fashion Fair that was going on this weekend! This only added to my frustration. If I donít get out of here, I thought, Iím going to burn this place down in anger. I turned quickly and stormed towards the exit of the secret room. In my fury, however, I kicked over an old, decrepit sword from a previous heist that was sitting by the wall. Needless to say, the commotion ensuing upstairs told me I had better leave quickly. I managed to duck out the same way I came in (to my dismay) just before Marist dragged his fat butt around the corner.

4:26 in the morning, and I was really mad by this point. I reeked of garbage, and not only had I been fleeced- right under my nose, mind you- but my attempt at retrieving my goods had went about as bad as any job I can remember. However, I had one last chance. As any good thief knows, you drop off any merchandise you have as fast as you acquired it, and there was only one fence that was "open for business" at this hour. Vernon The Owl was an insomniac, which may have been just natural, or due to the profitable effects of it. Either way, if I could find my loot there, I could always come back later to "extract" the sellerís whereabouts from Vernon later. I was too tired to get into an altercation at this point, so I figured Iíd use my stealth to get what was rightfully mine.

I skulked my way towards Vernonís place. With all the mechanical "advances" that have been occurring in this town recently, sneaking about from place to place isnít as easy as it used to be. In light of this, I decided to take the rooftops to reach my destination. Upon reaching Vernonís shop, I intended to rope my way down to street level and find a way in, as Vernon has one of the top police chiefs residing above him, and I figured it would be best to avoid any altercations with people that can lock me up. For some reason, all the lights in Vernonís place were off. Perhaps he decided to turn in early for a change. All the better. If my stuff is in there, it is only easier if I donít have to deal with anyone who is awake.

As I was making my way down the side of the building, I must have caught my heel on a brick jutting out of the wall, because I began to plummet down to the hard cobblestone beneath me. Let me tell you, my ass did not appreciate my clumsiness. As I sat there, trying to pull myself together, I noticed a sign posted on Vernonís door:

By the order of Executive Counsel, and the Commission for Public Health and Decency, This Building is hereby condemned as unsuitable for Living, and shall be therefore seized and auctioned by the State, whereas all unhealthy conditions within shall be rectified and the property be returned to the Common Market for resale

.

By Decree, H. Julius Rampart Head Minister Commission for Public Health and Decency
Just what I needed to hear. I always knew Vernon was an unkempt toad, but I never thought his place to be unsanitary by the lawís standards. Besides, this left me with no more leads to my little problem. What do I do now?

I didnít have time to answer that question. Before I knew it, a gang of the cityís Night Watchmen was upon me. I tried to get away, but my little fall left me in not the greatest physical condition. A few wallops on the head from the butts of their swords, and I was out cold.

4:58 in the morning, and I woke up in a dingy jail cell with a massive headache. When one of the guards realized I was out and about, he went to grab Lieutenant Prideaux. Interrogations are never fun, especially with a bump the size of a crab apple on your head.

Lieutenant Prideaux is not the most personable man I have ever met. He has an enormous chin, tiny black eyes, and he spits when he talks. Needless to say, I wanted to make this as painless as possible. I starting thinking of all the jobs I had pulled recently, and I wondered which one he could have arrested me for. Was it the Sherringham Artiste Convention? The Ross family gathering? Was it the Brownstone caper? I was sure Iíd find out soon enough.

It came as quite a shock to me when Prideaux mentioned the Fashion Fair to me. He thought I had pulled off that job! Obviously, Klinsmannís men did not do a good job, otherwise the Night Watch wouldnít have been on the search that very night. Stupid amateurs. There incompetence was going to get me shipped up the river. Given all the mishaps that had occurred to me because of them, I decided to do something that I never would have done before- I ratted them out. It seems that wasnít enough for Prideaux. I had to give him some "insurance" that I wasnít lying to him- my gold-trimmed belt, to be more specific. After being embarrassed beyond any level I had ever experienced, they finally let me on my way. I decided to give up the fight, and just make my way home.

5:58 in the morning, and after limping home, trying to keep my pants up all the way, I slumped onto my bed. Frustrated, I sat up and threw my head into my hands, as I painfully recalled the events of the night past. As my eyes were wandering, I noticed something glistening at the end of the bed. As I bent closer, I noticed that it wasÖ indeed, it was my challis. Ah yes! I did have a fair amount to drink this evening. That was how I fell asleep in the first place! As I bent to pick it up, I spotted my extra pair of pants crumpled in a ball beneath my bed. I pulled them from out underneath, and sure enough, there was my purse, attached to the belt hook. God dammit! After all I had been through, at the expense of my health and precious gold-plated belt, and after stooping to the level of a rat (no matter how much grief Klinsmannís men had caused me), my challis and purse where here all along! I really must be slipping. Enough, I said. All I want to do now is get a drink and go to bed. Now if only I could find that aleÖ

This has been an original short story by Darragh Hogan (Taffer1 to all you thief-a-holics!)

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