Murder of Crows Page 30

“Not sick!” Simon shouted. “Sit down, Meg, and stop being stupid, or I’ll bite you!”

“I’m not being stupid, and you can’t bite me!”

“I can nip really hard!”

With fascinated horror, Monty saw Erebus’s legs change to smoke, clothes as well as flesh; saw Vlad and the female vampire jump to their feet; saw Henry rise to tower over all of them, his strong fingers now ending in a Grizzly’s savage claws; saw Tess’s hair turn red with wide black streaks. Blair and Elliot were crowding the chairs, putting themselves between the vampires and Simon—who was totally focused on Meg.

The Elementals were the only ones who didn’t seem concerned, and Monty found their curious interest more frightening than being caught in the middle of a terrible fight.

Then Simon grabbed Meg’s upper arms, ignoring her startled cry of pain, and hauled her up to her toes. Even then he had to bend a little to be nose to nose with her.

“I don’t know how long the crazy female mood lasts when you’re in season, but you are not doing anything stupid until you can think straight!” Simon yelled. “And if you try being stupid then, I will bite you, no matter what.”

She stared into Wolf eyes that had turned red with fury. Then she grabbed his sweater. Seeing the way he winced, she must have pulled a couple of fistfuls of fur along with the material.

“Meat grinder,” Meg whispered. Her eyes, her face, her voice, were oddly blank.

Everyone in the room froze.

“Meat grinder dream,” she said. “Need the pain, need the fear to make the best meat. Hand in the grinder, chew it all up. Keep the meat alive while you cut and grind. He’ll find me! He’ll … Simon!”

He went down with her when she collapsed, cradling her in his lap while he licked her cheek. “Meg? Meg!”

Lorenzo shoved past Henry and Tess. “Let me have a look.”

One moment Lorenzo was kneeling on the other side of Meg, staring at an angry human male. The next moment, there was a man with a Wolf’s head holding Meg and snarling at the doctor.

“Let me help,” Lorenzo said. “That’s why you agreed to let me have some office space in the Courtyard, isn’t it? So I can help?”

Blair put a hand on Simon’s shoulder. “He’ll let you help.”

Monty applauded the doctor’s courage. He wasn’t sure he’d have enough nerve to put his hands that close to a Wolf’s teeth.

“She fainted,” Lorenzo said. “Her body’s way of protecting her from what she was seeing. Which explains some things about the euphoria these girls experience.” He eased back. “Is there someplace nearby where she can rest?”

“There’s a Wolf bed in the office,” Vlad said. “It’s just across the hall.”

“She’s coming around, but someone should stay with her,” Lorenzo said.

“I’ll stay with our Meg,” Winter said.

Blair squeezed Simon’s shoulder. “Simon.” A warning.

Wolfgard looked almost human by the time Meg opened her eyes.

“Your ears are furry,” she said.

Simon whined.

“Let’s get her settled,” Lorenzo said, getting to his feet. “Then I have some thoughts I’d like to share with all of you.”

Simon rose with Meg in his arms. Vlad led the way to the office, followed by Simon, Lorenzo, Winter, and the female vampire.

Monty sagged in his chair, exhausted by the adrenaline rush of the past few minutes. He didn’t meet their eyes, but he noticed the terra indigene were all trying to regain their balance. Erebus now looked fully human again, as did Henry. The black receded from Tess’s hair, and Blair and Elliot had resumed their place against the wall.

Do any of them realize that Simon Wolfgard is falling in love with Meg Corbyn? Monty wondered. Does Wolfgard understand his own response to the girl? What about Meg? How does she feel? What would the rest of the Others do if one of their kind did fall in love with a human?

Another complication, but what Meg described just before she fainted was more disturbing and, most likely, more immediate.

Simon, Vlad, and Lorenzo returned and took their seats.

“What happened to Meg?” Tess asked. “She wasn’t dreaming and she didn’t cut. Why did she see a vision? And why didn’t it sound like the visions she’s had before?”

They all looked at the doctor.

