Vision in Silver Page 18

He bared his teeth to show he didn’t like someone giving him an order, but the teeth stayed human size, so he must have thought Ruth was right. That was probably the real reason he growled at them and said, “You write this down for the Guide.”

Before they could protest, he walked out of the sorting room and slammed the back door as he left the office.

“Well . . . ,” Merri Lee sputtered.

“I guess we should start writing The Dimwit’s Guide to Blood Prophets,” Meg said.

After a moment, Ruth nodded. “Yes, we should. And I think we should find someone who can draw so we can add a cartoon Meg pointing out important items.”

“What?” Meg yelped.

“The cartoon Meg could be named Meg Pathfinder,” Merri Lee said. “And she could provide Trailblazer Tips that other girls would find useful.”

“I don’t think we should call it Dimwit’s,” Ruth said. “Maybe just The Blood Prophets Guide.”

“Yes,” Meg whispered. The painful buzz under her skin faded to a light prickling in her fingertips. Then that, too, was gone. “A guide for the girls as well as the people trying to help them.”

“All right.” Merri Lee clapped her hands. “Let’s see if we can use the computer in the Business Association’s room to write up these first notes. Who should we ask for permission? Vlad or Tess?”

“Whichever one we find first?” Ruth said.

“The office needs to stay open a while longer,” Meg said. “You go ahead and get started.”

“You’ll be okay here on your own?”

“Arooeeooeeoo!Arooeeooeeoo!”

Meg sighed as Skippy’s yodeling arroo sounded just outside the sorting room’s delivery doors. “I’ll be fine. I’ll walk out with you.”

“Aren’t you going to let him in?” Merri Lee asked.

“Not until I’m sure he’s not trying to sneak a mouse into the office,” Meg replied. “Especially since Nathan isn’t here to sniff them out.”

Her human friends hurried to the back door of A Little Bite. The juvenile Wolf, sans any furry toys, came into the office.

As Meg carefully filed the photos Ruth had taken for their experiment, she thought about the tone of the other girls’ voices when they talked about the Guide. Not a dismissal of whatever bad thing was happening to the other cassandra sangue, but a distraction, an effort to help.

And that was a different kind of reference. A Life Reference.

Meg labeled that audio memory “cheering up a friend.”

*   *   *

Standing at the upstairs window that gave him a view of the paved area behind the stores, Simon watched Merri Lee and Ruthie hurry toward A Little Bite while Steve Ferryman yapped at him over the phone.

“They didn’t say you had to remove the wallpaper from the rooms, just the extra things that make the room look too busy,” he said when Steve stopped for a moment. And why did humans put paper on walls anyway?

“Are the girls sure removing everything but essentials from the rooms won’t cause more trauma?” Steve asked.

“No, they’re not sure. But telling the blood prophet pups what to expect should help. I have to go. More calls to make.”

“Thanks for this. Really.”

Simon ended the call, then walked to the desk in HGR’s office. Pointless to write e-mail. The packs would be out searching. Probably pointless to call and leave messages on the phones. But some Wolves did put on a collar that had a leather pouch attached in order to carry a mobile phone or some other human item. A howl carried for miles and didn’t depend on poles and lines or metal towers to carry messages. A howl would travel from Wolf to Wolf, providing information to everyone within range. But police wouldn’t recognize an “I found something!” howl; they would need a phone call.

He called Jackson first and condensed everything Meg’s pack had told him into one sentence: treat the blood prophets like puppies who don’t know anything and are afraid of everything.

Wasn’t likely any of the girls would be found near Sweetwater, an area in the Northwest that contained an Intuit village and the terra indigene settlement where Jackson lived. A few weeks ago, a simple roadblock had been set up across the road leading to that area after a human village had been contaminated with gone over wolf, a drug made from the blood of cassandra sangue. No one could have left girls along that road without the Others knowing about it.

The phone rang under his hand, startling him enough to snap at the person on the other end. “What?”

“Simon?”

“Joe?” Something wrong. Terribly wrong. Kicked by a bison, ribs caved in wrong.

“We found . . . We didn’t know . . .” Joe’s howl of grief had Simon leaping to his feet.

“You found some of the girls?” Roadkill. Not all of those girls would have Meg’s strength and desire to survive. Was that why Joe was grieving?

“A few. They’re heavy with pups. All of them are ready to whelp.”

When the terra indigene attacked the compound run by the Controller, they hadn’t seen any gestating females. Pups old enough for schooling, yes, but no females bearing those pups.

Had the breeding females been kept in a different place from the girls who were cut? “What else?”

“We found the dead puppies,” Joe whimpered. “Simon, they killed the puppies.”

A horrible pain ripped through Simon. Memories of reaching his sister Daphne after she’d been shot. Memories of finding Sam cowering, his little paws covered in his mother’s blood. Memories of Meg the first time he’d seen her, stumbling into Howling Good Reads half-frozen and looking for a job.

“What puppies?” He could barely shape the human words.

“Many of the terra indigene who were searching for the girls only recognize humans from the Others who can shift to that form. The Eaglegard and Hawkgard saw humans throwing noisy sacks into a lake many times before today, but they didn’t understand. They just thought the stupid humans were fouling their own water supply. By the time some of the Crowgard flew by the lake and recognized the sounds coming from the last of the sacks as crying baby . . . Too late to save any of them.”

Would they have done this to Meg? Would they have bred her on some kind of farm like livestock? Would they have thrown her pup in the lake if it had been male and useless for prophecies?

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