Mouse approached. She put her arms around him. “You did right, Broden. Maybe you can help.”
“I need to get you out of here, Carlie.”
“Come on, Broden, let’s go for a walk,” Striver said. “Some brisk cool air will clear your mind.”
He shook his head. “Perhaps later. For now, I need to speak with the two of you and we can’t risk being overheard.” He growled. “Oh, I cannot tolerate that man! He makes my head ache and my skin crawl.” He shuddered.
“Broden—” Striver started.
“I know. I know!” He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He ran his hand over the top of his head and down to the back of his neck. “I just— I don’t understand why he didn’t seek me out, why he didn’t take Carlie—err, ‘Mouse,’ that is—along with him.”
“You mean your friend from Oosa?”
“Maybe it wasn’t him you saw,” Carlie said. “Surely, Jerrett wouldn’t have left you behind in Darth if he knew . . .”
He hung his head. “No, it was him. We’ve been over this. I walked out for a breath of fresh air and I saw Jerrett in the distance. I know it was him. I’d recognize his outline, his dress, his gait, anywhere. Like I told you before, I chased behind, but . . .” He growled again.
“Pestifere had been watching me, and he’d followed me. Shortly before arriving at Cark’s home, he caught up with me. I know that’s where Jerrett was headed because the next day, we learned of the two dead guards found there, and a short while later, of that tunnel from Cark’s home that someone had blown up. It had to have been Jerrett that did it—and I’m sure he used a crystal to destroy the place.”
“But if he knew you were there, why would he leave you behind?” Striver asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Broden closed his eyes. “I fear he may have seen enough to have jumped to the wrong conclusion.”
“He wouldn’t have,” Carlie said. “He knows you.”
“I would have thought he’d believe in me.” Broden shook his head. Then he glanced her way. “Still, you have to admit, it didn’t look good with me being here. He must have known that I’d brought the great sword along. Zarek wielded it when we first arrived in Darth, when he addressed the crowd. Remember? What’s more, Jerrett wasn’t at the compound when I was taken, so . . . what else could he conclude?”
He turned to Striver. “And from everything you told me about the man who came to check things out—the man who called himself ‘Jabari’— Well, what you told him may well have convinced him that I was loyal to Zarek. Moreover, he had to know it was Carlie who was with me. I’d always called her ‘Mouse.’”
She embraced him yet again. “But he wouldn’t have left me here, Broden.”
“No? Even if he thought we might have planned something together?”
She pulled back. Tears sprang to her eyes. “No!” she cried, covering her mouth with her hand.
“No, you’re right. He’d never doubt you.” Once again, he ran his hand over the top of his head.
Weeping now, she buried her head in his shoulder.
“It’s going to be all right, Mouse,” he said, pulling her back into his embrace. I’m going to get you out of here, whatever it takes. But for now, I’m off to do what I can about Farida’s sister, Ghazala.”
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