The Botched Job (A Short Story)

Each quake brought another trail of dust floating down from the rafters, polluting the air in the already dingy room. Lester sighed and slapped the latest round free from his shoulders.
“That could have gone better,” he muttered to no one in particular. He looked down at the bag at his feet and sighed again. The bag held enough shiny rocks to buy one of the smaller kingdoms–Guldafar, perhaps.
Not that he’d be able to spend them unless he got out of here alive.
The heavy wooden door banged open and Gronn stumbled in. He carried a body over one massive shoulder and his jerkin was split across his orange scales.
“What happened to you?” Lester asked. “You were right behind me in the square.”
“Guard. Strong,” Gronn said, tossing the guard down onto the dirt floor. Great cut. Good.”
“What about Ruvi? He was with you?”
“Gone.” Gronn ticked the guard with one clawed toe.
“I can’t believe Ruvi’s dead. He was special. Fastest hands I’d ever seen and no one ever had a bad word to say about him.”
“Not dead. Gone,” Gronn said. He twisted his head to one side, slitted eyes disappearing into the scales of his face, then popped wide open again. “Glider.”
“He flew off? That sewer rat! I always knew he was a selfish, no good sewer snake. I can’t believe I trusted that fink. Everyone told me he’d flip,” Lester shouted. “And he took my bird? Ratfink.”
“You said–”
“I know what I said, Gronn. I don’t talk bad about the dead.” Lester grabbed the bag from the floor and tossed it over his shoulder. “So, our hand-man is gone, with our bird. We’ve got sixty pounds of hot rocks and no way out of the city. That sound about right?”
“No,” Gronn said. “Guard.”
“You want us to take a hostage?” Lester asked, then stopped and thought better of it. “You want us to ransom a hostage?”
“No, Lester. Guard!” Gronn squinted at him again, then tapped the side of his head. He made a long hissing noise followed by a gurgling growl then shrugged.
“Why don’t you grow a pair of lips already,” Lester said. “No. I’m sorry. That’s not fair. Was that Ttthhhhssurglaraaaah?”
Gronn nodded and gestured to the guard again.
“Oh! Right. Ttthhhssurglaraaah. Definitely.” Lester tossed the bag back to the floor and began stripping off his vest. “You know, Gronn, one of these days, we’re gonna pull a heist in Draknar and you’re gonna have to play the roughed-up guard.”
Lester folded the black spider silk vest and tucked it into the bag. “If I lose my vest, I’m taking all of Ruvi’s share instead of splitting it, you understand?”
Gronn shrugged bent down to pull the guard tabard free. “Nice shirt.”
“It’s not just nice. My granda gave it to me,” Lester said. He looked down to see Gronn staring at him again. “What? We aren’t all hatched in a rookery. Some of us have grandparents and they give us nice things.”
Gronn shrugged again. He thrust the guard’s tabbard in Lester’s direction. “Dress.”
“You’re awfully bossy today,” Lester whined. “At this rate, I might just have to charge you a fee for helping you get out of here.”
Gronn took a deep breath, spreading the muscles on his chest to just larger than Lester’s head.
“I’m joking, big guy.” Lester slid the tabard over his head and belted it in place. It wasn’t a perfect disguise, but he wasn’t about to trade pants with a dead guard. “Alright. You know the drill.”
Gronn held out his wrists, each as thick as Lester’s thigh.
Lester grabbed the irons from guard and held them up to Gronn’s arm. “Maybe your fingers?”
Gronn shrugged and extended his fingers and let Lester click the manacles in place.
“Alright, let’s do this.” Lester grabbed the bag from the floor and tied it to his belt. “Just a guard and his collar on their way to the docks.”
“Docks?”
Lester shrugged. “I hoped holding onto the loot would keep that rat from turning on us but I wasn’t that hopeful. I’ve got a plan B… if we can get to the docks.”
Gronn nodded and kicked open the door. “Go.”
Lester shook his head and pushed Gronn hard through the door. “Move, thug! We’ll see what the magister thinks of this strong-arming nonsense!” He shoved him again, pushing him out into the muddy alley as another quake rolled through the city. “You know, Gronn. I’ve gotta ask. Who builds a city on an active volcano, anyway?”

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