In the past month one thing had become perfectly clear to Lieutenant Benvin: he was the only person in Maradaine who gave a damn about how he did his job. Captain Holcomb was comfortable in his office, and couldn't care less what Benvin did to crack down on the gangs in the streets. If nothing else, he was grateful that Holcomb’s laziness was complete: he honestly didn’t care one way or the other what Benvin did. At least the man wasn’t obviously corrupt. That couldn’t be said for most of the other lieutenants or patrol officers in the Aventil stationhouse.
He wasn’t sure any of them were truly getting bribed. From what he had seen of these Aventil gangs, they weren’t really in a position to bribe anyone. But something was motivating them to stop him up whenever they could.
People in the neighborhood were no better. There were the gangs, of course. But the rest of the people didn’t just tolerate them, they embraced them. Someone had a problem, they didn’t call Constabulary. That was the last thing they wanted. No, they called a Rose Street Prince or a Waterpath Orphan or some other damn waste of space.
Some of the patrolmen got on board with Benvin, at first. Though it became clear that for most of them, it was about the thrill of cracking street kids with their handsticks, shaking them for coin, getting kicks off the girls. No better than the gangs, just green and red were the colors they wore. Benvin had no use for those folk.
So he narrowed his squad down to five solid patrol officers and two cadets. The ones he could trust. The ones who did it right. The ones who had been shut out by the rest of the stationhouse. He made them his own.
It wasn’t much, but it was all he could get in Aventil. Saints knew none of the district commandants or even Commissioner Enbrain were going to send anything else his way.
Didn’t matter. Benvin was going to do his job, and do it right. He’d dismantle every gang in this neighborhood and it clean it up. Starting small, with the Red Rabbits, just to show everyone he could do it.
Tonight wasn’t for the Rabbits, though, not directly. He planned to shut them down first, but he couldn’t make them the only thing he focused on. Tonight they were going to crack open the cider ring the Orphans were running. Sure, it was a tick-and-pence scheme, hardly worth the trouble. But that was why he wanted to crack it. No scheme, no ring, no crime was too small.
So Benvin sat with Jace, one of the cadets, in the wagon on the northwest corner of Cantarell Square, watching with the scope. Arch, Pollit, and Tripper were in the square, waiting for their meet, and the rest of the lads were in place so they could move in. The targeted Orphans were approaching the square with their handcart of contraband cider.
And then someone yelled “Rose Street!” and it all went to blazes.
It took Benvin a moment to fully realize what was going on, and by the time he did, the Orphans were clearing out. Pollit and Tripper charged after them, while Arch just looked confused.
But the real action was across the square, where the Rabbits were having a brawl. A full-on brawl. With whom? The Princes? One Prince?
No, it was him.
Benvin leaped off the cart and blasted his signal whistle as he charged across the square.
By the time he was halfway across, Arch had come up behind him, running for all he was worth.
“Thorn?” Arch asked, heaving for breath.
“Thorn,” Benvin hissed back. That word was written on the top of their slateboard by Benvin’s desk back in the stationhouse, in big letters and underlined several times.
The Thorn disengaged from the group of Rabbits, firing a wild arrow to get them to scatter. He took two steps toward Cantarell Square, but then changed direction as soon as he spotted Benvin and Arch.
Arch drew up his crossbow and fired, but missed wide.
And then the Thorn suddenly faded out of sight as he ran.
“The blazes?” Arch said. “How’d he—”
Benvin spotted a shimmer of something going into one of the alleyways. “There!”
He tore after the shimmer, pulling up his own crossbow. The shimmer was still moving down the alley, as fast as a man running would. Benvin shot his blunt-tip at the shimmer.
The blunt-tip made contact, and with a cry, the shimmer turned back into a cloaked man. He stumbled his way down the alley, giving Benvin a chance to reload his crossbow and close the distance.
“Hold fast and be bound by law!” he shouted, as the Thorn turned on his heel and drew up his bow.
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THE ALCHEMY OF CHAOS releases on February 2nd.
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