A new night brings new troubles as an old acquaintance brings bad tidings for Faith and Simon. An ancient relic was stolen, and they need to enlist a thief to catch a thief. Simon accepts the job to save his wealth, but Faith wonders if they aren’t asking for more trouble than they can handle. What’s more, Simon is hiding a secret from her, one that threatens to tear them apart. She’s presented with an opportunity to save herself, but the price might be too terrible to pay for.
Another night, another adventure to be had. This one was going to be a little hairier than usual.
I shuffled from the room I shared with Simon. It was dark out. It was always dark out now whenever I got up. I just couldn’t will myself to wake up any earlier than nightfall.
Speaking of the fangy demon, I found his dark princeliness seated on the couch. He finished up a phone call and put the phone down just as I rounded the arm of the furniture.
“Calling one of your blood donors?” I teased.
Simon chuckled and shook his head. “No. Cotio is too valuable an asset to risk overfeeding.”
I slipped onto the opposite end of the couch and raised an eyebrow. “So it’s about that last heist?”
He sat down beside me and smiled. “Yes, and the one before that. The deals have closed with all purchasers, and our companions are soon to be very wealthy. Perhaps this would be a time for celebration.”
I glared at him. “I just got out of bed.
I don’t need to go back in there.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “As tempting a thought that may be, I was suggesting a vacation of sorts.”
A buzzer rang throughout the penthouse. Certus emerged from whatever shadow he lurked and strode to the doors that led to the lobby. He picked up a phone that hung on the wall and pressed the receiver to his ear.
“Yes?” I heard a few garbled words. “I see.” Certus cupped his hand over the speaker and turned to Simon. “Mr. Fortis and another gentleman wish to speak with you.”
Simon arched an eyebrow, but nodded. “Allow them.”
Certus returned his attention to the phone. “They may come up.”
I looked to Simon. “Does Dolf visit you often?”
Simon shook his head. “On the contrary, he has never been a visitor here. This should be an interesting conversation.”
Our wait was short. Dolf the werewolf and the other guy showed up a few minutes later. The stranger was a spectacle. His bushy white hair stuck out in all directions, and many of the ends were blackened by fire. He wore a white lab coat with red and purple stains over the front, and he looked at the world through a pair of small spectacles. The open-toed sandals on his feet finished off his strange appearance.
Simon stood and bowed to his guests before he swept his hand over the chairs opposite us. “Good evening, gentlemen. Won’t you have a seat?”
Dolf and the other man took their seats, and Dolf cleared his throat. “I’m not sure if you know-”
“Doctor Vincent Ficus,” Simon finished for him.
A small smile curled onto Dolf’s lips. “I should’ve known he wouldn’t get past you.”
Simon’s eyes fell on the lab-coated man. “I must admit I am less familiar with your specific experiments than in your wizarding abilities.”
Ficus frowned. “I’m a warlock, not a wizard. Any idiot thinks he’s a wizard if he waves a wand and spouts a lot of nonsense from a book.”
Simon chuckled and bowed his head. “My apologies, Dr. Ficus. Warlock skills or not, what brings you both to me?”
Dolf pursed his lips. “It’s about one of the Doc’s things he picked up-”
“I do not ‘pick up’ things,” Ficus objected. He settled into his chair and looked to Simon with narrowed eyes. “What Dolf is trying to tell you is I discovered an ancient relic, and now it has been stolen. I want for you to find it and return it to me.”
Simon arched an eyebrow. He leaned back and his eyes flickered between the two men. “You appear to have my occupation confused with those of a policeman. I steal objects, I do not find them.”
Ficus glared at Dolf. “You told me he’d help.”
Dolf waved his hand at his friend, but kept his sight on Simon. He leaned forward so his elbows rested on his legs and looked Simon in the eyes. “I think this one’s in your line of work, though. What was stolen was the Golden Fleece.”
Simon whipped his head to the doctor and his eyes narrowed. “What were you doing with such an object?”
Ficus leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Research. That’s what doctors do.”
“Were you aware of what you ‘researched?’” Simon questioned him.
“I didn’t come here for an inquisition,” Ficus snapped.
