Felix Faustus slid the rice paper door aside and stepped into a darkened room. In its center was a pillar of artificial light illuminating the pedestal where his prize rested. It was a dagger with a diamond blade.
The thing was curved, a miniature, glittering replica of the sword held by the man who’d given him the job. But for now he waited. He was still counting down in his head. Three. Two. One.
A muffled thump shook the walls, and then white smoke flooded the hall behind him and sweapt into the room before him. Cries of alarm echoed everywhere. He entered the room, snatched the dagger, and disappeared into the smoke.
Several sets of footsteps were coming down the hall, so he reached into his pocket, removed a handful of caltrops, and hurled them forward across the floor. The men went tumbling through them and emerged in a shrieking heap on the other side. Felix leapt over them and continued down the hall.
He exited the building, prepared to dash through the courtyard, take the wide steps two at a time, and vanish into the city. But he stopped when he saw a dark figure standing at the top of the stairs. It was the man he’d met in the alley back in Americus, the one who’d delivered the message. And his long, curved sword was drawn.
“I will take the dagger, Fox,” he said.
“Since when is betrayal good for business?” Felix asked.
“It is nothing personal. Just cutting off loose ends.”
“Cutting, eh? Allow me.”
Felix brushed open his duster and whipped the diamond dagger at the dark man’s head. His oval eyes widened for an instant, and though he deflected the dagger, he did so sluggishly. Another small knife followed the first, burrowing into his hand, and the sword clattered to the ground. Then The Fox was on him, delivering short, quick blows to his head and abdomen.
The dark man fell to his knees—but then looked up, grinning, a snub-nosed revolver in his good hand. Without thinking, Felix kicked the knife and side-stepped as the dark man screamed and his gun went off. Then Felix bent down, wrenched out the knife, and plunged it into the back of the dark man’s neck. There was a scream, a gurgle, and silence.
Felix pulled out his knife, wiped it off on the dead man’s sleeve, and placed it in his pocket. Then he picked up the diamond dagger, and set it in the corpse’s hand. The dark man had already paid, after all.
Finally, he sprinted down the stairs, across the street, and into an alley that lead to the long journey home.