Spy Glass Page 71

The best way to navigate the various stores and craftsmen was to hire a Helper’s Guild member. They knew the honest sellers, competent workers and the good deals. Without them, a buyer could be conned out of a lot of money. Hiring them also kept the poor and homeless children fed and clothed. Fisk recruited them to work for him, giving them a place to stay and money to live on.

“Lovely Opal. So nice to see you again,” Fisk said in his new baritone. He held a clipboard in his oversize hands. “How is the boy?”

“About the same.” When I had checked on him, he hadn’t regained consciousness.

“How can I help you?”

I chose my words with care. “I need to find a person who has something of mine.”

“You’ll have to be a little more specific.” Amusement lit his brown eyes.

I explained about Finn and my blood, guessing if Finn had been hired in the Citadel, Fisk might have heard about it.

He tapped his fingers on the board. “An odd request. And I don’t normally deal with people who perform illicit deeds. However, I have a few contacts and can make some inquiries for you.”

“A few contacts?”

“Just in case. I like to be prepared for all customers. Anything else?” Fisk asked.

I couldn’t stay in the guest quarters of the Creepy Keepy much longer. With all the magic there, it suffocated me. Whichever way my future unrolled, I would probably spend at least half the year in the Citadel.

“I need a place to live. Small, private and secure enough I don’t have to worry about it when I’m away. Is that part of your services?” I asked. I had been in the western section of the Citadel where the majority of residences were located. The maze of streets, buildings and courtyards confused me, and the sheer density of them packed together overwhelmed me.

“Of course. For the right price, I can be—”

“A prince. I remember.”

We were interrupted by one of Fisk’s guild members. The young lady stood on tiptoe and leaned close to his ear, whispering to him. Fisk frowned then nodded to her. She dashed away.

His gaze turned speculative. “Opal, do you remember when those fake diamonds flooded the black market last year?”

“Yes.” I had helped find the source.

“Do you know anything about pearls?”

“I know oysters make them, and where they’re harvested.” I suppressed a shudder, recalling the emotionless Bloodrose family. They lived in isolation at the tip of Lion’s Claw Peninsula, exchanging pearls for other supplies. I wondered about the cold glass. Walsh Bloodrose, the clan’s patriarch, was a magician. Perhaps he invented it.

“Could you tell a fake from a real pearl?”

“Not anymore.” Without my magic, I couldn’t determine if those diamonds were real or fake.

“You’re still an artist. You might spot something we missed.”

“Is someone selling fake pearls on the black market?”

“We’re not sure. Pearls are harder to find than most gemstones, except diamonds. But now the market is inundated with them. Even the legitimate jewelry stores are fully stocked.”

“Have you asked Elita? She’s an expert in precious stones.” Plus, she has been very helpful since her part in the diamond incident was revealed.

“She thinks the black market ones are real, but they’re different.”

“In a good or bad way?”

“We’ve no idea. They could be from a new species of oyster and our concerns are for nothing.” He shrugged. “We’ll just have to wait and see if anything develops. In the meantime, Lovely Opal, I will make a few inquiries and find you a castle.”

I spent the remainder of the day visiting my old friend and mentor, Aydan. Working with him in his glass shop had been my lifeline while I had been a student. By the time we had caught up on news and shared a meal, it was late. My footsteps echoed in the empty streets of the Citadel as I returned to the Keep. Even more time had passed than I realized. I reached through my pants pocket, grasping the handle of my switchblade. No real reason to worry as this section of town was patrolled on a regular basis, but Valek had taught me not to trust those illusions of safety.

The night stayed quiet. A block from the Keep, a small furtive movement to my right caught my attention. I spun, pulled my weapon and froze in midyank. A little girl, too young to be out on her own at this time of night, stepped into the lantern light. She reminded me of a wild rabbit. One move and she would dash away.

I waited for her to speak. She scanned the street before she met my gaze. Her large blue eyes held fear and determination. Dirt streaked her face and her corkscrew curls hung past her shoulders in a tangled mess. She held a stuffed dog to her chest as if it were her shield. Perhaps it was. I recognized the pink bow.

“Where’s my brother?” she asked in a strong, no-nonsense tone.

I inclined my head toward the Keep. “In the infirmary.”

She suppressed her horrified gasp with amazing speed. Impressive.

“What did you do to him?” she demanded.

“Nothing. He pulled too much magic and almost died. He’s suffering from exhaustion.”

She cocked her hip and glared at me. “That’s what that helper whore said. I didn’t believe her and I don’t believe you.”

Helper whore? A thousand questions formed in my mind, but I stifled my curiosity. Instead, I challenged her. “Are you calling me a liar?”

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