Vision in Silver Page 15

Monty’s stomach did a queasy roll. “Humans First and Last?”

“I think so. Have you heard the motivational speaker Nicholas Scratch?”

Monty caught the glance Burke directed at him. Yes, he’d heard, and heard of, Nicholas Scratch. The man came from the Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations, but Scratch was currently living in Toland with Monty’s ex-lover and young daughter.

“I heard a couple of his recent speeches, and he’s a persuasive bastard,” Pete continued. “If I wasn’t almost one hundred percent certain that the HFL were behind the threats to my family, I’d be more than halfway to believing they had the answer to anything and everything. Want your children to have more milk? Kill a Wolf.”

“Pete,” Burke began, looking toward the doorway of his office.

“It’s not our fault that, as a species, you’re pretty stupid.”

Monty winced, then turned to face Simon Wolfgard as the Wolf stepped into Burke’s office.

“I think we’ve shown we can be dangerous,” Pete said.

“Being dangerous doesn’t make you less stupid,” Simon replied. “And being clever about inventing and making things isn’t the same as being smart about the world. Sometimes there isn’t enough food. Sometimes pups don’t survive the starving time. When that happens, we don’t like it either. We work hard to bring down meat for our packs and to feed our young, and we don’t like it when another predator tries to take our kills.”

“I don’t think we understand your point, Mr. Wolfgard,” Burke said.

Monty heard the emphasis on Simon’s name and saw Pete turn pale as he realized he’d been overheard by a Wolf.

Simon stared at Pete, anger creating flickers of red in the amber Wolf eyes. “We will fight for what is ours. In the end, your young will have enough to eat because there will be fewer humans wanting a share. And our young will grow strong on all the meat harvested from the fight.”

A tense silence filled the room. Then Pete said, “You’re big on destruction.”

“We adapt to the world, and we learn from other predators. That includes humans.”

Monty caught Burke’s eye and understood the message. “Mr. Wolfgard, perhaps you and I can continue this conversation elsewhere.”

Simon scrubbed his dark hair with both hands. If he’d been in Wolf form, he’d probably give his whole body a good shake. What Monty found intriguing was how that action seemed to shake off the anger as well. A moment ago, Simon couldn’t have passed for human. Now he looked like a handsome, active man in his mid-thirties who was dressed in the casual attire suitable for a bookstore owner. Now the amber eyes were the only clue that you were looking at a terra indigene Wolf.

“No. If he’s the male the terra indigene helped to reach Lakeside, then it’s him I came to see.” Simon tipped his head toward Pete. Then he looked at Burke and Monty.

“And I came to see you about something else.”

Pete stared at the Wolf. “You came to see me? Why?”

“To ask if you are willing to do a small job for the Courtyard.”

Monty held his breath. He’d spent the past four and a half months building some trust between himself and Simon Wolfgard. His team interacted with Courtyard residents almost daily in an unofficial capacity, learning more about the Others than most humans were ever allowed to see—and providing examples of humans who peacefully interact with what lived in the Courtyard. All that work might be damaged by a man who had some reason to be resentful since his life had spun out of control because of assisting the terra indigene, even if it was indirectly.

But Pete Denby surprised him by saying, “What kind of job? Do you need a lawyer?”

“Not yet,” Simon replied thoughtfully. “Two buildings across the street from the Courtyard are for sale. We want someone to look at them and tell us if they are suitable dens. If we buy them, we will need to hire a human who can settle the legal papers.”

“Some of the terra indigene are going to live outside the Courtyard?” Monty asked. Simon Wolfgard was a progressive leader. He’d opened some stores to the general public and had more human employees than any other Courtyard on the continent. But he wondered if the Wolf wasn’t being a bit too progressive right now.

“No,” Simon said. “We’ll offer them to humans who are being driven out of their dens because they choose to work with us or for us. Like Kowalski and Ruthie.”

Douglas Burke was a big man whose blue eyes usually held a fierce kind of friendliness. But the look in those eyes as he rose from his chair behind the desk was fierce enough to make Simon growl in response.

“Excuse me?” Burke said.

Simon stopped growling and looked at all of them. “Kowalski didn’t tell you?”

“I haven’t heard about this,” Burke said with enough anger that Monty felt the heat of it. “What about you, Lieutenant?”

“No,” Monty replied. “I knew something was bothering him. I figured he would talk to me when he was ready.”

“Why not ask Kowalski to take a look if he’s the one who might be living there?” Pete asked.

“The humans who live there now would know his face,” Simon said. “We want someone to look before the humans realize the Courtyard wants to buy the buildings.”

“I’ll charge my usual hourly rate,” Pete said. “You’ll get a written report about each building. All right if I bring my wife? She’s the handyman in our family.”

Simon cocked his head. “Your wife is male?”

Pete blinked. “No. I just meant she’s the one who likes working with tools and doing repairs.”

“Do you have someone to watch the children?” Burke asked.

“We can watch the puppies,” Simon said.

Leap of faith, Monty thought, watching Pete struggle with the thought of handing his children over to Wolves . . . and whatever else might become curious about small humans.

“All right. Thanks,” Pete said. “Is tomorrow soon enough?”

Simon nodded as he pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jeans pocket. “This is the phone number for Howling Good Reads. Call there when you’re ready to look at the houses. Here are the addresses on Crowfield Avenue and the phone number on the For Sale signs.”

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