Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spirit of the Season: Part 9

            "This is bad; this is very, very bad," Raven said. She was pacing back and forth across the boys' small room, wringing her hands. Leopold had never seen her this upset.
            "Just calm down and we'll wait for Midas to get here," Leopold said.
            "What's he going to do?" Raven retorted. "That man was definitely the client. Midas can't change that."
            "That's correct, so we'll wait until he gets here and together we'll decide what to do," Leopold said.
            "We don't have to wait for him," Raven said, moving toward the door. "This is a trap. We have to leave now,"
            "Count to ten and calm yourself," Leopold said, putting a restraining hand on Raven's shoulder. "He doesn't know we're here yet, so we're safe for now. We're better than him, and we will beat him. Just wait until Midas gets here and we'll figure this out."

            As if on cue, Midas walked through the door. It had started to snow since Leopold and Raven had come inside, and the white flakes clung to Midas's cloak. He began to brush them off but stopped after a single glance at his friends.
            "We have to get out of here," Raven blurted in answer to his unasked question.
            "Because of the baron?" Midas asked. He gave a dismissive wave and went back to his cloak. "He was a jerk, but there wasn't anything suspicious about him. Just another uppity royal. I'll have no problem sticking it to him."
            Leopold looked at Raven. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Apparently she had taken his advice to calm herself.
            "Are you okay?" Leopold asked. She nodded and took another deep breath. "Then you tell him."
            "The baron is the client," Raven said after a moment.
            "What do you mean?" Midas asked. He pulled the cloak from his shoulders and threw it on a bed.
            "I mean the baron is the one who hired us to kill the horse," Raven explained. "He hired us to kill his own horse."
            "It's a trap; we've been set up," Leopold put in.
            For a moment the only sound in the room was Midas sucking air through his lips as he tried to process what had just been said. Leopold fully expected an outburst, Midas telling them "I told you so." Instead his brother ran his fingers through his hair and slowly let the air out of his lungs.
            "It's a good thing we checked into it, then," Midas finally said.
            "What? You're not going to tell us how you told us so?" Leopold asked. Usually his brother never missed an opportunity.
            "It won't help, so no," Midas answered. "Maybe later when we're clear of this."
            "What I don't get is why someone would go to so much trouble just to set a trap for us," Leopold said. Midas nodded in agreement.
            "That's easy. They'd do it for the prestige," Raven answered. The two brothers still looked confused. "You really don't know, do you?"
            "No," Midas answered. "I don't get it. We're just three kids and Daniel. Where's the prestige in killing us?"
            "We're not just three kids and Daniel," Raven explained. "We're The Group. To the world, we're a bunch of frightening assassins on contract to the highest bidder."
            "Well, we are that," Leopold agreed. "At least, I'm a frightening assassin."
            "You don't become successful in a vocation like ours without every blue blood, every royal in the vicinity hating and fearing you. To take us down is nothing; to take down The Group is everything."
            "I don't buy it," Midas said after several long moments of silence. "Something doesn't feel right."
            "What?" Leopold asked.
            "No idea," Midas answered. "I've heard everything you've said, but something just doesn't feel right."
            "Well, you think about that, and Leo and I will think about the best way to deal with this situation," Raven said. Midas nodded absently. He was already thinking, trying to figure out what was wrong with the whole situation. It felt like a trap, on that he agreed with Raven, but it didn't feel like a trap for them. Somewhere buried in the deep crevices of his mind he had heard something or he knew something that just didn't line up with the trap theory.
            Something was out of place, he just had to determine where it was. It wasn't with The Group. He knew all of the members; they wouldn't betray him. That left Maria and the baron. Could it be Maria? He had had reservations about her to begin with especially after he had found out she was a blue blood, but still nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. She felt right, didn't seem out of place. Which just left the baron. He was an unbearably pompous jerk, but that didn't make his suspicious unless...that was it!
            "Hold on," Midas spoke up, stopping Leopold and Raven's conversation. "I think I figured it out."
            "What is it?" Raven asked.
            "It's the baron's guards," Midas answered. "We all saw them; they look very well trained and yet, none of them will be protecting the horse."
            "How do you know that?" Leopold asked.
            "I was there when Maria was discussing it with the captain of her guards," Midas said. "The point is, it doesn't matter whether the baron is setting a trap for us or not, he'll want to keep his prized horse alive if possible. And before you ask, it's definitely the real thing. That much has already been proven."
            "Maybe they'll be watching from a distance," Leopold offered. "If it were me, that's what I would do."
            "I still don't buy it," Midas said. "If it was a trap, why do it here? Wouldn't it make more sense to have us come to his castle? That would give him home field advantage."
            "And the more I think about it, the more I agree with Midas," Leopold said. "Why use the real horse if it's a trap? That seems like unnecessary risk."
            "Well, let's indulge that idea and assume for a moment that it isn't a trap," Raven said. "Why here?"
            "He gave us the location so there would have to be something special about this place," Leopold agreed. "No doubt he's stopping at more places than this one, so why here?"
            "That's the easy part," Midas said. "At the moment, the safety of the horse falls squarely on Maria. If anything happens to it...well, let's just say it's an expensive horse."
            "Then we've been hired to start a war," Raven concluded.
            "Looks like it," Midas agreed.
            Silence settled on the room for a long time as each person processed the information. Raven was the first to speak.
            "So if it's not a trap, we're prepared to do the job, right?"
            She and Leopold looked at Midas. Of the three, he had the closest ties to Maria. If anyone had an objection, it would be him. He stared back at them without blinking and took a deep breath.
            "Anything for the money, right?" he finally asked.

            "Anything for the money," Raven and Leopold agreed.

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