Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
When he felt a bit stronger, a bit less shaky, he walked to East Stave. He found the dingiest gambling den, one with no sign and just a single lonely barker out front.
“I want a job,” he said at the door.
“Don’t have any, nub.”
“I’m good with numbers.”
The man laughed. “Can you clean a pisspot?”
“Well, too bad. We already have a boy who cleans the pisspots.”
Kaz waited all night until he saw a boy about his age leave the premises. He followed him for two blocks, then hit him in the head with a rock. He sat down on the boy’s legs and pulled off his shoes, then slashed the soles of his feet with a piece of broken bottle. The boy would recover, but he wouldn’t be working anytime soon. Touching the bare flesh of his ankles had filled Kaz with revulsion. He kept seeing the white bodies of the Reaper’s Barge, feeling the ripe bloat of Jordie’s skin beneath his hands.
The next evening, he returned to the den.
“I want a job,” he said. And he had one.
From there he’d worked and scraped and saved. He’d trailed the professional thieves of the Barrel and learned how to pick pockets and how to cut the laces on a lady’s purse. He did his first stint in jail, and then a second. He quickly earned a reputation for being willing to take any job a man needed done, and the name Dirtyhands soon followed. He was an unskilled fighter, but a tenacious one.
“You have no finesse,” a gambler at the Silver Garter once said to him. “No technique.”
“Sure I do,” Kaz had responded. “I practice the art of ‘pull his shirt over his head and punch till you see blood.’”
He still went by Kaz, as he always had, but he stole the name Brekker off a piece of machinery he’d seen on the docks. Rietveld, his family name, was abandoned, cut away like a rotten limb. It was a country name, his last tie to Jordie and his father and the boy he’d been. But he didn’t want Jakob Hertzoon to see him coming.
He found out that the con Hertzoon had run on him and Jordie was a common one. The coffeehouse and the house on Zelverstraat had been nothing more than stage sets, used to fleece fools from the country. Filip with his mechanical dogs had been the roper, used to draw Jordie in, while Margit, Saskia, and the clerks at the trade office had all been shills in on the scam. Even one of the bank officers had to have been in on it, passing information to Hertzoon about their customers and tipping him off to newcomers from the country opening accounts. Hertzoon had probably been running the con on multiple marks at once. Jordie’s little fortune wasn’t enough to justify such a setup.
But the cruelest discovery was Kaz’s gift for cards. It might have made him and Jordie rich. Once he learned a game, it took him mere hours to master it, and then he simply couldn’t be beaten. He could remember every hand that had been played, each bet that was made. He could keep track of the deal for up to five decks. And if there was something he couldn’t recall, he made up for it by cheating. He’d never lost his love for sleight of hand, and he graduated from palming coins to cards, cups, wallets, and watches. A good magician wasn’t much different from a proper thief. Before long, he was banned from play in every gambling hall on East Stave.