19 A Talk with Sir Espington

Sunday, 8 March 2099

Nelson honked the horn as he drove the last few feet of the dirt trail to the West Gate and Alley. Jago and Sayer happened to be on duty on Watchtowers One and Two; they noticed the oncoming Humvee and realized it was Espington property.

"Open up the Gate!" Jago shouted via loudspeaker.

Guard Leech happened to be watching the Gate at this time now; he had probably moved from Watchtower Three earlier in the afternoon. Leech slid the Gate open while speaking indistinctly into his shoulder walkie-talkie.

Nelson drove into Espington and didn't wait for the Heart to open up. Valinoti had started convulsing on the way back to the Marketing City. His leg had bloated to more than twice its normal size. The wound was now a sickly greenish-maroon and Valinoti's veins looked like black licorice.

"Get him to Hodge!" Nelson shouted. "I'll park the Humvee!"

Bruno nodded. Then, he shouted aloud, "I need Nurses! Get me Nurses!"

Residents all over Espington Square had stopped what they were doing and stared at either Nelson or Bruno. Heather happened to be walking back to Inns One from the Jewels Market when she noticed the injured Valinoti. She ran over to Bruno immediately, helping Val off of the vehicle with Nelson.

"What happened?" she asked. "Where were you three?"

"Adlington," Bruno answered. "Valinoti was shot by an arrow by a Piner."

"A Piner?" Heather gasped. "Is that why Diggs was freaking out on his mobile?"

Bruno didn't know what his friend was talking about; he changed focus when Nurse Madigan and Nurse Caroline arrived with a gurney.

"What hap━"

Nurse Caroline stopped speaking when she saw Valinoti's swollen leg and the wooden arrow sticking through it.

"Book an O.R. for Tim Valinoti," Nurse Madigan said into her mobile, "with Head Surgeon Henry Hodge."

The two Nurses successfully strapped Valinoti onto the gurney; the boy was still convulsing, eyes rolling over into opaque marbles. Bruno ran with Madigan and Caroline to the Clinic, leaving Heather behind. The Heart had opened up after the residents were ordered to move away; Nelson drove down into the Hangar, though Bruno did not see that happen. Diggs and Katrina had run out of Inns Two right as Bruno entered the Clinic with Val and the Nurses.

"What just happened?" Katrina asked.

A man staring at the Clinic turned around and said, "Looked like a Sergeant Guard was attacked outside Espington. The Boss Gatherer was with him, screaming for the Nurses."

Katrina looked at her boyfriend; the Guard was staring at the ground.

"Are you going to tell Julius, Sweetie?" she asked.

Diggs looked up at his girlfriend. "No, Babe. Valinoti is hurt. He doesn't need to lose his title as well."

Katrina smiled at Diggs; she knew he was upset that he lost the opportunity to possibly get the title of Sergeant Guard.

Katrina kissed Diggs on the cheek, earning herself a quick smirk from the Guard.

Henry Hodge was already in uniform and waiting in the Clinic lobby. Nurse Lauren stood next to her Boss holding several clipboards. Dr. Hodge examined Valinoti, who lay twitching on the gurney. Bruno stood next to his friend, a look of pure anxiousness.

"We have an arrow through the left tibia that has pierced through the gastrocnemius muscle," Dr. Hodge said to Nurse Lauren. "Bring him to O.R. Seven!"

Nurse Lauren, along with Nurse Caroline, wheeled the pale Valinoti through the Clinic's swing-doors; Bruno lost view of his friend once the doors stopped swinging. Nurse Madigan stood next to the Boss Gatherer; she placed her hand on his shoulder.

"It'll be okay, Bruno," she assured. "Valinoti a tough guy."

"Did you see his leg?"

"Yes and we have seen worse here," Nurse Madigan comforted.

Something popped into Bruno's mind that he should have thought of earlier, even back on the Humvee with Nelson.

"Why can't Julius heal Valinoti's leg? We should contact him! He healed Val's head, why not his leg?"

