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Juliana Shale

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About Juliana Shale

  • Rank
    Aficionado
  • Birthday 04/17/1988

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    juliana_shale

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  • Location
    Madison, WI
  • Occupation
    Student

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  1. The Wrong Thief

    "Somewhere we'll be safe," Juliana said. "At least long enough to figure out what's going on." She led the way across the city roofs, all these buildings crowded up against each other. A fire in one of them would turn the whole block into an inferno–it was a wonder the city hadn't burned to the ground by now. It took them nearly an hour to reach their destination. After two blocks climbing over soot-coated shingles followed by a treacherous climb down the side of a tenement building and a winding route through the city's narrow streets, they found their way to the home of Adeline Wald just as dawn was starting to lighten the very edge of the horizon. Adeline answered the door in her nightgown, blinking at them sleepily in the light of the lantern she carried. "Juliana?" she said. "What's this?" "Trouble, I'm afraid. We need a place to stay out of sight a while." Adeline looked from her to the boy trailing behind her. "Of course." She glanced back up the stairs behind her. "Mattias is still asleep, I'll have him make up the guest room. Come on in." Juliana led the way, looking back to beckon Michaelis in after her. The boy looked as tired as she felt. "Come on, we'll be safe here a while."
  2. The Wrong Thief

    As the kid pulled, Juliana heaved herself upward. Something wrenched in her shoulder, but she got up enough that she could let go of Michaelis and grab a handhold on the roof. With all the strength she had in her upper body, she dragged herself up until her whole body was safely on the angled roof. She clung to it a moment, panting. From below, she thought she could hear heavy footsteps. Gingerly, she stood up, rolling her shoulder, which was starting to throb. "Follow me," she said. "The buildings here are end-to-end – we can run two city blocks without touching the ground." She started forward, then looked back. "Oh, and thanks. I'd have fallen and broken my back without you."
  3. The Wrong Thief

    We're going to break our fool necks, both of us, Juliana thought as, getting as good a grip on the ledge as she could with her right hand, she reached upward with her left. She stretched her arm, kicking her legs in the empty air to find balance, and finally caught hold of the boy's extended hand. "Brace yourself before you pull," she said. "It's a hell of a drop."
  4. The Wrong Thief

    "It's like I said," Juliana whispered in the darkness. "They're tying up loose ends." She groped in the dark for the boy's arm, gripped it, pulled him deeper into the attic. "There's a passage here that leads out onto the roof, and then we've got some climbing ahead of us after that. Move as fast as you can, but silence more important. Whoever those men are, you can bet they'll find this passage on their own before long, so every second we can buy by not alerting them is more precious than gold." She led the way from memory and by feel, testing each step before she put her foot down. The attic was hot and smelled of dust and decay, and cobwebs tickled her face as she pressed forward. Her keen ears picked up the skittering of rats, and she didn't like how much she felt like one of them right now. The passage came to an abrupt end, and Juliana stepped sideways, crouched, fumbled around in the dark until she found the handle. Cracking the door let in a sliver of moonlight; she pushed it all the way open and squeezed through it. The ledge it opened on to was barely wider than a windowsill--definitely not enough for two people to stand on. She looked up the steeply angled roof of the building, found a handhold and pulled herself up. "Come on out," she whispered. "Careful, the ledge is n–" One of the shingles she was gripping came loose in her hand. She tightened her grip with the other hand too late and started to slide down the roof. She instinctively reached out and caught the ledge with her right hand. Her shoulder wrenched, but she held on and dangled there. Somehow she managed not to cry out. "Help," she managed through gritted teeth, looking up at the opening into the darkness of the attic.
  5. The Wrong Thief

    Juliana got to her feet. "No bread, but I'll see what I can do." In a small cupboard in the kitchen she found some dried beef and apples – since she visited this safehouse so rarely, it didn't make sense to keep anything perishable. She took a strip of dry, hard meat for herself and laid the rest out on the table for the boy. She went to the small storage closet just off the doorway to the kitchen and found the set of street clothes she kept there: a loose, white blouse, a moth-bitten drab skirt, a pair of soft leather shoes she could easily run in. "Avert your eyes," she told Michaelis as she struggled out of the extravagant dress and into clothes that she could actually feel like herself in. The jewelry she placed in a velvet pouch, which could be worn on a string around her neck, concealed beneath her shirt. A sound outside brought her senses to full alert. She froze and listened. The murmur of voices trying not to be heard came from somewhere downstairs. She looked at the boy, held a finger to her lips, then whispered, "Follow me." Back in the kitchen, she reached up to open the trap door in the ceiling and pulled down the knotted climbing rope. "Up here," she hissed, and climbed up the rope with practiced agility, into the musty darkness of the attic. "Pull up the rope behind you and close the door."
  6. The Wrong Thief

