In her dream, a big white dog was snuffling at her shoulder. Finny tried to shoo it away, but it kept coming back. Now it was whispering her name.
That was odd, Finny thought as reality slowly pushed into her dream and the dog turned into Alice from the next bed,
standing in her white nightie and pushing at Finny's shoulder while sleepily rubbing her own eye.
"Finn. Finn. Finn-eeee."
Finny pushed herself up on one elbow.
"Alice?" She yawned. "What is it?"
Alice sometimes had bad dreams and sought safety from the monsters in Finny's bed. Not this time, though, Alice had already turned back towards her own bed.
"There's a man outside. He ses to tell you." With that, she crawled back under her blankets, her back towards a puzzled Finny.
By the time Finny's brain had accepted Alice's words and formulated the questions 'What man?' and 'Where?' Alice was already asleep.
Physically wide awake now, Finny lay back and stared at the cracks in the ceiling while her brain caught up.
Alice had a weird bladder and was prone to getting up at night to semi-sleepwalk to the ablutions to wee.
Finny checked her watch, moving her finger around the dial to make sure she had it right. Moonlight and a sleepy head didn't go well together.
After some squinting, Finny made out that it was twenty-eight minutes to two, which was about right for Alice's nocturnal walkabouts.
She climbed out of bed and padded barefoot as quickly, but quietly, as she could to the window.
Sure enough, down on the street was Ned Flowers, one of Joe's men who Finny knew and rather liked... despite the scars, the crooked nose and the missing teeth... Or maybe even because of them.
Ned spotted her immediately and made excited gestures that she should come quickly.
Finny, now in old, tatty britches and a sweatshirt that was coming apart at the seams; (Leaving the orphanage without going through the front door wasn't kind to clothes,
and Finny now had clothes to be conscious about,) was actually in the wall cavity and crabbing her way down to the ground floor when she started to wonder if this was a good idea.
Sneaking out at night was a big no-no and could get her grounded for weeks. Sneaking out to meet up with known criminals wouldn't help the situation if caught.
And, if as Finny suspected, sneaking out to engage in criminal activity...
well, she wasn't sure what they did to kids if they were caught, but it was going to be more than just wearing your knees out scrubbing floors.
Since her first-ever burglary to get Silja's file back from the offices of the Ranyhyn Company, Finny had done two other 'jobs' for Joe,
and she had only ever done them on the promise that she wasn't stealing, just getting stuff back. Even so, she wasn't quite sure of the difference between taking and 'retrieving', as Joe put it.
But it was very incredibly exciting.
So, by the time she joined Ned outside, Guilt was being well and truly outvoted by Excitement and Adventure and, yes, Pride too because Finny knew she was good at this stuff.
Ned led her towards a car. But not Joe's car, and there was no Joe sitting in it. Nine years of caution slowed Finny's footsteps.
"Um, where's Joe?"
Ned reached the car and opened the passenger door for her.
"Waiting for us. We have to go to the vaults first, to pick up your suit."
Finny still stood back, automatically moving out of reach should Ned try and grab her. She looked into the car.
"Why isn't he here?"
Ned leaned on the car door.
"Because he's busy, so he sent me." Ned understood, he'd been a street kid too. Dark back streets were one thing you avoided. Getting into strangers' cars was another one.
"And because you know me, Finn." He stayed still and relaxed. "I'm not gonna make you get in the car.
I'll give you the address, and you can get your stuff and make your own way there if you want. But I hope you don't because it's dark and there are some bad people around, you know that.
" He smiled. "But you go getting yourself murdered and Joe'll kick both our arses."
Finny's face shed the distrust like the skin slowly sliding off an orphanage rice pudding. Ned was okay, she reasoned.
And Joe knew that she got on with him, so it made sense he'd send Ned if he couldn't come, right? Still, her heartbeat just a little faster as she climbed into the car.
They drove the short distance to the vaults, and Ned waited in the car while Finny collected the one-piece suit made for her by the old tailor in The Borough.
