The job a darklight chro.., p.1
The Job: A Darklight Chronicle, p.1Greg L. Turnquist
A Darklight Chronicle
Greg L. Turnquist
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright © 2017 Greg L. Turnquist
All rights reserved.
Cover art and design: Greg L. Turnquist
This book is dedicated to The Clarksville Christian Writers
Who have bravely listened to my stories week after week
And provided nothing but positive support.
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“ARE YOU READY?” Snitch tilted her head toward her partner, raising a brow in his direction.
James nodded. "You scoped this out, right?” The corner of his mouth twitched. Seated on a crate across from her, he rubbed shaking hands over his pant legs.
Snitch’s lips curled upward. The darkness the alley afforded at night comforted her. James wouldn’t be able to see the lines of her face in the dimness. Did he know her well enough to sense how much she enjoyed meeting in this fashion?
"Three times over the past couple weeks," she said. "In fact, I watched the shop yesterday. Just one watchman. And he's all yours." Snitch met James’ eyes across the darkened space.
And before her eyes, everything about him calmed. His shoulders relaxed and his hands stilled.
The shorthand she and James had developed made for a tight bond. Their ability to read each other was crucial.
Snitch did the same. Just another day at the office.
Taking up step behind Snitch, James’ steady presence stayed with her. They tiptoed through back alleys. This neighborhood was perfect. It had been easier to roam these streets before Melicose overtook the existing government and rose to power. Still, there were enough back routes to avoid armed patrols.
One saving grace of this new overlord was that shops closed earlier. Their mark may have stayed open until 9:00 or later in the past. But now closed its doors before dusk. And an extra three hours of darkness was always something to celebrate.
Brushing hands against the folds of her jacket, Snitch shook hair from her eyes. Her body kept tight to the walls. There was no moonlight and the skies were overcast, still Snitch hugged the walls. She never underestimated, there was always room for more cover, for further concealment.
The heat from James’ body radiated close behind. She allowed a smile to grace her lips. As well, his clattering feet raised the hairs on her neck. How many times had she told him to step more carefully? He had only laughed and called her paranoid.
Releasing a tense breath, she closed her eyes. Maybe he was right. He had helped her close many deals. James could move fast and make quick decisions. If she were to drop him in favor of someone else, she might find it to be a little shortsighted.
Moving again, Snitch rounded the corner. The rear entrance of the fledgling pawn shop was in sight. Apparently, the business owners invested more in the front. Customers were drawn into the front. But for Snitch, the back told her everything. Unlit, no security patrols...the place was vulnerable in all the right places.
Lengthening her steps toward the exposed exterior, she examined the backdoor. And could not help the smile that crossed her features. All that stood between them and their bounty was a nice, big lock with no plate shielding the bolt.
She reached into an inner pocket and pulled out a slim dagger and a wire. Best lock picking kit she had put together. Holding the bolt with the dagger, her other hand jiggled the wire.
Snitch let out a sigh. Could it be that easy?
Slipping the bolt, Snitch pulled the door open but an inch. She peered through the crack. Her eyes darted to the door's hinges as she eased it open. No creaking. Perhaps the owner took better care of the hinges than security.
A few more inches, and she scanned a wider range.
No sound. No movement.
Already hunched down, Snitch slid in.
James’ body brushed against the door. He continued to stay with her. She was thankful he didn't need hand holding—another skill often overlooked.
With both of them inside, Snitch closed the door. Guarding against both sides was important.
She glanced at the whole room. Not big. Several dusty boxes and other piles of junk filled the space. Just one door to the front side of the business remained for them to watch.
Her eyes locked onto James.
Snitch twirled a finger in the air and pointed at the door.
James stepped forward.
Slender and slight of frame, Snitch laid the job of knocking out the night watchman to James. It would be best to hit shops with no guard at all, but since Melicose took control, finding such an establishment was impossible. So she adapted.
Her mind quickly turned to tallying the merchandise she could fence. So far, nothing looked profitable. Perhaps the good stuff was up front. Seeking out the things she could move fast was better than getting stuck with hot goods.
The sound made Snitch smile.
James didn’t waste any time.
Snitch moved into the hallway, and spotted two side doors. The watchman's feet poked out from the left door.
James stepped over the man’s unmoving form and into the hallway. Seeing Snitch, he grinned and saluted.
What was that goofy smile about? Still, Snitch nodded.
James turned and headed up front.
Snitch ducked into the room on the right. The office? Perhaps that was where she would find the strongbox.
A desk covered in papers and other junk stood in the center of the room. Twisting her lip, Snitch’s eyes moved up and down. People hid strongboxes in all kinds of places. But she had learned to trust her instincts.
A stack of papers in the corner drew her attention. Snitch narrowed her eyes. She lifted the stack and spotted a small box with a lock on the front. Her lips turned upward.
James' feet! Something wasn't right.
Snitch hunched. Glancing at the strongbox, then the door, she returned the stack of papers. Maybe another night.
