This story is the third place winner of the March 2022 Short Story Contest.
His boots thunder on the pavement of the courtyard, kicking up small bits of gravel as he races towards the doors of the museum. A glimpse of a shadowy figure dancing across the rooftop makes him run harder, each breath tearing at his throat.
The doorknob is slippery with rain and he can feel the heavy weight of the waterlogged coat on his shoulders. He taps at his pockets frantically only to watch the wood creak open on its hinges, leading the way into the building. He pushes the persistent thoughts about how it was unlocked to the back of his mind. He can dwell on them as he stares into his coffee the next morning, sitting behind the piles of reports covering his desk.
That is if he wasn’t able to catch them. Again.
The higher ups were starting to get anxious and it only got worse every time that Lucifer was able to get away. The bastard was able to slip through their fingers without a care, always sporting that insufferable, unbearable, absolutely despicable, perfect, smile.
This time is going to be different, he promises fiercely, this time I'm going to catch them.
All the museum hallways he finds himself running though look eerily similar. So much so that if someone said they were actually the same he would believe them. They're always lined with glass display cases opposite huge windows with creaky wooden floorboards.
They had to be in one of these rooms, the problem was finding which one. All of them housed priceless artifacts of one sort or another, but his thief always seemed to go for a certain kind.
Rings embedded with fat diamonds, crowns studded in shining red rubies and necklaces made of thick golden chains. You name it, they wanted it.
Today wasn't the day his observations would lead him astray, a familiar shadow standing on the rim of the open window.
“About time you showed up darling, I was getting bored,” they drawl, pressing a hand over their heart. “I do hate it when you keep me waiting,"
He bites back a retort. They've done this dance enough times for him to know that's exactly what
"Give me back the jewels," he says instead.
"If I just handed them back that wouldn't be any fun now would it?" Lucifer coons. "How about we play a game instead?"
His throat works as his words get stuck, an outright refusal being out of the question.
The thief continues anyway. "I've left a single ring in the case to your right,"
A quick flick of his eyes tells him they aren't lying.
"If I'm able to get it, I win. If you can defend it for five minutes, you win,"
There has to be a catch. There was always a catch.
"What happens if you win?" he croaks.
"You have to let me leave with all of the jewels,"
His shoulders slump slightly. Lucifer would leave with them if he refused to play.
"And if I win?"
"I'll give back every single jewel I stole from my last three heists,"
His mouth goes dry. That was a good deal. That was a really, really good deal.
There has to be a catch.
For Lucifer to gamble the chance of giving back the jewels they stole, they needed to be more than one thousand percent sure they would win.
He weighs his options, but neither seems all too tempting.
Lucifer was small and lithe, made for stealth and agility while he was tall and heavy set, much more comfortable taking hits than dishing them out.
He licks over his teeth while clenching and unclenching his hands as they hang limply by his sides.
"I'll play," he grinds out.
"Yay!" Lucifer claps their hands together and bounces on the balls of their feet.
He had expected a warning of some sort but that was wistful thinking.
Lucifer lunges for the jewel, dropping their cloak onto the windowsill and leaving themselves in a tight fitting shirt and pants.
He moves himself in front of the jewel, expecting Lucifer to dodge around him and grab it by opening the case from the back.
Instead the thief stops just in front of him, so close he can smell the product they use to keep their caramel curls in place.
One moment he's staring into the mesh covered gaps of their mask, the next it's deep green eyes that catch the droplets of moonlight that snake their way in through the ornate windows.
"Not what you expected, detective?"
He doesn't want to admit - least of all to Lucifer himself - that he's entertained that thought of what they looked like under the decorative mask that covered their eyes.
It looked straight out of masquerade ball and he had reason to believe the details painted onto the plastic were made of real gold.
He blinks slowly, jaw heavy as he tries to stammer out some form of response to defend himself only for the thief to be gone when he opens his eyes.
He turns to look at the display case behind him.
The glittering jewel was replaced with a neatly folded card. The words inside were written in a soft red that looked like liquid velvet, the name 'Lucifer' scrawled in messy cursive.
He reads over the words once. Then again. Then one more time, just to be sure.
It's a time and place.
For a date.
The condescending smile drawn into the corner makes his skin itch. He crumples the paper and throws it onto the floor, kicking it at one of the empty display cases.
There was no way he was going to fall for such an obvious trap, absolutely no way.
He was going to go so that he could get information and no other reason.
The wind makes their cloak billow, the flap of fabric masked by the heavy thunder.
A smile plays over their lips, jewels digging into their back. "I'll see you soon, my darling detective."