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The Further Adventures of Harper Shaw!

Four hours.

Four hours ago Bobby Cahn had walked in, ready for another night's work, shmoozing the rich folks.  He laughed at their jokes, danced with their women, thanked them for this 'hot tip' or that 'inside information', drank their liquor and ate their food.  He'd gotten himself a bit tipsy, and when the 'heiress' had invited him down to the short rocky beach he almost fell over himself in his eagerness to follow.

When she claimed to hail from old soviet manufacturing money, Bobby kept his scoff to himself - she looked every bit like he expected the girls working her father's fish-canning plants in Estonia might, but with slightly better wardrobe and a pound more makeup.  She was a nice enough girl, but not smart enough to take her high heels off when she started to dash across the pebbles toward the water.  Down she went after only three yards, just too far out of reach to be caught or steadied, but then again that wasn't in the plan...

Up at the house one of the doctors said she should just keep her weight off the turned ankle at least until morning, and by the time she turned to ask Bobby to keep her company in one of the libraries, he was gone.

The guards were inattentive, much more interested in protecting the heavies there from one another, or looking over the balconies for the lights of gendarmes who never arrived.  A determined expression, a hurried walk, and a hurricane spilled on the pants-leg do just the trick to keep unwanted questions away.  The conspicuous bulge under one arm tells an observer the rest of the story, Bobby's was only a slim leather case wrapped in one of the napkins from dinner.  The slim picks that case held were his ticket through the pitted metal door, and it took less than three minutes through the "wine cellar" to come up against the first real obstacle.

Bobby peered between the highball glass he had pocketed, the silver mirror in his other hand, and the keypad staring at him with tiny angry red eyes.  The man in the mirror was her father, the fish guy, and the glass had held his whiskey for about a quarter hour.  Fish Guy's fingers had pressed the keys, and after a moment Fate smiled on Bobby's own fingers to get the sequence right on the first try.  He slipped through and looked back to note the pipes above the doorway, ready to deliver a nasty surprise on whoever keyed the wrong combination.  The room ahead was a large one.  Bobby passed his fingers across his eyes, this time he let his derisive laugh out. 

"Fucking Hollywood," he muttered, as he looked at the blue-green trails of lasers criscrossing the room, listened to the too-high chirps of motion sensors, all of them waiting for a signal of some kind to tell them to rest.  Bobby pulled a piece of the slate from the beach out of his breast pocket, drew a lopsided 'h' on it, with a few apostrophes and dashes through it, and recited a short sentence.  The room's dim light was banished by the radiance of the golden vault door that burst to life behind him, the silence was overridden by the muffled screams of a hundred voices from within, and then just as quickly returned to normal.  Bobby checked himself as if looking at reflection, smiled, and shot his cuffs, then watched himself walk through the center of the space.  He almost giggled, interposing himself with every one of those detecting beams he possibly could.  It didn't matter - he was still standing back in the alcove of the entryway as his doppelganger made its way to the opposite end.

With a thought, he'd switched places and was now in front of The Big Door.  A look back across the room let him make sure his intangible double wasn't easily visible when the guards inevitably came through, he would keep it around for a few more minutes to cause a bit of distraction.  He eyed The Big Door again.  Now here was a challenge for his skills: a big fat Ward, with several more Bans placed upon it, and contingent effects to delay the inevitable burglar so they would be gunned down when security rushed in.

The handle set a mere inch from the horizon of the ward, but Bobby would have to reach through to grasp and turn it.  He played with several different ideas, discussing them in his head to try and decide which was most appropriate.  Finally he nodded a precise centimeter, and drew an eighteen inch rusted iron scimitar from the watchpocket just beneath the waistband of his trousers.  A few moments' work with a precisely-measured nine pennyweight of lodestone filings, arranged just so, and he was ready.  He peered into the silver mirror as the largest theft yet tonight occurred.  Everyone who knew Fish Guy was now linked to Bobby.  Everything he touched, owned, ate - all of it - was just as much Bobby's as it was Fish Guy's.  A few moments more, more chants and scribbling, and Bobby's aura shifted to match.  One more bit of horsehair, and even Bobby's hairline began to recede.  In moments, to anyone looking who didn't know better, Fish Guy was standing next to that door.

He reached through the ward, slowly at first, tentatively, and grasped the knob.  A flick of the wrist and Bobby was in. 

In Bobby's mirror, Fish Guy allowed himself a thin smile and toward the ceiling.... 



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