For her last stop of the night, Emma put on her boots and then descended into the sewers. It took about a half hour of waiting before she heard the Sewer Rat’s approach. She smelled him before he came into sight, looking just as unkempt as the last time she’d seen him.
“You back,” he said.
“You lose someone else?”
She laughed nervously at this. The Sewer Rat had been kind to her the last time, but could she really trust someone who lived in the sewers and dressed in rat fur? There was only one way to find out. “Not exactly. I was hoping you could help me again. Or that your scouts could help me.”
“They not slaves,” he said.
Her face turned warm at this. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not trying to enslave anyone. I was just hoping you could help me keep track of someone who’s doing some very bad things.”
“Because I want to stop him.” Panning her flashlight around, she saw the Sewer Rat’s friends all around. None of them were giving her a very friendly look. “I’m sorry I wasted your time,” she said.
She had gone a few steps before the Sewer Rat said, “Wait.”
She turned around to face him again. “Yes?”
“Who you look for?”
“His name is Ian MacGregor, but he is also a creature called the Black Dragoon—that’s the one who was at the sausage plant before.”
She reached slowly into her pocket, not wanting to spook the Sewer Rat or his friends. She produced the remains of Ian’s identification badge. “I’m not sure if his smell will still be on here or not.”
The Sewer Rat took this from her with grubby fingers that looked as if they hadn’t been trimmed in years. He put the badge to his nose, sniffing at it. Then he knelt down, the rat with the silver stripe appearing at his side. The rat also sniffed at the badge. With a squeak, the rat scampered off. “He tell others.”
“Thank you.” She cleared her throat. “Tomorrow night I might need your help in tracking him if he gets away from me.”
“I’m not sure how to get a message—”
“We find you,” the Sewer Rat said.
“Thank you. I don’t know how I can repay you—”
“We make deal.”
“Oh?” she said. She had a horrible vision of the Sewer Rat trying to rape her as Don Vendetta had been planning to do, only with all of his rats watching.
“You bring food.”
“Food? What sort of food do you like?”
“Any. Bring two bags with you next time.”
Bags? She needed a moment to realize he probably meant trash bags. He wanted her to Dumpster dive for him and his rats. She supposed it wasn’t that unreasonable of a request. From the look of him, he could definitely use a meal or two. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll try to find you something really good.”
He held out his hand for her to shake. She tried not to wince as she did so, reminding herself that he had helped her save Mr. Graves. Without the Sewer Rat’s help, she might never have found Mr. Graves before the Dragoon killed him.
She let go of his hand and then stood there in awkward silence for a moment. She cleared her throat. “Well, I’d better get going. I’ll see you later.”
“Yes. See you.”
He disappeared into the shadows, but as Emma began climbing up to the surface, she doubted she was really alone.