(12-2) Intoxicating sorrow

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Northwatch Hill was, like about a quarter of the City, set on the far side of the river. With the winds that swept across the open waters and its distance from the industrial core of the City, urban planners were allowed quite a bit more freedom in their work. As such, the urban sprawl was littered with spots of green and even, occasionally, small gardens and fountains.

Under other circumstances, Samuel might even have been able to enjoy himself. But his fingers tapped impatiently on the butt of his rifle, his pulse thrummed against a dozen different parts of his body, and his lip complained lazily where he had bit it.

"Sam," Angela said, as she rested her hand on his leg. "I'm riding on the assumption you have a plan. Northwatch Hill isn't a big district, but it's still over half a million people. We can't just randomly walk around and hope to run into them."

"Nope. But we can narrow it down a fair bit," Samuel explained. "Cults like to keep to themselves, which usually means some sort of isolation. Fences, natural barriers, that sort of thing. It also means the neighbours complain about them regularly. And guess who gets to hear those complaints?"

"Ah, us!" Angela exclaimed. "My first few months on the streets were dealing with noise complaints from industry running after sunset. I should have thought of that."

"And to help narrow it down further," Samuel continued. "We're looking for a place that can hold grain and honeybees. One conversation with the right community liaison officer and someone might even lead us right to their front door."

"How do you know this is the right place?" Bertram asked.

"I don't," Samuel admitted. "But unless Amanda or Silas are quite a bit closer to Amanda's mother than I think they are, they'll be going off the same information I have. Which should lead them here."

"Have I ever said you somehow look even hotter when you're being clever?" Angela asked.

There was a time Samuel might have been surprised by his partner's temerity. Might have blushed, scratched his head, turned away, tried to calm hopes and joys he wouldn't allow himself to indulge.

But now, Samuel met her gaze, and asked, "You have my back?"

"Even if the Seventh started tomorrow," Angela promised.

"Praise the endless flame," Bertram muttered irritably as the train's brakes started to squeal. "We can get off this train before the two of you start making out."

Samuel chuckled as he stood up, and kissed Angela on the cheek. "Shall we go wrap this up?"

Angela. To his surprise, frowned and looked up at him. "This is the endgame, isn't it? I mean, if we find him. This is going to end today."

"It is. And Silas is here. This might be the last place in the City still willing to hide him."

*****

The Northwatch Hill Station precinct was a very different place from Samuel's work in the Billows.

Not for the building itself. Samuel was beginning to suspect precincts came off the same assembly line. But where the Billows was practically bursting with people, activity, and the cacophony of a hundred small indignities, Northwatch Hill was a quiet walk across an echoing stone hall towards a bored-looking receptionist.

"Can I help you?" a middle-aged woman asked, as she turned in her chair to address them.

Samuel scowled. Heeled boots, well-tailored civilian clothes, perfume Samuel had smelled as soon as he opened the door, long nails without dirt beneath. If the woman was actually an orderly, the Billows would have her screaming for the wall in under an hour.

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