Beyond the towers, on the far shore, Finch could just make out the hunched group of buildings that included the apartment with the dead man and gray cap. Was the Partial there, staring out at him? Talking to Heretic? Hiding something from Heretic?
â€œWhen will they know the towers are finished?â€ Finch wondered aloud.
â€œRoofs, Finchy. When you see roofs on top. That means itâ€™s done.â€
â€œFunny, Wyte, but I donâ€™t think so.â€
Wyte shrugged. â€œOkay. What do you think itâ€™s for?â€
The biggest fuck-you to Ambergris ever created?
The wrongness of the railing at the prow suddenly got through to Finch. Should be grainy, splinters needling his hands. Instead: soft, fleshy. He took his hand away like the railing was boiling hot.
â€œNo clue, Wyte.â€
â€œMaybe itâ€™s a religious monument, Finchy,â€ Wyte said. â€œTo some unknown mushroom god who lives in the sky.â€
Joking? Serous? Didnâ€™t know anymore when Wyte was lucid and when not. Didnâ€™t know what to encourage.
Through the rain, the Spit was revealing itself. The edge of the Spit had gone with surprising quickness from a brown line in the distance to something with substance and texture. Rows of boats moored side by side by side, twenty or thirty deep. Still floating, bobbing, even as they were falling apart and half-sinking. A leaky sovereignty. A chained-together legion of convicts treading water. All of it shoved up against the shore, against the remains of the Religious Quarter. If the gray caps ever decided they wanted to truly cut off citizen from citizen, theyâ€™d burn the Spit, place a wall between it and the Religious Quarter. Theyâ€™d root out the dogghe and nimblytod from the Quarter like so many weeds. Shove them all into the HFZ and be done with it.
Limits to what they can do? Or to what they want to do?
The boat began to slow. Soon they bumped up against the docks, gently. Prow kissing wood. Finch jumped off the boat as it lay wallowing there, followed by Wyte. Took off their masks. Breathed in the metallic air. Tossed their masks back in the boat. The boat sighed, shutting down until their return. Didnâ€™t know what would happen to anyone who tried to board it while they were gone. Knew it would be bad.
No sign of Davies, Wyte’s contact. An avalanche of other boats before them, a scattering of tall buildings, natural and not, dull-glistening far beyond, through the rain. Buckets tied to the dock gurgled and filled, emptied. A blue dinghy. Oily water. Rotting planks.
â€œGot a plan if Davies doesnâ€™t show up, Wyte?â€
Wyte didnâ€™t answer.
A bald man appeared at the far edge of the empty docks. Just appeared. Finch couldnâ€™t tell where heâ€™d come from. Weapon holstered so Finch didnâ€™t flinch, though Wyte drew his gun for both of them.
Face like a boxerâ€™s, the nose wide from repeated blows. Scar over the left eye, under the right eye. Same knife stroke? Barrel-chest. Thick arms. Wearing a blood-red vest over a dark-green shirt. Black pants, blacker boots.
The man came forward with hands held in front of him. Like he wanted to be handcuffed. Something was in his hands, though. An offering?
He dropped what heâ€™d been holding onto the ground. A complex wooden carving. Of a lizard caught in some kind of trap.
The man said, in a misbegotten blend of accents, â€œIâ€™m Bosun. Davies couldnâ€™t make it.â€
Close enough now that his face was like a carved oval bone. Scrubbed clean of anything except directness. Some sort of spice on his breath. A smirk Finch didnâ€™t like any more than the name.
Wyte gave Finch a glance. Knew Wyte was thinking the same thing. Bliss had named Bosun as Starkâ€™s right-hand man. Someone who didnâ€™t flinch from torture. Who seemed to enjoy it.
â€œWhat happened to Davies?â€ Wyte asked, stepping back to create a little space. Finch faded to the right, so heâ€™d be out of Wyteâ€™s line of fire. Kept his hand on his belt. Near his holster.
â€œDavies couldnâ€™t make it,â€ Bosun repeated. â€œStarkâ€™s waiting. Come. Now.â€
Bosun started walking back toward the maze of gathered boats. Didnâ€™t seem to care about Wyteâ€™s gun. Finch wondered who watched from the row of dark glass windows that formed the first wall of boats.
â€œWhat guarantees do we have?â€ Finch called after Bosun. Wanted to ask, â€œWhatâ€™s with the lizard, you fucking lunatic?â€
Bosun, without looking back: â€œWe wonâ€™t hurt you unless you try to hurt us. And we wonâ€™t try to fuck you, either. Unless you try to fuck us.â€ A deep rasp similar to a laugh. Him receding further toward the maze while the two detectives stood there.
Finch stared at Wyte. Wyte stared at Finch.
â€œAre we really going to go in there?â€ Wyte asked.
Finch looked back across the bay, saw how far theyâ€™d come. Who on the Spit would risk angering the gray caps? Thought about the skery. About how easy it wouldâ€™ve been for them both to go down in a hail of bullets if someone waited behind the windows of the first line of boats.
Shrugged. â€œJust think of him as Davies if it makes you feel better.â€ Hiding his own unease.
They stepped around the lizard carving like it might do harm. On impulse, Finch went back and stooped with a muttered curse. Picked it up. As Bosun had no doubt intended him to do from the beginning.
Followed Bosun into the darkness.
Er, and it looks like Murder by Death will attempt a Finch CD this June. But don’t hold me or them to that. It’s still if they feel inspired, so don’t want to say it’s final.