Twitch, and Mira escape Skyport when the legion came looking for Mira. By issuing a command in code, he had his men slow down the legionnaires while Cole and his friends got away. But if pressed, Cole figured Adam would call him a runaway in order to keep up appearances. âWhy do you care?â
Ansel turned his head and spat. âHave we been introduced? Slaves are my trade, Scarecrow. Iâd turn in a runaway on principle, especially one I sold, and thatâs ignoring the reward.â
Cole knew he could end this conversation. He just needed to take off across the rooftops. But he didnât relish the idea of Ansel scouring the town for him. If his fellow slavers were also in town, it could end up causing serious trouble. And what about Dalton and Jenna?
Should he show Ansel the freemark? Would that evidence satisfy him? At this distance, Ansel might assume it was a trick. Even if the slaver could examine the legitimacy of the mark, the impossible change might only heighten his interest.
Cole bit his lip. No matter what else he tried, he needed to fish for information about the other slaves. This man might have all the answers he needed!
âWhat about my friends?â Cole asked. âDo you know where they ended up?â
âWe sold the lot of them,â Ansel said. âAre you still trying to rescue them? I can sometimes admire stubbornness. But not stupidity.â
âDo you know where they went?â
âAll the deals go through me,â he said.
âOne of my friends is named Dalton. You remember him?â
âYou showed special interest in Dalton and another called Jenna,â Ansel said. âThey both went to Junction. That was temporary. Theyâre long gone. Theyâve been sent out across the five kingdoms by now.â
Cole heard a creak behind him. Whirling, he saw a balding, beefy slaver coming up to the roof through a hatch. It was Ham, who had greeted him in the basement spook alley back in Arizona.
For a moment, Cole stood frozen with surprise. If not for the faint sound of the hatch opening, he would have been blindsided and captured. Glowering, Ham rushed toward Cole. Pointing his sword to the roof across the alley, Cole gave the command and leaped across. The slaver dashed to the edge of the building, then eyed the gap, as if considering a jump.
âSend him away or Iâm gone!â Cole called, ready to make a longer leap.
âCome back down, Ham,â Ansel growled.
Ham retreated and disappeared down the hatch.
âNow I see why you were so talkative,â Cole said.
âI do what I can,â Ansel said. âMight as well come down too, Scarecrow. That sword may let you fly, but once Iâm on your trail, itâs only a matter of time.â
âDonât bother,â Cole said. âIâm free.â He showed Ansel the back of his hand.
Ansel frowned up at him for a long moment. Reaching into his satchel, he withdrew a spyglass. He held it up to an eye, focused briefly, then lowered it. âThat looks pretty good from here. Howâd you manage it?â
âI told you, Adam Jones freed me. He had some guy he knew change the mark. Thatâs why I donât have papers.â Though bending the truth, Cole was trying not to stray too far from what actually happened.
âWhat guy?â Ansel challenged. âIâve heard of some needle masters adjusting bondmarks after slaves are set free. But nobody can erase one and replace it with a freemark.â
âThis guy could,â Cole said.
âWhy would Adam Jones do a thing like that for a new slave?â
âI saved some lives, including his.â This wasnât exactly true either, but Cole was trying to stay in the same neighborhood as the truth. After all, he had saved Mira.
âYouâre a liar,â Ansel said. âThereâs a lot more to this story.â
âIâm free,â Cole said. âLeave me alone, or
Marc Gascoigne, Christian Dunn (ed) - (ebook by Undead)