Another Interlude. This one hasn’t been caused by any real-life intervention, like the last one, but I felt I needed to expand the story a little. Just like the last one, it is completely unnecessary in regards to the full story of Childhood Thievery, it’s just a bit of background colour.
Benjamin Nineacres liked is job, even if his co-workers didn’t. To be fair, it was probably him that they didn’t like, not the job, but he wasn’t one to take it personally. So what if he had been promoted faster than anyone else? He had worked damn hard for the last two months to make it to night shift supervisor, and it wasn’t as if his colleagues were really any threat to that position.
Oh they were pleasant enough, sure, but a little meat-headed. Benjamin supposed that you needed some meat-headedness in a security guard, but you also needed strong leadership and discipline. You had to be prepared for every eventuality, every possible mishap, to be ready to deal with any possible threat. In short, a security guard needed to think like a soldier.
Benjamin had never managed to make it into the army, but he knew enough about it to know which parts to borrow and adapt into the civilian lifestyle. The security industry was only one step down from the Watch after all, who themselves were one step down from the army, so it stood to reason that something must trickle down.
His first act as supervisor had been to hire yet more guards. The museum already had a pretty large detail of security guards, but Benjamin had spotted some glaring omissions in the floor plan and, through a long and boring presentation to the management, had secured the funds to clog those holes with yet more guards. Now the museum employed a force large enough to dissuade most gangs from coming within three streets of the museum, an impression further cemented by Benjamin ensuring that he had hired the most bloodthirsty, yet obedient, crazies he could find.
For the first few weeks, however, Benjamin’s initiative had come under fire. The management, in typical number-crunching fashion, didn’t understand that having no attempted thefts was a better situation than catching a thief. They didn’t see deterrence as a cost effective solution, if they were paying for that many men then they wanted some scoundrel’s head kicked in. Benjamin was under pressure and he wasn’t used to it.
But today was his lucky day.
He was on patrol, guarding the museum’s pride and joy, a Diamond. As far as he was concerned, it deserved the capital letter, the thing was bigger than his head and incredibly beautiful. During the day, in the hour between arriving for work and work actually starting, Benjamin had played around with refracting various light sources through the thing. At first he was upset to see that nothing was happening, but then a helpful tour guide explained to him that the Diamond was so unique that it managed to slow light down significantly. As a result, Benjamin had spent the first few hours of his shift watching patterns dance around the darkened room, all with no obvious origin. It was the closest to magic he had ever been.
The Diamond was coming to the end of its little show, or at least the end of the light he had subjected it to hours before, when someone gambolled up the stairs from the ground floor and crashed into him.
It was a man of average height and build, with an average face and he was dressed in a strange black outfit. The man had more belts that waists, one of which seemed to be tied across his chest, and he gave the general impression of a man who had gotten lost when trying to make him way to the nearest play house. He looked like one of the arty actors that Benjamin hated, the ones who can never seem to turn off their stage voice.
As he refocused his gaze, however, he realised who the man really was. That wasn’t a belt across his chest, it was a bandoleer. Three sorts of people wore bandoleers, and none of them were welcome in a museum at night. Benjamin reached for his weapon, a cheap short-sword.
The thief was quicker. Before Benjamin’s hand was even a quarter of the way to his sword, the thief had driven his fist right into Benjamin’s throat. He keeled over almost immediately, choking heavily. His mouth tasted of iron, but before he had time to dwell on that he was introduced to the floor via a blow to the back of the skull.
He languished in the darkness for a moment or too, running it over in his mind. Hesitation had been the problem. Benjamin had hesitated, and now a thief was making off with the precious Diamond that he had been entrusted to protect. Worse still, the man had shown no respect for the security professionals, apparently sneaking past them with little care at all. That just wouldn’t do.
Benjamin grabbed his mind and dragged it back into consciousness, a technique he had learned at school, and forced his eyes to open. One eye wasn’t working, but that was to be expected, probably a mild concussion. His left eye, his favourite eye, was having none of it, however, and snapped into crystal clarity after only two blinks.
He was on the floor, as expected, and his mouth still tasted like iron. It was probably blood from his throat, but there wasn’t time for that now. An abominable noise told him that his alarm belt had worked, and almost immediately he was hoisted to his feet by a pair of gorillas under his command. They looked at him for orders, and he barked them like a pro.
‘You, come with me! You, get the others and follow us!’
Both gorillas nodded, the first falling in line with Benjamin as he bolted for the stairs.
There was only one way out of the building now, Benjamin knew, especially as the thief couldn’t risk going back out the main entrance now the alarm had been sounded. Sure, he shouldn’t have been able to get in that way in the first place, but it would be suicide to go back out that way now, regardless of his skills. No, he’d head to the roof and climb down the wall.
Benjamin stormed up the steps three at a time, his colleague slowly dropping behind. He could hear the others a little way further behind him now, but he didn’t care, the thief was his. Every twist on the staircase allowed him the briefest of glimpses of his target, a brief flash of heel or swatch of fabric just dashing out of sight. Benjamin had slipped into hunting mode, like he assumed so many of his colleagues must do in similar situations. He was wrong, of course, but it was that which made him a good security professional.
Ultimately he reached the roof door, just in time to see it slam shut. It wouldn’t hold for long, the thing was practically held on with chewing gum by now, and he began ramming it with his shoulder. He was right, it gave quickly and swung open, only to be returned at such a speed that the impact with Benjamin’s face resulted in a loud crack and an explosion of blood. A broken nose as well as a concussion.
Benjamin staggered back into a wall of meat. He turned, and was greeted by the toothless grins of his army. He regained his composure, despite his useless eye and flattened nose and throbbing head, and led the charge.
He emerged from the doorway screaming in anger, and his colleagues followed suit, just in time to see the thief launch himself over the edge. Benjamin dashed to the edge and peered out, trying desperately to catch any sight of the man or the Diamond. But there was nothing, the dark had swallowed him up.
Benjamin turned to the nearest gorilla.
‘He jumped, must have fallen all the way to ground level. Go downstairs and find his body, we need that Diamond!’
The gorilla grunted, signalled a few others, and disappeared back into the building. Benjamin waited until he was out of sight and sank to the floor. He’d never driven a man to suicide before.