As Finny ran the short distance down the street to the ammunition factory, the first heavy drops of rain began to spatter against the cracked pavement.
Soon she was standing, hands on knees and catching her breath across the road from the familiar entrance. Months before, she had secretly examined the big reinforced front door.
There were three locks. Two of them were big, chunky, multi-lever monsters requiring big, chunky, multi-lever keys.
The third was one of those high-tech thingys that needed you to do everything except wee on it to get it to open, maybe even that too for all she knew.
The point was, though, that Finny knew she had no chance of opening any of them with her little lock picks. No, she wasn't going to be getting in through the front door.
The back door was bolted on the inside, so that was out of the picture entirely.
Finny looked up. Near the top of the building were three pale, concrete, circular cowlings; each over a metre in diameter and equally spaced across the front facade of the factory.
These were installed by Joe soon after he bought the place and each of them held a big fan that kept the interior of the factory cool and the air dry.
At night, though, only the fan in the middle was left running to save money.
On the outside of the building, the cowlings stuck out maybe a metre from the brick wall.
On the inside, they protruded only a few centimetres and were covered with a wire grill to prevent birds from getting in.
Behind the grill, about a third of the way down was the fan, its big, heavy blades filling the whole diameter of the concrete tube in which they sat.
The cowling on the left and the one directly above the front door opened onto empty space and a drop of about eight metres to the factory floor.
The cowling on the right, however, opened up directly above the stairs that led from the factory floor to the worn wooden walkway outside Joe's office.
This left a drop of only about a metre and a half to the walkway itself. Finny focused on the right-most of the three circles. That was her way in. The next problem was getting up to it.
To be exact, the problem wasn't even so much how she was going to get up there; she already knew the how.
She had seen it in her same mind's eye as she held the roll of lock picks back in the orphanage dormitory. No, the problem was going to be one of if she could do it.
Tucking the roll of lock picks firmly under the waistband of her britches, Finny crossed the street.
Making sure she was the only soul around, she turned left around the corner and into a narrow alley that ran down the side of the factory. It was very dark.
Dark alleys were something to be avoided by any sensible person who was on their own. Finny stopped and listened.
Not hearing anything after several seconds, she allowed herself to be swallowed by the darkness and hoped she would not die.
The reason for her entering such a dangerous place was about halfway down the alley.
A thick drainpipe emerged from the ground where it joined the sewer system, to then climb vertically to just below the top of the factory wall.
Finny knew about the drainpipe, but she had never given it a close look. She was banking on it being firmly fixed to the wall.
At around ten metres to the top of the building, Finny would be out of the broken bone zone and well into a bloody mess on the ground territory if she fell.
Inside, Fear was having a bit of a panic attack and demanding that she get her little butt back to the safety of her bed before... Finny closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Fear found itself gagged and hogtied and pushed into a corner. That thing Finny had yet to name emerged from the shadows of her psyche with a satisfied look on its face.
Finny put both hands behind the drainpipe, interlacing her fingers. She raised her right leg and pressed her foot firmly against the brickwork; then she put her muscles to work.
Finny had climbed drainpipes before, what kid hadn't? But they had all been half as wide as this one, and only three or four metres long at most. And it hadn't been raining either.
The earlier pitter-patter of the heavy raindrops had now turned into a steady downpour, leaving the bricks, the drainpipe and Finny's hands and mismatched footwear wet and slippery.
At five metres Finny's arms were starting to shake. If she turned back now, she could make it back to the ground with no problem.
At six metres, her arms ached but going back was probably still doable. By seven and a half metres, Finny's whole body shook as exhausted muscles fought to do what was being asked of them.
Going back now was no longer any kind of safe option.
At eight metres the Fear inside was free again and screaming at her 'YOU'RE GOING TO DIE! YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!
' and Finny felt the strength in her arms and legs begin to slide away like a wash of warm water. She was going to die, but that was okay.
She'd try and land on her head so that it wouldn't hurt. Hot tears leaked out from under tightly shut eyelids. But it wasn't fair. It was her locket. Joe Spivey's face appeared.
She screamed at it.
Finny's eyes flashed open, and the famous hot red-haired Anger gave Fear a kick in the balls it wasn't expecting. Finny forced her burning muscles back into action.
Her locket! Injustice joined in with a savage uppercut and Fear sank to its knees. Nine metres. HER locket! Even resentment got in on the act, always happy to give a kick when they were down.
Fear rolled into a ball and whimpered. One skinny arm lunged over the parapet at the top of the wall.
"My fucking locket!"
The rest of Finny's exhausted body hauled itself over the parapet to fall into the now centimetres deep river of rainwater that had collected off the roof and was being funnelled towards
the very drainpipe she had just conquered. Finny wanted just to lay there and let the cold water revitalise her. But her tortured body demanded revenge for what she had just put it through.
Her stomach heaved and heaved again,
and the exhausted eight-year-old could do nothing except watch the half-digested lumps of the wonderful sandwich float away into the mouth of the gurgling pipe.
Once there was nothing more for her stomach to give Finny rolled over and over until she was clear of the deepening stream.
She flopped onto her back, her arms, still pretty much useless' lay by her sides like dead things. Overhead, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, and the downpour became suddenly heavier.
As she watched the pretty rain falling out of the sky onto her face and body, Finny grinned. I should have brought that soap, she thought.
Soon enough tiredness gave way to cold and Finny's teeth began to chatter. She got to her feet and made her way past the skylights to the front of the building.
Looking over the parapet, Finny saw she was directly above the concrete cowling of the right air vent.
Below that the pavement glistened and for a moment she saw her own body, broken and surrounded by a spreading pool of blood. She shook the image away. Oh no, not after climbing that drainpipe.
What comes now is the easy bit. Finny bent across the parapet and swung her legs over the edge.
The top of the cowling was about a metre and a half below, and she lowered herself slowly until her toes made contact with its surface.
Even as she let go of the edge of the parapet, Finny's feet slipped on the wet concrete, made even slicker by layers of collected bird shit.
She landed on her rear with a bump, her short legs straddling the pipe uncomfortably. Unperturbed, she blew a sodden clump of hair that had escaped from her braids away from her face.
Soaked to the skin, Finny took a deep breath. Then she ungainly waddled along the top of the pipe on her butt until she could look down over the edge.
The lower edge of the cowling was not directly below but recessed inwards to prevent rainwater from building up.
This meant she would have to swing at least once to get the momentum to land inside the pipe.
Again, the stray hairs flopped annoyingly onto Finny's face and so, in the middle of the deluge, at an unsafe number of metres above the hard ground, she took time out to retie both her braids.
Job done, Finny slowly turned herself around one hundred and eighty degrees. Feeling behind her for the edge of the pipe, she inched backwards until her fingers found nothing but air.
She let out a slow breath, then leaned forward until she was lying flat and swung her legs backwards, out over the drop. This was going to be the awkward bit. Don't think about falling.
Don't think about...
She got her rising panic under control.
"You can do this. You're Finny, the climbing girl, remember? Okay then."
Finny wiggled her body, allowing the weight of her legs to pull her slowly over the edge. As soon as she could reach it, her fingers clamped down on the lip of the concrete.
Very slowly, she let her arms take her weight. Finny's head dropped below the top of the pipe and she could see inside.
The lower edge was only about twenty centimetres further in than the top,
but she would have to swing far enough so that she would land beyond that and have enough momentum so that she could fall forwards once her feet landed.
Making damn sure she had as tight a grip as possible on the top of the cowling; Finny began to swing. Nope, not enough... nope... bit more... bit more...
She felt her grip start to slide as her momentum added to the pull on her fingers. Once more... Go!