A cold chill brushes my skin, looking for a way into my body like a skilled lock-picker. It cannot get in. I like the cold. It makes it harder for the cops to get to me. Makes their joints rusty. Melting into the shadows, I cut back into a narrow alleyway, jumping over a trash bin. I accidentally kick over a can.
“Watch it, do you wanna make me trip?” Juan, my accomplice, says behind me. “I’m holding the gargoyle, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah, got it,” I mumble, squinting into the alley across the fog that has set in. A group of teens, walking drunkly, is approaching. “Where is Kyle, anyway?”
“No idea. Disappeared after the thing with the cats.”
“They went over there!” The cops say in the distance. A flashlight lights up the alleyway, and we duck behind a crate. The teenagers pass. The footsteps of the cops get closer.
“They shouldn’t be far,” one of them says. “Hey, what are you guys doing here?”
“We were having so much funnn,” one of the people in the group of drunk people says. “You ruined it, you… pig ramen ball!” They start laughing.
I resume sprinting.
The buildings are a blur, the fog clouding my vision. Juan follows me, hurdling piles of trash and cardboard boxes. Eventually we get out of the alley. Streetlights stream in, the buzz of chatter and the distant tune of a street-performing trumpeter. Despite the cold, thousands of people bustle around, edging into the mall a stone’s throw away.
Did something happen to Kyle? I wonder as I liquify into the crowds. Kyle. Smiles, lemonade, coconut ice-cream, sunflowers, naps on the deck. He never disappears without notifying us first.
“He’s ‘aight,” Juan says in his rich Spanish accent, into my ear. “Keep going. Don’t look back.”
Remember the gargoyle, I whisper to myself. Pure gold. Diamond eyes. Platinum sheen. Cash.
We dig through the crowd like miners in a cave. Except we already have the diamond.
Our heads lowered, we cut into the mall, past food revenues and bustling people, dashing up the escalator. I risk a glance back to see the cops running for us. They see us. And they have backup.
I’m used to Kyle always showing up at the last moment, with a genius solution. Now when I look up, he’s there. His grin, the smell of lemons in his cologne —stupid boy, always used some of his share to buy some cologne—, his hand reached up to mine.
I grab it. A metal cuff clasps over my wrists. Juan gets shoved forward by a cop behind him and another one dashes him against the ground, retrieving the gargoyle. I look up, my vision clouding, at Kyle. He’s shaking a police man’s hand, grinning.
“Why?” I gasp.
“You never really knew me,” Kyle says.
A cold chill grasps my skin, looking for a way into my body like a skilled lock-picker. This time it invades.