Free Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson

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Authors: D. B. Jackson
and so did anyone else who … comes from a family like ours. Even if you don’t respect this church you should be fearful enough for your own life to keep your blade in its sheath and your blood in your veins.”
    “Unless you believe that Mister Caner and Mister Troutbeck are conjurers, I really don’t think I have much to fear on that account. Anyone saying that he felt my spell would be declaring himself a conjurer as well.”
    Bett frowned. Clearly this hadn’t occurred to her. She had spent too many years pretending that she didn’t have spellmaking abilities.
    “Well, then,” she said, drawing herself up. “If you don’t care about yourself, and you won’t respect this church, then I have no choice. I’ll reveal you as a witch myself. I’ll tell Mister Troutbeck exactly what you were attempting to do.”
    “Even if it means that you also will be revealed as … as a witch?”
    “I’ll tell him that our mother was a witch, and that she lured you to her ways. Mister Troutbeck knows that I’m a pious woman. And Geoffrey will vouch for me. He’s as well respected as any man in Boston.”
    Ethan had always thought that Bett’s husband was a prig and an ass. But he was also a fairly well-placed British customs official, and that probably counted for something among those in Bett’s congregation.
    “Fine, Bett.” He sheathed his knife and began to roll down his sleeve. “It’s been a pleasure seeing you as always.”
    She looked disappointed, as if she hadn’t expected him to give up so easily. “You’re sure that a conjuring killed her?”
    He threw his hands wide. “I don’t know how many different ways to say it! Yes, she was murdered with a spell! I don’t know what kind or who cast it, but a conjurer killed her.”
    “And you’ve been hired to find her killer? I didn’t know you did that.” She said it without any trace of malice, which surprised him.
    “Actually, I don’t,” he said, lowering his voice. “I recover stolen property, and that’s what I’m doing here. Something was taken from her, presumably after she was killed. Berson hired me to find it, no doubt hoping that I’ll also find the person who killed her.”
    She said nothing.
    Ethan finished rolling down his sleeve and reached for his waistcoat. “Good-bye, Bett,” he said, starting toward the stairway.
    He stopped, sighed. His sister still faced the stone table, her back to him.
    “Was your spell really stronger here?”
    Ethan nodded, then realizing that she wasn’t looking at him, said, “I don’t know. It felt stronger. Would that really be so surprising?”
    She glanced back at him, her expression dark. “Of course it would.”
    “Why? If I could paint like Copley or work silver like Revere, you would tell me that my talent was a gift from God. Why is this any different?”
    Ethan wasn’t sure he had ever seen her more offended. “Don’t you dare claim your … your black art as a gift from the Lord!” she said, her voice trembling. “When you’re alone, or with your witch friends, you can justify your conjuring any way you like! But in this chapel, in my presence, you will say no such thing!”
    Ethan started to respond, but stopped himself. He and his sister had battled on similar terrain too many times before, and too many of their wounds remained raw. “Very well,” he said, turning once more to go. “I’ll leave it to you to explain to Abner Berson why I couldn’t find his daughter’s killer. It’s really not a conversation I wish to have.”
    “That’s unfair,” she said, actually sounding hurt. “You know how I feel about this, Ethan. I haven’t said anything today that I haven’t told you a thousand times before. What did you expect?”
    “I expect nothing, Bett. But however much you hate me—”
    “I don’t hate you. I’ve never hated you. I pray for your redemption every night.”
    It would have been rude to laugh. “Thank you for that. What I meant to say

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