Chapter 2: The Light Side of Dark

The stars are hiding tonight. It's too bad, really, I thought as I stood and scanned the cloudy skies. Rain. There'd been quite a bit of that recently, hadn't there? It saddened me, in a way, not being able to see the heavens through the blank canopy that was the sky. Those twinkling pinpricks of light were like friends, comforting and trustworthy. Tonight they were gone, and so I would be alone on the job. Just me and the rain. But then again, I didn't really mind.

I closed my eyes and felt as the cool drops slid lightly over my skin. Often, on the days when I couldn't venture out, I would look out my window and wonder if the rain was the heavens crying. Never mind the scientist's theories of evaporated water. It had always been a marvel for me to see the droplets come from above, catching the light ever so briefly on their way down before shattering on the ground. Such a miracle, heralding death and sorrow as well as renewal and rebirth, could only be the result of some higher power. I'd never been religious, but one could speculate, couldn't they? Develop theories, ideas, little fantasies that never really dominated your beliefs but were nice to have. Yes, the rain was a beautiful thing, even with the absence of the stars, even in the dark and cold.

Opening my eyes, I gazed quietly upon the city. The view was magnificent, perched as I was on some high roof among the stone gargoyles. Lights shimmered and danced on the wet cobblestones of the streets far below, an intricate maze that stretched out before me. Downtown was the brightest area, with its many shops, theatres, museums, offices, and restaurants. I'd wandered that place many times, strolling the familiar boulevards and alleyways. Alas, I wouldn't be going there tonight. I had business to attend to.

With a sigh, I stood and slid the mask over my face. There was no use in delaying any longer. Time was ticking, and with each moment that passed, I was losing precious darkness.

Well, then, I thought, running a gloved hand through my black hair. I suppose it's time I got going. And with that, I leaped off the roof and into the darkness below.

By the way, my name's Daniel. And I'm a thief.

– – –

As soon as I hit the ground, it was the back-against-a-shadowy-wall-and-wait-to-see-if-anyone-spotted-you routine. Of course, no one had. No one sees me unless I want them to, which is rare. Nevertheless, a good thief always observes basic caution in any situation, as I'd learned the hard way. Once I was sure there wasn't a soul in sight, I stealthily dashed through the network of streets. Every so often, there would be a patrolman or happy couple that would go by, and maybe one or two shady characters. I avoided all with ease.

Before I knew it, I'd arrived at my destination: the back door of the Three Kegs, a small pub tucked away in a dark corner of town. As well as serving good ale, it was also where I made a good deal of my transactions; the proprietor, one Mr. Angus Blakesly, happened to be one of the finest fences in town and he often employed me to "borrow" certain items. Like tonight, when he'd requested I get a certain, quite famous diamond necklace. A bit unorthodox for a fence, but who was I to question his motives? I just got the stuff for him. What he did with it was none of my business.

Three knocks on the heavy wooden door, and a small panel slid open to reveal a pair of brown eyes peering suspiciously out.

"Who is–?" the person began, and then stopped as they saw who it was. "Mr. Angelus! Welcome back, sir."

I smiled and replied, "Why thank you, Calleck. Is Angus there? I've got his… request here."

"Ah, yeah. I'll get 'im," said Calleck. "Come on in."

The panel slid back into place and there was the sound of metal sliding as the locks were undone. Then the door swung open, revealing a young man in a stained apron, fidgeting agitatedly with a cleaning cloth. He stepped aside to make way for me and then checked to see if the coast was clear before shutting the door again. Then he nodded to me once and vanished through the curtained doorway of the storeroom.

As I waited, I took in the familiar odors and sights of the storeroom. There was the sharp tang of spices, mingled with the aroma of the wooden barrels that held fresh fruits and vegetables. Jars, cans, and boxes lined the shelves and were stacked on the ground. Most of this stuff really was food for the pub. But one or two crates, tucked in the corner and ready for shipment, were some of the "goods" that Angus dealt with. The rest were undoubtedly stored somewhere else, in some safe place that nobody could ever hope to find – except, of course, me, but I didn't really care. I had other fish to fry. In the meantime, I turned my attention away from the various odds and ends of the Three Kegs and to my reflection in an old mirror that hadn't been bothered to be thrown out. In the round frame, there stood a man, maybe in his twenties. He had messy black hair of medium length, blue eyes that peeked out from beneath the black mask he wore, and a handsome clean-shaven face. Strong, but not over-muscled, he wore a black vest with a folded-over collar, black pants, black boots, and had a small bag strapped to his right thigh. This was Cado Angelus, the infamous "phantom thief" – AKA, me.