“I think she moved the wrong way, and a section of yesterday’s cut reopened enough to seep fresh blood,” Lorenzo said. “And that, in turn, opened her to prophecy … or allowed her to recall the details of a dream.”

“But Vladimir told me our Meg was in season and the blood scent should be politely ignored,” Erebus said, staring at Vlad.

“She is in season and testy about it,” Simon said.

Monty looked at all the males in the room and knew that a discussion of the human female’s reproductive cycle wasn’t something he wanted to have with any of them today—or any day. “Does a second source of blood explain the dreamlike vision?”

“No,” Simon replied. “Meg says sometimes the visions look like a clip from a movie.” He looked at Lorenzo. “If she saw prophecy from a cut and could speak, why wasn’t there any euphoria?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because it wasn’t a new cut?” Lorenzo took a deep breath before turning to address Erebus Sanguinati. “I’m not expressing an opinion about your taboos, just making an observation about shape-shifters and cassandra sangue blood.” He waited for Erebus’s nod before continuing. “I don’t think the problem was that Mr. Wolfgard consumed Ms. Corbyn’s blood. I think the problem was he suffered an overdose.”

It was unnerving to watch a room full of predators focus on a man.

“There is a lack of information about blood prophets, and that doesn’t make sense since these girls require so much medical care,” Lorenzo said. “But that’s a different discussion. The point is, I have no evidence to support what I say. Maybe you have something in your histories that would confirm my guesses.”

“Guesses about what?” Simon asked.

“The human body is a chemical stew. The body floods with different chemicals to respond to different situations. Flight or fight response. Fear, anger, aggression.” Lorenzo looked at Simon. “Ms. Corbyn had that gash on her chin when you brought her to the hospital. You were angry and aggressive that night almost beyond reason.”

Simon nodded. “I licked the blood from the gash, trying to clean the wound.”

“But yesterday morning, I think she began to speak prophecy shortly after you found her, and as soon as she began speaking, her body flooded with all the chemicals that create the euphoria. When you licked that blood, basically you were consuming a potent tranquilizer.”

“So Wolves react to Meg’s blood in different ways depending on whether she’s happy or scared?” Henry asked, studying Simon.

“Not just Wolves,” Lorenzo said. “Whoever is using these girls to create the drugs known as gone over wolf and feel-good have targeted humans as well. I think the prophet’s blood is, in a way, a wonder drug and a curse.”

“Namid’s creation is wondrous and terrible,” Erebus said.

“Poison frogs,” Monty said, thinking about a program he’d watched with Lizzy. “Not harmful if left alone, but the poison that exudes through their skin will kill anything that tries to eat them.” After a look around the room, he added hastily, “Not that I think Ms. Corbyn is like a frog.”

“But she is,” Lorenzo said. “Attack a blood prophet, frighten her or hurt her, and her body becomes a weapon against the attacker. I imagine if any of you consumed the quantity of blood you usually would from a kill, you’d all overdose to the point of turning on each other. The girl dies, but so do the attackers. Good reason to cross cassandra sangue off the list of edibles. On the other hand, you have bodywalkers, which means taking care of injuries. We use opiates to relieve pain in our hospitals. But early in our mutual history, when humans and Others first crossed paths, a girl whose blood could render someone passive to the point where a bone could be set or a wound stitched up would be, I think, a valuable asset. Something you wouldn’t waste. But too much of that blood, like too much of an opiate, could be deadly. Impossible not to overdose if you’re feeding while she was lost in the euphoria.”

“The prophet who was found in the basement,” Erebus said. “Any Sanguinati would know she is not prey and could not be touched.”

“We all sensed that Meg is not prey,” Simon said.

“What does all this mean?” Tess asked. “And what do we do about Meg’s need to cut?”

Lorenzo sighed. “I don’t know. As I said, there is very little information available about blood prophets. Maybe a girl with less ability could be weaned away from the razor. I’m not sure Ms. Corbyn can stop cutting at this point. If what I saw here is typical, cutting, and the euphoria that comes with it, might be the only safety valve her sanity has. I do feel, if she’s going to stay here with you—”

“Of course she’s staying with us,” Simon snapped.

