the smuggler’s bible

Fawn

“Well, it’s not as if we didn’t know this might happen. There was always the possibility.”

“Stop cringing. What, precisely, is the nature of the situation?”

“Reports are confused. Lark is off the board, maybe for good. One of our cells—very industrious, very deep—was cracked open. Pale hasn’t said a word.”

“Which means he’s the one who did it.”

“The bank called.”

Loup Roger pauses, tea raised halfway to his lips. “That bad?”

“That bad.”

“Go tonight. Take whatever you need and handle it directly. And, Fawn, don’t worry about crossing red lines. There are none. Not anymore.”

Paramo

Pale doesn’t come himself—this would be construed as a public admission of involvement, something to be avoided as a matter of principle, especially if it’s true. He sends Paramo instead.

They start on the vaults immediately. Paramo is a surging wave of bonhomie and apologetic but insistent reassurances that, in fact, possession of the key amounts to possession of the box. The logic extends unfailingly to any items contained therein. Bank tellers (including several ranks of lower-order official) are powerless to stand before her.

Before ten o’clock they have run it to ground, and Paramo’s hair is still perfect.

Lowen

Loup Roger employs professionals, and their systems are layered. The first is garbage, absolutely worthless, designed to make this obvious. Lowen hauls drawers from desks and drops them, scattering papers while he feels for hidden compartments.

He finds some, too. This is the second stratum, sprinkled lightly with gold dust. Let a man believe he has found what he’s looking for and he’ll stop searching.

“Three or four minutes,” Malkin says. “Pale’s men are starting to get some pushback.”

Lowen reaches farther, finds a carved notch, and, grinning, draws forth a small silver key. The secret beyond the secret. Jackpot.

Malkin

“It’s very clever,” Malkin says, leaning over the concrete barrier, peering at the street through binoculars. “This cell was buried so deep we’d never have dug them out. Not with analysts like back in the day, and certainly not the two of us.”

“But it’s Pale’s city.”

“That’s right. And to a man like Pale, homefield is the only advantage.”

“All right, so we found them.” Lowen flicks a beetle off the cement. It wobbles in the air and buzzes away angrily. “What’s our approach?”

“To my knowledge,” Malkin says, “They’ve still never invented anything better than the front door.”