The boy crept over the building and peered down into the alley. He could not see much but the smell of the cooking gingerbread wafted up and over to him. The bakery was his target for tonight, he had a robbery planned. Studying the floorplans yesterday, he had observed that there were two entrances to the building. One in the front, where all the daylight customers would go through to get their food. The second in the back, where all the people who worked in the night would go through.
His informant had told him that there was a meeting today, but one of the participants had to leave early. That would be the best time to enter the building. He sat on the edge overlooking the entrance. Soon the man exited the building. He walked swiftly out of the alley and down to the main road, he wasn't paying attention to his surroundings at all. In one fluid motion the boy jumped down from the roof, rolled into a ball and stood back up. He stuck a hand between the door and doorframe and stepped in.
The hallway was barely illuminated by a single flickering light bulb. The skittering of rodents claws against the concrete floor echoed around. Low voices traveled down from the meeting, just loud enough to tell they are there, but too quiet to pick out individual words.
He came to the intersection at the end of the hallway. The voices echoed around the room, making it impossible to tell where they were coming from. He paused, peering down each way. Down one hallway came the strong smell of chocolate and cookies. Down the other was ink, fresh parchment, and wax. Apparently that was where the voices were coming from. Quickly the boy whirled around and started down the hall to the kitchen.
Jam stained the hall and floor from when someone had dropped a pot of it and hadn't been bothered to clean it up. The concrete lead about halfway up the hallway before it become decent looking boards and the walls changed to a pink. A swing door marked the place where the kitchen began and the boy slipped under it and into the industrial sized kitchen. Ovens lined one wall and storage cabinets the other.
Suddenly he could hear voices and make out the words, the boy whirled around. They were coming from the hallway he had just passed through. There was a air vent in the ceiling, the boy jumped onto one of the tables and quickly undid the fastenings. His stilled his hands and then pulled himself through. He settled the plate back over the hole and froze.
The first man entered the room. "...we'll need one" he said. He was wearing a three suit piece suit from down in the Merchant District. He looked out of place with the other two men, both of which looked like more of the kind of person who you would see on this side of the city.
"Jonas and I have a few in mind if you are looking for suggestions." the second man replied, "Sir." an afterthought.
"Why would I need suggestions from someone like you?" The rich man laughed alone. "I have more experience with this kind of things. Fools."
The other two men rolled their eyes. There was clearly no love lost between these three. "Sir, I am not sure you understand the urgen…"
"Hush boy!" The rich man barked. "Do you know who I am? I will not be talked to like that by people of your class." he spat like that was poisonous.
The boy in the vents heard enough of this conversation. He sat back. The intel had been wrong. These three men had been expected to stay in their meeting room the entire time he was robbing them. He was going to have to hunt down the informant and show them what happens when you make a mistake. A week back he had been forced to let go of one of their gun runners, they had been caught skimming cash from their sales.
He backed up and then moved quickly but silently through the vents. Luckily, Alex had had the foresight to make him memorize the system. His partner in crime, as he fondly called his best friend, had been caught unaware like this before, and had decided to impart the wisdom she had gathered. The men were blocking the way to the hidden safe and they didn't look like they were moving anytime soon. He was going to have to find another way to get in and get the money.
The vent gently sloped downwards to outside the building. The exit overlooked a dumpster, in the dark he couldn't quite tell what was in, but it vaguely looked like old food. Smelled strongly of moldy bread and fruits.
He looked back through the vents one more time and then jumped. His momentum caused the dumpster to skid forward a few inches with an ugly screeching noise that echoed around the alley. He stilled for a few seconds. When nothing more happened he relaxed into the garbage. The smell was nauseating. However, slowly but surely, the smell became more and more manageable. Now, finally, he could think straight.
Michelle wouldn't be pleased if he failed in the mission. Ever since the Rakita incident, she had been short-tempered and quicker to anger. He didn't think she would be too furious, this is more of a routine job than a revenge assignment or a assasination. Those tend to pay more money. Today he had been assigned to rob a safe hidden behind some flour in the kitchen of the bakery. It contained some documents that a client wanted. His gang would get a decent cut for getting the papers, but not massive amounts of money. However, they real reward of the job was that their reputation would start to be restored to its' former glory. Once they were a gang that was feared by everyone. Powerful and strong. Rulers of the city.
