Heartbreak Street, no matter what name it actually has (53rd Street, for the record,) that's what it will be known as among its population. Sure, the nickname is a leftover from the war, when lots of young boys and girl had to be content to grow up in broken families as all able-bodied men from every species (though from some more than others) where shipped off to be placed in the line of fire of hungry machine guns. Not that I'm bitter, but ask me what happened to my grandfather some time.
Oh, I've yet to introduce myself, my name is Isaac Timothy Jackson-Crowfeet, but you may known me by the name I picked up in the underworld: "Crowbar." My methods may lack finesse, but that may actually be part of the reason why, unlike some of the so-called "gentleman thieves" that plague this city, I was never caught by the police.
If an elderly aristocrat finds a note written on a playing card in their safe in place of the jewellery that was supposed to be there and the room otherwise untouched, the police is going to be there within seconds, eager for another front page and another raise from the boss.
But if the jewellery box of some poor woman on heartbreak street is pried open and their one luxury is gone in a flurry of overturned furniture and broken glass, you think anyone will give a damn?
Look, I'm not saying that I'm proud, but this side of the tracks tend to breed a certain mindset into you, and most likely I'dve gone on like that, one piece of jewellery or electronic device and one dubious pawn shop at a time, until my luck ran out and I got to retire at the state penitentiary as a literal jailbird, but I got that mindset beaten out of me.
Have you heard about the Special Snowflake? No it's not what the educational system want us to think of ourselves as, it's part of the etiquette that they won't teach you in school, but that you need to know in order to survive around here.
Y'see, this is mainly a neighbourhood of immigrants and cosmopolitans, but there are a few arctics here as well. Because of how Animals are, birds of a feather and all that, there are a few buildings that are mostly or almost entirely populated by arctics.
Mark each of those buildings on a map, connect the dots and you get something that kinda looks like an 8-pointed star, hence "snowflake" and if you're a thief, you better learn to distinguish those buildings from all the other identical slab of concrete in the area, hence why its so "special."
I must've had a bad day or something, normally I'd stay away from the special snowflake or if I had no other choice, I'd at least listen for the sound of motorcycle engines. I didn't even hear them as I was applying my skills to a locked drawer (fun fact, crowbars can also be used as a hammer.) Fortunately for my skin, the sound of a gun cocking an inch from your head tends to capture your attention.
"Couldn't resist a shiny thing, could you, mr. Crow?" A voice said from behind me, but I didn't bother to look around. Really, I already knew anything I needed to know from the smell of whisky and cheap cigars. The biker was looming behind me like a spectre, waiting for any excuse to simply shoot me in the back. Then again, considering what they do to thieves that get caught, maybe getting shot would be the preferable option?
My life was flashing before my eyes, I think. I mean, I saw somebody else's bedroom with overturned furniture and drawers violated by a crowbar, and at that point, that had been most of my life.
"I don't suppose I could just leave and we could pretend this all didn't happen?" I said to the voice behind me. The biker made a sudden groan and I fully expected my brain to get a visit from the lead fairy, but instead...
"What the-" the biker yelled but was stopped before he could use any of the colorful words that haunt the sonar landscape of this city.
"If you're wondering why you just felt a cold chill down your spine," another voice informed him. "It is because I have 41 inches of cold steel pressed against your tacky jeans vest. Do you want to reconsider the Crovids request?" a voice said from behind us both. I didn't know what to think at the time and came to my own conclusion:
"Man, you got psycho girlfriend!" I blurted out, but my words was unheard.
I turned around, just in time for the show. The biker wasn't pointing his gun at me anymore, I caught him in the middle of turning around to fire at a gray hoodie that was standing before him, brandishing something that looked like a lighting bolt by the way a reflection of the dim lights travelled across its surface.
He didn't even get to finish his turn, the gun flew out o his hand and the hoodie took one step past him. She grabbed his pinkie finger and, in a move so far apart from the techniques used in a regular street brawl that I didn't even understand what this girl was doing at first, forced him down on the ground. A few stray shards of glass crunched under the weight of his knees.
