Deliverance Page 49

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“If you want to kill him, why not just run him through with your sword?”

I meet his gaze. “Because some crimes deserve more than that.”

I’m speaking the language of pain atonement, and it works. He steps back, though he doesn’t completely lower his sword.

“You’re telling me the truth,” he says.

“Yes.”

“That’s a dilemma.” He motions with his sword for me to stand.

I get to my feet and assess the distance between him and Jodi, still crouched near the edge of the building. “Where’s the dilemma?”

“Pick up your sword.”

“Why?”

“Pick up. Your. Sword.”

Slowly, I lean down and pick up my weapon, though I don’t raise it toward him. I want him off guard for as long as possible. He opens his stance, but I remain still.

“The dilemma is this: You’re telling the truth about who you are and about wanting the Commander dead. But you were caught stealing from Rowansmark. I can’t let that go.”

“That’s unfortunate.” I slowly shift my weight to my right leg.

“If you return the stolen property to me, I’ll deliver your punishment, but I will spare the girl.” He glances behind him at Jodi, who huddles on the ground as if too terrified to move.

I speak quickly to get his focus back on me. “You’ll kill me over a few stolen transmitters?”

“Not kill.” He looks at me. “Punish. You’re tough. You’ll survive it.”

I swipe blood off my cheek. Jodi meets my eyes and then glances meaningfully at the back of Sharpe’s legs. I nod as if I’m agreeing with Sharpe, and turn as if to reach into my cloak for the other transmitters.

“You can have them,” I say.

His stance relaxes slightly, and his sword lowers a fraction.

Jodi lunges toward the back of Sharpe’s knees, and I snap my leg up. My boot finds his chin just as Jodi slams into him. His knees crumple, and my kick sends him flying over Jodi’s back. Sharpe hits the stone, skids backward for a few inches, and then goes sailing over the side of the building.

Jodi and I run to the edge of the roof in time to hear a thick, wet splat as Sharpe hits the bricks three stories below us. He lies sprawled in the moonlight, his legs at an unnatural angle, his eyes staring at nothing.

Seconds later, we hear the high-pitched whine of his internal trigger, and he explodes in a cloud of blood and bone.

“Disgusting,” Jodi says as the bloody mist that used to be Sharpe floats through the air, darkening the pool of golden light beneath the closest gas lamp.

I whip my cloak off, find the tiny transmitter stuck on the neckline, and rip it free. Crushing it beneath my heel in case any other trackers in the city are also homing in on the signal, I follow Jodi onto the next rooftop and concentrate on getting the rest of the beacons disabled before dawn.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

RACHEL

Darkness hides the shoreline as we sail down the river. The smells of damp bark and night-blooming jasmine drift through the air, and the occasional owl swoops across the starlit sky. Samuel has long since disappeared inside one of the doors on the lower deck. Occasionally, one of the trackers on the upper deck paces in his small compartment or leans out over the railing to look at me, but I haven’t seen another person on the lower deck in hours.

I’ve sat against the side of the boat listening to the paddle wheel churn through the water and thinking about Quinn hiding somewhere on the boat, determined not to let me face Rowansmark alone. About Logan heading straight for Rowansmark to ransom me with the stolen tech with no idea that the trap he’s facing—the tech that can call an entire army of the tanniyn—is worse than anything he’d even think to plan for.

And about how Samuel and Heidi were helping Ian all along. Carrying his supplies. Covering his tracks. Sanctioning his violence against the people I love.

I want to hurt them. To send the message that they can’t treat innocent lives like collateral damage. I want to, but if I do anything to jeopardize my ability to get inside Rowansmark, Logan will die. I can’t start trouble on this boat.

But if trouble finds me anyway, I can certainly be ready to finish it.

There are supplies on the boat. Food. Clean drinking water. Medicine. Weapons. Maybe Rowansmark tech. I might not intuitively understand tech like Logan does, but I bet if I press enough buttons, I can figure it out.

Quinn and I will find food and water after we escape the trackers. In the meantime, I need a weapon to replace the knife I lost in the river. Something big enough to do some damage, but small enough to conceal on my body. I need medicine, too. My arm, swollen and hot, still itches in a painful, throbbing way that makes it hard to think straight. I can’t stand to scratch it. I can’t stand not to. Blood runs down my hand in a slow, faltering stream. My throat is starting to ache fiercely like it did the time I got the flu so badly that Dad put off one of his trips to Schoensville because he didn’t want to leave my side.

I swallow hard, grateful that the ginger Samuel gave me seems to have finally settled my stomach, and force myself to think about something other than my arm.

At this speed, we should reach Rowansmark sometime tomorrow. I have to be ready to escape my keepers and disappear into the city. To do that, I need to raid the boat for supplies, both for Quinn and for myself.

I listen for another moment, but only the creak of the boat’s lower deck and the distant slap of the water against the shoreline meet my ears. Slowly, taking care not to bump my right arm against anything, I get to my feet. Then I move down the lower deck until I reach the first door.

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