Murder of Crows Page 12

“They’re curious,” Simon finally said. “They pay attention to everything and everyone in their territory. They remember faces that are familiar and know when a stranger shows up. They warn the rest of us when something doesn’t look right or someone acts oddly. And they communicate with regular crows.”

“The rest of you can’t do that?” Monty interrupted. “Communicate with the animals that share your form?”

“How many wolves do you see in a city?” Simon asked dryly. “Or bears?”

“Point taken.”

“But the crows are everywhere, and the Crowgard find out about other parts of the city from them.” Simon stopped.

Yes, Monty thought. You’ve just told both of us why someone wants them dead. “They see too much,” he said quietly. “They pick through the trash, looking for the things that, to them, are little treasures. Which means they might find things the people buying, or selling, drugs like gone over wolf don’t want anyone to find.”

“They would notice a pattern of activity,” Simon said.

He nodded. “But if you murder enough Crows, they’ll stop poking through the trash—and secrets will remain secrets.”

Simon didn’t reply.

“Was there something you wanted to ask me?” Monty asked.

“Dr. Lorenzo. Do you trust him?”

The question took Monty by surprise. “I think he’s a good man,” he replied cautiously.

“He wants to study cassandra sangue. He wants to study Meg. That’s why he agreed to supply human healing and medicine.”

“I thought you wanted human healing and medicine available in the Courtyard,” Monty countered.

Simon looked away.

The leader of a Courtyard looking away first? That couldn’t be good. “Did something happen to Ms. Corbyn?”

“A scrape. A nothing sort of scrape that didn’t really bleed. But it was enough.” Now Simon looked at him. “If that’s all it takes for her to see prophecy, why does she need to cut and take the risk of cutting too deep?”

“I don’t know.” But he was going to call on Dominic Lorenzo and find out. “What did Meg see?”

A hesitation. A reluctance that Monty could feel as a barrier between them.

“The humans who ran away from the damaged car. You know where to find them?” Simon asked.

He nodded. “Officers from that district of Lakeside are looking into it.” He studied the Wolf. “What should they be looking for, Mr. Wolfgard?”

Another hesitation. Then, “Jars. Smoke in a jar. A hand … or something else.”

Gods above and below. “Is anyone missing from the Courtyard?”

“No. Vlad was away from the Courtyard when Meg … freaked … even before she spoke prophecy.” Simon pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Monty. “You might find these stories interesting. But you should be careful who else you tell about them.”

The titles weren’t familiar to him, but he’d read other books by a couple of the authors. “Do you have any of these books in stock?”

“Some.”

The Others didn’t admit to vulnerabilities. They didn’t willingly share information that could be used against them. For Simon to be pointing him in a particular direction indicated the depth of the Wolf’s concern.

“Is Lakeside going to survive whatever’s coming?” he asked.

“I hope so,” Simon replied. “But if humans declare war on the Sanguinati …”

“I, and the rest of the Lakeside police force, will do everything we can to prevent that kind of conflict.” Suppressing a shiver, Monty stood. “Thank you for your time. I’ll go downstairs and pick up those books on my way out.”

Monty set two bags of books on the patrol car’s backseat. Then he got in and said to Kowalski, “Extra assignment. Pick half the books. I’ll take the rest. For now, let’s go to Lakeside Hospital. I’d like to catch Dr. Lorenzo before his shift starts.”

Kowalski looked at the bags of books, then put the car in gear and drove out of the Courtyard. “If you need information in a hurry, Ruthie could read a third of the books.”

“No. You don’t need to keep the reading material a secret from her, but I think it’s best if Ruth isn’t involved in gathering this information.”

“Gods below, Lieutenant, what kind of information are we looking for?”

“Anything in those stories about trapping or killing Sanguinati.”

Kowalski didn’t say anything else during the drive to the hospital.

Monty found Dr. Lorenzo easily enough and noted that the doctor didn’t look pleased to see him.

“I’m not on retainer to the Lakeside Police Department,” Lorenzo said. “And while I want to establish an office in the Market Square, I’m not on call twenty-four/seven for the Others.”

“No, sir, you’re not,” Monty replied with his usual courtesy. “But you are the doctor who is looking for some inside access to the Courtyard—and a way to study a blood prophet.”

Lorenzo bristled. “Is that a threat, Lieutenant? If I’m not available to answer questions whenever you drop by, you’ll try to influence Wolfgard’s decision about me having an office in the Courtyard?”

Monty shook his head. “The Others—and especially Simon Wolfgard—are still deciding if they’re going to trust you. And unless they don’t have a choice, they aren’t likely to call you here. But I think they gave me some information knowing I would pass it on to you.”

Now he had the doctor’s attention.

“Did something happen to Meg Corbyn?” Lorenzo asked.

Monty repeated what Simon had told him about the scrape on Meg’s ankle. It didn’t give him any comfort when Lorenzo looked disturbed.

“Do they have cameras in the Courtyard? Or some kind of ability to make a record of that scrape that I can put in Ms. Corbyn’s medical file?”

“It’s just a scrape,” Monty protested.

“On you and me it would be. But you said she saw things, spoke prophecy. That means that skin has been ‘used.’ There is speculation that cutting too close to a previous cut can cause mental or emotional complications, maybe even madness.”

They looked at each other, remembering the crosshatch of scars on the upper part of Meg Corbyn’s left arm.

Lorenzo sighed. “If that scrape wasn’t deep enough to leave a scar, I want—and Simon Wolfgard should want—a record of what skin was scraped. It will be important to know, especially if another cut is made around the same area sometime in the future.” He hesitated. “Have you heard the slogan Humans First and Last?”

“Doctor, if you’re part of that movement, stay away from the Courtyard. For all our sakes.”

