Maisie tried to look, but her eyes skittered away from the gruesome display. Adam, made of stronger stuff, rose and frowned down at the body. “Is that what I think it is?”
“What is it?” Maisie asked.
“It’s supposedly an amulet worn by members of the Caste of Nod,” I said. “I saw one once in a magic store in L.A. When I asked about it, the clerk got all agitated. Told me a faery whose mother worked for the Caste pawned it. He begged me not to tell anyone he had it, because he didn’t want that kind of attention.”
Maisie looked at Adam, who nodded solemnly. “I’ve never seen one in person before, but I’ve heard the same thing.”
“Even if he is a member of the Caste, why would he want to kill you?” she said. Her face looked like it had aged years. “Sabina, this is bad. Really bad.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “It’s not like I asked him to try to kill me, Maisie.”
She hesitated. “Are you absolutely positive he struck first?”
I looked at Adam and saw the same question lurking in his eyes.
Seeing their suspicion, something inside me broke. I suppose on some level, I knew they’d never believe me. Hell, I wouldn’t have believed me, either. They’d literally found me holding a smoking gun—next to a smoking body. Still, the doubt in their eyes cut me deep.
Before I could defend myself, Orpheus burst into the room. “What the hell is going on here?” He stopped short when he saw the body. His face contorted into a mask of rage. “How could you do this?”
“Orpheus—” Maisie began, only to be cut off.
“Lazarus, arrest her.”
Adam hesitated. At that moment, a dozen other mages, including Rhea, Damara, Giguhl, and a few guards, spilled into the room. How word traveled so fast, I had no idea.
“Lazarus! I told you to take this murderer into custody!” Orpheus shouted over the shocked gasps of the newcomers.
Adam stepped forward. “Sir, I think we need to let her explain.”
Orpheus glared at Adam. “Are you questioning the leader of the Hekate Council, boy? I gave you an order.”
Adam’s chin came up. “She claims it was self-defense, sir. Surely she deserves a chance to explain.”
“I don’t give a damn who struck first. Someone with her training should be able to subdue a faery without lethal force. From the looks of that body, she not only tortured him with magic, she also shot him point-blank in the head. That’s not self-defense.”
“Sabina wouldn’t have done this without a reason,” Giguhl said, breaking into the argument.
“Giguhl,” I said quietly, with a warning clear in my voice. I appreciated his defending me, but I didn’t want him in the middle. If Orpheus got his way and they locked me up, Giguhl might be considered guilty by association.
Two guards had taken my arms during the argument. I allowed the restraint because fighting them would only worsen matters.
Through the gathering crowd, I spotted Rhea standing near the door. Her gaze met mine, but instead of disappointment or condemnation, her expression was thoughtful and maybe a little sad.
“The demon’s right,” she said, calling out to be heard over the raised voices. “Sabina might have a temper, but I don’t buy that she’d kill the faery in cold blood without a damned good reason.”
Orpheus turned toward Rhea. At her defense, some of the wind came out of his sails, but he didn’t change his course. To back down now would make him look indecisive and weak. “Regardless of her reason, she just murdered a high-ranking member of Queen Maeve’s court,” he said. “I have no choice but to lock her up pending an investigation.” He nodded to the guards holding my arms. “Take her to the holding cell.”
“Orpheus, no!” Maisie pleaded. Tears streamed down her face.
He looked at Maisie with regret on his face. “If the queen finds out I made an exception just because she’s your sister, things will only be worse for all of us.”
A muscle worked in Adam’s jaw. “I’ll take her down.”
“You’re lucky I’m not throwing you in a cell for insubordination as it is,” Orpheus snapped. “You two,” he nodded to the guards holding me, “lock her up.”
Rough hands pulled me up and led me out of the room. I went along willingly. More than anything, I craved silence. A private moment so I could fall apart without an audience.
As I passed Adam, he shot me a look full of longing. I shook my head imperceptibly. I didn’t want him getting into more trouble over me. I wasn’t worth it. I’d screwed up everything he and Maisie had worked for by killing the faery.
He nodded and went to put an arm around Maisie, whose body was shaking with loud sobs.
As I passed Giguhl I said, “Stay close to Maisie. And whatever you do, don’t do anything stupid.”
The demon’s claws worked like he wanted to punch something, but he jerked a nod. He’d obey me on this. I shot him a forced smile and allowed the guards to lead me through the room. Just before we went through the door, Rhea held up a hand to stop the guards.
“Stay calm and have faith,” she said.
I nodded to let her know I appreciated her support. But faith and I weren’t on speaking terms, and I highly doubted spending time in a cell would change my opinion.
Ten minutes later, metal bars shot through with brass slammed shut in my face. I slid down the walls of the cramped cell. I wrapped my arms around my stomach. I worried if I didn’t, I’d literally break into pieces.
There was a crack in the wall a few feet away. Just a small fissure. I stared at it for a long time.
It’s not that I’d given up. More like I’d just accepted the truth. I’d f**ked up big-time. I knew how much was riding on the queen’s support, and now I’d compromised everything Maisie had been working for. Orpheus wasn’t right, though. If I hadn’t killed the faery, he would have killed me. No doubt about it. I’d seen the murderous intent in his eyes. But the fact I had no choice didn’t make the situation less volatile. Even if I could convince the council the faery had forced my hand, they’d still blame me for screwing up their chance of getting the queen’s support.
A roach crawled out of the crack then. As it scurried across the floor, I thought about Hawthorne’s necklace. Instinct told me I was right about his connection to the Caste of Nod. I turned that over in my head, looking at it from every angle. But hard as I tried, I couldn’t figure out why the Caste would want me dead. I’d never even met a member of the Caste—that I knew of. And even if I had, what threat could I possibly pose to them?