Soul of a Thief
Without a moment’s hesitation, he reached for the hammer and raised it above his sweaty head. I felt the stone shake as it came down where my face had so recently resided. He was still standing over me, bringing the hammer up for another strike. Impulsively, my knee came up and with a dull thud, collided with his groin. The Blacksmith toppled over, groaning in pain as I stood up from the dusty floor. The Blacksmith’s tools were strewn about the shop from the chase and the once burning furnace had died down to a few small coals.
“Don’t think I won’t get you,” said the Blacksmith as he began to rise from the ground. “And when I do, I will kill you.” His eyes blazed fire and he spat the last words through his foaming mouth.
“You have to catch someone to kill them.” I said, a cocky grin spreading over my young and dirty face. Before the blacksmith could rise to face me again, I had bolted and was casually walking down the streets of one of the many towns that dotted the Caribbean in 1687.
I continued down the street until the forbidding silhouette of an old mansion came into view, the roof collapsing and the once beautiful gardens overgrown and choked. The place had been owned by a rich aristocrat who lived in the area for a time. However, after a few of his convoys were stolen by pirates, he decided to leave, abandoning the mansion and leaving it an empty husk.
I walked up the steps, my ragged boots scraping on the rough wood. I heard a bird call behind me and stopped momentarily before opening the door. It creaked as the rusty hinges moved and a few dust particles fell near my face. As my eyes adjusted, I spotted the dark outline of the staircase that led upstairs where I slept. But my destination did not lie there. Instead I swerved to the left of it. The boards creaked underfoot as I advanced toward the old pantry.
I heard a faint scuffling inside and pulled a small knife out of my coat as I neared the door. The scuffling stopped and I heard someone stand up. My breathing grew heavy as I waited and finally the sound resumed. I held my breath and with a grunt, burst through the door, my knife raised.
On the ground was the stunned form of one of the few people on the streets who wasn’t out to kill me. It was Connor, a young waif who cheated and stole to get his food. Though he was only a year or two younger than me, he held a great amount of age on his shoulders. He had sharp, gray, emotionless eyes that laughed maliciously at those who saw him. His lanky blonde hair came down around his brow as a blanket and barely covered his greedy eyes.
Despite all this, he had proven surprisingly loyal to me the past few months. Ever since the strange circumstances that brought us together, we had remained a pair, despite our differences. Even though I knew I could trust him with some things, it wasn’t at all strange to see him sitting on the floor of the only place I had known as home, eating the little food I had scrounged from the streets.
“You should know never to leave food out James.” Connor said, his eyes searching my face for any sign of anger. I knew he wanted to see me loose myself before him, but that would only complete his victory. My face remained calm and I cracked a small grin at him through my mask.
“I suppose so Connor, but one forgets these things after getting food from the Blacksmith.” I said, the lie coming through my grinning face.
Connor looked at me with surprise for a second, but then he grinned again wolfishly. His eyes lit up with a fiendish delight and I could see his hunger. He stood up, his hand twitching.
“Too bad you already ate my other food.” I said, a contented smirk crossing my face again.
He looked at me, a little drool gathering at the corner of his mouth, but he quickly switched back to his grin.
“Oh well, can’t do anything about it now.” He said, beginning to head towards the door.
“I guess so, don’t steal anymore of my food Connor. I’ll get you back.” I said, a boyish attitude drifting into my voice.
“You have to catch someone to get them.” He said, mimicking my usual jesting demeanor, except with great bravado.
I summoned a fake grin as if laughing at his joke as he left. I felt it fall off my face the moment I no longer heard his footsteps on the creaking floors. I sat down, the weight of the day bearing on my shoulders. I had failed to steal anything exceptionally useful from the Blacksmith and my food for the week was all gone.
“This calls for an expedition.” I said, a grin once more spreading across my face.
The wind whistled through the alley as I neared the bakery. Years ago, breads had been imported, but after wheat and other supplies came in, the shop was quickly built and had been pouring bread out ever since. Most of it wasn’t bought before it became stale and that was just left to rot. A shame really since so many could still eat it. But, the rich only think of themselves and not another thought nor tear was ever shed for the poor.
The lamps were all blown out and the shop was quiet in the evening breeze. No one was about and the only light came from the shining moon high above my head. The pale glow illuminated the front window of the shop where three loaves of bread had been accidentally left out. I finally have some fortune smile on me. I thought, grinning to myself.
