Kit stood waiting just outside the ring of light cast by the street lamp at the end of the tunnel. They looked at the dinged up old time piece they kept on hand. Billie was late. Either she got turned around in the tunnel (unlikely), or she was goofing off (very likely). They looked up at the high, black walls of the warehouse. Maybe another perimeter check? Just to be safe. But if Billie showed up while they were gone, she wouldn’t think to wait before running in without them.
Thankfully, she arrived before Kit had to spend too much more time deliberating, emerging out from behind a stack of crates that obscured the entrance to the tunnel that ran between the Warf and Attaway. She had a bag slung over her shoulder, and seemed to struggle with the awkward weight of it.
“You took your time,” Kit scolded, arms crossed. "You have the vests?"
“Yeah, sorry, I got caught up chatting. Here." She emptied the bag at their feet, dropping out two heavy vests, a hackneyed mishmash of canvas and metal strung together with leather cord. They each took a minute to pull one on.
"This is really going to stop bullets?" Kit asked skeptically.
"One or two at least. We ready to go in?”
“Hold on.” Billie pulled a small jar from her pocket, loosened the cover and took two big swigs of the green liquid inside. “Wow!” She whispered much too loud. "What a rush!"
"Keep it down," Kit hissed harshly. "Try to be professional."
"Awe, don't be such a spoil sport. Take a swig."
Kit took the jar and took a big gulp. They shuddered but said nothing before handing it back.
"Feels good eh?" Billie nudged them with her elbow.
"Feels the same as it always does, now let's get a move on."
The two tiptoed to the edge of the warehouse and, crouching low, made their way around to the eastern facing wall, skirting under windows and avoiding the lamplight. Stacked against the salt stained wood was a tower of packing crates, piled just under a second story window.
"That's our way in," Kit whispered. "We climb up one at a time and creep in. Follow my lead."
"Need a boost?" Billie laced her fingers together and crouched to help them up.
"Not in the least." Kit grabbed hold of the lower most crate, and pulled themselves up with ease, oblivious to the splintering wood, to the straining muscles in their skinny twig-like arms. They'd never admit it to Billie, but Kit loved the high from Strongman Stout. Not just the buzz that came from the brew, but that feeling of power, invincibility and adrenaline. Like they could pick this whole building up and toss it into the ocean, just for fun. Kit climbed a second and a third crate, until they were positioned just under the window. "Hurry up!" they whispered urgently, but Billie was close behind, scrambling like a mouse up the town of crates as though it were nothing. The two peeked in the window, searching through the dimness for signs of movement.
"I don't see nothing," Billie breathed.
"Me neither. That's good. Get the window."
Billie stood and pressed both palms against the window. It was locked, of course, but puny window locks were no match for Strongman Stout. Gritting her teeth, she pushed firmly. Kit could hear the wood in the pane start to splinter and crack. They braced themselves, listening for any other sounds, anyone who might hear. Finally, with a sharp CRACK, the locks broke open and the window slid up. Billie jumped in first, followed by Kit. Both of them paused in the darkness, letting their eyes adjust.
"Think anyone heard?"
Kit looked left and right. Nothing moved. Their breathing was the only sound. "Doesn't look like it."
On hands and knees, the two crawled along the wall of the upper story, peeking around pallets stacked high with boxes, but they didn't meet a soul. When they reached the stairs leading down, they paused again, but still nothing stirred.
"I don't get it," Billie whispered. "I thought there was supposed to be a guard. I was ready to choke someone out."
"Maybe our info was bad."
"Do we even have the right warehouse?"
"I'm dead certain this is the one."
"This feels way too easy."
Just then, the sound of voices echoed up from the dock outside.
"I feckin told ya, no smoke breaks until your shift was up. Didn't I feckin tell ya!"
There was a sound like a bottle breaking and a man hollered loudly. The noises were coming from the back of the building, right near the stack of boxes they had just climbed up.
"Down the stairs, go," Kit pushed Billie in the small of her back, and followed her quickly down to the ground floor. The voices outside were getting louder. The two men were arguing, but Kit couldn't tell if the open window had been spotted. They looked around frantically. There was no going back out the way they came. They needed an escape route and fast-
"Kit, this way, I think I see it!" Billie grabbed Kit by the elbow and pulled them across the warehouse floor to where a heavy tarp covered something big. Just visible underneath was a black trunk, wrapped with a bright red nylon cord. "That's the one, right?"
"Yeah, let's grab it and go. Out the front." Kit tugged the tarp down, revealing that the trunk was buried under at least a dozen larger wooden crates. "Shit, we gotta move those."
"No time, just yank it."
"Are you stupid? The whole thing will come crashing down."
Billie was already opening the jar of Strongman Stout again. She took another big gulp and then with a holler of adrenaline, smashed the jar onto the wooden floor.
"What are you doing?" Kit demanded, no longer interested in being quiet.
Billie grabbed the cord around the trunk with both hands, and pulled with all her might. The crates on top were heavy, but no match for the strength of the brew. The trunk slid free of the pile, and sure enough, the other crates came crashing down behind it. With a hand each on the trunk, they turned to run, but amidst the cacophony of sound, neither of them noticed the dock door of the warehouse slide open behind them. Two Lightfoot gangsters, one with a bloodied nose and quickly bruising eye, stood blocking the door, guns drawn.
"Drop the trunk, or I'ma fire!" yelled the one who wasn't bleeding.
Kit and Billie looked at each other, then back at the Lightfoots. Then, with a yell, charged at them head on, holding the trunk between them like a clothesline. The gangsters fired, but the bullets glanced off Earnest's vests pinging out sideways into the walls. Kit and Billie plowed into the Lightfoots with the trunk, running them down, and then kept running, out around the dock and back towards the entrance to the tunnel.
They dropped the trunk and Kit fell to their hands and knees, searching for the latch to the trap door that opened the tunnel. They could hear footsteps closing in.
"Hurry, hurry!" Billie urged. A shot rang out, and Kit heard the ping as it hit Billie's vest and ricocheted off. Kit had found the latch. They pulled open the trap door and kicked the trunk down into the tunnel. "Shit!" Billie yelled, just as another shot rang out, and her curse was cut short with a choking cry.
Kit was already halfway down into the tunnel when Billie's body hit the ground. She was clutching her side, and bright red blood was quickly seeping out around her fingers.
"Go, go, go," Billie urged hoarsely. "I can fend them off."
"Don't be stupid." Kit grabbed Billie by the shoulders and dragged her towards the opening of the tunnel. They pulled her inside and dropped the door closed mere seconds before they could hear the footsteps of the Lightfoots on the Warf above.
"We have to go. Can you walk?"
"I think-" Billie tried to take a step but fell to her knees. She was panting, and turning pale. There was so much blood.
"Billie, you need to try. I can carry the trunk but you need to carry yourself." Kit took hold of the trunk and started to drag it forward. The latch to the tunnel door was meant to be hard to find, but not impossible. Eventually those Lightfoots would get it open and they wanted to be long gone when that happened. "Billie!"
Billie fell face forward onto the sandy floor of the tunnel. The hatch door opened.