“Damn it!” shouted Jesper, dropping to one knee beside Bolliger and pressing his hand to the bullet wound as the big man moaned. “You worthless podge!” he yelled at Geels. “You just violated neutral territory.”
“Nothing to say you didn’t shoot first,” Geels replied. “And who’s going to know? None of you are walking out of here.”
Geels’ voice sounded too high. He was trying to maintain his composure, but Inej could hear panic pulsing against his words, the startled wing beat of a frightened bird. Why? Moments before he’d been all bluster.
That was when Inej saw Kaz still hadn’t moved. “You don’t look well, Geels.”
“I’m just fine,” he said. But he wasn’t. He looked pale and shaky. His eyes were darting right and left as if searching the shadowed walkway of the roof.
“Are you?” Kaz asked conversationally. “Things aren’t going quite as planned, are they?”
“Kaz,” Jesper said. “Bolliger’s bleeding bad—”
“Good,” Kaz said ignoring him.
“Kaz, he needs a medik!”
Kaz spared the wounded man the barest glance. “What he needs to do is stop his bellyaching and be glad I didn’t have Holst take him down with a head shot.”
Even from above, Inej saw Geels flinch.
“That’s the guard’s name, isn’t it?” Kaz asked. “Willem Holst and Bert Van Daal—the two city guards on duty tonight. The ones you emptied the Black Tips’ coffers to bribe?”
Geels said nothing.
“Willem Holst,” Kaz said loudly, his voice floating up to the roof, “likes to gamble almost as much as Jesper does, so your money held a lot of appeal. But Holst has much bigger problems—let’s call them urges. I won’t go into detail. A secret’s not like coin. It doesn’t keep its value in the spending. You’ll just have to trust me when I say this one would turn even your stomach. Isn’t that right, Holst?”
The response was another gunshot. It struck the cobblestones near Geels’ feet. Geels released a shocked bleat and sprang back.
This time Inej had a better chance to track the origin of the gunfire. The shot had come from somewhere near the west side of the building. If Holst was there, that meant the other guard—Bert Van Daal—would be on the east side. Had Kaz managed to neutralize him, too? Or was he counting on her? She sped over the gables.
“Just shoot him, Holst!” Geels bellowed, head tilted back, desperation sawing at his voice. “Shoot him in the head!”
Kaz snorted in disgust. “Do you really think that secret would die with me? Go on, Holst,” he called. “Put a bullet in my skull. There will be messengers sprinting to your wife and your watch captain’s door before I hit the ground.”
No shot came.
“How?” Geels said bitterly. “How did you even know who would be on duty tonight? I had to pay through the gills to get that roster. You couldn’t have outbid me.”
“Let’s say my currency carries more sway.”
“Money is money.”
“I trade in information, Geels, the things men do when they think no one is looking. Shame holds more value than coin ever can.”
He was grandstanding, Inej saw that, buying her time as she leapt over the slate shingles.
“Are you worrying about the second guard? Good old Bert Van Daal?” Kaz asked. “Maybe he’s up there right now, wondering what he should do. Shoot me? Shoot Holst? Or maybe I got to him, too, and he’s getting ready to blow a hole in your chest, Geels.” He leaned in as if he and Geels were sharing a great secret. “Why not give Van Daal the order and find out?”
Geels opened and closed his mouth like a carp, then bellowed, “Van Daal!”
Just as Van Daal parted his lips to answer, Inej slipped up behind him and placed a blade to his throat. She’d barely had time to pick out his shadow and slide down the roof tiles. Saints, Kaz liked to cut it close.
“Shhhh,” she whispered in Van Daal’s ear. She gave him a tiny jab in the side so that he could feel the point of her second dagger pressed against his kidney.
“Please,” he moaned. “I—”
“I like it when men beg,” she said. “But this isn’t the time for it.”
Below, she could see Geels’ chest rising and falling with panicked breaths. “Van Daal!” he shouted again. There was rage on his face when he turned back to Kaz. “Always one step ahead, aren’t you?”
“Geels, when it comes to you, I’d say I have a running start.”
But Geels just smiled—a tiny smile, tight and satisfied. A victor’s smile, Inej realized with fresh fear.
“The race isn’t over yet.” Geels reached into his jacket and pulled out a heavy black pistol.
“Finally,” Kaz said. “The big reveal. Now Jesper can stop keening over Bolliger like a wet-eyed woman.”