Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
I think I write about thieves as much as I do magic. A group of friends discuss an impenetrable vault, and one of them rises to the challenge.
City of Gold:
The life of a thief rarely had routine, but one thing never changed. On the last Friday of every month, Luke, and every member of the thieves guild who wasn’t incarcerated in the looming prison on the other side of the city, met in the Queens Arms for a pint and a round of poker.
The gambling began the moment the first three to arrive secured a table in the dirtiest corner of the tavern, concealed from sight of the bar. Luke was always first to arrive, and he and whoever came second and third placed bets on who would, and wouldn’t, show up.
‘Heard Jean got caught with his hand in the pocket of a lord,’ Luke said. He pulled free his wallet and dumped a couple of gold coins on the table. ‘Bet he doesn’t show.’
A blonde thief, Cathy, a regular, shook her head. ‘He’ll get out of it. His uncle’s a lord.’
‘Doubt it,’ Luke replied. ‘Kid’s used his uncle’s swing far too many times already.’
Three more joined their table, drinks in hand and scruffy hair ruffled.
Luke nodded in greeting and turned back to Cathy. ‘How about Lily? She’s usually here by now.’
‘Still hung up on her?’ Cathy asked with a smirk. She pulled out a deck of battered playing cards and shuffled them in deft hands. ‘She’ll never notice you. Too busy with that boyfriend of hers. What’s his name? Roger?’
‘Rupert,’ Luke replied. He glanced towards the door when it opened and sighed when two businessmen stepped inside. ‘And I’m not hung up on her, I just notice when she’s not here.’
Cathy laughed and glanced at the assembled group. ‘Don’t we all? Can’t keep her fingers to herself even among other thieves.’ She sighed. ‘I think this is all of us. Buy in’s a hundred.’
Luke tossed a few coins onto the table. ‘Wow, low stakes today.’
‘It’s been a rough week. New police commissioner’s running rings around us all,’ Cathy said. She raised an eyebrow at Luke’s bulging wallet. ‘Except you, apparently.’
‘Well, what can I say?’ Luke replied with a laugh. ‘Some of us have it, some of us don’t.’
Cathy shoved him playfully and gestured to the door. ‘There’s Rupert. Ask him about Lil.’
Rupert strode towards them, beer in hand but no beautiful thief by his side. He slumped into the chair Luke pulled out for him and placed his head in his hands. ‘I know what’ya gonna ask me, and I don’ know, okay? I ain’t seen her since last Tuesday.’
Luke sighed and ran a hand through his hair. ‘Shit. Where’d you last see her?’
‘Dinner, at the diner opposite King’s Square. She was babblin’ on about the most impenetrable lockup in the city. Said she was gonna break in, see what’s inside,’ Rupert replied. ‘Course I’m new here, so I ain’t got a clue about it.’
Cathy leaned forward in her chair, eyes sparkling. ‘I’ve heard of that place. They say there’s treasures from other worlds in there, the likes you’ve never seen!’
Luke frowned and grabbed his pile of coins. ‘She must’ve gotten caught. I’ll check it out.’
‘See you next week!’ Cathy called after him.
Her knowing smirk haunted him as he slipped out the door, mind racing towards the possibility of jewels and riches. Perhaps with the money to bail her out, and more, Lily would overlook his short stature and wonky nose. But first he needed to find out what happened to her.
The lockup in question was deep within the vaults of the Bank of Arcadia. As Luke pressed himself to the wall behind a pair of security guards in the lobby, he caught snatches of their conversation. ‘You really think someone would be that stupid-‘
‘The last person to try never escaped the vault. She might have friends. Be vigilant.’
Luke sighed. She was still down there? What kind of security guards left thieves locked in the vaults? What exactly was down there? If he wanted to help Lily, the only option was to venture deeper into the bank and find out.
Security was tighter than his old suit, the one gathering dust in his cupboard that he used to wear in his days as a city banker, but it wasn’t impossible to gain access to the vaults. The impenetrable lockup was another matter. With no information on locks, security, or systems, trying to get in would be a huge gamble.
Luke shook his head. For Lily, he’d risk it. Deft fingers lifted a security badge from a guard, pulled the fire alarm, and he ducked into an alcove as employees strode towards the exit. When the bank was empty he made haste towards the vaults, where his stolen badge granted him entrance with a single swipe. He was inside. Time to see what he was up against.
