In Medias Res

This is the exercise from the final week of the Virtual Writing Academy. Stumbled across the whole playlist one day and had an absolute ball doing the sessions.

Delaney jerked, jolted from the delicate task of breaking out of the museum archive. The cops were here. She heard the sirens, flinched from the flashing red and blue lights splashing across the room. It would be moments before they found her and she couldn’t use this door any more, they’d be waiting on the other side.

She eased the picks out of the lock and slunk into the shadows formed by the tall rows of shelves. Where to go? What to do? Heavy footsteps thudded down the corridor, shit there were a lot of them.

She did what any cat burglar would do, she went up. The shelves were high, the ceilings were higher. She scrambled up a nondescript set of shelves, not at the end, not in the middle, and lay on her stomach at the top, a good three feet between her perch and the ceiling.

She’d bought a little time, still needed an escape route though. They weren’t going to simply look around and leave, and she had places to be.

For now, she stayed flat and still and opened her ears.

Maybe she’d find out how they knew. She hadn’t tripped an alarm; someone must have told them. Who was her traitor?

The thought made her snarl silently, whoever it was would pay. This was why she didn’t do teams, or friends, or shared information on her plans. This job had rubbed her fur the wrong way from the start.

Below her, boots clattered, people yelled and bodies darted to and fro, trying to look busy and be important in a room empty of all people but them.

She smirked but didn’t move, all she needed was for one of them to look up and it would all be over.

Eventually most of them left, sent to scour the rest of the building for her presence. They knew she hadn’t broken the perimeter.

She looked around her, thinking. The manhole in the ceiling, leading to the air conditioning ducts, was much too obvious. They’d left two men in the room, ambling about the place, grumbling but not yet inattentive.

She narrowed her eyes at a section of the wall. The light fell strangely on it at this angle. Why was it different?

As she watched, the panelling on that section of wall wavered and seemed to turn liquid. She swallowed, hard, someone was opening a portal into the room.

Was this connected to her visit? And if so, were the people behind the portal connected to the men in the room, her employer, or someone else entirely?

She managed to get her head down just before light exploded from the portal. The two men weren’t so attentive, and were now effectively blind.

They were not mute though, and she heard them frantically calling for backup. She needed to move now. The question was, where?

Through the portal? It was still glowing but she hadn’t seen, or felt anyone come through. Out of the door? She was pretty sure they’d still have people on the perimeter and this would just amp up their focus.

Into the ducts? That was actually an option now but, no, her curiosity would be her downfall yet again. Checking she still had the item she’d been tasked to collect, and another little curio for her personal collection, she flowed down the bank of shelves and slipped behind the yelling men.

They were focused on the portal, she stayed in the shadows just beyond its reach. They’d see her as soon as she tried for it. And they were close enough to cause trouble. She paused, uncertain.

A figure appeared in the portal, a black silhouette against the blue glow. They raised a hand and shot a gold light towards the guards. They went down, finally silent and the figure turned their head towards Delaney.

“Come along then.”

Delaney gritted her teeth. She knew that voice, Maxim, David’s right hand man. She was irritated beyond words that he’d seen fit to interfere, but she had no other option. She ran for the portal and lept through, avoiding Maxim’s helping hand.

She heard thuds and shouts as he cast something else out into the room, the sound faded as the portal closed behind them.

She now stood in an empty stone room, no windows, only one door. She strode towards it, ignoring the man behind her.

He did nothing to stop her, which gave her a clue as to what waited in the next room. Even so, she opened the door.

It was the side door into David’s study. All bookshelves, polished wood and an open fire. David was leaning against the side of his desk, watching her come through the door.

He smiled. “Good evening, my love.”

Delaney growled and slid the balaclava off her head, moving further into the room as she heard Maxim behind her. “I am not your love.”

Again with that smile. Never mind what it did to her libido, it scrambled her brain and she could not afford to be on anything less than full alert around her aggravating husband.

David looked over her shoulder. “Everything go as planned?”

Maxim moved past her. “Other than your little darling being on top of a shelf on the other side of the room. I think someone got a bit too keen on their tip-off timing.”

Delaney whipped round with a snarl. “You set me up to get caught?”

Both men answered at once. “No.”

David continued. “The alarm was meant to be triggered just as you left the property, inner wards first. Our contact got in early and reversed the order. They won’t be contacted again.”

Maxim headed for the bar and poured himself a drink. “Probably trying to play both ends.”

David shook his head and sighed theatrically. “That never ends well.”

Delaney narrowed her eyes at him. “What exactly are you up to?”

Her husband shrugged. “A little of this, a little of that. Do you have the artefact?”

She froze. “The what?”

David huffed. “The amulet Delaney, surely you’ve worked out by now I’m your employer.”

Her knees wobbled. “No. No, this is my life, my work. You can’t control it.”

He caught her as she wavered, pulling her into his solid heat. “I don’t control it, love, and I simply pay you to get the things I need to complete other tasks.”

“You always have to control everything.” She heard the wobble in her voice and hated it, and herself, for letting her pain show.

David jerked his head and a minute later, the main door to the study clicked shut, presumably behind a vacating Maxim.

The arms around her gently tightened, bringing her closer to him, pressed up against him, he tucked her head under his chin and she, weakling that she was, let him.

It was just for a moment she promised herself, but he was so warm, and it always felt so good. That was enough to have her pushing back against him. He let her go. As he always did. Somehow that hurt too, damn her stupid, irrational heart.

He waved her to one of the big, comfortable sofas by the fire. “Would you like a drink?”

She shook her head, she needed all her wits about her and they were vacating fast enough with her sober. He sat in the seat opposite and looked at her. He seemed to be making some sort of decision.

She eyed him warily. “What?”

“Thanks to our no-longer-employed associate putting you too close to the scene of the crime. You’re going to need an alternate occupation for a while. I was wondering about the suitability of making you my personal assistant while June is on maternity leave.”

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