Nurse Madigan saw the panic in Bruno's eyes; she pushed down on the boy's shoulder, gently forcing him to sit down in a lobby chair.

"Julius can't fix Valinoti's leg," she sighed.

"What? How do you know that? It's a wound; Julius heals wounds magically!"

"Yes, that is true: Julius can heal wounds like cuts, scrapes, bruises, and lacerations. However, he can't heal infections, illnesses, diseases, or disorders."


"Julius could heal Valinoti, but the infection would still be there and that could still kill Valinoti."

"Kill! Valinoti could die?" Bruno shouted, Nurses and patients now staring.

"No, no, no!" Nurse Madigan hushed. "Dr. Hodge is doing everything he can to save your best friend!"

Bruno didn't know that he was starting to breathe heavily. Nurse Madigan was trying to sit Bruno back down because he had started to rise from the lobby chair. Some patients and Nurses were still staring at Bruno, worrying about the famous Boss Gatherer.

"We'll contact you when the surgery is completed," Madigan said. "Why don't you get some rest, eat some food. There's no point waiting in the lobby."

Bruno wanted to argue with Nurse Madigan, but he knew there was no point in fighting.

He nodded and walked out of the Clinic.

Sunday, 8 March 2099, 4:45PM

Bruno rested on the couch in R9. Lee, Cariddi, Schmidt, and Jojo the Great Dane were all lounging as well as watching television.

"So what's been going on, Dude?" Lee asked. "I feel like we haven't heard from ya lately."

Bruno thought about what Anzalone had said before leaving Adlington.

Tell Sir Espington everything.

"Why not tell my roommates?" Bruno said in his head. "I trust them."

"You okay, Bro?" Cariddi asked.

Bruno looked up. "Did you guys notice the commotion outside?"

"Yeah," Lee nodded. "We saw a Humvee and the Nurses helping someone out. We couldn't tell from the fourth floor."

"Wait, where's Val?" Schmidt asked.

Bruno hesitated and that was when his friends put two and two together. Their eyes widened; Jojo whined when she noticed the awkward silence.

"Valinoti is in surgery because he was attacked by a Piner when we went to Adlington," Bruno explained.

Lee and Cariddi looked at one another. Schmidt didn't have anyone to turn to so he stared into Jojo's brown eyes; she licked his face.

"Don't interrupt," Bruno started. "Let me just explain."

Lee, Cariddi, and Schmidt nodded, stared directly at their friend with wide eyes and open jaws.

"What is said in R Nine, stays in R Nine," Bruno reminded. "Anyway, Anzalone was not one of the original Miners. He was sent by Sir Adlington to join the carriage ride and enter Espington."


"No interrupting!" Bruno shouted at Schmidt.

The boy's eyes watered; Jojo continued to lick the side of his face for comfort.

"Sir Adlington ordered Anzalone to Assassinate Sir Espington because Anzalone fled the Mining City and that is a capital crime. I still don't know why Maximus wants Julius dead," Bruno explained for the umpteenth time. "If Anzalone didn't kill Julius, Maximus would kill him and his parents."

Schmidt was now wiping his teary eyes while petting Jojo behind the ears. Lee and Cariddi were fully captivated by Bruno's storytelling; they didn't move a muscle.

"The whole memorial shooting was all Maximus' idea," Bruno said. "Faulkner was supposed to kill Julius for Anzalone so he could get Exiled. Maximus would have picked Faulkner up in the Pines and bring him back to Adlington, however, the Grizzly incident screwed everything up for him.

"Anzalone obviously couldn't kill Julius and that was why Maximus hired an Assassin, Anzalone's best friend, Meghan. She, too, had the risk of losing her mother if she didn't do her job of Assassinating Anzalone. Sadly, Sir Adlington killed her mom because Anzalone stayed alive.