“Then you need to work out a schedule, or come to some agreement with her. She can’t be alone when she cuts. This time the cut was deeper than it should have been, but it still wasn’t a serious wound. If she’s alone and slices through a vein or artery, you might not be able to get help in time to save her.”

“She spent her life in a cage,” Henry said. “We will not put her back in one. Not even to save her.”

“But we’ll take what you’ve said under advisement,” Tess added.

A dismissal. Meeting adjourned.

Monty let out a sigh of relief when Vladimir and Erebus left the room, along with the Elementals. Lorenzo went across the hall to check on Meg. Blair, Elliot, and Tess left a minute later, leaving Monty with Henry and Simon.

“Warn your people about the shark,” Simon said, sounding exhausted. “I’ll warn Steve Ferryman.”

“I think Captain Burke would appreciate talking to Officer Czerneda about this new information. Lakeside police can set up roadblocks if necessary.”

Simon nodded. “The Intuits will know if trouble is coming.”

Feeling battered, Monty excused himself and went downstairs to wait for Lorenzo. He called Kowalski, who was visiting with Debany and Merri Lee, and arranged to leave in five minutes.

Lorenzo came downstairs in four, so they walked out together.

“Quite a meeting,” Monty said.

“A lot more information than I expected,” Lorenzo replied.

Hearing a grim undertone, Monty stopped walking toward the patrol car. “After what you saw today, what chance do you think Meg Corbyn has?”

Lorenzo looked away. Finally he sighed. “With her sensitivity to prophecy, I think Meg Corbyn was doomed after the first cut.”

CHAPTER 18

The following morning, Douglas Burke studied the notes Monty had made of the additional information from Meg Corbyn. Then he sat back and sighed. “Meat grinder. Gods above and below. And your impression was Ms. Corbyn was seeing another cassandra sangue being ground up alive?”

“Yes, sir,” Monty replied. “That was Dr. Lorenzo’s impression as well.”

“It’s a wonder these girls stay sane as long as they do.”

Burke’s observation wasn’t unique. Monty had stared at the television last evening, taking in nothing. Seeing Meg in the full throes of a prophecy made him wonder if blood prophets really did need to be in some kind of supervised home. Oh, not as damaging as the place she’d run away from, but surely there had to be places in between a kind of prison and leaving these girls to flounder on their own.

“Lorenzo is dropping by the Courtyard this morning,” Monty said. “He promised to call with a status report.”

“You’re not going to stop in?”

“Until Howling Good Reads and A Little Bite reopen to the public, dropping by is a bit more difficult. I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”

Burke nodded. “What about Kowalski? Or Debany or MacDonald? They have personal reasons to stop by.”

“Officer Debany called a few minutes ago. The stores have Residents Only signs on the doors, but the Liaison’s Office is opening for business and so is the consulate.”

“I doubt opening the Liaison’s Office today was Simon Wolfgard’s decision.”

Monty smiled at the dry observation. “No, I don’t think it was.” The smile faded. “Debany also said Wolfgard and Henry Beargard left yesterday evening, taking one of the Courtyard’s small vans. They returned just before Debany called me.”

Burke thought about that for a moment. “Well, we’ll either find out where they went and why or we won’t.”

“No word from Talulah Falls?”

“No. Between the fog on the river and the barricades and destroyed roads, there’s no way of knowing what’s going on there. But I keep hoping there are human survivors.” Burke pushed away from his desk. “Well. I have a meeting with the chief. Mustn’t keep him waiting.”

Monty walked out of Burke’s office, then went to his own desk to check for messages.

“Where to, Lieutenant?” Kowalski asked.

Where had Simon Wolfgard gone yesterday, and was there any way to find out? “Nowhere yet.”

Simon parked the BOW in the garage behind the Liaison’s Office, then followed Meg inside.

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