The Veil
Page 19

 Chloe Neill

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The man stepped in front of me, his big body completely blocking mine. “It’s too late. They’re outside, and they’ll have seen us in here. This is the only store in this part of the Quarter, and we’re probably the only sober people in a three-block radius. They’ll want to talk to you, see if you saw anything.”
“They got me on camera,” I said, pleading with him to understand. “If I don’t leave, I’m screwed.”
I’m Isle-bound/and there I’ll stay/wear the devil’s crown/till the end of days. That was how the song went. And if I wasn’t careful, it would become autobiographical.
His eyebrows lifted, concern obvious on his face. Even he knew how bad the situation was. “You’re sure?”
“I know how to recognize an activated Containment camera.”
He considered for a moment, shook his head. “Containment agents are dispatched based on the detection of magic—the triggering of the sensor. These agents will probably have been rerouted from the party, so they won’t have reviewed the tape yet. If you run now, they’ll think you’re guilty of something, and they’ll stop you. And if they stop you, they’ll check the film.”
Hope shone like a distant star, then faded. “Then I have to get to the video.”
And how was I going to do that? Gunnar, I thought queasily. I’d have to ask Gunnar to do it, to get into Containment’s video system and delete the evidence.
“We’ll deal with the video. But right now you need to calm down and do what I say.”
I lifted my eyebrows. “Do what you say? I don’t even know you.”
“And you don’t have a reason to trust me,” he admitted. “But the other choice is worse. PCC doesn’t like Sensitives. They don’t fit into its tidy little worldview. They’ll put you in Devil’s Isle, and as you probably know, Sensitives don’t have much to hope for in Devil’s Isle. They’ll wait for the magic to destroy you.”
He didn’t look any happier about that than I felt. But that still didn’t give me much comfort.
“Maybe they won’t catch me.”
“You’ll still become a wraith, and you’ll hurt people.”
I opened my mouth to object, but he shook his head. “You won’t have a choice, not when your body begins to break down, when your mind begins to go. You’ll kill, and that’s a fact.” His voice grew rougher. “And it would be my job to hunt you down. It would have to be my job to hunt you down. I don’t want to have to do that.”
So he was a bounty hunter. He’d probably delivered plenty of wraiths and Sensitives to Devil’s Isle. And that explained how he knew the worst of what could happen to me.
“I’m a Sensitive,” I reminded him. “You could just take me in now.”
“I don’t trade in Sensitives,” he said. “You aren’t a threat to anyone, at least not yet. And that’s the point. If you want a chance to keep from becoming a wraith, to live outside the Marigny, to keep your store, you’ll follow my lead.”
I didn’t have to trust him. I could still try to grab my bag, slip out the back door. But there were a lot of flashlights outside, and a lot of moving bodies. I’d never make it. And he was right—running would make it look like I’d done something wrong, and they’d take me in. If they saw the video? Same result.
I swallowed hard, looked around the store like it could offer guidance, like my father might emerge from the shadows to give me advice that, this time, I wouldn’t ignore.
“I’m sorry,” he said.