"Espen video chatted with Mr. and Mrs. Anzalone tied up but the video cut short when Piners attacked. Anzalone needed to head over to Adlington so we went over after confronting Meghan..."

"Wait, you faced the Assassin? When did the mother die? You're kinda bad at explaining things, Bruno," Lee said.

"Shh!" Bruno hushed. "Meghan found Valinoti in R Nine when you guys were at dinner. Jojo knocked her out and we packed her up and drove to Adlington on a Humvee with the other Sergeant Guard, Nelson. We found out the mother died when Meghan ran away from us."

"When did she run from you?" Cariddi asked.

"Can I just explain, please?" Bruno groaned. "We got there and the Piners attacked. We also met Maximus, Ake the Head Viking, and Espen. Valinoti killed a Piner, Nelson killed Ake. A piner shot Val with an arrow. Meghan ran away at one point and came back with Mrs. Anzalone who happened to be safe."

"When you said the Piners attacked, do you mean they attacked the people or the entire City?" Schmidt asked.

"The entire City is destroyed and many residents were killed..." Bruno explained.

"My family!" Schmidt shouted.

"Relax!" Bruno calmed the boy down. "Anzalone stayed behind because Espen had attacked Mr. Anzalone. He is going to text me when he finds our families, Val's too."

Schmidt calmed down a bit.

"I have to explain this all again to Julius," Bruno said. "I have to let him know about Anzalone, the Piners, and his dangerous brother."

"Well, your secret is safe with us, Bruno," Lee said.

"Why did the Piners attack Adlington?" Cariddi asked.

"Dunno," he answered. "But I will find out."

Schmidt got up and paced the room. "When do you think Anzalone will call?"

"After his father is healed and after he knows about all our families."

Schmidt nodded and walked back to his room. Cariddi got up and put his vest on. "Well, I'll see you boys later." Cariddi turned to Bruno. "Please don't keep stuff from us anymore, especially if some of it takes place in our own home."

The Guard walked out of R9.

Lee got up slowly. He was still very weak from his half-a-day surgery. "You have had the most outrageous week of your life, Dude. You need a break." He walked to his room.

Bruno knew it was time to go speak with Sir Espington.

He left R9, walked to the elevator, and hit the button to the Penthouse.

Jago and Sayer were the first people Bruno saw as the elevator doors opened to the top floor of Inns Two. Bruno automatically thought about Ms. Francesca Lupo when he saw the two Head Guard. He remembered that the Daycare Lady said she had been assaulted several times by Jago, with Sayer as a witness. Bruno wondered how Frankie was doing in the Pines.

Jago's blue eyes stared directly at Bruno, making the Boss Gatherer uncomfortable. Sayer was the first to speak.

"Well, if it isn't Bruno!" the Head Guard shouted. "What brings you the Penthouse? Oh! Are ya here to see Rina?"

Bruno was taken aback when the dark-skinned Guard asked his question. Bruno was here to speak with Julius; he completely forgot about Rina being here and instantly felt guilty. Bruno didn't really know if he was dating Rina. Well, he did, but it was never officially determined. They had both told each other that they wanted to be together back in the Elmray Mines right before they almost burned to death. Would it be wrong to kiss her if he saw her? Should he do it privately or in front of Julius? Maybe a hug would suffice.

"Forgot how to speak?" Jago asked.

Bruno snapped out of it. "What? Oh, no, I'm here to speak with Julius."

"Well, he's on the phone with the Mayor of Northernmost Espington," Jago said.

"Northernmost?" Bruno repeated.

"You didn't think our Espington was the only Espington? There's two others: North Espington and Northernmost Espington," Jago explained.

"Why haven't I heard of this?" Bruno wondered.

"Because we have Builders working on the commuter train that runs from North Gate and Alley to North Espington and then Northernmost Espington."

Bruno couldn't believe he was hearing this unbelievable news, but, then again, it made sense. Espington was only a few football fields' length from North Gate and Alley to South Gate and Alley. All the residents lived in either Inns One or Inns Two. No way they could fit all the residents in just Espington. At that moment, Bruno really wanted to visit the other two Espingtons in Northeast Togluagoa.

