Who is the Street Rat? (14.4) The Street Rat

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PART 4

As soon as the Chancellor sent for Sarah, or sent someone to check on Sarah, the whole penthouse would then be searching for her. She considered going back, she could look into the guests that were waiting to find out if the Holy Lady survived as Sarah, find out their true intentions.

Her job was done, however. Sarah had been uncovered, metaphorically and literally. As they walked along a given corridor, however, she saw something out the corner of her eye which looked…suspect.

Jamie stopped. Her mind was becoming more and more like herself, the turning of its wheels more and more like what she was used to.

The Street Rat was not a grown up, emotions didn’t rot inside her, they fumed out through her ears as she experienced them. She was almost back to her full potential, and that was more than enough to make out one very potential enemy.

“Keep going,” she said, stopping. “I need to look into something.”

“What?” Jordan looked around, not out of nervousness but simply habit, making sure no one was close enough to hear and understand the context of their exchange. “They’re on to you, aren’t they? We need to leave before they start a search.”

“I don’t have time to argue, Jordan,” she saw another teenager, walking towards the room she wanted to infiltrate with a platter holding cookies and coffee and a piece of pastry. The type of cake all but confirmed what she had seen. It was Rachel and her aunt inside. “Thanks for checking up on me, go ahead and give Andy your report, I’ll show up later.”

“You’re pushing it, Jamie,” Jordan warned, but Jamie didn’t much care what he thought.

The Street Rat didn’t really care what anyone thought beyond how she could use it to manipulate them. In the case of Jordan, he was a potential supporter for her future bid to become a Teen. For that reason, Jamie turned around and gave him a confident smile.

“Shows what you know about me.” And a wink.

She turned and gave Jordan no more thought. He wasn’t incompetent, he wouldn’t cost her whatever she was trying to do so she didn’t really care what he did beyond that.

The Street Rat approached the girl just as came close to the door.

“Hey.”

“Oh, hey.” The tanned girl had tied her hair into three bows, it looked cute but was actually probably hiding the fact it hadn’t been washed or combed in two straight days. She had dark rings around her eyes that were visible even through her almond-colored skin.

“What’s your name?”

“Uh,” she seemed to shake her head, poor thing looked empty, or full of nothing but a microscopic whisper, pleading for sleep. “Inês?”

“Right, that’s you then, you’re lucky,” she smiled wanly, “I’m supposed to cover for you while you take a rest.”

“What?”

“Lord Byron left and freed me up,” the Street Rat casually, helpfully but overall tiredly said, taking the tray off her hands. “Who’s this for?”

“Hm? Byron? Oh, for lady Pointstree.” If you keep ahead of a mind, you’ll usually be leading it by the nose. That’s what being quicker witted means, you can keep the other from giving things that are happening, or being said, any relevant thoughts. It was a basis of pick-pocketing while engaging in social interaction, and it was the basis to make someone exhausted just accept replacement without any resistance. “She’s in that room.”

“Alright, thanks. Have a nice rest, the Light knows I envy you,” she snickered with a roll of the eyes and turned around.

Inês chuckled and nodded, turning around half-dazed.

“Okay then. Thank yoou…”

Worst case scenario, the girl was actually bright and would check with her supervisor about the replacement before taking a nap. That would give the Street Rat more than enough time. She had to make very good sure not to look Rachel in the face. She wouldn’t recognize Jaime as the Street Rat, but the servant didn’t look different enough from Sarah that Rachel wouldn’t see the resemblance.

That wasn’t hard. They were nobility, they didn’t really look servants in the face. Plus, they weren’t even there when she opened the door. She saw a tray with an empty coffee mug. She put down hers and picked that one up, meanwhile regarding the two doors that seemed to be open.

One had light, the other didn’t. With steps that were hard to hear, but not that quiet, she headed towards the dark room.

Rachel was sleeping.

Jamie couldn’t help herself from smiling. Her friend was deep under heavy thick covers, and they went up to her nose. Her hair was a neat straw sheet under her head, her small fingers peered out over the edge next to each cheek.

She looked like any other doll she used to put to sleep. Jamie wondered if Rachel still played with dolls. Jamie mocked the habit until she herself picked it up to befriend her, only to find it was a pretty good way to visualize her plans.

At least, she felt without really wording it in her thoughts, I saw her one last time.

