The rain’s let up, but I’m feeling like a lodestone for eyes in the back alleys. Even with the downpour, anything other than the storefronts and the main, drained streets is reeking of trash and urban decay. The homeless are milling about, their little shacks flooded, waiting for the Spring sun to dry it all up again. At least they got a shower out of it. There’s so many refugees from the southern borders that all the hostels have been full up for weeks now. That trickle of hungry bodies has turned into something like a flood, like what they get down on the plains this time of year. But instead of churned up farmland and some bloated animals left to burst in the stinking sun, it’s a tide of human refuse, come to escape the Ghosts and their border raids.
I had a chance to enlist as a comfort girl, when the recruiter came calling through the brothels. It paid well enough, sure, but the ladies down at the front…there’s just something wrong with their eyes after a while. You see it when they come limping back to the cities, missing hands, arms, the light what used to shine in them. I don’t know what they’ve seen down there and I surely don’t want to know. Ignorance is enough company for me, and whatever brass I can make up here is a sight preferable to the gold from those empty eyes. And then there’s always the threat of a raid, of course, and I’ve already been raped enough for one lifetime, thanks. They called it “theft of services” the last time I tried to bring a Jane up on a charge, and I haven’t really bothered to go back. No one really cares about us workers down in the Slags. They need us, and we turn a tidy profit for the coffers to be sure, but there’s always someone desperate enough, or high enough on her horn, to take your place. Just ain’t the security in the job there used to be before all this border trash washed up against the outer gates.
I heard tell they’ve set up what folks are calling the Second City out front, with their tents and distant custom. The traders are practically shitting themselves to work the endless crowds, and they’re charging war prices to boot. It’s shameful, but I ain’t one to talk. You either want to spend your coin or you don’t, don’t matter how desperate the bleeding hearts want to make it out. The Sisters of Mercy, sure, they can do their thing, but only ‘cause they got themselves some patrons up in the High Keep. Cut off their own gold line and see just how quick they start turning away all them paupers what show up on the regular.
Course, I’d be right fucked without them about. Handouts is one thing, but dealing with a murder, that’s a whole other stinking fish kettle. And a legate. Gods be damned, a fucking legate, in my bed, with my knife. It’s a sure setup, but I ain’t the slightest who’d want me framed. Probably just convenient. She was a regular and my hours are on the front board. Not that hard to fix me up with something. I can’t be a target, ain’t powerful enough. But I can’t for the life of me figure out why me. And why her. Elma was a nice enough girl, if not a little thick in the thighs, but hell, none of us is perfect. Well, ‘cept for maybe Mother. Lady has a body like a rock, one of them carved ones on the main drag. Some artist or other’d shit her smallclothes to find her laid out on one of them fancy couches they’re always painting. And it occurs to me just now that whatever shit is flying in my direction is going to land square on her plate. At least she’s a big girl. She can take care of herself.
Me, though, me, I need them Sisters of Mercy. Crezi had a run-in with one of them bad coppers some months back, and told us girls exactly who to ask for at the Chapel gate. The only trick is once you go and seek yourself some asylum, you’re like as stuck. They only have sway inside their own little clammed up cloister and that can wear on a working girl. But Crezi said they don’t do too much of the High Holy shit, just enough to Keep the Faith, with all them capital letters and everything. It’s not much further, thank the Void, and I ain’t heard any hounds sounding off in the distance like some bad omen. This may just work out after all.