"When will construction end?" he asked the Guard.

Sayer spoke this time; he took off his uniformed hat revealing his bald head. "Within the next month. North Espington is more town-like with homes and markets; Northernmost has more factories and job sites."

Bruno wanted to ask more questions, but Rina and Colton made an appearance. The little boy clutched his teddy bear, yawning all the while.

"Bruno!" Rina shouted happily, her blonde hair flailing as she darted over to the Boss Gatherer.

And before Bruno knew what was happening, he was hugging Rina. He didn't know if he should kiss her in front of the Guard and Colton so he decided against it. It didn't look like Rina seemed to mind.

Rina was wearing a cyan sundress with black flip flops; her hair was curled to perfection. Colton matched with a blue t-shirt and grey khakis shorts.

"What are you doing here?" Rina asked with a smile.

"I'm here to talk with your dad."

Rina had an expression of pure curiosity mixed with worry. The way Bruno said his statement was a bit too serious.

"Are you Rich Bruno?" Colton asked.

Bruno was caught off guard but smiled when he realized who was asking the question.

"Yes, that's me," he responded.

"Are you dating my sister?" Colton wondered.

Jago and Sayer started to laugh by the doorway, but stopped when they noticed how loud they were.

"Kinda, yes," Bruno said, not wanting to turn around and see the Guard's reactions to his answer. Bruno looked up at Rina and noticed her grinning; he had answered fairly.

Colton looked up at his sister and then at his teddy bear.

"This is Esteban," he said. "He's my best friend."

"That's awesome!" Bruno smiled, petting the bear. He then spoke to it: "It's very nice to meet you, Esteban."

Colton laughed and skipped back to his room. Rina was still smiling, staring at Bruno with her bright, blue eyes.

"Why dontcha take a picture, Rina, it'll last longer!" Jago said and, together, the two Guard laughed aloud.

Rina's cheeks immediately turned a shade of red; she looked down at the carpet as quickly as she could thinking that that would hide her embarrassment.

Bruno took Rina's hand and she looked back up.

"It's okay," Bruno chuckled.

Again, Rina smiled.

There was the sound of a door opening and that was when Bruno noticed Sir Espington in yet another pewter suit. His necktie was a bright periwinkle, with sky-blue zigzags. The white strip of hair that streaked across Julius' long, black hair was extra bright today.

The scar was more prominent, too.

"Bruno, good to see you're here," the President said. "I believe Franklyn was looking for you?"


"Guard Zero-Nine-Nine," Sir Espington said realizing Bruno didn't know the first name. "Diggs."

"Oh! Wait, he needed me?"

Sir Espington gave a not-exactly kind of expression. "Apparently Sergeant Guard Valinoti didn't add you as a Passenger on the Vehicle Form when he took a trip to Adlington."

"...Yes, he told me he had forgotten on the way to the Mining City," Bruno said, knowing he was going to have to tell Julius many more truths. Jago and Sayer looked at one another, rolled their eyes, and continued listening to the conversation.

"It is a minor violation to not write down all the accounted passengers," Sir Espington explained. "However, the violation is worse because he didn't inform anyone that he forgot about not writing your name. He knew he had forgotten."

"Sir Espington, Valinoti is in the Clinic with an arrow through his leg...an arrow shot by a Piner in Adlington," Bruno butted in.

The suite was silent; Julius, Rina, Jago, and Sayer did not say a single word for a couple of seconds. Bruno looked at each one of their faces; all were expressionless.

"...W-What?" Julius finally said.

"Can I speak with you in the office privately?" Bruno asked.

Julius looked at the Head Guard and then his daughter. He finally looked back at Bruno. "Fine. Let's talk."

The President walked into his office.

Bruno rubbed the nape of Rina's hand gently with his thumb before following Sir Espington.

