Skin Game Page 139

Also, thirty of Binder’s goons were in formation around the vault door, covering every possible angle. They were all pointing Uzis at us.

“Whoa!” I said, gripping my staff. “Binder, wait!”

“Move another inch and you’re slurry!” came Binder’s voice from the hallway outside the security room. By some minor miracle, the door was still on its hinges, and the little mercenary was staying out of sight behind it. “Where’s Hannah?”

My first instinct was to say Binder’s partner was coming along right behind us, but something told me that would be a bad idea. So I swallowed and said, “Dead.”

There was a moment of silence. Then Binder’s voice came back, roughened. “What happened?”

“She forgot Rule Number One,” I said. “She took one of the Coins. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Didn’t have a choice. You White Council boys say that a lot,” Binder said in a very mild tone that sounded infinitely more frightening than a harsh one would have been. “Nicodemus says your crew betrayed us, killed Deirdre, Hannah, and the big monkey, and that you’re keeping all the loot.”

“He told you some of the truth,” I said. “But he’s lying about who tried to stick the knife in first. We played it straight. He turned on us.”

Part of Binder’s face appeared from behind the door, and he grunted. Then he jerked his chin at Michael and said, “Sir Knight, is that what happened?”

“Your partner took the Coin of Lasciel,” Michael said firmly. “Nicodemus murdered his own daughter to open the Gate of Blood. Once we were inside, he ordered Miss Ascher and the Genoskwa to turn on the rest of us. We fought. They lost.”

Binder squinted at Grey, a disapproving scowl coming over his features. “You turned your coat, then?”

“Dresden contracted me before Nicodemus did. I did what he hired me to do.”

Binder lifted an eyebrow. “Ah. That explains it.”

Grey shrugged.

“Hannah,” Binder said, his eye going back to me. “You killed her?”

“I did,” I said. “I offered to let her back down. She wouldn’t. I’m sorry. She was too strong to handle any other way.”

Binder spat a quiet, vicious oath, and looked away. “Stupid kid. Not a bad partner. But not a scrap of sense.”

“Just curious,” Grey said. “You going to shoot us or what?”

“Eh?” Binder said. Then he glanced at the goons, and they lowered their weapons and began filing back out. “Ah, no, the lads ran out of ammunition at least twenty minutes ago. It was hand-to-hand after that, but then the coppers started to arrive and Marcone’s people backed off to think about things for a bit.”

“More like to get the Einherjaren as backup,” I muttered. Binder’s goons were formidable, but they weren’t going to be able to stand up to a crew of genuine Norsemen with a dozen centuries of experience each, who hadn’t been impressed by death the first time around. “What’s the status out there?”

Binder’s eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment. Then he reported, “A dozen patrol cars have blocked off the area. Some fire trucks are here. Parts of the building above us are on fire. There’re a million more vehicles on the way, one presumes, but the streets are one big sheet of ice, and for now the cops are just covering the exits. The weather’s turned foul. There’s a heavy fog coming off the Lake.”

“Ice and fog,” I said. “I like it.”

“Sun’s not up yet,” Binder said. “And some evil, handsome old bloke hexed all the streetlights and spotlights out. We get out of here now, we might do it in one piece.”

“What happened to Nicodemus?” Michael asked.

“He flew out,” Binder spat. “Told me you’d killed Hannah and left me to rot.”

I grunted.

“The bit about the money,” Binder asked. “How true is that?”

“We’ve got one backpack,” Valmont said quietly. “Small stones, easy to move. We’ll have to split it once we’re all clear.”

I blinked and looked at her.

She gave me a calm, indecipherable look. “All for one,” she said. “I want out of this, too.”

She was right. I was nearing the end of my rope. Binder looked exhausted as well. If we just ran out the door all willy-nilly, pure chance would decide our fates. Dark or not, foggy or not, Chicago patrol cops were heavily armed, and given the gunfire and explosions and so forth, they had to think that this was some kind of terrorist attack in progress. They’d shoot first, and second, and third and fourth, and ask questions to fill the time while they reloaded.

Some buckshot through the skull would not improve my response time to the attack on the Carpenter house—and I owed Valmont and Michael a lot more than to let them get shot whilst fleeing the scene of a crime. More than anything, I wanted to be moving toward Michael’s home—but to do that, I had to get us out of the building in one piece first. The only way to do that was to work together.

“Binder,” I said. “Nicodemus screwed us all. But I’m offering you a new deal, right here, a mutual survival pact. We split the pack evenly between the five of us once we’re out of here. They aren’t red ones, but twenty percent of them are yours if you sign on with us to get us all the hell out of here.”

“Your word on it?”

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