“Ah, no,” Corra answered. “I mean yes, I was, but he’s not, see I have–we have–our own ship now and–”
But Quin had already moved on and was now admiring Finn, looking him up and down as one might examine a slice of meat they were about to purchase from a butcher. “Well aren’t you a tall drink of water,” she cooed affectionately. She brought a hand to his cheek. Finn did not seem perturbed.
“Your face looks familiar. We met before?”
“I’ve known Fiear for years, yeah.”
“No no no, not that.” She patted his face, twice. “It’s somethin’ else. What’d you say your name was?”
“Riley?” she repeated. “That’s right. Riley. I’d know those eyes anywhere.” She turned away and directed herself toward the bar in the corner of the room. “Can’t say I’m too fond of your father, Riley,” she said over her shoulder as she poured herself a refill from a crystal decanter.
Finn grinned. “Can’t say I am either, ma’am.”
Suddenly, Quin froze. “I ain’t no ‘ma’am’,” she said so coldly that Corra thought they were about to be kicked from the room.
But whether it was out of mercy or interest, the storm left as quickly as it had come and Quin gestured to the second sofa. “Get in here, you two. Have a seat. Tell me what I can do for ya.”
Terribly relieved, Corra did as she was told. She sunk into the couch as Quin leaned back on hers gracefully, stirring her drink and not looking at them.
“Well,” Corra began, as confidently as she could, “We were hoping to talk to you about those Society frigates we helped you steal.”
Quin paused her stirring and glanced up at her, raising a brow high on her forehead. “Look, sweetie, those arrangements were signed and sealed. You don’t feel you got your fair share, you take it to Soliveré, not me.”
“No, no it’s not that,” said Corra quickly. “We were just hoping to buy one from you.”
Without missing a beat, Quin asked, “Why?” so sharply, that Corra was taken aback. Unconsciously, she looked to Finn for help. But Quin went on. “You just said you had your own ship. Why you think you need one of mine?”
“Nah, we don’t need it,” said Finn, throwing his arm over the back of the couch. “The thing is — “
“Someone else wants it,” Quin guessed, cutting over him. “Someone else sent you here to buy it for them.”
Finn grinned slowly. “What makes you think that?”
“‘Cause you two been workin’ for Callahan and he’s been tryin’ to get one of those frigates all week,” she said bluntly. Even Finn went quiet with shock.
Quin, however, looked amused. “What? You don’t think I know what goes on in my city? Who’s doin’ business with who?” She sighed and shook her head before taking a sip of her drink. “Got a lot to learn, the both of ya.”
“That, I agree with,” said Finn. “Yeah, we’re here on behalf of Callahan to negotiate for the freighter.”
But she just shook her head. “Already told him I wasn’t interested.”
“But he’s willing to pay,” Corra pleaded. “Really well.”
“I want nothin’ to do with that man’s dirty money,” Quin growled, rolling her eyes.
“There’s something we can do to change your mind.”
“Sure ain’t,” she said shortly.
Corra felt her heart sinking. Every time they got one step forward there was something else standing in their way. But this time, she wasn’t willing to let it go. This time, she was going to fight.
“Please,” she begged suddenly, emotion pouring into her voice. “Please, you may not need his money, but we do. Our crew hasn’t been paid, our rations are running low, and if we can’t make this work, our ship’ll be grounded for good.” Her voice was cracking and she was doing her best to make water form in her eyes as she added, perhaps a little desperately, “He might even kill us if we fail.”
For a long moment, Quin was silent, watching Corra with the fascination of a woman watching an exotic creature she’d never seen before. Seriously? Corra thought, wiping the crocodile tears from her eyes. She was that heartless?
But finally, a smile formed on her face and a chuckle rolled from her throat. “Mighty convincing, sweetheart,” she congratulated. “I woulda left off that lie at the end, but you got some real talent there. Not my style, but it could do ya some good down the road.”
Corra smiled up at her and Finn asked, “Could it do her some good now?”
Quin laughed heartily and reached forward to pour two more drinks. Only when they had each taken theirs and taken a sip did she finally answer, “I like you two. You got spirit. Been a while since I’ve seen any of that around here.” She looked between the two of them and sighed. “Alright. I’ll sell that scumbag his ship.” Corra couldn’t stop the grin spreading over her face.
“But,” Quin added suddenly, “Only if you do me a favor first.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
It was the longest twenty minutes of his life. Fiearius sat beside Leta on the bed as she searched through the tablet in her hands. He’d flashed his Verdant chip to access the Society’s database and then sat back to let her read in privacy. She hadn’t said a word since. Her eyes just scanned the screen diligently, her eyes cold and her body still and slowly he’d become more and more worried of what it was exactly that she had found.
When Leta spoke at last, she sounded positively numb with shock, like moving her lips was an effort.
“Ella May-Adler,” she mumbled, her eyes on the screen. “Age 45. Director of the Department of Biology at Carmen University, Fall’s End, Vescent. Wife to Tritius Adler. Mother of Leta Ella Adler. Deemed a potential liability by the Vescentian Department of Internal Affairs on November 22, 1848. Solution carried out by 2nd Division Agent Cartier November 25, 1848 by way of administering toxic substance … time of death, 10:02 PM.”
Fiearius felt his insides clench. He flicked his eyes at the screen, then up to Leta’s face. Her expression was empty.
“So it’s true. They had her killed.” She seemed frozen. Unmoving. Fiearius gently took the tablet from her hands, setting it out of sight. Then he pulled her hands into his.
“Why?” Her voice was hoarse with tears. “I can’t see why they would hurt her. She was such a good person. A teacher. How could she be a potential liability? I don’t even think she was involved in their politics. Why would they?”
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly, tightening his hold on both of her wrists. Tears slid down her face, her eyes distant and out of focus. He’d never seen Leta look so lost.
“This whole time, I thought … “
Fiearius drew her in just as her face twisted with grief. She sank against his chest, her forehead against his neck while his arms wrapped around her. He pressed his lips into her hairline. He could think of nothing to say – no words seemed worthwhile.
But it was Leta who broke the silence. She lifted her head and spoke hoarsely, but burning with more determination than he’d ever heard.
“We have to get back at them, Fiear.” She shifted in his arms. “We have to.”