She placed the 41 inches of cold steel right under his throat. I had never seen a biker look quite this terrified before.
"Give me the gun," she ordered. "Then leave, I'll take care of things from here."
finally, I had calmed down enough to get a good look at my saviour. Poking trough the grey hood was the hint of a pair of large mustelid ears, and her face, tough partially obscured by a long black mane, reminded me of those girl growing up around here who tend to either leave for up town once they manage to scrape together enough money, Or gradually fade into a dead-eyed haze if somebody manages to hook them on the bad stuff.
I still couldn't see the weapon clearly, but it was too long to be a knife. I'dve called it a machete if I had any idea how one of those looked biker obeyed and this girl put a heavy combat boot on the gun.
"You can get off the floor now," she told her and he rose up slowly while the blade followed after. Once he got up, he could no longer hide the shuddering of his knees. The girl stared into his soul with brown eyes and when she spoke, she pronounced each word like a separate sentence:
"O-o-o-okay," she lowered the blade carefully, ready to strike at any sign of trouble. The biker inched backwards towards the open window (open as in "you're gonna need new window glass...") Somehow he managed to climb out the window and get a pretty decent sprint going before finally turning around to go full-tilt.
I felt a strange kind of connection with this girl as we both stared in amusement when the biker suddenly started running back, still in wild panic, and jumped onto his bike. He fumbled for a bit before finally roaring away in a cloud of blackened smoke.
"I suppose I have to thank you, you saved my skin there," I told her, but before I could finish this thought, she turned the blade towards me.
"I wasn't after him, you featherhead, I was after you!" I got the same view as the unfortunate biker had gotten, and I understood now why he nerly wet himself in fear.
The blade in question was no machete, it was a sword right out of some movie about King Aurthur, and her eyes weren't just brown, they where the lethal tip of a bronze dagger. Oh, how I wished I could have the biker back, at least with him there was a chance that he'd miss.
"Who do you think you are, breaking into other Animals property, stealing their hard-earned valuables? I bet you think that you had no other choice, huh? That it's eat or be eaten? Well, guess what, I just gave you a choice. If you are on the right side of the law, you are under my protection, and if not... Well, then you are on THIS side of the blade, you understand?"
"Good, I'mma give you this one chance, you may leave and pretend this never happened, just know that you're not getting another one."
After that, I spent about a week slowly going crazy. I couldn't apply my craft, not with that nightmare stalking the streets, but petty theft was my only source of income. I phased around my cramped, sloppy apartment, feeling the sands of the hourglass just slipping away. In a day I'd be out of food, in a month I'd be unable to pay the rent. And after that I'd be out on the street.
It was getting late, but I wasn't gonna be able to sleep with an empty stomach, and my mind wouldn't be able to stop screaming unless I got some sleep. So put on my best shoplifting coat and I went to the supermarket, figured I could probably get away with using my five-finger discount one last time.
Shoplifting this late at night when there are a only a few Animals in the store is not advisable, but I'm a professional at this. I was going towards the effort with a "oh, I was just so extremely bored I had to find a reason to go out even if it was only to the store, I didn't really have anything I wanted to buy anyway."-look when I felt a pair of brown eyes staring at me.
I looked towards the cashier and I see... What is SHE doing here, is she following me? The notion of her taking a job at the local supermarket just to keep tabs of me seemed absurd, so I had to assume she just happened to work there, just my luck.
Well, I wasn't gonna risk it, no matter how much my stomach protested, so I decided to do the right thing. I removed the package of bacon I had hidden under my coat, and I went up to her, acting like I didn't know her, and said:
"I'm sorry, I just counted my money and it looks like I came up short, could you put these back?" I wasn't lying, I had come out short... by about all of it.
She gave me a warm smile that looked very odd next to her cold metal eyes.
"You must've miscounted sir," she said. "Cus this is exactly the right amount here."
I looked down and saw a bill on the counter, she winked at me.
"I... thank you!"
