Vision in Silver Page 101

“What we noticed was that a number of merchants we recognized as usually having tables on a side aisle had tables on the center cross today,” Kowalski said. “And they had the kind of merchandise that would appeal to Crows. Windup toys. Sets of blocks, gaudy crap.”

“Jenni and her sisters were so excited, so happy,” Merri Lee said. “And they had so much money.”

Debany nodded. “Jenni did most of the buying, and she had a money belt around her waist that was stuffed with cash. I thought a couple of merchants were going to faint when she pulled out a wad of bills to pay for what they wanted.”

Burke pursed his lips. “So you made slow progress down the main aisle of the market, and everyone was having a good time.”

“Yes,” Kowalski said. “We had just reached the center of the market. The Crows were still going strong, but I had the sense that Simon Wolfgard had had more than enough noise and people. Michael was going to talk to the girls about calling it a day. Before he could do that, Wolfgard got a phone call, and suddenly we were on the move, in danger, had to get out now.”

“So he stopped you all before you reached the back half of the market?” Monty asked.

“Yes, sir. He grabbed Jenni and began hauling ass for the front entrance where the bus was parked. Ruthie and Merri had Starr with them, and Lawrence was escorting Crystal. Henry Beargard was to Simon’s left. Don’t know where Vlad was. Behind us, I think. We could see the doors when a group of men blocked our way. They all carried weapons—clubs mostly, but a few had knives. Michael and I identified ourselves as police officers and ordered the men to step aside.”

“Is that when you called the station?” Burke asked.

Kowalski shook his head. “Before. We called the station and called you as soon as Wolfgard indicated we were in danger.”

Burke took them through the rest, confirming that the humans attacked their group after Kowalski and Debany identified themselves as police officers; that the shots that killed Crystal Crowgard and injured Lawrence MacDonald came from behind them; that they had fired their off-duty pieces to protect themselves and the people with them.

That Simon Wolfgard had broken clear and could have gotten away, but turned back to help them when MacDonald went down.

When they finished, Burke looked at Merri Lee and Ruth. “Ladies, could you give us a minute?”

Ruth helped Merri Lee to her feet. The two women slowly left the room.

“Will Merri be able to stay at the Courtyard tonight?” Debany asked.

“The lieutenant and I will be going to the Courtyard soon. We’ll assess the situation and let you know.” Burke leaned closer. “Now. I want a straight answer. When MacDonald went down and you called for more backup, was there any delay before officers arrived to help you?”

Monty saw the shock on Kowalski’s and Debany’s faces. They looked at each other, hesitated, then shook their heads.

“It felt like the fight went on for hours, but I don’t think the whole thing lasted more than a few minutes,” Kowalski said. “The Elementals got there first, but backup was right behind them, and you were right behind the backup.”

Burke slapped his hands on his thighs and stood. “All right. Good. We’ll check out the Courtyard and then we’ll return.”

Monty walked out with Burke. Holding the door for Merri and Ruth, he looked at his men, then said quietly to Burke, “I know why you had to ask the question, but did they need to wonder about that today? The question came as a shock. They’ve had enough shocks.”

“Help arrived before they had a chance to wonder if it would arrive. I think that’s going to matter a lot in the days ahead. Come on, Lieutenant. Let’s find out if Simon Wolfgard also believes help arrived in a timely manner.”

CHAPTER 49

Watersday, Maius 26

The driver of the police van did his best to make careful turns and avoid quick stops, but just the motion of the van as they drove back to the Courtyard made Simon hurt. He hurt and hurt and hurt. He wanted to shift to Wolf and find a safe place to hide. Then he could whimper like a little puppy because he hurt and hurt and hurt.

When he was a juvenile Wolf living in the Northwest Region, he’d spent a year with other youngsters learning to work and hunt with a pack that wasn’t family—a first step to working in a Courtyard where you would have to work cooperatively with many forms of terra indigene. That’s when he’d met Joe and Jackson. Working with them had felt easy, natural, and that bond had made the three of them a collective leader of their pack.

But one juvenile Wolf didn’t fit in with the rest of them. He wanted to be leader, but there was something about him that made the other Wolves wary, and they wouldn’t follow him. He resented Simon, Joe, and Jackson, and that resentment grew until the day they were hunting a half-grown bison. The pack was hungry and motivated to bring down game. Instead of working with the rest of them, the Wolf turned the animal at the moment when Simon would be unable to get out of the way.

He’d been lucky that day. Instead of being trampled, he’d dodged the hooves and received nothing more than a glancing blow that had slowed him down and prevented him from hunting for a few days. But it had hurt, just like the betrayal had hurt.

The resentful Wolf disappeared that same day. The day Simon rejoined the pack for a hunt, they found that Wolf. He’d been trampled, his hip bones crushed. He also had deep claw marks that had torn up his sides. He’d tried to crawl, looked to be heading toward the area where the juveniles were settled. And then something had crushed his skull.

The adult Wolves had said the juveniles were on their own that year—within howling distance if they got into bad trouble, but essentially on their own and not under the watchful eyes of other Wolves.

Whether that was true or not didn’t much matter. When they’d searched for scents to figure out what kind of animal had killed the Wolf, they smelled nothing but other terra indigene. Not Wolves. Not anything they could name.

It had been the only time during that year that any of them had smelled those forms of terra indigene. All of them hoped they never caught those scents again.

Some of those scents had been in the air the day he and Henry drove past the River Road Community on their way to a meeting with Steve Ferryman, which meant some of those forms of terra indigene were now close enough to watch the humans and the Others who lived around Lakeside.

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