3611570739_e9f8c61424_z copy.jpgShe fingered the necklace carefully, making sure it would easily come away from where it was linked to her pouch. People always say waiting is the hardest part, but she felt the calmest in between activities like this. It was unfortunate for her that the Capitol Square Market was as safe as it was. Relying on the natural course of a crowded market would have taken several unknowns out of her equation. She eyed the melee-armed guard 40 feet away with something part contempt, part measured superiority. Incompetence was an asset she could easily exploit.

Shifting, she felt the reassuring weight of 25 water tokens resettle in the money pouch on her other hip. It was more money than she liked taking from Trailvyne, but the expenses it would cover ensured the last third of her job.

She always divided the jobs into more easily managed parts. That made the impossible tasks for which she was hired conceivable. The first part had been convincing Kima Silver, the business face of Trailvyne Trading Company, that she wasn’t a drifter. The Company did not like hiring unattached people, because they tended to take off with cash, or the more valuable water stores. She smiled to herself as her eyes searched for her momentary partner in the crowd and fingered her bulging pouch.

Silver was the first of several roadblocks. She had not intended to involve someone so high up in the company, but that was who came through the valley last week. Her employer’s needs had some urgency, and therefore she could not afford to wait another week or two for a lesser agent of the Company.

Hanna was a name she had lifted off of a grave on the way through the Fox River Valley. It had successfully carried her with the traders to Madison. After being released from their temporary employ, she felt awkward and conspicuous with the huge amount of coinage she now possessed. To work against this, Hanna held her head high and walked confidently between the stalls, handling the better quality items, only. Finally, she spotted a target for the next phase of her job.

A smile had broken across her face then, too. The woman was obviously a Lorekeeper. A Madisonian Lorekeeper, at that. Her calm and careless browsing in the marketplace gave away her sense of safety. It did not take Hannah’s practiced eye to pick up this comfort was not feigned. The dual pistols she kept at her hips for easy accessibility would be easily accessible to thieves, too. Hannah put away the information until she could find an excuse to bump into the target later.

The next three targets came into her notice quickly after that. The market was almost full to capacity in the unseasonably warm weather. Every stall had at least two workers, and some merchants had set up illegally in the crowds on blankets, ensuring slow movement of patrons, and plenty of witnesses. It was lucky the fall weather was so warm.

While the market never closed down entirely, today it sprawled a half mile square. The smells of cooking booths mingled with sweating employees and the hot breath of stressed employers. The pathways through vendors were labyrinthine. Her targets' progress would be slow.

The second target she picked out was heading towards Hanna, now. Slowly, but Hanna's was the only straight path. A couple more narrow passageways to junk scavengers' wares branched off the wider avenue between booths patrolled by the guards, but these looked shady and unpromising. Hanna took her eyes away from the younger woman, and glanced towards the crowd as if looking for someone truant of a planned meeting. Of course, she was looking for someone.

To say the boy she hired was late would perhaps be inaccurate, Hanna thought. She doubted he had the ability to read the sun, or other signs of time kids his age were supposed to have learned years ago. Altogether, he was slow in thought as well as action. It was ensured he would be caught today, but Hanna had given him a path to run that would bring him past two targets before that.

Another minute passed with no sign of him. A couple of patrons bumped past her with a word of apology, but mostly the crowd was thin in the aisles closest to her. The merchants were busy fanning themselves and idly discussing the unseasonable heat in their crowded booths. All parties surrounding her were uninterested.

Other people may have been annoyed, but Hanna could not afford annoyance. She was more efficient than most, but understood that nothing could be expected. Every interaction is simply a series of circumstances that either go the way one expects, or not. Hanna tried to avoid expectations altogether. Even so, being prepared for every instance is, of course, impossible. Hanna had learned how to bend and adapt to changes, constantly learning new techniques of coping with as many variables as she could. Control was rarely her goal. Instead, she placed herself where the desired instances could align themselves with something like her goal. Already, she was looking towards the sun, calculating how to adjust for the absence of this variable.

There was a tug at her waist, then a release of weight. Her partner had surprised her. Good, she thought, and began counting to ten. His slim shape brushed in front of her, not turning to show her the idiotically conspiratorial smile Hanna assumed was painted on his face. At ten, she placed a hand to her hip, and changed her face into a shocked countenance.

She began yelling, beginning as an approximation of quiet shock, then carrying her voice louder and louder, “Thief! Stop him!”