Garrett gently turned the lock pick and he heard the door lock spring open. He quickly glanced around to be sure there were no guards patrolling in the immediate area. Slowly he eased the door open and slipped inside the vault.

'All too easy.' He thought as he closed the door gently behind him and strolled to the chests lined up along the opposite wall Garrett reached for the nearest one and was surprised to find it unlocked. He lifted the heavy lid and peered inside.

'Empty.' That would explain why it wasn't locked. He moved to the second chest.

'Unlocked and empty!' He grunted in frustration, dropping the heavy lid back into place. Quickly he checked the remaining boxes but there were no riches in this vault. Garrett scrutinized the bare room, easily locating the secret compartment where his main prize was rumoured to be kept. An ancient golden crown, beautifully crafted inlaid jewels, exquisite by all accounts and Lord Dullforth's most cherished treasure.

He located the trigger that opened the compartment and glared in disbelief at the gaping, empty space that opened before him.

'Someone has beaten me here.' The thought had barely entered his head when he heard the shrill of the intruder alarm. He slithered to the door to get out to a better hiding place, but the door would not budge. Garret cursed when he looked at the lock. It was a deadlock; it required a key to open it on both sides of the door. He cursed again, it was such an amateur mistake and he couldn't believe he had made it.

Garrett pressed his ear to the door; he could distinctly hear guards running toward the vault. There was no time to pick the lock so he pressed himself into the dark corner behind the door. He could hear the keys rattling as the guards reached the vault door and he pressed himself even harder against the stone, becoming as still as a rock himself. The door swung open and the guards rushed in, not seeing him in the shadow, hidden by the door. Garrett thrust his foot out and caught the door with his booted toe.

"It's all gone!" One of them exclaimed as Garrett brushed behind them and out the door.

"Lord Dullforth will have our heads for sure."

"I heard that the last time this happened he fed the duty officers to…" The door clanged shut as Garrett scurried down the long hallway, moving from shadow to shadow like a ghost. He swept along silently, every sense alert as he tried to avoid the enraged guards.

As he slinked down to the ground floor he heard more guards running and shouting.

"The garden! Thief in the garden!" A trio of guards came clattering past his hiding place as they raced toward the garden. With all the guards hurrying to that location Garret knew he would easily make it to the main courtyard and out to the City streets. He hurried in the opposite direction of the guards that had just passed him and he came to halt on the edge of the courtyard. Two guards still kept their post at the front gates, their swords drawn and ready. Carefully and quietly Garret crept into the courtyard, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. He looked up to the courtyard wall, to gauge how far he had left to travel and he saw a shadow inching up and over the wall. It was the other thief! The one that had beaten him to the vault. No doubt he had left a decoy of some kind in the garden to pull the guards there so that he could escape over the wall, just as Garret had meant to do.

He sprinted the last few metres to the wall, the sudden noise startling the guards. He was safely up and over it as the guards reached the shadows he had been hiding in.

"Guess it was nothing." Garret heard the guards mutter as he hurried down the street in pursuit of the other thief. Garret wanted to know desperately who this new competition was, and if at all possible, to steal the loot from them. He resented going through all the trouble and danger of breaking into an estate, only to leave empty handed.

Garret diligently followed his quarry through the twisting streets of the City, frequently having to jump into a dark alley, or crook of a wall to avoid the patrols of the City Watch. Even more so to avoid being seen by the other thief. His prey would turn swiftly and unexpectedly at times to see if he was being followed. Garret didn't seriously consider that the thief knew he was there, he was simply being careful, it's the sort of thing Garret would have done if he had just lifted one of the most expensive artefacts in the City.

The thief approached a well-lit intersection and had no choice but to pass into the bright light, giving Garrett his first real look at his target. There was not much for him to see, a dark cloak hanging on a short, lean figure. A typical thief build, wiry and fast, not bulky and built for fighting. Garret was about to continue his pursuit when he heard footsteps approach from behind. He froze against the doorway he was hiding in as a Captain of the City Watch approached the intersection. A two-man patrol happened to come from the right of the intersection and the Captain stopped them.

"Bruno, Wilton." The Captain greeted them with a nod. "Keep your eyes open men, some taffin' thief just cleaned out the Dullforth mansion."

"Filthy taffers." Grumbled Bruno.

"I thought the Sheriff said he had some great plan to exterminate all those rodents and their kind." The Captain merely shrugged, being unable to speak against his commanding officer. "That's not your concern right now, just be on the lookout." The Captain left the two watchmen behind as he continued on his patrol. As soon as the Captain was out of sight Bruno pulled a
bottle of stout from under his tunic and passed it to his companion.

"So who do you think it was this time?"

"Who else?" Wilton spat out a half-swallowed mouthful of ale. "Dullforth had decent security, and most thieves aren't bold enough for that kind of work. Has to be Garret, has to be." Wilton passed the bottle back as he spoke, wiping at his chin with his sleeve. "What I wouldn't do to get my hands on that scum."

"I don't know… Word on the street is there's a new thief around. They call him the Fox and they say there isn't a vault he can't break in to." Bruno lowered his voice as though he feared to speak and Garret strained to hear what was being said. "They say that his mother was a witch and that she consorted with the Trickster." He looked around anxiously as though just speaking the name of the Woodsie Lord would call unnatural horrors upon them. "They say he was born of that union, he's got no mortal father, and he can just vanish into thin air. They say…"

"You daft taffer! You shouldn't listen to anything 'they say', bunch of drunkards and liars pulling your leg. There's no Fox and if there were he's just a man, like any other." Wilton swept past Garret and his counterpart hurried to keep up with him. "Take my word for it, it's Garret, no-one else could be…" Their voices faded into the distance and Garret scurried through the lit intersection, the other thief would likely be long gone by now, he doubted he'd have a chance to catch up.

He hurried down the winding streets, searching for any sign of the thief, but there was no sign of him. The trail was gone. Garrett decided that with the Watch now on high alert the smartest thing for him to do would be to return to his safe house. He slipped through the shadows making his way past the Rois-Dores estate. The guards looked edgy as they manned the imposing front gate, they had clearly head about the break-in at the Dullforth Mansion. Garrett looked at the estate longingly, so far he had not dared to set foot inside those grounds. Unlike most wealthy pompous types, Lord Rois-Dores, despite being renowned for his greed, understood that in order to protect and maintain his wealth he had to invest money in top of the range security to guard his belongings.

Perhaps when the furore over tonight's break-in died down he would consider taking on the challenge of entering the Estate. Then every man, woman and child would know that he, Garrett, was the only true Master Thief of the City.