Chapter 2, Part 3

“Hali, do you ever get sick of being wonderful?” Alessandra asked with a grin as she ladled some stew into Halidasa’s bowl.

“Nope!” Halidasa replied, grinning right back. She took her bowl back to her seat, and was replaced by Bezzum.

“Giving out seconds, girl?” he asked with a sneer.

“Is that against the rules now?” Alessandra replied, raising an eyebrow. “We’ve got plenty of this slop, just like we always do.”

“I should slap the insolence right out of you,” Bezzum growled. “I never should have taken you in. I don’t care how good a thief you are, you’re not worth it.”

“Well, Torea thinks I am,” Alessandra said with a shrug. “And so does Hali. Your two favorite people in the world like me. I’m not sure what your problem is.”

“My problem,” Bezzum snarled, grabbing Alessandra by the collar and pulling her close, “is that you don’t give me the respect I deserve, and I’m sick and tired of it.”

“Maybe you should do something that deserves respect then,” Alessandra shot back, her voice slightly strained by the awkward angle that Bezzum was holding her at. Bezzum glared at her coldly for a moment, and then released her.

“Be careful what you wish for, girl,” he said, giving her one last look, and then turning and walking through the mess hall and out the door. Alessandra watched him go, and then she sighed and went back to dishing out stew for the other thieves in line.

That was the most interesting thing that happened to Alessandra in the few days after robbing the jewelry store. As always when she was between jobs, she started feeling the itch to get back out there and do some more thieving, and as the days wore on, the itch grew stronger and more persistent. And yet, Bezzum refused to send her out on another job. Four days later, that was odd, but not unheard of. But after a week had passed, and Bezzum still hadn’t sent her out, that was almost unprecedented. It was as if Bezzum was looking for an excuse to kick her out of the clan, by claiming that she wasn’t pulling her weight. But that couldn’t possibly work. Torea and the other Clan Leaders would know that she wasn’t bringing in any loot because she wasn’t being given the opportunity. So what was Bezzum’s game? What was he up to?

Alessandra was getting so frustrated by not being allowed to go out eight days after her last heist that she almost whooped for joy when one of her clanmates showed up at her door and told her that Bezzum had summoned her. Normally being summoned by Bezzum was not something that Alessandra looked forward to, but maybe this time she was at least going to get an explanation for why her talents were being wasted.

She strolled up to Bezzum’s quarters, rapped on the door twice, and then pushed it open when she heard his voice call her in. He was sitting at the desk in the outer room, where Torea had been sitting the last time Alessandra had been in there.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” he said, not looking up at her. Alessandra folded her arms and tried not to glare at him. What was the point of summoning her to his quarters if he wasn’t ready to actually talk to her. She started tapping her foot impatiently, and then she remembered what Torea had said to her, and she stopped. It was an effort, though.

Finally, Bezzum set down his pen and looked up at her. For a moment he just looked at her, as if he was studying her. It took all of her self-control not to fidget under that intense gaze.

“You’re probably wondering why I haven’t sent you out on a job recently,” he said, breaking the silence. Alessandra couldn’t think of a response to that which wasn’t insolent, so she said nothing. Bezzum studied her for a few more moments, and then he stood up and began pacing back and forth across the room, with his hands clasped behind his back.

“The answer is that I’ve been looking for the perfect job for you,” he said. “You are angry because you feel I’m wasting your talents. I’ll be honest, you have some right to be angry. You are a talented thief, and I have not taken full advantage of those talents.” He paused for a moment, and looked at Alessandra, as if gauging her reaction. For her part, Alessandra was stunned, but she tried not to let it show. Bezzum, admitting that he wasn’t giving her jobs that she deserved? It was as if the world had turned upside down, and suddenly the thief clans were running Serotopolis, and the Council of Elders was living in the slums.

“To be blunt, I haven’t given you more difficult jobs because I didn’t think you had the temperament to pull them off,” Bezzum continued. “You may have the skill to be one of the best thieves in Serotopolis, but you’re arrogant and hot-headed, so I’ve deliberately held you back, hoping that time might give you a chance to grow up a little.” He paused again, and Alessandra definitely felt she was back on more familiar territory now. Arrogant and hot-headed? There was only one arrogant person in this room, and it wasn’t her! She tried very hard not to let her feelings show on her face, but Bezzum smirked and continued pacing as if he knew very well what she was thinking.

“So far, that strategy has failed,” he said. “So I’m taking a different approach. You’ve been waiting for a chance to prove yourself? Fine. You can have it. Tomorrow night, I’m sending a team to rob the Vanmorzen manor. You’re in charge.”

This time, Alessandra could not contain her feelings. Her jaw dropped in shock, and it took her a moment to realize that her mouth was hanging open. She closed it with a snap, but her eyes still felt like they were as wide as dinner plates. “The Vanmorzen manor? Really?”

To be continued…

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