Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

There’s a tavern by the graveyard. Not one of those new servaraunts, but a real vintage place with tiny lattice windows and a big wooden door that glints in the light from the glows as it swings back and forth. Old Stanislaw told me it used to not do that, but the grey rain meant they had to spray it with Staveoff like every other bit of wood still outdoors.
I look up. In the sky-high glow from this sleepy city I can see the towering mass of clouds coming in. Daido’s not wrong. It’s going to be raining bats and frogs before long.
“What we do?”
Otto’s returned to the acceptable version of ‘I want to run away’. Next time, I’ll rope in someone who wants to come stealin’.
“What we came for.”
It’s not like we have a choice. There’s nothing in the pantries and the fridges are so empty they echo.
Another crowd of happy chappies and chapettes stagger from the tavern. Looks to me like they’ve had a little more than their sobriety passes would allow. Almost like this place has a way of getting past the squealers and the dealers, because everybody knows you can’t make a profit off a dealer. What they charge is always street max, and taverns – new or old – can’t exceed regulation prices.
“You sure about this?”
I look up at Otto.
“No. I thought I’d drag us all out here to get rainburned just to show how much pull I have so I can impress Maisie.”
It’s like I can watch him think. He takes another hit on his vaper.
“You still need to do that?”
What the jiminy do you have in that thing? Neat toluol?
Maisie appears out of the night and slaps his arse.
“You’re lovely, Otto, but that vaper is rotting your brain faster than we can compensate for.”
She crouches down by me, squeezes my shoulder, then points to the tavern where the security shutters are coming down.
“We’re on.”
With a muted rumble from high above, grey rain starts hissing down. We flick our hoods into place and wait for the corrosive ground mist to wash away. Thunder crashes above, lightning scorches the dark, and the rain gets heavier.
Maisie nods.
“Now or not at all.”
She and I sprint across, scramble over the wall and finish up sprawled across the roof of the big gothy mausoleum at the centre of the graveyard.
The rain continues to pour down. Finally, I see light: the tavern loading bay shutters and doors opening. Four swearing men rush from the bay, enter the side gate of the graveyard, then split up and race to two tombs. They press disguised switches recessed in the headstones. Each tomb slides silently open. The men hurry down the steps revealed. The tombs close. All goes quiet.
A vibration runs through the roof we’re lying on. Maise looks at me, eyes widening.
I hear voices below.
“Still think having the only ways in separate from the way out is daft.”
“This mausoleum is too obvious. Armouring the doors, fitting them to open outwards, and only working from inside, keeps the thieving gits wondering how we do it.”
The four hasten away carrying casks and catchnets full of food cartons. Doors, shutters, and mausoleum close behind them.
When the tavern lights finally go out, I flash once left, once right. From the shadows all about, everybody I could lay my voice on swarms in.
We’re going to empty the place.
You just can’t fool us thieving gits forever.