Lock Picking 101

Lock Picking 101

Following the trend of catching up with characters I haven’t written in awhile, it’s been absolute ages since we heard from Silkfoot! Silkfoot can be hard to write in short form because he’s usually working on plots among plots. His stories often need to be written in layers, and it’s hard to weave those layers into something someone can read in five minutes. But this idea came to me while I was flipping through some of my old Silkfoot stories and it was too perfect to resist!
. . .

Silkfoot Lightvolt had a patented process for generating luck. Most of it required heavily preparation for every operation he undertook, but he had been doing this for so long that such planning had become second nature to him. He could waltz out the door a mere five minutes after making the decision to leave, for instance, and be ready for just about anything the day could throw at him.

There were, however, times when even the best laid plans fell through, forcing him to rely on contingencies. He hadn’t, for example, planned to end up handcuffed to a pipe protruding from the ceiling of a stuffy mall security office to await the arrival of a member of the Queen’s Division, but here he was.

Luckily, a good thief was always ready to pick a lock at a moment’s notice. And Silkfoot had several methods by which he ensured that he could uphold this high tenant of his profession. The first was to make sure that he had undetectable tools of the trade on his person in abundance. The first thing a guard was going to do, after all, was search him for anything that could be used to free himself from restraints.

One could never underestimate the usefulness of hair pins and paperclips. He always kept a few tucked into his pockets, his socks, his shoes and – as a last ditch insurance policy – his hair. Few people expected a man to pin his hair in place, after all, and Silkfoot had such flowing locks, a few cream-colored pins were easy to hide.

So the emptying of his pockets into the trash bin was, sadly, lamentable, but not a bit of a setback.

The next thing required to ease the picking of a lock and, indeed, a speedy escape was flexibility. Most people assumed that one simply had to live with what they were given in this area, but Silkfoot begged to differ. There was little a  person couldn’t gain through regular practice. Yoga, in this case, to gently and gradually limber the joints. Gymnastics helped too, though it required a fair bit more time than the average crime lord had on his hands. Not to mention expensive equipment that tended to be large and difficult to hide.

Regular practice, for instance, allowed Silkfoot to shimmy one of his arms into a dreadfully uncomfortable  – but not actually painful – position while he eased the pins into the handcuff keyhole.

Strength proved useful for this particular operation, since his feet barely reached the ground while his wrists met above the pipe, forcing him to hold himself aloft with one arm in order to reach said keyhole with his mouth.

Which brought him to another point that far too many thieves overlooked; versatility. It was all well and good to rely on one’s dominant hand to be speedy in even the greatest of pinches. But what to do when one was denied such dexterity? The fingers of his right hand, while perched above the specific keyhole he needed to manipulate, simply could not bend into a position from which they could manipulate the pins he had inserted into the hole.

His left arm was in a similarly awkward position, bracing against the pipe as it was, though he could use his index and middle fingers to steady his tools at need.

Fortunately, Silkfoot Lightvolt was so practiced at lock picking that he could have shimmied his way out of his socks and picked the lock with his toes, should it prove necessary.

In this case, however, it would have required ridiculous acrobatic feats that would have equated both to wasting time and showing off. He would just have to pick the lock with his mouth instead.

He guided the first pin by pursing his lips, sensitive enough to the movement of these mechanisms to feel the soft click as soon as he pushed the first pin out of place. Barely daring to breathe, he hooked his left fingers downward and secured the pin in position before easing the tip of the pin from his mouth.

A pause to breathe and to listen. The voices outside were muffled. The guard might still be talking on the phone. Or else he was trying to calm some panicked mall manager.

It had been an unfortunate accident, being identified by an undercover cop in plainclothes while he was innocently browsing wears he actually intended to buy. A mistake he was going to have to be careful not to repeat if he ever wanted to be able to walk the streets of the capital without extensive reconstructive surgery – or expensive illusory spells. But a mistake he wasn’t overly worried about rectifying, so long as he could get out of these cuffs before the Queen’s Division arrived.

They were the last people he wanted to deal with. They had access to means regular cops didn’t. And less restrictions on when and how they used them.

One step at a time, he told his racing heart. Steady as the turtle on his course. Or was it a tortoise?

Didn’t matter. He lifted the second pin in his lips and pressed it into the keyhole, seeking to slide the next mechanism out of his way.

People got in a hurry. That was the main problem. They knew they had a deadline and they felt it ticking down. When urgency took over, your fingers started to shake. Even a drop of sweat dripping down your back could be enough to make you jolt and end all your progress.

Which was why Silkfoot cultivated iron-clad nerves. He had subjected himself to every kind of stress he could imagine during the final stages of his lock-pick training. There had been some truly special hells involved. But if he could survive the trials he had concocted, there wasn’t much the real world could do to faze him.

And he had been in this position before. Enough times that the guard should have realized it was a bad idea to leave him alone, even after restraining him. Maybe he didn’t know exactly which thief he actually had, despite the cop’s strict warnings about how he was to be handled. Though anyone who required contacting the Queen’s Division tended to be Serious Business.

Not that Silkfoot was going to deride such a blessing. He only needed a few more seconds to slide the final piece of the mechanism aside and…

The soft click of the mechanism’s release sounded loud in the small office. But the voices outside didn’t even pause, taking no notice of the risk he might escape.

Grinning, Silkfoot eased his arms from around the pipe, careful not to let metal make contact with metal, lest the rattling alert his captors to his near freedom. He freed his wrists from the cuffs and set them gently on the carpet.

While he would have liked to take a few seconds to rub the life back into his wrists and elbows, he didn’t think he had the luxury. He could hear footsteps coming up the corridor. Loud footsteps. Booted footsteps. And in addition to always being ready for combat, the Queen’s Division tended to travel in pairs. In case a pesky thief got the jump on one of them.

Luckily for Silkfoot Lightvolt, now that he had freed himself of his bonds, freedom was a simple matter of lifting the vent cover from its position and easing it back into place in his wake. He had the foresight to snatch his wallet off of the desk and return it to his pocket. He didn’t like to lose his fake identities, and he doubted the mall cop would remember much about the fake ID he had been using. A few tweaks was all it should take to return it to the rotation.

Then quick as a mouse and silent as a cat, Silkfoot escaped into the ducts and gently yanked the vent cover back into its niche.

He had just shimmied beyond visible range of the vent when he heard the door to the office click open, followed by a soft curse.

“He was here!” the mall cop spluttered. “He was restrained!”

“He’s an escape artist,” the new arrival retorted with a soft sigh. “Try to seal the exits, if you can. But depending on the head start he’s got, I doubt we’re going to find him.”

Games of cat and mouse followed entirely different rules from the game of throwing off bonds, but Silkfoot considered himself equally skilled at both arts. First and foremost would be the decision of whether or not he should wait where he was so that he wouldn’t inadvertently stumble into those searching for him, which was doubly appealing since searchers rarely expected their quarry to be so close to where they started. But such tactics had to be tempered by the fact that lingering became dangerous if one of the searchers was a mage. A likelihood increased by the fact that he was dealing with the Queen’s Division.

In any case, it looked like it would be a few hours yet before he truly got to celebrate his victorious escape. But at least he would have an interesting story to tell Kestrel when he got home.

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