Con & conjure, p.37
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       Con & Conjure, p.37

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 37


  “Rache doesn’t ‘work for’ anyone,” I told her. “He’s only ‘paid by. ’ No one can buy Rache’s loyalty, if he even has any. And if Balmorlan had paid him to grab me, he would have tried in the Satyr’s Grove. He didn’t grab; he ran. ” I turned to Mychael. “The man who took a shot at you wasn’t Rache Kai. ” I gave him the short version of our go-getter, glamouring assassin.

  “He gets close to his marks by glamouring as anyone he wants,” I said. “This time I won’t be tracking someone who looks like Rache; I’ll be tracking the real Rache. ”

  Mychael looked at me in silence for a long moment. “Won’t the traces of Rache on that crossbow bolt be too old to use?”

  “They would,” I agreed. “Which is why I’ll be using this. ” I grinned and held up the glove. “A man who has to jump out of a cathouse window always forgets something. ”

  No one liked what I was going to do, and that went double for me, but I didn’t have any choice if I wanted to know that assassin’s name—and get a chance to talk Rache into taking his toys and going home.

  Vegard would be going with me along with two other Guardians who I knew and Mychael trusted. No goblins. I didn’t have a problem with any of Imala’s people, but Imala’s people had a bigger problem with Rache Kai than the Guardians did. He’d shot their prince once, and it was their job to keep Rache from shooting him again. The goblin secret service took great pride in doing a thorough job, and in this case that would mean thoroughly killing Rache Kai.

  Though they needed to know the assassin’s name as much as I did, and instead of asking Rache nicely, they’d opt for torture. The only thing I could see torture accomplishing with Rache would be pissing him off. Pissed did not equate with cooperative.

  Mago said he had some things to take care of. I knew that meant finding another way to tighten the screws on Taltek Balmorlan, so I was all in favor of Mago’s continued clandestine activities. My job was to neutralize two assassins. Mago’s job was to neutralize two crooked elves. I wasn’t sure whose job was the most impossible, or at least improbable, but mine would get me deader quicker.

  Though right now, I had something almost as challenging as getting an assassin’s name out of Rache Kai—getting the scowl off of Vegard’s face. Though with the dandy beard he still sported from his turn as Marc the Waiter, Vegard’s scowls had lost a lot of their impact. I had no intention of mentioning the beard. No doubt some of his Guardian brothers had done it, and Vegard had no doubt made them regret it.

  “It couldn’t be helped,” I told him for what felt like the umpteenth time.

  “I know it couldn’t, ma’am, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. ”

  “I know, I know. You were worried sick. ”

  “And awake. I haven’t slept in two bloody days. ”

  “If you’re going with me, you’ll be awake for at least one more. ”

  “As long as I get to do something besides look for you all over the city, I’ll take it. ”

  “The way my luck’s been running, that’s guaranteed. ”

  “Will you be going out as that banker fellow?”

  I chuckled and shook my head. “I think I’ve gotten the real Symon Wiggs in enough trouble. I have to find Rache, and I don’t have time to screw up. ”


  I grinned. “Have you ever met Rache Kai in person?”

  “No, ma’am. ”

  My grin got bigger. “You’re about to. For an assassin, the best way to find your quarry is to think exactly like them. The same works for seeking. I know Rache. ”

  “Reportedly very well. ”

  “Yeah, that’s something I like to forget; but for now, it’s a good thing. Not only do I know him, but while glamoured as him, I’ll be able to pick up nuances I wouldn’t normally get, such as where the real Rache is. Like calls to like. Combine all of that with his glove—and my determination to find the bastard—how can I fail?”

  What I didn’t tell Vegard was what safer way to repel every lowlife on Mid than to glamour myself as one of the world’s best assassins? Of course I’d have to hide my face most of the time. The last thing I needed was to get arrested for being someone else. I could get locked up just fine by being myself.

  Vegard had come to the goblin embassy with Mychael wearing his Guardian uniform. He wouldn’t be leaving that way. When Imala came to Mid, she had brought plenty of her agents with her. And with secret service agents came disguises. A table in my room was covered in just about anything Vegard might need to go from upstanding Guardian to a disreputable thug about town. I’d originally thought to go with the deadly look, but we didn’t want to get ourselves arrested before we even got to do anything to deserve it. That would more than suck.

  My Saghred-fueled glamours were correct in every way—including some of their thoughts. I just needed a solid image in my head to do one. Rache Kai had been my first lover. I literally knew every square inch of him.

  Within moments, all of those square inches were looking back at me out of the mirror—and yes, it was a specially warded mirror. Guaranteed not to spew demons. I resisted the urge to smash it to bits anyway.

