The asymmetry of the one-leg launch rotated Kid in flight just enough that the heel of one foot clipped the wall as he cleared the alley, flipping him face first out of his brief freedom of flight into a skidding sprawl as he crashed across the roof, sliding and rolling until he slammed up against the wall of the stair access. Shaking and shaken, Kid laid there in the dark trying to regain control of his breathing until he heard sounds of people gaining the roof he had just vacated.
“H’ain’t fucken here!”
A voice called out to others below. A second voice joined over the creaking sound of a door swinging open.
“Hey-a, door’s open, pro’ly took the stairs!”
A muffled response came back that Kid couldn’t decipher, but the a moment later the first voice rang out again, clear and close.
“Fuck naw!” from the wall looking over the alley, “ain’t no way he jump thi’shi’.”
The creaky door swung again, and a third time. Kid stayed prone on the roof, shaking alone in the night. He waited for a moment, and then three or four more before he rose, checked his body for serious injury with still shaking hands, then shuffled over to reclaim the duffle bag.
Kid looked up at the building from which he had flown, then shook his head and walked to check the roof access door on the building he’d reached. Locked. He took a slow lap around the edges of the building, examining all the possible avenues of descent. The smooth concrete and non-recessed windows offered no clear purchase, with the best climbing opportunity being just a single drainage pipe running down alleyward side of the building.
That door, huh?
Right? Why didn’t we think of that?
I mean, I just don’t think about going inside places.
Yeah. Also we were being chased by people with guns.
Only the one gun that we saw.
Oh. Well that’s ok, then.
I was just saying.
Right. You know, all things considered, that definitely could have gone worse.
We just need to find a way down.
Kid flinched as rain began to fall in small, cold spurts. He took a quick look up at the heavy clouds covering the sky, and then back down at the drainage pipe descending the side of the building.
No. Not in the rain. We’ll drop.
You were saying, about things not being worse. This is worse.
Ah, yeah. Agreed.
Kid grabbed the bag, held it over his head and shoulders, and scrunched into the corner of the roof that offered the most shelter to wait out the rain, bruises and scrapes from the tumbling landing taking the opportunity to announce their presence.
Don’t we have a sweater in our bag?
Gah! Of course.
After shrugging the bag over his head and onto his lap Kid managed the zipper on his bag to pull out the thick wool sweater he still carried, and the two bags stuffed inside – one from Ilk, one from the buyer-robbers. Kid wriggled into the sweater trying to minimize dragging the abrasive weave over the more tender reminders of his less than graceful landing, and wincing through his general failure. He dumped the rest of his gear – comprising his knife, a few handheld puzzles, and the rope – out onto the rooftop next to the bags before unzipping the duffle all the way and opening the mouth wide and wrapping it around his shoulders over the sweater, and tucking his knees up under his chin.
Once satisfied with his makeshift waterproofing, Kid reached out and opened the two bags he wasn’t wearing, then sat back to look at the contents of the backpacks now sitting open to the rain. The first bag, black, plain, forgettable, from Ilk, held three brick-shaped packages, wrapped tight in opaque plastic. The second, a deep navy blue with a brown leather bottom getting darker in the rain, held stacks of money, bound around the middle by different colored straps. Lots of stacks.
That is more money than we have had in our whole life.
Um. Put together. All of it together at the same time.
Which isn’t saying that much. Most of the money we have ever had is still rolled up and sitting in the cave.
That is more money than we have ever SEEN in our whole life.
Put together. All of it.
And the other stuff?
Yeah. Not so sure. But it seems like we might have a moment to ourselves. Let’s recap?
Oh yeah. We know one thing for sure.
We know that this shit was fucked.
Everyone told us not to trust that dude.
What the hell HAPPENED?
I-I think they were planning to take our bag, and not pay.
Wow. How long did that one take you?
Sorry, I’m a little distracted. I think we maybe almost just died, um, three? four times?
The first dive, onto the spiky death bars.
When the dude on the ground shot at us.
I guess you could maybe count when they first showed up to take the shit.
That fucking jump.
I WASN’T ASKING FOR THE LIST!!
So. The job.
Right. They knew we were coming.
Did anyone else know about the job?
Everyone else was ‘takin care of shit’.
What were we even selling those guys?
Wait, why did they even have the money, if they were planning to rob us?
Maybe they weren’t planning it?
But when a little kid showed up alone…
Well, let’s at least find out what the delivery was supposed to be.
Kid tugged the bag with the brick shaped packages closer beneath his knees, leaning forward to obstruct the falling rain with his canvas shrouded shoulders. He began picking at the plastic wrap, slipping a finger under an edge and then ripping and peeling, unwinding the wrapping to reveal…
Really? An actual brick?
I think this might be a problem.
I didn’t think that bricks were that expensive.
They aren’t. They were supposed to think it was something else. No one would pay that much for three stupid bricks.
What would be this small and this expensive?
We need to talk to Twitch.
And get this stupid phone activated. Wifi is great, but cellular service is the real deal.
