The Buruj

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Zafirah crumpled his calling card into her pocket. She had deciphered his code too easily. Bridge, Buruj, really? That bloody thief was up to something. But seeing no one by the bridge, she limped towards a bench, leaning heavily on her forearm crutch with each step.

But she stopped short, glaring at a large tree ahead. Under the dim park light, long shadows had wrapped themselves around its trunk. One in particular had moved slightly. Without hesitation, she wielded her crutch like a sword, driving it straight into the tree. But her metal rod hit only wood when the shadow leapt out in time. She pulled out her crutch with an effort. A hole was bored into it.

"Time out, time out!" exclaimed the dark figure, distancing himself quickly from her.

"I got your message. What is it you want, White Mask?"

The notorious thief pushed off his grinning white mask. Under it, a tanned handsome face smiled back at her. His dimples made him appear boyish despite the shadow of a beard on his strong jaws. When she glared, the playful smile faltered. Yet just as determined, the thief held her gaze, his soft dark eyes revealing too much of his heart.

She turned away.

"I need your help, Zafirah." He approached her cautiously.

"You have a clever team of thieves, Mansoor. Why ask help from me? I'm just a struggling private detective."

With a sigh, Zafirah settled on the bench. As she put aside her crutch, one end of her hijab came loose. Quickly, she pinned it to its rightful place, once more fully wrapped, once more safe from the cold evening and from his blunt emotions.

"If you must know, I was requested to steal the Buruj for a good reason." The thief sat beside her, deliberately too close to her. When there was no reaction from his bold move, he dared further by capturing her hands into his large gloved ones.

She didn't pull away.

"My client," continued Mansoor, "feels there's something wrong with it. Anyone who wears it will die tragically. It's even been expected that someone will die tomorrow."

She frowned. Why tomorrow? If it was so dire, why didn't his client ask for her help instead?

"I love it when you're thinking so hard." He held her gaze once more then let go gently.

The stolen Buruj laid warm on her palm, scalding her with his heat. The warmth rose to her cheeks.

"So steal the stone then return it once the cursed time is over?" She wondered.

"You know I don't do that! I don't believe in curses either. But I don't want my team dying tomorrow if I do keep the Buruj. That's why I'm lending it to you to find out more. But if it's nothing - "

"I'll bring you to jail then," she concluded for him, gripping the precious stone tightly.

"I'd like to see you try."

With a parting nod, he slipped back behind his facade, once more the infamous White Mask. He disappeared into the night, a slick figure never easily captured.

Zafirah slipped the precious stone into her pocket. She pinched the bridge of her nose.

Another sleepless night in her dark flat.

Only the hurried clicks and scrolling of her mouse disrupted her peaceful sanctuary. On her large monitor, every article and video clip featured the tragic deaths of the wealthy Shukur family, rightful owners to the Buruj. The only one left was the youngest child, Farhain. Being sentimental, the thirteen-year-old had worn the small stone as a pendant, needing it to be close to her heart, close to the memories of her family. Her only kin now was her loving Aunt Sakinah.

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