All things good and illegal

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Loretta bit her lip and took a deep breath before she peered into the keyhole and slid the pick into the narrow opening. "You will open for me," she murmured.


The night guard of annex number five was accustomed to the occasional break in. Over his long career of twenty-nine years he had seen many comings and goings of the kind that that would shock and astonish. At first there had been burglars, brazen thieves and robbers in the night who came to plunder and steal from the secret storage facility. But over time this had changed, priorities had changed, and the secrets of Annex Five were either left to rot or moved to more modern, up to date facilities. After years of more goings than comings, the annex was mostly empty and falling into disrepair. The break-ins changed too, left now to the homeless looking for shelter and arsonists searching for a good time.

He checked his watch and shifted in his seat to prevent his cheeks from numbing as he settled into the second hour of his shift, and yet another re-run of Eastenders, before he planned to tune in to the live New Year's celebrations at twenty to midnight. Working on New Year's Eve did not really bother the night guard. He had three adult children he and his wife were struggling to put through university on their modest wages so the overtime and public holiday bonuses were always welcome. Taking another sip of his instant coffee, he resolved that he would leave it at least another hour before he did his first tour of the building for that evening, just because it was New Year's. Other than that, it was just a regular Thursday night in central London.


On the far side of the building from where the night guard sat in front of his television screen, there was an alley shrouded with tall trees that ran along the dilapidated back of the building. In that alley there was a boy, leaning against a large red rubbish bin. He turned suddenly, dropping a cigarette from his lips and grinding it to ash beneath his heel as he did so.

Concealed from the CCTV camera in his shadow and that of the big red bin was a curious scene. Another boy, slightly taller than the first, was staring at his watch intently, only glancing up occasionally to keep an eye on the back door of annex number five. A pretty blonde haired girl hung off his arm, also watching the watch and the door.

Before the door, pressed with her face to the keyhole, was Loretta. The sleeves of her oversized hoodie rolled up to her elbows and her slightly wild and unkempt brown curls were held at bay by a simple rubber band. Over her knee a tool bag was unravelled like a makeup brush kit, and in her petite fingers she held a tension wrench, and the pick.
Loretta had a talent for picking locks that would turn the blood of any honest person cold. She wasn't dishonest. Admittedly for a sixteen-year-old she'd had a pretty bad run, but it was all circumstantial.

Loretta wasn't dishonest.

She just liked picking locks.

Overhead the pitch New Year's sky resonated with the deep-throated boom of fireworks over the Thames, but below in the narrow alley, shadowed by tall warehouses and hidden behind the stench of open drains and over-sized rubbish bins, Loretta crouched in front of the keyhole uncaring of the celebrations and out-of-tune, drunken renditions of Auld Lang Syne that the masses were enjoying down by the river.

It was all so London.

She sighed and pushed her hair out of her eyes one more time as she leaned forward and glared at the brass keyhole.

"If you would refrain from breathing down my neck for the next minute or so, that would be great," she half snapped, half grunted at whoever was immediately behind her.

"The security van will come by again in exactly–" there was a pause. A short 'looking at my watch' pause, "–in exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds,"

"And counting," another voice added with a smirk.

"Then bug off and give me some space," Loretta muttered as she slid the hook down the shaft of the lock for a fifth time, feeling the pins carefully while holding the tension wrench steady with her free hand.

"Hush you two. Let her work," said Jess.

"We shouldn't have brought either of you with us,"

"Oh shut up Stan, you wouldn't be getting in if you hadn't brought us," Jess patted Loretta on the back. Loretta grunted unappreciatively as one of the pins slipped.

"Sorry Letty," Jess grimaced.

"Three minutes, forty-eight seconds," Peter was watching their time. The second hand seemed to be moving abnormally fast.

"One more try." Loretta insisted. It had been some time since a lock had gotten the better of her.

She closed her eyes, even though it was already pitch black up the alley. The fireworks were over and while the sounds of celebration and revelry and police sirens could still be heard so near, the only lights and noise by them were those where the alley met the main road, and the light of Jess' phone that she held in an attempt at helpfulness to light the lock that wouldn't budge. As Loretta closed her eyes she inhaled deeply, letting it all out slow as the wrench went back in, and the hook followed. The first three pins were old news. The fourth and the last were giving her grief.

Her chest tightened, informing her it was time to breathe again.

"One minute, fifty-seven seconds. It's time to give up." Peter shoved his phone back in his pocket and took Jess' hand, "Come, we can return in ten minutes."

"Not again." Loretta frowned, eyes still closed.

"Don't be stupid!"

A van slowed at the end of the alley and indicated in.

"Letty!" Jess squeaked in fear.

Stan grabbed her shoulder.

"Got it!" Loretta straightened up and turned the lock in one fluid movement. The door opened in and she threw herself forward into the darkness, her momentum pulled Stan with her. Peter and Jess came seconds later, almost too late as the headlights lit the door frame and Stan slammed the door shut.

Hey again!
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