Across the room Olivia popped the hors d’oeuvre she’d snagged from one of the circulating waiters into her mouth and hastily turned her face as she caught a glimpse of Lady Molly looking in her direction. She mingled deeper into the crowd and then, satisfied she wasn’t being surveyed, she stopped to pretend to be deeply engrossed in examining a watercolor in the Norman Fortier collection but really reflected on matters far deeper than a pretty seaside painting.
‘So I meet Prince Charming – but he’s already engaged to Sleeping Beauty,’ she thought with some amusement, but more apprehension. How ironic that the hunk she’d seen at the airport was Henry Courtly. She had been able to identify him easily, despite the fact the photo she had seen had been black and white, had been taken in horrid lighting conditions, he’d been wearing army fatigues and about three days worth of stubble and at the airport he was cleaned up, shaved, and in a business suit. Of course Joe had already told her all about Operation Sleeping Beauty and now Olivia failed to curb the sinking sensation in her stomach that she had gotten mixed up in things way out of her league.
She glanced at her watch; almost time to get to work. She turned around to start moving into position, and accidentally bumped into someone behind her. “Oh, excuse- ….me.” The ‘me’ came out in kind of a gasp as she realized she had bumped into no other than Henry Courtly.
“No apology necessary ma’am.” He said formally. “Are you a fan of Fortier as well?
“Err, well, I like the storm paintings,” she waved a hand at the corner filled with paintings of black clouds, “all of the action and movement in those paintings. And you?” Outside she tired to remain calm while within she writhed. ‘I gotta get to Joe’, she thought franticly, ‘if Courtly’s here then things are probably gonna get ugly real fast!’
‘And to think this started out simple!’
When she got to the privacy of her hotel bedroom Olivia opened her suitcase and dumped its contents onto the bed. The motley black garments shimmered like cloth cut from the night sky itself. The vest’s many pockets still held her “tools of the trade” and she couldn’t resist trying on one of the black gauntlets. She flexed her fingers, excitement building at the thought of being back in her old stomping grounds, and the plans and audacities that waited to be carried out.
The very thought of carrying out another job made her near giddy with excitement. Her grandfather had never said a truer word as when he had warned her thievery gets into the blood and holds you as desperately as any drug. However, it still didn’t feel like a bad thing. Olivia still had no qualms about it. Everyone she and the Guild robbed were all rich anyway and with all that insurance were often compensated within days for their loss. Olivia had nothing but contempt for the elite and their decadence.
Amidst her belongs was also a copy of the newspaper she’d been reading earlier. There had been an article about one of the Bat’s latest successful apprehensions, and Olivia shivered. She may have learned from the best, and picked up a few new tricks, but he was still the Bat. The Guild always dared ‘em, but this year it felt like they’d been dared back.
She actually learned quite a lot form the Guild, and not just new techniques. She learned about Jacque de Tousmetiers, Josephine’s uncle, now senile and in a country home, who had once upon a time had been a heartbreaker. He had left a Jack of Hearts playing card after a job, after he had dated the woman long enough to learn exactly where all valuables were kept; she’d learned the fact that her grandpapa had left a white business card after with a gold cat’s paw print in it - many had been left around Paris after a busy night’s work - Orlando had preferred sharks, and today’s present members had their own traits, like Mademoiselle Papillion who left a delicate and colorful paper butterfly, and Blanche Lapin, who lived for the chase, and you can guess what she had on her card.
Olivia then took out a small bag and upturned into on the bed as well. There was a showering of bits of glass. They were all copies of the remaining five from the original bracelet.
She picked up one and examining it thought of something Mark Twain had once said – ‘Be good, and you will be lonesome.’
***************end of flashback********************
‘What am I doing?’ She thought as she pretended to hobnob with Gothom’s elite, ‘am I crazy or what? Only insane people try to pull off stunts like this.’ She had graciously left Henry Courtly and was now in the hallway trying to quietly get to the staircase.
Suddenly she felt a strong tug on her arm and was pulled into the closet underneath the stairs. The door was slammed shut behind her and she was in darkness – with someone else.
“Scream and I break your arm,” promised a harsh voice. Olivia knew that voice.
“Nightwing,” she said in a quiet gasp.
He got straight to the point. “Olivia Midwinter,” he growled, “I don’t know why you’re here, but I suggest you *don’t* do whatever you have planned. I’m a little too busy with serious matters right now to deal with *you*.”
“My life is no concern of yours.”
“But this city is.”
“And I have nothing against this city.”
“But what about some of the people in it? Say…a certain Vreeland?” Nightwing felt, rather than saw, Olivia’s mouth twist into a sneer of distaste but before anything else could be said a loud commotion could be heard through the door. Nightwing flung it open to revel more darkness in the hallway; it appeared there had been a sudden power outage, and it was creating a panic among the guests.