. . .

There was a jaguar cub in Sir Espington's office, or what Bruno thought was a jaguar cub. The cute, little feline was perched on the Penthouse window's ledge staring intently at the newcomer.

"Is that a jaguar?" Bruno asked the President.

Julius turned to the cat and chuckled. "Oh, that's Winks. He's an ocelot."

"A what?"

"An ocelot," Julius grinned. "Native to Southern Belington and extremely endangered. And when I say 'extremely endangered' I mean that Winks is the only ocelot left in Togluagoa."

Bruno was speechless. Winks was now licking his paw on the window's ledge with his little, pink tongue.

"Can I pet him?" Bruno asked.

"Absolutely," Julius smiled. "Winks loves the affection."

Bruno walked to the ocelot with caution, even though the cat was a foot long and his tail even longer. Julius had his arms crossed, watching intently as if Colton was learning how to ride his bike for the first time.

Bruno placed his hand gently on Winks' back and he couldn't believe it; the ocelot's fur was softer than anything he had ever touched before. Winks was now purring and rubbing his head against Bruno's arm.

"He's amazing" were the only words that, almost automatically, came out of Bruno's mouth.

"So what do you need to talk about, Bruno?"

Bruno totally lost interest in petting Winks now. His expression went cold as he turned his attention to Sir Espington. Bruno took a seat on the window's ledge next to Winks, while Julius sat behind his office desk.

"I went to Adlington today to see if my family was okay. The entire City was attacked by Piners and many residents were killed," Bruno said.

"How did you know Adlington was being attacked, Bruno?"

Bruno swallowed hard and then took a deep breath. "Espen Fontenot called Tyler Anzalone through Dylan Faulkner's mobile saying he had Mr. and Mrs. Anzalone hostage. That's when the Piners attacked, during the video chat."

"I don't under━"

"Maybe I should just explain everything and then you can say what you have to say, and do what you have to do," Bruno interjected, feeling somewhat nauseous.

Sir Espington noticed the Boss Gatherer's uneasy expression and faint voice; the President nodded as if to say "Go on, then."

Again, Bruno swallowed before speaking. He talked about the carriage ride, how the Adlington Vikings placed the bomb in the Pines for Roger to drive over. Bruno explained how this was an extreme way for Anzalone to sneak into the group of Miners without a second look from the Espington Guard.

"Wait just one second," Julius said a little too loudly, Bruno now thinking that Rina was eavesdropping along with Jago and Sayer. "Why would Maximus bomb his own carriage just for Anzalone to get on? Couldn't he have switched him with another Miner on the list of twenty-one?"

"I agree it was stupid for your brother to bomb his own men, killing three, just for one man to join, but apparently Roger was supposed to drive alongside the bomb to cause only injuries. However, the list wasn't twenty-one in the first place, it was always twenty Miners. I believe the bomb was a distraction so you and the Guard would forget the correct amount of Miners entering Espington," Bruno explained.

Julius pondered this a moment as he scratched the nape of his neck; he then proceeded to pressed a button on the side of his desk.

A thin, sixteen-inch tablet rose from the middle of the desk. It's slim, slate-gray screen blocked Julius' chest; a bit of light illuminated Sir Espington's face revealing that the tablet had automatically turned on. Julius tapped the screen a few times before stopping and staring intently. His eyes jutted up and down and if he was reading something vertically. The President's eyes finally widened when he found what he was looking for.

"I just pulled up the list of Miners that came to Adlington; Espen had given me a scroll of the names. Leta had taken a picture of it and sent it to me via mobile," Julius explained. "Anzalone's name is at the bottom of the list in a different handwriting."

"Which proves my point," Bruno sighed. "Espen or someone must've jotted his name down on the list before or after the explosion. When you got the list, you weren't stressing over the number of Miners, no one was, because of the explosion and deaths that we thought Islington orchestrated."

"So simple yet so clever," Julius muttered. "How did I not notice this?"

