The three bodies lay still in the dark as Dannia and Simieon scored the roof tops for any sign of movement.
“Thanks my love.” Dannia whispered a moment later as they crouched there by the wall.
“I saw the light shine off the knife as he prepared to throw it. It disappeared for a moment giving me an idea where his head was. Sorry where her head was.” Simieon corrected himself as he pulled off the assassins mask and hood. “Do you know her my darling?”
The face was of a young blond woman in her early twenties with a small but distinctive heart shaped birth mark on her left cheek; her hair was cropped short in the modern fashion so that it framed her round soft face.
“It’s Baccarat. I don’t understand she’s a good girl, she works in the gambling house run my Madam Du Pont.” Dannia shook her head in disbelief. “She holds the stake money and runs the bank because everyone trusts her.”
“A perfect cover for an assassin, don’t you agree. You better look at this pair.” He’d exposed the faces of the other two attackers to reveal another two young women even younger than the first. Dannia rocked back on her heels as she took all this in.
“No identification on any of them more the pity.” Simieon informed her as he collected their knives as well as the weapons the girls were carrying in the belts strung over their bodies. “Do you think that last one was Nocturne?”
“No I don’t, at a guess I’d say these were just greeting cards.” She stood up. “Come on let’s get back home and try and work out how he knew who I was?”
They swiftly changed into their leathers which Dannia always carried in her pouch before climbing up on to the roof and racing across the thieves’ roads to their apartment.
Instead of slipping in through a window they dropped silently to the floor of an alley next door before coming around casually and up the enclosed stairs to their front door, once there they proceeded to examine it carefully in complete silence unaware of a pair of steely eyes had seen their every move. Dannia soon found what she was looking for. At the bottom right edge of the door was a tiny spring wedged underneath such that if the door was opened it would spring open triggering the trap. After a few more moments they discovered slim slits in the door frame from which no doubt equally slim stiletto knives would fly. As a trap goes it wasn’t sophisticated but effective none the less. Dannia signalled they should take to the roof once more.
“Now what do we do? Defuse it and go in or try the windows? I take it you don’t want to go straight to the safe house?” Simieon whispered.
“No I don’t! No one is going to keep me out of my home!” Dannia hissed back fiercely. “We’ll look at the windows.”
A few moments later two figures lowered themselves on ropes down to the windows and began a careful scrutiny, their fingers running around the edges feeling for any incongruity.
“Acid traps.” Simieon reported as they swung together. “I should imagine there’s another trap just inside.”
Dannia nodded her understanding.
“We enter and get sprayed with acid, half chocked and burnt we blindly step onto the second.” Nocturne was certainly taking no chances in his attempt to kill her that much was for certain, he was being very thorough if a bit obvious.
“We’ll try the privy window.” Dannia informed her husband.
“Are you mad we’ve no ledge to cling to at that one?” Simieon was not enamoured by the idea.
“That’s what I’m relying on. We’ve no tether points for the ropes so you’ll have to lower me down. Once I have got a grip of the inside ledge let yourself swing down and climb up my body and in, then get me in.” Her orders were precise and it was obvious to Simieon that she was in no mood for arguments so he didn’t give her one.
Moments later she hung head down from her husband’s hands facing out away from the small privy window while he dangled above her shoeless with the toes of his large feet gripping the roof edge.
“Quickly my love I don’t think I can hold on for very long.” Simieon voice reflected the strain.
Dannia arched her back and grabbed the sides of the window frame before, after a quick examination for traps, she pushed the lower half of the window up and gripped the inner sill.
“Now!” She called hoarsely as she prepared to take the strain.
Simieon let go with his toes and swung in a graceful arc to land feet first against the wall. As soon as he touched its surface he was clambering up over his wife’s body into the small room before pulling her in after him.
Everything was done in total silence as they examined the room and its exit into the apartment proper. Having made certain that there were no hidden surprises they very carefully and quietly entered the edge of the darkened room.
They had a problem, a serious problem. The room was in total darkness. Though their ability to see in poor light was far superior to a humans it still left them at a severe disadvantage when looking for the tiny signs of traps and both of them were not under any illusion that there weren’t any.
