I don't feel like sticking around Jet's place, even for a free meal. I need some time to think about what I found under the olive oil warehouse. And what I remembered about the Hall of Law. And to decide what to do about each of them.
As I walk away from the hideout, I hear the rickety entrance door open and shut behind me. I turn, annoyed, thinking it's going to be Triel or maybe Falas wanting to follow me around again. I'm wrong. It's Enturi. Guess the pretty boy doesn't feel like hanging around either. Probably figures he's done enough bootlicking for the day. Then again, he never seems to get tired of it.
Whatever. I have more troubling things on my mind than him. I keep moving.
"Arq?" He calls out after me.
"Ugh," I snarl in irritation, my voice rising. "What is it?"
"Sounds like you had a busy night last night," he says, catching up to me and matching my pace.
"So you saw Bolin after he was killed?"
He is silent for a moment. When he speaks, it is not what I expect.
"I'm sorry he was killed. He seemed like a good dwarf - a good person."
Enturi's an idiot. Bolin wasn't a good person. He was a child-killer. A sick and greedy monster hidden beneath a disguise of naiveté and prolixity. I guess that makes me an idiot too, though, because he seemed decent enough to me too. Until I learned better.
"Yeah, well, he's dead now," I mumble.
Enturi stops walking.
"Arq?" Something in his voice makes me stop walking as well. I turn around. He looks at me searchingly.
"Last night, at Bolin's workshop," he says, watching me very closely. "Was there . . . ?" He pauses again. He's having trouble spitting it out. But I know where he's going with this.
"Did you . . . ?"
"Kill Bolin?" I reply. "No. Did you?"
He stares at me, shocked.
"What? Why would I-?" he asks, flustered for a moment, before regaining his composure. "No. No, Arq. I did not kill Bolin." He shakes his head. "That's not what I was going to ask you."
"Fine," I say. "So what were you going to ask me?"
The pretty boy licks his lips. "I was just wondering whether you saw anything in Bolin's workshop that might indicate who killed him?"
I roll my eyes.
"Did you miss the part about me being framed?" I snarl. "The only clues left in Bolin's workshop pointed right at me. A sickle stuck in Bolin's brain, exactly the way I do it. My cuirass on the worktable. Slime, even a stinking witness, since Triel walked in as I was bending over Bolin's corpse. Once I cleared out those false clues, there was nothing left."
"Nothing unusual or that didn't seem right?"
Damn it. Enturi's got me back in investigation mode. I go over the workshop again in my mind.
"Hmmmmmm . . . "
"What is it?"
"Well," I say. "It doesn't really point to anyone in particular as the murderer, but you've seen me kill with my sickle that way. It's a tricky execution method. I have to be right in front of the victim, who has to be restrained or surprised. It's an easy attack to block or deflect if the victim is on his guard."
I can see him recalling the times he has seen me do that. "You're right," he says slowly.
"Bolin wasn't bound," I tell him. "But he sure as hell looked surprised. So he wasn't on his guard."
"That's suggestive," Enturi says. He ponders this information, getting that distant look he gets when he's thinking, like he's looking right through me. After a few moments, his focus turns outward again and he gives me the same worried, serious expression he had when I walked into the map room earlier.
"I'm glad you got there in time to undo the set-up, Arq," he says softly. "Jet would have killed you for sure, and Bolin's murder would probably have started a ward boss war." He smirks. "And I would have lost my best partner."
He reaches out his hand toward me. I remember his trick with the half-ogre in Jeamo's studio. A magic touch of fear.
"Stop," I tell him. "Keep your hands away from me."
He lowers his arm. For a moment, he looks hurt. Then he sneers.
"Relax, Arq. No harm meant." He turns away, and then turns back to me again.
"I was just going to say that next time you have some half-baked idea to steal magic runes or get into goddess knows what else, if you need some backup, let me know."
"Why? So you can run off to Jet and take all the credit if it goes well or blame me if it blows up? No thanks."
He laughs. "Fair enough. See you in a couple days, two-blade." He turns and walks away down the alley.
I stare after him for a moment. What the slime was that all about? Ugh, who knows? I need to get some food. And then some more sleep.
hmm, so Bolin seemed surprised when he died. That could mean that the person who did it might've been someone he trusted or knew and wouldn't expect to kill him. Maybe it was Lynae? She could hop the wall, kill him, go back to jets, drink something that makes herself sick, then ask for Jet to get Bolin to cure her which would be perfect to frame Arq
As an enforcer for Jet, a petty elven crime boss, Arq has it better than most in Elftown, the prisoner of war slum of a human city. It's violent work, but it provides him with a little more money than he needs to survive, a little status, and a little free time.
When a prostitute under Jet's protection is brutally murdered, Jet sends Arq and a team of enforcers - including his creepy, ambitious rival; Jet's dangerously alluring girlfriend; and a chatty dwarf-of-all-trades - to find the killer and make an example of him. But when they uncover the dark reason for the murder, the delicate balance of power in Elftown begins to crumble.
To avenge a friend's murder, Arq must contend with betrayal, warring crime bosses, deadly monsters, underworld plots, and forbidden magic that, if discovered by the humans, will send a red tide of death through Elftown. His greatest challenges, though, will be grappling with his own bitter, violent nature, and trying to figure out what it means to be an elf in a place where the humans have taken away everything that makes life worth living for elvenkind.
Author: A. Harris Lanning
Cover Art: Xavier Ward