"It's not your fault," Bruno explained. "No one noticed this...well, no one except me."

Sir Espington looked at up at Bruno, directly into his eyes. "What do you mean, Rich?"

Bruno didn't know how he felt when Julius called him by his first name; he didn't remember the last time he did that.

"After the explosion, I noticed Anzalone," Bruno started. "I knew he was an Adlington Miner because of his uniform, but I knew he wasn't on the carriage in the first place. I disregarded it all because Valinoti thought he saw him on the carriage plus Anzalone had broken his pinky finger. Ended up that Espen snapped Anzalone's finger..."

Julius shook his head a bit, probably trying to gather all the sudden information. "Back to the beginning...why did my brother blow up a carriage to let Anzalone into Espington?"

Bruno breathed in and then out; he knew the rest of his explaining was going to be tough and unpredictable. "Because Anzalone fled Adlington which is a capital crime. Maximus caught him and, instead of Executing him, he asked Anzalone a favor..."

Julius leaned in. "What favor, Bruno?"

"...Maximus ordered Anzalone to Assassinate you in one week."

Sir Espington blinked a few times; he ran his fingertips through his jet-black hair, the white strand disappearing and then reappearing after a quick moment.

"I'm not surprised that my brother wants me dead, but I have had an Assassin in my City for a whole week and you have not told me? Bruno, that is a capital crime!"

"Don't you think I know that?" Bruno said, raising his voice a bit. At this point, he knew for sure that Jago, Sayer, and Rina were eavesdropping. "Anzalone just recently told me the truth! The entire week we were distant because I knew he was up to no good! I just found out he had a task to kill you, but Julius, he told me he couldn't kill you. Anzalone is not a killer!"

"Like that is supposed to make me feel any better or safer!" Julius muttered. "Explain everything Bruno, or this can end very badly for you."

Bruno's heart was beating extremely fast now; he looked around the room trying to calm down, but nothing was working. He had to turn his attention back to the President sitting in front of him. Winks was now napping next to Bruno's lap, not realizing the situation.

"Maximus threatened Anzalone, said he would kill his parents if he didn't kill you! That was why Mr. and Mrs. Anzalone were held hostage by Espen in the video chat. Anyway, the first attempt was the memorial shooting..."

Again, Julius' eyes widened.

Bruno explained how Faulkner volunteered to shoot Julius because he never liked Espington and wanted to go back to Adlington. Bruno continued by explaining that Faulkner missed Julius' head and continued firing trying to get a clear shot, but ended up hurting several residents and killing Otis. Bruno talked about how Anzalone "saved the day" by "stopping" Faulkner, when in reality, he was really telling Faulkner what to do on the roof. Lastly, Bruno explained that the entire idea came from Espen and that Anzalone had to obey.

Julius continued to rock on his chair; he calmly pushed the tablet back into the desk while breathing ever so heavily. Winks stood at ease, hopped off the ledge, and trotted over to his master's shins. There, he made his new home and fell back asleep peacefully.

"You knew about this?" Julius asked quietly.

"Not during the memorial, no," Bruno answered. "I actually believed that Anzalone was the shooter since he left during the speeches."

"Anything else, Bruno?" Sir Espington asked, craning his neck until it cracked.

"Yes..." Bruno coughed. "Espen kept calling Anzalone telling him that his deadline was nearing. Anzalone was freaked out, knew he had to kill you, but couldn't. That was when Anzalone found out a real Adlington Assassin was in Espington. Her task was to kill him or else her mother would die. Again, more threats from your brother."

"So, there's two Assassins in my City?" Julius groaned.

"No! There's none now! And Anzalone was never an Assassin; he is a good guy!" Bruno shouted. "We caught the Assassin and brought her back to Adlington. That was part of the reason why we went to the Mining City, to bring the Assassin back and to check on our families."

"If this Adlington Assassin didn't kill Anzalone, where is he?"

