I went to the vault, intending to clear it. The time – lock would engage soon, and we didn’t want anybody getting stuck. The massive wheel was heavy, but spun without resistance, not even a squeak. I pulled the door open,and looked in at a huge red lizard, looking back at me in startlement.
No. That was no lizard. That was a damn dragon. Fire erupted, just a wisp, and I slammed the vault shut, turning the wheel. Hell no. To hell with that. Maybe someone slipped me something and I was hallucinating, but I wasn’t going back in there without backup.
The intercom crackled on. “Officer! Wait!”
That voice. That pitch, that command. I wasn’t used to hearing it plead, but…..”Miss Kerris?”
“Who is that? Is that Tolson? O’graf?”
“Slate Grey, ma’am.”
There was a pause. “Is that a joke?”
“You’d have to ask my parents, ma’am. Ma’am…..are you alone in there?”
“…..Yes. Please let me out.”
I’d never heard her say please, either. I spun the wheel and pulled the vault open, coming face to face with …
“Miss Kerris.” I leaned around her to look into the vault, but it was empty.
“Please keep what you saw to yourself.”
“Miss Kerris . . . what are you?”
“Listen, Officer Grey, if you cause trouble for me, I will make you disappear, just like that. This bank is mine. I built it from nothing, and I will not risk losing it for the life of one human. You will keep my secret, one way or another.”
My mind was reeling, a a corner of it had hidden away from emotion. It had a plan. I bottled up thw swirling panic, and let that corner run on autopilot. “It’s just a little surprising, ma’am. You looked pretty fierce.”
She stood a little taller. “I was pretty fierce – looking, wasn’t I? And majestic.”
“Very majestic, ma’am. Noble.”
“Carry on, Grey. I may have use for you later. Stand ready.”
She walked away, strutting a little more than normal, and I sighed in relief. I don’t know what I just stepped in, but it looked like I was okay, for now. I left my feelings bottled for the moment, to process later; I still had work to finish.
A beeping started up behind me, and I went to look around the vault briefly, before closing it. A row of lights lit up, a series of thunks as the vault locked itself for the night. Maybe the vault was the wrong word. Maybe it was more properly a hoard.
Ms. Kerry -Tasiel Kerry, more appropriately, though her birth certificate said Tasha – went home to her flat, a little extra spring in her step. Noble, he’d called her. Sure, she’d prompted him, but humans just didn’t know how to give compliments. “Pretty,” and “lovely,” as if her pride should be in her appearance. He had complimented her character – ferocity and nobility!
She closed her door behind her, and leaned back against it, allowing herself an undignified little dance of delight as she kicked her heels off, directly onto a shoe rack. It’d been so long since she’d gotten a proper compliment. She would have to reward this man with his silly name. Slate Grey. Might as well call him Grey Grey. Double Grey. She’d think of a better name to embarrass the human with later.
She strode into her bedroom and to the bed strewn with gold coins. She undressed, reveling in the cool air on her skin after the heat outside, and threw herself onto the bed of coins. Reaching over her head, she scooped her fingers through the coins, holding a few aloft. An aureus, a yin yuan, a floren, and a bezin. Not originals, of course, replicas of particular coins she owned, those locked in a safe in their cases, with their certificates. But still gold, most of a purity higher than the original’s standard. Paper money just wasn’t the same. It was so flimsy, you couldn’t feel the value of it. She scooped a handful of coins over her stomach, smiling, sheltered once again with her treasure.
As she luxiated in her gold, she thought back to her compliments. She knew she was letting them influence her, but she didn’t care. She’d let the childish human manipulate her, for now. It felt nice to get real compliments, for once.