Dannia cautiously reached out a hand and plucked a large round orange fruit called a satsu from the bowl on the little side table and rolled it into the centre of the room. For a split second nothing seemed to happen and then all hell was let loose. Thin wires sprung up all over the place and whipped though the air above the heavy fruit until it was buried under a small pile of steel. Briefly, just briefly, there was a flare of light that revealed a cloaked figure in the corner of the room by the exit from the apartment, as it tried to see what had occurred. Dannia could hear the muttering of a beginning of a spell and acted accordingly, which in her case meant to go on the offensive. A knife flew through the air followed by her own flying form as she somersaulted across the room to land feet first in her assailant’s stomach. The mage crumpled as the wind was knocked out of it clutching at the knife that stuck out of its shoulder.
“Light Simieon, give us some dam light.” Dannia called urgently before whispering more menacingly to her captive. “If you’ve ruined my new Arab rug you’ll wish you’d never been born.”
When Simieon had lit the oil lamps and candles to give them a good quantity of light Dannia removed the assassins face mask and cowl to reveal a good looking young woman of about twenty years old.
“Who are you?” Dannia asked but didn’t get a reply which made her grin a humourless smile. “Oh you want to play do you; I do hope you do as it’s been such a long time since I’ve had a good play.” Holding a knife to the woman Dannia dragged her up by her hair and into the privy where she knocked the mage back down to the ground calling over to Simieon. “While we’re getting acquainted will you check the place over for any more surprises darling?”
“All right my love. Do you need any help in there?” He asked but was thankful when she declined. He’d seen Dannia at work getting information once before and it wasn’t an experience he wished to go through again.
Dannia in the little privy held up a gem shard knife for the young woman to see as she hissed at her through clenched teeth.
“This blade came from a piece of the Sun Gem and is as deadly as it is beautiful. See that blue flickering light along its edge, it’s that what allows me to cut through steel. In burns as well as cuts and will if used correctly seal a wound up just to leave the gap where it had been.” Dannia took the woman’s hand and laid it on the tiled floor. “Let me show you.”
The knife flashed across the upturned palm and severed the little finger before being placed flat against the stump to cauterise the wound. Dannia picked up the offending digit and threw it down the toilet to the cesspool below while the woman writhed in pain.
“Perhaps your pretty nose should be next or one of your eyes could be teased out, what do you think?” The poor woman’s eyes widened in horror as she looked up into the mask like face of her tormentor, a devils imp with flame red hair sat on her chest, idly spinning a knife between her fingers with macabre joy written clearly on her face. “What did you say your name was again?”
Simieon tried to ignore the muffled screams coming from the smallest room while he checked the room for traps and snares making sure he disarmed the one at the main door. Soon the low table had a small pile of devices and vials of liquid upon its surface and the strangely still intact fruit balanced on the top.
Suddenly he heard the waterfall going in the privy and relaxed a little as he padded into the sleeping quarters to check it over.
As he lay down by the Futon that was their bed he spied a faint incongruity in the furs that covered it.
“They’ve even trapped the bed, the bastards!” He called through as he heard Dannia exit from the privy.
“Do you need help my darling?” Dannia’s sultry voice said from the doorway.
“No I’ve done it but I...” He stopped as he caught sight of his naked wife standing erotically in the doorway of the room.
“I am so glad you have dealt with it darling because I’ve another little trap hole that needs seeing to.” Her voice was husky and sensual as she slid into the room. Simieon sighed knowing what was coming, he just managed getting to his feet in time to be smothered with kisses and stripped by his wife’s darting hands. Simieon gave himself up to it totally.
As they lay naked together on the bed after a somewhat energetic and exotic spell of love making they sleepily compared notes about the attempt on Dannia’s life.
“Those traps were weird as if made and laid by several different hands, at least three. The booby trap at the door and the one attached to the bed were quite sophisticated where as the ones at the windows were crude by comparison and the one in the room centre was just plain over kill.” Simieon mused as he snuggled up and buried his face in his wife’s hair. She smelt clean and sweet. “That’s a nice scent what is it?”
“I have no idea; I stole it when I broke into Madam Pompadour’s house last week.” Dannia replied with a yawn. “Well it wasn’t as if she was going to need it, being dead limits its use and tends to prevent it.”
“Don’t tell me you killed her?” Simieon asked tensing up with weary annoyance.
“No!” Dannia replied hotly which allowed Simieon to relax. Well for a moment as she added. “I just helped her along a bit. I smothered her with her own pink wig. And don’t look at me like that she deserved it, the ugly old crone. Did you know she wouldn’t give a mark for helping out the Temple of Huron fix the hostel roof?”
