Shay Peters and the Clockwork Caper: Part Three
Also by chocolateisamust
I could have been brash and broken into the house on Clockwork Court immediately after leaving the Swindlers, but I figured I ought to plan a little first. After all, no matter how easy it seemed like the task would be, being hasty probably wasn't the best course of action in a heist that could change my life. So I went back to my apartment instead and crawled into bed, my mind jumping around like a Buzzer on Neocola. One simple task, and I'd be in the Swindlers' Society. To think that I'd actually been trying to get out of the con business before that note arrived with the mail-- it was ridiculous. I was a thief at heart, and apparently a good one, too; to abandon my trade after pulling off such a marvelous steal was practically blasphemy.
I hardly slept that night, and at dawn the next morning, I awoke tired but enthusiastic. While tossing and turning during the midnight hours, I had decided that I'd go to the house on Clockwork Court as soon as I was up and dressed, so that I could stake it out before the occupant or occupants left for the day. Then, I'd break in and go to work, tearing apart the place from ceiling to floor in search of the key. A simple plan, but an effective one nonetheless - tried and true. It might not be glamorous, but at least I knew it was sound.
It was even colder out in the morning than it had been the night before, and bundled up in about five layers, I left my apartment before most Neopians even thought of waking up. As a faerie Krawk, I had working wings, but flying was not particularly pleasant or safe in such frigid weather, so I took the bicycle that I'd bought with my Defenders of Neopia money instead. Apparently the only one stupid enough to venture through the cold so early, I had the streets practically to myself, and I made it to Clockwork Court in record time.
Number 31 was a sprawling beast, set back from the curb and with no close neighbours. If it had been any other season, the stucco monster would have been hidden by a small forest of trees, but they were all dead now, which put the house into full-view.
"Someone's loaded," I muttered to myself, ignoring the fact that I could surely afford at least one-hundred of these houses if I wanted to. My mind briefly and unintentionally drifted to what glorious goods the home I was about to rob might contain, but I pushed the thoughts away. I couldn't be greedy - I couldn't chance it. I was here for the key, and I would leave with the key. Nothing more.
As I repeated this silently to myself, I searched the area for an invisible perch from which I could stake out the house, and my eyes immediately settled on a tall brick wall at the edge of the property. If I angled myself right, I'd have a perfect view, but no one would be able to see me. Smiling at how easy this initiation heist was turning out to be, I placed my bike and everything but my lightest jacket behind the wall, making sure they were well hidden. It was better to go into a heist without a bundle of clothes on top of you. The more agile you were, the better.
Then, I waited.
It didn't take long for someone - two someones, in fact - to exit the house. It was a child and adult, both of them bundled up so tightly that I couldn't even tell what species they were.
"I think I forgot something!" the child bleated as the adult dragged him down the pathway, his loud voice a stark contrast to the arctic winter morning.
"Lucas-- you're going to be late for school-- come on." The adult's voice was more of a murmur, strangely familiar and yet totally foreign.
My eyes narrowed as the two figures strode by me and then stepped onto the street, soon fading against the milky white sky. I waited until they disappeared completely around a corner before hopping down from my perch, and then I made my way across the lawn, the dead grass crunching beneath my boots.
I looked behind me, making sure there was no one else in the area who could see what I was doing now. When I determined that everything was clear, I braced myself and took a few steps back. Then, with one heroic motion, I put all my weight forward and ran full-speed into the front door.
There was a loud crack, and I opened my eyes. The door hadn't budged. I grumbled, realizing that my arm had taken more of a hit than the block of thick wood. Massaging the throbbing limb, I sighed and tried to think of what to do next.
Suddenly, an idea hit me. I had never been very good at picking locks (and I don't know what made me think I would be now), but I always carried around a pair of bobby pins, anyway - just in case the occasion ever called for it. My mind racing, I shoved my hand into my pants pocket, pulled out the tiny pieces of metal, and knelt down on the porch, looking at the lock for a moment.
With glee, I realized that I had picked these kinds of locks successfully in the past. I could do this. I had done this. With professional ease, I slipped the two bobby pins into the keyhole and fiddled around, putting my ear up to the door. Judging from past experiences, this could end up taking a while. After all, even though I'd busted this type of lock before, that may have been luck and luck alone. However, by the same stroke of fortune, it seemed like only seconds before I heard a loud click, and the door creaked open.
