Thieves: Chapter 2
Jovlin tucked her long dark hair behind her ear as she surveyed the stage below her. She grabbed a black ribbon and tied her hair back as she scanned the room for guards. Then, after securing the white mask to her face, she tied her rope to the rafter on which she was crouching and, grabbing hold of the other end, jumped out into empty space.
She was falling, and falling, and falling, and falling. Then she stopped with a jolt, not a foot from the ground. Jovlin immediately ducked backstage and peered out from behind the curtains, looking for any sign that her descent had been observed, hoping that she had not been noticed.
After a few minutes of silence Jovlin was reassured that she had not been seen and she pulled out her bag. She immediately set to scouring the opera seats for any jewelry or money left behind by the wealthies. Several dollar bills had fallen out of the pocket of some very rich person. Smiling at her good fortune, Jovlin added that to her bag of plunder, which was already almost filled with other valuables from the other operas situated across New New London.
When she was satisfied that she had found all there was to be had, Jovlin grinned from ear to ear and shimmied up the rope to the rafters, leaving a note in the middle of center stage. The Phantom of the Opera had struck again!
Ten dollars’ worth of coins clinked into Jovlin’s money bag, enough to feed her for a week. Maybe enough to buy another book! She tucked her purse securely into the pocket of her trousers as she threw herself onto the pile of dirty blankets on the floor. Her hideout was filled with books as far as the eye could see.
This place had once been what had been known as a library, but now was nothing more that ruins which were avoided by all due to the haunting. All, that is, except for Jovlin. The haunting was indeed very real, and the other people did well to stay away from it, for every night pale white ghosts fluttered from the window of whatever room Jovlin was in.
But that was for later. For now, all Jovlin wanted to do was read. She picked up the first book her hands found, but immediately tossed it away as she realized she had picked up a history of the bluebird. She rolled over and searched the books for her current favorite, Robin Hood. She immediately flipped through the torn and bent pages to where she had last left off.
After a few moments she was completely engrossed with the story, and looked up only when her stomach started growling. Jovlin wandered through the ruins until she had completely satisfied herself that there was no food left in the whole building which had not been devoured by the rats. With a sigh she pulled out her recently filled money bag, having planned not to use her spoils until later.
She quickly climbed out of the building with her bag in hand and expertly crept out into the streets. It was now close to evening, but there were bound to be a few shops open, hoping to make some money so that they might manage to feed their hungry children that night. Jovlin immediately walked to the nearest stand and bought several rotting apples and a stale loaf of bread.
Taking a bite out of the apple, she turned around to make her way back to her home but stopped when she saw a dirty little boy and girl staring at her apple hungrily. She looked down at her purse, so full of money, and then looked back at the children who were as thin as sticks with hunger.
Turning back to the stalls, she pulled out her money bag once again and bought a large hunk of cheese and another loaf of bread, along with some more fruit. Walking over to the children, Jovlin held out the bread to the girl, who yanked it from her hand and immediately stuffed it into her mouth. The boy did the same with the cheese, and then switched with the girl who appeared to be his sister. They were so busy with their food that Jovlin decided to simply place the food on the ground and walk away.
She had barely turned her back to them when a rough gloved hand fell on her shoulder, and a voice which matched the hand came to her ears
“Mind if I have a look in that there bag?” It was not really a question, the soldier obviously intended to look whether she wanted him to or not.
Why should it matter? She thought. I emptied all of my spoils into the hands of others long before now, the only evidence would be in my purse and that is not even evidence. So Jovlin nodded her head and handed the bag to him.
She turned around as he began to open it, and he paused to look at her with a questioning look in his eyes. Jovlin wondered what it was that made him curious about her. Was it her black eyes that burned red like coals whenever she was upset? What did he see when he looked at her.
She knew what she saw whenever she looked in one of the many mirrors throughout the library. Jovlin saw a young woman with long black hair, eyes that were as black as midnight, and a mouth which had never laughed. She always wore black clothing so that if she needed to, she could easily blend into the shadows. Her sleeves had been cut off at the shoulders, it was always warm in the sun and hot in the library.
However, she always avoided looking at her left arm. She always wore a tight, long sleeved, black shirt underneath her shirts. The right sleeve was cut off as with the outer shirts, but the left sleeve remained. It was sown on then to the glove which she wore, so that not a single bit of skin showed.
Not that there was any skin to see.
Now the soldier had removed all of her items from the bag, but he was still reaching in to look for more. Jovlin held back a smirk, he would never find anything. But then he pulled his hand out of the bag, and there was something in it.
Jovlin calmed herself. It was probably just a scrap of bread left at the bottom which had become even too moldy for the rats to eat. Or it was a piece of jewelry she had missed when trading them in for coins.
He opened his hand just as Jovlin panicked and dashed away, with the soldier immediately in pursuit. She turned the corner into one of the side streets which doubled back into the main road. He was right behind her, gaining ground.
They were back on the main street now. She knew a way she could lose him, but she had to count the alleys. One. He yelled for reinforcements. Two. He figured out who she must be and yelled again. Three. He lost some ground, perhaps she would escape. Four. Jovlin smiled, he had fallen further behind. Five. The reinforcements joined the race. Six. Her smile vanished, they were gaining. Seven. Only two more alleys. Eight. The first soldier was too close. Nine. She could feel his breath on her neck as she dodged his hand.
Ten. She dodged into the alley, relief flooding her senses. She ran straight ahead, but soon realized something was wrong. The soldiers filled the entrance to the alley as she realized she had missed the turn she had been looking for. There was no escape now.
She had reached a dead end. There were no windows on the ruined buildings in this alley and it ended with another solid brick wall with no handholds. Turning to face her pursuers she held her arms wide apart, challenging them to come any nearer. But they didn’t need to.
The bullet from the sergeant’s rifle bit into her right shoulder. Pain filled her mind as she clutched her arm and fell to the ground. The soldiers immediately rushed her, and the sergeant’s rifle hit her hard in the head, sending her in to a world of black.