“C’mon Rune, just do this for me. You’re smaller than I am. You’ll make it,” he encouraged.
“This is humiliating,” said Rune. She stuck both hands in the pouch of her sweatshirt and kicked a pebble on the damp ground.
Spike marched over to her and grabbed her by the shoulders. She shoved him back.
“Spike, what the h—“”
“Rune, what is wrong with you!”
“What is wrong with you, Spike!”
“What is wrong with me?” he threw his arms into the air in an exasperated gesture. “What is wrong with me!” he shouted, emphasizing each word. “Well, for starters, I’ve ate three meals in four days, I don’t got a job, I don’t got a house, and it don’t seem like I got you anymore, either!”
Rune’s glare was passionate and formidable.
“None of those things’ll change if we’re arrested,” she hissed.
“Look at it though, Rune,” he gestured at the window, “Nobody’s home, the light’s out, its been like that for days. It would be so easy for you—”
Rune continued to stare passionately. Her red hair added to her fiery appearance.
“But Rune,” Spike started again, “you’ve robbed before. You helped me out before, and I helped you, too.”
“It doesn’t matter, Spike, you’ll always be in debt to me.”
Spike took in a breath. His hands started to rise in his exasperated gesture, but then his face cleared. “Oh,” he muttered.
“Oh,” she snapped. She turned away from him, arms crossed. They stood like this for a long time. Rune tapped her foot, watching little bits of water jump up away from it.
“Sorry,” Spike muttered. He turned toward her but she continued to ignore him. “I shouldn’t have got so mad. All I wanted was a favor, I guess.”
Rune grabbed a clump of her hair near her scalp with each hand and sighed heavily. She closed her eyes.
“Guess I was just afraid,” Spike said quietly.
“Of what would happen to me, you know, if I didn’t get some food.”
“Well, I guess they’d have food for you in jail,” Rune said coldly.
“You’re one hell of a cynic, you know that?” Spike jeered.
“Better a cynic than a liar,” Rune countered, releasing her hair.
“Are you callin’ me a liar?”
Rune turned to him and sighed.
Spike smiled and put his fist in his hand. “’Cause if you are…”
His small smile was reflected on Rune’s face, if only for a moment.
Torn, Rune turned from Spike and let her eyes close. She tapped her foot and little water droplets sprang away from her foot with each downbeat. Every so often her lip twitched and her eyes opened slightly, but then her face became still and her eyes closed again. For a long time, the only sound the sidewalk goers could hear in the alleyway, if they chose to listen, was the tapping of a young woman’s foot.
“I know what you’re thinkin’ Rune,” Spike coaxed, “c’mon, just this little favor for me. I’ been patient enough”
Rune didn’t look up or open her eyes. Her foot continued to tap; the beating drum of her internal battle.
She started to walk away, aiming to join the stream of people.
“Rune!” Spike shouted. She stopped.
Spike walked up to her and spoke again. “C’mon, I know you can--”
Abruptly Rune threw her hands in the air. “I can’t, I can’t! I can’t take it anymore!”
She ran to the window and crawled swiftly inside. Her silhouette was drowned in the darkness of the apartment’s interior.
Rune flinched. The room was a thief’s dream. Although it was a small room, it was filled with hundreds of objects. At first glance, the objects, overpopulating the carpet and tables, were placed randomly. In closer examination, the room was meticulously organized. Squinting in the dark, Rune began to notice a few groups of objects. Clocks and watches sat in one corner, ticking audibly with the beat of time. China was set on a shelf, with each tea cup facing exactly the same way. In another corner, by a tall wooden door, was an equally tall stack of books set in alphabetical order.
“Atlas Shrugged,” Rune breathed, reaching out for the book on the top of the stack. It was thick and had a distinct smell that could only belong to a good book.
“How’s it going, Rune?” Spike shouted from outside.
“Good!” Hastily Rune went to work, looking for the best thing to take from the apartment. Her eyes darted from group to group, calculating, like a lioness searching for the weakest link in the herd. Then she stopped, hesitating.
“Find any food?” Spike shouted again.
“No,” Rune replied half heartedly, glancing up out of the window at Spike. In doing so, something caught her eye. A figure, draped in shadows, was standing in front of the room’s closed door. Rune flinched noticeably.
“Who is John Galt?” The figure asked. His voice was rough. The blue light, cast from the window and reflected on the contours of his face, created the illusion of a floating blue stone; the man’s cheek. Sometimes, according to his movement, light would bounce around his eyes or his lip.
Rune fingered the book in her hand. Her eyes did not stray from the floating blue stone. Her pose was strangely animalistic; her body was tilting and focused toward the window; the exit. In an instant she would be able to react and flee. Her eyes and face, however, were transfixed upon the threat.
“If you run, I’ll find you,” promised the stone. Rune said nothing. Her breathing quickened and became audible. “What are you here for?”
Rune did not reply.
“The book? Is that what you want, Rune Adela?”
“How do you know my name?” Rune spoke fiercely. The words were more accusing than questioning.
“I think my question should be answered first,” the stone said slowly, threatening. Rune was still.
“I came in here to do a favor,” Rune spoke with an edgy undertone.
“And that’s exactly what I want you to do,” the man said, almost smiling, “a favor.”
What followed was a deep and intense pause. Between Rune and the man in the doorway, all that existed was the lock of their gazes.
The blue stone twitched. Rune flinched in the opposite direction.
“What do you want?” Rune growled.
“There’s a bank three blocks from here. I want you to go in it.”
“Hey, I’m a robber but I’m not a bank robber--”
“It’s not the bank I’m worried about, It’s what’s inside of it.”
Rune relaxed her stance, but only slightly.
“Give them this number and tell them your name,” the stone disappeared for a moment while the man looked into his pocket. He pulled out a small white slip of paper and held out his hand to Rune, who looked at it and did not move.
“Take it,” the man ordered. Rune did as told, but with some reluctance.
“After that they’ll let you in. Go to the sixteenth floor and don’t, don’t, don’t use the elevator, no matter what, under any circumstances.”
“What’s wrong with the elevator?”
“Well, if you get in it with him--”
“Him,” Rune restated skeptically. She glanced out the window.
“Don’t ever interrupt me,” The rough voice warned.
“Rune, I’m hungry!” Spike shouted. Rune opened her mouth to shout back but the man pounced and covered her mouth with his hand. His grip was forceful and secure. Rune punched back at him. He winced with each blow.
“Stop!” he snapped, “ Listen to me.”
“Never!” The cry was obvious, even behind his palm. She slapped his face with the book and it fell from her grasp. In the moment it took for Rune to glance with languish at the fallen book, the man wrestled Rune to the ground and pinned her. He stopped moving before she did.
“Who is he? Who is he?” Rune shouted. Again, he covered her mouth with his palm.
“I won’t tell you nothing because you don’t need nothing,” he growled, “just get up to floor sixteen, get into the office, go into the desk, and you’ll find a calculator. Enter the same number you have on the sheet I gave you, and then state the code. Zum Kapitalisten wir aller Bekehrte.” Rune grimaced. The man’s breath spewed rotten cigarettes.
From behind the hand came German mutterings as Rune repeated the phrase.
“Just don’t tell them you know Granger Revelin.”
“Who ha ell ethat?” came Rune’s muffled query.
The blue stone wiggled a little, chuckling. “Your life or death,” it replied.