Ari kept to the shadows as she moved through the streets of the lower town. It was easy enough, this wasn’t the rich end of town, with its wide avenues and gas-lit street lamps. Here, a neighbourhood was lucky to boast a single, guttering lamp at the edge of whatever square held the communal well.
Any light on these streets came from behind threadbare curtains and cracked shutters. The only time she was likely to be caught out would be if someone opened a door, but these hinges and latches creaked and squeaked, she’d not been seen yet.
Still, it was well to be alert, and she was glad of her caution when she approached her destination. It was too dark, too quiet, this street. The lights were on, but the curtains that blocked these windows had been replaced since the last time she’d come down here. Replaced them with new, thick fabric that jealously held the light within, only letting the smallest slivers through the crack where they joined.
She paused, fading further back towards the grimy stone beside her. She ran a finger over an open shutter. No splinters, thick wood, these had been replaced as well. Who was putting money into the buildings of the Rat Pit? And what did it mean for the residents?
She turned to leave, better to find out more and come back another night, but a shadow, darker and more solid than the rest, blocked her way.
Dammit, she knew that voice. The question was, did the owner of the voice know it was her?
She pitched her reply into a low growl. “Home. Shortcut ain’t what it was.”
He wasn’t fooled. “Nice try, Arielle, now the truth if you please.”
She glanced each way, then grabbed his arm, pulling him back the way they’d come.