Should we give the money to Big?
I am not so sure that’s our best option.
What do you mean?
I think Ilk might have set us up.
That is a LOT of money. Those guys we expecting someone, and not someone delivering paltry construction materials. Bet they would have been pissed if they found out we were slinging the real hard stuff.
I bet he sent us hoping they would jack us.
Why would he do that?
I have no idea! Why would Big threaten to shoot us in the knee over some silly spray paint? I don’t understand any of this.
Do we think Big knew about tonight?
I. Don’t. Know.
People don’t just do that, do they? Set up little kids to get attacked by strangers for no reason?
I don’t think he counts as people.
So, not giving it all to Big?
Don’t think so.
Um, maybe we keep the money, just tell him that things got crazy?
Which has the benefit of being true.
Ok, so what if we didn’t?
Huh? Didn’t what?
Give Big anything. What happens?
Doesn’t that result in us getting dead?
Maybe not. Check it. What if Ilk did set us up? What if he stole the actual drugs from Big, and then sent us out to get our ass kicked, again. Maybe they were expecting to lose this shit, and just have us get beat up again? Maybe we come back, like they are expecting, and just tell them we got jacked.
Yeah, I’m not seeing how that doesn’t get us shot by the guy who was willing to get bloody about the paint thing.
BUT what if we ALSO say that these guys were telling Big and Ilk to go fuck each other?
Um. Wait, so we pretend that we don’t know we were carry actual bricks? AND insult the violent people in charge?
Right, did the deal, homies rolled up and stole everything, then THEY insulted the bosses.
How does that not get us shot?
Maybe they take it personally and go after those guys instead of just killing us?
Um, what if Ilk was working with those guys? And they tell him we took off with both bags?
Then we hope he thinks they are lying to keep the whole lot?
HA. I like it.
And we would have money to start getting our new gear.
Alright. I think that’s the plan, then. Here’s to not getting shot today.
Kid rezipped the two backpacks, settling back into the corner and tucking his knees back up into the shelter afforded by his duffle shell. The patter of rain against the canvas served as a low counter point to the pitter of droplets on the surface of the roof. The distant wail of a sirens over the drone of the wind offered a haunting kind of harmony to the precipitous percussion.
It feels good to have a plan.
Even if it doesn’t help our current situation at all.
I mean, we still have no idea what we are going to do, right?
Getting off this roof?
. . .
How long is the rope?
Hah. Maybe twenty meters?
How tall do we think the building is?
Closer to twice that? Again, not great with the distance thing.
Could we drop?
What?! No fucking way. TEN meter drops hurt. This is maybe 400% of that. That’s about splatting distance.
I meant from the end of the rope?
Oh. Still. No.
What about the building next to us? How far is it to that?
Well, it’s closer than the ground, for sure.
Thanks for that.
Could we go that way?
Probably not. Nothing to tie the rope to on that side of the roof.
We need one of those hook things.
And a longer rope.
And something waterproof. And a mask. Are we actually keeping a list of these things?
Um. Sure. Also, I think I might have an idea about a way down?
What? Does it involve growing wings? I always wanted wings.
Well, if the rope is around twenty meters long, and we tie it to the top of the drainage pipe above the alley. . .
A flicker in the memory cavern revealed the miniaturized representation of the alley focussed on the alleyside of the building where they were crouched. A diminutive Kid demonstrated what Fuzzy had in mind.
Um, not to sound like Whiney, here, but…
No, really, CAN we do that?
I think so? I mean, I did the math, and if it is something like 8-10 meters out from the center to the edge of the building, then we should be able to just reach it with our rope.
If, should… just?
I mean, if the math works.
Does your fancy math account for the rain?
Hah. Funny you should ask.
Funny because yes or funny because no?
Yes. I like counting things, you know?
Well, as a soothing type of thing, I was counting the rain drops against our bag.
Because of course you were.
In ANY event, since we settled in the corner our heartbeat stabilized, providing a framework to measure frequency against? Not perfect, but a baseline of sorts.
So while we were recapping the evening’s excitement and formulating a response you were counting raindrops relative to heartbeats.
Well, yeah. I mean, I guess I don’t really ever stop counting. Steps, breaths, heartbeats. Sometimes I recite big numbers instead.
Like pi or phi, or the Fibonacci sequence? Like how Shady can’t stop DOING things, like breathing, sleeping, seeing, or whatever? I just don’t really ever stop counting things, like in the background.
What do I do?
Mope? Wouldn’t you know better than us? Anyway, did you want to know what my point was with all the counting?
What’s your point?
I’m pretty sure the rain is easing up.
