Wicked Gentlemen

Free Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

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Authors: Ginn Hale
siren and the Inquisition rushed in on us. Joan was grabbed along with about ten others of us, but when we reached the Inquisition House, she was gone."
    Sariel lifted his cigarette, then realized that it had burned down almost to his fingers. He flicked it to the street below.
    So, the woman had disappeared more than once. I found that interesting.
    "Do you think that Harper got her out?" I asked. It struck me as something he'd do.
    "He could have." Sariel shrugged. "In any case, she didn't come back down to Hells Below. About three weeks later we found out that she had gotten married to Dr. Edward Talbott. They'd been engaged for a few months, but none of us had known. That was the last we heard from her."
    "Peter Roffcale wrote to her," I said.
    "I suppose he would have." Sariel looked down at his hands. "He never blamed her for leaving, but anyone could see that it tore him up to know she'd married another man."
    "He mentioned that Rose and Lily had been murdered in one of his letters. Were there others?" I asked.
    "Dozens. Members of Good Commons have been going missing or turning up in pieces for nearly a decade. One or two a year." Sariel flipped out another cigarette. He lit it and took a deep drag. "Recently, it's gotten worse. We used to make reports of missing persons. But since Peter was killed in custody, I think it's obvious that the Inquisition abbots don't give a damn."
    Sariel's voice almost trembled with anger, then he stopped speaking. He simply stared up into the sky and drew in breath after breath of cigarette smoke. He had probably known all of the Prodigals who had been murdered. They would have been his friends and companions in Good Commons.
    "I'm sorry," I said.
    The words were embarrassingly worthless. My sympathy was as little good to Sariel as his forgiveness was to me.
    "It happens," Sariel replied.
    "Are you safe?" I couldn't help but ask. There was nothing I could offer him if he wasn't.
    "No." Sariel smiled and shook his head. "None of us are ever safe, really. I've heard there's a sorcerer who sells potions made from Prodigal's bodies. He lures children away with candy and then chops them up and cooks them. There's also supposed to be a lord's club that requires every new member to kill a Prodigal as proof of his valor. Then there's always the Inquisition, over-zealous nuns, and simple, sick bastards. A lot of people seem to want Prodigals dead. The only protection we really have is each other." Sariel glanced over to me. "So, I'm safer than you, aren't I?"
    "Maybe." I realized that I had made a mistake in asking after Sariel's safety. I shouldn't have left the impersonal inquiries about Joan Talbott.
    "You never had any sense about how to look after yourself," Sariel went on. "You've gotten yourself into the company of an Inquisition captain. You're living alone, above ground—"
    "Sariel, I've been living like this for six years. I've learned how to take care of myself."
    "You can't always do it alone, Belimai. Sooner or later you're going to need someone else to help you." Sariel pulled himself a little closer to me. "Come back to Hells Below. There's room for you at Good Commons."
    "You want me to join Good Commons?" I couldn't quite believe that Sariel was serious. Hadn't he understood what I had said to him, how deeply I had changed?
    "You'd have friends there. You'd be involved in important work. We could help you come clean." Sariel placed his hand on mine.
    A cold, almost nauseous sweat broke out across my skin. It wasn't just the thought of being with Sariel, constantly knowing that I had failed him. As a member of Good Commons, I would doubtless be brought into an Inquisition House again.
    The well-oiled whir of the prayer engines hummed through my mind. The slashes across my back began to pulse with pain. The scars that covered my body ached. I pulled my hand from Sariel's.
    "No, I think I'm a little too settled in my present life," I answered quickly.
    I didn't care if he thought

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