An instant or two of silence, and then, as neighboring prisoners all burst out laughing, Julien cursed, face growing redder still, and left the corridor, returning moments later with a second set of keys.
The lock clicked, the bars swung inward, and the Guardsman stalked across the room, slamming to a halt directly before the young woman. "One last time, Widders.h.i.+ns. Give me my keys."
"I don't have your stupid keys, Bouniard!"
"Fine. I'll be as professional about this as I can." He began to search her, thoroughly. Prison garb didn't allow a plethora of hiding places, but Julien checked them all with an expert touch. Widders.h.i.+ns felt herself flush, but, true to his word, he remained professional, neither his eyes nor his hands lingering any longer than necessary.
As Bouniard neared the end of his search, Widders.h.i.+ns twisted her right wrist, just enough so the chain clanked audibly.
Bouniard instantly straightened, casting a suspicious glare first at that hand, and then at her face. "Don't move until I'm done," he ordered.
By then, of course, it was too late. In the instant he'd turned to her right, Widders.h.i.+ns's left hand had darted out, to the very end of the chain's slack, and snagged Bouniard's keys. She really hadn't stolen them when she'd collapsed against him at the bars. She'd simply moved them to the back of his belt, knowing he'd leap to conclusions when they weren't in their accustomed spot. This time, she swiped them properly, allowing them to rest inside the sleeve he'd already searched.
With a curse of disgust, Bouniard stood, graced her with another angry glower and a stern "Don't move," and unclasped the manacles, backing away swiftly as the iron clamps clicked open. Widders.h.i.+ns watched in mounting amus.e.m.e.nt as the major stormed from the cell. He slammed the gate with a resounding crash that echoed along the hall, apparently having taken up a formal patrol.
"Maybe you dropped them somewhere," she offered helpfully.
Bouniard's left cheek twitched twice, and then he was gone, leaving Widders.h.i.+ns once more alone in the dimly lit cell.
"After that," Widders.h.i.+ns continued earnestly over the rim of her goblet, br.i.m.m.i.n.g with a rich red that Genevieve had been saving for a special occasion, "it was just a matter of waiting long enough for the s.h.i.+ft change. I just unlocked the cell door, went to the end of the hall, and rang the bell." She frowned briefly. "The other prisoners wanted me to let them out, too," she added thoughtfully. "But I just didn't think that would be right. I mean, I didn't want any real criminals to escape."
"Of course not," Gen agreed, hiding her smile behind her own goblet. "Some people belong in jail."
"Absolutely!" Widders.h.i.+ns a.s.sented, oblivious. "Anyway, the guard wasn't expecting the bell, since he
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