They paid the serving girl a coin for a private room. She led them to the back of the tavern, up a flight of stairs and to a locked door. She gave them the key.

“More wine,” Briggs said to the girl. She nodded and left them alone.

When the door closed behind her, Roake opened his satchel and took out a long roll of parchment.

“What’s that?” Briggs asked.

Roake didn’t answer. He unrolled it and put cups on the corners. Briggs looked down. “A map?” he asked.

“No,” Roake told him. He pointed down to the bottom left hand corner of the map to the symbol in the corner. “Mason’s Guild,” he said. "Original plans.”

“Damn,” Briggs said. “Where did you pinch this?”

“It was given to us,” Roake said. “The fat man gave it to us as part of the job.” He pointed then to the basement. “Here,” he said, “is a grating that leads to the sewers under the City. It’s only locked. A quick job.”

“All you’d need would be a bolt cutter,” Briggs said. “Or a screwsman.”

Roake nodded. “We had a screwsman. He popped the betty easy.”

“What was it doing down there?” Briggs asked him.

A knock on the door. Briggs went to the door and Roake moved to stand in front of the map. The serving girl brought more wine. “And bread,” she said. Her other arm had a plate of it.

“Thanks, love,” Briggs said. He gave her another coin. She turned away and Briggs locked the door again. He put down the bread and chewed on a piece. Roake ignored it. Briggs said it again: “Why does an Upper City mansion have a grate leading down to the sewers?”

“A slumming hole,” Roake told him. “A way to get out of the mansion without being seen.”

Briggs nodded. “That makes sense,” he said. Then, he laughed. “They obviously don’t know what’s going down in the sewers, then.”

Roake didn’t say anything to that. He pointed at the map again.

“We were told where the safe was. Up here,” he said. “Up here in the master bedroom. Behind a portrait.”

Briggs frowned. “That’s not what the plans say.” He pointed at another room on the third floor. “This is the safe.”

Roake nodded. “I know. We were told the safe was moved in case the plans got into the wrong hands.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Briggs said. “I mean, it does make sense. But I take it the safe wasn’t there?”

Roake shook his head. “No,” he said. “But Lord D’Auberville was.”

Briggs paused. Then, he said, “Word is Lord D’Auberville was murdered.”

Roake nodded, but didn’t say anything.

Briggs looked at Roake. “What happened up there?”

“It got sloppy,” Roake said.

“That doesn’t sound like you.”

Roake shook his head and poured another glass of wine. “It wasn’t me. Wasn’t my job. The fat man put it together. I didn’t pick the crew.”

Briggs nodded. “Why did you go?”

Roake shrugged. “I needed the paper. The job sounded good. Quick in and out.”

“But that’s not what happened.”

Roake shook his head. “No,” he said. “That’s not what happened.”

Briggs thought about it. “All right,” he said. “So why go back in?”

“A few reasons,” Roake said, pointing to the map. “We can check the grate. Even if they changed the lock, a screwsman can still pop it.”

“What if it’s bolted?” Briggs asked. “What if they’ve changed things since you got in?”

“We’ll check it,” Roake said again. “They expected the entire crew to be dead. They think we all died. They aren’t going to cover their tracks now.”

Briggs nodded. “All right.”

“Another reason,” Roake said. “We know where the safe is. Right here.” He pointed at the map.

“What if the safe is filled with stones?” Briggs asked. “We can’t move stones.”

Roake shook his head. “Lady D’Auberville’s been seen selling a lot of gold and diamonds. Apparently, her husband almost drank the house under. She’s been selling off the valuables to pay off his debts.”

“How do you know that?” Briggs asked.

“Someone told me.”

Briggs waited for more, but didn’t get any. He shrugged. “All right. It sounds solid. But a house full of guards and servants…”

Roake shook his head. “They’ve cut down on the servants. And the guards.” Roake went back to his satchel. “And we’re going to crack it on a special night.”

He pulled a piece of paper out of the satchel and showed it to Briggs. Briggs looked at it. He looked back up. “Birthday party?” he asked.

Roake nodded. “A house full of strangers. They’ll all be downstairs and in the gardens. Nobody will be upstairs.”

“All right,” Briggs asked. “But we’re coming in from the sewers. How are we going to get up from the sewers to the third floor without being seen.”

“They’ll see us,” Roake said. “They just won’t notice us.”

Briggs thought about that for a moment, and then he smiled.

“How much in the safe?” he asked.

Roake said, “As much as we can carry.”

Fantasy Noir 7
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