"This is stupid, s.h.i.+ns!" Genevieve hissed for roughly the sixth time as the fugitive trio slunk through yet another filthy, trash-strewn alleyway. The aromas of rotting garbage, alcohol, vomit, and human offal intertwined to form a vulgar scent that caressed the dank streets with all the false affection of a diseased trollop. It even kept the rats at bay. Things squelched underfoot as they walked, each spurt of unidentifiable ooze adding a new and poignant layer to the near-poisonous miasma.
"I'm inclined to agree with Mademoiselle Marguilles," Renard added, pausing long enough to lift up one boot and sadly examine the encrusted sole. "Even leaving aside the danger to our well-being-which is, I feel constrained to point out, quite substantial-there are other, no less immediate concerns. This outfit, I fear, is quite unsalvageable. I shall perforce be required to burn it."
Widders.h.i.+ns, gliding silently through the alley ahead of them, drew to a halt, her shoulders rising in a sigh. "All right, that's enough, both of you! This is important, so hush up and let's keep moving. The faster we get there..."
"...the sooner we can leave," the barkeep and the thief parroted in unison. "So you keep telling us," Genevieve added. "But that's only if you survive, s.h.i.+ns."
"Look!" Widders.h.i.+ns turned, wincing as the motion tugged disagreeably at her bandages. "We've got to hide, yes? Maybe for quite a while. Therefore, ergo, and to wit, we need money. Where am I losing you two?"
Renard cleared his throat, a fist hovering just before his face. "I believe, Widders.h.i.+ns, that it would be at the part where you decide to go back home and gather up your stash of coin, even though the people hunting you may well know where you live."
The young woman idly kicked a clump of something from the road before her. It hit the left wall of the alley with a moist plop, and stuck. "I've told you, I don't live here. It's one of several rooms I keep around the city. Under fake names," she added as Genevieve drew breath to speak, only to come over vaguely green as the atmosphere of the alley flooded her lungs. "I've got funds stashed in each. Enough to keep us going for a while, if need be. And it's perfectly safe!" she insisted in the face of their continuing glare. "It's not humanly possible for anyone to know about this place. There's no way to trace it to me. None!
"If it'll make you feel better," she continued, "the two of you can wait here while I run up and gather the marks." She pointed at a dilapidated building, four ugly stories in height. There were more holes in the wall than there were bricks. The wooden staircase-running up the side of the building and sagging like a dying vine-leaned sev
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