Vasara treads carefully with the pair of pigeons in her crate. It had been hard enough to nab them from their feathered roost behind her shelter, she must not lose them now. The birds are still, their bills buried in their fat, feathered chests, puffed now to ward off the cold.

Vasara tries hard not to startle them, but the night air is frigid, and she wishes she could walk faster. Luckily, there are few clouds, and the moon casts its pearly light on the road ahead. She shifts the weight of the crate from hand to hand, alleviating the ache beginning to form in her right wrist, and hopes the guard has followed through on his promise to leave the archive building unlocked for the night.

At first, he had seemed skeptical. “A file, you say? You forgot a file?” He’d squinted at the crumbling chimney, pondering the probability of such a scenario. Vasara had put on her best performance.

“Taip. And Marija — she’ll go ballistic for sure when she finds out. I only just realized myself. I’m lucky she has not noticed yet. Please… I cannot lose my job over this.”

“How about I let you in now — quick, like?” the guard had said, his bushy eyebrows dipping sharply. “Leaving it open all night… I don’t know.” He rubbed the stubble on his chin. “Could get me into trouble, that.”

Vasara had nearly bit her tongue, stumped — but only for a second. “Er, no, sorry. That won’t work. I must run. I’m on supper duty at the shelter and it could take me a while to find the file. But I’ll come back later and search for it No one will ever know I was there, I promise. I’ll be careful.” In the end, the cigarettes, a whole packet transferred furtively beneath an outstretched scarf, had clinched it. The guard had latched onto them with a satisfied grunt. If this plan does not pan out, she will have little left to work with.

The brass knob of the archive building is icy to the touch. Vasara pulls her fingers back and shakes off the sting. Cautiously, she balances the crate on a raised knee, before pulling her scarf off her neck and wrapping it around her fingers. She tries the knob again. It barely gives. Her pulse quickens. She grips the knob more tightly and presses an elbow against the doorpost to gain traction. It turns.

Quickly, Vasara sets the crate down on the concrete floor. She feels for the cheap plastic flashlight in her pocket, kicks the front door shut with the sole of her sneaker, and switches the flashlight on. The place is mustier and darker than before. The yellow beam bounces off shelves and files, floor and walls, providing her with just a weak shaft of light, but adrenalin pumps through her veins. Grinning, she blesses the guard beneath her breath.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 627)