The commission

The room was dark, lit only by the flashlight she carried. As the light washed over the items in the large open area, she looked at each of them briefly, then moved on, looking for the specific items she’d been contracted to steal.

Again and again, she thought her search was over, and then with a brief mental shrug of mild irritation, she realised it was not. And she moved on. From item to item, from room to room.

And then she stopped in front of a display of items, briefly reading the title of the small printed notice.

The woman looked at the collection of objects described as “cleaning utensils” and smiled to herself.

Then she laughed quietly. Had others been present, they might well have described it as a pleasant laugh, as such things could be measured, but she was alone.

She attached a small, black round retrieval beacon to the display and pressed the embossed surface. The glass display and its contents shimmered and then vanished.

She waited for two consequences of her actions to occur. Her small callpad, slid inside her trousers, vibrated with a recognised rhythm; the package had arrived at her agent’s preferred delivery place. And a second rhythm, a moment later, confirmed the hefty funds transfer she’d expected as payment.

She had no idea why these things were required, nor by whom; her contract with her agent did not cover that information, and she didn’t need it, though she was mildly curious on occasions such as this.

A collector, she presumed, someone who was interested in twentieth century objects.

Though why anyone would want those torture items? She’d not read the notice clearly, but “cleaning utensils”? Why would anyone, even in the backwards savage era of the twenty-first century, clean themselves with acid, with ammonia and – from what she had seen – with those brushes topped with nasty, sharp bristles?

Once out of the building, and past the electro-security monitors, she accessed the call pad.

Another commission. She raised an eyebrow. Possibly from the same collector.

She looked back at the museum she’d just exited. She wondered whether the new item was in there and whether it was worth just checking…

She shook her head – she was far too professional to make that kind of amateur error. She’d return home, study, research, and discover whatever the hell a “book” was.

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