the smuggler’s bible

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.”

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.”