The boy couldn’t have been older than eighteen. A pool of blood reflected the lights of Divinity’s Reach, and his death rattle still echoed back and forth between my ears.
I stated the obvious, “You killed him.”
“I did my job.” Ministry Guard Henrick Baker had moved in so close I could smell the smugness on his breath. His uniform matched my own, the scarlet and silver I’d worn since joining the Ministry Guard. He’d taken the same oath I had—to protect and serve the Krytan Ministry and Divinity’s Reach. And yet, he’d murdered this citizen without trial or hesitation.
With one quick movement, unexpected by either of us, I slammed him against the stone wall, my forearm pressed hard up under his chin, my feet braced against retaliation. I ignited a gleam of necromantic fury at my fingertips—near his eye, where he couldn’t miss it.
He shied away, turning his face from the threat.
My voice didn’t sound like my own. “We were just supposed to take him in for questioning.”
“Those might’ve been your orders, but they weren’t mine.” Baker had the nerve to sound pleased with himself, as if he’d one-upped me. “It was a need-to-know mission.”
The Ministry had heard rumors that the boy had witnessed a gruesome crime. My immediate superior had dispatched Baker and me to bring him in. Bring. Him. In. Not kill him.
“You won’t get away with this,” I said, lacking anything wittier.
“What can you do? Turn me over to the Seraph? This was sanctioned by brass up in the nosebleed offices, way above our ranks. I’d be out of the holding cell before the Seraph had even finished grilling you. Then, you’d be the one in trouble, not me.”
My gut told me he was right. The stink on the Ministry Guard had been turning my stomach for far too long. I gave one last shove at his chin, banging his head against the stone, then released him. I did not, however, turn my back on him.
“Good call,” he said. “Listen, don’t be naive. What’s one dead stranger out of thousands in this city? The Ministry keeps us safe, and that’s all that matters. You keep your head down and do what you’re told. Maybe you’ll earn that need-to-know status. I’m heading back to the offices before some nosy citizen comes along.”
I was shaking so badly I couldn’t even answer him. I just watched him walk away, listened to the steady tap of his wooden heels on the cobblestones, and chewed on this last straw, this final, irrefutable stick of evidence that I was in with the wrong people.
“Hello?” someone said in a voice as quiet as the grave.
I turned on my heel and found myself face to face with a ghost, the boy’s ghost. My necromancy surged in me, responding to the presence of the recent dead. I let the power swell and flow through me.