February 2011

Now, this old beggar didn’t know much. That is, he didn’t know much about mathematics or how to tie a bowline. He did, though know a lot about the city that thrived around him. He knew more about Grayhome than anybody else. Plus, he knew what to do with that knowledge. So that on that chilly autumn day when a strange man in a leather jacket stumbled under the street lights in front of the old vagabond’s perch he could not help but grin. A game was about to begin.
“You!” the mysterious man cried, clutching his chest and jabbing a finger towards the beggar. “Is there a hospital around these parts?” Between the man’s fingers the poor man could see a doubled over stomach stained red.

“Good heavens!” he shouted, starting up and pointing down the road, clumsily keeping his ragged hat on. A blanket tumbled from his body revealing more raggedy clothes and a worn tool belt. “Down that way, first right on 12!”

“Thank you sir,” the stranger replied, “ Uh, here, know this: 3:44 pm at #14 Tired Street, William Avil will lose his wallet off the side of his balcony. That’s um, tomorrow……” The man’s eyes blipped around, sifting through the information. “And, uh, ooh, later that day, across town on 41 (that’s the East district), um, number 2, Vaughn himself, will leave his house unlocked and the security off. Yes! The actor! That’s at 11pm. When he leaves. Hmm, one more…Oh, of course! At 4:15, that same day, no, wait, the next day, both Charles (oh, that’s Vaughn by the way. Heh, I guess we are kind of close) and Avil will be attending a late luncheon on the river.” He winced, having made a painfully uncomfortable movement. “That should do you some money. Or at least some fun. Now I have a bullet to attend to. Ta-ta!” And with that, he ran off.

The beggar sat up straight.” What a peculiar man”, he thought, “and even more peculiar bit of information!” Sitting back down and getting comfortable with his discarded blanket, he planned to pay Tired St. a visit the next day. To see what this was about. So, as the bells struck ten, he put his head down and went to sleep.

Morning found him late and he had to run to the location in time. But sure enough, at 3:40, a big round man puffed out on to his balcony, and before too long, a leather wallet came tumbling off the edge of a table and bounced to the street below. The beggar, waiting against the wall below, snatched it up and took off, grinning with delight and surprise. Flipping it open, he found a remarkable wodge of cash and already began planning his visit to the man, Vaughn’s, house. First he would need a new outfit if he were to fit in on the pristine streets of the East district. So he went off and spent some of the money from the round man’s pocket.

Fast forward to late that night. The beggar is walking casually down 41, suddenly youthful looking in a light collared shirt and ironed pants. A car rolls out of a thick building and the beggar reveals his lithe side, slipping in the gate as it shuts. Though he hadn’t been in the east side of the city often, he’d heard enough from passers-by and thieves to know what the buildings were like. For this reason, he was not surprised to find himself on what appeared to be a long country driveway up to a fine manor once he entered the building. Stealing up alongside the drive on the finely mown grass, he mulled over everything he had heard throughout his days. The first thing in his mind was the Warning. In any illusion house, there were subtle sensations as one entered. They were a warning that the visitor had to speak a password or be dropped out of the house. Though the security was off, he could still expect at least one warning. Sure enough, as he took a step passed a small flowerbed, a deep shiver went through him and he quickly spat out a series of words that he could expect to be good passwords. “Faith” did the trick and the beggar recalled hearing about the Vaughn’s stillborn daughter from an old couple, the wife dabbing at her eyes .
Then he was at the gate. As expected, it was unlocked. He jumped in and glared at the large security system on the front wall. “Not off….god damn it….” the beggar muttered. He ran into the house. He had only seconds to grab something before the device launched him out in to the waiting arms of the police. Darting through halls, he began to hear it beep. BEEP. He found a bathroom, a small kitchen. Beep! “Closet!” Beep! “Stairs….no time” Beep! A living room. Perfect. He leaped over a glass coffee table, saw something shine and glint on the mantelpiece. Beep. He grabbed it. And then the alarm went.
The sensation of falling….

Then he was in the arms of the police. But they couldn’t hold him. He had lived a life on the sidewalk waiting for this moment. He rolled and wove, then flew off out of sight. They would never catch him, for he was the Lord of the Alleys.

He caught his breath in the nook between a dumpster and a house, looked at a diamond encrusted medallion in his hand and planned his ascent to riches. Whatever he planned that night was not to be though, for as he walked towards place to find a fence, the following morning, he heard a news broadcast.
“Anyone who has information regarding the thief of Charles Vaughn’s Family pendant is to be handsomely rewarded….” They went on with details including a rattling some of ₡200,000,000 as reward. The beggar decided a visit to the river was in order.

“If I can get the jewel in Avil’s hands I can easily frame him for it.” The beggar thought to himself. So he ran up the riverbank. “That damned man never told me where the boat was leaving from!” But there it was! The beggar bolted up. Through the queue of gentleman and ladies boarding the leisure boat, he could make out the large form of Avil sauntering up to the gang-plank, or rather, looking antsy as we has nearly last in line and the boat was filling up. “Gah!” the beggar realized he didn’t even know what Vaughan looked like. The fat man was his only hope!

It was too easy to drop the pendant on the man – his bag even had a pocket wide open. From then it was only a tense walk up to the gangplank. He paid admission with the last of Avil’s cash and then got aboard, not before noting that someone with “Vaughn” in their name had signed the guest book.
On board he tailed Avil to his seat and seeing that there was someone seated across from him cried “Vaughn! This man has your jewel! Avil has your heirloom!” The man’s reply was a chuckle and he got up to the table only to discover the man from the streetlights. He was accepting a certain diamond encrusted medallion for the fat man.

“You!” cried the beggar, “Who are you? How did you know those things?!”
“Well, it’s easy to ask a good friend a favor,” he said, motioning toward Avil. “Plus I’ve been watching my cousin for a while. His habits are quite obvious. The security system was a guess though.” He stood up and strolled towards the scenic view form the window as the beggar, old once more, stood agape.
“Who are you?”
“My name, though I don’t like to flaunt my relations, would be Giles Vaughn – Adder,” he said coldly, though touching his gunshot wound, freshly bandaged. “Thank you for getting back a little trinket that was – rather brutishly – stolen from me”. And with a nod to the beggar and William, he slid the window open, dove out, and left.

(Courtesy of Steff Bradley)

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