“What do you think to gain?”
Her voice was soft and pleasant. She sat in a chair, her maid at her side.
“Satisfaction,” I answered.
“By slaying my benefactor?”
“The benefactor of this city, our Master Gao?”
Dog scratched himself and asked in reply, “What of us who don’t benefit?”
The woman didn’t look at Dog. She ignored him as if he wasn’t there.
“What does it truly matter,” she continued, “if he eats a man or two here and there? There are a great many of you in your world and so few here. You should consider the devouring of one of your colleagues a compliment. Master Gao is extremely picky. He only eats the finest meat. I have heard he savors your friend still.”
“That a fact?” I asked and spat on the ground by my foot.
A flicker of disdain passed over her face as she nodded. “It is indeed a fact. Your friend fought well, so Master Gao says, and so his heart should be eaten last, not only as a delight but as an acknowledgment of your friend’s prowess.”
“He might choke on it,” I replied. “But my goal is to cut off his damned hands and stuff them down his throat.”
The maid’s eyes widened.
The woman frowned. “Is this the course you plot?”
“I’ve come from another world,” I told her. “I’ve tramped and killed my way to this place. To you. I know Gao is in here, somewhere, and I’m going to find him. When I do, he’ll suffer.”
“What then?” the woman asked, her voice sharp within my thoughts.
“Then I’ll burn this place to the ground, and whatever speakers are here, they’ll go free.”
“No,” the woman shook her head before she said to her maid, “Shin. Call them here.”
I thumbed the hammers of the Colts back, and as I prepared to draw them, Shin drew a long, thin knife from the sleeve of her gown and plunged it into the neck of her mistress.
The woman stiffened, eyes bulging out, and then slid limply to the ground.
Aloud, Shin asked, “You will save the speakers?”
“There’s a Thinker ship with others,” I told her. “You can come with us if you like.”
She nodded. “He is in the central chamber. He has called for his palanquin and looks to flee you.”
With that information, Dog and I entered the house and went searching for Gao.