“So, this is the part where everyone finds out what’s going on and what exactly we’re going to be doing tomorrow night,” Caeli stated simply, the rest of us were sitting or leaning against something as she sat on the table she had been using as a desk. Her notebook was open, a mess of paper covering the rest of the table.
“Finally,” I said. She shook her head.
“I wasn’t sure if the two of you would be ready, but I suppose you’ll have to do, doing it myself will be too dangerous, and you guys are the people I trust the most.” She told us. The first part directed to Nylah and me. It slightly offended me, but I’ve learnt to expect that from most conversations with Caeli. “So, tomorrow night, there is a black market auction being held on a wonderful estate that belongs to a very wealthy family where we are going to be procuring an object.”
“Sounds like stealing to me.” I pointed out, Caeli tilted her head to the side as she looked at me before she spoke again.
“Might be because it is.” She told me, looking back to her open notebook that sitting next to her hand. I couldn’t see anything in particular, I could just see a fair few dot points listed on the page.
“So, what are we stealing?” Nylah asked, she was thirteen now and was becoming an essential part of our group. She had been taking notes from Caeli, it was no secret that my sister looked up to the mysterious girl we still knew nothing about.
“You remember that statue I stole from the museum on our heist together, Syrus?” Caeli asked, and I nodded in reply, just wanting her to move faster in this reveal. “I noticed it had a crack running around the middle of it, the entire circumference of its torso like it had been broken in half. I had to find out why, so I cracked it open along that fracture and found something interesting.” She paused for dramatic effect, but I wasn’t the only impatient one in the room.
“What would that be?” Ny asked, leaning on her elbows on her knees. I could see the excitement bubbling in her eyes…
“It was hollow,” Caeli answered, I furrowed my brow as I processed that piece of information. It could mean nothing, but if someone had opened it before… “there was something inside of it, but someone got to it first. I don’t know what it was exactly what could have been in the statue. The hollow was too small for anything too extravagant. I don’t think what was inside was of importance on its own, I think it could have been a clue for something bigger, what exactly I don’t know. I just have a feeling that it’s going to be huge, so I researched and kept an eye out… and at the auction tomorrow night, there is a golden, Incan statue for sale, eerily similar to the one I stole.”
“That means there was more than one…” I trailed off, I could tell why Caeli was getting excited about this now. The fact that someone made more than one meant they wanted the statue found and indicated that whatever had been inside of the one from the museum might be in the one at the auction tomorrow night.
“Yeah, so there is definitely something in them,” Caeli explained, her words replicating my thoughts on the situation.
“This auction is highly dangerous. It pulls in a lot of high-level criminals… it’s the reason they can afford the things for sale. It takes a lot of hard work and practice to steal from a high-level auction, like this one, successfully and without getting killed. So, I hope your backup plan is going to be a lot safer and easier than this one.” Sinclair pointed out. It just made Caeli smile.
“I don’t have high hopes for this one working out. This is more of a test to see where everyone’s at, where we could improve. Besides, practice makes perfect, and if we get that statue, then that’s a bonus.” Caeli stated, she then looked to Ny and me. “So, the plan is fairly simple, but there’s also no room for error. There are two versions, the first is for the statue to be in storage since it’s at the end of the auction order, but if someone pays enough, then the statue could be in the room when we go in. So, I have a plan for either of these situations. No matter what situation takes place, we have the same roles. The focus, no matter what should be on me, I am the illusionist in both plans, everyone will watch me while the magic happens. Now, for the Dawsons, you have more of an active role.”
I watched as everyone moved around the large room, all the men in black tie and the women in dresses of pantsuits of varying colours and designs. A display table was at the front of the ballroom. My eyes unintentionally flicked between it and the criminals in the room. Caeli hadn’t thought this all the way through. There was no way she could think we could get away with this.
My job was to go unnoticed, avoid conversation, and stay away from anyone who had an air of importance to them. There was only one rule for the auction, no bodyguards or the like, although you could bring your own weapons for safety, but no guns. I wondered how Caeli had gotten us all in, although Nylah was entirely too young for the situation inside. She was on the outside, climbing the buildings to get to the storage room.
But that wasn’t where the statue was, it was on the display table.