I crept closer and pulled out my knife. It glinted in the moonlight briefly before I slipped it inside the lock, feeling around for the mechanism to release the door. It pressed against something and I wiggled the knife until I heard a sharp click.
The door opened slowly and I moved stealthily inside. It was pitch black except for the pale moonlight and I couldn’t see much before me. I slipped around some barrels and snatched the loaves of bread from the shelve they had resided on. They were cold and hard as rock, but I could still smell them slightly and the idea of actually being able to eat real food tonight nearly made me drool.
I sidled towards the door, my treasures in my hand. I was nearly there, freedom at my fingertips, when my foot slipped on something wet on the floor. I fell over, a huge crash coming from the things that accompanied my descent. I still held all three loaves in my hand and it was only when I right myself that I noticed what I was standing in.
The blood covered my hands and was on one of the loaves. My back was soaked in it and it didn’t take me long to see the source that I had so quickly neglected during my entry.
The baker was lying, face first on the ground in a pool of his own blood. My breath held in my lungs and it was several moments before I remembered to breath again. I backed away slowly, the blood dripping from my hands onto the floor where it collected in little puddles.
“Don’t move or you’ll be lying with him.” Came a gruff voice from behind me. I felt the knife point on my back and smelled the alcohol on his breath. He was drunk and therefore not someone I wanted to anger right now.
“I just came here to get some food, I won’t tell anyone anything that happened.” I said, trying to keep my voice calm and steady.
“Course you ain’t, because dead men don’t tell no tales.” The knife jabbed a little harder, and I felt a searing pain as I leapt forward, drawing my knife from my belt. I spun around to face my adversary and saw him standing there with his blade in one hand and a pistol in the other.
He was of medium height, lanky and skinny like me, but instead of the elegant demeanor I possessed, he was just a brute. His shoulders were scrunched up around his drooping head and his back curved like the bow of a ship. He had dull brown eyes that were lazy from the alcohol he had had and his mouth was partially open.
He fired the pistol and I felt it graze my right side as I rolled away. I gasped as the pain seared through me, but I knew I had to escape now and quickly. I looked around for the precious food I had gathered and saw one loaf. I lunged towards it and, after making a quick glance at the drunken man, ran out the door.
A dog had started barking and people were beginning to rise form their slumber to see what the commotion was about. I was already halfway to my home when the first guard arrived to assess the situation.
I stopped on a dark street corner near the empty mansion and leaned against a wall. I still clutched the bread like gold to my chest, but my other hand was closing around the wound in my side. Blood was dribbling through it, but it seemed to have slowed and the pain was ebbing.
I spun around as I heard a soft shuffling, my hand left my wounded side and flew to my knife. Only it wasn’t there. I must’ve dropped it during my escape. It didn’t matter then, the only thing that stood before me was a young woman and what appeared to be her elderly mother.
I looked closer and saw that the woman was not a woman at all, but a girl, more akin to my age than to her mother’s. She was average height, with long dark brown hair that may once have been flowing and beautiful, but now hung in knotted lumps. She had sharp hazel eyes that watched me suspiciously and darted around looking for danger. She was tense and defiant in her stance as if willing the world to wrong her
I watched to two for a little and they eventually moved back to what they were doing, scrounging for food in the garbage. I saw them pick up a dead rat and tuck it away. I fought revulsion as I realized they meant to eat it. I clutched the bread closer to my chest, as if they meant to steal it. Then I loosened my grip and moved towards them.
The girl reacted instantly, she pushed her mother behind her and pulled a long curved knife from her clothing, holding it defensively in front of her. I raised my hands, showing the bread I had in them. She didn’t relax one muscle.
“I just thought that... Umm, I got some bread and I thought that you might want it,” I said uncertainly, all my confidence and gusto gone from the strangeness of the situation.
The girl eyed it suspiciously and then hungrily. She put out her left hand for it and I dropped the bread into it. She looked at me again and then ripped off some of the bread and stuffed it in her mouth. She handed the rest to her mother and they began to back away slowly.
“Thank you.” She said simply, as the two left with the food they had been given.
I watched them the whole way, my heart beating fast as though from fear. I turned and began to head towards my home. Only my stomaching rumbling reminded me that I was without food once more. Yet the strange thing was, I smiled.