Exit Strategy

by London Lampy

Chapter 5

I enter the lobby of Municipal Works yawning, perhaps a large meal and sex were not the best idea before spending the night breaking into a building.

I'm glad to see the security guards have changed shift, and instead of the earlier two a pair of visks are on duty. One of them is female, I can only tell that because she's wearing a head wrap, apparently the way to tell the difference is by size, the females are smaller, but they don't seem to be that much smaller and I can never work it out. This pairs scale's are a dull grey brown colour, and that, along with their jobs marks them out as lower caste. I flash them my pass, they wave me through and take the lift up to the tenth floor, Vio is waiting for me at reception smoking, Caddy long gone home.

"Hey partner." I greet her.

"I hope you got some fucking sleep."

"I did."

She looks at me suspiciously, and for a moment I swear she knows what I've been doing, but then she turns, stubs out her smoke and walks away, waving at me to follow her. To my surprise we stop outside Vin's office and she knocks on his door.

"Come in." he shouts from inside.

"Why is Vin here?" I hiss at her, but she's already going in.

"Violet, Exit." He greets us, ignoring Vio's wince.

"Are you coming with us?" I ask him.

"Yes, I want to take receipt of anything you find right away, Sampson's orders." He replies, referring to our big boss and the owner of the company.

Great, I'm nervous enough about doing this, Vin being there is not going to help. He passes me a small black rucksack from under his desk.

"All the usual tools, plus dynamite for any safes you find."

"You want me to blow up safes? Wouldn't that alert their security?"

He and Vio exchange looks, I wish they'd stop doing that.

"You do it last, them make your escape. I trust you to evade any guards they have."

Well it's either that or get caught and end up in the shit. As long as they don't shoot me I'll be fine, I know I can move faster than any human guard, but not with a bullet in me.

In the lift on the way down I stand next to Vin and I can smell him, he smells good, leather and spice, I suppose it's aftershave but I like it, it makes me want to wriggle in closer to him, but of course I don't. I hope I don't smell of sex, I cleaned up after I left Ry's but I didn't shower.

It takes about twenty minutes to walk to the cartel's office building, it's a lot smaller than ours, only three floors, thank the gods. We stop in a small alleyway between it and the next building that's just about lit from the glow of the street lamps on the pavement. I look up at the building, there are no lights on inside, unlike Municipal Works this place isn't open twenty four hours a day, although they will have some kind of security. Not that the darkness is an issue for me, I can see much much better in the dark than humans can.

Vin taps me on the shoulder and signs "silence". When I first joined the company I had to learn a lot of new things, sign language was one of the easier ones, I nod in reply and begin to get ready. I pass the rucksack to Vio to hold while I remove my boots and socks, I climb much better in bare feet. Then comes the awkward part, to get my tail out I have to drop my trousers, and while I couldn't care less about doing that in front of my partner, Vin is a different matter. I hesitate and Vin signs "hurry up" at me, so I turn around and undo my fly buttons, letting the trousers fall to my ankles. I don't wear underwear, clothing my bottom half is complicated enough without adding extra layers, so I am now exposing myself. I unstrap my tail and awkwardly undo the flap in the back of my trousers, then pull them back up, feeding my tail through as I go.

Once I am decent again I turn round, and I swear I catch Vin quickly looking away, I guess he was staring at my tail, people are often very curious about it. I tuck my binding into one of my boots, take the bag back from Vio and put it on, then sign "I'm going in" to them.

The best way to get into any building is the most unexpected. The ground floor windows, although high are barred and locked shut, however no one thinks they will be broken into from the first or second floors and so I climb upwards. Fortunately for me the building is covered in decorative mouldings and I use these as hand and foot holds, bending my knees and jumping from one to the other, using my tail to balance me. Once I'm at the first floor I squat on a window ledge and examine the window itself for the best way to get in. It's a sash, but it's closed and has a catch on the inside, so I hop over to the next sill, grabbing the lintel and swinging into place. This one is the same but it's open a little, just half an inch but it's enough to get my finger tips under and I push it upwards. It creaks in protest so I stop dead, I've opened it about a hands with now, but it's not enough for me to wriggle through. I listen but no one seems to enter the room beyond so I push again, this time it moves more freely and I open it enough for me to fit through. I try to slide my body in, but the bag gets caught, I forgot to allow for the extra bulk of it. I have to retreat back to the ledge, take the bag off, drop it through and then follow.

It the room is in darkness but it seems to be some kind of meeting room, containing just a large table, and a number of chairs, with a couple of portraits hanging on the walls. I doubt that there's much in here but I look for hidden safes behind the pictures just in case, and as expected find nothing. I then check out the rest of the rooms on this floor, they're all basic offices and they all have paperwork lying about in trays and on desk tops. I doubt that anything as sensitive as the documents I'm looking for would be left out on display, but I stuff a few papers that look like they could possibly be promising into the bag as I go along, I don't want to risk returning empty handed.

I decide to try the top floor next, it's likely to be used by the most senior workers if it's anything like my office building anyway. Just as I'm about half way up the stairs I hear the noise of a door closing up ahead and can see a small flickering light bouncing off the walls. I'm not sure I can make it back down the stairs without being seen, and I certainly can't go up, however there's a tall window recessed into the wall a few steps from me and I brace my arms and legs against the sides and climb up, wedging myself across the top as quietly as I can. It seems to take forever for the guard to appear although it can really only be a few seconds, my muscles are screaming at me, I know I can't hold this for long and I almost groan in relief when he walks straight past me and out of sight. As soon as I feel it's safe to do so I drop back down and try to get the feeling back into my limbs. One thing I've learnt is that people never expect anyone to be hiding overhead.

