As was his long ingrained habit Patrick’s mind was fully alert as soon as his eyes opened from sleep. A quick glance around the dusty, damp warehouse room that was the temporary home of his little group confirmed that there were no immediate threats. Being careful not to disturb the dark haired young woman curled up close beside him Patrick carefully and tenderly tucked the moth eaten blanket they’d been sharing more snugly around her before making his way over to the shattered windows and looked down into the street.
He saw no movement, nothing but the mist that caused him any alarm. Still moving silently Patrick made his way back over the debris strewn floor, stepping around the sleeping bodies he paused only to collect his sharpened ash staff before heading down the stairway that led to his groups’ level. The first thing he found was that the guard, Matthew, who’d been left on the landing half way between the floors had fallen asleep, before the boy could awaken Patrick slapped his hand to the kids mouth and held it there as Matthew struggled briefly as he came awake.
“Sorry boss,” Matthew said sheepishly as Patrick removed his hand, “I swear I wasn’t asleep for more than a few minutes at most.”
“It’s ok Matt,” Patrick replied, “just next time you’re feeling sleepy come and get me and I’ll take over or put someone else on to cover us, you know what happened last time we got caught out.”
Matthew looked away for a moment the boys’ eyes clouding slightly at the memory, “I’m really sorry boss it won’t happen again.”
“I know lad, go do a quick sweep up to the roof and I’ll head down, before you go up get Simon to take over here and then get a few hours rest. We’ll be moving on once the mist is burned off a bit.”
The mist could be a problem; the group had been hiding in the warehouse for two days already avoiding first a patrol sent out by the local gang that infested this area of the city and then by a herd of the others that had worried the entire group and had them scared witless until Patrick had called the all clear. The mist would mean that the visibility would be low making it very risky to attempt to move on to their next destination. If it didn’t warm up enough today to clear the air then it would mean another long day in the warehouse they’d already picked clean.
“Sure thing; thanks boss,” Matthew replied grabbing his cricket bat before bounding up the steps and out of sight.
Shaking his head slightly Patrick made his way down the wide steps much more slowly and carefully than his young friend had just gone up; making sure that he was on the outer edge of the spiral to give himself the maximum amount of time to react to anything coming up towards him. He made it the ground floor without meeting anything coming up. He wasn’t expecting to though, his most effective guard was down here. Patrick gave out a three toned whistle, low, high, low. He waited three seconds then gave the whistle again, low, high, low. Then he heard it the rapid clicking of claws on the hard concrete floor as the dogs came charging across to greet him.
The largest of the pair, Lucas, was black as pitch with wavy long hair, a mongrel of probably half a dozen different heritages. His back came up to Patrick’s waist and one of his ears had been chewed off in one fight or another. He looked fearsome beast but in a real fight he was a coward who made a lot of noise. If someone had come into the warehouse it was Lucas who would have woken the group, and anyone else in about a half mile radius. The smaller dog, Gwen, was a Labrador but members of the group swore she was part hell hound. To members of the group she was gentleness itself but to strangers when released to attack she was vicious and would always go for the throat.
Patrick leant down and scratched the two behind the ears, “Hey guys, anything?” the two dogs sat and wagged their tails, their way of telling Patrick that all was quiet. “Breakfast soon, stay down here.” Having reassured himself that all was safe despite Matthews’ nap he turned and headed back up the stairs.