I gathered my bearings, and gave our new surroundings a quick scan. It was some kind of yard, piled high with junk. A sea of old smashed furniture and bits of twisted metal I couldn’t begin to identify, jutting from piles of trash. Obstacles to us, tricking ankles and tugging at loose clothes. But while it wasn’t forgiving obstacle course, it was short, and before long we’d scrambled to, and by virtue of the heap, half way up a high wall. Even then though, it was too high for me to reach the lip without a jump.
Just our luck that there wasn’t any conveniently ladder shaped pieces of crap. Most of the furniture had been smashed, I expect to fit more back here. The only thing that could have been large enough to give us a boost was a decrepit rusting old chair. I didn’t feel like it was worth risking the inevitable catastrophic loss of stability that might result of trying to climb it.
It left just me and Mike. “Here,” I cupped my hands, kneeling.
Mike raised a lone inquisitive eyebrow at me, but shrugged and stepped into my interlaced fingers.
It always looks so elegant when other people do it. You have to look closely to see that it actually consists of a face full of crotch. Then there’s the cold, muddy and god-knows-what-else foot squishing into your hands. With a wobbling push, Mike got a grip and took his own weight. His heel caught me in the mouth as he hauled himself up and scraped his way over the wall.
I tasted the iron of blood, and the grit of mud. Great, split my lip before we even start fighting.
I vowed myself to forget about it. We were already taking far too long.
There was a thud as he hit the floor on the other side. No hand up for me. Thanks Mike. Gotta do this myself then.
I took a few steps back on the shifting pile. Was a run-up a good idea, or a bad one? Probably not a good one.
I sprinted the few steps I could manage, throwing myself at a literal wall, pushing upwards, off from the untrustworthy footing at the last minute.
I hit it with about as much forwards velocity as vertical – Kneepads were a great investment. The crack as they hit the wall was worryingly audible.
My efforts sufficed. Cold fingers gripped the sharp lip. A quick scrabble of feet on the crumbling brickwork and a lot of upper body strength later I twisted myself over the wall and landed besides Mike.
Or rather, I would have landed besides Mike if Mike had stayed still. He was already at the door of the building.
“Hear anything?” I asked, wiping the grime off my fingers on the front of my vest.
“Nope.” He pulled out a black object from his pocket and shoved it in the lock. It made a slight humming noise. “But we’re in luck.”
“Luck? Is that a lock-pick?”
“Yeah, digital. Well, not really. That’s just what people call it. Stupid name if you ask me.” After a few seconds wait, the lock clicked. “Bloody useful for cheap barrel locks though. Nicked it off my uncle in my wayward youth.”
I couldn’t help but think this was his wayward youth. He returned it to his pocket and took out his gun. I mirrored him. The one problem with Beth’s pistol was the way it caught the light. The oily black of most guns served to camouflage them somewhat.
Oh well, sometimes you wanted it to be noticed.
I pushed the handle and nudged the door open with my toe. The three little notches of the gun sight glowed, pricks of light against a void of… things that I might want to point a gun at. Which at the moment were either non-existent or dark, in the dark.
Torches. Torches on the ends of our guns? That’d be pretty useful. Show where we were though. So much compromise.
Compromise for another time. Fuck it, there wasn’t anything we could see. We knew there weren’t any of the gang in there. We knew there probably wasn’t any of the gang in there.
Time to take a risk?
We stepped inside.
We moved as fast as we could through the building. I covered the door, Mike checked the handle, if it was open he nudged it open with his foot. I went through, checking the corners of the room, Mike covering my back. An unspoken, undiscussed method we settled upon without blinking. In the one case we came across a door that was locked – bolted from the other side – we simply backtracked and took another route.
The rooms were small, littered with piled of clothes and the odd sewing machine. Some kind of tailor’s workshop? We navigated heaps of plastic wrapped cloth. I couldn’t help but wonder how easy it would be to hide unseen, wait for us to pass. Two shots in the back and this was all over.
A thud had me spinning on my heel. I had the gun up, aimed, finger on the trigger.
With a near-deafening rattle, a near empty coke can rolled towards me from the darkness. It bumped against my toe, plunging us back to silence.
Silence, but we were no longer alone. Or at least, we no longer thought we were alone. A figure. Male. Weapon in hand.
My eyes locked onto it. Blunt object. Improvised. Looked like some kind of plastic stick with a metal hook on the end. Nasty, but not something you’d go for if you had a whole lot of choice. It was something to hand.
Then two wide little eyes, peering from under his arm. Innocent in their curiosity. None of the fear of the man. None of the anger.
Mike looked at me, breaking his perfect reflection of my one-foot-forwards, gun raised stance.
“There’s no problem here, sir.” I held the gun up sideways, finger off the trigger, pointing towards the ceiling. The most you could do to make a gun unthreatening bar throwing it away. “Nothing to do with you. Just passing though. Not after your money, or your stuff. No one’s gonna get hurt. Sorry to scare you like this, your neighbour is just in a little trouble.”
I took a step back. Mike, after a long drawn out second, followed my lead. He pointed his gun at the floor, and joined me in moving cautiously away from the man.
We edged towards the door, and left.
“Shit, Alex, I nearly put a bullet in that guy.”
“We’re the ones breaking into people’s…” I took a second glance around. “…houses. Let’s be fucking careful okay?”
My hands were trembling and we hadn’t even met someone who wanted to kill us yet, assuming that man was going to stay put like someone reasonable.
We’d met our goal at least. A grid of barred windows and a narrow wooden door. Through the thin wall I could hear the shouting match, though the gun-fire seemed to have stopped. I used the muzzle to tentatively lift the corner of the sheet draped over the window as a curtain.