“You’re my thief.”
The words were barely a whisper as they escaped my lips.
I stood against my now closed door, facing what I had previously thought to be my empty room. However, my window sat open and a tall mysterious man stood in front of it, as if he simply belonged there.
His height made his appearance thin, although, even in the dim light, I could see hidden strength under his sleeves. I had seen him before, his figure had been a shadow at every robbery I inspected.
I couldn’t be sure if I should have felt more fearful towards the situation. It’s not every night that I find strange men in my room, let alone criminals. Instead, I felt mostly curiosity running through my veins.
“You would be correct, Miss Williams.” His voice was smooth and low, probably to keep quiet from the rest of the house, “And as a thief, I am afraid I am going to have to steal you away from this cozy little house.”
He still had yet to show his face to me, back towards me from the moment I entered the room. The only light I had was the candle on my nightstand and the soft moon light floating through my still open window. I just needed to see his face.
“And why would I offer myself up to be kidnapped?”
“Because,” turning around, he bowed dramatically, “I am here to offer up to you the best help you could get on your case.”
“You’re right, you are exactly what I needed to solve the case. Turning yourself in wouldn’t prove my worth as a detective, but letting me parade you into the station myself, that would prove everything.”
While he stood there speechless at my forwardness I took this time to study what I could see of his face. He had a strong jawline, although it was currently twitching with annoyance. His bone structure almost looked cut from marble, yet his face seemed ever so soft. His lips, however, were now slowly forming a smirk, “You won’t turn me in, not until you’ve had the time to study me closer.”
“What makes you so sure?”
He took a step towards me, his face now closer to the light of the candle. His green eyes bore into mine, searching for something beyond them, “Because you are more intrigued by what I could possibly be offering you. That’s always been your issue, hasn’t it? Your curiosity outweighs your need to survive.”
He instantly turned on his heel and went back to my jewels, sifting through them. He found one of my gold rings and inspected it. He wouldn’t seriously steal right in front of me and expect me to not turn him in, “You would walk through the gates of Hell if it meant you would solve the mystery.” Unsatisfied, he tossed the ring back into my jewelry tray.
“What makes you say such things?” I was suddenly all to aware that I was alone with a strange man in my bedroom. If word of this got out I’d surely not have the respect of the town, let alone the chief of police. I was lucky enough with how much he let me participate.
“Because, I’m just like you and I fear I may not survive this one alone. That’s why I need your help, and you need mine.”
I stiffened in reaction to how open he was being, although any fears I had before had vanished, “How could I possibly help you? My parents won’t even let me out of the house after today, especially if they were to catch sight of this!”
The memory of being dragged away from the crime scene by my father floated around in my mind. It was embarrassing to be seen that way by people who already thought me to be weak and unable. I still remember the look on my dear father's face as he saw his little girl stooped close to inspect the bloodied body on the ground.
“I was there, and I could tell you saw something no one else did.”
I hadn’t noticed how much closer he had gotten to me while I had been lost in my memories. On his path to me, he kept inspecting different things on my table, searching for something, but for what?
“Why were you at the crime scene? Hoping to steal some more jewels while everyone was distracted?”
He was ever closer now, with his long legs he could be on me with two swift strides, never giving me time to think.
“Surely you noticed, Miss Williams. I only stole rings, and once I realized they were not what I was looking for I returned them. Plus, I knew you had what I have been searching tirelessly for from the moment I saw you.”
I twisted the ring on my finger, hoping it would provide the comfort it normally did. I watched as his eyes flicked down to my hands and he smiled, pointing at my ring, “Ah, there it is.”
Instinctively I covered the ring with my other hand, “This is my grandmother's ring. What could you possibly need it for?”
Before he could answer my question, he took two strides and landed right in front of me. I could feel his breath on my skin, as he met my eyes, his voice now pleading, “If you could please, let me examine your ring.”
Taking a step back, he waited for my answer. His once proud and calm demeanor has washed away, revealing a broken man behind it. He fidgeted with his coat sleeves, unable to keep still.
I took a step forward and held my hand out. When he reached for it, I closed my palm around it, “Answer me this one thing: why is this ring so important to you?”
“That ring holds more power than you could ever possibly imagine. Without it, I am certain I will no longer exist in this world, or any other.”
I ran his words through my mind, trying to understand what he meant. What if this was just a ploy to guilt me into handing over my most prized possession? What if he was telling the truth? He was correct in at least one thing, my curiosity outweighed all logic I might have once possessed. I dropped the ring into his hand and watched as he eagerly inspected it.
“What are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
It was almost amusing to watch him now. He was a child inside a man's body. I relaxed my body a little, letting my muscles loosen for the first time since this conversation began.
After a few moments his face fell, disappointment written all over it, “I am sorry to have bothered you with such–”
His words were cut off and both of us were blinded by a bright golden light coming from the ring. The entire room was filled with it, as if the sun had begun to shine right there in front of us. The light died down, although still glowing, and I had to blink floating dots out of my vision.
Just when I thought that was the last of the surprises for the night, what appeared to be thick, black ink started to pool in his palm from the ruby. Soon his hand was covered in it, although never once did it threaten to drip to the floor. It was as if he could command the ink to do what he wished.
Just as suddenly as it had appeared, the light was out, and the ruby was red again, no longer pouring out ink.
As I stood there, shocked, and still trying to comprehend what had just happened, the man pulled a thin book from his breast pocket, and flipped to a blank page. With the ink still on his hand he closed his palm and squeezed. I watched the ink slowly drip onto the page. I had expected a mess of ink blots to appear, however I should have realized this was no time for the expected. As the ink hit the page, words began to form, all on their own.
“What just happened?” I couldn’t help but raise my voice. Joy and panic seeped through my words, making it hard to decipher my emotions.
“That, Miss Williams, was magic.”
I had to have been dreaming, yet something deep down told me that this was only the beginning of a very real, and magical, adventure.
The stranger began to head to the window, my ring still in his hands.
“Hey! I want that back, Sir!”
With one leg already out of the window, he contorted his torso to face me, “Ah, Miss Williams, my name is Oliver Stark, not need to call me Sir.”
“My ring, Mr. Stark.” I was growing frustrated at how quickly he could compose himself to be so calm and humorous with himself. No one in their right mind could just move on after what we had just witnessed. Although, perhaps he wasn’t right of mind.
“Yes, about that, I was thinking I would keep it. It rather suits me well, don’t you think?”
The scoundrel, I took two steps forward and he had already swung his other leg out the window and made it to the ground. To my displeasure he made it down with so much as a scratch.
“If you want your ring back so badly, come find me in town square tomorrow at nine O’ clock, I have something I want to show you.”
Before I could threaten his life he was off into the shadows.
Closing the window as the crisp fall air reminded me of its existence, I stared at the shadows a bit longer.
A decent girl would have ignored his request, stayed home and worked on her needlework, perhaps host a morning tea. Though I was no decent girl. “As curious as a cat,” my mother would whisper to me every night before I fell asleep.
My mind was tired from the long day. I climbed into my bed and blew out the candle. Tomorrow would prove to be a very interesting day.