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Now is not then, he repeated over and over again in his head. He ducked into an empty narrow alley and leaned back against the side of one of the old brick buildings, closing his eyes and focusing on his breathing. Slowly, his heart started beating regularly again, and he opened his eyes and wiped the sweat off his brow. He quickly stepped out of the alley and looked around through the neon-bright smoggy haze, the cat nowhere in sight.

No. No, I can't fail this job, I need that money!

He began frantically asking if anyone had seen the cat, but they either had seen nothing, couldn't understand him, or didn't care enough to respond to the outsider. He began running in the direction that he had been going before he lost her, when he suddenly heard a shout around a corner further down the street. It sounded like one of the local residents was in pain. He recognized some of the Chinaman's swears.

He turned the corner and saw a short man with a bloody apron standing to the side of his butcher stall, cleaver at his feet, nursing long bloody claw marks on his left arm. Pierce asked the man where the cat went. The man pointed down a side street. Pierce ran around the corner and saw a hooded man with a brown sack in his hand running through the crowd, knocking people out of his way as he went. Without giving it a second thought, he began chasing the man, shouting at him to slow down. The man gave a brief look back, and Pierce saw the man's thick-bearded face, a bloody scratch over his right eye.

Pierce chased the man from street to street. Eventually, the stifling, busy atmosphere of Chinatown was left behind, and a calmer attitude was seen in all of the pedestrians that he passed. The bearded man was closer now. He was getting tired. But so am I, Pierce thought. The steeple of a Gothic cathedral loomed large a few blocks away. Who is this man? Why is he stealing a stupid cat?

He was just about within reach now. Pierce gave one last burst of energy and grabbed the old man around the waist with one hand, pulling him to the ground, while he grabbed the brown bag with the other hand. They grappled on the ground, each attempting to grab the bag. The old man managed to land one solid punch on Pierce's face, and in that brief moment the old man pulled the bag right out of Pierce's hand and struggled to his feet, about to run.

Pierce stood and pulled his handgun from his shoulder holster and pointed it at the man. "This is as far as you go with that sack," he panted. His suit was torn on the knee and his lip was bleeding. "Give it to me," he beckoned with his free hand.

"I have to take the cat to the priest."

"Give me the cat."

"You don't understand what you're doing! It's not what you think it is!"

"Give me the cat!"

The old man stood there. He looked at Pierce. He looked and saw that he was serious. And he saw fear. He put the bag on the ground and started to walk away.

"Hold it." Pierce opened the bag and looked inside. Miss Fluffles lay unconscious in the bottom. "Alright, walk away."

The old man walked away, looking back over his shoulder every now and then as he went.

Pierce began retracing his steps with the unconscious cat in the sack, now slung over his shoulder. When he got to the Gothic neighborhood, the cat had woken up and was meowing angrily. He let it out of the bag, and it looked at his bleeding face. It smiled a wry smile and led the rest of the way to its apartment. Pierce was glad that this job was almost over.

He followed the cat into the apartment building. The guards looked at the exhausted probie with surprise as he walked by.

"What happened?"

"Was a little walk more than you could handle, newbie?"

"Are you sure you're cut out for this job?"
Pierce, worn out from the rough night, turned around in the elevator and said, "No. But I have to do it." The doors slid closed.


Pierce stood in front of the bank screen and tapped on his balance. He saw the payment for his completed job, a good amount of money, sent by Strong-arm Security Corporation. You couldn't get this kind of money working for the police. He never made anywhere close in the army. He tapped the screen, opening up the bills tab. The number was huge. He transferred some to the food service, some to the housing service, and put the rest into the hospital bill. He sighed, then logged out of his account and walked home. He made it to his grimy apartment by sunrise and tried to sleep for the rest of the day.

Next: Heist

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