Quain Holtey is a student at Full Sail University and a narrative writer for Reim Entertainment on their upcoming video game.
Calm Among the Storm
It was dark and quiet in the alleyway behind the museum. The humidity that would have hung in the air was beaten down by the cold rain just a few hours earlier. Puddles still splay across the stones of the alley, their small ripples dancing with a faint yellow provided by the lightbulb over the museum’s metal back door. The sounds of the city that had driven the animals away had given way to sleep. The absence of both allowed a comfortable silence to envelop the night air.
The metal door opened with hurried whispers as two men dressed in police uniforms scurried out from inside. Each held a cylindrical tube slung across their backs. They stepped to the side, out from the small light’s cone, and sat on the cobbled stone. Their hurried breaths subsided with time, but their eyes grew more frantic, darting in either direction.
“How long we gotta wait here for?” Renton asked.
“Till they shows up,” Tony said, “and not a second more.”
The two sat in silence. Tony shifted the canister on his back, allowing him to lean against the cold brick wall. He tilted his head back until it rested against the wall and closed his eyes.
Renton sat hunched over. His cylindrical canister was placed neatly on his lap. His paranoia began to subside as his eyes rested on what he held. Without taking his eyes off the black cylinder, he began twisting the cap off one of its ends. Minutes passed as the cap gradually became looser until finally, it came off in his hand. Placing the lid on the ground, he reached around and pulled out the stack of coiled canvas inside. The smell of old dust filled the air as he set the now empty canister on the ground and began to unfurl the pages.
“What are you doing?” Tony asked.
Renton’s head darted towards his companion, instinctively pulling the canvases in the opposite direction.
“I just wanted to take a look,” He said. “Everything happened so fast in there. I didn’t get a moment to appreciate what we was stealing.”
“Put it back,” Tony said. He reached out for the coil of canvas on Renton’s lap. Renton jerked away. “Come on. I don’t wanna know what he’s gonna do to us if he finds out what you’re doing.”
“Just a quick look. It ain’t like it’ll take long. Besides, when else we gonna see this again.” Renton said. He stood up, careful not to let the canvas in his hands hit the wet ground. Walking past, he noticed that Tony was also standing, his canister still closed shut, held tightly to his chest.
He reached the light that illuminated the alleyway and unraveled what was in his hands. A stack of canvas paintings met his eyes. There were six in total, though he dared not look at the ones behind the first due to the risk of dropping them. The painting he had stolen last was displayed prominently before him. A small sailing ship was being tossed around at sea. The skies were dark and foreboding, save a portion that allowed the sun through. Waves crashed into the tiny ship, their frothy white mist blown into the air. The craft held twelve people. No, maybe thirteen? Either way, it was too many, and the ship felt overly crowded.
Behind them, headlights flooded the alleyway.
“Renton,” Tony said. “Renton put it away, put it away now.” He quickly rose to his feet and grabbed the empty canister and cap on the ground, and began walking back to his companion.
Renton hadn’t seemed to have heard Tony’s warning. He sat on his knees, holding the painting in front of him, his eyes still piercing the canvas.
“Renton,” Tony said. The urgency in his voice bled through to his words. If there were anyone awake at this hour, they would have looked to see what was happening.
Tony crouched down and waved his hands between Renton and the painting. He nudged him to stand up, trying to force the canister into his hands. Headlights came closer, their general fan of light giving way to more focused beams. The car stopped a few feet short of the two men. Tony began walking over to the car, muttering apologies and excuses as a large man in a black suit and leather gloves rose from the back seat.
The man shoved past Tony as two hands from inside the car reached out to receive his closed cylinder. Puddles splashed off the man’s hard leather dress shoes, sending droplets of mist into the air. He walked toward the still kneeling Renton, his face expressionless as he began pulling out a long, jagged knife.
Renton was transfixed on the seascape. He made no move to collect the cylinder Tony had dropped next to him, nor did he flinch as the well-dressed man approached. The shine from the headlights had made new details in the painting come to light. There were thirteen people on the ship. Ropes and sails flew carelessly in the wind, unable to be cinched. Everyone seemed to be distraught, their faces contorted in pain and despair. All except one, who sat on the back of the ship, a halo illuminating his face clearer than the sun could display the others. He knelt with hands clasped in prayer to God as his disciples scurried about, his expression loose and calm during the rising storm.
His jaw clenched shut as the knife pierced his back. It was long enough to protrude out the front of Renton’s blue police uniform. Blood quickly stained his shirt, and he watched as a single droplet of red landed on the face of the praying man. Thick and warm, it hovered for a moment before seeping through the paints and canvas, the man’s face becoming stained with red as he prayed to God.