As the heavy heart of the rain did appear to have moved on to water westward hill, Kid began packing everything but the rope back into his bag, and looping his arms through the handles to secure the duffle back across his shoulders. He snagged the end of his gnarled rope, popped to his feet, and stepped over to the alley wall, leaning out to inspect the drainage pipe, solid iron sticking out from the side of the wall. A short hop caught the top of the wall against his lap and Kid tipped to dangle over the side of the wall, dragging the end of the rope down to meet the beginning of the pipe. Kid slipped his rope around the pipe, wrapping around twice before looping it back through itself, and pulling it tight, then wrapping, looping, and tightening a second time, and then tucking the loose end back through the gap created by the initial looping. Kid dropped back to the roof and gave the long end of the rope a couple of yanks, leaning his body weight against his impromptu knot.
Um, could we maybe tie the other end around us? Just in case?
That isn’t a bad idea. Won’t change the plan, really, in any case.
Kid fished the other end of the rope out of the remaining coil and wrapped it around his own waist, before looping and tugging, twice. A few more test yanks and a shrug, then Kid tossed the slack of the line over the wall. He hopped up to sit astride the wall, resting the ball of his foot on the iron pipe below, looking out over the lights of the city. A deep breath, then he lowered himself, one hand on the wall, the other reaching down to grip the rope just past the knot securing the rope, and the boy, to the pipe, and to the wall, feet pressed on either side of the pipe. Shifting his weight, Kid let go of the wall, and held his breath as the rope didn’t give, and the pipe didn’t break, and he didn’t fall to his death.
Clinging to the pipe and the rope, shimmying down the wall a few inches at a time, Kid worked a few feet down the wall and stopped. A long look up at the knot, and the bands of metal anchoring the pipe to the wall at regular intervals, and Kid leaned back, pushing away to get his feet flat against the wall, gripping the rope with both hands, he straightened to stand perpendicular to the wall, back facing the ground below. He walked backward, one slow, careful step at a time, inching the rope out one hand at a time. After a few steps he relaxed a fraction, pressing the rope up against the rope wrapped tight around him to let the friction help control his rate of descent.
Kid paused, pivoting first one foot, then the other, rolling over to face the ground beneath him, adjusting his grip to keep tension on the rope while walking straight down the side of the wall, and because there are so few chances when you get the chance to enjoy the fullness of being young, and bold, and reckless, he began winding his way across the wall, letting out little spans of rope at a time, then hopping over windows as he made his way to the end of his line.
At the rope’s end, Kid spun back to face skyward, wedging his feet into the little gap between the pipe and the wall and resting them on the anchors. Kid wrapped the line around an arm, twice, and squeezed that arm tight to his body, leaning into the support. Then he began to untie the rope around his waist.
This should be the fun part.
Um. Or the opposite of that.
When he had managed to unknot the rope around his waist, no small ordeal with a cold wet rope managed with a single hand while dangling from the side of a building in the middle of the night, Kid clung closer to the pipe, unwrapping the coils around his arm and then rewrapping the very end of the rope around one hand as he slipped an arm free from the handle of his bag, then shifting to grip the rope with his now bag-liberated hand as he let his duffle slide from shoulder the waiting palm.
Holding the bag in the ground-facing hand, Kid wrapped the rope, once, tight around his hand, and pushed himself back into a standing position, hanging from the end of the rope, the ground still a good distance below him, shuffling his feet to reach the rope’s full extension.
With a bit of a smile, Kid began walking backward, long slow steps at first then building momentum as the arc of the rope pulled him up the wall, then swinging the bag back just as his increasing momentum began to lose the eternal battle with gravity, then that interminable force pulled both the bag and the boy, rushing them forward and down into a sprint across the face of the building, a long stride over a window, and then swinging the bag out, away from the wall as he rushed toward the edge of the building, releasing the handles just at the peak of his arc for the duffle to sail over the wall and land on the adjacent roof, then a little hop as he twisted to grab the rope with both hands as he tore back down the side of the building.
Skipping over the window, and the pipe, Kid ran up the side of the building, turning at the apex to charge even faster back toward the roof now holding a bag full of more than money. A bag holding his future.
Kid approached the end of the arc and bunched his legs beneath him to launch out, away from the wall in a drifting curve, an almost automatic twist to point his feet down into the rapid approach of the corner where the two buildings met, shooting just over the adjacent wall and just past the end of the wall across which he had just been sprinting.
Whipping his hand in a tight loop to disengage from the rope, Kid snapped his head back to clear the wall, forearm smacking hard on the concrete, and then he was sliding and spinning and flipping and rolling and crashing into an air conditioning unit. Kid laid there, crumpled against the cold metal, looked over at the bag lying a body length away, and shook with quiet laughter.
Got a goofy name for that one?
Hah. Um. No.
Perfect! You guys are starting to get this shit.
I’m sure you expected that statement to be greeted with something other than dismay, but that’s really all I got for you right now.
You’ll come around.
Kid knee-walked over to the bag, one arm held tight across his chest, slipping the handles over his other shoulder. A rocking push thrust the boy to his feet, which carried across the roof toward next building down the block which featured a sturdy awning affording an easy passage down to the street. From the street it was but a short, furtive scurry to the nearest tunnel opening, as Kid carried his plunder back to the relative safety of the world beneath the streets.