He really did not need to get stuck in the past right now. It was about two in the morning. There were about three hours till he had to be in possession of the papers. He shifted till his feet where underneath him, standing up the edge was at about mid-chest level. He lifted each leg over till he was sitting on the ledge, overlooking the alleyway. Suddenly the smell of bay leaves overwhelmed his nostrils. He clamped a hand over his own mouth before he could shout into the night. He swung his leg back over and dropped back into the dumpster. Listening, his ears strained, he could just make out quiet footsteps traveling down the alley.
"Noah, Noah, is that you? … Why do I even ask, of course it is you. Your heartbeat is very unique. Everyone's is. Though you wouldn't know that, would you? Just a poor little human. Though you are a very smart tactician, you and Alec, I could use you too… So, what do you say Noah. Leave Michelle, come work with me. … No? How you wound me!"
His soft lilt drifted off. "Ohhh I see, there are other people here. Still alive? You are losing your touch Noah … Do you want me to kill them for you? I think I will. It can be my gift, convince you to join my gang."
The cold metal pressed against his back. He really didn't need dead men on his plate right now. What he did need was a plan. Beyond that Katherine wasn't afraid to take risks and do the unexpected, she was a very powerful audita. According to local legend she could hear someone's heartbeat from five blocks away if she focused her power. It made her a very, very dangerous person.
Some of the more powerful gang leaders had gotten the mutation, know one knows quite were it comes from, but those who have it became very, very powerful. Few people were enhanced, some were even killed before they could reach maturity. People were afraid of that much power being in any one person's' hands.
"Katherine. What do you want?" he called out before his nerves got the better of him.
"Noah! Did you not listen to me, rude. I want you in my circle," she returned. "But for now, I'll settle for helping you. And tell dear Michelle that I assisted you. It is very unfortunate what happened in Rakita. Send my condolences. Are you still in that dingy dumpster?"
He was still sitting against the edge, tense but nerves frayed, something wet had leaked into his pant leg and he was getting colder and colder. He stood up with a start, the dumpster rolled forward a few more inches. Swaying slightly, he jump over the edge and onto the concrete.
Katherine was standing at the edge of the alley. Dramatically, purposefully, illuminated by the streetlight. "Ready to go Noah? I have taken the initiative of picking the lock."
"We aren't going to go through the side door?" Noah asked her.
"Of course not! Do you want to get caught? How long have you been doing this?" she responded condescendingly. "The men are in the kitchen, so going through the back would get noticed."
She stepped through the doorway, immediately reaching up to still the bell that hung over it. "Hurry up Noah! How much time do you have? Three hours? Let's go."
He grumbled to himself before following after her. Katherine was the leader of one of the rival gangs of the city of Ardyver. His gang rarely interacted with her directly. A majority of the time the meetings would be with with someone else from her inner circle, Austin or Noelle. Noelle had powers as well, as most of Michelle's gang did. She can see much, much better than anyone else.
"What?" he shook himself out of his thoughts.
"Here." Katherine reached over a grabbed a baked good from where it lay amongst its brethren on the counter.
Katherine raised an eyebrow at him."Just eat the brownie." He took a bite. "Good?"
"Yeah, you want one too?" he answered.
"I already took three. You're so unobservant. It's a wonder you're not dead."
"Love you too," his words dripped with sarcasm, ignoring for a second who he was talking too.
Katherine pulled out a dagger. "Okay, so here is what we will do. I will go in and cause a distraction while you go in and rob them."
He paused, "Won't they see your face? I am not sure this is really the best idea Kath, the chances of me not being seen even if you cause a distraction are low. The rich man might pay attention to you, but the other two are too smart to fall for that," Noah protested.
"When we are done with this," she said. "We are going to talk about you calling me Kath."
"Kath...I mean Katherine, I really think there is a better option."
"But Noah, don't you trust me?"
"Fair point, let's go."
She stepped into the room. One of the men, Jonas, looked up. His eyes widened. He clearly recognized her as someone to be afraid of. Without a word to the others, he jumped up and flung himself out the door. He skid past Noah, not seeing him, and fled outside. A dagger came hurtling out of the kitchen and struck him in the back. Blood bubbled up and spilled onto the floor.
"Damn it. That's going to leave a stain. I wanted to be more subtle." Katherine spoke over the whimpers of the other two men. She quickly killed them too. "Noah, what are you waiting for? Come get the papers that you wanted."
This what not what he wanted at all. It was supposed to be a quick in and out. No blood, no gore. "Why...why did you kill them? There was no need."
"Just take the papers."
