Thief diary: giving Garrett a hand in the tailor shop theft

Omri Petitte

It was a tailor shop of ordinary repute, the cluttered and shuttered windows shoved into a corner of the mist-swept alleyway like something out of a sinister Harry Potter chapter. I've steered master-thief Garrett over here not for a re-tightening of his man-corset, but for a possible swipe at a piece of interesting loot I first learned from a criminal's corpse. (Long story.) Distantly, the City's ancient and looming clocktower—a handy hideout for Garrett to access the City proper, by the way—booms the late night hour with a reverberating chime. Time to get to work.

I'm here for a mechanical hand. I've no idea how the shop's owner, Alfonso, came across the contraption, but it didn't matter—it would rest in Garrett's sack of shinies before dawnbreak. I start my way towards the shop, a few sub-objectives appearing across the screen: remain undetected, steal all loot, and avoid kills or knockouts. They're bonus tasks designed for stealthy completionists, and I pledge to myself to ace all three of them while I'm here.

Before I could kick off a plan, an altercation was stirring up at the store's front entrance. A City Watchman had roughly grabbed a passerby by the scruff of his neck, his stubbled sneer mere inches from the poor man's face. “No one allowed outside during lockdown,” he growls before shoving the man face-first onto the pavement. The guard took up a bouncer's stance in front of the doorway while the pedestrian scampered off. Perhaps it was the mysterious Gloom epidemic gripping the City that soured the guard's attitude, or maybe the guy was just classically nasty—either way, I wasn't waltzing into the shop from the front anytime soon.

A separate alley running parallel alongside the shop seems the way to go. Lined with trash and lit with a solitary streetlamp, the passage is a subtle-enough branching of options without hitting me over the head with a “more choices this way, dummy” directional arrow. I mentally file away the location of a darkened alcove kitty-corner from the shop as a suitable hiding spot just in case things go crazy.

Almost to the store's rear entrance, I hear scuffling and footstep noises from within. I definitely won't be alone once I enter. I try the direct approach first: I slowly crack open the surprisingly unlocked door and edge into the storefront, a wood-paneled interior awash in a mixture of electric and candlelight.

“Too many eyes and ears,” I hear Garrett mutter. He's right; another Watchman is slouching into view from the other side of the room. He stops by a nearby cabinet, fishing through it and mumbling something about a key. It's another auditory clue—the hand is most likely locked away in a safe or some other secure spot, and both I and the City's finest are hunting for the same thing.

Alfonso himself was huddling behind a counter close by, wringing his hands and looking everything like a cowardly shopkeeper stuck in an overwhelming predicament. A gleaming antique cash register sat atop the counter, the kind with the wooden buttons and the lever with the satisfying “cha-ching” sound. I wish Garrett had a “greedy hand-rub” ability, but I opt to heed his earlier advice and back out for now.

Outside, I resort to my trusty stealth-game fallback of taking to the rooftops when in doubt of where to go next. I look up. Bingo, an open window to the store's second floor. I scamper up the wall and hoist myself inside.

I'm crouched down inside a small side-room sparsely decorated with a single table and a flickering candle, which I quickly pinch out to dim the room. The door leads into another room that looks like a workshop. Another counter sits squarely in the room's center, sewing machines and bolts of cloth atop it. Garment designs and spec sheets plaster the walls, but my gaze discards the City's latest fashion trends for a pair of glimmering scissors resting beside a stack of thread rolls. Before I could snatch it, I hear footsteps outside the room's closed doorway. Someone was coming.

I shrink back into the murk of the small room I climbed into, using Garrett's wall-peeking ability to keep tabs on whatever unfolds while staying hidden. The door bangs open, and another Watchman stomps inside. He stops just beyond the entrance, casting a surly glance around, looking like someone who'd rather be home guarding some bread and stew instead of some sniveling seamsman. “Might as well lift something while I'm here,” he grouses. I give him a mental high-five from one burglar to another, but I just wish he'd leave so I can get on with some serious thieving.

He eventually exits, but if I remember the simplest lesson from “Stealth Game Guard 101” classes, it's that he'll be back to repeat his pilfering. I use the moment of isolation to yank the scissors into my hands and figure out how to progress from here. The door isn't an option; the Watchman would see me sneak out. I need to get off this floor and into a separate part of the store.

I spot a ventilation grille set low in the wall near the far corner. Perfect. I can use the nifty new ratchet tool I bought from a fence in a different part of the City to get myself around the second story unseen. Garrett carefully unscrews the grille's cover plate with a practiced hand.

The vent shaft leads to a bathroom. Another open window overlooks the side alley, and I can see silvery moonlight filtering into the room and reflecting off the bathtub's porcelain. I'll probably return here to shortcut out to the alley after I'm done, so I leave everything untouched as I continue on.

The bathroom feeds into a modest living area complete with a merrily crackling fire, a disheveled bed, and a couple of modeling mannequins—the perfect setup for the chic bachelor tailor living in the heart of the City. I head out the room's opposite side into a short hallway. The Watchman, whose circular patrol had led him back into the workshop room, was conveniently eyeballing some darning needles with his back turned. I could've given him a good thwack with my blackjack, but I'm still set on ghosting out of here without a trace. I scoot through the hallway and down some steps.

