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26 July 2015 @ 08:23 am
_God of Thieves_ part 3  

Mrs. Leanna Janic knocked uncertainly at the door. The neighborhood was definitely borderline, and much poorer than anyplace someone like Tressa should be living in. But this was the house the boy from the salon had brought her to when she demanded it.

A little mouse of a maid answered the door.

"Is Tressa in?"

"No Ma'am."

She stood there like a dummy.

"Then I shall await her inside." Leanna stepped up and the maid yielded.

The parlor wasn't much, and had somehow gotten sand tracked inside. Not to mention the box of crying puppies. Big ugly puppies. As if this wasn't going to be awkward enough . . .

Irritated, she snapped at the maid. "Bring me a pot of tea and those puppies some scraps of meat."

The maid scurried off. The scraps and the tea arrived promptly, and Leanna sighed as she sat down. Probably a fools errand. but surely Tressa would refund that last payment. Without it, she'd be truly desperate in days.

Tian had sold the house. Sold it. He said he'd give her a stipend to live on, but that he was going to invest her half of the money from the house so she could only get the interest. "It's enough for you to live on modestly. Be satisfied. If I let you, you'd run through the capital in a year and wind up a vagrant on the street."

Old gods she hated men. She'd freed herself of Tian just like Lester had been urging, and then he'd looked at her in horror and said she couldn't possibly have been stupid enough to have actually done it. And he'd gotten up and walked out without another word, leaving her to pay the bill. Then Tian wouldn't even listen to an explanation or an apology. He'd sold the house. Handed her a key to a tiny apartment. He'd had all her things moved there. But there was no food. She was on her last candle. Three royals, six crowns and two pence to her name until this proposed stipend and this theoretical interest came through.

"Better to beg Tressa than Tian," she muttered. It was getting dark. She should tell that maid to light some candles, or maybe an oil lamp. She yawned and leaned her head back. It had been such a horrible day.

Next thing she knew, the morning sun was in her eyes. She'd slept the night away on this rather tacky divan. The puppies were hungry and the box needed to be cleaned. She stomped off to find that maid. She wasn't leaving until she'd seen Tressa.

***


Kevi was out of ways to procrastinate. It was time to do it.

Midnight. Black horse, black saddle, his blackest clothing. He rode the mare back through the Corridor to Ash, and slipped quietly up the hill and cut over to that stable. The mare jumped the fence with a snort of protest, and he unsaddled her away from the barn. Warped light around himself, and slipped quietly up to the stable. Felt for the door to the tack room.

"Might as well keep it. Don't you think?" The deep voice sounded amused.

Kevi dropped the tack in a jingling crash.

"You're the first person Speed hasn't dumped inside of about four seconds."

"I was just stealing her for the, err, reputation it would give me." Kevi didn't doubt for a minute he was talking to The God. "I don't actually want . . .

:: You don't want me?:: warm air wuffed on the back of his neck.

"Well, sure but . . . " He choked. "Did you say something?"

:: I don't like regular people. I want to go do bad things. I can get you away from anywhere. I want to be like one of those famous horses in the books.::

"Yeah." Kevi blinked. "Black Bess. Tornado. Silver. Like that."

A more human sigh from inside the stable. "The Lone Ranger was not a bad guy, even if he did wear a mask. Do not rob people on the Roads or Harry will get you. Mind you don't hurt people. God of Thieves. Poor sod, the Collective has its talons in you and I don't know anyone who's been able to escape. Hopefully they're thinking Robin Hood, not Bonnie and Clyde. Perhaps you should go ask Xen who deserves to be robbed."



Chapter Leanna

Early Winter 1401

Leanna was rather liking her life of crime.

When she'd finally gotten bored enough to search Tressa's private papers she'd found checks for a local bank, and papers for the mortgage of the house. Enough signatures to practice on . . .

