“Fuck me sideways,” Dingo exhaled. He took the crowbar from Dieb and pried open one of the crates. They weren’t being used as convenient storage; it was packed with plastic-wrapped off-white bricks. “I think it’s C4”. He started to root around the crate and pulled up a metal tin of wires, cylinders, and detonators. “Oh man. Jack is going to love this.”
Dieb tossed him the empty rucksack, and together they loaded as much as they could carry. Between the two bags they got half the crates and all the detonators.
“Jack’s going to shit himse-” Dingo’s head snapped to the side, tilted like a dog’s. A finger pressed to his lips. Dieb heard it too: voices. Someone was outside the door, speaking in hushed tones. They waited, but the door didn’t rattle, the handle didn’t turn.
Dieb grabbed a brick of C4, jammed a detonate in it, and moved towards the door. Dingo came after him, and tore the brick from his hands, a look of bewilderment on his face. He tore off a fist-sized chunk of the brick, and stuck the detonator in that. Dieb passed him the clacker and drew his pistol. At the door, he mimed opening it, and jabbed his gun at it before he mimed a toss. Dingo nodded and cut the lights.
On the other side of the door, six denizens of the Corpse had gathered. They examined the cut lock and the additional footprints. One of them hissed, “We’ve gotta kick them outta there!” They nodded in agreement. He pushed against the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Others joined in, but couldn’t push the door open. “Get some from Fifth street, we’ll bla-”
He was interrupted by the sound of the door as it creaked open, and turned just in time to see the muzzle flash. The bullet grazed his shoulder and sent him reeling backwards. Another shot rang out and struck the man with the lantern square in the chest. They scrambled away for cover as more shots rang out.
Dingo lobbed the C4 into the room and pushed the door shut, sliding the barricade bar into place. The two of them ran to the far corner of the room, staying well clear of the door. In the flashlight’s glow they stared at the clacker, and then Dingo mashed on the trigger. The room shook, and the sound was deafening. Dust leapt from its place of rest and hung in the air like a fog bank. Dieb shook the blast from his ears and shone a light on the now-open door.
In the other room, four of the six were instantly killed. The other two struggled to their feet and cleared the haze from their head just in time to see a figure move through the dust. A shot rang out and one of them yelped as a bullet tore through an artery in his neck. Rich arterial blood spurted from the wound as the heart pumped itself to death. Two more shots found their mark and buried themselves deep into the gut. As he staggered to find balance against a shelf, Dingo stepped out of the cloud and fired the fourth round.
Dieb pushed detonators into a few bricks of C4 and tossed them into the remaining crates. Dingo joined him and dragged the rucksacks out of the store. Handing Dieb the detonator, he shouldered the bag, and together hiked back out of The Corpse in darkness and silence. If anyone else was in town, the blast and gunfire had likely sent them in the opposite direction.
“What’s the range on that thing?” Dingo asked, nodding at the clacker.
“Dunno,” Dieb shrugged, and held it up, “Time to find out.”
Even at the edge of the city, the blast was loud, and sent a plume of dust and debris and fire into the sky, just visible over the surrounding buildings.
“That was cool,” Dingo sighed.
The hike back to Greylands was dull and typical for Dieb, but Dingo continued to be enamoured with the dead countryside. Dingo showed him how to use C4 to make a tiny, but hot camp fire. Even the cold rain didn’t stamp it out. They slept in the day and on the second night moved as fast as possible with the heavy rucksacks.
They’d arrived at Greylands at first light, and the city was louder than ever. There was activity on the tops of the walls, something he hadn’t seen in years. The guards were on high alert for something. Had their escape been noticed?
“We’ll never get through that,” Dingo groaned. Dieb was already fishing in the bag for a detonator. They approached the wall through what passed for foliage. Dieb molded some C4 around a fist-sized rock and threw it over the wall. The explosion was small, but loud. They could hear the soldiers scramble off the wall, and hopefully moving away from them. Dingo pushed the stone block out of the wall, drew a pistol and stuck his head through the gap. He waved for Dieb to follow and the two of them slipped back into Greylands in the confusion.
Greylands’ streets were either deserted, or occupied by police. The two of them moved around the perimeter of the Shadows, but found all the entrances blocked up, destroyed, or the cops were there hoping to catch thieves. A rock skipped off the pavement, then another. Dingo looked up and saw a familiar face on a rooftop. She waved them up.
“Pops said to look out for your skinny ass,” Mouse whispered, “I’m ta bring you two in.”
“What the fuck’s going on,” Dingo hissed. “What’s with the cops?”
“All’a the shit hit all’a the fans. The cops are crackin’ down. C’mon.”