She still didn't understand how the strange cloth could be soft one second and then hard as steel if anything hit it, but its strategically positioned rubbery bits sure made climbing easier.
Finny also brought the wonderful goggles Joe had given her and which allowed her to not only see in the dark but see hot stuff and laser light and other things she was still experimenting
with every time she put them on. Lastly, she brought the roll of lock picks and other lock opening things.
Getting back in the car, she held all of this on her knees and felt the excitement grow as Ned set off again.
The apparent destination, however, didn't deserve the excitement Finny was feeling.
The cul-de-sac suburb southwest of the city centre was where the merchants, the Union officials and others who hadn't quite made it to the three-storey brownstones of Tombstone Avenue lived.
Though, to be fair, these were nice houses with nice gardens where nice kids went to the nearby nice school.
Finny and her ilk stood out there like sore thumbs and were ejected almost as soon as they set foot on the manicured sidewalks.
Fortunately, when Ned turned onto Paseo Del Flag, he immediately turned left into the motel carpark and pulled up outside one of the numbered rooms.
Finny, carrying her stuff, followed Ned towards the only lit room in the block and knocked on the door.
It was a dense cloud of cigar and cigarette smoke thick enough that it made her eyes water that Finny walked in to.
Joe was inside, and a man, and a woman, both of whom Finny had seen before but couldn't put names to. They were all standing around a table and looking at maps and stuff.
Joe looked up and saw her.
"Get changed, Finn. Be quick, we don't have much time."
Ned joined the others around the table, and Finny dumped her goggles and lockpicks onto the nearest bed and scooted off to the bathroom.
Getting the ninja suit, as her imagination saw it, on was a chore. Because it was impregnated with non-Newthingy jelly stuff, it was quite heavy and awkward to get into.
Being a couple of sizes too big, 'growing room' according to the tailor who had made it, didn't help either.
Even when it was on, Finny had to squeeze down the wrinkles so that it didn't bunch up around her joints.
Finally, though, the suit was on, and Finny emerged back into the main room, just in time to see Ned pull down his black sweatshirt over the butt of a pistol.
Ned looked sheepish, but it was Joe who spoke.
"Come over here, Finn," he said, gesturing for her to join them around the table. "You need to learn this before you go."
Finny joined the grown-ups and stared at the plan on the table. It was a house.
Twenty minutes later, the man called Jeb and the woman called Carol left the motel room and disappeared into the darkness.
Their job was to make sure Ned and Finny weren't disturbed in their part of the proceedings once they, too, left the motel a few minutes later.
To pass the time, Finny checked her goggles. Joe said that there shouldn't be any booby traps, but there were sure to be alarms.
She also wasn't going to need most of her lockpicks, so she took out the few possibles that met the description of the one lock Joe had given her.
The safe itself only had a combination lock, and Joe even had the combination number which Finny now had written onto her wrist.
The plan was pretty simple. Jeb and Carol would keep the Resident Patrols away while she and Ned made their way to the house.
According to Joe, the guy who owned the house had pretty tight security,
so the only way in without tripping a world of alarms was through the Finny-sized hole left when Ned removed the air-conditioning vent from where it had been installed in place of
a basement window. Finny would then pick the lock of the basement door, make her way to the room where the guy had his safe, open the safe and retrieve the box of chips she would find there.
Then relock the safe and make her way back to where Ned would be waiting by the cellar window.
The only odd part of the plan was that she was to leave sixteen red chips in four stacks of four where the box had been.
And the plan went off without a hiccup. Ned even refitted the air-con vent before he, Finny, Jeb and Carol gathered back at the motel room.
Half an hour later, Finny was pulling her blankets over her head just as the sun was starting to peep above the horizon.
At breakfast, Finny blamed her red eyes on Alice waking her up and not being able to get back to sleep.
When Joe turned up to let the queue of waiting orphans into the factory, he pulled the yawning Finny out of the line and sent her off to Larry's Pawnshop,
where she spent the whole of the morning fast asleep on Mister Moise's bed.
And, as usual, Finny never said a word to anybody about that night's activities.