Chapter 8 – Andrus and the Guild of Thieves
The cavern was dark and dank, save for a few work lights that reflected off the ceiling. The walls were concrete but they met loose earth about halfway down. In front stood a bare stage put together with scrap pieces of plywood and random discolored boards. It was large enough to hold a dozen men, but it looked strong enough to hold three or four at the most. Discarded train seats were lined up in rows like pews in a church. They were filled with men who looked and smelled like they’d seen better days. A woman in a junky coat took a swig of a brown liquid from an unmarked bottle. She burped without apology and stared at the man sitting next to her.
“I’ll tell you something, buddy,” she said, “I think—” And then she fell over and began to snore. The man she’d been talking to jumped up and started going through her pockets. Some people across the room noticed and came over to grab her shoes. One snapped up the bottle. As he took a drink he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Gentlemen,” said Andrus, “how are we to accomplish anything if we betray each other? Help Sister Francine into her seat. And you, go take care of her son while she sleeps it off.”
“Sorry, boss,” the man said. He and the other people who’d been picking Sister Francine clean lifted her up and tossed her onto an empty train bench.
The room went dark and the gathered thieves made their way to their seats. Andrus stepped on the stage. The room remained quiet as he looked out over his brothers. They dare not make a sound until he was ready for them to. They had seen on many occasions what would happen if they did that. It wasn’t a violent punishment, but it was cruel. Speak before Andrus was ready for you to speak and you were escorted out of the underworld and never allowed to return.
“The people above us do not care if we survive,” Andrus said. “They sit in their new houses with their old money and ask that we, the hopeless, be thrown in cages when we dare ask for a loaf of bread. Yet, they live in cages. They spend thousands of dollars on devices meant to protect them from men like us who didn’t have the luck to be born into wealth. The men they spit upon when they walk into the bank.”
“God didn’t give us what they have. But fear not. Now we stand together and take what they have because after years of being trampled and put upon and kicked around we are the ones who deserve it.” Andrus raised his hands and the room erupted in applause and cheers.
“We are the Guild of Thieves, and we exist to take back this world from the rich and the powerful. In ancient times kingdoms were run by kings and fought for by people like us. And what has changed? The kings are now called hedge fund managers and the battlefields are the unemployment lines. The rich are richer, the poor are poorer, and evil men live above while good men live below. No more. Soon we arrest this regression and push humanity toward a brighter path. That is our destiny.”
“But,” Andrus continued, “some men would like to take our destiny away from us. A boy dressed as a dog hurt one of us, and by hurting one of us he has hurt all of us.”
Sister Francine, awakened from her sleep by the cheers, stood up and held her bottle over her head. “Where is ‘ee? I’ll take his eyes out and we can play some marbles.” The crowd roared in approval.
“Do not harm him,” Andrus screamed over the din of the crowd. “If you encounter him, watch him. Play with him. Find out what he can do and what he knows. Do not fear him. Who has protected you?”
“Andrus!” screamed the thieves.
“Who has fed you and clothed you?”
“Andrus!” the thieves said again.
The lights shut off as the crowd continued to chant Andrus’s name, and when the lights came back on, their leader was gone.
“ANDRUS! ANDRUS! ANDRUS!” they continued well into the night.