“With you hands.”

“What?”

“It’s what you were going to say.  You were going to say ‘I stole the necklace with my hands’ and then you were going to mention she was in the bath. I’d yell at you about my age, and you’d trick me into mentioning a moral.  Story over. Nap.”

“No, of course not.”

“Really?”

“Of course not.”

 “You are going to give me a complete story?”

“I always do.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes.  You see, when stealing something, the first thing to do is work out where it is, and if it moves at various times.  This necklace was worn by a Sicilian duchess. It was marvellous. So, I knew she would wear it to a particular ball, which was the highlight of the social season. She would have it laid out, in her dressing room, as she bathed.”

“And a bath takes half an hour.”

“Yes.  So, the difficulty was getting into her dressing room, during that time.”

“Sneak in?  Your friend who could take you through the wall?”

“Ah, the dressing room was on an upper level. The shadow psilos can fly, but they can’t carry a person.”

“So, what was on the lower level?”

“The kitchens.”

“So, you stepped through the wall into the kitchen.  Servants. Equipment.”

“Cooks, servers, her staff as they ate.”

“Oh!  Water!”

“Yes.  I decided to carry the water to her bathroom.”

“So, you…were dressed as a redcap?”

“No. I was dressed as a cook.”

“A cook?  Why would a cook carry water.”

“A female cook.”

“Why does that matter?”

“Sicilians have Muslim cooks.”

“I’m still not with you.”

“She wore a veil.”

“Which you stole from one of the other servants?”

“No, my psilos friend did.  It’s remarkably easy to steal clothes when you can step into a closet from behind.”

“No – the story doesn’t work. What happened to the person who would normally carry the water?”

“Aconite.”

“Grandfather!”

“Not enough to kill.  Just enough to cause a coma. A lot of redcaps carry a poisoned dart or needle in a small ceramic vial. Mine’s in the handle of my knife.  A single prick and the person sleeps for hours.”

“So, you poison a woman, hide her in a…”

“Barrel.”

“…barrel, and then use stolen clothes to carry water into the bathroom of the duchess. She’s not yet there?”

“She’s not yet there.”

“So, she’s in her dressing room?”

“No, she’s eating in a sitting room.”

“So, you go from her bathroom to the dressing room and pick up the necklace.  And then you walk out?”

“No, the necklace is guarded.”

“So, there’s a guard?”

“Yes, a young man with a sword and mail.”

“So you…stab him with an aconite dart?”

“No.”

“Sneak past him?”

“No.”

“Tell him that he’s needed elsewhere?”

“No!”

“Surely three guesses is enough?”

“Certainly. I flirt with him and convince him to carry my heavy bucket back downstairs.”

“You flirt with him?”

“Yes.”

“But..well, alright you face is covered, but..”

“Fruit.  Strategically placed fruit.”

“I find that very difficult to believe.”

“Not at all, the girl I stole the clothes from had a tempestuous affair with him later.”

“So, as he turns away with the heavy bucket…”

“I put the necklace in the bucket and he carries it out for me.”

“And then?”

“I kiss him goodbye, through my veil, and flatter him some more, and let him bruise some fruit.”

“Grandfather!”

“Yes?”

“Oh, I can’t be bothered.  What next?”

“My ally and I fled at speed by horse.  We had peaches for lunch.”

“What are you trying to pull, old man?”

“How do you mean?”

“That had a beginning, a middle and an end.”

“Yes.”

“Technically, that was a story.”

“All of my stories are stories.”

“You know that’s not true.”

“Of course its true.  They all have a moral, too.”

“All right. This time, it’s all right.  Is it “Be careful of beautiful women?””.

“No.”

“It is “Always have friends and contingency plans?”

“No.”

“Is it “Always pack lunch.”?

“Exactly right!”

“Oh, grandfather, you were doing so well…”

“That’s your story.  Now, time for my nap!”

* * *

“Grandmother?”

“Yes, my dear?”

“Grandfather told me about stealing a necklace…”

“I cannot say I approve. Not the sort of story to tell to a young lady.”

“Really? It seemed tamer than many. What part did he lie about?”

“How did he get past the guard?”

“Flirtation and later kissing?”

“Ah.”

“What really happened?”

“I”ll tell you when you’re older.”

“Is it a violent thing?”

“Oh, yes my dear, a very violent thing.”

“That’s a pity. That was the funny part.”

“Well…that’s a pity, I agree.  Now eat your supper.”

“Does he often do that?”

“What, my dear?”

“Use innuendo to distract me from the violent parts?”

“Yes.  Very much so. Now, eat your supper.”

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