Spy Glass Page 16

Faith’s hands stilled and she pressed her steepled index fingers to her lips. “Why don’t you just ask Tama for their names?”

“She would want to know why I was interested. And it’s more complicated than with the Hall’s guards. Then we were just weeding out the inexperienced and those of questionable repute. The unit has been with these prisoners for over a season. What if we discover a real problem? Akako could have assigned moles in the prison just in case her plans failed. You know Tama requests daily updates, and I can’t lie to her. She would be terrified by the notion. I’d rather wait and tell her good news once we assess the situation.” I held my breath.

“A reasonable plan, and I agree we shouldn’t tell the Councilor. At least not yet.” Faith opened a drawer in her desk, pulling out a sheet of paper. “I’ll send a request to Wirral’s warden.”

Uh-oh. I hoped to keep the number of people involved to two. “Don’t you have that information here?”

“No. Grogan Moon is in charge of all Wirral’s personnel.”

“Is his office in the Hall?”

“No. It’s at the prison where he spends most of his time. He comes here for meetings with the Councilor and other clan business.” She dipped her quill into ink and wrote the request.

After she folded the paper and sealed it with wax, I jumped to my feet. “I’ll deliver the message.”

She hesitated.

“I want to make sure it reaches the warden and not some underling. Besides, I think it’ll be helpful if I take a look around.”

As soon as I entered, the solid mass of the prison’s stone walls bore down on my shoulders. The air thickened and I fought to draw a breath. I clutched Faith’s request in my hands, which were pressed against my chest as if it were a shield.

With each step, I sank deeper into the bowels of Wirral. My escort held a torch, illuminating his aggrieved scowl. Most messengers delivered their communications to the officers at the gate, but I had insisted on handing the missive to the warden himself.

After an intense debate, an order to disarm and a thorough search of my body, I had been permitted to enter. I’d regretted my insistence as soon as the first set of steel doors slammed behind me. The harsh clang reverberated off the stone walls, and matched the tremor of panic in my heart. More sets of locked gates followed until I lost all track of time or location.

Rank and putrid smells emanated from dark hallways. Shrieks of pain, curses and taunting cries pierced the air. We didn’t pass any cells. Thank fate. I had no wish to view the conditions nor the poor souls trapped in here.

Eventually, the officer led me up a spiral staircase so narrow my shoulders brushed both walls. The acrid odors disappeared and the oily blackness lightened. Dizzy with relief and the fast pace, I paused for a moment by the only window we encountered. Drinking in the crisp breeze, I looked down on an exercise yard. Completely surrounded by the prison, the packed dirt of the square at least allowed the prisoners some fresh air and sunlight.

My escort growled at me to hurry, and I rushed to catch up. The top of the staircase ended at another steel door. After a series of complicated knocks from both sides of the door, it swung open, revealing two officers wedged in a small vestibule. Another round of explanations followed another pat down.

Yep. This had been a bad idea. One of my worst.

I was finally admitted to the warden’s office. Windows ringed the large circular room. A stone hearth blazed with heat in the center, and behind a semicircle-shaped desk sat the warden.

My first impression—big bald head. Second—an immaculate uniform cut so tight wrinkles would be impossible. Another man lounged in a chair next to the desk. He also wore a correctional officer’s uniform, but instead of the standard blue, his shirt and pants were deep navy and no weapons or keys hung from his belt. He eyed me with keen interest.

My escort waited for the warden to acknowledge our presence before approaching the desk. I lagged behind and tried not to duck my head when the warden turned his irritation on me. Steel-gray eyes appraised me, and I stifled the need to scuff my foot and fidget like a small child. He stood and held out his hand. His movements were so precise and rigid, I wondered if his bones had been replaced by metal rods and his flesh petrified by years spent inside this stone prison.

“The message?” His voice matched his demeanor. Rough and sharp.

I handed him the request. He snatched it, ripped it open, scanned the words and tossed it on his desk. “Go,” he ordered.

“But—”

“What? Am I supposed to hand you the information?” His tone implied yes would be the wrong answer.

“Er…” Wonderful retort. Opal, the superspy.

“Am I supposed to stop everything I’m doing to give you classified documents?”

“Um…”

“Go now.”

I used to believe a powerful Daviian Warper addicted to blood magic was the scariest person I’d ever encounter. Not anymore.

Outside and several blocks away from Wirral, I sucked in huge gulps of air, trying to expel the fetid taint of the prison inside me. My gasps turned to hiccupy giggles as I imagined going through with my original plan to work undercover as a correctional officer. Light-headed and unable to draw in a decent breath, I reached for a lantern post as my head spun. I missed and toppled to the ground. Dazed, I waited for the spinning to stop.

“Hey! Are you all right?” a man asked. He peered down at me in concern.

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