Home > Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)(9)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)(9)
Leigh Bardugo

From the roof, Inej continued to watch as Oomen picked up and holstered Geels’ gun and the Black Tips said a few quiet words to each other.

“Don’t leave,” Big Bolliger begged. “Don’t leave me.” He tried to cling to the cuff of Geels’

trousers.

Geels shook him off. They left him curled on his side, leaking blood onto the cobblestones.

Inej plucked Van Daal’s rifle from his hands before she released him. “Go home,” she told the guard.

He cast a single terrified glance over his shoulder and sprinted off down the walkway. Far below, Big Bol had started trying to drag himself across the floor of the Exchange. He might be stupid enough to cross Kaz Brekker, but he’d survived this long in the Barrel, and that took will. He might make it.

Help him, a voice inside her said. Until a few moments ago, he’d been her brother in arms. It seemed wrong to leave him alone. She could go to him, offer to put him out of his misery quickly, hold his hand as he passed. She could fetch a medik to save him.

Instead, she spoke a quick prayer in the language of her Saints and began the steep climb down the outer wall. Inej pitied the boy who might die alone with no one to comfort him in his last hours or who might live and spend his life as an exile. But the night’s work wasn’t yet over, and the Wraith didn’t have time for traitors.

Cheers greeted Kaz as he emerged from the eastern arch, Jesper trailing behind him and, if Kaz was any judge, already working himself into a sulk.

Dirix, Rotty, and the others charged at them, whooping and shouting, Jesper ’s revolvers held aloft.

The crew had got the barest glimpse of the proceedings with Geels, but they’d heard most of it. Now they were chanting, “The Burstraat is on fire! The Dregs don’t have no water!”

“I can’t believe he just turned tail!” jeered Rotty. “He had a loaded pistol in his hand!”

“Tell us what you had on the guard,” Dirix begged.

“Can’t be the usual stuff.”

“I heard about a guy in Sloken who liked to roll around in apple syrup and then get two—”

“I’m not talking,” said Kaz. “Holst could prove useful in the future.”

The mood was jittery, and their laughter had the frantic serration that came with near disaster.

Some of them had expected a fight and were still itching for one. But Kaz knew there was more to it, and he hadn’t missed the fact that no one had mentioned Big Bolliger ’s name. They’d been badly shaken by his betrayal – both the revelation and the way Kaz had delivered punishment. Beneath all that jostling and whooping, there was fear. Good. Kaz relied on the fact that the Dregs were all murderers, thieves, and liars. He just had to make sure they didn’t make a habit of lying to him.

Kaz dispatched two of them to keep an eye on Big Bol and to make sure that if he made it to his feet, he left the city. The rest could return to the Slat and the Crow Club to drink off their worry, make some trouble, and spread word of the night’s events. They’d tell what they’d seen, embroider the rest, and with every retelling, Dirtyhands would get crazier and more ruthless. But Kaz had business to attend to, and his first stop would be Fifth Harbour.

Jesper stepped into his path. “You should have let me know about Big Bolliger,” he said in a furious whisper.

“Don’t tell me my business, Jes.”

“You think I’m dirty, too?”

“If I thought you were dirty, you’d be holding your guts in on the floor of the Exchange like Big Bol, so stop running your mouth.”

Jesper shook his head and rested his hands on the revolvers he’d reclaimed from Dirix. Whenever he got cranky, he liked to lay hands on a gun, like a child seeking the comfort of a favoured doll.

It would have been easy enough to make peace. Kaz could have told Jesper that he knew he wasn’t dirty, reminded him that he’d trusted him enough to make him his only real second in a fight that could have gone badly wrong tonight. Instead, he said, “Go on, Jesper. There’s a line of credit waiting for you at the Crow Club. Play till morning or your luck runs out, whichever comes first.”

Jesper scowled, but he couldn’t keep the hungry gleam from his eye. “Another bribe?”

“I’m a creature of habit.”

“Lucky for you, I am, too.” He hesitated long enough to say, “You don’t want us with you? Geels’

boys are gonna be riled after that.”

“Let them come,” Kaz said, and turned down Nemstraat without another word. If you couldn’t walk by yourself through Ketterdam after dark, then you might as well just hang a sign that read ‘soft’

around your neck and lie down for a beating.

He could feel the Dregs’ eyes on his back as he headed over the bridge. He didn’t need to hear their whispers to know what they would say. They wanted to drink with him, hear him explain how he’d known Big Bolliger had gone over to the Black Tips, listen to him describe the look in Geels’ eyes when he’d dropped his pistol. But they’d never get it from Kaz, and if they didn’t like it, they could find another crew to run with.

No matter what they thought of him, they’d walk a little taller tonight. It was why they stayed, why they gave their best approximation of loyalty for him. When he’d officially become a member of the Dregs, he’d been twelve and the gang had been a laughing stock, street kids and washed-up cadgers running shell games and penny-poor cons out of a run-down house in the worst part of the Barrel. But he hadn’t needed a great gang, just one he could make great – one that needed him.

Now they had their own territory, their own gambling hall, and that run-down house had become

the Slat, a dry, warm place to get a hot meal or hole up when you were wounded. Now the Dregs were feared. Kaz had given them that. He didn’t owe them small talk on top of it.

Besides, Jesper would smoothe it all over. A few drinks in and a few hands up and the sharpshooter ’s good nature would return. He held a grudge about as well as he held his liquor, and he had a gift for making Kaz’s victories sound like they belonged to everyone.

As Kaz headed down one of the little canals that would take him past Fifth Harbour, he realised he felt – Saints, he almost felt hopeful. Maybe he should see a medik. The Black Tips had been nipping at his heels for weeks, and now he’d forced them to play their hand. His leg wasn’t too bad either, despite the winter chill. The ache was always there, but tonight it was just a dull throb. Still, a part of him wondered if the parlay was some sort of test Per Haskell had set for him. Haskell was perfectly capable of convincing himself that he was the genius making the Dregs prosper, especially if one of his cronies was whispering in his ear. That idea didn’t sit easy, but Kaz could worry about Per Haskell tomorrow. For now, he’d make sure everything was running on schedule at the harbour and then head home to the Slat for some much-needed sleep.

He knew Inej was shadowing him. She’d been with him all the way from the Exchange. He didn’t

call out to her. She would make herself visible when she was good and ready. Usually he liked the quiet; in fact, he would have happily sewn most people’s lips shut. But when she wanted to, Inej had a way of making you feel her silence. It tugged at your edges.

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