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Don’t Get Caught On The Wrong Side Of That Line
Skitch edged uneasily down the sewer tunnel. It sure wasn’t any Diarian sewer, either, because it stank like about twelve Collectors. Why am I imagining this? he thought, making a face that would have given Kit the giggles for weeks. Does my brain hate me or something?
“Thank you,” shrieked the Rat from someplace close to his ear. Skitch startled violently and jerked backward into the wall--the gross, slime-covered wall--and narrowly kept from losing his balance and falling right into the sewer water. “Damn it, Rat!” he shouted, pressing his hand to his thudding heart. “You scared the tarinjhae out of me...!”
The Rat didn’t look the least bit repentant. “Thank you,” he repeated urgently, and shoved a chewed-up piece of garbage out of the drainpipe he was crouched in.
It plopped on the pavement at Skitch’s feet. “Ew,” said Skitch, crinkling his nose. “I am not touching that. I don’t even speak Nest Topology or whatever, Rat. You need to talk to Jack.”
“*SQUEAK!*” squeaked the Rat, scurried out of the drainpipe and ran in agitated circles.
“Whoa. Whoa! Calm down, all right? I’ll take a look.” Skitch squatted down and squinted at the Rat’s offering. It looked like a slightly rotting wad of leather, which was better than what it looked like from further away. “A chewed up piece of leather,” he said aloud.
“Aaaah!” yelled Skitch, as the second wad of leather flew out of the drainpipe and right onto his head. “I’m gonna get you for this, Seeker!” He pulled it out of his hair, disgusted. It looked exactly like the other one, down to the geometric nibble patterns. “Two chewed up pieces of leather,” he amended.
“So what’s that supposed to mean?” Skitch brought them right up close to his face, squinting at them. “They don’t look like anything really.”
Skitch looked up. The Rat was just finishing nosing a bunch of pebbles together into a square hole in the pavement. “Two chewed up pieces of leather and a pile of pebbles,” he said, and bent over for a closer look at this new message. “Two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve... thirteen. Thirteen pebbles. Hey, is that supposed to be us?”
“*Squeak!*” the Rat squeaked triumphantly, and kicked the two wads of leather into the hole with the others.
“So the other two must be Ebreth and Jack!” Skitch said excitedly.
The Rat gave him a pained look, shuffled along the sewer floor until he found a wood chip, and threw that in as well.
“Oh,” said Skitch, confused. “Three other people? Ebreth, Jack, and... who?”
The Rat jumped up and down. “I understand! I understand!”
Skitch took the two wads of leather out of the pit and looked at the identical mathematical patterns chewed into them. “Jack,” he suddenly realized. “Jack is in this Hotel. Both Jacks are in this Hotel!”
“Thank you!” screamed the Rat.
“Well why didn’t you say so, Rat?” Skitch shoved the rodent into his shirt front. “Come on--there’s no time to lose!”
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