Sunday, 11 December 2011

007 - Kindness

They blinked at her like startled rabbits. If they didn't move soon they'd be snapped up by hungry jaws.

“You really need to -” she started.

The bossy one - Cassidy? - swore.

“I know, alright? Come on, Jacob. No time for finer feeling.”

His face twisted up with disgust, Jacob helped the two women lift the stinking bundle up.

“I can go ahead. Make sure they aren't...” Nelya didn't know the words, so she settled for hand gestures.

“Circling round on us?” said Cassidy.

“Like a pack of ashdogs.”

Cassidy nodded. “We'll be right behind. Take the alley to the left.”

Nelya was already moving back towards the door.

“Wait. Before you go. Why did you come back?”

“We don't have time. Later.”

Later. If there was a later. Nelya slipped out of the door, as silent as she could. To the left, no-one. The wolves weren't quite at their throats yet.

She opened the door and beckoned. A tense moment later, the three tunnies staggered out, panting and groaning under the awkward burden. Didn't they know how to be quiet? It was a wonder they'd lived this long.

She led the way through a narrow, mud-splatter maze of alleys, stopping now and again to take silent direction from Cassidy. She winced at every groan, cringed at every huff of breath. Every single noise these people made was a shout.

She began to wish Cassidy hadn't been kind. That the first breath of kindness in twenty nine days hadn't come from people involved in something so stinking-rotten and risky.

It didn't matter. After this mess, she'd leave. She had a pack hidden just outside town, and with the kindness repaid, she'd slip out to it. Forget the meats, the other things she needed. There were other places. Safer places where no-one threw rocks at her and madmen didn't drop dead for no reason. Just leave this confusion and wrongness and go.

How could anyone live so closed in? In this one alley there were so many places an enemy could wait, could hide, and no way to keep them all in sight. No way to keep yourself safe.

It was making her panic.

No fresh air, no clear sight, and constant unnatural noises. These dangerous men could land right on top of them, and she'd never know. Not even have enough time to react. To save herself. Her hand hovered over her knife.

“We're nearly there.” said Cassidy from behind her. Nelya jumped like someone had put a weapon to her skin.

“Be quiet.” she hissed back, forcing the panic back down. Tried to slow the racing heartbeat. It was good they were nearly there. Good. Nearly there. Nearly done. Then away. Running.

As they left the alley, a large ditch came into view. The stink of this place got worse if that was possible. That particular wet, overripe stench that came with stagnant water and rotting waste. She'd smelled it in a dozen tiny still ponds, and always known never to drink that water.

“The run off.” Cassidy sounded out of breath. “Dump him in there, and it'd take an unholy luck for anyone to find him ever again.”

With an utter lack of ceremony they dropped the body into the run off, the only noise a thick splash. For an awful second it seemed as if he was just going to float on the half metre of scummy water, until Cassidy pushed him down with her foot. The mud underneath parted and swallowed the thing that had been a preacher. Nelya breathed out, low and shaky.

“This doesn't feel right” said Jacob. Nelya rolled her eyes.

“It wouldn't be right, us taking the fall for someone else's crime, either. Just going along with some plot? No.” Cassidy brushed strands of hair off her damp forehead. “Hey, Darklands girl. Can you at least give us a name to thank you with?”

Nelya stared at her for a second. What did it matter? She'd be out of their lives soon enough. Besides, was this really the time or place? But she got the feeling Cassidy wouldn't let it go.

“If you have to call me something, call me Nelya.” she said. “Not that it -”

Wait. The panic that had been haunting her this whole way flared again into clammy hand, bristling spine warning. They were being watched. She'd swear to it on her own blood. They were being watched and this stupid place had stopped her noticing.

“You should start moving. Now.” she said.

Which was the moment that all those places she'd noted as hiding spots were full of people. Big people. Armed people. And there was nowhere to run.

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