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‘Then I don’t know how else we can help you,’ said Axiolis.
‘Neither do I,’ said Dergoz. ‘Not so long as you refuse to cooperate.’
‘We are cooperating as much as we can. We can’t tell you what we don’t know. Why are you so quick to assume we are lying? When have we ever given you cause to think we would?’
A thick silence consumed the office as the reapers stared at one another.
‘Allow me to simplify your understanding of the situation,’ said Dergoz. ‘If you do not tell us where we can find your daughter, then we are going to ask your wife. And then we are going to ask your children.’
Zeff’s irritated expression slowly melted away, turning first into blank realization, then gradually into a hard glower.
Dergoz was not finished talking, however. ‘You are a good man, Zeff. We do not wish to hurt you or your family. But that is the severity of the matter at hand. Gema Elroy must be found at all costs.’
‘Why?’ said Axiolis. ‘What could possibly be so important about Gema that you would threaten to harm our family? Innocent children!’
‘Your children are not innocent. They are Elroys, and all Elroys are Vanguard.’
‘Pah! You think having Lawrence as your servant gives you the right to change our laws?! Zeff’s children are not Vanguard until they come of age! You are threatening the very people we are supposed to protect, you utter fool!’
“Ax, stop,” Zeff said lowly, and the reaper seemed to understand.
Dergoz allowed Axiolis to settle down before resuming. ‘Your disapproval is noted. Are you going to tell us where Gema is now? Or do you wish to let the situation run its course?’
Zeff tried to think. He didn’t have the information they wanted, so obviously, giving it to them wasn’t an option. If he lied, perhaps that would buy time, but how much? And what would he even use that time for?
‘Ah, but before you answer,’ Dergoz went on, ‘I should also mention that we have been shadowing your family in Aguarey for the past twenty-three hours.’