A map hung on the wall near the security office, and Luke snatched it from the wall. This place was a maze of vaults and secure rooms, but after a quick scan of the corridors he pinpointed his goal. A set of stairs leading down to a lone vault door set apart from the rest.
He stalked down the corridors, confident he was alone, and jogged down the steps towards the most impenetrable lockup in the city. On first glance the door looked like every other vault door, but as he reached for the handle a thin veil shimmered in front of him. Some kind of force field.
Luke jogged to the wall and yanked open a security panel to reveal a familiar series of numbers, letters, and a timer. Randomised codes, changed every thirty minutes. He grinned as the minute hand on his watch marked the hour. Like clockwork, the panel buzzed and generated a new code. Thirty minutes to hack it. He’d hacked systems like this in half that time.
He dipped a hand in his pocket and pulled out his wire cutters. One wire later, and he could try all the combinations he wanted to without penalty. Three hundred swiftly keyed combinations later, the shimmering veil vanished. Luke reached for the vault door and turned the handle.
The door clicked as the lock engaged, but it didn’t open. He frowned and tugged. Nothing. Well, he hadn’t expected it to be easy. He knelt to inspect the door. Three keyholes, spread apart, designed to be opened at the same time. Luke pulled three lockpicks free and got to work.
He’d just lined up the second pick when footsteps echoed in the corridors of the vaults. He pricked his ears as he fumbled with the third lock, and had just lifted his foot to act as a third hand when a team of security officers rounded the corner.
Luke glanced between the team and the door, and shrugged. ‘Sorry boys. Came all this way, I at least want a peek.’
One of the guards reached out a hand, but his cries of protest were drowned out by the vault door as Luke yanked it open. Bullets bounced off the walls as he ducked inside, and his eyes darted around the vault. He only had a few seconds before-
There was an almighty clunk, and Luke spun around as the door slammed behind him. He squinted as his eyes strained to adjust to the darkness. Did they intend to leave him locked in here until the police arrived? He shrugged. It gave him time to look around at least, and for Lily.
‘Lil?’ he called, as he fumbled along the wall near the door, fingers searching for the familiar ridge of a light switch. When he found none he pulled a lighter from his pocket. The small flame barely illuminated the rocky walls either side of him, a sharp contrast to the metallic vault door.
A long narrow corridor lay before him, but the walls were bare with no jewels to be seen. His flame flickered as a chill wind slipped past him, and Luke frowned. It was coming from the end of the corridor. One cautious step, and then another, as his feet carried him further from the door and towards where he hoped Lily waited, or failing that a glimmering pile of treasure.
His jaw dropped when he emerged from a cave onto a grassy field with blue skies overhead. But that wasn’t what caught his attention. Captivated, he wandered towards a golden obelisk, stood in front of a village of golden houses glimmering in the impossible sunlight. More gold than he’d ever seen. It was all he had eyes for, that is until Lily emerged from one of the houses.
‘Luke? It is you!’
‘What is this place?’ Luke asked. He gestured to the sky, and the breath was knocked out of him when she barreled into him.
Lily grinned. ‘Another world. The City of Gold, and beyond that? The realm of thieves.’ She grabbed his hand and tugged him into the village.
Luke’s eyes widened. ‘Another world?’
‘A better one,’ Lily replied. She grabbed a golden apple from a fruit stand and offered it to him. ‘I never plan to leave.’
Luke glanced back towards the cave. He could remind her about Rupert and the guild, insist they leave, but what waited for them back home anyway? Nothing but a prison sentence. Here… Well, Lily was here, and it was a realm of thieves. They could start a new life together, and with his skills rule the realm and all its gold. No wonder the vault had the reputation of being the most impenetrable lockup in the city. What thief would leave once they’d found it? He accepted the apple and turned his back on the cave as they began to plot a takeover.
The next month at the pub Luke wasn’t the first one there. He didn’t show up at all.
Thanks for reading!
In July and August short stories will be temporarily replaced by a serial, with each part being based on the weekly prompt. If anyone else wants to try, the 9 prompts for July and August, in order, are: Journey. Wild. Shelter. Hunt. Disaster. Lost. Trap. Survive. Sunrise.
Why not write a short story or poem based on a prompt?
The prompts for June are:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts weekly on Pinterest:
‘It was over. I’d gambled away every penny of my grandmother’s savings in a single spin, but that wasn’t all I’d lost.’
If you use one of the monthly prompts or the expanded prompt to write a story, feel free to share your blog links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one-off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!