Something that you probably don't know is that recently I've been attending a series of workshops about writing down in London run by Mainspring Arts. These are happening on various Saturdays over the course of a few months. Over the course of it, I'll write a separate short story and that'll be published in an anthology with the other writers attending.
So yeah, pretty exciting stuff.
This isn't really a blog-post, that won't be coming until December, but I wrote a bunch of stuff as part of these workshops and I thought I'd share one of the stories I've written. So here you go.
The Bronze Statue
Annalise had not gone in to steal the bronze statue, not at all. In fact, she had gone to the ball with the express intention of donating to the charity in question. Run by the Count Broccio, a tall, imposing man with beady green eyes and grey-and-black hair, the ball had promised to be quite the event, with even the most reclusive of barons in attendance. The promise that the Count's statue, an artefact discovered in Peru by the Count's son would be on display had only added to the attraction, which had no doubt been the intention. Overall, it was certainly nothing that a high-society young woman like Annalise would want to miss.
She had strode inside the glittering ballroom, her black rhinestone dress swaying as she walked, ready to show off her charms and greet the Count himself. But then she caught sight of the statue in question and her fingers began to itch.
As a respectable young woman, of course, Annalise would never dream of stealing such a priceless artefact. As a retired thief, Annalise had already begun planning out how she would go about acquiring it within seconds of setting eyes on it.
It was truly a stunning specimen, eyes made of embedded emeralds, old markings etched into the sides, coming round in a spiral to the centre where a single ruby stood. Probably worth billions, Annalise estimated.
Not that that was important. She wasn't planning on selling it.
As she inched her way around the floor, pausing every now and then to send a smile to the young men around, she sorted through her options. The simple swipe-and-run perhaps?
But no. The guards at the doorways would catch her. Perhaps a switch? She'd used that one before when stealing an artwork in Venice.
Yet again, no. The room was lit only by candles. To put out the lights would be no small task and she would surely be noticed. And without darkness, a switch simply would not work.
Annalise paused as a young man stepped around her, one hand outstretched.
“May I have this dance?” he asked with a little too much eagerness.
Annalise took his hand with a brilliant smile. “You may.”
Across the dance-floor they moved, elegantly twisting in and out. No words were exchanged, but that was just fine with Annalise. She spun, bringing the young man closer and closer to the gorgeous statue in the centre.
He seemed almost dopey, his blonde hair flipping into his eyes as he moved, a bright smile on his face. His white gloves were smooth against her hands, far better than the sweatiness that Annalise had experienced before with many a dance partner.
Annalise glanced at the statue, then back at him.
Ah. Of course. A simple manoeuvrer, but one no less useful for all its simplicity.
With that thought, she turned her most stunning smile on the young man who seemed to melt underneath it. As the dance came to an end, he escorted her off the floor.
“May I have the honour of knowing your name, sir?” Annalise asked. “My name is Annalise.”
“My name is Warren, my lady,” said the young man, no less dopey now he was off the dance-floor than he had been on it.
Annalise crushed her feelings of satisfaction. It wasn't done yet. Any good thief knew not to crow too soon. She took his arm, flipping open her fan and fanning herself with it.
“Shall we adjourn to the refreshments table then, Warren?”
Warren's eyes went even brighter. “We shall, Annalise.”
With a silvery smile, Annalise led him to the table, taking a glass of punch for herself and watching him as he ate his fill.
“Do you come from far away?” Annalise asked, sipping at her punch. The bitterness of the alcohol slid down her throat with a burn. She grimaced, placing the punch back on the table.
“Not at all,” smiled Warren. “I come from fairly near here. I own an estate named Woodburn, perhaps you've heard of it.”
“Ah, yes, Woodburn,” said Annalise knowingly. She had not heard of it. “Stunning place.”
Warren nodded in agreement, eating a spring roll with one hand.
“I myself have travelled widely, though more recently I have settled within London,” said Annalise, taking her punch up once more and valiantly sipping at it.
Warren's eyes lit up looking rather like an overly excited puppy. “Indeed?” he asked in a vain attempt to hide his interest.
Annalise nodded. “Of particular interest to me are art galleries and museums,” she said. “I have travelled in order to see some of the most priceless artefacts around.”
Warren brightly smiled. “Perhaps you can tell me more,” he said eagerly. “I too have travelled. Perhaps we could exchange experiences.”
Annalise smiled back. “Perhaps we could. But first, might we adjourn to one of the smaller rooms? I feel rather faint, large crowds have never been my strong suit.” In order to emphasis just how faint she felt, she let herself fall against the table a little, just enough to make the extravagant wine-glasses wobble.
“Ah, yes, of course,” said Warren, quickly slipping his arm around her waist to help her. “Come.”
They made their way out of the main room (and away from that stunning statue) and into a beautifully furnished side-room, with walls made of mahogany panels, a rich-blue painted ceiling and a Turkish rug laid over pale wooden flooring.
Annalise allowed herself to drop onto one of the cosy velvet sofas and smiled at Warren. “Thank you,” she said.
Warren smiled back. “You're welcome,” he said, sitting beside her and taking her hand. “Are you feeling any better?”
Annalise made a face (elegantly of course) and sank back. “I feel awfully hot,” she said sadly. “Perhaps I'm running a temperature. Could you perhaps open a window?”
Warren hurried to do exactly that, pushing open a window then returning to her side. He frowned in concern at her, pulling off his lovely white gloves and dropping them on the floor. He reached out to check her temperature. “Your temperature seems fine,” he removed his hand, still frowning. “Shall I go call for a carriage?”
“If you would,” said Annalise thankfully.
She watched him leave the room, all signs of sickness dissipating as the door shut behind him. She leaned forward and picked up the gloves carefully. She glanced inside, catching sight of a label.
“Perfect,” she murmured, slipping them between the seat-cushions, then suffering a sudden relapse.
Warren hurried back inside within minutes, telling her that her carriage was waiting outside. Out she stepped into the cold night air, she alighted into her carriage and left.
After travelling for roughly five minutes, Annalise slipped out of the side of the carriage, gathering up her skirt and landing perfectly on her feet. She slipped back to the grounds and settled down in a bush to wait.
The party continued for hours more, near endless. But finally, as the dark started to lighten ever so slightly, carriages left and the house was left near-empty.
It was time.
Annalise pushed herself to her feet, slipping around the side of the house to where the window remained open. She pushed herself up onto her hands, raising her legs and slipping through with ease. She landed softly on the rug inside, kneeling and listening for talking on the other side.
She stood up and headed back to the couch, reaching between the couch cushions and pulling out the white gloves, pulling them on inside out and skimming the label. PROPERTY OF WARREN MCMOROUGH. It read in such untidy handwriting that it was actually unbearable. Annalise snickered. What sort of idiot would write in their gloves? Well, served him right.
Pushing open the door, she slipped through the halls to the now empty ballroom. The servants too had gone to bed, leaving the statue completely unguarded.
Annalise smirked to herself, waltzing forward and reaching out for the statue. She gripped it with both hands, lifting it up and making sure to touch all over the stand.
She stopped. Hefting the statue, Annalise frowned at it.
It was too light. She leaned forward, focusing on the ruby in the centre.
To the untrained eye, it would look exactly like a ruby, but to Annalise's definitely not-untrained eye it was very blatantly not.
She took a few steps back, staring in shock. Finally her eyes caught on a piece of white paper poking out from under the statue. She pulled it off carelessly, tearing open the envelope and scowling down at the message.
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, MY LADY.
The paper crumpled in her hand. That handwriting was still unbearably messy. Add to that the 'my lady' on the end and it was unmistakable who'd written it.