“Asher, hold up,” Toryn whispered through clenched teeth. “You can’t do this. You know you’re not—”
His friend’s words faded behind him as Asher Kane jumped off the fire escape, landing on the wet pavement like a wild animal ready to pounce.
The man in the dingy alley sputtered and staggered backwards.
Asher lunged and grabbed him by the collar, shoving him against the brick wall and toppling a few empty garbage cans in the process.
The bloke had a thin mustache, dark, greasy hair, and breath that smelled like cigarettes and cheap whiskey. A squirrelly sonofabitch, all right. Just like Fallon had described. Couldn’t weigh more than eight or nine stone, he thought, as he jammed his forearm against the guy’s windpipe.
“Don’t hurt me,” the man choked. “I swear I don’t have any money. Check my pockets if you don’t believe me.”
“I don’t want your bloody money,” Asher growled.
“Then what do you want?”
For my friend to be alive. “Information. You have it. I want it.”
The man’s beady eyes brightened like a rat’s at the smell of peanut butter. “It’ll cost you.”
Asher laughed bitterly and shoved him again. The guy was either greedy or stupid. Or both. “You’re not in a position to bargain with anything other than your life.”
“I’ve got friends, you know. Guys who will beat the shit out of you if something happens to me.”
“Is that right?” He opened his motorcycle jacket, exposing a few of the weapons strapped to his body. “Well, guess what? I knew someone with a friend like that. And that someone is dead now, thanks to you.” He leaned in close, trying not to inhale. “Although when something happens to one of my best mates, I prefer killing the one responsible rather than simply beating the shit out of him.”
With his free hand, Asher pulled out a razor-sharp dagger and held it up. The blade flashed in the dim light from the streetlamp at the end of the alley, and the guy’s eyes went full-moon wide. Struggling to get free, he made a high-pitched mewling sound.
People always went a little crazy when they saw the knife. Like many warriors of the Iron Guild, Asher favored weapons made from cold-forged Balkirk steel. It was said they held the memories of those whose blood they had spilled, making them even more fearsome to the enemy. He’d been sicker than a dog after he brought the thing through the portal, but it was moments like these that made it all worthwhile.
“What the fuck, dude?” The man’s bulging eyes darted left and right as if he were looking for support in the empty alleyway. He wasn’t going to get it, however. Asher and Toryn had followed him for a while to make sure he was completely alone. “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Word is, you turned my friend over to the army. And they killed him.” Asher’s tone was as deadly as the edge of his blade.
“Dude, I have no idea who or what you’re talking about. I think you have the wrong man.” The tip of the guy’s tongue darted out and ran nervously along the bottom edge of his mustache.
The distant wail of sirens pierced the night air. Asher glanced to where his dog, a deerhound named Conry, was standing guard at the mouth of the alley. If the authorities were coming here, they were still a ways off.
“Come on,” Toryn said from behind. “Let’s go. The bloke doesn’t know anything. Look, he just pissed his knickers.”
Asher ignored his friend’s plea, although he did smell the urine. He’d thought it was the natural aroma of the alley mixed with the smell of beer and rotting garbage. It better not have fucked up his boots. He’d won them fair and square down at Reckless Motor Sports, his home away from home on this side of the portal. The former owner of the lug-soled ass kickers had not been happy, but that was too damn bad. They fit his feet as though they’d been custom made by one of the cobblers back home.
“Need me to refresh your memory?” Asher asked. “Not long ago you met a guy you suspected was from Cascadia, so you turned him in. And for what? A couple of bucks?” Asher poked the tip of the blade upward into the soft spot under the guy’s chin. Nothing like a little gentle persuasion to get a bloke talking.
“Okay, okay,” the man said, standing on his toes and cranking his chin up in an attempt to get away from the blade. “I’m not saying I did or didn’t, but the army does offer rewards.”
“So you have turned people in?” His fingers itched to push the blade again. How many of his people had died because of this guy?
“What was I supposed to do? Let someone else get the money? I’ve got an ex-wife and three kids to support, and they ain’t cheap.”