“I’m not, no. But I was approached at a conference recently by someone who was fishing to see if I was interested in joining the ranks of believers. People talk, Lieutenant. Once it’s known that I’m giving any kind of continued assistance to the Courtyard … there could be repercussions.”

“There could be,” Monty agreed. “Especially if people don’t stop to realize that helping the Others may prevent minor conflicts from escalating into a war. If you get any odd phone calls or receive any threatening letters, you call me.”

Lorenzo nodded. “If that’s all, I need to start my shift.”

When Monty returned to the patrol car, Kowalski gave him an odd look. “Turn on your mobile phone, Lieutenant. The investigating officers who are tracing the car that struck the city worker want to talk to you.”

Monty walked into Captain Burke’s office and sat in the visitor’s chair without invitation.

Burke folded his hands, placed them on the desk blotter, and leaned forward. “You heard from the officers who were looking for the men driving that car?”

“They found the house … and two college boys still hopped up on whatever they had taken before they baited the street and waited for the Crows,” Monty said, fighting the sick feeling that had come over him after taking that call. “When the officers searched the house, they found a hand in a jar, most likely pickled in some kind of brine. Supposedly it was a Sanguinati hand. They found eyes. The label claimed they were Wolf eyes, but they weren’t amber or gray, so that’s unlikely. When the boys were taken into custody, they kept screaming, ‘We’re going to be the Wolves now.’”

“Where did they get the hand and eyes?” Burke asked.

“An esoteric shop near the university. The front room had the kind of edgy merchandise you would expect to find where a lot of young people are gathered. But the back room …” Monty cleared his throat. “Since I could confirm that none of the residents of the Lakeside Courtyard are missing, it’s assumed that what the investigating officers found in the back room was brought in from somewhere else. Probably from Toland.” The city was a major port for ships that carried passengers and cargo to and from the Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations and other human ports around the world. Easy enough to hide one box of emotionally volatile merchandise among the legitimate cargo in the baggage car of a train traveling between Toland and Lakeside.

Burke sat back. “So the eyes might be human or animal but don’t belong to any of our terra indigene.”

“That’s correct,” Monty said.

“And the hand? Could it belong to a Sanguinati?”

“Not one from this Courtyard.” He hesitated. “Ms. Corbyn had a vision this morning. About jars and hands … and the Sanguinati. Captain, if that merchandise came from Toland …” He thought of his daughter, Lizzy, living in the Big City with her mother, and fear suddenly made him light-headed.

“The Sanguinati are the dominant earth natives in the Toland Courtyard, backed by the Wolves and whatever else lives there. If any of them have gone missing …” Burke blew out a sigh. “This just gets better and better. All right, Lieutenant. You keep track of the investigation here. I’ll see if I can find someone in the Toland Police Department who doesn’t use his brains to wipe his backside.” He gave Monty a fierce smile. “I didn’t forget that you came from there, but you’re not one of them anymore.”

“Good to know.” Monty pushed out of the chair. Then he stopped. “Should I tell Simon Wolfgard what was found at that house and in the shop?”

“If there were any birds around those places, he probably already knows, so a courtesy call would be prudent.” Burke looked uncomfortable. “This isn’t the best time for it, but I’d like you to arrange a meeting between me and Mr. Wolfgard at his convenience.”

“Why?”

Burke took so long to answer, Monty wasn’t sure he would. “I want to ask him for a favor.”

CHAPTER 8

Steve Ferryman hustled to reach the passenger ferry before it cast off. He wasn’t scheduled to work today, hadn’t planned to do anything but watch a movie, do some laundry, and, later, walk over to the island’s bookstore and indulge himself with a couple of new novels. But he’d looked out the window when he woke up and felt that familiar, and not always welcome, tightening between his shoulder blades—and had a feeling that he needed to be on the ferry when it made its first run of the day between Great Island and the dock at the mainland half of the village called Ferryman’s Landing.

Several Crows huddled together on the deck, black feathers fluffed against the cold.

“Do you want to go inside the cabin?” Steve asked.

After a moment, one Crow shook its head.

“Let me know if you change your mind.”

A quick look in the passenger cabin confirmed it was empty. Totally empty. Absolutely, completely empty with no trace that anyone had been in there that morning. Which meant his aunt, Lucinda Fish, wasn’t planning to open the ferry’s little coffee bar and he would have to do without his morning dose of caffeine.

Sighing, Steve went up to the wheelhouse to see his younger brother, Will, who was the captain today.

“Good morning, Yer Honor,” Will said, tugging on his forelock. “I’m surprised to see you up and about so early on your sluggard day. Tell me, sir. Is this a personal trip, or are you traveling on government business?”

“Shut up,” Steve muttered.

In looks they were night and day. Steve took after his father, Charles, with dark hair and eyes, sharp features, and a strong but wiry build. Will had the blond hair and blue eyes that he’d inherited from their mother, Rachel, along with the slender grace that was common to all the members of the Fish clan.

“Is that any way to speak to one of your constituents?” Will asked.

“You didn’t vote for me,” Steve said. “And couldn’t, since you’re not on the village council.”

“And wouldn’t have even if I could have, since I know how much you wanted the job,” Will replied cheerfully. “Which is not at all.”

When it comes to being selected for a thankless job, the man who leaves the room just before the vote is the fool who gets the job, his father often said.

Which was how, by leaving the room to relieve his bladder because he’d thought the council was going to jabber on a while longer, Steve Ferryman had found himself voted in as the new mayor of Ferryman’s Landing at the tender age of thirty. The council members must have called for the vote the moment the restroom door closed behind him.

We had a feeling you’re what the village needs right now, they’d told him when he tried to decline.

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