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A giant crash combined with the sound of breaking glass woke me up in the middle of the night. Jax jumped awake and ran downstairs growling and barking. I quickly glanced at my alarm clock which read 3:03 AM in a bright red glow. Hazily trying to remember if I had actually received a package last night or if it had all been a dream. I threw on my robe over my pajamas and bolted downstairs after Jax, not even considering the dangers a potential burglar could present.

“JAX!” I whisper yelled, trying to calm him down and protect him, although he was trying to do the same for me. It was pitch black in my house, no nighttime light coming from the moon or the stars tonight. I abruptly turned on all the lights in an attempt to startle any intruder, grabbing my metal water bottle to use as a weapon if necessary. Jax followed me as I walked through the kitchen and began to turn the corner into the living room where we heard some rustling about.

“Oh dear. Clumsy me, now look what I have gone and done. No good, this is no good at all,” said a high-pitched British male voice from the room. He did not sound like a threat and Jax and I looked at each other, heads tilted in curiosity, as we turned the corner to confront the intruder.

As we saw each other the little man’s bright green eyes lit up in excitement. He was no more than 4’11” and he was a squat little man with thick glasses and a bushy mustache, probably to make up for his bald head. He wore jeans and a plaid button up with a white lab coat. He was definitely not the kind of person I would expect to be breaking into my house at three in the morning.

“Oh, you must be Ms. Honar! I am truly so excited to meet you. I must apologize I seem to have knocked over a rather large vase that has crashed and broken. I can have it replaced immediately! I meant no harm it was just so dreadfully dark in here when I arrived and I had some trouble finding the lights. L’hotel Chambrea had assured me that you knew I would come calling so I assumed you would be waiting with the lights on. Although, I do admire your commitment to the mission at hand. I can tell you have gone to great lengths to conceal the project and mission, keeping the lights off, seemingly going about your regular night time routines. Yes, yes, quite clever, we must keep up our appearances. You are more prepared to join the team than I had realized! I assume you have also put together your emergency plans? Where is your luggage- you must also be packed and ready to go? And you have someone coming to watch the house while you will be gone? That is very important; it must look lived in and we cannot have anyone snooping around here for clues into our secrets. No, no, that won’t do. Oh goodness, I am so impressed you have taken care of all of this already! Come come, grab your luggage and put on some more suitable street wear. We have no time to waste since you have thought of everything ahead of time!” The man who I assumed was Mr. Winston/Bedford spoke so rapidly that I could not get in a word edgewise and my head spun in circles of confusion just trying to keep up with the old man. Emergency plans? Luggage? House sitter? The last bit about needing to worry about further intruders was the most unsettling.

Before he could start speaking again I tried to force out a few words, but he was hustling and bustling about trying to clean up the mess he made that he barely acknowledged I was still standing in front of him. “Excuse me, excuse me, EXCUSE ME! Mr. Winston-Bedford, I don’t know what the hotel told you, but they were most mistaken. I was told you would be calling me, or that someone would be in touch, and after that I should be prepared to leave for the mission. I’ve only just gone to sleep a few hours ago after talking to the concierge. And frankly, I still don’t even know what project or mission I have even agreed to be a part of! So please, slow down one minute so we can clarify a few things here,” I paused to take a deep breath.

At this point I realized I had said all the wrong things because all the color dropped from his face and his eyes grew wide, the sparkle disappearing from them.”Wh-wh-wh-wh-WHAT?! What do you mean? The concierge said he told you I would come calling and to be prepared to drop everything at once when the time came. I-I-I…Is your suitcase even packed? And what have you done with the artifacts? Did you put them in a safe once you saw what they were? I’m. I don’t.” At this point his head began to shake back and forth rapidly like he was shaking his head “no” on fast forward.

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Page 19 of 365

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