The Hoarders: Part Three
Kannice was not used to being woken up early. Normally
she would sleep until 9:00, at which point she would get up and go about her
own business. But now she heard a voice whisper in her ear.
"Rise and shine, princess..."
The Kougra gave a yelp of alarm. She was lying
on an uncomfortable surface, a thin blanket stretched over her. Where was she?
"Ah, you're awake." A Hissi loomed over her,
a satisfied smile playing across her face.
"Sh-Shantiya?" Kannice blinked through the darkness.
"What are you doing here?" She looked around, and then said, in a rather surprised
tone, "What time is it?"
"Time to get up," the other pet replied, already
slithering down off the platform. "If you're going to live with us, you'll have
to live like us, too. And Cane sent me to get you. It's time for you to start."
"Start what? I don't really want to start anything
other than breakfast. Or a morning nap." She padded down, running to keep up
"Nap?" The Hissi laughed. "We don't have time
for naps. And you can't just have breakfast. You have to get it first. You obviously
don't know much about our lifestyle, do you?"
"Hey!" Kannice said indignantly. "I only got
here last night. How am I supposed to know about your lifestyle yet?" There
was no answer, so she just followed the Hissi out into the rest of the house.
It wasn't much brighter, but it was a lot louder.
The Hoarders were everywhere. Fighting, playing, talking, with no effort to
hush their voices. Cane came bounding over to the two newly arrived pets. "Good,"
he said immediately in short, harsh tones. "Now that you're up, we can go."
He turned and started trotting away towards an elevated pile of crumpled wall.
"Hang on!" The Kougra ran after him. "Where,
exactly, are we going?"
"Exactly? I can't answer that," he replied with
a sly smile. He leapt up onto the little podium and turned to the other pets.
"Hey! You lot, shut up! We're ready to head off!" He started yelling names,
and Kannice watched pets break away from the group, and head out of the house.
Finally, after announcing that Nariah, Flarren and Coji were to be working together,
the newcomer heard her own name announced. "Kannice! You'll come with me."
As soon as she stepped outside, Kannice wished
she hadn't. Rain was still bucketing down, and the sky was grey and gloomy.
She wished she had been one of the pets that had been left behind in the house.
"Cane?" She followed him out onto the street,
but he didn't seem to pay her any attention. "Cane!"
The Lupe turned and looked at her.
"I was just curious, who were you working with
when you found me? I mean, did you get separated from your group, or did they
run when they saw me or something? Was it Coji and Flarren?"
"No. I work alone."
Kannice paused and ran this information through
her head for a moment. "But... If you work alone, then why are you taking me
This time, it was Cane's turn to hesitate. He
actually stopped walking and his companion almost ran into him. But then he
continued as if nothing had happened, and never seemed to get around to answering
He actually didn't speak at all as they walked.
Kannice could see that he was thinking, but about what, she wasn't sure. She
didn't even know where they were going. It felt much as it had the night before.
Her silent guardian leading her to an unknown place.
They reached the main street. The Kougra was
surprised to see that the shops were actually open - she'd always imagined that
the world slept in the same pattern as she did. They sat on the wide stone steps
outside the bank. She heard the Food Shop's bell chiming as someone walked in,
and felt a tug at her insides. "Cane..." She considered her words carefully,
not wanting to insult him, for fear of being forced back into the streets. "Are
we going to rob the shop?"
Cane laughed. It wasn't bitter, though. It was
more a soft laugh, and for a brief second, Kannice saw a handsome, joyful Lupe,
spending time with someone special, life dancing in his eyes. It disappeared
as quickly as it came, though, and Kannice wondered if it had ever been there
at all. "No, shops are large-scale. We always start with something smaller."
Kannice looked around through the dimly-lit street.
There were very few people around, and suspicions began to rise up inside her.
"What time is it?"
Cane shrugged. "We left at about five..."
"Five?!" The Kougra stared in horror for a minute,
then burst into tears. "I'm not supposed to be here! I'm supposed to be at home,
in bed! This isn't my life, I don't deserve this!"
Suddenly something hit her in the back of the
head. Hard. She sat stunned, not a bone or muscle in her body moving. Even her
tears had stopped falling.
