It was hard to be the new girl in town, which is why Jennika preferred to be the new ghost.
City streets were practically built to be drifted down. They were wide enough that everything and everyone simply stepped into the stream of traffic and felt the motion more than the things around them. Maybe they felt the shadow of a building that they didn’t like, or that they wished they could go inside. Maybe caught the smell coming off a cart, and either faced it a second longer than they had to to breathe it in, or turned away as fast as possible. Maybe they caught the eyes of someone across the street, but if they didn’t know them, they turned away as if they had been a stone in the wall behind them. Jennika let them, stepped quietly and enjoyed the feeling of being invisible.
She wandered up and down a street until she memorized it, then picked a different one and put it to memory – each shadow, each smell, each face. She stood on the corners and watched for what the residents flocked to, and what they ignored. She memorized their expressions when they passed the guard houses and the banks, the restaurants and taprooms, the houses and open squares. She mimicked them until they belonged on her face and she belonged in the city. And she kept drifting.
She listened while men and women talked. She parsed the polite trades while they did business, caught the meandering conversations over dinner, and translated the whispers at back corners. Mostly, she lifted words off them in the street, sorting through who they talked to, and about. She ear-marked who they didn’t talk to and who they wouldn’t talk to. She watched for who they wanted to talk to. She waited until she knew the people as well as she knew the street crossings.
When she’d heard enough to walk into any room and point to the man with the most power, she drifted one more day.
She drifted right into his office while he was out. She pulled a secret from the drawer of his desk, or out from behind a heavy painting, or from under that floorboard the creaked.
The man stepped back into his office and his eyes went directly to her, seated in his chair with her boots kicked up on his desk. She glanced at him over the packet of papers, idly skimming the notes about deliveries and drops and payments. She stopped swinging the thin ring of keys around the fingers of her other hand.
“Well,” she said. Taking her feet down from his desk, she laid down the packet and the keys deliberately in front of her. “That was easier than it should’ve been.”
“Who are you?” he asked.
She grinned at him. “Who?” she repeated. “I like a man smart enough to ask that, before somethin’ like ‘what are you doing here?’ or ‘how’d you get in?'”
“Are you going to answer?” he asked.
She shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? You already know what I am.” She nodded down toward the desk. Then she stood up, gesturing him back to his chair and strode past him out the door. “Call me when you need me.”
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