    "Running and hiding," Juliana said. "I hope you're as good as you think you are, because there are some powerful people after us." The gravity of her situation hit her in waves. It wasn't just her life that was in danger now, it was everything she'd built over the last nine years. Her reputation, her livelihood. She had to fix this. "We're going to have to keep moving. Neither of us chose this, but we're in it together now. Tell me, can you fight?"
  7. The Wrong Thief

    As the boy spoke, Juliana watched his face for signs of deceit. She saw none. "Tall man, dark hair, tan, tattoo," she said. It didn't sound like anyone she knew, and she most people worth knowing in this city. Safe bet he was some kind of outside operator--hired, certainly, by the people who had hired her. She began to take stock of her resources. Going back home seemed out of the question, and she doubted this safehouse would remain secure for long. She had allies, but she couldn't take any of those for granted right now. It seemed that all she could count on for the moment was the small amount of gold she had stowed away here for emergencies, whatever money she could make selling these jewels and what was left of the dress, the dagger she'd brought with her on the job...and this boy. "Tell me about yourself, Michaelis," she said. "Where do you come from and what are you good at?"
  8. The Wrong Thief

    "Good." Juliana slid down a little in her seat and stretched her legs out, crossing them at the ankles. "I knew you were a smart one, Michaelis," she said. "Now, start from the beginning and tell me everything you remember about the man who told you to go to that inn tonight."
  9. The Wrong Thief

    Juliana smiled -- disarmingly, she hoped -- pushed one of the wooden mugs over toward Michaelis and took a sip from her own. "You don't know either of those things," she said. "But you must be a smart kid to have survived on these streets, so think about it: what would I gain from killing you? The man you spoke to and the people he works for -- it's in their interest to kill you whether you talk or not, so you might as well help me take them down."
  10. The Wrong Thief

    Juliana took another step back. Either this boy was a dangerously good actor, or he truly was innocent in all this. She sheathed her dagger and said, "Don't think I won't stop you if you try to run. But even if you manage to escape me, you won't escape them, so I'd advise you to take your chances sticking with me." Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she stepped over to the kitchen of the tiny apartment to retrieve a bottle of win and two sturdy wooden mugs. "The man who gave you that tip," she said as she set the mugs and the bottle on the small table in the common area, "was trying to use you as a pawn. There's something very valuable in that inn that I was hired to steal. I suspect the people who hired me also sent you in there, knowing you'd get caught." She leaned over the fireplace and struck a match. It died. She struck another and got the fire going. "The commotion you caused would put pressure on me to act rashly, and I'd get myself captured." She stood up and looked ruefully down at her dress. It was splashed with muddy water from the scuffle in the alley, and the left sleeve was ripped from her climb down the wall. Her stockings were tattered and stained from her shoeless run through the city streets, so she stripped them off and tossed them in a corner. "So," she said, sinking into the chair opposite the boy, "I helped you because you can help me find the people who set me up." She leaned forward to pour wine into the two mugs. "Now, tell me everything you remember about the man who gave you that tip."
  11. The Wrong Thief

    Now that she had a chance to really look at him, Juliana could see the kid was even younger than she'd thought. Small, and his fear made him seem smaller. She felt herself softening just a little. "Look," she said, "You and I were both supposed to come out of that inn in chains. The plan failed, and that makes you a loose end. That means you're in as much danger as I am until we fix this." She pulled back a little to give him more space. "If it assuages your fear any, Michaelis, I don't think you were in on it. I think somebody gave you the tip about that gala knowing you couldn't resist the opportunity. Think about it...did it seem easier than it should have been to gain entry to that inn?"
  12. The Wrong Thief

