Swamped Chapter 15 Page 17

“It’s the tranquilizer,” Clancy says. “It’s doing something funny to the rat. It keeps sniffing, like it’s trying to find something. Maybe go somewhere.”

“Too bad Dean isn’t here, he might have some idea of why,” you say. You also know exactly where Dean is, though you don’t see a need to mention it. “Could be anything. Might be sniffing for food, or other rats, or, well, anything. Don’t suppose Ash told you anything about it?”

“All he said is it was from an intercepted shipment to the Marshguards a few months back. Not that I know what they would have wanted it for.”

You really wish Dean were here about now.

“Well, that’s worrisome, but if we’re just getting rid of the rat, it shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

“Suppose you’re right,” he agrees. “I’ll head in, then.”

“Good luck,” you say. “I’ll be nearby, just in case, but not so close as to draw attention.”

As he walks off, you slip back into the passage to listen.

You’re now Clancy again. You give a codeword to the guards outside the auditorium, and they let you in. Funny, if Squib or Ash had just told you these knights had the rat under control, you might not have gotten so desperate for help.

You wouldn’t have said a thing to Lisa; you’d just walk in here, get the rat, and leave, and everything would have gone back to normal.

You’ve come too far now, though. You’ve already spilled too many beans. But there’s not a lot Ash will be able to do about it if you’re already on your way out of the Bogknights.

You walk into the auditorium. There’s a large tarp over the floor; the rat seems fixated on it, though one of the knights is holding it back. Ben Eleventh, you think.

“Figures this would be a Squib Squad job,” he mutters. You let it slide; he’s clearly not in charge here. You’re focused on the knight who is.

“So I’m here for our rat,” you say.

“Where’s our courier?” the knight asks. “I don’t like us being short-handed in here.”

“Don’t know. Probably waiting for either Squib or the big man to regain consciousness. I came here on my own, once I figured out whose team you were on.”

You know better than to let Ash’s name slip, even among those in the know. You spot the leader giving a harsh glance at Ben; maybe he’s not so cautious.

“Regain consciousness? What the hell’s going on out there?”

“Squib got knocked out when a prisoner escaped. The big man, I don’t know. There’s some different stories running around. Some even say the captain did it.”

“What about the Marshguards?”

“Seems they were planning an attack, but they haven’t breached our lines yet. Don’t know more than that. I wasn’t at the front. Look, I’m not here to gossip, I’m here for the damned rat.”

“Right.” The leader gives Ben Eleventh a glance. “Ben, hand it over.”

“Hang on,” Ben says. “How’s he going to get this thing back to its hiding place without being spotted?”

“Why’s that your problem?” you say. “I got a plan, and it’s my sorry butt that’s in trouble if it doesn’t work.”

“It’s my problem because maybe you’ll get caught, and maybe you’ll decide to blab about who caught this thing and didn’t raise the alarm.”

“Goddamn it, Eleventh. First you’re complaining about having to babysit the thing, and then when someone comes to take it off our hands, you complain about that? Can you not make up your mind?”

“All I know is, I’m not taking the fall for this mess.”

“Then go along with him yourself, why don’t you? If you think he’s not good enough to move it safely, take it into your own damn hands and quit complaining to me.”

You’d rather he didn’t. It’ll get harder to dispose of the rat if you’ve got someone watching you. You could play along and wait for another chance, but sooner or later Ash will hear about the escape, and then he might insist on heavier guard for it.

So how are you going to deal with this?

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You really did have a plan to get rid of Ben. You wanted to break his concentration, had a story about the bed lice the rat was carrying to get Ben to back off, followed by a trip to the stink drain, but that didn’t matter once Ben handed you the reigns. Somewhere that rat found a surge of strength, or maybe it had just been waiting, but it lunged for the tarp with your wrist tangled around its harness, and then everything was just falling and blackness.