  Vegard stepped up behind me. “So this is him. ”

  “Yep. ”

  I could see Vegard’s reflection in the mirror. Tan leather, embroidered linen, and with a fur mantle thrown in for good measure. Just your typical Myloran raider looking for a good time. I shook my head and smiled. “You look good being bad. ”

  He gave me a roguish smile. “That’s what the ladies tell me, ma’am. ”

  “Once I get clear of the embassy wards, I’ll need to find a quiet place to zero in on Rache,” I said. “When we have it, do you have a man to send to Mychael with our location?”

  “He’s standing by. ”

  “Good. When a Benares is about to do something definitely stupid and possibly fatal, it’s smart to let someone know where to collect your body. ”

  Vegard just stared at me. “That’s a joke, right?”

  “Let’s hope so. ”

  Tam took us out through a tunnel that ran under the embassy, under the building behind it, opening out onto a small side street, conveniently empty. Vegard may not have been in a Guardian uniform, but he was packing his favorite Guardian weapon—his double-headed battle axe. It was in its sling over his shoulder, the leather-wrapped grip within easy reach over his left shoulder.

  “This is as good a place as any for you to locate the bastard,” Tam said.

  “Bastard? I thought you said you never met Rache. ”

  “I haven’t. He hurt you, he’s hunting Chigaru, therefore he’s a bastard. The goblin language has much more accurate terms, but that one will do for now. ”

  “Do you mean jak’aprit?” Vegard asked helpfully.

  Tam inhaled with intense satisfaction. “The very word. Well done, Vegard. ”

  The big Guardian grinned. “I believe in knowing how to insult a man in every language. ”

  “A fine talent to have. ”

  Tam went back into the embassy, though not of his own choice. I was still borderline exhausted, so maintaining Rache’s glamour was enough of a challenge, but add a seeking to that and the least magical interference I got, the better. Tam knew how critical it was to get to my destination, get that name, then get the hell out. All quickly.

  Vegard was standing farther back in the tunnel to ensure that his magic didn’t interfere, either. I leaned against the wall at the tunnel entrance, pulled on Rache’s glove, and put all of my focus on the leather encasing my hand. The leather was soft and supple with a snug fit for each finger, especially Rache’s trigger finger. Sewn into the leather at the knuckles was a nice layer of metal. I made a fist and the metal pressed against my knuckles in a perfect fit. Oh yeah, I liked that.

  I didn’t force the contact, but rather let it come to me. Concentrating too hard would just make me even more
tired than I already was. I was willing to sacrifice a few minutes for that.

  The connection came in clear and strong. Rache wasn’t that far away. He was standing at a bar with two glasses in front of him: one empty, one halfway there. That was more than a little concerning. Rache didn’t drink while working. Sorrows to drown? Or his competition? In that case those drinks might be celebratory.

  Only one way to find out. Go and ask the man.

  Finding Rache was easy. It was like he wanted me to find him.

  Sometimes easy wasn’t good. I’d learned through experience to be wary of easy.

  Now that Rache was less than a dozen feet away from me, keeping my hands from around his throat was going to be a challenge, if not damned near impossible.

  He was sitting on a stool at the far end of the bar. There was a door at his back, probably a storage room. Rache wouldn’t be sitting next to a doorway unless it led quickly to the outside and a dark alley. You’d think assassins would prefer to sit in a shadowy booth. Many might, but Rache had never been one of the many. If anyone was to walk through the front door of that bar with violent intentions, Rache liked to have plenty of room to play. He wasn’t shy about making a scene—or a mess. A little bag of gold tossed on the bar went a long way toward mollifying any barkeep’s annoyance at having to mop blood off the floor, or toss a body out his back door.

  I pulled the brim of my hat a little lower over my eyes and stepped inside. There were six other men in the small bar. It was connected by an open double doorway to a tavern that wasn’t rowdy yet, but sounded like it would be soon. Here in the little bar, one of the men was facedown on a table, muttering to himself. The smell and empty bottle in front of him testament that this wasn’t his first stop of the evening, just the place where he happened to pass out. Three men were huddled over drinks in the aforementioned shadowy booth. Four empty bottles shared the space with them. They were armed, but with that much liquor in them, the worst trouble they’d cause would be falling over their own feet trying to stand up. And the fact that the bottles were still there said that customer service wasn’t the barkeep’s strong suit. He was human, thick-armed, with hard eyes. He gave me a terse nod, and I returned the gesture. The two others sitting at the other end of the bar were more interesting. They sat perched on the edges of their stools so that their swords hung loosely from their belts, no obstacles to making a quick and clean draw. Foam-topped tankards of ale sat in front of them. These boys didn’t appear to be thirsty. Either that or they were disciplined. In a place like this, both could mean trouble waiting for the signal to happen. They turned their heads when I came in, sized me up, and turned back to their ales and quiet talk, sitting up a little straighter than before.
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