Chapter 9.3

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There was an awkward silence. Crickets chirred in the undergrowth, and from a yard nearby a woman called out to someone called Steven to come inside and wash his hands.

"Why're you spying on my house?" Carmen said.

The boy was either deciding whether or not to tell the truth, or had already made up his mind and was inventing a lie.

"Well?" she said.

"You'd have to promise to believe me."

If he wasn't sincere he was good at faking it. Carmen didn't think he was clever enough for that. She'd already decided he was a rotten spy. "I'm not promising anything," she said. "You're the one that has to explain himself."

"Then I might's well go," he said.

"Don't," she said involuntarily.

"Don't what?"

She gathered herself. "Don't be such a sook. Okay I promise then. Whatever floats your boat."

The boy looked directly at her, seeming to consider the weight of her promise. It made her uncomfortable. She was not used to scrutiny from anyone her own age.

He appeared to make up his mind. "I got sent here to – well not to spy."

"What do you call it then?"

"I figured I'd just – bump into you I guess. And your Dad," he added quickly. He smiled. Carmen elected to glare back at him. The smile faltered. "You can't tell anyone about this," he said. "I promised Nick."

"Nick?"

"Saint Nick."

Carmen's mouth dropped open. Saint Nick was the most wanted criminal in Bareheep.

"It's not as bad as it sounds," Ward said.

"Did he tell you where I live?"

"He knows where everyone lives."

"Is it about the – the thing you bought from my Dad?"

He looked around. "Is it safe to talk here?"

"I guess."

"Do you know what the horns are made of?"

"Maybe."

"Where did your Dad get it from?"

Carmen looked away.

Grim appeared out of the bushes. He brushed haughtily past Carmen, twining himself about the boy's legs instead, purring like a motor.

"Oh hey, a fel. Here puss."

"He's mine," Carmen said. "His name's Grim." She sent a thought to Grim, not expecting a reply.

(can we trust him?)

To her surprise Grim answered immediately.

(yes)

Grim had never been wrong about anyone before. There was, however, a first time for everything.

She looked back at the boy. He was scrutinising her again.

"How about I show you where it came from?" she said.


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  Fine, whatever floats your vote.

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