A crow glided silently in the sky, riding the updrafts.
“Do you think he’s listening right now?” asked the man in blue.
“Undoubtedly,” replied the man in grey. “This close to him, we’ve certainly drawn his gaze.”
“This doesn’t worry you?” The man in blue leaned in as he spoke.
“Not at all.” The man in grey leaned back in response, drawing the man in blue to lean further across the table. “We’re one of probably a thousand threads he’s overseeing. Besides, this will take a while to get back to him. Secrets travel quick, but they still travel. And he’d never make such a direct play. He prefers to make subtle adjustments.”
The men sat at a small iron table in the cafe, just after the sun had passed overhead. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the both men squinted to avoid being blinded. The table was a dark green, and the thin strands of metal forming its surface weaved in and out of one another.
A woman had fallen asleep at the next closest occupied table, still leaving a three table gap between them. The man in grey took a sip of his iced latte. The man in blue tapped his foot.
The man in grey broke the silence. “Relax. We have time. For now.”
Finally the man in blue put his back against the chair. He looked over at the tree nearby as the leaves rippled in the wind. He took a deep breath, and released a short exhale.
“Okay. What do you know about him?”
“Next to nothing. Rumors. Hearsay. Some say he lives in the water tower on top of the old hotel. Some say he has one eye. Some say he’s actually a woman, or that he doesn’t exist at all. Not that it matters.”
“Don’t start with that shit. I don’t need your esoteric crap right now. Just stick to the facts.”
The man in grey smiled coyly, and raised his hands in deference. “Fine by me. He’s the most powerful man in the city. There are dozens out for him, whether they know it or not. All information filters through him. He collects, curates, and distributes knowledge as he pleases.”
“How does he do it? Hacking? Wiretaps?” The man in blue scratched his nose, a tell of his that had lost him more than a handful of poker games.
“Nothing nearly so crude. He goes back to a more archaic method: the birds.”
“The crows are his spies. They gather secrets and stories across the city, to be brought back to him and catalogued. The ravens are far more dangerous. They are his messengers.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
The man in grey dropped all hint of humor. “I am not, and I’d suggest you not to make that mistake.”
The man in blue leaned all the way back and crossed his arms. He furrowed his brow. “So what’s your play? What makes you think you can take him down?”
The man in grey flashed his teeth, an animal ready to go for the jugular. “Who said anything about merely taking him down? I mean to take his place.”
“You said yourself there were dozens out for him. What do we have they don’t? Or that he doesn’t?”
“He has his goals, and the crows have theirs. They only work together when their priorities align, but at the core they’re diametrically opposed. The crows don’t want a master. I’ll work with them better. I want what they want.”
“Freedom?” guessed the man in blue.
A raven landed on the fence next to them. It cawed loudly, and sat pondering the men. The man in blue gazed into its black eyes. They consumed all, swallowing even the light. For a moment he saw his own reflection on the surface of the dark pools, but it vanished with a blink. Nothing beside remained.
A flurry of feathers. A beating of wings. The wind whipped through the trees and a cloud took to the sky, all malice and void. And then it was dark.