She'd refunded her last payment to the salon, and then walked to the salon and found that no one there had seen Tressa either. And just like those odd maids and the silent chef, they followed her orders to carry on and do whatever the customers wanted, to charge them what was in the book, to pay themselves from the customer's cash payments and bring all the checks to Tressa's house once a week.

So she kept the books, paid the taxes, and paid herself to do it.

And those shelves full of little bottles. She'd found one with her name on it and taken it. It had done her a world of good. She was debating whether to sell the others to the women whose names were on them, or to try another one herself.

Twice in the past half year she'd done some bulk shopping for the salon, diluting Tressa's special formulas. She'd figured that at this rate the salon would be out of business in another two years, but those three children Lady Inky had brought around claimed to have strengthened the magic again.

And then Tressa's puppies had given her quite the surprise, when the nasty creatures had started breeding. The pups didn't look at all like the parents. She sold them for absurd amounts of money, and now she had a substantial bank account all her own. By the time the salon folded, she'd be able to buy a proper kennel. That is to say, a small mansion with a proper kennel.

Maybe she could hire the shop boys to clean it. They seemed pretty helpless outside of the salon. And she'd have to keep these simple maids from pure charity. Unfortunately ordering them to return to normal hadn't helped. They were both pregnant. They didn't seem to have any idea how it had happened, and seemed worried that Leanna might do to these what someone named Teri had done to the last babies. Clearly, some one had abused the weak minded creatures in the past.

Well, she wasn't going to turn a woman out into the street, like she'd been thrown. She'd raise the children as if they were grandchildren. Yes. She could imagine her horrible step daughter had died and left her children for a responsible adult to raise.

So her life had really taken a turn for the better. Even Lester had crawled back and apologized. Humph. Well, he'd have to work harder to get back into her good graces, but he was decorative. And he did have a title. Perhaps she'd marry him. Even if he wasn't as much fun as those well trained shop boys.

Goodness! Those revitalizing treatments she was getting weekly at the shop had her doing things she'd never dreamed of. Of course she looked better than she ever had, too. In fact, with her hair blonde now, she fancied she even looked a bit like Tressa.

She heard the knock on the door and identified it easily. Lester. Excellent, a bit of afternoon fun.

***

Which was all well and good for the God of War to say, but that didn't mean Xen was available to ask.

But as long as Kevi was in town, he figured he should test his skill at disguise.

He was on his second cup of really good coffee and neither Emerald nor Jani had twigged to his identity. Of course the way they were chattering, they might not have noticed or recognized him anyway.

An early morning customer from the beauty shop four stores down strode by, with one of those silly pink and white stripped dogs trotting along beside her.

Sandy shook her head in disapproval. "I can't believe someone deliberately bred those silly things."

Emerald shrugged. "I've heard it's some divorced lady living on the east side. She must be making a bundle, all the rich women want one."

"Must be a witch we don't know about." Jani frowned. "Physical morphing is hard, and if it's genetic – that's flat out dangerous. Rustle's always very careful that her experimental genes don't escape into the wild – so to speak."

"Have you seen Tressa lately?" Sandy was a Karista Bay witch, so she didn't know him. She had a clothing store two doors down. Kevi thought the pose of the manikin in her shop window was a bit too suggestive. Of aggressive dominance. He supposed that was better than implying that the women wearing her clothing were whores. Which might be an easy mistake to make except for the value of the fine cloth and amount of lace involved.

Emerald shook her head. "No. A couple of her customers were complaining about the lack of personal service, but the others said it was nice to not be over charged any more just because they could afford it." She owned the coffee shop, and was talking while she dragged the last chair out to the patio into the warm afternoon sun and dusted her hands off. Kevi wondered who this Tressa was, who was missing. It sounded bad.

Sandy frowned. "I don't know about that Leanna who seems to be giving the orders now. She's not a witch, and I don't think she understands that the skin and hair products are magic."

Kevi didn't hesitate. This all sounded pretty close to 'someone who deserves to be robbed'. The God of Thieves wasn't going to turn down an opportunity.