“Like jurda but sweeter, it—”
Anya inhaled sharply. Her hands seized the table, her pupils dilating enough that her eyes looked nearly black. “Ohhh,” she said, sighing. It was nearly a purr.
The guard tightened his grip on her shoulder.
“How do you feel?”
She stared at the mirror and smiled. Her tongue peeked through her white teeth, stained like rust. Joost felt suddenly cold.
“Just as it was with the Fabrikator,” murmured the merchant.
“Heal the boy,” Hoede commanded.
She waved her hand through the air, the gesture almost dismissive, and the cut on the boy’s arm sealed instantly. The blood lifted briefly from his skin in droplets of red then vanished. His skin looked perfectly smooth, all trace of blood or redness gone. The boy beamed. “That was definitely magic.”
“It feels like magic,” Anya said with that same eerie smile.
“She didn’t touch him,” marveled the captain.
“Anya,” said Hoede. “Listen closely. We’re going to tell the guard to perform the next test now.”
“Mmm,” hummed Anya.
“Sergeant,” said Hoede. “Cut off the boy’s thumb.”
The boy howled and started to cry again. He shoved his hands beneath his legs to protect them.
I should stop this, Joost thought. I should find a way to protect her, both of them. But what then? He was a nobody, new to the stadwatch, new to this house. Besides, he discovered in a burst of shame, I want to keep my job.
Anya merely smiled and tipped her head back so she was looking at the sergeant. “Shoot the glass.”
“What did she say?” asked the merchant.
“Sergeant!” the captain barked out.
“Shoot the glass,” Anya repeated. The sergeant’s face went slack. He cocked his head to one side as if listening to a distant melody, then unslung his rifle and aimed at the observation window.
“Get down!” someone yelled.
Joost threw himself to the ground, covering his head as the rapid hammer of gunfire filled his ears and bits of glass rained down on his hands and back. His thoughts were a panicked clamor. His mind tried to deny it, but he knew what he’d just seen. Anya had commanded the sergeant to shoot the glass. She’d made him do it. But that couldn’t be. Grisha Corporalki specialized in the human body. They could stop your heart, slow your breathing, snap your bones. They couldn’t get inside your head.
For a moment there was silence. Then Joost was on his feet with everyone else, reaching for his rifle. Hoede and the captain shouted at the same time.
“Do you know how much money she’s worth?” Hoede retorted. “Someone restrain her! Do not shoot!”
Anya raised her hands, red sleeves spread wide. “Wait,” she said.
Joost’s panic vanished. He knew he’d been frightened, but his fear was a distant thing. He was filled with expectation. He wasn’t sure what was coming, or when, only that it would arrive and that it was essential he be ready to meet it. It might be bad or good. He didn’t really care. His heart was free of worry and desire. He longed for nothing, wanted for nothing, his mind silent, his breath steady. He only needed to wait.
He saw Anya rise and pick up the little boy. He heard her crooning tenderly to him, some Ravkan lullaby.
“Open the door and come in, Hoede,” she said. Joost heard the words, understood them, forgot them.
Hoede walked to the door and slid the bolt free. He entered the steel cell.
“Do as you’re told, and this will be over quickly, ja?” Anya murmured with a smile. Her eyes were black and bottomless pools. Her skin was alight, glowing, incandescent. A thought flickered through Joost’s mind—beautiful as the moon.
Anya shifted the boy’s weight in her arms. “Don’t look,” she murmured against his hair. “Now,” she said to Hoede. “Pick up the knife.”
Kaz Brekker didn’t need a reason. Those were the words whispered on the streets of Ketterdam, in the taverns and coffeehouses, in the dark and bleeding alleys of the pleasure district known as the Barrel. The boy they called Dirtyhands didn’t need a reason any more than he needed permission—to break a leg, sever an alliance, or change a man’s fortunes with the turn of a card.
Of course they were wrong, Inej considered as she crossed the bridge over the black waters of the Beurskanal to the deserted main square that fronted the Exchange. Every act of violence was deliberate, and every favor came with enough strings attached to stage a puppet show. Kaz always had his reasons. Inej could just never be sure they were good ones. Especially tonight.