“I bet she is now that she’s dead!”
“Oh yes, for some reason she bequeathed her whole fortune to the Temple, or at least she will do once they find her last will and testament in her diary. Wasn’t that generous of her?” She said with out artifice as she tried to arouse her husbands flagging member.
“Did our visitor tell you anything my love?” He asked trying to divert her attention.
“Hmm.” She said bringing her head back up to lay on the pillow once more. “Yes and no. It was odd; it was as if she was two people. At first she was an assassin keeping her mouth shut but right at the end she became like a normal girl asking what was happening and if she had been injured in some sort of accident. All she could remember was receiving Nocturne’s calling card but she did give me one piece of information. She knew the young woman who delivered it, a woman called Rene Perdue who she knew from school, and where we can find her.
Oh I’ve tided up in the privy by the way. I tipped her body, what was left of it, down the toilet hole into the shit below. Don’t worry about her swimming and getting herself out. Well it’ll be difficult as she’s got no arms and legs; if she doesn’t drown the rats will have her. It might give the peter men a shock next month when they empty it but that’s all.” She sat up and tip toed into the front room to where she had laid fresh clothes.
“Up you get lazy bones we’ve visits to make.” She called back.
“I hope you realise I won’t be able to go for a piss or shit with out thinking of the poor cow below.” He moaned as he looked for fresh clothes in the laundry press.
Soon they were racing across the roofs once more but to where Dannia hadn’t told him, but she stopped at several brothels and drinking clubs to spy on the patrons below as if looking for someone, someone other than their intended target. Eventually they came to a posh restaurant bar call ‘ Catto Nero’ where a beautiful young woman sat playing on the harp for the pleasure of the diners who lolled on their settles picking at the sweat meats on the tables before them. The harp player was dressed in the Latin / Grecian style of a diaphanous robe that left nothing to the imagination and her blond hair piled up on top of her head. A small group of scantily clad men and women paraded back and forth and danced for the patrons of the club, ready to go upstairs to the many bed cubicles with them if the price was right. ‘Catto Nero’ was a brothel frequented by the neuve rich trading classes who felt that somehow doing so showed how civilised they were.
“Can I help you?” The matredee asked as they hovered at the doorway dressed in the fine robes that Dannia had insisted they brought with them. Dannia was dressed in a long green silk dress with fine gold stitching on the bodice while Simieon wore a purple doublet and hose and was looking very self-conscious.
“Do you have a table free tonight my man?” Dannia asked in a voice that supposedly showed her innate breeding but simply showed her apparent aspirations.
“Yes madam if you would follow me.” The man took them to a booth that stood against the far wall where a more conventional table was laid.
“What is on the menu today? Any beef or lamb?” Dannia asked. After a few moments discussion it was decided that they would have grilled fish with oysters and prawns with a plover eggs in a nest of leaves. Simieon dreaded how much all this luxury would cost and how they would pay for it. But under Dannia’s instructions laid back and enjoyed it while they waited. Dannia had asked if the harpist would consider enjoying their company but was told politely and discreetly that she wasn’t part of the horizontal entertainments for the evening so all they could do was sit back and wait.
“Why the harpist my love?” Simieon asked as he eyed a fine looking young blond dancing in diaphanous veils to the music.
“I hope your not ogling the merchandise my love because if you are I’ll cut your balls off.” Dannia told him with a smile.
“Far from it my angel I was just wondering if the moves could be incorporated into your exercise regime.” He replied with a rueful smile.
“Possibly, but I think I can do better than that as you’ll fine out later tonight.” She said slipping her hand under the table and giving his member a squeeze. She must have done it a little too vigorously as it brought a tear to his eyes and a grimace to his lips. “As for the girl at the harp that’s our target. So smile and enjoy the show, but not too much.”
As the girl left an hour later she was met by two tiny people eager to say how much they enjoyed her playing. The woman insisted in shaking her hand which she wished she hadn’t as one of the gaudy gems on the woman’s finger had caught her hand scratching it.
Saying goodnight she took a few faltering steps before dropping over Simieon’s shoulder as if drunk. Simieon caught her easily and scurried away into a dark alley while Dannia smiled at the small stud on the underside of the ring that normally dripped poison which had caught the girl. She walked into the alley satisfied that it had gone well. But now the real work was about to begin.