She moved to the door, her ears straining.
Her gut told her to run. When in doubt, run. Don't stay behind. Don't be a hero. Run. Count on your partner to make it as well. If you stay behind and he stays too, all will be lost. The rich and powerful sneered and called it ‘no honor among thieves’. But Snitch had seen enough caught to learn her lesson and not fall for such trite words.
But this time something felt different. Another part of her urged her to wait. A small flash of light in the corner of Snitch's eye drew her attention. She slid the door open and peered toward the front. Again, nothing.
Was someone else here? Was that glimmer a reflection of a lamp hitting a random edge?
She pushed the door a little more and crawled into the hallway. No point getting cornered.
James was in trouble. Otherwise, he’d have already linked back with her. No way was he getting nailed for a job she had put together.
Snitch drew the slim dagger of her lock pick kit and crept to the front of the pawnshop. No door, just a curtain.
Peeking through the slit between the doorjamb and the curtain, she spotted James on the floor, not moving. No one else.
Her eyes swept to the back, widening as she gleaned that the watchmen's feet no longer poked out. Snitch stepped past the curtain and jumped behind the main counter.
She pestered James all the time about making racket, and here she was ten times worse.
Forget about pulling a load tonight. Snitch's mind moved to escape. And she had already ditched the thought of running by herself.
She snuck to the other end of the counter to get a view of the front door. The thought of carrying James was ridiculous.
Thick booted feet in the hallway caused Snitch's stomach to tense up.
Her hand clutched the dagger tighter.
"Looks like some street thug looking for a quick buck," said a deep, baritone voice.
It was still dark, but the motion of the curtain was clear.
“You got the jump on him, that’s for sure,” said another.
Two extra watchmen? She had only seen one the night before.
Snitch balled up in the corner. By instinct, she had pulled a burlap sack over herself before the two entered. Lack of motion was critical. In low light, the eye doesn’t see edges and lines, but hones in on movement. Snitch melted into the junk stashed behind the counter.
"We should probably tie him up and contact the owners.”
"Yeah. He's not going anywhere. Want to help me find some rope in the back?" They moved back through the curtain.
It was now or never. In a few minutes, James would be tied up. The owners would be here. And pretending to be a pile of junk would no longer work.
Snitch hopped up. No time for slow crawling. She hustled to the other side of the room and rolled James to his back.
The back door was a no-go. She looked up at the front door.
Snitch padded to it and inspected the lock. Was there time for another lock picking job? Her thoughts eased as her hand grabbed the inside knob and turned it. The bolt above the doorknob slid open. She released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
She pulled the door ajar.
Looking at her dagger, then at James, an idea formed.
"This looks good.” The baritone voice carried through the hallway.
Snitch grimaced. Just one way to get James. Shaking was no good.
“JAMES!” She jabbed his hand with the dagger.
“Ow!” he shouted, sitting up, clutching his hand.
She pushed hard, and his feet responded to her commands.
In a couple seconds, they were out the front door, Snitch tugging at him the whole time.
The watchmen chased them for several blocks, but it was no good.
Having combed this area many times, Snitch had the better knowledge of the area. Every turn she made put their pursuers further behind.
Finally, she stopped and worked her way back to where the night had started. Snitch collapsed on the ground next to the same crate she sat on earlier.
James stood, holding his hand while gritting his teeth. "You know, that really hurts.”
Snitch glanced at him from where she lay. Did she have any fight left in her?
The clouds had cleared letting starlight glisten in his eyes.
Snitch grinned, pulling herself into a seated position.
James pulled a rag out of his pocket. “I owe you big time. Still not sure why you didn't run.” He wrapped his hand.
"Something was different. Something about this city has changed. You’ve helped me through thick and thin. It feels like we can't just look out for ourselves anymore." Snitch looked down as she spoke, her hands thrust into her pockets.
"So what's our next move? Any chance to revisit that place?"
"I don't think so. I found the strongbox, but my gut says it's a lost cause.” Snitch shrugged. “You know, I’ve heard about a group hiding in the forest. I was going to check them out after tonight.”
"Another business venture?" James sat and propped his feet up on a garbage can.
"Yes and no. This one I have to do by myself.” Snitch’s lips flattened as her eyes connected with James. “You might want to shop around for a new business partner.”
James gave her a long look.
What was that in his gaze? Or was she just imagining something that wasn’t there?
After several moments, he reached out with his good hand.
Snitch extended her arm and shook it.
"I hope you find what you're looking for.” James stood and walked away.
Snitch sat, her chin propped on her hand, until the sound of James’ feet disappeared into the night.
Then she rose and left. Time to check out whoever this group was. Maybe there was something to this idea of helping others.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg has read scifi since he was a kid including Asimov, Herbert, Saberhagen, and Del Rey. Years ago, the idea of a futuristic world reduced to a medieval existence began to bounce around in his head. He also loves slinging code as a software geek, and has written several non-fiction books. He lives in middle Tennessee with his wife and family.
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