As I continue up the staircase to the top floor I'm very aware of the sounds of my bare feet slapping on the floor, and I hope that there's no one else patrolling up there. The floor only seems to contain three rooms, the first is a large bathroom, complete with a bathtub big enough for four, marble sinks and gold taps, which is rather more flashy than Municipal Works shower block. The next room is a huge office that takes up almost one side of of the building, containing an enormous mahogany desk and an entire wall filled with bookshelves, housing box files and ledgers. Shit, there's dozens of them and I can't check all of them out.

Behind the desk is a large painting of a naked woman with some kind of fabric carefully draped over her to hide the rudest bits. I pull the frame gently and it swings out, revealing a safe behind.

Oh crap, now I'm going to have to use the explosives.

Before I do that I look in the final room, and to my surprise it turns out to be a bedroom, fortunately unoccupied. I snoop around a little, a wardrobe is full of suits on hangers, a chest of draws has socks and underwear, but the biggest surprise is in the dressing table draws. Lengths of rope, two sets of handcuffs, a riding crop and a few dildos are inside. I guess things are done a little differently here than they are in our offices.

I head back to the large office and check out the desk, the draws are locked but I make quick work of them with a lock pick from my bag. I find a ledger of accounts, and it seems suspicious that's it's not on the shelves with the others so I take that along with a small black address book. I then examine the bookshelves looking for anything that may be useful, but there's too much and most of it seems to date back over the last few years and I give up, the security guard could be back up here at any minute and there's no point in wasting time.

The only thing left to do is dynamite the safe, once it's done I'll need a quick escape as a loud explosion is guaranteed to alert unwanted attention so I open one of the windows and quickly look out, unfortunately I am now on the opposite side of the building to the one Vin and Vio are waiting at, it's more exposed and faces onto the road but there's nothing to be done about that.

Taking the explosives out of my bag I stick them to the safe keyhole with some cloth tape, I've only done this once before and that was in training on a piece of waste ground, this feels very different and I just hope I get it right. At first I can't find any matches in the bag and I think Vin forgot to put them in, but eventually my fingers find the box in a pocket and I almost feel disappointed, I really don't want to do this, and I can only pray that the explosion doesn't bring the ceiling down.

The fuse is a one minute burn so I light it and retreat to the corridor outside, trying to count the seconds in my head. I've got to about thirty when I hear footsteps coming up the stairs and I see the flicker of the guards lantern against the wall again. If he sees me I'm done for, I could hide in the bedroom or bathroom, but although it would be easy to escape from either of those I want to get my hands on the contents of the safe and once the blast has gone off I'll have no chance of getting back into the office unseen, so the only choice I have is to quickly duck back in there now. Once inside I know I have just a few seconds left so I throw myself under the desk and cover my head with my hands.

The explosion rips through the room, plaster rains down above me, smoke fills the air and I can now hear nothing except a constant ringing noise. I roll out from my hiding place and through the smoke and dust I can just see the door opening. I turn to look at the safe and thank the gods that it's hanging open, I can barely see a thing and my eyes are starting to water, I have no time to think, I plunge my hands in grab a bundle of papers and stuff them down the front of my shirt. Vault over the desk I almost land on the guard who's looking wildly around the room, his lantern making little difference to the smog, and I hope he doesn't get a good look at me. He makes a grab in my direction but I easily spring away and jump onto the sill of the window I opened earlier. His mouth opens in a shout and despite him being just feet from me I can hardly hear him, I look down and see a flag pole flying the Kipp al Reah standard a floor below and I throw myself toward it, catching it with my hands and using my tail to counterbalance. From there I make my way back around the building to the alleyway side, I don't want to land on the ground out on the street, it may be late at night but there are still plenty of people about.

I can see Vin and Vio looking at me and making "hurry up" signs so I drop down to them as fast as I can. Once I'm on the ground Vin grabs my arm and drags me further down the ally, and all I can do is stumble along with him. Toward the end of the passage is a gate and he opens it and pulls me through, we are in some kind of rubbish store area, it smells bad and the ground seems to ooze a bit under my bare feet.

Vin says something to me but he sounds like he's under water and I have no idea what it is he's saying.

"Hurt ears" I sign, and he frowns at me and then says something to Vio. She steps close to me and speaks straight into my ear "CAN. YOU. FUCKING. HEAR. ME?"

"Yes." I reply, I can, just about.

She turns to Vin and I think she says "He's all right."

We wait in the rubbish store for about twenty minutes until Vin decides it's safe to leave, by the time we leave my tail is tucked away, my boots are back on, and best of all my hearing is starting to return.

Back in Vin's office I explain what happened, when I finish he gives me a serious look.

"You shouldn't have gone back into the room once that fuse was lit."

"But then I wouldn't have been able to get the stuff from the safe." I reply.

Vio prods me and makes a "less noise" gesture, I'm finding it hard not to shout, I can't tell how loud I'm talking.

Vin speaks again. "We'll get the doctor to check your hearing tomorrow, go home now and get some rest, you to Violet." He ignores her glare.

Vio and I head for the lift together, she lights a cheroot, looks at me and says. "That wasn't too bad, monkey boy."

From her that's almost a medal, I then feel a tap on my shoulder and turn round, it's Vin.

"Like she says Exit, you did well tonight." He squeezes my arm and gives me a crooked smile, I somehow manage to keep my face neutral and say. "Thank you Sir." Although once we're in the lift I can't stop grinning, Vio gives me a look but I don't care, and I swear I don't stop grinning until I'm in bed asleep.

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