I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

1- Thief in the Dark

Standing on the edge of the rooftop, the concrete gray and black beneath my feet, I took a deep breath and calmed my nerves, readjusted my gloves and made sure the domino mask and hood were firmly in place. If someone did see me today, which was highly unlikely, there was no way they would recognize me, not by my face or red hair.

 I'd be dead if my stepmom ever caught me. Not dead like a corpse. No, she'd probably force me to move back to her four story mansion, never let me see the light of day again, and I'd die of boredom. Didn't matter that I turned eighteen six months ago and found a shabby place a day after my birthday. To say that she was offended was putting it mildly. And I had no intention of going back to that place. 

I looked down. One hundred and twenty feet above the grounds, the street-lamps below were faint dots of white and yellow. If I had a fear of heights, there would be no way I'd do this in a thousand years. But here I stood. My eyes looked up and I was drawn to the billboard from New Year's Eve. It was an ad for a cruise trip. 

Happy New Year's!

2350! A New Decade, Make New Experiences!!

The cruise trip sign had way too many exclamation marks and the crew members in the picture were smiling way too hard for it to be comfortable. 

Enough procrastinating. After doing this kind of thing hundreds of times, I figured that I'd get used to it. Nope, never happened. Holding my breath, I jumped, and wondered why I had been nervous in the first place. 

The wind rushed past my ears, tugging at my hood and threatening to pull it off, but I had made sure that the pins were secure. The ground got closer and closer. Thirty yards, twenty yards, fifteen yards, and then the rope snapped. With a sickening lurch-the breath leaving my lungs- my descent stopped. This part I hated, dangling in the air and waiting for my heart to slow and the pain around my middle to ease. 

A few minutes later, it did. With the press of a button, the suction grip on my gloves spurred to life. I latched my hand to the glass, and reeled myself closer to the building. I grinned as I pulled yet another tool from my belt. I haven't given it a name yet, but it took months to make. It resembled a stick, long, thin and small, but it could burn anything, literally anything. Well, I never tried it on flesh but since it can burn through metal in seconds, I assume it works on flesh too. 

Flipping the switch, it whirred to life as I placed it to the metal panel. In seconds it turned soft. A few more and it started to resemble jelly. The glass panel wobbled. I placed my hand on the glass and immediately it stuck, fast. Carefully, I pushed, and it slid back without a sound. Turning the device off and sliding it back into my belt I kept on easing the glass back until it was on the floor inside the building. Unlatching the rope from my belt, I heaved myself inside and sighed. 

That was easy, these heists were getting easier and easier. Hacking into the mainframe earlier was like eating cake. And I was eating a slice of cake while I was doing it. 

Another sigh. Security wasn't like what it used to be. And that wasn't good news for this government facility a few miles away from the Eiffel Tower. With tentative steps, I made my way around the office to the desk. The cabinets were locked, but after quick work with the code, it beeped and opened. I grinned and pulled the file out from my bag and placed it back in the cabinet, with a side note for the owner of course. Though I doubted they'd understand what it meant. But it was hilarious watching them be frantic the entire day wondering where the file went and who took it. I probably would have made a fortune if I had decided to sell it to one of the Drakhenae countries. 

I slammed the drawer shut, and the code panel beeped once again. Breaking in the first time was always exhilarating and fun. The second time to return whatever I stole? 

Not so much. Way too easy. Well, it was that or being a thief, and I liked to think that my moral compass veered north. 

Humming to myself, I made my way back to the window and made a gesture at the camera, even though I disabled them over half an hour ago. If my stepmom saw that she'd...well I don't know what she'd do. Probably freak out. Level four freak out. 

A few minutes later and I was back outside, dangling midair and putting the window back in its place, exactly like how I found it. I pulled the string next to the rope and immediately I started moving up, the rope whizzing as I disappeared in the night. A thief...but not. 

*******

"If you fall asleep one more time I will physically force you to take your break and I don't care if it's three hours early."

I lifted my head and stared groggily at my best friend from her place behind the counter. 

"I did not fall asleep," I answered, gathering my wild hair into a bun, again. 

She snorted and turned her attention to a customer wheeling a completely filled cart with five children trailing her and pulling at her skirt. She looked bone weary. 

There was a chime of a bell and it took me a moment to place that it was my phone. It took me even longer to pull it out of my pocket without dropping it. Staying up late working on a new project was a horrible idea, and on a school night. Just two more months and it was sayonara high school. 

It was a text from Brandon. My nerves fluttered as I imagined his impish grin whenever he talked to me-most of the time anyhow. I opened his contact and read the text: Landed

Huh, that was strange, in all the months I'd been with him, he never, ever only did one word texts. The minimum was always three. Always. That either means that his trip as an ambassador really, really sucked, or something was up. 

I still found it odd that he was the ambassador of the country at the age of twenty. Twenty, and his birthday was only a month ago so technically he was still nineteen. Even though that makes no sense. 

When he was eighteen the previous ambassador died, and my stepmom, being friends with his dad, knew that he always wanted to be an ambassador, and boom he was offered the job before he set one foot in college. 

I didn't even know my stepmom could do that. I would be lying if I said I didn't find that unfair. There were probably hundreds of people who also wanted the job and actually worked for it. Not saying that Brandon was a bad ambassador, he was actually a really good one who does his job well, but it was handed to him on a silver platter. 

Gosh, thinking that probably makes me a horrible girlfriend. 

I stared at the screen before shutting it off and sliding it back into my pocket. I was definitely no longer sleepy. Drumming my fingers on the counter, I waited. And waited some more. 

When I got the job at the local grocery store, I half expected to just have to stack the merchandise on the shelves. Instead I got stuck in cashier duty. I partially think Amanda had something to do with it so she wouldn't get lonely. 

"Turn on the news, will you?" Amanda asked, throwing me a chocolate bar. 

Scratch that, I really don't care that it was partially her fault I got cashier duty. Giving me chocolate always won me over. Even though I hated watching the news, I reached over anyway and turned the screen on. It turned to a feed on updates about France's negotiations with Switzerland. That wasn't a Drakhenae country. Brandon had been going back and forth to Switzerland for the past months, sometimes even my stepmom went. But whatever they were doing was still pretty vague.

 Usually it only took Brandom one or two visits and then he had the leaders of whatever country he visited wrapped around his pinky. His looks and ability to convince anyone to do anything were to blame. Hell, right now the news was talking about him instead of why he went to Switzerland in the first place. It was almost like watching a drama club. 

I tore my eyes away from the screen when a middle aged lady stepped in front of the register, three bagfuls of groceries with her. When I looked up again, I did a double take. Amanda definitely switched the channel to a drama show, because instead of showing a reporter it showed two people. Kissing. And not the peck on the lips kind. No it was the serious kind that really shouldn't be shown on a TV in the middle of a grocery store where kids were wandering around. And then I realized that I knew those two. Yep. Definitely knew those two. Amanda didn't switch to a drama show, because one of them was Brandon. Kissing the president's niece. It was a good thing he said he just landed, because he was dead. So very dead.