She led them across the rooftop to a ventilation duct. They lowered the bags down on ropes, and then climbed into the darkness on a rope ladder. Sweat filled Dieb’s nostrils as they descended further down the shaft until they reached a small circular room. A grating lay in the middle. Mouse yanked it free and dropped another rope ladder.
“I ain’t followin’,” she said while she motioned them to climb down. “I’ll lower yer bags when y’down there. Watch yer asses.”
The ladder terminated in Sinner’s Way. The usual squirming masses seemed more listless than lustful. Being bottled up in here hadn’t helped their disposition. A few of them approached Dieb slowly until he shifted his coat to reveal the revolver. Dingo dropped off the rope and thumped to the ground.
“Toss the bags!” he hollered. He caught the smaller bag, and let the other land on the stone floor with a thud. Dieb took his bag from Dingo who scooped up the other one. The rope ladder was hauled back up to the ceiling.
“Jack?” Dieb called up to Mouse.
“He ain’t here! Go see Pops!” She shouted back and pointed the way. The denizens of Sinner’s Way seemed to be paying more attention to him than he was comfortable with, and he rested his hand on the revolver’s rosewood grip.
“Y’all might want to step back,” Dingo motioned, “My friend’s a little sensitive about grabbing.” Dieb look over and realised Dingo had been talking about his own pistol which was now leveled at the crowd. They absconded quickly from the den.
Narrow passes and shuttered doors were a blur as Dieb followed Dingo in a mad sprint to Pop’s. Dingo burst into his home, his breath exhausted.
“Oh good,” he huffed, “you’re here.” Pops glared at him, his scorn barely hidden.
“I ain’t got fucking legs,” Pops snapped. “Of course I’m here.”
Dieb tossed him a brick from the ruck sack. Pops regarded it for a moment, and then grinned madly.
“Fuck me sideways,” he laughed.
“That’s what I said,” Dingo whispered.
Another dagger stare from Pops shut him up. “This’ll make Jack happy,” he mused, “But I got something else for you now. Jack’s headed to City Hall. He’s lookin’ for something. He asked me to ask you to help. He said he’d owe you a favour. A big one, I’d wager.”
“Cops are everywhere,” Dieb protested half-heartedly.
“You got out. And you got back in under a lock down.” Pops laughed, “Besides, you got this.” He pulled a sack off a shelf and handed it to him. Inside Dieb found a police uniform, some blood stains evident on the collar. “Couple of cops thought maybe they could be heroes.” He laughed again. “It didn’t end well.” Pops motioned to the back room.
Dieb found the uniform made for a much shorter, but stockier man. The pants ended above his ankles, but would fall off if not cinched with a belt. The revolver didn’t fit in the holster, so he tucked it into his waist band and donned the battered hat.
“Well you look like an asshole,” Dingo remarked.
“I feel like one,” Dieb sighed. “Shortest cop alive.”
“Wouldn’t say ‘alive’,” Pops chuckled. “Dingo will show you out one of the special exits.”
More narrow halls and empty rooms. Tattered fabric and bits of glass littered the ground. Before long they were topside. Dingo handed him the rucksack. “Good luck,” he said as he closed the door and disappeared into the Shadows.
The raincoat hid the small jacket, and Dieb bloused the pants into the boots to make them look a bit longer. He passed through the police lines without notice, but he still kept his head down and avoided eye contact. Most of the patrols were too occupied with the harassment of citizens, or standing under awnings and in doorways to stay out of the rain. The promise of a big favour from Jack was all the spurred him forward through increasingly thicker patrols. They became more numerous the closer he got to the gates of the Tracks.
At the gates itself he found a larger blockade. As he approached, a tall thin cop moved towards him, his eyes locked on him. “You!” he called out. “Hold up.” Dieb pretended he hadn’t heard and did not stop. “With the bag!” the cop shouted, this time his hand was on his gun. Dieb stopped but his heart sped up.
“Where you heading?” Dieb recognized the man; he was the cop one of Jack’s boys had beaten to unconsciousness. He looked over the man’s shoulders and was unsurprised his fatter partner.
“City hall,” he replied.
“No one’s supposed to go there. Who told you to go?”
“My sergeant,” without a missed beat.
“Your sergeant told you,” the cop laughed. He grabbed Dieb by the collar and stared at him. “Your rank says you are a fucking sergeant.” He shoved Dieb back and drew his gun, “And who the fuck blouses their pants. Get his bag.”
The fatter cop yanked the bag off Dieb’s shoulder, and patted him down.
“What’s that?” he asked. “Open your coat slowly or my friend’ll shoot you in the head.”
Dieb slowly pulled the zipper open, his heart going faster and faster, his mind reeling for an escape route.
“That’s my gun!” the Fat Cop shouted, and the whole world exploded.