Vision in Silver Page 2

The back door of the office opened. A moment later, Merri Lee stood in the bathroom doorway holding a small pad of paper and a pen.

They were both petite women around the same age, and both had fair skin. But Merri Lee had dark eyes and dark, layered hair that fell below her shoulders, while Meg had clear gray eyes and short black hair that was still mostly a weird orangey red from her efforts to disguise herself when she’d run away from the man known as the Controller.

“Are you sure about this?” Merri Lee asked. “Maybe we should wait until Simon and Henry get back from Great Island.”

Meg shook her head. “We should do this now, before the office opens and there’s additional . . . input . . . that might change what I see. Vlad is working at Howling Good Reads today. We can tell him about the prophecy—and he’s close enough if we need help.”

“All right.” Merri Lee pulled over a chair from the little dining area, set it just outside the bathroom doorway, and sat down. “What should I ask you?”

Meg had thought about this. When clients had come to the Controller’s compound, they had a specific question. She wasn’t looking for anything that defined, but she needed some kind of boundary. “This is what you should ask: What should the residents of the Lakeside Courtyard watch for during the next fortnight?”

“That’s pretty vague,” Merri Lee said. “And . . . fortnight?”

“If I ask about a specific thing in the Courtyard, something else might be overlooked—and that might be the important thing the Others should know about,” Meg replied. “Two weeks is enough time. As for ‘fortnight,’ I just learned that word and like the sound of it. I think it fits in with prophecies better than saying ‘two weeks.’”

“But if this doesn’t work, if we don’t get anything useful, then you’ve made the cut for nothing,” Merri Lee argued.

“Not for nothing,” Meg said. The euphoria was reason enough to cut. That wasn’t something she would say to her friend, so she offered a different truth. “If I can stretch out the time between cuts because one cut will supply the warnings we need for two weeks and quiet the pins-and-needles feeling that pushes me to cut, I’ll have more years to live. And I do want to live—especially now that I have a real life.”

A beat of silence. Then Merri Lee said, “Ready?”

“Yes.” Opening the silver razor, Meg laid the blade flat against her skin, its one-quarter-inch width providing the perfect distance between cuts—the distance that kept prophecies separated without wasting valuable skin. She lined up the back of the blade with the last scar on her left forearm. Then she turned her hand and cut just deeply enough for blood to flow freely and, equally important, for the cut to leave a scar.

Agony filled her, the prelude to prophecy. Hearing someone crying—someone no one else could hear—Meg gritted her teeth, set the razor aside, and positioned her arm to rest in the bathroom sink. Then she gave Merri Lee a sharp nod.

“What should the residents of the Lakeside Courtyard watch for during the next fortnight?” Merri Lee said. “Speak, prophet, and I will listen.”

She spoke, revealing everything she saw. The images faded with the sound of the words as waves of euphoria produced a delicious tingle in her breasts and a rhythmic tug between her legs, replacing the pain.

She didn’t know how long she floated on the pleasure produced by the euphoria. Sometimes it seemed to fade within moments of identifying the last image, while at other times she drifted for a while in a haze of physical pleasure. When she became aware of her surroundings again, Meg realized enough time had passed that Merri Lee had bandaged the cut, cleaned the razor, and washed the sink.

The blood of the cassandra sangue was dangerous to humans and Others alike. It had been used to make gone over wolf and feel-good, two drugs that had caused so much trouble throughout Thaisia in the past few months. That was the reason why, when they made plans for this cut, she and Merri Lee agreed that all the blood would be washed away, and the bandages would be collected later and taken to the Courtyard’s Utilities Complex for incineration.

“Did it work?” Meg asked. “Did I speak prophecy? Did I see anything useful?” Her voice sounded rough, and her throat hurt. She wanted to ask Merri Lee for a glass of water or maybe some juice, but she couldn’t rouse herself enough to say anything more.

“Meg, do you trust me?”

That sounded like an ominous way to answer her own questions. “Yes, I trust you.”

Merri Lee nodded, as if coming to a decision. “Yes, it worked. Better than we could have hoped. I need a little time to sort the images into some kind of order.”

Not a lie, exactly, but not the truth either.

Meg studied her friend. “You don’t want to tell me what I said, what I saw.”

“No, I don’t. I really don’t.”

“But—”

“Meg.” Merri Lee closed her eyes for a moment. “No one in the Courtyard is in immediate danger, but you said a couple of things that were . . . disturbing, things I’m not sure how to interpret. I want to do a preliminary shuffling of images, like we did the last time when we drew the images on index cards and kept arranging them until they told us a story. Then I’ll go to Howling Good Reads and talk to Vlad.”

“I didn’t see anything bad happening to Sam? Or Simon? Or . . . anyone here?” In human form, Sam Wolfgard looked to be around eight or nine years old now, but he was still a puppy. And Simon was her friend. Just the thought of something happening to either of them made her chest hurt.

Merri Lee shook her head. “You didn’t say anything that would indicate someone here was going to be in trouble.” She touched Meg’s hand. “We’re both learning how to do this, and I want someone else’s feedback before you and I talk about what you saw. Okay?”

No immediate danger. None of her friends at risk. “Okay.”

“It’s almost nine o’clock. You should eat something before you open the office.”

Meg followed Merri Lee out of the bathroom, feeling a little light-headed. Yes, she needed to eat, needed a little quiet time. Needed to figure out what to say to whichever Wolf had guard duty today. Even if she tried to avoid him, the Wolf would smell the blood and ointment. She was pretty sure she could talk John into not sounding an alarm, and if it was Skippy’s turn as watch Wolf, a couple of cookies would distract him. On the other hand, if Blair, the Courtyard’s primary enforcer, showed up with Skippy, as he usually did . . .

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