Home > Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(8)

Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(8)
Benedict Jacka

“I know that,” I said. “But we’re the underdogs here. You know the kind of resources Richard can draw on. We can’t move against him directly.”

“So doesn’t that mean we need some more friends, then?” Variam said with a frown. “Otherwise, what happens when he gets around to us?”

“I still don’t want to deal with the Keepers.”

“That was what I said,” Variam pointed out. “You told me to join them anyway. Remember?”

That brought me up short. When I’d first met Variam a couple of years back, he’d been just as hostile towards the Keepers as I was. More, actually. But I’d managed to persuade him otherwise with . . .

. . . with pretty much the same arguments Luna and Variam were using now.

Luna and Variam were looking at me. I looked at Anne. So did Luna and Vari.

“Um,” Anne said. She looked a little troubled. “It’s not really my decision.”

“What do you think though?” Luna said.

“I . . .” Anne looked at me, hesitated. I didn’t say anything. Somehow I was hoping Anne would give me a reason to say no.

“I don’t trust the Keepers,” Anne said at last. I felt my heart lift slightly, but Anne kept going. “Especially the Order of the Star. So I wouldn’t blame you if you said no. But . . . it’s worked for Vari. And they don’t hate you as badly as they do me. If it could keep you and Luna alive . . . maybe it’s worth it.”

“We still don’t know that they’d say yes,” I said.

“So you’ll try it?” Luna said.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t say you wouldn’t, either.”

I rolled my eyes, then paused. All three of them were looking at me. “What?”

“So?” Luna said.

“Slow down,” I said. “Even if I did agree—which I haven’t—we’ve got no place to start. It’s not like I can show up and ask for an application form.”

“That’s easy,” Luna said. “Just go to Caldera. You’ve worked with her enough times already, right?”

“We’re not exactly best friends.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t hate you or anything,” Variam said. “Actually she kind of likes you.”

“And all you have to do is ask,” Luna said. “I mean, what do you lose if she says no?”

I tried to think of a good answer to that and didn’t have one. All of them were still watching me and I felt weirdly trapped.

“So are you—?” Luna began.

“All right! I’ll ask.”

|  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |

Which was how, one week later, I found myself standing outside Keeper headquarters in Westminster.

The main Keeper HQ for all of Britain is just south of Victoria Street, in one of the little off-roads. That particular area of London has always felt to me as though it’s so full of history that it becomes commonplace—you can’t cross the street without passing something historical or architecturally significant. The actual headquarters is one of those big grand Victorian buildings, with pillars and carvings on the front, as well as statues of some goddess or other and a few of the more photogenic predatory animals.

Like a lot of old London buildings, the inside of Keeper HQ is a lot less impressive than the outside. The walls are covered in flaking paint that’s a similar colour to coffee mould, and the stairs and floors use that particularly horrible type of linoleum that got popular in the mid-twentieth century and for some reason has never quite gone away. I checked in at reception and got told to wait. There were half a dozen other people sitting on the chairs against the wall, and none of them seemed especially happy to be there. I sat down and crossed my legs.

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