All fairy tales are supposed to start with "Once upon a time." This one didn't. This one started with "Better run you fucking mutie!" yelled by a nasty fourteen year old hustler on the corner of a New Orleans street. He lobbed a brick in the direction of the ten year old pick-pocket who'd snagged the wallet of the hustler's possible john.

The boy raised his red eyes. He cocked his head at the hustler. "If'n you stop throwin' bricks, I'll split wit' you. We both get in trouble we go home empty-handed."

The prostitute scowled. "Fine." He wasn't stupid enough to turn down money, even if it did come from a damned mutie. He tucked away two hundred dollars. The little thief did the same. "Now get out of here."

The thief gave him a bright smile and strolled away, absently kicking a stone in front of him. Remy, the thief in question, yawned. He'd gotten two hundred, but his quota for the day was five hundred. If he went home to Fagin with less, there'd be no dinner and he'd be stuck with cleaning the bathroom at the end of the day.

With that motivation in mind he looked for a lost tourist. He wasn't big enough to have the more lucrative streets of the French Quarter in his range yet. Of course, that did mean he had junkies. His eyes lit on surprisingly well-dressed local. Another man out to find a friend for th enight. Remy kept up his play with the stone, picking it up and tossing it from hand to hand. The local's eyes flicked over him and dismissed him.

He ghosted after the man. He had his hand on his wallet when the man spun and caught his wrist faster than a swamp snake. Remy looked up with wide innocent eyes. Just a prank, he decided. The man might believe that.

The man stared down at him with dispassionate eyes. The dispassion gave way to disbelief. Then turned quickly to assessing. Remy shivered in spite of himself. Merde. He was royally fucked.

"What's y'r name, chile?"

"Remy, Monsuir."

The man nodded sharply. "Y' comin' wit' me. We get y' fed and cleand up. Then, we talk 'bout what exactly y' done wrong."

The man turned and continued on, not freeing the boy's wrist. Remy trotted along next to him, his mind whirring like a broken clock. Fagin was going to kill him for this. He tried to pick a cop or a church-man.

They moved quickly through the rough side of town until they emerged at a parking lot. The man opened the back door of the black sedan. "Get in and buckle up."

Remy did so. He lingered over the seatbelt latch as the door shut. He unbuckled himself and lunged for the door-latch. The door didn't budge. "Smooth," the man acknowledged as he settled in the driver's seat. "Buckle up, Remy, an' I won't turn y' over to the police."

Remy clicked the belt home. The man started the car.

"You're workin' wit' Fagin, non?"


"Where's y'r partner?"

"Ain't got a partner. Don't need one neither."

The man made a thoughtful sound. "What's your quota f' t'day?"

"Five hundred," Remy murmured. "Y' a t'ief, Monsuier?"

"I'm *The* thief, Remy. Jean-Luc LeBeau. Pleasure t' meet a chile wit' so much potention he got a teenager's quota."

"Ah." Remy was confused. "Merci?"

Jean-Luc chuckled at that. "Y' welcome. What's Fagin told y' 'bout the t'ieve's guild, petit?"

"Don't get in the way?" Remy figured it for a safe bet. He was supposed to avoid the assassins after all.

"Not'in' then. Seein' as you're a chile, that ain't a problem."

Remy tugged on the seatbelt that had crept up toward his chin.


XM Bedroom