I had been trying to get to a window without anyone else seeing me to give Ny the signal that the plan had changed. So far, I hadn’t been able to do that without getting noticed by someone. Another thing I had observed was rather important; Caeli was late, but I didn’t know why.
Silence suddenly overtook the room, and I immediately saw why.
Everyone had their eyes locked at the top of the entry staircase, where a young woman had just appeared. She was wearing a floor-length, black dress with lace sleeves, her black hair pulled into a low, loose bun with strands falling to frame her face… her eyes lined with dark eyeshadow and black liner, making her silver-coloured irises even more noticeable. To tie in the look she wore dark, blood-red lipstick. She looked like the perfect vision of death.
Whispers filled the room as if trying to fill it with something other than the sound of her heels clicking on the marble floors. She didn’t hide the sheath on her hip, or the bejewelled dagger at home within it. The gems caught the light as if to purposefully draw your attention to the weapon. That was probably her intention.
The first thought I had was questioning why I had bothered to notice everything about her at that moment, why I had taken in every detail and relished in her deific looks. I figured out why when the second thought crossed through my mind.
She was beautiful.
“The Shadow… I didn’t know she was coming tonight.” Another loner next to me stated. They confused me with one thing he had said.
“Who’s the Shadow?” I asked, and the other guy looked surprised at the question even though he didn’t move to look at me. He was on my left, staring directly ahead at where Caeli was still making her way down the stairs. I knew I was potentially ruining everything by conversing with this guy, but he seemed to be around my age and rather harmless in the long run.
“How can you be here tonight and not know who the Shadow is?” he asked, I just shrugged my shoulders in reply. “The Shadow, Caeli Porter, is an assassin, thief, mercenary for hire, as long as you pay well. She’s been lying low this past year and a half. The rumour is that she’s training up some orphaned kids with Vincent Sinclair.” The young man said, and it was only then that I felt a creepy vibe from him… but he was giving me information.
“What kids?” I asked, trying to throw off the scent and protect myself. Luckily, he didn’t seem annoyed by my questions.
“Sinclair bumped into a kid a year and a half ago now, that kid had an older brother that had to be broken out of jail. The Shadow would only keep them around if she saw a use for them…” The man told me, I tried to be objective about the information, but it hurt slightly to hear him say that Caeli probably only kept us around because we were useful. But it made sense. It would be ridiculous if we were still around for a different reason.
“Where do you get all of this information? Seems like a bit too much for just a rumour.” I stated with a smile, hoping that my questions weren’t making the man curious. Something was starting to tell me that I didn’t want this person to know anything about me.
“I have my sources…” the man paused, still watching Caeli as she made her way through the crowd of people in the room. “How long have you been in the game for again? You’re about the same age as me, so it can’t have been for too long.”
“Never specified,” I answered bluntly.
“I didn’t catch your name either.” He said next.
“Prefer to keep my privacy,” I responded. I had to find a way out of this situation, idyllically thirty seconds ago.
“Smart move, you don’t want the wrong people to know who you are. It could get you killed in this business.” He told me, but there was something in the way he said in, in his voice, that told me he knew exactly who I was. “She is breathtaking…” He trailed off, his eyes still on Caeli’s form. There was something else there, a sense of familiarity. “… but she’s a killer. A hell of a lot more dangerous than you think she is. Trust me, there’s a reason she’s called the Shadow.”
“You’ve worked with her before,” I stated, sure that I was right, and he still didn’t move.
“There’s a reason she’s keeping you around, there’s always a reason. Just remember, if you betray her trust, you’ll end up with a face like mine.” He said bitterly, finally turning to look at me. I almost wished he hadn’t. On his right side, the side I couldn’t see before, I saw a scar running from his hairline to his chin, cutting directly through his right eye, which was milky white. Rendered useless.
Caeli couldn’t have done that, could she?
“I know what you’re thinking, but she did. Know who you’re working with, if you don’t, you could end up losing a bloody eye.” The man growled before he walked away from me, my heart beating a million miles an hour as I looked back to Caeli. I couldn’t deny the fact that something about her had changed in my mind since she had appeared at the top of the staircase, but after talking with that scarred stranger, I was a lot more cautious than I was before. What didn’t I know? What could have provoked her to attack someone like that?
She continued to glide through the crowd. Most of the eyes in the room were still on her as she made her way around. She acted disinterested in the situation, looked briefly at what was for sale before she inadvertently walked towards me.
