EXCERPT:Free Fall

(ISBN 0373802676)

Free FallHer stop came up and she slipped off the bus, weaving her way through the crowds of Times Square.  Even at this hour, there were tourists.  At every hour, there were tourists.  Wren wouldn’t mind them quite so much if they’d just learn how to walk.  You didn’t stop in the middle of a sidewalk to have a conversation with ten of your bestest buddies.  You didn’t wave your camera around like it was a baton.  And you absolutely didn’t stand there with your wallet open, counting out your bills after you bought breakfast from a bagel cart.
Wren pocketed the handful of bills almost absently, and decided that the camera wasn’t pretty enough for the taking.  Anyway, what would she do with it?
Her quarry was up ahead: the Taylor Theater. The Taylor was one of the smaller venues, holding on to its dignity with a restored Art Deco façade.  Broadway had never been demure, but she always had class, even draped in neon and splattered with six-story-high underwear ads, and the Taylor was every inch a classy dame.
Wren loved living in Manhattan, and she especially loved wandering through Times Square.  It was an unspoken law, known to every New York Talent: You don’t recharge on Broadway.  The neon, the floodlights, the endless uncountable miles of wiring and secondary power sources, they all had an invisible ‘paws off’ sign.  Like hospitals and nuclear power plants, you just didn’t.
That didn’t mean you couldn’t feel a buzz, walking under the throbbing, pulsing, sweating lights.  Wren let it pass through her, not trying to catch any of the current shimmering in the air.  It was Spring, there had been a thunderstorm over the weekend, and her core was sated and ready to go.
The job had come in two days ago, via a friend of a friend of a former client.  A smash-and-grab, without much smash.  Not much of a grab, either – an old prop that had some sort of sentimental value to the client, and was being held by another actor as his own good luck charm.
Actors.  Jesus wept.  They made the Cosa seem well-adjusted.
Once, Wren would have grumbled about a job that was, in effect, sleepwalking; she used to thrive on the rev of adrenaline that came from outsmarting a security system, outwitting guards, and getting away with something someone else didn’t want you to have.
Now, she was working to pay the rent, and keep herself occupied, and nothing else need apply, thanks.  Certainly no more adrenaline, thanks.
At least she didn’t have to worry about the cost of feeding P.B. – couriers were never out of work, especially in times of unease and suspicion, and with him in the apartment on a full-time basis, he was placing regular on-line grocery orders on his own dime.
Apparently, they really would give anyone a credit card.
She came up on the theater, and walked past it, giving it a casual once-over with her eyes, and another deeper one with a narrow thread of current.  Nothing struck her as being out of place or odd.  More odd, anyway, she thought, walking past the Naked Cowboy, trying to strum up some attention.  Broadway might have class, but not all of her residents did.
She turned the corner and went into the wine store there, spending a few minutes looking around as though comparing prices on the red wines in the sale bin.  Four minutes later, Wren shook her head as though disappointed with the selection, and walked back out of the store, back toward the theater.
There were three different ways you could enter a building you weren’t supposed to be in.  You could sneak in through a non-traditional entrance: window, sewer, skylight, loading dock.  Wren had once had herself rolled in via a beer delivery.  You could walk right in through the front door, brazen it out and hope nobody thought to challenge you.  Or, you could find a commonly used entrance, and slide in with a crowd.
If you were a Retriever, you had a fourth option.  You went invisible.

-© Laura Anne Gilman

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