Mick was reaching for the door to our room when there was a bump inside. We froze. Mick looked at me, and I nodded. He pulled the knife from his belt and slowly opened the door.
Inside, a man on the floor was reaching under the bed. I grabbed the poker as he jumped up with the box under his arm. It was Beady Eyes from the Roan Horse Inn, and he held out a long, curving knife with a brown stain on the tip.
“That’s poison on the blade,” Mick said. “I suggest we back up and let him by.”
Mick and I backed into the hall. Beady Eyes eased past us, his knife ready, and ran for the back steps.
We ran for the front steps but stopped when we heard Indian voices in the lobby.
“You said we were safe,” I whispered.
“So sue me.” Mick pointed to a ladder. “We’re taking the roof.”
The ladder led up to the metal cover of a roof hatch. The latch was stuck and would not budge. Mick pounded the latch open with his fist, and there were immediate shouts and sounds of running from the front and back of the tavern. Mick shoved the hatch cover open, and we scrambled up onto the roof.
A Thug’s head came through the hatch, and I swung the cover down. The Thug pushed up to keep it from closing, but I jumped on top. The cover slammed shut with a shriek from the Thug.
Bang. Bang. Bang-bang.
Bullets whizzed through the hatch and past the back of my head. I jumped off the hatch and ran after Mick. I did not look back.
I followed Mick’s leap across free air to the roof of the next building. We threw ourselves behind a chimney just as bullets pinged and thudded into the brick. We jumped to our feet and ran, keeping chimneys and roof huts between us and the Thugs, and leaping from one roof to the next. When we reached a sixteen-foot gap, we stopped, gasping. We were desperate, not suicidal.
Mick found the cover of another roof hatch. It was locked on the inside and, using my poker, we forced it open with a loud screech and a clang. We climbed rapidly down inside and ran past business offices with people inside who looked at us strangely. We took the stairs to the ground floor and raced into a back alley.
I glimpsed the Oriental in the shadows, and like before, when I looked directly at him, he wasn’t there. I was about to tell Mick when he stopped abruptly. So did I.
Rasheed and six other Thugs were standing in a line across the alley. Rasheed had his arms folded across his chest, and the other Thugs held pistols aimed at our heads. Mick pulled out his knife, and I held up my poker.
“You have something that belongs to me,” Rasheed said looking at me. “Something that I believe is hanging from your neck.”
“I do not have anything of yours,” I said.
“Mr. Langston said you do,” Rasheed said. “And everyone knows solicitors never lie.”
“Why should I give them to you?”
“If I get what I want, I may be merciful.”
“Like you were to David?” I asked.
“I will not ask again, Englishman.”
“Give him the carvings, Jack,” Mick said.
“You said they never leave witnesses.”
Mick shrugged. “Nothing to lose now, but it’s your call.”
“Rasheed, I propose a trade.” I said and lifted my poker. “You get what is around my neck, and I get to beat you to death.”
Rasheed scowled. “Stupid Englishman.”
Two Thugs lifted thin wooden tubes to their lips and blew. Something stung my neck. I reached up to feel it and lost all strength. I fell to the ground, and Mick collapsed beside me.
I drifted toward oblivion and was almost gone when the Oriental appeared among the Thugs. His arms and legs moved too fast to see, and the Thugs dropped around him. Rasheed shouted something and ran.
The prick of a needle in my right arm stirred me. I forced my eyes open and the Oriental’s face was above me.
My last thought as I returned to unconsciousness was, I am going to die.
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