A flash of headlights in the street caused Kitten to flatten herself against the wall. She had little concern about being seen three stories up and in the shadow, but why take a chance?
“The only people who win by taking chances are in the movies,” her daddy used to say.
The headlights illuminated a row of manicured bushes parallel to the street, but not much beyond. The car swept by too fast for the occupants to be looking for anything. However, the play of headlights had revealed that a security vehicle prowling down that street couldn’t see much beyond the line of bushes; that left at least a hundred feet to the building. Bless the people who put these huge lawns around condos. They had provided her with plenty of working room.
After scaling three stories of wall, Kitten felt a genuine appreciation for the condo architects. The bricks protruding from the face were intended to enhance the aesthetic effect, but they also made her job easier. A climb like this—with all of her hundred pounds supported on fingertips and big toes—would usually have those members yelping. These eye-pleasing protrusions were spaced perfectly for her five-foot-four frame, and they stuck out enough to provide purchase for all five toes or the entire first joint of her fingers.
Once above the doors of the third floor balconies, Kitten paused. She studied the object of her ascent on the next floor up and about twenty feet to her right. It was a good thing that the pattern of the protruding bricks would make a diagonal path faster. The shadow ended five or six feet from her goal.
She negotiated the first few feet of new path with her muscles registering gratitude for the change in load. Reaching for a brick above the balcony, she felt for loose material. Finding none, she transferred her weight to the hand and pulled herself up. With deliberate care, she raised the opposite leg and used her toes to feel along the length of the next brick. Finding nothing loose, she put weight on that foot. The process continued; reach, check, transfer weight, move the other hand or foot and check. It slowed her progress, but she gained the opposite side of the balcony without a single dislodged grain sounding on anything beneath.
Once clear of structures below, she paused to look around. She’d be out of the shadow in the next couple of steps and there would be a temptation to gawk about when the light hit. Neither looking around while moving on a wall nor stopping in the light were advisable, so she took the time to satisfy herself that the surroundings were still friendly.
Kitten’s stomach tightened as her hand reached out of the shadow. Look at the wall…just the wall…concentrate…grasp…shift weight…concentrate. The light, being attenuated by a journey from far away street lamps, wouldn’t have revealed her to anyone without binoculars, but the absence of shadow made her feel visible.
Kitten’s hand closed around a steel upright. The balcony railing felt good! She fought off an impulse to transfer her weight to the wrought iron structure immediately. Instead, she examined the top of it. There were no flowerpots or bird feeders sitting up there—good. She shook the railing and smiled at the solid feel. A wave of relief rippled through the muscles of her calves and forearms as she vaulted over the railing and landed in a crouch behind a large pot containing a Norfolk Island pine and something with droopy leaves. Ignoring the pleas of her legs for a stretch, she remained in her landing position for a full minute, looking and listening.
Detecting no hostile signs, she slid her backpack off and extracted a climbing rope. On hands and knees, she located an upright in the center of the front railing, tested its solidity, clipped the end of the rope to it, and placed the coiled bundle on the top rail. With a rapid escape route secured, she felt better and allowed herself a noiseless stretch while remaining below the level of the planters, chairs, and other paraphernalia on the balcony.