    "Good." Juliana brought her face close to the boy's and looked into his wide, terror-filled eyes. "If you make a sound, I'll cut your throat and leave you in the alley." Over his shoulder, she saw the guard she'd choked out begin to stir. She clamped a hand on the boy's arm and led him swiftly away, out of the alley, and through the streets she knew so well. Her heart pounded. The situation was bad. She'd figure out how bad when she had time to assess it. Right now the only thing that mattered was getting off the street. The safe house was less than a mile away, a small apartment above a tailor's shop. She hauled the kid up the stairs and through the door, then shoved him into a chair. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. If you want to get out of here alive, you'll answer my questions honestly. First of all, what's your name? Second, who tipped you off about the gala at that inn? You and I both know a street kid like you doesn't just hear about these kinds of things."
  13. The Wrong Thief

    Juliana heard the commotion before she saw its source. She wheeled around to see a small, malnourished kid in shabby clothes being restrained by one of the nobles. She cursed. All the pains she and her employers had taken to get her into this room, and some street urchin had managed to get through security. Now she'd have to act fast, she realized, before they locked the place down completely. No time for caution. She got three steps toward the small mahogany service door and stopped. Something didn't smell right. As she watched the guards shove their way through the crowd toward the street kid, every instinct that had kept her alive for 31 years screamed at her to cut her losses and get out. But not without the kid. Whatever this was, he was part of it, and she had to figure out what he knew. Two burly guards gripped the kids arms and were rushing him through the scandalized crowd toward what she knew was the door to the inn's spacious kitchens, beyond which was an exit into the alley in back. Juliana had committed to memory the layout of the building and all possible ways out of it, and she'd identified that alley as ideal for an escape and knew the quickest way to get to it. Moving as swiftly as she could without drawing attention, she made her way to the second story washroom she knew had a window she could fit through even in this dress. Once inside, she pushed open the window and looked down. Too far to jump, but the brick wall could be climbed. She pulled off her shoes and tossed them into the alley below, jumped up on the windowsill, and eased herself down. She found a toehold, and she was off. She'd shimmied up and down so many walls like this one in her life, it was as easy as swimming. When her feet hit the ground, she hitched up her skirts and pulled out the dagger she had strapped to her thigh. Blade in hand, she headed up the alley, keeping to the shadows close to the building, stopping when she reached the doorway. Seconds ticked by. Somewhere off the main road, laughter and music swelled for a moment then faded as the door to a tavern opened and closed. The door burst open, and the guards rushed the kid out into the alley. They threw him to the ground and one kicked him in the ribs. Juliana launched herself forward, smashing the pommel of her dagger down with all her might on the base of the closest guard's skull. He collapsed to the cobblestones. The other guard reacted fast, charging her. Juliana stood her ground until the last minute, twisting out the guard's way and tripping him as he passed. He lost his balance, staggered and flailed and fell. Juliana threw herself on him, wrapping one arm around his neck and squeezing. He thrashed but she held tight. He started to rise, but she wrapped her legs around his chest and came up with him, keeping her stranglehold tight on his neck. He'd barely gotten to his feet when he lost consciousness. Juliana rolled away from him, saw the kid getting to his feet. She grabbed him and held her blade to his throat. "If you try to run on your own, they'll catch you. You're coming with me, understand?"
  14. The Wrong Thief

    Juliana Shale was dressed in what had to be the finest clothes she'd ever worn in her life. The dress itself was worth more than she'd made on her last three jobs combined, and the jewels (assuming they were the real thing) would probably fetch enough to live comfortably on for quite a while. It was a testament to her reputation that her employers trusted her not to take off with the valuables, and a testament to the generosity of their payday that she never even considered doing so. In her opulent attire, she blended right in with the society types milling about the inn foyer. She sipped wine from a crystal goblet and watched the parade of nobles. A woman with a pinched face and elaborate hair caught her eye and smiled. Juliana smiled back, thinking about the disgust that woman would feel toward her if she knew what she really was: a poor merchant's kid turned highway bandit turned high-priced expert thief. Juliana scanned the foyer. Not a face in the crowd she didn't recognize...except one. She caught it in a flash, then it disappeared into the crowd: a pale, thin face, a child's face. "You're not supposed to be here," she said under her breath. She set her goblet down on the pedestal of a marble statue and headed for where she'd last seen the stranger.
  15. End of the Line