"He stayed back in Adlington after Espen stabbed Mr. Anzalone," Bruno explained. "The real Assassin is apparently good now because she was always Anzalone's best friend, plus Maximus did end up killing her mother. It's all complicated and I don't buy her loyalty one bit and━"

"Bruno!" Julius shouted, scaring Winks; the ocelot scurried off under a trophy case. "You are trailing off...Anything else?"

Bruno thought and believed he had said everything he needed to say. "Oh, Jesse Nelson came along with us to Adlington and he ended up killing a Piner; the Assassin did Assassinate a Plumber named Dixon. She told us this in Adlington; hm, and Jago is a rapist." Bruno just remembered the last part.

"****━Ake?━Dix━who is━oh Delroy Dixon! He was fired ages ago but never accepted it so he's been living in the sewers pretending to be a Plumber. That's a shame, really. We'll have the Guard retrieve his body now."

Sir Espington proceeded to click his mobile a few times before speaking into the side of the device. "Diggs, Greene, Siegfried, we have a Code Red. Delroy Dixon, ex Plumber, has been allegedly murdered in the sewers. I need you three and the rest of the squadron to scout the entire sewage plains and report everything back to Cradock and me."

Bruno was surprised at how calm Sir Espington was; he did just tell the President that a fellow Espington resident was murdered. Julius explained himself without even Bruno asking.

"Being the President, you have to stay calm with capital crimes," he explained. "Once you lose your wits, you lose your focus. We don't want that."

Bruno understood that; it reminded him about his first week at Espington. Although there were many achievements like meeting friends, becoming Boss Gatherer, and building a relationship with Rina, Bruno faced a lot of danger and death. At least one person died each day he was in Espington. Bruno also survived two vehicle accidents, a Varmint, a Mining-Piner attack, and Adlington with the Piners once more. This was all in one week; Bruno barely had time for work, school, and leisure time with his friends. He hoped this would change soon.

"Now Jago being a rapist?" Julius snapped Bruno out of his thoughts.

"Yes, I witnessed him try to assault Ms. Lupo and she confessed that he has raped her previous times."

"Well, sadly, she has been Exiled and there is nothing I can do about that," Julius said plainly. "I never pictured Jago as a rapist or predator being that he guards my daughter, but I'll keep an eye out since you made that accusation."

Bruno nodded. "So, is that it? Am I in trouble?"

"No, at least not yet," Julius said. "Thank you for telling me this. We have a lot to talk about with the ECC soon."

Again, Bruno nodded. He knew that all the Bosses would have to know about this and Anzalone said that Bruno needed to tell Julius everything. This was the right thing.

"There's something I almost forgot to ask," Bruno said. He waited for Julius to nod and when he did: "Why did you sentence Carth to death? She mentioned you when I visited her at her cell."

Sir Espington smiled. "I gave the EZ Vote because I already knew she was pregnant. Caroline and I had spoken before the ECC meeting. Not disobeying the ECLs is what keeps the City in line, keeps us from having any problems."

Bruno couldn't believe the President; he was really a good, understanding guy. And it seemed like he didn't mind that Bruno stayed with Rina.

"I have one more question," said Bruno.


"How can you heal wounds? Y-Your, um, Gift?"

Julius chuckled. He pulled out his necklace, that had always been hidden by his suit and tie. At the bottom of the collar hung a pink, opaque small jewel. Bruno had never seen that sort of gem in the Adlington Mines, wondered what it was.

"We'll talk about that some other time," the President smiled.

Julius got up and led Bruno to the office door, back out into the living room where Rina and the Head Guard had probably been eavesdropping.

"I'll meet you in the Heart tomorrow afternoon around one," Sir Espington said.

"Wait, what? Why?"

"Because we're going back to Adlington," the President said. "We need to get Anzalone back and I need to speak to my brother."

And with that, the last thing Bruno saw before Julius closed the office door was Winks.

The ocelot winked and Bruno suddenly realized the reason for the pet's name.

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