Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
Inej’s room was on the third floor, a skinny slice of space barely big enough for a cot and a trunk, but with a window that looked out over the peaked roofs and jumbled chimneys of the Barrel. When the wind came through and cleared away the haze of coal smoke that hung over the city, she could even make out a blue pocket of harbor.
Though dawn was just a few hours away, the Slat was wide awake. The only time the house was ever really quiet was in the slow hours of the afternoon, and tonight everyone was buzzing with the news of the showdown at the Exchange, Big Bolliger’s fate, and now poor Rojakke’s dismissal.
Inej had gone straight from her conversation with Kaz to seek out the card dealer at the Crow Club. He’d been at the tables dealing Three Man Bramble for Jesper and a couple of Ravkan tourists. When he’d finished the hand, Inej had suggested they speak in one of the private gaming parlors to spare him the embarrassment of being fired in front of his friends, but Rojakke wasn’t having it.
“It’s not fair,” he’d bellowed when she’d told him Kaz’s orders. “I ain’t no cheat!”
“Take it up with Kaz,” Inej had replied quietly.
“And keep your voice down,” Jesper added, glancing at the tourists and sailors seated at the neighboring tables. Fights were common in the Barrel, but not on the floor of the Crow Club. If you had a gripe, you settled it outside, where you didn’t risk interrupting the hallowed practice of separating pigeons from their money.
“Where’s Brekker?” growled Rojakke.
“I don’t know.”
“You always know everything about everything,” Rojakke sneered, leaning in, the stink of lager and onions on his breath. “Isn’t that what Dirtyhands pays you for?”
“I don’t know where he is or when he’s getting back. But I do know you won’t want to be here when he does.”
“Give me my check. I’m owed for my last shift.”
“Brekker doesn’t owe you anything.”
“He can’t even face me? Sends a little girl to give me the boot? Maybe I’ll just shake a few coins out of you.” He’d reached out to grab her by the collar of her shirt, but she’d dodged him easily. He fumbled for her again.
Out of the corner of her eye, Inej saw Jesper rise from his seat, but she waved him off and slipped her fingers into the brass knuckles she kept in her right hip pocket. She gave Rojakke a swift crack across the left cheek.
His hand flew up to his face. “Hey,” he said. “I didn’t hurt you none. It was just words.”
People were watching now, so she hit him again. Regardless of the Crow Club rules, this took precedence. When Kaz had brought her to the Slat, he’d warned her that he wouldn’t be able to watch out for her, that she’d have to fend for herself, and she had. It would have been easy enough to turn away when they called her names or sidled up to ask for a cuddle, but do that and soon it was a hand up your blouse or a try at you against a wall. So she’d let no insult or innuendo slide. She’d always struck first and struck hard. Sometimes she even cut them up a bit. It was fatiguing, but nothing was sacred to the Kerch except trade, so she’d gone out of her way to make the risk much higher than the reward when it came to disrespecting her.