    It was another busy night at O'Rory's, and Kaye Kamen barely had time to catch her breath between the beginning of her shift at 6 p.m. and the end at midnight. She liked it better that way -- less time to get too caught up in her thoughts. When the clock struck midnight, she didn't linger. Her drinking days were behind her, and anyhow, O'Rory's just wasn't that kind of place. Some bars she'd worked in were like families -- the staff and the regulars all knew each other, all shared drinks and stories, toasted successes and mourned losses together. Not O'Rory's. Here, everyone was like her: just passing through. People came to O'Rory's so they could be alone in a crowded room. "Good night, Leon," she said to the man who took her place behind the bar. "Don't let them make too big a mess in here." Leon blinked and gave her a lethargic nod. Kaye stepped out into the warm night, and wind off the sea caught her hair and light summer dress. She could sense rain in the air. She made the five minute walk to the waterfront, slipping off her sandals when she reached the sand and tucking them along with her purse behind some scrub brush. The beach was deserted -- not unusual this time of night. He'd said he would meet her here around one o'clock; Kaye didn't have a watch, but she guessed she still had a while to wait. Kaye walked out into the surf until the water came up around her ankles and stood there looking out to sea, watching the lights from the jetty sparkle on the water. Looking up and down the long, curving shoreline, she saw a figure approaching from the north. In the dark, she couldn't tell if it was him, but who else would be out here at this hour? She started walking his way. * * * Jack Demetriou started his day the same way he always did. He was up and dressed by 5:15 a.m., knowing that Shad Underhill was waiting for him outside, and would be gone if he wasn't out by 5:20. He stepped out onto the porch stretching the stiffness out of his joints and blinking in the predawn dimness. He smelled Shad's cigarette before he saw the man himself, his wiry frame leaning against the house next to the door. "Morning, Shad," he said, rubbing his hands together. He was always cold in the mornings. Shad grunted and handed him a cigarette. Jack thanked him and struck a match. "How are ya?" he said around the cigarette as he lit it. Shad said, "Grateful." Like he always did. They walked in silence through the narrow streets, making the beach just as the sun was rising up over the water. Jack said, "How'd you do yesterday?" "Made it through. You?" "Made it through." After a while he added, "Got bad there, yesterday afternoon. I was ready to jump out of my skin, couldn't hardly breathe thinking about the mess I've made of my life." "End of the day, you didn't have a drink. That's a victory." Jack lit another cigarette. "That's right, I didn't. But I lost a whole day trying not to." He felt some of yesterday's desperation welling back up in him again. "Fighting the same battle over and over again every day, it just wears you down." Shad said, "Better than before, though." "I guess." They walked on in silence a while, listening to the waves and the gulls, and Jack felt some of the tension he felt at the prospect of facing another day ebb out of him. They were all right, Shad, Mors, everybody. You just had to keep going, taking it one moment at a time. He was shaken from his thoughts when he caught sight of something up ahead. Somebody was lying on the sand at the edge of the water, and something about the way they were lying there gave him a bad feeling. Shad must have seen it too, because he quickened his pace. Jack matched him. Moments later, the two of them were staring down at the motionless body of a young woman. She was lying on her back on the sand, eyes closed. Her yellow sundress and the sand beneath her were stained with blood, and her hands were pressed to a spot on her chest as though she'd been trying to staunch the wound. Jack felt a chill as he looked at her expressionless face and dyed turquoise hair, because he knew her. "It's Kaye Kamen," he said to Shad, who nodded gravely. Jack felt for a pulse, but Kaye was dead, her skin cold to the touch and pale as the sand. He reeled back, and for a moment or two wasn't sure if he was going to be sick or not. Shad said, "We shouldn't be here. Nothing we can do for her now. Call the Watch and let them do their jobs." Jack shook his head. "Watch isn't going to care about somebody like her. They'll have a couple guys walk around asking questions for a day or two, and if they don't come up with a killer, they'll file her name away somewhere and forget about her." "Nothin' we can do about that. Come on." Shad started to walk away. Jack called after him, an idea starting to form in his mind. "Just...wait. She's like family, Shad. She deserves justice if we can get it for her, and I think I know how we might. Can you wait with her a minute while I run back and talk to Mors?" Shad sighed, but he agreed. Jack turned and ran as fast as thirty-six years of hard living would allow him, all the way back home to the apartment he was sharing with Sir Mors Volturnis -- more accurately, the apartment that Mors was paying for and allowing him to stay in while got clean. It had been six weeks since Mors found him passed out in that alley, six weeks since he'd had a drink. Jack hadn't yet worked up to asking if someone had hired Mors to go looking for him, or if he'd just done it for the sake of their old friendship. "Mors," Jack gasped as he opened the door, "you up?" His lungs burned, his head felt light. He staggered over to a chair and sort of fell into it. "I need your help."
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