Rat & Will Chapter 14: Temporary Goodbyes
They’d purchased, rather than stealing, everything on their shopping lists. This left Rat in a bit of a bad mood as she weighed out several nearly empty coin pouches, but Will hadn’t been wrong about it keeping the townspeople happy and incurious. Besides, they’d told the guards at the entrance to the city that they were in Morgans Reach to pick up supplies. Even Rat’s eagle eyes had caught little evidence of watchers, but it was better to be careful.
Back in their room in the tavern, Rat wrapped packets of herbs and other random ingredients tightly together and rolled soiled clothing around them. Will, knowing that she wouldn’t let him help - she’d declared him hopeless at packing years ago - pulled out a small kit and worked on an intricate bit of wire jewelry in the light of their single window. When a quiet knock at the door interrupted the comfortable silence, Rat pulled a small dagger and stood to one side while Will set down his work and walked to open the door.
Fro looked warmer, and a bit better fed. He waited patiently for Rat to check the hallway and give him a careful look before gesturing him inside. “Got news.”
Rat pointed him to the single chair and resumed packing. She’d been debating the best way to hide the little bottles, finally, she shrugged and decided to pack them carefully and openly. They were still empty, so why not?
Fro, his eyes wide, stared at the little she’d yet to pack. “What are you planning?”
“Not the smartest question.” Rat speared him with a hard look. “And also none of your business.”
He shrugged, too used to such responses to take offense. “Got word about guards and laundry. They don’t send it out. Least not anymore, they don’t. Now they do it themselves.”
Rat frowned. “Damn.”
“But they do bring in food and ale.” Fro grinned at the sharp look Rat sent him. “Food deliveries every three days. Ale comes from this very tavern every two weeks. Next delivery is in four days.”
“Ale goes to each barracks? They drink it right away?” Rat’s mind was racing, a new plan forming.
“Yup.” Fro watched her intently, intelligent eyes measuring every word. “Tend to run out a day or two early, actually. Probably why the last couple days before the next delivery is worse for everybody in town.”
“Who takes care of the delivery?”
Fro grinned. “Granther. Usually hires a helper of some kind. Mostly so he can play dice with whoever’s off duty while the help does the work.”
Rat considered. “Is that help you?”
“Sometimes.” Fro shrugged. “Sometimes I can get better pay elsewhere.”
“Make sure that this time, it’s you.” Rat declared. “I’ll make sure it pays well enough.”
“You going to let Granther in on it?” Fro wore a look of indecision.
“No.” Rat let the word drop solidly in the room. “And you aren’t either. Do your job right, and everyone gets paid and he doesn’t even know you did more than earn his coin.”
The small boy hesitated. “He don’t cheat me.”
“Ain’t asking you to cheat him.” Rat held his eyes. “Just do the job for him and another one for me. Don’t hurt him, helps you.” Seeing he wasn’t convinced, she sighed. “It would be worse for him to know. Dangerous maybe. But you, you’re good at keeping secrets.”
“So’s Granther.” The boy looked sullen, but Rat could tell she was going to get her way.
“Just get the job.” She produced one of the decent daggers she’d taken off the thieves the other evening. “Your pay.”
“Not coin?” Despite his words, the boy stared at the knife longingly.
“Nope. We both know this is worth more than I owe you.” Rat handed it to him. “There will be more later. For now, just keep your head down and your mouth shut. Check with us here in three days.”
The boy nodded. The dagger disappeared under his new cloak. He turned and was quickly gone from the room.
Will spoke for the first time. “You’re going to trust him to set the traps?”
“Maybe.” Rat went back to packing.
“That dagger was worth five times what you owed him.” Will was watching her closely. “At least.”
She shrugged. “He won’t sell it. It’s solid, well-made. Better than his current sticker by far. He’ll keep it.”
“You do like him.” Will went back to his work with the wire, smiling slightly.
Rat didn’t bother with an answer.
That night, they spoke to Milla in the kitchen. “We’re leaving for a few days.” Rat said shortly. “We’ll be back, but for all our sakes, don’t tell anyone. Far as you know, we’re gone for good.”
Milla stared at them in confusion. “I thought you were going to help. I signed the contract.”
Will sent her a kind look. “We are, but we have some work to do outside the walls. And this will keep suspicion off of you if we get caught later. After all, everyone will see us leave. And you can tell anyone that asks that you honestly don’t know where we went.”
She nodded. “Alright. But you’re coming back?”
Rat grinned. “Of course. Signed the contract too, didn’t we?” She took a pull from the ale she’d taken from the old man at the bar. “And we’re going to be asking you for some small help. But till then, you don’t know anything.”
“And that keeps you and yours safe.” Will put in.
She frowned. “Just what do you have planned?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Rat smirked. “Which I’m not going to do.” She set a silver on the table. “Here. This should cover the ale we’ve been drinking. I’ve refused to pay your old man out there since he sent the kid to steal from us.”
Milla groaned. “Granther can be…”
Rat shrugged. “We took care of it.”
“But you know that even if this town does pick up, people won’t stay in a tavern that steals from them.” Will sent her a stern look. “And Rat nearly hurt the boy he sent.”
“I understand. Thank you. You should keep this, then.” She reluctantly pushed the silver back towards Rat. “For your trouble.”
Rat glared at her. “No. But do something about the old man.”
They stood and left without another word.