Cane was scowling at her, his face set hard and
angry. "You're here, you're alive, this is your life now! And if you don't stop
being such a spoilt brat and start accepting that this is your fate, it won't
last much longer."
Kannice nodded, dumbstruck.
Cane nodded too, but in an aggressive, forceful
way. "Now, you're still clean enough to look trustworthy, so you can definitely
do the first step."
The Kougra frowned slightly, brushing the tears
off her cheeks. "The first step? Clean enough? What are you talking about?"
Her companion smiled his crooked smile. "When
the street starts filling up, you're going to run into someone - someone carrying
a large number of shopping bags - so they drop them. Apologize, then I come
over to help pick them up. I look less trustworthy, so I'll be the focus of
their attention. You slide one of the bags over to your feet, and they won't
even notice. We help them pick up their bags, then both walk off in different
directions, with you carrying a bag, which they'll assume you already had. Job
Kannice could almost feel her jaw brushing on
the ground. "I'm going to... rob someone? Oh my gosh! I can't... How do you
even know all that? Can you, like, read minds or something?"
Cane shook his head. "I've been doing this for
a long time. I'm a lot more street-smart than you. I understand how a person
thinks, and how they see us. You're the clean, preppy-looking one. I'm the rough,
They wandered the street, and Cane explained
things carefully to Kannice. He showed her the best place to rob someone, the
most common meeting places, and pointed out which people and pets were easy
targets, and which ones were best avoided. The Kougra had never seen the world
like that before.
Gradually the street began to get busier. What
had started as two or three random people was growing into a more normal-looking
street. Kannice watched as a very easy target strolled past, and found herself
almost anxious to put their plan into action. She tried to distract herself
by asking Cane the time.
"Maybe eight. Give it maybe another hour."
Kannice was - for not the first time, or the
last - shocked. They had been there for hours, but the time had moved so quickly
that she had not even noticed. She had been too busy watching the world through
She watched the crowd shuffling past, and suddenly,
something caught her attention. Treal was walking amongst the crowd, alongside
a pet she recognised, but didn't know the name of. She tapped Cane on the shoulder.
"Where are they going? Will they walk near us?"
"They're going to the Money Tree. They won't
come near us, and if they do, they won't acknowledge us." He turned and threw
a sharp look at Kannice. "And you won't acknowledge them either. We don't want
people to realise that we're in a group, you understand?"
Kannice nodded once again, feeling it was safest
to agree with him. She waited silently, watching the crowd grow steadily larger.
Finally she brought herself to look at Cane. He nodded and leapt down the stairs
in a single bound. He vanished into the mass of Neopians, and left Kannice feeling
lost and alone. She didn't even know who she was supposed to bump into.
She closed her eyes. If they were too trusting,
they wouldn't turn to watch Cane. If they weren't trusting enough, they wouldn't
let either pet near them. She opened her eyes, and saw, maybe 20 metres away,
a stressed looking girl picking her way through the busy street, a massive pile
of bags clutched in her arms. Three young and disobedient pets were running
around her, tugging at her clothes, grabbing at her arms.
Kannice took a deep breath, then ran down the
steps and plunged into the crowd.
* * * * *
She tried to build up some speed, so her target
wouldn't notice that she wasn't already carrying a bag. But it was difficult,
due to so many people standing so close behind her. Her paws were trodden on
many times, and she was limping within just minutes.
The girl was closer now, and Kannice began to
stress that she wouldn't be able to get to a good speed in time. She didn't
even know where Cane was. If only she wasn't so small...
Small. She wondered why she hadn't thought of
it before. She got down to a crouch, and squirmed her way through the crowded
street. She was not the fittest of pets, but she had more space to move when
she was so low to the crowd. Feet and paws and claws and ankles surrounded her,
and she watched them carefully, trying to decide which ones were her target.
About five metres away, a pair of feet walked
slowly in tight, bound steps, with a random collection of other feet bouncing
around them. Kannice tensed every muscle in her body. For a split second she
longed to be home, just crawling out of bed, but she pushed the thought aside
and propelled herself forward.
To be continued...