He stepped in, and eased the hall door shut behind him. The hinges creaked a little just before the latch clicked. Reaching up by his head, he turned the wick all the way down in the lamp. A thin strip of orange light spilled in through the crack under the door. He kept his feet out of it. He leaned gently against the wall just next to the door and counted to ten, waiting for his eyes to adjust.
Ten. A large wardrobe to his right with a gold bauble on top, catching faint light from the chink in the drapes. An endtable in the corner, a potted plant. Straight as he looked, a long plain desk with a blotter, a ledger, some papers scattered on it. An inkpot cast a tiny black shadow on the tapestry hanging behind. The tapestry was surprisingly small, a perfect square, hung low above the desk. A family crest design, gold-fringed. He moved forward, casting glances at the window as he did. Fourth floor, midnight, probably okay. Still…
He leaned his bow against the side of the wardrobe and tried the handle, just to see.
Behind him, the hall door opened, creaking.
He melted into the near corner.
He recognized her hairpins right away, catching light from the window, sparkling in the darkness. Her footsteps were silent, but her skirts rustled. She moved, rustling, toward the desk. Something in her hand glowed gold.
She lifted the tapestry, thrust her hand underneath. A loud clack. She struggled for a moment. The tapestry shifted. The wall-safe opened.
She whirled around-one of her hairpins in her hand, ready to throw like a throwing-knife. An alarm went off.
Running, guards shouting outside. Coming closer, booming the walls. The alarm rang.
Garrett grabbed Lenore, shoved her into the wardrobe. He snatched the diamond from the wall-safe, steadied the tapestry with one short tug, and got in after her. The hall door opened, clattering. He closed the wardrobe slowly, and locked it from the inside.
The wardrobe was small, especially for two. But Garrett bent his head and pressed himself against Lenore, who was flat against the back wall, trying her best not to breathe. He felt her chest rise and fall, straining against him. He leaned his forehead on the back wall.
He heard a guard come in through the hall door, jangling his chainmail. Stomping footsteps to the window and back, then the wardrobe door shook. Garrett could feel it wobble against his ass. He squeezed in closer. Lenore lost her breath-it felt like a sigh in his ear. Her hair tickled his cheek. She smelled spicy, like incense.
"No sign of anyone, sir."
He felt Lenore's body jolt at the loud closeness of the guard's voice. He crooked his arm in that cramped space and covered her mouth. "He can't have gone far, then. Seal off the house, lieutenant, no one goes out, no one comes in. The alarm just now sounded, and the safe is empty-he must still be in the house. Did you check the window?"
"Yes sir. Locked from the inside, sir."
"Have all the party guests searched, I don't care how highborn they are. Tell them Master's orders, if they complain."
"Anyone caught roaming the halls, arrest them on sight. Got all that?"
"Go, quickly. Post a man at the door."
"Right away, sir. Fallows!"
The voices dwindled, the alarm stopped ringing, the door closed.
Garrett put his mouth to Lenore's ear, whispered, "I'm going to get you out of here. Stop panicking and listen to me." She was shaking, but made no sound. "Can you climb a rope at all?" She nodded. "Good. Now listen. When I open this door, you'll take off all your jewelry and hide it somewhere on you. Then you'll shut up, stay behind me, and do exactly what I do. Got it?" She nodded again. He clicked the lock and opened the wardrobe.
He stepped out, grabbed his bow, and the gold bauble off the top of the wardrobe, opened the drapes and the panes, looked out and up. When he looked back in, she had one of those pins in her hand again, ready to throw. It looked sharp.
"Give it to me."
"Don't be stupid."
"Hand it over!"
"You're going to kill me?-how are you going to get out? Not your usual way. You have climbing gear under that skirt? Then shut the hell up and follow me, or I can leave you here just as easily. I don't know why I'm helping you in the first place."
She blinked. "I'm sorry. I'm desperate. I never meant--"
"I said shut up."
"Was the alarm part of your plan, master thief?"
"You tried to cheat me. Be thankful I don't shoot you between the eyes."
"Why thank you."
He strung his bow and moved back to the window. She followed. He leaned out, looked up again. Wooden ledge, well within range. Problem was…
"Can I trust you?"
"Can I trust you?"
"Grab my belt. Both hands. Got it?"
"Brace your feet against the wall here."
"They're coming back, I can hear them-"
"Shut up and hold on."
She sank her knees, both hands hooked in his belt. Her toes hit the wall below the window.
She held her breath. He leaned out the window, far out, his hips against the sill, Lenore's weight keeping balance. For a moment, his hood slipped off his face. He pulled the string of his bow.
"Garrett, they're coming."
He aimed for the wooden surface just above him. His head swam in the open city air.
The arrow released a long thin rope that reached to five feet or so above the rooftop below. He grabbed the rope, hauled himself back in with Lenore's leverage. He unhooked her hands from his belt. He wondered for a moment, wryly, how much she'd charge him for touching him there.
He went first, rappelling down the side of the building. He stood at the bottom, one eye looking out for patrols, one eye on Lenore descending. Must be hard with skirts. She alighted. He grasped her wrist. They ran. A lead weight whistled past their heads. Garrett ducked.
"Holy shit they're fast."
"Do me a favor and get your ass over to the far corner there."
"Where the fire escape railings are?"
"You're quick, for a girl. Are you armed at all?"
"Have you forgotten so quickly?"
"I'll meet you there."
Garrett stopped, straightened.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"All right, we've got you in our sight, thief. Freeze!"
He stood still. The guards came clomping up, panting. Lenore was at the fire escape. The moon was low, and enormous.
"Put your hands up, taffer."
He raised his hands, held them just above his head.
Lenore clutched the fire escape railing. She saw something blinking in Garrett's right hand. She inhaled, closed her eyes, and began to descend the metal ladder. Her shoes made small sounds on the rungs, but nobody on the roof noticed.
"Frisk him, Lowland."
For a moment through closed eyes, Lenore saw pink.
"I can't see!"
"Where'd he go?"
"You imbeciles, he's gone!"
"What the hell was that?"
Lenore alighted on the wet cobblestones. She flattened herself against the wall, in the darkest nook she could find. She loosened her bodice laces, and labored to catch her breath.
She couldn't hear him at all, even when she felt his cloak fanning her as he came up beside her. She jumped. Then she could hear him breathing hard, and saw the steam from his mouth on the air.
"Hello dear, glad you could make it."
"You all right?"
"Aside from pissing my pants with fear and freezing cold, I've never been better."
"Let's get someplace warm. I'll buy you a beer."
"I'll buy the beer. You saved my ass in there."
"I have a feeling I'm going to regret it, too."
She laughed. "But not tonight."
"Let's get out of here."
"Lead the way, O Master of Shadows."
"Don't push it, sweetheart."
"Please," she said. "Call me Lenore."
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