As far as goodbyes were concerned, that wasn’t that bad. Sarah was happy with it. Rachel liked Sarah anyways, not Jamie.

She stepped out and headed to the other room, finding Rachel’s aunt.

Lady Pointstree seemed to be writing a letter, muttering to herself. Like any good thief, Jamie had a keen sense of hearing, but because of the Scavenger training, that was especially true when it came to eavesdropping.

“…she is still in critical condic…’ll be suspicious if I…can’t stay much longer….my sister’s daughter…they think it’s LBA…”

The Street Rat’s mind went through what was being heard analytically, filling in the gaps.

They think it’s LBA, which means it isn’t. They’ll be suspicious…if she stays too long. Rachel’s mother especially won’t understand what’s the holdup. After all, Pointstree has never really cared about The Light. That was the main thing that had alerted Jamie earlier.

Seeing her through the door earlier, the question arose in Jamie’s mind: why would she have remained behind if she had no close relationship with Amara?

The conclusion was that Lady Pointstree was clearly writing to the ones behind the attack. She was with them, in some way or another.

Boom, she smirked pure pride in herself. She didn’t like to agree with Jordan but he was right, she was amazing.

At last, for the first time since Jamie woke up, the Street Rat felt back to her full form.

She needed that letter, but it was very unlikely she could get it without Pointstree noticing. She was facing the door, the woman had simply not yet looked up to notice the Street Rat.

Hmm…

Jamie could simply try. With the tray carrying the requested food and drink, she knocked on the door and opened it.

“’’Xcuse me, lady,” she used a voice with a much less cultured pang to it. If one was prejudiced enough, they would assume that voice to mean a severe lack of education as well as an inclination for simple thinking.

The woman shook, properly startled.

“What are you doing!” She reflexively slapped the letter with her hand and faced Edy with a start. “You can’t just barge in here! Who are you?”

“’m Edy, m’lady. Gotch’ur stuff?”

She looked at the tray with an undignified look, “stuff?” Egocentric superiority complexes were so easy to rattle. Old lady was offended because she had described her tea and cake as stuff. “Where is Eva?”

“Takin’ a break, mam. Been a long night.”

“It’s lady, girl, not mam.”

“’Xcuse me, m’lady. Here ya go, anyways, will you be wan-waaahh!” Edy tripped over herself – because of course she did – and the woman did what she had expected, she jumped out of the way. The last thing the lady wanted was to be hurt, or worse dirtied, since she was the most important thing in the world, let alone the room.

The chair toppled over as Edy violently hit the table, bouncing back while flipping the tray over and away, utterly disgracefully and out of control.

The letter found its way into the Street Rat’s pocket in the middle of the whole mess.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!??!?!?”

Now, an amateur would act all sorry. They had the letter, what they had come for, so now they would be sheepish, apologetic and freaking out. But that, Jamie knew, would be breaking character.

“Ooowwww!” She massaged her chest, the point of contact with the desk, “holy crap, that hurt.”

“Look at the mess you made, you little urchin!”

“It was’n accident,” she complained herself, “I’m hurtin’ here – I mean I’m sorry and all, I’ll fetch ya more o’ that stuff, don’t worry.”

The woman’s head was red with rage.

“YES! YES YOU WILL!” She breathed in, collecting herself, “and tell them to send someone else. I see you ever again, little girl, the only place you’ll be able to serve will be at the whorehouses of Hallandia.

Wow. The woman really didn’t like a mess. But that was a threat for Edy to be appropriately afraid of.

“Okay o’ay,” Edy muttered, hurrying to grab the tray, avoiding eye contact and sweating fear. She started collecting the pieces of the shattered teacup.

“Just go!” The lady yelled in a whisper, seemingly remembering Rachel was in the room nearby. “Tell someone to come and clean this up. I just want you out of my sight this instant.”

Edy raised her hands in agreement and walked off in a hurry.

“I’m sorry, ma–”

“JUST—”

Edy jolted in a fright and sped up further.

Jamie threw a last glance at Rachel’s room as she left the place.

Goodbye, my friend.

Jamie skipped out the door, turned and sped up the march. She couldn’t be seen running, that would be suspicious, especially while carrying that tray with an obvious mess on it. But that didn’t mean she was going slow, not by a long shot.

