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.”

Lowen

They leave just before three in the morning. Pale’s men take Lark away. She laughs as they put her in the car.

“I thought I’d be stabbed,” she says, “or somebody would feed me a glass of arsenic. I guess it’s always a surprise.”

Malkin watches the tail lights turn the corner. “We’ll go in a minute. I have to bribe the manager, yet. And perhaps one or two of the bellhops.”

“Pale’s money?” Lowen says.

“Of course not.” Malkin turns toward the hotel. “She’s one of ours, anyway. And you can’t sell your own to a faction. It’s reprehensible.”

Lark

Malkin insists that they tie her to a chair. They find a knife in her pocket and another strapped to the inside of her wrist. No identification, of course. Even so, she’s Lark.

“Did you know?”

“Not until I got down here and opened the letters.”

“And then?”

“Do you want me to say I cried and sweated all night wrestling with my conscience? I saw it was you and figured I ought to bring two guns.” She cranes her neck to peer at the holes in the wall. “But after all,” Lark says, “maybe three would have been better.”

Lowen

He chops her wrist and the gun drops with a harsh thud. Too easy. He pulls the door open, then twists sideways, flattening against the opposite wall as Lark’s other hand rises holding a second gun—snub-nosed, small enough to fit in her palm. She fires and blows a fist-sized hole in the plaster under his elbow.

Her lips move. “What?,’ he says. His ears are ringing but he still has hold of her wrist. She fires again. Something tugs at his jacket. He yanks roughly, catching her in an armlock.

Lark smirks. “I said you’ve still got it, champ.”