Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
Only one other gambling den on the Stave mattered to him: the Emerald Palace, Pekka Rollins’ pride and joy. The building was an ugly green, decked out in artificial trees laden with fake gold and silver coins. The whole place had been done up as some kind of tribute to Rollins’ Kaelish heritage and his gang, the Dime Lions. Even the girls working the chip counters and tables wore glittering green sheaths of silk and had their hair tinted a dark, unnatural red to mimic the look of girls from the Wandering Isle. As Kaz passed the Emerald, he looked up at the false gold coins, letting the anger come at him. He needed it tonight as a reminder of what he’d lost, of what he stood to gain. He needed it to prepare him for this reckless endeavor.
“Brick by brick,” he muttered to himself. They were the only words that kept his rage in check, that prevented him from striding through the Emerald’s garish gold-and-green doors, demanding a private audience with Rollins, and slitting his throat. Brick by brick. It was the promise that let him sleep at night, that drove him every day, that kept Jordie’s ghost at bay. Because a quick death was too good for Pekka Rollins.
Kaz watched the flow of customers in and out of the Emerald’s doors and caught a glimpse of his own steerers, men and women he hired to seduce Pekka’s customers south with the prospect of better deals, bigger wins, prettier girls.
“Where are you coming from, looking so flush?” one said to the other, talking far more loudly than necessary.
“Just got back from the Crow Club. Took one hundred kruge off the house in just two hours.”
“You don’t say!”
“I do! Just came up the Stave to get a beer and meet a friend. Why don’t you join us, and we’ll all go together?”
“The Crow Club! Who would have thought it?”
“Come on, I’ll buy you a drink. I’ll buy everyone a drink!”
And they walked off together laughing, leaving all the patrons around them to wonder if maybe they ought to head just a few bridges down the canal and see if the odds weren’t kinder there—Kaz’s servant, greed, luring them south like a piper with flute in hand.
He made sure to cycle steerers in and out, changing the faces so Pekka’s barkers and bouncers never got wise, and customer by customer, he leeched away the Emerald’s business. It was one of the infinite tiny ways he’d found to make himself strong at Pekka’s expense—intercepting his shipments of jurda, charging him fees for access to Fifth Harbor, undercutting his rents to keep his properties free of tenants, and slowly, slowly tugging at the threads that made up his life.
Despite the lies he’d spread and the claims he’d made to Geels tonight, Kaz wasn’t a bastard. He wasn’t even from Ketterdam. He’d been nine and Jordie thirteen when they’d first arrived in the city, a check from the sale of their father’s farm sewn safely into the inner pocket of Jordie’s old coat. Kaz could see himself as he was then, walking the Stave with dazzled eyes, hand tucked into Jordie’s so he wouldn’t be swept away by the crowd. He hated the boys they’d been, two stupid pigeons waiting to be plucked. But those boys were long gone, and only Pekka Rollins was left to punish.