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The traitor dashed up two flights. His footsteps banged overhead. The stairs were folded and stacked, and he was only ten feet away if I could reach through the ceiling. But the fork wouldn’t go that far. I followed him up the first set of stairs, around a hallway to the next flight, and up the stairs again. At the top of this one, I saw him dive into a room, but I didn’t have time to throw anything.
By the time I crossed the little hallway, he’d slammed his door shut. It was one of those flimsy interior things. I went through it like paper, and Osret hadn’t even stayed to try to lock it. He was already running through a closet that opened into a bathroom.
The bedrooms on each floor shared a bathroom, and on the other side, he ran through an open doorway into a different bedroom. Again he tried to slam the door shut, but I threw the fork and stapled the door to the wall. Osret ran. I came after. He threw some suits off a rack and got back to the stairway. This time he ran down.
I jumped the stairs, hit him with both feet in the back, and knocked him across a wooden floor. He slid like the puck in a hammerslide game. Unfortunately, the stairs had been steep, and in jumping, I’d cracked my chin on the angled ceiling and landed on my rear end. He got up. I shook my head and rose. Footsteps pounded up the stairs below.
Osret turned to face me with his hands up in a boxing guard. I threw a straight right through his forearms, caught him dead on the chin, and lifted him off his feet. He did a backflip through the door behind him.
It was a little library, like a den or a workroom, and smelled like lemon cleaner. Stacks of wooden boxes collected dust in the corners, and the only light was the hall light coming through the door. It flickered as someone ran past.
I chased Osret, and as he tried to get up again, grabbed him by the expensive vest collar. The idiot wore a vest. I put my hip into it, threw him out a window, and he screamed as he broke the glass.
Apseto and Nurim appeared in the doorway. They’d got more knives, but they looked terrified. For a moment, they hesitated.
“He betrayed me and killed your friends. You have done me no harm. Good bye,” I said and jumped out the window.
We were only on the third floor. It was only twenty feet up. Osret wouldn’t have had a problem if he had jumped, not tumbled, but the tumbling and the broken glass fragments hurt. Still, he was up and running when I landed in a crouch. He fled, abandoning every pretense but speed, and raced along the street with his arms pumping. I ran after, my fingers clenched into fists.
He was a fit guy. He clearly ran for exercise, and everyone runs faster when they’re chased. But he ran wild, all adrenaline while gasping for air, not pacing himself, and while he nearly lost me in the first block, he had to slow down for the next. He missed a good opportunity to take a side street and maybe lose me. Then I had him in sight.
The streets were bizarrely empty. The day I’d arrived, there had been people on the roads and sidewalks. I’d slipped between them, trying to appear as an ‘other’ to everyone and had received no attention. Now no one else walked the sidewalks or waited at street corners. Even the people who worked outside, vendors, rickshaw cabbies, and buskers, all found other places to be. Osret and I had the city to ourselves. Clouds still filled the sky, and the thin light that made it through wasn’t strong enough to cast any shadows. If anything, the cloud cover was lower and boiled faster. More often lightning flashed without ever coming down.
The unnatural emptiness of the city lead to one moment I didn’t have the time to think about. While I chased Osret down a street with townhouses on each side, I noticed a figure standing on a rooftop, watching. Her long, black braids were pulled back, the braids showing the first hints of white hair. She wore one of those cape-things women liked. It looked like a long jacket without sleeves but with a thick collar.
Those cape-things are expensive. I don’t know why, but only luxury places make them.
Either way, she had no business standing on a rooftop, watching me chase Osret through the streets, and yet that’s what she did.
But chasing Osret took all of my attention, moreso when he realized he hadn’t lost me. He started taking fast turns, going right then left, cutting through alleys and hopping fences. I stayed on him but couldn’t close the gap.
Finally he tried to brute force out-distance me, skipping all the turns and shifts to head straight south, pounding out miles. If he hadn’t burned all that energy to begin with, he would have made it. But he’d never had a chance to catch his breath with the sprinting. While he stretched his lead as far as two blocks, I cut it in half and half again. When next he looked back, I was almost on him, less than a hundred feet behind.
He turned down some random road, and I don’t think he had a plan. The road lead to a blackstone rookery with basalt walls and limestone window sills. Gulls covered the roof. They’re noisy, chattering birds. Osret ran straight to the front door, tried it, and found it locked. He was gasping now. He pulled back to take it with his shoulder when I crashed into him from behind, kicked his feet out from under him, and he dropped.
He didn’t even flail when he hit the ground. He just breathed.
I was finally going to get my sword back.
Did I kill him?
I stood still for a moment, unprepared for the thought. He had betrayed and shot me, he’d killed his cousins, but he lay at my feet. He couldn’t fight. Did I kill him?