“But I can’t help but wonder: why like this?”
Surely he couldn’t have meant that question seriously.
“Why do I convince people that they want to give me stupidly large sums of money, rather than scaling walls, evading guards, and breaking into chests and vaults to steal it myself?” I let the words hang in the air briefly. “Let’s see if you can figure it out.”
Ilius nodded, once. “Point taken. Maybe I’m just overly used to dealing with… unsubtle individuals.”
“Aww. Poor you.” I doubt even I could’ve made that sound like it was actually sympathetic.
“Quite. Which is why it occurs to me that I might, on occasion, have need of someone with your particular talents.”
Ah. So that’s what this is about. “I take it you’re not here for Hamwere, then.”
He pushed the purse across the table toward me; the one I’d started leaving with when I came across Ilius. “Come back and clean the idiot out for all I care. No, he was just my best chance for catching up with a fabled thief.”
“And it’s been enlightening,” I said, standing up from the table. “But I’m really not looking for a patron.”
“Ah, but now I know who you actually are. You wouldn’t want some of my unsubtle associates paying your family an unsubtle visit, would you?”
I sank back into the chair. No, that wouldn’t do at all.
“Plus, it’d give me a reason to protect your secrets. You get to keep working on your little reputation, you get to keep your family, and I get a few trifling matters sorted out here and there.” He grinned smugly. “Everybody wins.”
No, Ilius Crowclaw wins, I thought. The best I can do is to not lose horribly.
“Everybody wins,” I answered.