I pass by a curtain separating the stairwell from the front of the store, the Watchman's incessant griping of a key sailing through the hangings. Another set of steps led down to a stony basement lit by a single bulb. The room's configuration mirrored that of the workshop above: a counter set in the middle with tailoring implements. Various cloth materials and tools crowd the heavy stone walls, shrinking the room's size to somewhere between a roomy walk-in closet and a studio apartment.

I found the last guard here rummaging around the junk lining the basement perimeter. Before long, he gave up in disgust and walked back to stare at a small iron compartment sitting innocuously in the far corner. Safe get.

This presents the most interesting scenario of the mission so far: how do I break open and loot a safe under the nose of someone barely four feet away? Again, I could've simply clocked the schmuck over the head and been done with it, but Garrett didn't dress up in his Crow-meets-ninja gear just to go caveman on whoever stands in his way. This calls for cunning and subtlety. This calls for ye olde light-switch trick.

When the Watchman tries to jiggle the safe's lock for the umpteenth time, I hit the switch for the light near the bottom of the steps. He predictably yelps in surprise and starts heading over my way. I speedily turn to the side and use Garrett's swoop ability to quickly zip behind the opposite side of the counter. Garrett's lockpicks come into view as I step up to the safe, and he deftly sets the pin against the lock's tumblers. It's a familiar minigame of rotating the pin's alignment until an on-screen circle lights up to indicate I've tapped the tumbler into the correct position. There's that thrill of risking detection at any moment, the rush as the heart beats just slightly faster during a tense breath of time—a spot of uncertainty that stealth games pull off so well.

The light snaps back on. Time's up. The final tumbler clicks into place. Garrett swings open the safe door with a rapidity almost suggesting he's as aware as I am of this rapidly dwindling moment of opportunity. The prize lay inside—a metal hand, a victory of metalsmithing, its cold steel dully reflecting the room's light.

Garrett snatches it. He brings it up to my view, sharing a triumphant examination of his catch with his controller before storing it safely away. I immediately swoop back behind the counter just as the Watchman turns my way and stares blankly back into the room. I hold my breath. I realize virtual thugs can't hear me breathe. I exhale.

One swoop later, and I'm back in the stairway. I hear a muffled cry and a sudden thumping noise. That can't be good. I climb up to the curtained doorway and peek inside. Looks like the Watch ran out of patience with Alfonso. He's out cold and spread-eagled on the floor. It's lucky, really: I can sweep the storefront with two less eyes and ears.

Candles festoon the room like a church altar, and I can't see any shadowy corners to take refuge from the Watchman who's still going on about the key even after he bashed Alfonso's brains in. I think it's time to bring out Garrett's staple water arrows for some ranged dousing. Garrett's bow snaps into firing position. I nock a water arrow and aim for the nearest candle. Swoosh-splash. Check the Watchman: he's ogling a drawing of a female model posing in a curvy dress.

I assassinate the rest of the candles with my arrows until the room is suitably darkened enough, leaving a lone electric light burning above the cash register. I set myself to the task of pinching the room's valuables from drawers and cabinets, nabbing a couple golden cups and a pocket watch or two from the joint. I even lift the Watchman's coin purse off his belt. The register doesn't have a single coin in it, surprisingly. Of course. Who'd fall for that cliché? Oh, wait.

Time to leave. I head for the backdoor leading to the side-alley. I'm hoping for a clean and straightforward getaway before someone realizes a ton of candles suddenly extinguished for no reason. I'm pressing myself against the wall as I slide down the alley, but I'm not cautious enough: my foot grazes a discarded liquor bottle, sending it rolling and clinking away. The sound of glass grinding upon stone feels like the loudest thing in the world at this moment.

“Huh? Who's there?” the front entrance guard calls out. I'm near the dark alcove I mentioned earlier. I quickly vault over a small ground-level window and cram myself into a corner and out of line of sight. The Watchman soon shows up, his sword drawn and his movements cautious. He peers into the alcove's gloom, but it's not too long before he shrugs and trudges back to his post.

I hop back into the alley and follow him at a discreet distance, keeping myself low to the ground and deep within pools of shadow. I can see the gate I entered the area from. This is the moment I either punch the air in triumph or smash my head on the desk because of a last-second detection.

The Watchman starts turning around. I panic and smash the swoop button, rolling Garrett away like a Russian tumbler and right into the gate. Safe, sound, and loaded with loot. Mission complete.

My performance stats appear on-screen: all loot found, everyone unharmed (except poor Alfonso), and not a single detection. The info doesn't indicate any bonuses, but I assume it's something along the lines of an extra gold payout. The welcome satisfaction of a full-stealth run doesn't hurt either.

I don't mind the praise, but I prefer a different calling card: that when the lights come back up, someone realizes they've lost everything of value.

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