The small group of highly trained killers had stopped. Again.
Agamemnal was stood in front of a heavy tapestry that reached from floor to ceiling, his torch playing over it. He was peering at it so closely that his nose nearly touched the fabric, and now and then he would stroke the tapestry, or rub a particular spot.
“Will you hurry up?” Lydia folded her arms. She was tall and thin, graceful in an anorexic way, and wearing soft grey wraps that wound around her like bandages and left her with the slightly unfortunate appearance of an animate mummy. Her eyes were the same grey as the wraps and they were staring at the back of Agamemnal’s head as though she wished she could make it explode. “We are supposed to be locating the Duke and assassinating him. Not valuing wall-hangings!”
Next to Lydia was Darleen. She was built far more robustly and was wearing a black-and-grey padded jerkin and a blindfold that covered her eyes and nose. Despite her apparent lack of vision she was leading the group through the echoing halls as though she’d lived there her entire life. She lifted her head as though to stare at the ceiling, and a moment later she spoke.
“There’s no point Lydia, dear. We need fifteen minutes for the Duke to reach his bedroom anyway; you might as well let him look at it. The guard patrols won’t come in here for 22 minutes, and we’ll be gone by then anyway.”
Lydia snorted and turned away, her back pointedly to Agamemnal, and looked at the fourth member of the squad: an albino man who looked like a boy of fourteen. His eyes and nose were pink and wet, and his fingernails were black and sharp. He was wearing a torn shirt and ragged pants tied loosely about his skinny waist with rope. His bare feet were hairy. “What say you, Ratty?”
Ratty shrugged, his shirt slipping from his shoulder and forcing him to pull it back up before it fell off completely. “He’s got an eye for it,” he said. “Those candlesticks he looted last tim–“
“When we were supposed to be setting fire to an information storage bay.” Lydia interrupted with the arrogance of a natural leader.
“As I was saying,” said Ratty amicably. “Those candlesticks fetched a nice sum. We’d barely have broke even without them.”
Lydia turned her back on Ratty now. “As if this is a for-profit enterprise,” she said to Darleen.
“It is for me,” said Darleen. “You can’t negotiate, Lyds. You should let Ratty do it, he’s got a silver tongue.”
“He’s got fleas.” There was a viciousness in her tone that made Darleen flinch, but Ratty seemed unaffected by it.
“It’s genuine,” said Agamemnal as though the entire conversation around him hadn’t happened. “Definitely fourteenth century. Let’s take it down and pack it up.”
“Twelve minutes,” said Darleen, her head tilted up again. “No change in patterns.”
“This is ridiculous!” Lydia spun to face her squad, her face contorted into something ugly; Ratty considered for a moment that this must be what a banshee looked like when it was screeching the death of its victim. “We’re killers! Assassins! We have a job to do, we’re not picking up tawdry tat at the sodding flea-market!”
“George said usual rules apply,” said Agamemnal. “That means I can loot and you can carry.”
“I. am. not. a. pack. mule.”
“Of course not,” said Agamemnal with a broad smile that showed his three remaining teeth. “Pack mules have more meat on them. But you are the only one who doesn’t need to be able to move quickly or keep everything free for when we meet the Duke. So you do the carrying.” He reached up, stretching to the top of tapestry to find the ties that suspended it from hooks in the wall. “Brace, bitch.”