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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

She crossed to a slender set of doors and stepped onto a balcony that overlooked the central courtyard of the Exchange. Each of the shipping offices had one. From here, callers announced new voyages and arrivals of inventory, or hung the black flag that indicated that a ship had been lost at sea with all its cargo. The floor of the Exchange would erupt into a flurry of trades, runners would spread the word throughout the city, and the price of goods, futures, and shares in outgoing voyages would rise or fall. But tonight all was silence.

A wind came in off the harbor, bringing the smell of the sea, ruffling the stray hairs that had escaped the braided coil at the nape of Inej’s neck. Down in the square, she saw the sway of lamplight and heard the thump of Kaz’s cane on the stones as he and his seconds made their way across the square. On the opposite side, she glimpsed another set of lanterns heading toward them. The Black Tips had arrived.

Inej raised her hood. She pulled herself onto the railing and leapt soundlessly to the neighboring balcony, then the next, tracking Kaz and the others around the square, staying as close as she could. His dark coat rippled in the salt breeze, his limp more pronounced tonight, as it always was when the weather turned cold. She could hear Jesper keeping up a lively stream of conversation, and Big Bolliger’s low, rumbling chuckle.

As she drew nearer to the other side of the square, Inej saw that Geels had chosen to bring Elzinger and Oomen—exactly as she had predicted. Inej knew the strengths and weaknesses of every member of the Black Tips, not to mention Harley’s Pointers, the Liddies, the Razorgulls, the Dime Lions, and every other gang working the streets of Ketterdam. It was her job to know that Geels trusted Elzinger because they’d come up through the ranks of the Black Tips together, and because Elzinger was built like a stack of boulders—nearly seven feet tall, dense with muscle, his wide, mashed-in face jammed low on a neck thick as a pylon.

She was suddenly glad Big Bolliger was with Kaz. That Kaz had chosen Jesper to be one of his seconds was no surprise. Twitchy as Jesper was, with or without his revolvers, he was at his best in a fight, and she knew he’d do anything for Kaz. She’d been less sure when Kaz had insisted on Big Bolliger as well. Big Bol was a bouncer at the Crow Club, perfectly suited to tossing out drunks and wasters, but too heavy on his feet to be much use when it came to a real tussle. Still, at least he was tall enough to look Elzinger in the eye.

Inej didn’t want to think too much on Geels’ other second. Oomen made her nervous. He wasn’t as physically intimidating as Elzinger. In fact, Oomen was made like a scarecrow—not scrawny, but as if beneath his clothes, his body had been put together at wrong angles. Word was he’d once crushed a man’s skull with his bare hands, wiped his palms clean on his shirtfront, and kept right on drinking.