A/N: Welcome to "When We're Not Looking" - an AC story that breaks away from retelling the stories of the games' characters and ventures into a Prohibition-era US. I've tried really hard to keep the story both in line with AC-lore and historically accurate (I'll post any relevant notes/glossary items at the bottom of chapters). If you catch anything that's off, just let me know.
This tale does fit in with my other AC fic, "A Sly Little Bird," but it's not a true sequel. You don't need to read "A Sly Little Bird" to read this one.
And for those of you who aren't excited about OCs you can't see, I've borrowed an idea from some fellow writers and started a tumblr to post pictures. All the important characters will have faces there (wwnl dot tumblr).
Cover image by thesassassinscreed dot tumblr.
Without further ado - meet Kate.
July 23, 1924, San Diego, CA
Kate shimmied out of her dress and tugged on a pair of men's trousers and a collared shirt. After tucking the shirt in and rolling the sleeves to her elbows, she swapped her cloche hat for a newsboy cap, tucking the ends of her short bob tightly behind her ears. She roughly rubbed her lipstick off with a tissue, shoved her feet into a pair of scuffed work boots, and pulled on a shabby double-breasted vest, buttoning it up. The vest was too big for her slight frame, but it helped disguise her figure. She made sure the gold pendant her mother had given her was tucked away under her shirt, and gave herself an appraising look in the bathroom mirror, frowned when she realized she'd left her earrings in.
"C'mon, Katie! Hurry your skinny ass up!"
"Shut your trap, Peter! I'm almost ready," Kate shouted back.
She dropped the earrings into her purse and pulled out the Colt .25 before tossing the bag onto the counter and slipping the small pistol into her vest pocket. The Remington Derringer she normally kept tucked in her garter got strapped to her ankle. After one last glance in the mirror, she darted out of the restroom and met Peter's glower with one of her own. After a moment, she stuck her tongue out at him and grinned.
"Going to that party the night of a job was a stupid idea," he grumbled at her, shaking his head and heading for the front door.
"We got plenty of time, Peter," Dutch sighed, stubbing out his cigarette and following Peter out. "Anyway," he added, winking at Kate over his shoulder, "I'm pretty sure she only wanted to go so you'd have a chance to talk to Sally Macauley."
"Wha—?" Peter spluttered, his cheeks turning crimson. He turned to Kate who was holding both hands up in feigned innocence and trying not to laugh. "I hate you," he grumbled at her and trudged down the hallway.
"No, you don't," she called after him, jogging to catch up and slipped her arm in his. "And you did get to talk to her, didn't you?"
Peter looked down at his friend, her hazel eyes twinkling up at him. He sighed, "For a few minutes, yeah."
"Then it was a success," Dutch laughed, clapping the other man on the shoulder.
The trio fell silent when they reached the front door of the apartment building. Kate dropped her arm from Peter's, instead tucking her hands into her trouser pockets. It would do no good to walk arm-in-arm with him if she was supposed to be a boy.
The streetcar ride down to the old Stingaree district was also quiet. Kate stood across from her two friends and watched them carefully. Dealing with someone new was tricky, and she could tell Dutch was nervous. Peter was, too, but only because he hated doing deals in that part of the city, convinced the notorious raids on brothels and gambling halls from a decade before were still going on. Kate wasn't usually nervous about these late night deals, but tonight, watching Dutch's fingers constantly tapping on his thigh and Peter chewing his thumbnail, even she was feeling uneasy.
Kate and Peter had been friends since they were in primary school. In 1907, when a seven year old Peter with his mop of brown curls called six year old Kate a shrimp, she punched him in the stomach. And when Jacob, the neighborhood bully, laughed at Peter for getting thumped by a girl half his size, Kate had kicked him in the groin. And Peter and Kate had been inseparable ever since.
They met Dutch a few years later when he got kicked out of the Army Navy Academy and started at San Diego High School during Kate's first year there. Dutch, not realizing the two were friends, witnessed Peter pushing Kate into some bushes on the walk home from school and stepped in to defend the smaller girl. Dutch had squared off with Peter, ready to fight him, when Kate starting hooting with laughter from the bushes. He had watched, bewildered, as she brushed herself off, called him her knight in shining armor, and demanded he be her friend.
They moved on from playing stickball and soccer in the streets to storming the dancehalls, but not before watching the Great War tear each of their families apart. The rum-running came later.
When they stepped off the street car at Broadway and 5th, they headed south towards the diner on Market Street.
"So, the plan…" Dutch started. Even though the plan was almost always the same, it had become habit to repeat it all out loud just before splitting up.
"You two meet our new friends, take their money, and give them the directions to the boat and the booze," Kate said, dropping her voice to sound more like the boy she was dressed as.
"And you," Peter nodded at her, "stay on the corner and keep an eye out for coppers."
"And," Dutch smirked at her, "stay away from the bell bottoms and flyboys."
Kate rolled her eyes. "You know I don't flirt on the job."
"And," Peter interrupted, "if all goes well…"
"Back to the streetcar," Kate recited.