With a smile on my face, I picked myself up off the porch and entered the house, closing the door behind me. The easy part was over. Now, I just needed to find that key.
I took in my surroundings before stepping out of the foyer. There was a staircase to my left, and next to it was a hallway that went to the back of the house, with several doors leading off to different rooms. I moved swiftly across the floor towards the aforementioned hall, my feet slipping on the newly polished wood as I walked. I tried to think back to what I had learned when all I used to do was rob houses (instead of the cons I later turned to). While this was somewhat different, the principles were the same. Everyone hides valuables in the same place: closets, drawers, under the bed. It wouldn't be too hard to find one little key.
I started with the first door in the hallway, which opened into a small linen closet. I peeked through the piles of towels and underneath the boxes of unopened shower curtains, past the bars of soap and bottles of shampoo. Nothing here. I closed the door with a sigh. There were so many rooms in the house, and I didn't know how much time I had. I had to pick up the pace.
My only objective was the key. Even though I saw countless other valuables in the next few closets and rooms I looked through, I held back. If I was part of the Swindlers' Society, I would get more money than I could imagine, along with the recognition I deserved. No point in stealing a little extra now if it might mean I wouldn't find the key that would let me join the Society.
As I reached the last door in the hallway, a lump formed in my throat. Maybe I wouldn't be able to find it. A key is a small thing, and what are the chances that this person would, if conducting an investigation, keep it in an obvious place -- especially when they people they were investigating were expert criminals?
With these thoughts in mind, I trudged up the stairs, a little disheartened. But I wouldn't get my hopes down yet. So what if it had taken a little longer than I had expected? I guess the Society had known it was going to be a little difficult. With a beleaguered sigh, I opened the first door in the hallway at the top of the stairs and entered what appeared to be a child's room. I assumed it belonged to the kid that the owner of the house was dragging along when he left.
The walls in the room were painted light blue, and the name Lucas was drawn in block letters along the far wall. As I eyed a pile of toys, I had a clever thought. Maybe this was where the key was hidden. It made sense. After all, a kid's room is the least likely place you would think to look. I smiled, my hope renewed, and went searching, knocking the plushies and action figures aside.
And, suddenly, I stopped dead in my tracks. Not because I found the key or something convenient like that, but rather because of a noise - a noise from downstairs.
More specifically, the front door being sharply opened and someone stepping inside.
The door closed quickly after it opened, and from the place in Lucas' room where I now stood frozen stiff, my ears picked up the homeowner's words as he suddenly spoke.
"Shoulda listened to you, Lukey," he muttered, his statement echoing through the cavernous house.
As he talked, I still picked up on a strange familiarity in his voice, but I figured it just had to be my nerves. Of course he sounded familiar. It was the tone, not the voice itself. He was angry and disappointed - a combination I had heard frequently in my thankless life. And, I decided, I had better things to worry about now than the investigator's words, anyways. After all, I was standing in plain view; if he came upstairs, he would see me immediately.
So I had to hide... and quickly, I realized, as I heard loud footsteps on the stairs. Lucas' father was coming, and fast. If I didn't dive under a bed or duck into a closet soon, I was over with. Not only could I kiss the Swindlers' Society goodbye, but I'd also probably be taken into custody, where I'd then have to convince some low-leveled Defender of my identity and my special stipulations (special stipulations being the fact that I was already pardoned for all future crimes). Over all, it would be a mess, and not particularly one I wanted to get myself into.
With not a second to spare, as the homeowner continued his hurried trek up the stairs, I leapt into the closet and gently closed the door. Good thing, too, for hardly a moment later, I heard the guy step into Lucas' room.
Come on, I thought to myself. Just grab whatever you need and get out. Don't notice the mess of toys. Just leave... just leave -
Unfortunately, my thoughts were interrupted then when someone suddenly flung open the closet door. My throat sank into my stomach, and without even looking, I tried to push the bewildered man out of my way so I could make a mad dash for it. I actually managed to knock him off his feet, too, and I got all the way to the door-frame before a voice stopped me short.
"Shay Peters?" it said.
My breath caught in my throat, and I turned around. It was then that I saw someone I never thought I'd come across again... a fidgety green Lutari, to be specific, the one who I had coaxed fifty-million big ones out of.
"Henry?" I gasped, the wind knocked out of me.
Well, this was turning out to be more than I had bargained for.
To be continued...