"No, thank you, sir!"
I went out into the night with a lot to think about. I realized that she understood better than most would-be superheroes how things work around here, it's not about fighting crime, as if Crime itself is some evil princess kidnapping dragon in a cave somewhere.
It's about making it easier, if only ever so slightly, to obey the law than not obeying the law. Animals, by and large, will take the easiest option no matter what, you just gotta make sure that the easiest option just happen to be the right one.
A few days later, I sent in a job application to the supermarket. I didn't expect them to actually hire me, I mean, I got "shady guy" written all over my face, but somehow they did. I wonder if the employer actually recognized me and figured that at least he'd ave me somewhere where he could keep an eye on me.
I was unceremoniously introduced to that girl from before, after giving me a brief tour ,the manager just dumped me over to her with a:
"Show the newbie how the cash register works, he's got a pass in ten minutes."
She gave out a deep sigh, mirroring my own, but soon got into the role of impromptu mentor. I'd love to say I learned quickly, but truth is, the device confused me. It couldn't be simple like you push in whatever the items cost and it adds up, no each item had its own number that hadto be put in, and special numbers for discounts, membership bonuses or if you personally liked to disliked the customer. It felt like I was getting taught some esoteric system of magic.
After I finally got the hang of it, with a couple o minutes to spare, I dare to ask her:
"So, what's your name, anyway?"
"Viggi," she said. "Viggi Lante"
"Seriously?" I raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I had it changed, I just liked the sound of it better, you got a problem with it?"
"No, nothing!" Crazy broad, I have no idea what's going trough that head of hers sometimes...
I went trough my first honest day of work in my life. I learned quite a few things, such as the sublime art of smiling when Animals act like idiots or that if you're an employee, you pretty much have a licence to steal; its all but expected that a few items will disappear during the day anyway, as long as you're not stupid about it, nobody will care. Heck, I saw the manager himself pick up a Lion bar and eat it as an afternoon snack. I never took advantage of this privilege, where's the sport in that?
Viggi acted like we where strangers until the end of the day, when we where changing back to our "civilian clothes". The store didn't have separate changing rooms and etiquette usually dictates that the girls get to change first, then the boys, but when I got to the changing room, ready to wait outside, she told me:
"You can come in, I'm nearly done anyway."
"What? So I don't get to see any flesh, while you can just ogle my sexy body? That hardly seems fair," I joked. She giggled profusely at that statement.
"You look like a munchkin!" she announced and I couldn't help but laugh as well. Quite the accurate description if there ever was one.
So, I did my little striptease to disinterested eyes. Of course she wasn't going to ogle me, I look like something a cat would play with.
Viggi had already changed to a pair of jeans of the kind that I usually would've guessed was deliberately torn to make a statement, but considering who I was dealing with, I figured it was simply natural wear and tear and she was changing from her work-shirt to a t-shirt with some bands logo on it, 'Cosmopolitan Stars', never heard of them.
I wasn't leering at her in any way, shape or form, but I did catch a glimpse of her underwear, (a sports bra, of course.) When I noticed her putting on that grey hoodie from before, I couldn't pretend that I didn't know her anymore, I leaned over and said from one side of my beak:
"Gonna go out and beat on the bad guys some more, huh?"
"yes," her reply was short and blunt, like a hit from a baton.
"Want me to come with you?"
Now she looked at me, studied me from head to toe with a skeptical look. I admit, as a potential crimefighter I didn't look intimidating in the least, but still, I can carry my own weight.
"I don't need any help," she said. "I can handle myself."
"Look lady, I know I don't look like much, but you think I became a carrier thief without having a few tricks up my sleeves? I know this neighbourhood like the back of my own wing, I'm the friggin Huginanmunin around here!"
"It's Huginn and Muninn, they were two ravens." she fell silent for a while, pondering her options. "Okay, you can follow along this time, but I'm not taking you on as a sidekick or anything, you understand?"
"Completely," I said. I've been her sidekick for about a month now, shows how much she knows.