Just Another Stakeout

Written by Khary, a character on the Earthen Ring server, and posted on the Blizzard Earthen Ring Forums

Khary leaned against a convenient storefront and pulled an apple from the basket over one arm. Her target didn’t seem to be in any hurry, chatting with a woman he’d met in the street, so Khary sighed, shifted the shopping basket to a more comfortable position, and tried to blend in. She could hear most of what the pair were saying, but nothing she could take back to the client as useful.

She stiffened slightly as a guard – she didn’t recognize the tabard; a new unit? – passed between her and the pair. Just another citizen doing her shopping, she thought at him. Nothing to see here; move along.

There was a reason she wasn’t a mage, she reflected sourly as he stopped, nodded at her, and smiled, completely unaffected by her mental prodding. “Morning, miss,” he beamed, puffing out his chest slightly and perfectly blocking her view of the target – although she could see the woman still talking, so things were fine for the moment.

Khary swallowed a bite of apple, tried to look like a model citizen, and gave him her best insincere smile. “Morning, officer.” Go away now, she added silently.

It still wasn’t working. The idiot kept talking – to her chest, no less - and the target was moving. Khary cut the guard off in mid-sentence; tossing the apple core in a nearby flowerbed, she took a deep breath, grinned at the top of his head, and… giggled. “Got to go, they’ll be so angry with me if I don’t finish the shopping!” she told him, eeling between him and the flowerbed.

“But you didn’t give me your name!” he protested. She didn’t bother answering. But she didn’t relax until the target led her several streets away.

The target didn’t seem to be doing anything she could report; he spoke to several women, but even when Khary was close enough to overhear him, nothing he said could be twisted in any way into plans for an assignation. She was beginning to think the client was imagining things, and that was never good for business. Clients who didn’t get what they were expecting usually weren’t happy about paying for the effort.

Then the target stopped for his mail and began strolling toward the Park, sorting letters as he went. She heard a soft exclamation, and he stopped on the canal bridge, tearing open one letter and scanning the page. He chuckled, crumpled the note, and tossed it into the canal, then strode on with a new spring in his step.

Khary’s eyes narrowed. She needed to keep him in sight, but whatever was in the letter was probably important, too. If it didn’t spend too long in the water. A pair of boys solved the problem; fishing poles in hand, they clattered past her, heading for the nearby dock. “Hey!” she called, holding up a silver piece. “One of these for each of you if you get that paper out of the water and bring it to me. And you’ll have to find me later – I can’t wait around.”

One of the boys grinned. “Five each. We gotta find you, that’s money out of our pockets.”

The target was almost out of sight, but Khary couldn’t let that pass. She gave the boy a mild glare, bent to put her face close to his, and murmured, “Two each, and a bonus if you’re smart. Prove it, and don’t push your luck.” Whatever her expression looked like, it worked; he swallowed, nodded, and backed up. She took off after the target.

Two hours later, Khary had a new appreciation for women who wore long skirts and slippers all the time; her feet were killing her, the dress’ hem was filthy, and she really just wanted to sit down. With a drink. And, fortunately, the target obliged her with a stop at the Blue Recluse. She settled herself at a table not far from his, ordered a melon juice (nice young women didn’t drink wine in the middle of the day), pulled out a “shopping list” and began sorting her “purchases”. And only a few minutes later, her target’s “friend” arrived.

An hour after that, Khary had four pages of “shopping list” covered with notes in her somewhat legible scrawl, the woman’s name, a half-decent sketch, and a very uncomfortable feeling as the conversation two tables over turned rather graphically intimate. And she had the letter. Waterstained, to be sure, but damning enough.

The next morning found Khary in a pleasant little meadow near Stormwind, awkwardly patting the sobbing client’s shoulder as the woman cried into a silk handkerchief that probably cost more than Khary’s clothes. The fact that Tai was somewhere in the trees observing Khary’s first solo client report wasn’t helping her nerves – or her temper. “Sorry, ma’am,” she said for the third (fifth? tenth?) time. “Maybe if you talked to him?”

“What would you know about it?” the client moaned. “He’s ruined everything! Just leave me alone!”

“Uh… well, ma’am, I would, but…” Khary sighed. First rule: always get the payment before giving the client the information. Sure, it sounded easy, but when the client started sobbing as soon as she saw you – information in hand or not - not very practical. But the woman could take a hint. She blindly threw a small red pouch at Khary, managing to hit her in the shoulder. Khary checked the coins by feel, patted the client’s shoulder one last time, and headed back to Stormwind at something just short of a run.

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