He quickly stepped over the corpses. Some of the blood soaked into the soles of his shoes. She had cut both of their throats. Now the blood puddles had merged and were getting larger and larger the longer Noah stood there. Behind the flour in the third cabinet was the safe. Alex had spent some time yesterday figuring out the combination using one of the workers. He spun the lock quickly. Suddenly the brownie taste wasn't a sweet as a few moments ago. It wasn't that he didn't have a good head for blood, if fact it was almost the opposite, but he hates unnecessarily death. The gang sometimes couldn't stand him for it, but it wasn't their morals coming into question everyday, was it?
There was a stack of papers on top in the safe, he reached in a took them. The seal on top was for the Calatin family. They were merchants. A rival family of traders, the Marlots, had wanted them so they could win this season over the Calatins. It wasn't exactly a high ranking job, but it paid decently and if Noah or Michelle got a glance at the papers before they were given over, no one would be the wiser.
But dead bodies...that would spike up interest. People would want to know what happened here and it might take so time, but chances are it would trace back to his gang. It would spell trouble for all of them. "Katherine...I've got to go. Will you deal with the people you killed?"
"Did you really not know this is what I was going to do?" she sighs. "I am sorry then, but really what else was I to do? There were only a few options."
He did know that, in the back of his mind, but… "We could have thought of something! You just go of kill three people like it's no problem! There had to have been a second option. Maybe the stories are right, maybe you do have no heart. Maybe you are a wretched, cold, soulless person without a care for anyone. You know your three partners? I think they are just working with you because you've kidnapped their families or something! You truly are a monster that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemies!" he exploded. But as soon has he finished, he regretted half of the words that he uttered.
"Ha, that's a new one. I like it, my partners are with me only because I threatened and blackmailed them. How about they all have cousins that I tricked into working with me and now to save them, Noelle, Mikhail and Austin have to work for me. Or their families are all in debt to me and I will kill them if they don't pay it back. Or even better! I have taken over their minds and they are basically my zombies! There's an award-winning book idea," Katherine spat.
"Katherine, you know I didn't mean what I said," he tried to protest.
"Enlighten me then," she spat.
Suddenly they heard a third voice. "Kath… what happened here?"
"Austin. Where are Noelle and Mikhail? I hope you didn't bring them with you. I can never get any work done with them all..." Austin, Katherine's second-in-command. He was said to be able to charm anyone out of anything.
"Don't change the topic." Austin interrupts her. "We were supposed to kill them and make it look like an incident, the police really wanted the blame to be taken off of them."
"There was a slight change in the.." Katherine began to say.
"I am not sure this is what I would call slight!" Austin interrupted.
"Austin," she said warningly. "There was a slight change in plans when I ran into Noah. He was supposed to get some papers for Michelle. I helped him, I got what needed to be done, done."
Austin started to speak again. "We had a plan Kath. Beyond that, this is also going to be a pain to clean up," He sighed. "I'll call Mikhail."
"You do that!" she laughed and then turned to face him. "Noah, I really think it is best if you leave now. You have the papers and you have seen enough. I'll deal with Austin and Mikhail."
"Thank you," he turned to leave. Under normal circumstances chances are he would protest more, but he had screwed up. When Austin got here, it became quickly clear to him that Katherine's aim of being here was to kill them. He had been selfish and assumed that she was passing through the area and decided to help him. He should have known that that wouldn't happen here, in this city. A favor is almost never freely given.
He passed through the dimly lit streets, only the darker side of Ardyver came out at this time of night. The sign for Evelyn's loomed out of the darkness. He unlocked the door and hurried into the shop. "Ev? Are you back there?"
"Hi Noah. Yeah, just a sec," a young woman came out from behind the counter. "You have the stuff for Michelle?"
"Mh hmn. Do you know where she is?"
"I saw her out here about a half and hour ago. I have no idea where she went after that. I would check Alex's house. Don't they normally spend some time together now?"
"I completely forgot about that. Can I just give these to you then?" he asked.
"Help me out in the kitchen?"
Evelyn ran one of the best breakfast and lunch places in Ardyver. It was a local secret that everyone tried hard to keep out of tourist loop. The gang's inner circle, himself, Rob, Cerali, Michelle and Alex, used it as their main meeting space. It was a quaint little place, with checkered tablecloths and exposed wood.
He swung around to the kitchen and pulled on an apron. His mother had taught him to cook way back when she was still a decent person, someone that he could be around and stand. He tried to help Evelyn out with the cooking as much as he could.
She passed him a bowl of dry ingredients. "Finish the biscuits."