"If anything goes wrong…" Dutch started.
"Split up and regroup at the theater," Peter answered. When no one else spoke, he added with a grin, "And if anyone is gonna get distracted by a pretty face, it's gonna be you, Dutch. It's always you."
Dutch sniffed, "Well, we can't all carry a torch for Sally Macauley."
Kate swallowed back a laugh at seeing the glare Peter shot at Dutch. Maybe it was time to stop teasing him about the girl. She shook her head.
Just before they reached the corner of 5th and Market, they split up. Kate nodded solemnly to Peter and Dutch and whispered, "Be careful." Both men nodded in return before jogging across the street. She settled into her spot under the streetlamp kitty-corner to the diner where Dutch and Peter were meeting their new customers and pulled the cigarette from behind her ear. She didn't actually smoke, but she always borrowed one from Dutch and lit it to give her something to do while keeping watch on the street corner.
Kate watched Peter and Dutch disappear into the diner. She sighed and leaned up against the lamppost, crossing one foot over the other and surveying the intersection. She spotted the two men they were meeting not two minutes later. Average height, dark suits, bowler hats. Compared to those two, Peter and Dutch were an intimidating pair. Dutch was easily six feet tall and built like a boxer. Peter, despite his baby face, was stocky and solid. She smiled to herself. Her boys would be just fine.
She continued scanning the intersection, making note of a couple of cars parked along the street, including a 4-door Ford like the one Peter had been talking about buying just the other day. There was also a small group of sailors ambling towards the harbor. Nothing out of the ordinary. She flicked some ash from her cigarette. And stiffened when she noticed another figure across the street from her. She hadn't seen him there when she first settled into her spot. She cocked her head to one side and watched him for a minute. Like her, he seemed to be waiting for something, leaning against the wall. It wouldn't be all that unusual in this part of town, but he was wearing a strange coat with a hood. Not exactly the height of fashion these days.
Kate glanced back at the diner, looking for signs of her friends wrapping up their conversation. Seeing nothing, she turned back to the strange man only to find him watching her. She couldn't see his face under the hood, but she could feel him looking at her. She frowned and stubbed out her cigarette on the bottom of her boot, stepping back from the lamppost and into the shadow of the building. He didn't budge.
"Come on, boys," she muttered under her breath. "I got a creep out here with me."
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, wishing she had another cigarette. But Dutch and Peter really should be done any minute now. She tugged at her cap and pushed her hair behind her ears. The figure across the street was still watching her, even though she was pretty sure she was hidden in the shadow. Both he and she jerked their heads in the direction of a group of men who stepped out of the drugstore on the other corner. Kate frowned again. Ferris & Ferris Drug should have closed hours ago.
A telling shiver ran up her spine. Patting her vest pocket, just to reassure herself that her pistol was there, she watched the three men cross Market towards the diner. Just as they stepped into the street, Dutch and Peter stepped out of the diner, laughing. Kate shot another glance at the other man and realized he was watching the group from the drugstore now, too. And he was no longer leaning casually against anything but standing upright and tense. She looked back to Peter and Dutch, stepping out of the shadow to catch their attention. And just as they both looked her way, the three men from the drugstore started at a full run.
All Kate could do was scream. Peter and Dutch both spun and reached for their own guns, but the men from the drugstore already had theirs out. Two opened fire on her friends, not even bothering to aim but shooting as they ran at them. The third sprinted for one of the cars. Kate pulled her own pistol and ran, her body torn between chasing down the attackers and running to Peter and Dutch. They had both fallen to the ground, and one of the attackers ripped a small satchel from Peter's hands before kicking him and heading for the 4-door Ford. From the middle of the intersection, Kate fired at the men as they stumbled into the Ford, but her instinct to run to her friends won out and the car sped off.
She fell to her knees next to her friends. Peter was laying face down, blood rapidly pooling around him. She didn't even have to touch him to know he was dead. She could feel it in her chest. But Dutch was crouched, one arm wrapped around his stomach, the other futilely trying to turn Peter's body over.
"No, no, no," Kate muttered, reaching for Dutch. He bellowed incoherently and pushed her away, tugging again at Peter's body. She looked back across the street, hoping the strange man who had been watching her would come and help, but he had disappeared. And the cowards in the diner were still hiding.
"Oh god, Dutch. Dutch, look at me." She grabbed Dutch's arm and yanked him away from Peter. Unable to hold himself up anymore, he collapsed into her. She put a shaky hand to his face. "Hang on, Dutch," she whispered. "You'll be okay. Just hang on."
He looked up at her for just a moment, mouthing something. She knew it was his native language, something she wouldn't be able to understand even if she could hear him. When he went limp, his head lolling against her thigh, the feral noise that came from deep in her chest echoed across the empty intersection.
A/N: some slang/historical terms...
rum-running = smuggling alcohol via water (in san diego, it was common for boats to bring booze from up the coast from mexico)
the Great War = what we now call World War I
bell bottoms and flyboys = sailors and aviators, respectively
anything else...just ask!