Best Acting In a Life or Death Situation

Prompt: Take a bow.

Mischief’s chirp was the only warning Ezra got that he was no longer alone. He spun away from his work as Severin stepped across the room to where he sat. “Well,” Ezra said, forcing a sunny smile onto his face. “What a pleasant surprise! What can I do for you this fine day?”

“Keller has a new project for you,” Severin said. He set a bill on Ezra’s desk. When Ezra lifted it to look at it more closely, Severin leaned in close. “Can you sculpt printing plates for that?”

Ezra kept his expression neutral for a moment. Then, he smiled again. “Easily,” he said. He set the bill back down on the desk. “When does Keller want them completed?”

“Two weeks,” Severin said. “I’ll be back to check on your progress next week.” His expression became more intent for a moment and he said, “I don’t have to tell you not to breathe a word of this to anyone. Do I?”

“Of course not,” Ezra said. “My lips are sealed. I’ll have the plates complete in two weeks and then… well, you can print as much money as you need, can’t you.” There was, of course, no way he would keep this knowledge to himself. It was just the sort of thing Chris would want to know. However, he wasn’t sure how he could say anything without Severin finding out. In any case, he had no intention of giving Keller usable printing plates.

Severin looked at Ezra for a long moment. The gallery was completely silent, except for the ticking of the clock on the wall. Ezra managed to keep the smile on his face – to keep his thoughts clear. He could feel Severin searching through them, trying to find some hint of deception.

Finally, he nodded. “Very well,” he said. He turned and headed for the door. “The money will be deposited into your account after delivery is made.”

As soon as he was gone, Ezra heaved a sigh of relief. He took a long, shuddering breath and then glanced at Mischief. “That… was quite the performance,” he said. A faint smile played at his lips. “I deserve a Cammy for that bit of acting.”

Mischief chirped and trilled in agreement.

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