Drivena felt arms roughly wrap around her, expelling all breath as she came to a sudden stop. The man who had grabbed her swung her around to reveal the bony, sickly green face of an albaz, much too close. Drivena had briefly seen this woman before, both preferring the same, underhanded merchant to sell to. The woman bent down slightly to stare the noticeably shorter Drivena in the eyes.
“Good day ma’am. My name is Kajulan, last name unimportant as legally that would be very, very incriminating. We’ve arranged this little meeting because you have an asset that might prove to be extremely beneficial to us, and we would like to discuss its transaction.”
She had not realized it at first, as Kajulan was missing the signature hat, but the forced professionalism and etiquette was a surefire way of identifying a member of the Ordinary Businessmen. Or Trustworthy Merchants. Or whatever they were calling themselves now. Gimmicky gangs always seemed to go through more names than extremist political ideologies. Upon closer inspection, Kajulan was clearly wearing a suit, albeit a poorly maintained one, and behind her stood two sharply dressed men, one of whom was a shorter albaz, and the other of whom was a chalky skinned, sharp faced dwergaz. Drivena moved her head back towards Kajulan.
“Your guys’ theme is hokey,” Drivena spat, not yet having mentally registered a proper threat.
Kajulan yelled, strangely enough really in no general direction, and ripped from her neck her loosely tied tie. She swung around muttering under her breath something about how people with stupid sounding fake names shouldn’t start theme gangs, and that themed gangs were stupid regardless. The Dwergaz walked up to her, putting his arm around her. She turned to him.
“These suits are jokes, Tekol. Stupid jokes thought up by a stupid idiot who has stupid plans that are stupid because a stupid person came up with them.” Her tone suddenly turned much gentler, a hint of nostalgia in it. “Remember, back in Romba, what it was like?”
“Oh, of course,” replied Tekol, not a hint of irony in his voice. “We were top of the world when it came to scraping by muggers and thieves. We’d just live our lives, and bring down punishment on whichever rich kid was stupid enough to cross our path.”
“Those were good times.”
“And hey, let’s not forget about the little things. Jethin never called you out when you stopped wearing the hat, so, victory!” Tekol waved his hands as excitedly as he could muster.
“Doesn’t really matter when you’re surrounded by people who are still just as doofy looking, no offense to you, Ladun.”
The short albaz looked over at her, an expression of mild irritation in his eyes from being singled out for seemingly no reason.
“Well, you know what!?” declared tekol, taking his hat from his head and throwing it into the mud. “For you, I will not wear this hat either!”
“But Tekol,” said Kajulan, placing her arms gently around his shoulders. “You’re actually cute in a monkey suit.” She played with his hair briefly and then leaned in. The two began to kiss, and seemed as if they had no plans to stop until the man holding Drivena finally spoke up.
“Can we finish what we came here for Kajulan? This is starting to become uncomfortable.”
“I’m uncomfortable too, big guy,” said Drivena, trying and failing to noticeably squirm. “Glad to see common ground.”
Kajulan reluctantly removed herself from Tekol and returned to staring menacingly at Drivena.
“Give me that bag, girl.”
Drivena looked at the arms wrapped around her, and then to her own arms trapped at her sides. Kajulan took the hint and drew a clearly well used knife, quickly slicing her bag from its straps and ripping it open. First, she took from it several metal coins, and allowed them to slide through her fingers, jingling in the mud below.
“Not a great haul, but a decent one.”
She reached back into the bag, and pulled something green and orange out.
“Are these, carrot tufts?” she asked, somewhat amused and yet also personally offended for some reason. “Who steals carrot tufts? Why?”
She reached into the bag again, and removed a knife.
“Should of had that one out, girl.”
Drivena rolled her eyes at that. There was no way Kajulan was that much older than herself. In fact, she could very well be younger!
One last time she reached inside, although this time drew nothing out. Finding nothing large while feeling around the bag, she turned it upside down and shook. Out came small crumbs, pieces of trinkets that didn’t survive, and a whole lot of lint, but not what she was looking for.
“Where’s the amulet?” Kajulan said threateningly, for the first time lacking any sort of jubilance or exaggeration in her voice.
“I don’t remember an amulet.”
“You don’t remember?! We’ve been tailing you ever since you left the house of our mark! We know you had it.”
Drivena’s mouth hung open, legitimately drawing a complete blank, until at last the whole fuss came back to her.
“Wait! You’re right. I actually did take an amulet, but it didn’t seem super valuable. It was a pretty dull metal. Kind of cheap looking.”
“Then why would you take it!”
“It was in the guy’s vault! The only thing actually, and I wasn’t about to leave empty handed. I mean, it takes effort to get those things open. I guess I just lost it.”
Kajulan threw her arms up in the air and breathed heavily through gritted teeth, turning around again to face the other direction. It was during these exasperated movements that Drivena finally noticed just how comfortable Kajulan was with that knife. It’s never good to be threatened by someone comfortable with their knife.
“Alright,” said Drivena, her heart now thumping heavily in her chest. “I really don’t have it anymore. It might’ve fallen out of my bag, or hell, maybe it was even stolen from me by someone else, but I swear I have no idea where it is now. You can know I’m telling the truth because I’ve been looking to the right, am not fiddling with my hands, and have not paused frequently during my statement!”
“I believe her,” said Tekol, looking at Kajulan. “It’s pure dumb coincidence she came across it in the first place, nothing more.”
“But we’ve put so much time into this, Tekol. We can’t just end without resolution.”
“Let’s just kill her then, Kaji.”
Kajulan turned back to Drivena, smiling sorrowfully, and began to walk towards her, knife in hand.
“Jethin’s going to want you dead anyway, girl. I’m just saving him a few days of searching.”
As Kajulan neared, a shot rang out in the alleyway.
“It’s the fuzz!” shouted Tekol. “Cheese it!”
The four who had apprehended Drivena scattered, dropping her into the mud and disappearing surprisingly quickly. Down the alley came a young, ashy haired albaz, with eyes kind but tired beyond his years. He offered his hand to Drivena and she took it, steadying herself relatively quickly.
“Did you catch me too, Davi?”
“Your welcome, Drivena. And no. I heard Kajulan’s trademark shouting, and followed it.”
“So I’m not losing my touch?”
“Stop incriminating yourself Drivena! We’ve talked about this. I can’t just look the other way while you’re admitting to criminal activity.”
“Sorry, it’s just been a while. I mean, where’ve you been?”
“I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t have time to pursue you every time you took someone’s gourd or picked from someone’s pocket their “lucky fishing line” or something else equally preposterous. Jethin’s been tightening his grip on the city, just like everywhere else in the damn satrapy.”
Drivena followed Davi, her bearings still somewhat absent from the previous encounter. She heard the thudding of rain resume on the overlaid roofs, realizing she had not noticed it stopping in the first place. They exited the alleyway to find that most of the previous commuters were absent, frustrated by the second wave of rainfall. Davi motioned for her to follow him into the police station.
“No,” responded Drivena at his poor excuse for an arrest attempt.
“It’s not for that,” said Davi, frustrated. “We just need you to fill out a statement, answer some questions.”
Drivena turned to leave, but could hear Davi reciting the little speech he was suppose to give before arresting nonviolent suspects or forcing the cooperation of uncooperative witnesses. She could swear he was the only officer she had ever met to actually do it.
“Alright!” she said. “I will answer these “non personal questions” and fill out the “Non invasive confirmation of your personal information” form. Just, lets go quickly. It’s raining harder now.”
Davi smiled and gave a little enthusiastic thumbs up as he ran into the station.