Ari Safecracker hated few things more than a job going sideways. It always felt worse when you knew, absolutely knew that you had all of the angles covered, the right men bribed, and your getaway planned. It brought a scoundrel’s heart to breaking, it did, when things fell apart. The job had even been a simple one. The law firm of Clacher, Mason, and Muraro had just won the contract for managing a large number of farms on the western reaches of Ashalia. The jobbies running the shop had no clue what constituted proper security for holding onto that much shiny, being too new at the game.
The fact that he’d had the safe open, half the deeds and all of the coins in his bag by the time the Ash Men stormed into the office proved that they’d fallen down on protecting themselves. Still didn’t stop the state’s security forces from aiming crossbows as his handsome grin and trying to sound like hard men, “Stay still or die, criminal scum.” Such an arrogant little twerp, but he had the men with the crossbows. Ari dropped the haul and let his hands drift towards the sky, a smile pulling at the corner of his mouth in spite of himself. Twit took a step forward, rage starting to boil, “What’s so funny, Scum?”
Ari didn’t fight the laugh, “Last time I argue against boss-lady’s suggestion to bring back-up.” Ari watched a patch of darkness detach itself from the wall and move behind one of the Ash Men and lift a hand holding a dagger with three fingers extended. One finger curled around the grip, then another. Ari’s mother raised no fool, and he was flat against the floor as Erik the Red’s last finger curled around his blade and it whipped into motion. Triggers were hit and Ari heard the bolts slam into the wood behind him as he and the corpse hit the ground at the same time. He grabbed the goodies and rolled behind a desk, arming himself with one of his daggers.
Twit’s voice cracked in surprise, “I thought you said you didn’t have back-up.” One of his men was dead, and Erik was already close enough to add a second to his tally Ari saw as he threw a glance over the desk.
“I said I argued-”
Erik’s second kill of the night hit the floor with a meaty thump as the knife-man spoke, “He never said he won the argument.” Erik took a single step towards the officer in white, “Run, little mouse.” The officer did the smart thing when being approached by a man covered in the arterial blood of his subordinates, falling backwards and making for the exits, but not before throwing a hard look at Ari, who gave him a slight wave as he ran with his tail between his legs.
The crossbows had been re-armed, both of the remaining men pointing them at Erik before shaking hands pulled triggers. Both shots went wild, never coming close as Death marched towards the closer of the pair. Another quick motion, a spray of red, and a third corpse on the ground. Erik paused, glancing down at his work before looking to the final man, “This is costing you money, Ari.”
The final man died with a look of faint confusion on his face, Ari’s dagger lodged in his eye. “And don’t I know it.” He moved to grab his dagger and took a long hard look at his back-up for the night. Erik had been dressed in loose dark gray robes to hide, his clothing had been dyed deep red and was sticking to the man’s chest. “You enjoy this part of the job too much. Time to get gone.”
“I understand that plans are not execution,” Vic’s tone carried far too much emphasis on her last word as she slowly walked in front of Ari, using her height and muscular build to loom over the slender scoundrel tied to his chair. “What I do not understand, and would like for you to explain to me, Ari Safecracker, is why we have four dead criminals of the law…” She paced a full circuit of the room, regarding the man from every angle, dragging out her silence as a club to soften him up. “And no loot.”
“I’m not sure, boss. Been a long time since I missed a step professionally, A face full of Ash must have startled me more than I thought.” It had been bothering the lock-pick for the last four hours, not all his reflections a simple desire to avoid this particular chit-chat with the most dangerous of Ashalia’s crime bosses. He knew he’d had the goods, but couldn’t keep track of it in his normally iron-sharp memory. He’d tried, and it just fuzzed the more he tried to focus on it.
Still, it felt safer to claim his lapse had been a professional mistake than memory problems. Vic shook her head, dropping herself into the chair, a displeased expression on her face. “That’s quite a lapse, Ari. I’ve already heard that they’re moving the deeds, there’s no second bite at the apple on this job. I run by some very simple rules, don’t I?” Ari could only nod. “And what is the punishment if you screw up not just a job, but the possibility of the job?”
“You owe the crew the profit from the job.” It’d been the reason he’d put so much planning into this. “I don’t have that kind of dosh on me, Vic.” No one did.
There had been no more words exchanged, he’d simply been cut and turned loose, shoved from the comforting arms of the life of an honest scoundrel. He knew, on some level, it wasn’t a good idea to dive into the bottle…
“Another round.” But he didn’t think the night could get any worse. He’d drink himself comatose, and then try and figure out the next job.
“So, Ace. You had time to reconsider my offer.” Or maybe just reconsider a job he’d turned down. The old man needed his legitimate skills for a few months.
If nothing else, it would give him a chance to think; he turned towards the man, “I think I have.”