“I signalled to Nylah about the statue before I came in, I saw the running sheet in the hallway. It’s why I was late in.” She whispered, her eyes flicked back to the guy with the scar and the blind eye. “And I also see that you have met Dallas.” She added, her tone suddenly bitter as she mentioned his name.
“You gave him that scar? Blinded him in one eye?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking.
“Not that I have to justify my actions to you, but if it makes you feel a little better, it was a highly justified action to take. Dallas left me in the hands of a rapist-murderer, although that guy is very dead after what I did to him, and left me for dead after I had worked with him for three months.” She told me. It made me feel a little better, but I guess what she was capable of was piecing together in my mind. “I only kill or hurt those who deserve it, keep that in mind next time you meet someone from my past.”
“At least I know what this alter-ego of yours is, or your alias…” I trailed off, a smirk on my face, although my playful tone didn’t hit its mark with her.
“I would have preferred for you to find out from literally anyone else in this room. Dallas… he’s very intelligent, and now he knows who you are. After tonight, he will know that we stole the statue, not that he would care, and when you’re gone, he will know that I orchestrated it. He is a dangerous man, a master manipulator. No matter what, you can’t let him find your weaknesses, he will use them against you without hesitation.” She stated before she went to move away, but I grabbed her forearm to stop her momentarily.
“I still don’t like the idea you have for this distraction, but I was thinking, why would you use your own knife when you could use this one?” I asked, a smile on my face as I handed her a knife. “He hates you, figured you could stir up some shit,” I added as her fingers tightened around the handle of Dallas’ knife, which I had swiped off of him far too effortlessly. She smiled a dangerous smile, but somehow she made it look chillingly beautiful.
“Perfect.” She said as she hid it in the folds of her skirt, her eyes darting around the room to see if anyone had noticed the exchange. “Your sister will have the power off at any moment. We both need to get into position. The power room wasn’t too far away from here.” She told me before she walked away, the eyes of everyone in the room once again watching her move, wanting to know where she would go next. It was what she intended, for the focus to be on her and her alone.
“Our first item of the night is a ritual dagger from the Mayan era, made of silver and embedded with emeralds. Bidding will start at one thousand dollars.” The auctioneer stated, his voice calming and commanding at the same time.
“Come on, Ny…” I whispered, I stood as close as I could to the display at the front without drawing attention to myself. I would have a brief window to grab the statue and go, although that window would grow for my escape when Caeli would use her distraction, Vince would go over to her and help make an even bigger deal of the situation.
The lights just had to go out first.
Bidding on the dagger was almost over, Caeli herself had the winning bid as she stood next to Dallas, the two somehow holding a conversation between the bidding. Then the lights finally went out. I moved quickly, grabbing the statue and walking swiftly through the room to reach the exit before the lights would come back on.
I had just made it to the door when I heard a girl shouting and swearing, but I started running at the sound instead of investigating. It was Caeli’s distraction, and I had to use it well. As I ran, I noticed how small the statue really way, as tall as my fists placed on top of each other. When the lights came back on, I inspected it quickly, noting that there was a lack of a fracture like the other one had. No one had opened it yet. I didn’t stop running until I was back at the car where Nylah was already waiting for us. Caeli and Vince made it out last, running as panic seemed to settle in behind them in the mansion.
“Caeli, are you okay?” Nylah asked, seeing that Caeli was holding a bleeding wound on her shoulder.
“Yeah, you should have seen Dallas’ face when I pulled his knife from my shoulder. Priceless.” She said, looking me in the eyes. “Now, we have to get moving before-” a gunshot cut Caeli off, all four of us immediately ducked. It turned out that we weren’t the target as the statue I had placed on top of the car shattered.
“No…” Caeli whispered, and the tone she used was the most emotion I had ever heard her use before. We all looked to the shattered statue. Whatever had been inside broke alongside it. At least we knew it wasn’t paper inside of it now. It was breakable, and it had to be significant.
“We have to go,” Vince stated the obvious as another gunshot rang through the air and a window on the Chrysler shattered. Caeli nodded, Nylah and me climbing into the back seat while Vince got into the driver’s seat and Caeli took the passenger side.
We left in a matter of seconds, and by some miracle, no one followed us.