The night air was chill. From a small secluded chamber somewhere on the top floor of a rapidly dilapitating greystone building, cloaked in a jumbled entanglement of moss and ivy, a hand reached out to close a window that had begun to sway and creak disturbingly in the breeze.
Garrett stared out at the sullen, sombre gloom of a sleeping city. Not a soul wandered the cobbled streets. Even the occasional taffer who had had rather too much to drink at the local ale house and was then unable to find his way home, had long since departed. Silence drifted aimlessly amongst the deepening shadows. The serene was almost uncanny.
With a sigh Garrett turned away from the window and moved across the dampening wooden floor of his apartment to his bed. Crouching down he removed from beneath it a withering brown satchel, untied its loose strings and proceeded to rummage casually through the items inside.
Amongst a collection of various valuable adornments of gold and silver, which he had obtained the previous night through thieving from the mansion of one of the city’s noblemen, Lord Bafford, was a crisp piece of rolled up parchment. Garrett delicately picked this up and was about to unravel it and re-read what had so startled and intrigued him the night before, when there came a sharp knock at his door.
Immediately he tensed, stood up and laid a hand upon the hilt of his sword which hung in a black sheath from his belt. Who wanted to see him at this hour of night-or any other time for that matter? Certainly not for a social visit, he generally kept himself anonymous and solitary, (mainly due to his precarious occupation) and knew no one on friendly terms.
Was then, the enemy finally at hand? Had his whereabouts at last been discovered? Was a cold hard death about to enter and seize him with its groping bloody fingers? He suddenly regretted closing the window and began to back away from the door towards it. The knocking came again.
"Who is it?" He asked cautiously. "Mr Fenning?" enquired a husky voice. "Jorlic? The rent is due."
Garrett let out a heavy breath of relief. Instantaneously the door opened and a short, broad shouldered man with a balding head entered, dressed in some sort of brown tabard and apron which was stained and badly worn.
"Mr..uh..Ginny," Garrett stuttered, thinking on his feet. Even with his new selection of costly trinkets he did not have enough to cover the wages that he owed. Anyhow, the price would be required to be in cash.
"That’s Geoffrey to you Mr Fenning," the landlord retorted gruffly. "The rent’s due. Overdue in fact. But since I could find no trace of you last night I was patient enough to wait a day. Where on earth were you throughout the reign of the moon?"
"That’s my business and my business alone," Garrett replied diplomatically, staring at the questioner with his dark, penetrating eyes. The old man shifted and sniffed. "Very well, very well," he rasped between a cough. "Your comins’ and goin’s and nightly labours may be of no concern to me, but the price for my accomodatin’you in between ‘em, is my business. I trust you have the payment at hand?"
"Give me one more night," Garrett returned in a provocative gravelly tone. "One more night and I’ll have the money." But the landlord was not dissuaded. "The payment was due yesterday Mr Fenning," he barked. "I have already given you leeway for your absence then. Now are you going to cough up or will I be forced to take further action and evict you?"
‘Wouldn’t that be a shame,’ Garrett thought, glancing around at the dark, dank room that had become his chief headquarters. A slimy green mould was beginning to plague the upper part of the walls and ceiling and here and there water dripped. But the landlord was in no mood to handle complaints or cynics. "You’ll get your money’s worth..and more," Garrett argued, annoyed with the man’s persistance. "But I can’t pay you now. I need another night. What have you got to lose?"
Ginny glared at him for several minutes. Garrett met his gaze and held it, knowing he was getting the upper hand. At last the landlord faltered with an exaggerated sigh. "One night," he said firmly. But any more messin’ around after that an’ you’ll be out of ere’ like the Trickster’s on yer tail. I’m runnin’ a business ‘ere y’know." He turned and strode out of the door, slamming it behind him and muttering threats and curses under his breath.
‘Thank goodness for that,’ Garrett murmured. ‘Looks like i’ve got a job plan for tomorrow night.’ Then he turned his attentions back to the crumpled parchment that lay upon the bed. He picked it up and began to read...
The streets were alive again when Garrett exited his lodgings through a side door the following evening and made his way along the quieter paths to an old house hidden from view in an abandoned alleyway north of the city centre. Music could be heard playing in the more fashionable bars and taverns and the smell of succulent pork and venison wafted out of open windows along with indulging cries of laughter and discussion.
But the boisterous clamour soon died down as Garrett left the familiar haunts of the city folk and came to a door that was surrounded by shadows so dense that it looked almost as if it would open into a vacuum of nothingness. All the same, he knocked.
The sound of footsteps echoed inside and a lantern gleamed as a figure passed by a window to Garrett’s right. Then with a creak, the door opened. A woman with long dark hair, clothed in a silky green robe peered out into the gloom.
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