Skill, Luck, and Terrible Ideas (pt. 5)

Miss Hunt glared in betrayal and disgust. “Zvonko…”

I glanced emphatically at Zvonko. When he leaned in, I said, “She must be convinced.”

Nodding, Zvonko elbowed past me and went to stand before the bar’s owner.

Just then, I heard my name among the conversation somewhere behind me. Someone who knew me had spotted me. Probably that ancient bar tender from Hell.

Hunt’s sharp gaze darted to me past Zvonko’s shoulder—and I swiftly noted the closest exits. 

Without looking back, Zvonko offered his arm to her and they left together by a side door leading to a private outdoor patio. 

I exhaled.

He’ll convince her.

Quickly retreating through the crowd and out the front door, I padded across the road to where a vacant bench rested on a patch of grass between buildings. I crossed my arms in my coat and sat. Overhead, the stars shone like light bleeding through pinpricks in a black mast.  

Hunt’s jaw hung slack in disbelief. I’d heard rumors about what happened but I had no idea it was this bad. “Oh, Zvonko,” she said, “I’m so sorry.”  

They sat alone at one of five round tables on the unoccupied patio. A large candle flickered in the middle of the table. A server emerged from the side door and placed a pint of ale in front of each of them, and then withdrew with a bowed head. 

Zvonko frowned. “Condolences are unwarranted,” he said. “No one’s died.”

“Not yet.” She studied his battered face. He was handsome despite the gruesome bruises. “You need to have realistic expectations.”

Zvonko’s black eyes were unreadable.

She went on gently. “Captain Green has a four day head start. You’ll never catch up to him before he turns your people over to Huleikre. And, even if you did catch up to him, how would two wounded men stage a rescue at sea with no ship and no crew?” 

Three men,” corrected Zvonko.

“I thought no one else from your crew was well enough to travel?”

Zvonko’s eyes shifted.

Hunt’s own eyes widened. “Tell me you’re joking. Oh no no, you have to be joking.” She shoved to her feet and pointed at the side door. “You can’t let Mesa go with you. He’s insane!

“That’s why we need him.”

Hunt paused to steady her voice. She understood that this mess wasn’t Zvonko’s fault. Lally was the one who was friends with the lunatic.

“Even if you’re desperate, it’s not worth it. Having him around… how can you trust him? With your life?” No, Zvonko didn’t worry about himself. “What about your friends’ lives?”

Zvonko shrugged a shoulder stiffly. “Lally trusts him implicitly.” His matter-of-fact retort surprised her.

One day, I’m going to make someone tell me the miraculous story about how Lally and Mesa became friends. Hands on her hips, Hunt tried to understand. “What I hope you’re trying to say is that Lally recruited him and you had no say in the matter.”

“I sent for the lunatic myself the day the rest of the crew became indisposed and then endeavored to keep Lally here until he arrived. Lally was none the wiser.”

“He,” she said in disbelief, “was the first person you contacted.”

He looked thoughtful. “Yes.”

Despite a shuddering deep breath, Hunt’s temper still got the best of her. She slapped a hand on the table and stared hard into his face. “You’ve been in my town for how long now and the first person you thought to turn to for help was that thing instead of me, and now I’d like to know why.”

[to be continued…]

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