Home > Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(10)

Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(10)
Benedict Jacka

If I was going to do this, that was probably something I’d have to get over.

“Right,” Caldera said after we’d exchanged the how-are-you-how-have-you-beens. “So you want to be a sanctioned auxiliary.”

“That’s the idea.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not a difficult question,” Caldera said. “Why do you want to join?”

“Excitement and glamour?”

Caldera gave me a look.

“Well, we’ve worked together a few times before and it’s more or less worked out, right? I just thought it was worth giving it a try.”

“Uh, yeah,” Caldera said. “The times we’ve worked together, you only did it because you needed the help.”

“Hey,” I said. “What about last April? Anne was the one in trouble, not me.”

“And you disobeyed every single order I gave you.”

“There were extenuating circumstances?”

Caldera gave me a flat look.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I know there’s been some friction, but I was hoping to mend fences with the Council, and this seemed like a place to start. Besides, I’m a good diviner and I know you guys are shorthanded.”

“It’s not about whether you’re a good diviner,” Caldera said. “Working as a sanctioned auxiliary is different from being a freelancer. You need to pass a security screening.”

“Okay, how do I do that?”

“You don’t. They investigate you.”

“How long does it take?”

“Yours is finished.”

“That was fast.”

“I don’t think you quite understand,” Caldera said. “Council security screenings are current for two years. They didn’t do a security screening because you called me. They’d already screened you because they’d investigated you anyway.”

“What for?”

“Do you really need me to answer that?”

“I’m just curious about what I was being charged with.”

“Well, first on the list, you’re one of three people listed as being responsible for the destruction of the Nightstalker group the summer before last.”

That wiped the smile off my face. “All right,” I said. “As far as I know, it was the Nightstalkers who broke the law that time, not me.”

“And you and your associates were involved in the apprentice disappearances around the White Stone.”

“Oh, come on. I was working for the Council that time. It’s on file. And I was the one who found out what happened to those apprentices.”

“Then there was the break-in at—”

“Okay, look, I already explained how that one wasn’t my fault. And I offered to help, it wasn’t as though you were—”

“And,” Caldera continued, “the deaths of the mages Griff and Belthas three years ago.”

I shut up.

“Not going to justify yourself?” Caldera said.

“I didn’t kill either of them,” I said. I kept my voice level.

Caldera was watching me, apparently casually, and I noticed that her eyes stayed on me as I spoke. Cops tend to be very good at picking up on when people are lying to them, and I had the feeling Caldera had been paying close attention to how I answered that question. I hadn’t quite been lying. Technically I hadn’t killed either of them, in the same way that if someone comes after you and you lead them into a tiger pit, then from a certain point of view the ones who actually killed them were the tigers.

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