“Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are...?”
A sudden suspicion of the answer stopped my tongue, but they knew what I’d been about to say.
“Yah,” said one-eye. “We’re orfinks, mostly. Those as ain’t, they’s better off here than home.”
I’d heard bits of the Tallowsport accent this week, but never so thick and pure.
“Surely you have kin in this town who’d take you in.”
There was a long silence, then the girl shrugged. “They were chasing him. And it’s not like they don’t know about us.”
The blond boy growled under his breath, and a murmured echo came from the shadows—a feral sound that lifted the hair on the back of my neck.
“That’s how come we’s here,” one-eye said. “It’s the Rose. He says anyone takes us in, they get the same as our famblies got. We’re supposed to be dead, see?”
He said it with a casual acceptance that chilled my blood, even as it broke my heart.
“Who is this Rose?” I demanded.
All of them stopped, staring as if I’d asked why the night was dark.
“The Rose,” said the girl. “Tony Rose. Atherton Roseman. The man who runs this town. The man who owns the six thugs who were about t’ beat the crap out of you!”