Spy Glass Page 24

“You weren’t fast enough,” Finn said. “I couldn’t let them hit Opal again.”

The soldiers grumbled, but didn’t argue.

Finn helped me stand. His concern was evident in the gentle way he pulled me to my feet. “I’m sorry for not protecting you.”

“Don’t be silly. We were outnumbered and those guys…” Reminded me of Valek and his corp. “Even with my sais…Damn. They took my sais.”

“At least they didn’t take your life,” Finn said.

“Thanks to you. How did you find me so quickly?”

“Pure luck. When I woke up, I flagged down a couple guards. We were on the way to the station to organize search teams and we passed this street.”

Nice of luck to go my way for once. Finn insisted on coming along as the guards escorted me to the closest station house.

It turned out to be HQ, and every soul on duty descended on me the instant I arrived. Finn stayed beside me as I reported the attack. We remembered a few vague details about the men, but couldn’t provide any usable information. As for a motive, I speculated on the recent security changes at the Council Hall.

The ache in my ribs combined with my fatigue, and I fought to keep my eyes open. Finn noticed and offered to walk me home. However, the guards felt one protector was inadequate and I ended up with six escorts.

Before the group would allow me to enter my room at the inn, I had to promise not to go outside without protectors. At this point, I agreed. Finn shot me his slanted smile and mimed riding a horse, reminding me of our…date?…the following day. I nodded and hurried inside. With only a few hours left until dawn, I didn’t waste any time changing my clothes. Careful of my sore ribs and wishing for Leif’s pain-relieving wet dog potion, I slid into bed.

I’d just finished my breakfast when Nic and Eve joined me at my table in the common room.

“What a stroke of luck,” Nic said. “Meeting you here this morning. A happy coincidence.”

I peered at him. “Yeah, right. Does this mean we’ll be having more of these coincidences?”

He scratched the stubble on his chin. “You liked being beat up? I thought you were smarter than that.”

“Yeah, but it was late and—”

“Strength in numbers. Eve, explain it to her while we’re walking.” He stood.

“You can’t walk and talk?” Eve asked him.

“I’d like to stay focused on other…things.”

As we strode over to headquarters, Eve said, “After last night’s attack, the Captain arranged for you to be escorted at all times.”

“All? You know I’m protected in the Councilor’s Hall and at the inn.”

“I meant on the streets. We are to make sure you arrive at your various destinations without incident,” Eve said.

“What about tomorrow? I’m going riding with Finn.”

I shouldn’t have mentioned his name. Nic’s attention snapped to me. “Riding with Finn? What about Kade?”

“Shouldn’t you be focusing on the shadows or something? There might be another attack.” I appealed to Eve, but she wouldn’t help me. “Finn works at Wirral.”

Nic’s scowl eased. “Part of your secret mission?”

“It’s not…” Secret mission sounded so…deceitful. “I’m trying to find information.”

“Uh-uh.” Nic remained unconvinced.

“And you’re romancing it from Finn,” Eve said.

I didn’t like that word choice, either, but couldn’t think of a better replacement. “And it’s not very romantic with escorts. Besides, I’ll have Quartz with me.”

Eve conferred with Nic and they agreed I would be accompanied to the stables, but once I was with Quartz, I wouldn’t need their protection.

My sides still ached and I begged off training.

“Not that you need practice or anything.” Nic remarked. His voice heavy with sarcasm.

In response, I lifted my shirt up and showed him my torso.

Nic whistled. “Wow. Every shade of red and purple. Colorful.”

“Painful,” I corrected. “And one jab to my ribs and I’ll be screaming.”

“So? Don’t let me get past your blocks.”

“I’m not worried about you,” I said.

Eve laughed. “Point for Opal.”

Nic remained silent the rest of the way to the Councilor’s Hall. When I reached my desk, I read through the file on the hotshots who worked in the SMU at Wirral, looking for any bit of oddness. I reviewed the rookie’s…Lamar’s paperwork. The only thing that stood out was the verification for him. The letter took fourteen days to travel to Iolite Prison and fifteen days to return. An extra day. Which could be explained by many reasons—weather, problems with the horse, sickness. Except two letters had been sent at different times, and each one took a day longer to return.

As I read through all thirty-six hotshots’ records again, I noted their performance on the locked-up challenge. Eighteen had managed to escape their cells, but not the prison. Six had successfully started a black market inside the prison, bringing in contraband goods to sell. Ten had built complex weapons from the standard items available to prisoners. Only two had escaped the prison.

Flipping through the paperwork, I found the names of the two. Finn and Lamar. Finn had been very modest when he’d said he managed. Lamar’s file noted he had escaped in three days—the fastest in the history of the prison. Finn had taken seven. Interesting.

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