The Street Trash had around three to five minutes before the old woman blew a vessel and yelled the whole penthouse awake.

That, in turn, reminded Jamie that she was still on the top of a very tall building. Which was about to get locked so she could be found.  

Alarm bloated her nervous system. 

I need to change!

Jamie threw the tray aside and ran. If the Street Trash weren’t a boy soon, she would most likely be caught. Jamie tried finding a dressing room without any luck. She was sort of lost, and quickly beginning to wish she had kept Jordan around. He had staked out the place and would know where to go.

“Alright! Spread out and find this thieving girl!”

The voice had come from the end of the hall. Reacting quickly, Jamie opened the nearest door. Inside was no dressing room but an ordinary room – well, ordinary from a rich person’s view, it could easily house two families and had bed sheets that could probably feed as much for a month – and inside, to her surprise, she found a thief.

The young woman, barely out of her teens, looked up and back from the crouch she was holding over a small jewelry chest. The room was a bit smoky, and a couple of nobles were sleeping soundly on a sofa. She had a make-shift mask on she had made out of aviator goggles and a hand towel wrapped around her mouth and nose and tied behind her neck.

The Street Rat immediately held her breath, but the thief stood up and set for a run towards the window. The movement plus the tiny backpacks across her back, one of them clearly opened and empty, told Jamie everything she needed to know to guess what was going on.

Jamie let her voice sound as young as it was.

“Wait wait please wait!”

Yelling was coming from the halls behind her as the figure stopped near the window, looking back at her.

“Hummingbird, right?”

“Thieving Magpie,” she corrected.

“Right,” whatever, “listen, that’s not for you,” Jamie said pointing back at the noise outside, “that’s for me. I stole proof of who tried to kill the Holy Lady. I’m–…I need to get out. I’ll die otherwise.”

“…stole from who?” The voice didn’t sound very bright. It sounded bright, but not in the smart kind of way. She was stealing even as the world was crumbling before a supernatural invasion, so she was obviously bright-eyed, that much was certain.

“Spies, infiltrators, I’m not sure, I haven’t read it. Please, help me get out of here.”

The Thieving Magpie thought to herself for a quick though extremely long minute. Then she shrugged and untied one of her small backpacks.

“Sure, why not? I’m not about to screw you over when I already made enough to buy a dozen more of these.”

She tossed the pack to Jamie.

“Jump and pull that cord that’s peeking out there. You won’t be able to direct the flight, but you’ll get to the ground safe. A bit fast, but safe.

“uhh, how fast, exactly?”

She giggled. “Not that fast, don’t worry. You gotta put it on, though.”

“Right, uhm, ’preciated,” Jamie hesitantly said as she put it on. It was heavier than it looked, which is to say, it didn’t make her any lighter. How was that going to work, exactly?

“No worries. No harm looking out for each other when it comes at no cost, right? Eh, maybe not, maybe you wouldn’t do the same for me.” She looked away and smiled at something outside, “what do I care, though? Remember the Thieving Magpie saved your butt, yeah?”

The Street Rat nodded. Jamie wasn’t honorable at all, but as she was saying, she would definitely return the favor given the opportunity and, key factor: absence of cost.

“You bet I will.”

She laughed and jumped out headfirst.

Jamie walked fast to the window and looked down. An arch of tissue, considerably wide and long, was opened. It was carrying the Thieving Magpie away in a slow fall. Or at least, apparently slow.

Jamie breathed out.

“Right. Well. This is pretty crazy.”

The yells outside got closer. They would be reaching her presently. Unfortunately, they would assume she was responsible for what Thieving Magpie stole, which would make it easy for lady Pointstree to claim she had just stolen some of her valuables as well.

The Street Trash breathed in. Jamie breathed out. She tried to accept that she was about to jump off a building that was so tall she could hardly discern the ground in the nightlight. She couldn’t accept it.

But she characterized personalities for a living, so she dealt with the fear by acting it away. Jamie shook herself away, feeling her hair flowing to the cold wind coming in through the window she was about to jump out of. The Street Trash looked ahead instead of down.

“I’ll prolly enjoy it, that’s the scary thing.”

But it wasn’t. The scary thing was falling.

With what many would consider a misstep, she stepped out into the void and, unable to keep her eyes open before the rush of the fall, blindly pulled the cord.

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