My thoughts were interrupted as there came the sound of boots on the floor, followed by a swish as the curtain was pulled back. In strode Angus, looking like he usually did. He was a tall man, a bit on the skinny side, with graying hair and dressed in a black suit that seemed a bit out of place in an establishment like this. His sharp eyes peered keenly out at me, though not in an unfriendly way.

"That was quick," he said, crossing his arms. "Did you successfully retrieve the necklace?"

"Got it right here," I told him, opening my bag and carefully extracting the purloined necklace. The facets of the many gems caught the light in a dazzling way and for a moment, both Angus and I silently beheld the marvelously-crafted piece of jewelry that I held in my hand.

"Truly amazing," remarked Angus.

I nodded, receiving the small padded box he handed me and placing the necklace inside. It fit like a glove; the box must have been custom-made. "It is a beautiful piece, isn't it?" I said, handing the box back.

"Indeed. It should fetch a good price with the right people. In the meantime, I believe it's time for your payment, yes?" Angus tucked the box into his shirt and withdrew a small tan envelope, which he handed to me. "Here's your usual fee, plus a bonus for this particular job."

"Excellent." I tucked the envelope safely in my bag. "If you need me, send a note will you?"

Angus allowed a small smile. "I most certainly will," he said. "In fact, there's a job I'm working on pulling together at the moment. Expect to be contacted soon."

"Will do."

With a swish of the curtain and the sound of retreating footsteps, Angus left the room without as much as another glance. That was pretty much how business was transacted here: get the assignment (provided there was one), retrieve the goods, and bring the stuff back for a fee. Then leave and wait for the next job. When the mask was on, things were strictly business for me.

I exited out the same door, back into the dark and rather unclean alley behind the pub. Deciding it was useless to linger on the ground, I climbed up to roof level with all the agility of a cat, and dashed off through the dark and drizzle, just a shadow flitting briefly across the shingled rooftops of the city. Even with the surfaces slick with the water that came from the sky, I never once lost my footing. Practice makes perfect, and I'd had a lot of it.

Finally, I arrived at my second-to-last destination. It wasn't much to look at, being just a shabby, two-story building situated in the middle of a somewhat bare yard that was surrounded by a broken wood fence. At a casual glance, one might have made the assumption that the place was abandoned. I knew full well, however, that the orphanage was still running.

Wet grass, a bit of gravel, and a good deal of mud squelched or crunched underfoot as I walked over the familiar lot to the familiar oak door that I'd passed through so many times. The old scratches and marks from my days here were still prominent in the wood, along with a few new ones. Ah, how it brought back memories. A pause as I took off the mask and safely tucked it away. Then, with a small breath, I pushed the door open and entered.

It was just as I remembered it. The room was plain, but surprisingly neat considering all the people that used it every day. Multiple tables were scattered around, with an odd assortment mismatching chairs and stools. At the far end of the room, a small stone fireplace was crackling merrily, invoking feelings of nostalgia within me.

At one of the tables, an old man sat, drooped over the scarred wood and fast asleep. I knew him well, though he seemed frailer than the last time I saw him. He'd raised me since I was a boy, and I could never forget the kindness he'd shown me, never forget his wispy white hair and wrinkled face. His name was Mr. Chandler, and I loved the old man dearly, like the father I'd never had.

My soft leather boots barely made any noise on the stone floor as I silently padded across the room, and before I knew it I was standing next to him, the envelope in my hand. It was this that I gently slid beneath his hand, being careful not to wake him.

"I'll see you around, old man," I murmured, smiling.

Don't get the wrong impression. I'm no saint. I think of myself, and pretty much only myself, especially when I'm Cado. But the sad truth was, the government had cut the orphanage's funds recently, and now without my help it would be shut down. This place had been my childhood home, the sanctuary that every kid deserves but doesn't necessarily receive. Stupid as it may have been, I still felt attached to this place, and I was still in debt to Chandler for the kindness he'd shown me. This was just one small way of repaying it. So in a way, I guess you can call me the light side of dark.

The sky was beginning to lighten as I emerged back into the gusty dreariness of reality. Shivering slightly as the wind started to pick up, I slid the mask back over my face. In about half an hour it would be too bright for comfort, but half an hour would be plenty of time for me. With a dry laugh, I stuffed the few bills I'd saved back into my pouch. Why the hell was I laughing? Exhaustion, maybe. It'd been a long night. Time to go home.

With a final glance back, I vanished into the night.

- - -

Author's Note: It may have taken a while, but here's chapter 2! I've finally unclogged my writer's block, which has helped a ton (music's been a wonderful contributor to that). Now I just need to get chapter 3 going..... But in the meanwhile, review!