[Author’s warning: Before you start reading this, know that I do not come to any sort of satisfying conclusion in this snippet. It’s the plottiest flash fiction I’ve written to date, less introspective than my usual, so it’s harder to just bring together with a single sentence when my writing time is up. Sorry ’bout that. ]
I hold no illusions. I am far from innocent. This day—this festival—isn’t meant for me.
As I look around, though, I see far more adults here than children. The occasional girl or boy, mascots of the day, sits on shoulders in the crowd, but the attendance for this parade is made up of far more people wishing to recall their innocence than of the children who are the beacons of it.
Burned-down sparklers litter the ground and crunch under my feet as I slip through the crowd, navigating the distracted onlookers. My nose stings from the pervasive clouds of spent potash and saltpeter.
A break from the usual routine, a visual spectacle. These always make for cheap, easy distractions. Plus, it’s a bank holiday.
There are still guards securing the bank, of course, but less bodies to keep track of once the fun begins.
A silhouette moves on the rooftop, crouched. You’d have to be looking for Sophie to know she’s up there. She’s pulled the hood of her soft cotton poncho up to cover the dyed streaks in her hair, colors to rival the light show. A burst of fireworks light the sky and illuminate her face in blue for a moment. I can see her eager grin from here.
We’re all hungry tonight, and it’s got nothing to do with the fried duck, fruit cakes, or spun sugar being peddled on every street cart on every corner along the parade avenue.
The shadows ease around me as I move away from the crowd. The financial block is two streets removed from the festivities, and the buildings between me and the revelry dull the sounds of wind instruments and cheers, and block the light from the fireworks show, though the air-shattering pops are no quieter.
I walk casually. There is light traffic here, and I can’t look like I’m headed away from the parade for any mischief. The approved sort of mischief-seekers would be headed to the opposite end of the parade, where the bars await the next stage of celebrations. Dug and I might hit those later, if things go off without a wrinkle.
I keep my eye on the glow over the island’s edge beyond the city. I’ve got a clear view of the horizon down the street which runs across the island from cliff to cliff, with only a slight curve. The smoke from the fireworks is in the air overhead, but beneath that I have a clear view of the starry open skies, and the glow of the pumpkins in the distance. I mark their color and use it to gauge our timing.
Yeah, festivals are great for distracting the city officials, the crowds, and the eyes and ears. The problem with festivals is the celebrities they attract. It’s early yet, but eventually Silus Cutter is going to come along that parade route, and our plan is to be back in the crowd, innocent as the rest of the filthy rabble, before anyone—especially our god—can sense that anything has happened.
Normally I’d tug my prayerlocks to ask for Silus Cutter’s blessing, but tonight we’re going to leave him out of it.
We’ve no way of timing things, but when Tisker blows the lock on the bank’s main door, we’re fortunate to have the cover of a fresh batch of fireworks to crackle and scream over the sound. I nod, and he grins at me with his boyish enthusiasm. He’s young, but he’s no more innocent than me. Way he grew up, he’s probably got a lead on me for coins lifted.
Dug pushes through the door from behind us. First inside, first to fight. “Alive,” I hiss, to remind him in case he forgot.
Two guards are laying on the floor by the time we catch up with him. In the glow from gas torches along the walls, I see their chests rise and fall, and nod in approval. It’s a big night and Dug knows better than to let himself get carried away.
“How d’you imagine they felt, seeing Dug come at them?” Tisker asks, imagining the scene with a grin.
The guards aren’t much. Muscular, sure, and they look fit, but Dug, a Bone man, would have towered over them, and his taut muscles would shame these men into a hundred push-ups if they’d only been matching machismo. How would they remember the dark devil that came for them out of the night?
I chuckle. “When they tell their story later, no doubt Dug will be twice as fast, and three meters high. Come on.”
And that was it. Two guards to guard the main entrance. What more would the bank need, when Silus Cutter himself would be around?
While Tisker bends over the tumblers in the vault door, I keep an ear out for Sophie’s shrill falcon whistle, but all that filters in from outside are the pop and crackle of the sky show. Beside the window I lean against the wall, keeping my silhouette from outside view but able to keep an eye on the skies outside.
Dug paces slow and catlike along the inside wall. Not enough fight in those guards for him. Once we’ve cleared away from the bank and made the drop, we’ll hit the bars and there’ll be enough drunk Cutter bastards eager to start a brawl with him. If I let Dug get arrested tonight, it’ll be for drunk and disorderly conduct.
[Sorry, that’s it! Leave a comment if you want to hear the rest.]