Spy Glass Page 40

After I finished my tasks for the Councilor, I raced home. When I entered the ground floor, I paused. The lantern we kept lit in the glass factory was dark. It was either out of oil or someone had extinguished the flame.

I put my bag and cloak down. Sliding my sais from the holder around my waist, I left them with my cloak and palmed my switchblade. I stepped to the side, keeping my back against the wall. I waited for my eyes to adjust to the semidarkness. Slivers of sunlight cut through the cracks in the boards covering the windows.

As I strained to hear any sounds over the hum of the kiln, two possible scenarios came to mind if the lantern had been snuffed. One ambusher or more than one. The second possibility jacked up my heart rate.

Remaining with my back to the wall, I moved to the left, stopping after each step to listen. When I reached the corner of the room one of the slivers of light flickered as a shadow passed. Inside or outside? Valek’s voice lectured in my mind—assume the worst. Inside then.

I had no desire to leave the corner, but I could be here all night if I didn’t check the lantern. The out-of-oil scenario hadn’t been dismissed yet. I ghosted along the long wall of the factory. The lantern sat in a stone alcove at the midway point. I reached it.

Before I could check the oil level, the shadow returned, and I dived toward it before it could move. I slammed into a person. Knocking the ambusher down, I pinned the man to the ground. With a move I had practiced a thousand times, I triggered my switchblade and pressed the tip to flesh.

He stopped struggling in an instant.

“Talk or die,” I ordered.

He laughed.

I groaned and pushed to my feet. “Did I pass your test, Valek?”

“With flying colors. I especially liked your ultimatum,” he said.

“Is this a new twist to our training? Am I going to have to be on guard all the time?”

“You should be on guard all the time, regardless.” He lit the lantern. The yellow glow illuminated his amusement. “Practice and repetition sharpen your reflexes to a point where you move without thinking. However, the element of fear is hard to replicate during training. Which is why I make you pick locks on real houses with the occupants sleeping inside and why I will test you from time to time.”

“Wonderful,” I muttered.

I collected my satchel and cloak and followed him upstairs. When he pulled a chair up to the table full of blueprints, I remembered my epiphany.

Feeling smug, I withdrew the form and slapped it down in front of him. “Here’s our way into Wirral.”

He scanned the page. “Well done.”

“Was it a test, too? Pretending it was impossible?”

“No. It had been impossible for you to get inside the prison.” He paused.

I took the bait. “Me? But not you?”

“Correct. I can get inside without donning a disguise or doing any of those other tricks. You would need a few more years of experience and training to do the same.”

“Years?” My future life flashed before me—creeping around in the dark, being away from my family and friends—not appealing.

“Yes. And you’ve been assessing the mission under a false assumption. One I hesitated to correct you about.”

I braced for his revelation. “Go on.”

“I’m not going with you. This is your mission, not mine.”

Two seasons ago, I would have been terrified by his statement. Instead, only a nauseous anxiety swirled. I pointed to the form on the table. “What if I get caught?”

“Mission over. You’ll have to deal with the con sequences.”

Meaning no rescue. More than enough incentive to avoid capture. I tapped the paper. “I don’t have the resources to forge that document or the men to—”

“My people will assist you. Just because you’re going in alone, doesn’t mean I’m not still helping.” He smiled.

My muscles relaxed and I sagged into a chair.

Valek drummed his fingers on the table as he considered. “Will you be able to handle the role? You’ve had some awful experiences.”

“I can do it.” I assured him and myself. I had to do it. No other options remained.

“Good. You have completed the first level of spy training.” He pulled a small box from his pocket and handed it to me. “Go on, open it.”

Unwrapping the package with care, I half expected the contents to be another one of his tests. Nestled inside the box was a black cylinder. It was only a few inches long and as round as a coin. A glass ball filled one end and the other was hollow and had a slight lip.

Seeing my confusion, Valek plucked the object from my hand and pulled on the lip. The cylinder extended into a foot-long tube.

“It’s a spyglass.” He held the hollow end up to his right eye and closed the other eye. “It brings distant objects closer.” Valek gave it back to me. “Consider it a graduation present.”

I pointed the glass at a lantern and squinted through the tube. “Incredible. Thanks.” I lowered the gift. “Do you give these to all your students?”

“No. Each person is unique. I enjoy finding something that matches each one’s personality.”

“And how does a spyglass fit me?”

“You’re living in the present. It’s a reminder that you can see the future if you just point the glass in the right direction.”

During the next five days, I checked off my to-do list. Councilor Moon hired a new assistant and I trained her. I submitted the forged paperwork. And after one of our morning training sessions, I told Nic and Eve I would be traveling to Hubal for a few weeks. No surprise Nic grumped at me, and when it was time for them to report to work, I touched Eve’s sleeve and asked her to stay behind as the other guards went inside.

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