Dolf leaned to one side to catch Simon’s attention. “We’ll just say his curiosity got the better of him, but that’s not really important. What’s important is we get that back before somebody figures out what they have.”
Simon returned his attention to Dolf. “Why do you suspect they are unaware of their treasure?”
Dolf leaned back in his chair and frowned. “It was a normal break-in. None of Ficus’s rare books were stolen, but plenty of money is gone. That, and the Golden Fleece. Whoever robbed him was smart enough to realize what they had there.”
“Wait, so it really is made of gold?” I spoke up.
Ficus nodded. “Yes, but its research value is incalculable.”
“Along with its financial value should anyone learn its secret,” Simon added.
Dolf nodded. “Yeah, we know. That’s why we came to you. If anybody can catch a thief, it’s the best thief in the city. So will you help?”
Simon clasped his fingers together and pursed his lips. “If I wish to retain my wealth than I have little choice. What is the good doctor’s address?”
Ficus frowned. “Why do you want that?”
Simon’s eyes fell on the short man. “I will need to examine the scene.”
Dolf shook his head. “It’s no good. I already followed the tire tracks of the thieves. They disappeared somewhere around the club district.” He wrinkled his nose. “I never could get past the smell of all those the drugs around that place.”
Simon stood. “I will still need the address, and the exact address where you lost their trail.”
Dolf shrugged, but stood. He pulled out a pad of paper, scribbled a few words, and tore the top paper off. Dolf handed the slip to Simon. “There ya go. I don’t think I need to tell you how fast you gotta find that fleece now that it’s in that district.”
Simon glanced over the paper and tucked it into his coat. “No.”
Dolf turned to his doctor friend. “You’re in the best hands you can be, Doc.”
Ficus stood and eyed Simon with a narrowed gaze. “I suppose so.”
Simon smiled and bowed. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Ficus.”
Ficus pursed his lips, but bowed his head. The pair left us. Simon pursed his lips and his eyes flickered to Certus. “Prepare the car.” Certus bowed and left.
I turned to Simon. “Mind catching me up on this trouble? Like why a fleece made of gold is so important to drag you into its theft?”
“Have you ever read the ancient tale of the Golden Fleece?” he asked me.
I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Some group of guys stole it, didn’t they?”
A small smile slipped onto his lips. “Yes. A valuable item like that has changed hands quite often.”
I arched an eyebrow. “So you’re saying this is the same fleece?”
“There is no other that I know if,” he quipped.
“So what’s so special about it that you want to get involved?” I persisted.
Simon seated himself on the arm of the couch and set his hands in his lap. “A tale that is not told is when it fell into the hands of a very wealthy individual by the name of Midas.”
I furrowed my brow. “Midas? Like in the touch?”
He nodded. “Yes. He was favored by a god and was granted the ability to change anything into gold merely by touching it. Unfortunately, the touch was not limited to inanimate objects, but to food and other people. The gift was eventually rescinded, but not before he touched his most prized possession.”
I shrugged. “What’s the big deal about that? Wasn’t it already gold?”
“It was, but when his god-granted gift came into contact with the divine object the fleece was changed into something more than merely the golden skin of a sheep. The fleece itself was then granted the ability to change anything wrapped in its folds to gold.”
I blinked at him. “Seriously?”
Simon stood. “I would not joke about a matter that pertains to such wealth.”
I frowned. “So if you knew this was real then how come you haven’t got a hold of this thing sooner?”
“It was lost to time since the early medieval period. How it came to drop into the hands of the good doctor we can only speculate, but that is hardly the concern.” He glanced at his watch. “The night district should be quite busy by this time. We can expect to find the proprietors of the clubs at their usual dens.”
I stepped in front of him and held up both hands. “Wait a sec. I’ll admit something making gold like that is cool, but what’s the rush?”
“The rush is we must find the thieves before they learn its value and sell it on the Black Auction,” he explained to me.
I sighed. “All right, I’ll bite. What’s the Black Auction, and what’ll happen if it gets on it?”
Simon smiled and opened his arm to me. “I will explain in the car.”