The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter

smile, the sort an adult would offer a child who has just said something stupid. “This will do the trick.” Mercator drew out a folded parchment.

“A letter?” Royce was disappointed.

“Were you expecting a finger?”

Behind Mercator, not far from the fountain, a Calian man was juggling flaming torches that made muffled whump sounds each time they spun.

“To be honest, yes. A fresh-cut finger shows the victim was recently alive. And there is the added bonus of indicating the seriousness of the kidnapper.”

Mercator continued her patient smile. “You’ve done this sort of thing before, haven’t you?”

“Hadrian and I weren’t hired for our looks.”

“Nor for your intelligence.” The insult was presented without malice, making it sound more like constructive criticism.

Royce was never one for criticism, constructive or

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