“I’m not a bloody murderer!” Tooks said as Brylla clamped his hands and feet in heavy iron shackles. “Do they look dead to you?”
“No, they don’t,” Brylla said, roughly walking Tooks out to a wagon parked outside. “I’ll grant you that.”
“Then what are you arresting me for?”
Brylla shoved him into the back of the wagon. “It’s a long ride back to Baycloak. I’ll think of something. Sit”
Tooks slumped onto one of the rough wooden planks on either side of the wagon. It was completely enclosed on all sides, with nothing but a small barred window behind where the driver would sit to let in any light or air. With dawn still hours away, Tooks sat alone with his thoughts.
Until Brylla began bundling the others in beside him.
“Wait wait wait, is this really necessary?” he pleaded.
“Not that I need explain myself to the likes of you,” Brylla said, trying hard not to breathe in the stench around her, “but I can’t very well leave these … whatever they are here for your neighbors to find come morning.”
“You didn’t shay you had a shweetheart,” his mother said as she climbed into the wagon. Tooks ignored her, sliding further and further along the bench until he was wedged into a corner. Tooks’ companions offered no complaints over the cramped quarters; most of them had been in similar spaces until recently, and at least this was free of dirt and bugs. Besides what they’d dragged in with them, of course.
“Well can’t you put ’em in another wagon?” he said as the door to the wagon slammed shut and Brylla threw the bolt.
“And just how many wagons did you think I brought with me?” Brylla said, hoisting herself up onto the driver’s seat. “I came expecting to arrest a murderer, not a necromancer and his minions.”
“Necromancer? Me?” Tooks laughed.
“How else do you explain all of this?”
“If’n I knew how to summon up this lot, I’d’ve sure as hell sent ’em away by now!” He ignored his mother’s pained expression, mostly because he couldn’t tell if it was genuine hurt or her trying to keep her jaw in place.
“Enough! You can plead your case to the High Seeker when we reach Baycloak.” She shouted and snapped the reins, and the wagon lurched forward.
Tooks felt every bump in the road as the hours went by and Lord’s Road rolled beneath them. Some of the deeper ruts would send one of the corpses floundering into his side, or onto his lap, but what really annoyed him was their unending chipperness.
“Pardon me, young man,” Widow Mabben said, oblivious to the chunk of scalp that shook loose from her.
“Smooth ride, eh?” Jedro said with a wink that left his eye stuck shut.
“Itsh been sho long shinsh we took a trip togezher,” his mother said, placing a maternal, fleshless arm around her son.
He did his best to drown them out by thinking over how a member of the Crown Company had found him. Every possibility led him back to Banner Malkin. He had eyes and ears throughout the Commonwealth. He could easily pay the right magistrate for a falsified warrant once one of his little birds had sung of Tooks’ whereabouts. Brylla would be none the wiser, secure in her duty, while she did the bidding of the greatest criminal in Baycloak. And Tooks had been worried about something as mundane as someone knifing him in the night. Malkin would never stoop to such inelegance. Tooks almost had to grin. Then he saw Oswood Mabben’s nose fall to the floor of the wagon and buried his head in the corner.
He lost track of the passing time. Brylla would stop for short rests, to shove food and water to him through the window, and to empty his privy bucket. But beyond these respites, all he knew was the jarring shake of the wagon on Lord’s Road. That, and the very real certainty he was on his way to his death.