Brock clutched the letter as he strode up the steps to the dragon’s temple. He hadn’t been inside here since his twin boys died. Did he hate it back then as much as he did now?
He shouldn’t be nervous. Obsidian’s temple might be smack in the center of the city, but it was small and unimposing. Cozy, almost. Or as cozy as possible for a building dedicated to death.
The doors were open. Brock paused to genuflect. He might be furious with the dragon and the courts and the whole damned city, but he would still show the proper respect.
He walked straight up to the black marble altar. Only a few candles flickered on it, aided by a small lamp that hung from the ceiling. The great candelabras to either side, though, were dim. And since the sun was setting, no light shone through the stained glass windows.
Brock placed the letter on top of the altar. He wasn’t sure if that was allowed, but no lightning struck him.
There was no corpse on the altar right now, and no priests attending it. But there wouldn’t be, would there? Normally, when a citizen of Halcrest died, his remains were placed here as part of a dignified ceremony. Then a priest would accompany the remains to the dragon. And Obsidian—well, he’d make a meal out of the corpse.
That’s how it was supposed to work. But Brock’s partner hadn’t died of natural causes. His corpse had never rested here. Instead, when his judges handed down his sentence—to hang by the neck until death—he demanded to be handed straight to Obsidian.
Damn it. Brock never had a chance to pay his last respects. He never had a chance to make things right between them either.
“Can I help you?”
Brock snatched back the letter back as he spun around. What was the matter with him? He wasn’t the type to let someone catch him unawares.
One of the priests was standing off to the side, partially concealed by the shadows. His black and ivory robes were just a hair too short, as if he wanted to make sure he didn’t trip over them.
This wasn’t just any priest. Brock recognized those too-short robes, along with that dark, unruly hair. This was Robin Weaver, the high priest of Obsidian. He’d been handpicked by the dragon himself.
The high priest grinned. “That’s me, yes. What can I do for you, Officer?”
Brock blinked. Right, he was still in his regimentals. He’d come here straight from Ironbound. “I, um—a brother officer of mine was sentenced to hang yesterday.”
Robin’s expression softened. “Shane Corlisa?”
“I’m aware of the case. He chose to face Obsidian directly.”
“Right. I understand why he wanted it that way, but it all happened so fucking—ah, excuse me, Eshkeri. So quickly.”
“You understand, don’t you, that he chose not to appeal his case? He only asked to face Obsidian for his execution instead of the gallows.”
“I understand that. I just came to pay my respects. Things, ah, weren’t right with us when he made his choice.”
“You’re his partner, then?”
Brock nodded. “Yes. I mean, I was. I’m Brock Parr.” He held out his free hand.
Robin—everyone in Halcrest referred to the priest by his first name—took his hand and shook it. His dark eyes were warm as he let go. “Let’s sit down.”
Brock followed him and took a seat on the first pew. Then he stood straight up again. Wasn’t he supposed to wait for the high priest to sit first? But Robin just waved a hand, dismissing any formalities, and they sat down together.
“Did you see Shane before he died?” Brock asked.
“I spoke with him at length yesterday, after the sentencing. And I went with him to Obsidian’s Marsh. He mentioned you more than once.”
Brock snorted. “He was angry as all seven hells with me, Eshkeri.”
That brought a small smile to Robin’s lips. “I’d say that’s accurate, yes.”
“I testified against him.” Brock crumpled the letter in frustration and then tucked it into the pocket of his waistcoat. “But what was I supposed to do? He had the opportunity and motive. And we both hated that bastard. Harris, I mean. The one who ended up with his throat cut in that alley.”
“I know who Harris is.”
“When the law failed to convict him, of course Shane wanted us to take matters into our own hands.”
“Did you want the same?”
“Yes! But I didn’t act on it. And he did. I know he said he was innocent, but he was covered with blood—”
Robin put a hand on his shoulder. “It sounds as if you did your duty.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I should have worried more about my partner than my duty. All I had to do was leave out that part of my testimony—I didn’t need to tell them that Shane wanted us to take care of Harris. Without that, they wouldn’t have convicted him.”
Robin didn’t say anything.
Brock bit his lip. He had just admitted—to the high priest, of all people—that he should have committed perjury to save his friend.
But there was no judgment in the priest’s voice as he responded. “What would you say to Shane now, if you could?”
Brock put his elbow on his knee and his chin on his hand. “I’d tell him—I’d tell him that he’s still my partner. Whatever he did or didn’t do. And if he did do it, then I’m equally responsible.”
He looked up. “I know him. I know what he’s capable of. I should have kept him from going after that bastard, even if I had to kidnap him and lock him in my fucking cellar.”
Robin raised his eyebrows. “If you had it to do all over again, is that how you’d handle him?”
“Yes. And I’d talk some sense into him while I had him there.”
“Would you have been able to get through to him, do you think?”
“I don’t know. But I would have done my best.”
Robin chuckled as he climbed to his feet. “I think you’ve solved a problem for me.”
“I don’t see what’s so bloody—damn. I’m sorry for my language, Eshkeri. It’s just that—”
But the priest waved his hand again. “I’m not offended. But I think you should come with me.”