Home > Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)(10)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)(10)
Leigh Bardugo

Kaz managed to endure it all the way past the iron railings of Zentzbridge, the grating covered in little bits of rope tied in elaborate knots, sailors’ prayers for safe return from sea. Superstitious rot.

Finally he gave in and said, “Spit it out already, Wraith.”

Her voice came from the dark. “You didn’t send anyone to Burstraat.”

“Why would I?”

“If Geels doesn’t get there in time—”

“No one’s setting fires at Nineteen Burstraat.”

“I heard the siren …”

“A happy accident. I take inspiration where I find it.”

“You were bluffing, then. She was never in danger.”

Kaz shrugged, unwilling to give her an answer. Inej was always trying to wring little bits of decency from him. “When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”

“Why did you even agree to the meet if you knew it was a set-up?” She was somewhere to the right of him, moving without a sound. He’d heard other members of the gang say she moved like a cat, but he suspected cats would sit attentively at her feet to learn her methods.

“I’d call the night a success,” he said. “Wouldn’t you?”

“You were nearly killed. So was Jesper.”

“Geels emptied the Black Tips’ coffers paying useless bribes. We’ve outed a traitor, re-established our claim on Fifth Harbour, and I don’t have a scratch on me. It was a good night.”

“How long have you known about Big Bolliger?”

“Weeks. We’re going to be short-staffed. That reminds me, let Rojakke go.”

“Why? There’s no one like him at the tables.”

“Lots of sobs know their way around a deck of cards. Rojakke is a little too quick. He’s skimming.”

“He’s a good dealer, and he has a family to provide for. You could give him a warning, take a finger.”

“Then he wouldn’t be a good dealer any more, would he?”

When a dealer was caught skimming money from a gambling hall, the floor boss would cut off one of his pinkie fingers. It was one of those ridiculous punishments that had somehow become codified in the gangs. It threw off the skimmer ’s balance, forced him to relearn his shuffle, and showed any future employer that he had to be watched. But it also made him clumsy at the tables. It meant he was focusing on simple things like the mechanics of the deal instead of watching the players.

Kaz couldn’t see Inej’s face in the dark, but he sensed her disapproval.

“Greed is your god, Kaz.”

He almost laughed at that. “No, Inej. Greed bows to me. It is my servant and my lever.”

“And what god do you serve, then?”

“Whichever will grant me good fortune.”

“I don’t think gods work that way.”

“I don’t think I care.”

She blew out an exasperated breath. Despite everything she’d been through, Inej still believed her Suli Saints were watching over her. Kaz knew it, and for some reason he loved to rile her. He wished he could read her expression now. There was always something so satisfying about the little furrow between her black brows.

“How did you know I would get to Van Daal in time?” she asked.

“Because you always do.”

“You should have given me more warning.”

“I thought your Saints would appreciate the challenge.”

For a while she said nothing, then from somewhere behind him he heard her. “Men mock the gods

until they need them, Kaz.”

He didn’t see her go, only sensed her absence.

Kaz gave an irritated shake of his head. To say he trusted Inej would be stretching the point, but he could admit to himself that he’d come to rely on her. It had been a gut decision to pay off her indenture with the Menagerie, and it had cost the Dregs sorely. Per Haskell had needed convincing, but Inej was one of the best investments Kaz had ever made. That she was so very good at remaining unseen made her an excellent thief of secrets, the best in the Barrel. But the fact that she could simply erase herself bothered him. She didn’t even have a scent. All people carried scents, and those scents told stories – the hint of carbolic on a woman’s fingers or woodsmoke in her hair, the wet wool of a man’s suit, or the tinge of gunpowder lingering in his shirt cuffs. But not Inej. She’d somehow mastered invisibility. She was a valuable asset. So why couldn’t she just do her job and spare him her moods?

Suddenly, Kaz knew he wasn’t alone. He paused, listening. He’d cut through a tight alley split by a murky canal. There were no streetlamps here and little foot traffic, nothing but the bright moon and the small boats bumping against their moorings. He’d dropped his guard, let his mind give in to distraction.

A man’s dark shape appeared at the head of the alley.

“What business?” Kaz asked.

The shape lunged at him. Kaz swung his cane in a low arc. It should have made direct contact with his attacker ’s legs, but instead it sailed through empty space. Kaz stumbled, thrown off balance by the force of his swing.

Then, somehow, the man was standing right in front of him. A fist connected with Kaz’s jaw. Kaz shook off the stars that rocketed through his head. He spun back around and swung again. But no one was there. The weighted head of Kaz’s walking stick whooshed through nothing and cracked against the wall.

Kaz felt the cane torn from his hands by someone on his right. Was there more than one of them?

And then a man stepped through the wall. Kaz’s mind stuttered and reeled, trying to explain what he was seeing as a cluster of mist became a cloak, boots, the pale flash of a face.

Ghosts, Kaz thought. A boy’s fear, but it came with absolute surety. Jordie had come for his vengeance at last. It’s time to pay your debts, Kaz. You never get something for nothing.

The thought passed through Kaz’s mind in a humiliating, gibbering wave of panic, then the phantom was upon him, and he felt the sharp jab of a needle in his neck. A ghost with a syringe?

Fool, he thought. And then he was in the dark.

Kaz woke to the sharp scent of ammonia. His head jerked back as he returned fully to consciousness.

The old man in front of him wore the robes of a university medik. He had a bottle of wuftsalts in his hand that he was waving beneath Kaz’s nose. The stink was nearly unbearable.

“Get away from me,” Kaz rasped.

The medik eyed him dispassionately, returning the wuftsalts to their leather pouch. Kaz flexed his fingers, but that was all he could do. He’d been shackled to a chair with his arms behind his back.

Whatever they’d injected him with had left him groggy.

The medik moved aside, and Kaz blinked twice, trying to clear his vision and make sense of the absurd luxury of his surroundings. He’d expected to wake in the den of the Black Tips or some other rival gang. But this wasn’t cheap Barrel flash. A squat decked out like this took real money –

mahogany panels dense with carvings of frothing waves and flying fish, shelves lined with books, leaded windows, and he was fairly sure that was a real DeKappel. One of those demure oil portraits of a lady with a book open in her lap and a lamb lying at her feet. The man observing him from behind a broad desk had the prosperous look of a mercher. But if this was his house, why were there armed members of the stadwatch guarding the door?

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