“Wake up.” Ridley kicked the bars behind Konstantin’s back, and he lifted his head. “We’re here to talk to you.”
“Don’t bother trying to raise Bent,” Konstantin said without looking at us or standing up. “He won’t get up.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, and turned my attention to Bent’s cell. “Bent? Bent! Get up.”
He didn’t stir, so I walked over to his cell, pressing my face against the bars to get a better look. I shouted his name again, and then I saw the dark stain at the top of his sheets. The lanterns didn’t give off much light, but it was enough that I could see that the stain looked red.
“Ridley, get the keys,” I said.
“What? Why?” he asked, coming over to have a look.
“Just get them now,” I commanded, and he did as he was told, jogging down the hall away from me.
There was a long stick with a hook at the end leaning against the wall in the tunnel, and I assumed it was used for handing prisoners things from a distance or perhaps poking an unruly inmate who didn’t want to get out of bed.
I grabbed it, and then carefully I angled the stick so I could hook the edge of Bent’s sheet. I was saying his name, telling him he’d better not being playing any games, but he never replied. As I pulled the blanket back, it became obvious why.
His eyes were open wide, staring vacantly at the ceiling above him, and his throat had been torn open, leaving a jagged gaping wound. By the looks of the bent shackle in his hand, I guessed he’d used the rusted sharp point on the end to do the job, but it couldn’t have been easy. The blood still looked wet and bright dripping from his throat, so he couldn’t have done it long ago, but it didn’t matter. Bent Stum was dead.
“Bryn,” Konstantin whispered, and I turned away from Bent’s bloody corpse to see that Konstantin was standing now, his hands gripping the prison bars in desperation as he looked out at me.
“Did you just stand there, watching him while he killed himself?” I asked coldly. “Or maybe you talked him into it?”
Konstantin laughed darkly. “You can’t really believe he killed himself.”
“You’re saying that you somehow got out of your cage and did it yourself?”
“No, of course not.” He shook his head. “Bent was a dumb oaf. I know I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but he was. He would talk soon, so somebody silenced him.”
“Who?” I stared down at him dubiously. “Who would’ve come down here to do that?”
“I’ll tell you, white rabbit, but you have to let me out first,” Konstantin said with a sly smile. But beneath the steely gray of his eyes, I saw fear flickering.
“Not a chance,” I replied immediately.
“I can’t stay here locked up, or they’ll come for me next.”
“Good.” I folded my arms over my chest. “You’re a murderer. It’s about time you get your comeuppance.”
“I’ve never killed anyone!” Konstantin sounded exasperated. “I know I hurt you and your father, and I’ve hurt plenty of other people. But I haven’t killed any of them.”
“Tell that to Emma Costar,” I said, and the image of her lying dead on the bank of the river flashed in front of my eyes again.
“That was Bent. He’s clumsy and stupid, never knowing his own strength.” He rested his forehead against the bars. “I shouldn’t have left him alone with her. That is my fault, but I never laid a hand on her.”
“Where is Linnea?” I asked. “If you tell me where she is, I’ll let you go.”
Konstantin groaned and threw his head back. “I don’t know where she is.”
“Someone is trying to kill you, and they have access to your cell. I suggest you start talking if you want to live.”
“I swear, I don’t know where she is,” he insisted fiercely.
“You’re lying. I know you’re lying. You wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for her.”
“We came here for her, that’s true,” Konstantin admitted. Then he pursed his lips, pausing before going on. “But things are very complicated.”
“Why the Skojare?” I asked. “You’ve been targeting the Kanin for so long, then why suddenly hit the Skojare?”
“It wasn’t my idea. None of this was my idea.” His shoulders sagged and he let go of the bars. “But I’m not sure that makes any of this any better.”
“Whose idea was it?” I asked. “I know Bent wasn’t the brains of the operation.”
He looked up at me, tears resting in his eyes and a sad smile on his face. “Have you ever been in love?”
I tensed. “That’s none of your business.”
“No, you haven’t.” His smile widened and he shook his head. “Lucky you.”
“What does this have to do with Linnea?” I asked.
“Everything. And nothing.” He stepped back from the bars with a resigned expression on his face. “I’ve done so many things in the name of love. And lately I’ve begun to wonder, is it still love if it makes one do terrible things?”
“That just sounds like an excuse to be evil,” I told him honestly.
“I would agree with you, but I regret a lot of it.” He sighed and sat back on the wooden bed behind him. “I regret most of it, really, but still, I can’t bring myself to regret falling in love. Even though I died. The real me, the me I’d once been, the me that you admired so much. He died the instant I fell.” He stared intently at me. “But for love, I’d gladly kill myself again.”
“If you don’t tell me what’s going on and where Linnea is, you’re going to die in that cell,” I warned him, trying to reason with him. “Not metaphorically die, but literally die, the way Bent did, and as unpleasant as that had to be to watch, it’s going to be much worse to experience for yourself.”
“Then that’s the price that I’ll have to pay,” he said simply. He laid back on his bed and rolled over so his back was to me. “But you can still heed my advice, white rabbit. Get away from all of this before it’s too late for you.”
Ridley sat on my bed, hunched over with his fingers tangled in his dark hair. I pulled my own wave of hair up in a ponytail, as if tugging my hair back would help me think more clearly.