Jesper stared at the gun with stunned, furious eyes. “Bolliger searched him. He … Oh, Big Bol, you idiot,” he groaned.
Inej couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The guard in her arms released a tiny squeak. In her anger and surprise, she’d accidentally tightened her grip. “Relax,” she said, easing her hold. But, all Saints, she wanted to put a knife through something. Big Bolliger had been the one to pat down Geels. There was no way he could have missed the pistol. He’d betrayed them.
Was that why Kaz had insisted on bringing Big Bolliger here tonight—so he’d have public confirmation that Bolliger had gone over to the Black Tips? It was certainly why he’d let Holst put a bullet in Bolliger’s gut. But so what? Now everyone knew Big Bol was a traitor. Kaz still had a gun pointed at his chest.
Geels smirked. “Kaz Brekker, the great escape artist. How are you going to wriggle your way out of this one?”
“Going out the same way I came in.” Kaz ignored the pistol, turning his attention to the big man lying on the ground. “Do you know what your problem is, Bolliger?” He jabbed at the wound in Big Bol’s stomach with the tip of his cane. “That wasn’t a rhetorical question. Do you know what your biggest problem is?”
Bolliger mewled. “Noooo…”
“Give me a guess,” Kaz hissed.
Big Bol said nothing, just released another trembling whimper.
“All right, I’ll tell you. You’re lazy. I know it. Everyone knows it. So I had to ask myself why my laziest bouncer was getting up early twice a week to walk two extra miles to Cilla’s Fry for breakfast, especially when the eggs are so much better at the Kooperom. Big Bol becomes an early riser, the Black Tips start throwing their weight around Fifth Harbor and then intercept our biggest shipment of jurda. It wasn’t a tough connection to make.” He sighed and said to Geels, “This is what happens when stupid people start making big plans, ja?”
“Doesn’t matter much now, does it?” replied Geels. “This gets ugly, I’m shooting from close range. Maybe your guards get me or my guys, but no way you’re going to dodge this bullet.”
Kaz stepped into the barrel of the gun so that it was pressed directly against his chest. “No way at all, Geels.”
“You think I won’t do it?”
“Oh, I think you’d do it gladly, with a song in your black heart. But you won’t. Not tonight.”
Geels’ finger twitched on the trigger.
“Kaz,” Jesper said. “This whole ‘shoot me’ thing is starting to concern me.”
Oomen didn’t bother to object to Jesper mouthing off this time. One man was down. Neutral territory had been violated. The sharp tang of gunpowder already hung in the air—and along with it a question, unspoken in the quiet, as if the Reaper himself awaited the answer: How much blood will be shed tonight?
In the distance a siren wailed.
“Nineteen Burstraat,” Kaz said.
Geels had been shifting slightly from foot to foot; now he went very still.
“That’s your girl’s address, isn’t it, Geels?”
Geels swallowed. “Don’t have a girl.”
“Oh yes, you do,” crooned Kaz. “She’s pretty, too. Well, pretty enough for a fink like you. Seems sweet. You love her, don’t you?” Even from the rooftop, Inej could see the sheen of sweat on Geels’ waxen face. “Of course you do. No one that fine should ever have looked twice at Barrel scum like you, but she’s different. She finds you charming. Sure sign of madness if you ask me, but love is strange that way. Does she like to rest her pretty head on your shoulder? Listen to you talk about your day?”
Geels looked at Kaz as if he was finally seeing him for the first time. The boy he’d been talking to had been cocky, reckless, easily amused, but not frightening—not really. Now the monster was here, dead-eyed and unafraid. Kaz Brekker was gone, and Dirtyhands had come to see the rough work done.
“She lives at Nineteen Burstraat,” Kaz said in his gravelly rasp. “Three floors up, geraniums in the window boxes. There are two Dregs waiting outside her door right now, and if I don’t walk out of here whole and feeling righteous, they will set that place alight from floor to rooftop. It will go up in seconds, burning from both ends with poor Elise trapped in the middle. Her blond hair will catch first. Like the wick of a candle.”
“You’re bluffing,” said Geels, but his pistol hand was trembling.
Kaz lifted his head and inhaled deeply. “Getting late now. You heard the siren. I smell the harbor on the wind, sea and salt, and maybe—is that smoke I smell, too?” There was pleasure in his voice.
Oh, Saints, Kaz, Inej thought miserably. What have you done now?