Vision in Silver Page 21

“No.” Since the drug was made from cassandra sangue blood, he would have had to bite her or bite someone who had taken the drug. If he had bitten someone who had taken the drug, there would be a human acting violent and crazy too, and if that were the case, there would be Wolves and Sanguinati filling up the office to guard her, or they’d be hustling her back to her apartment.

“Are you sure you’ll be all right staying there?” Merri Lee asked.

“I’m sure.”

Meg set the receiver in the cradle. Someone knew why Simon had gone all “bite the human,” but who would tell her? Not Vlad or Tess or Henry. They would—what was the word?—stonewall. Yes. They would stonewall because even if they had intervened to save Ruth and Merri Lee, Simon was still the leader of the Courtyard, and they would protect the leader and give him a chance to speak for himself. Jester Coyotegard might know and would tell her just to cause a bit of mischief, but she was pretty sure he wouldn’t tell her over the phone, and she would have to close the office too long to drive over to the Pony Barn.

But there were other residents who usually knew what was going on in the Courtyard, and they would be at their shop in the Market Square.

Meg tore off a page from the pad of paper Merri Lee had left on the counter. She hunted through a couple of drawers before she found a thick-line marker and a roll of clear adhesive tape. Then she paused to consider what she was about to do.

She hadn’t gone into Sparkles and Junk yet. Too many other things happening in the Courtyard over the past few months. Too many other things to see just in her daily routine. She’d yelled at Merri Lee for moving the stack of CDs, a clear indication that she needed some quiet time before she tried to deal with anything else. And with so many of the Others already stirred up about something, having an “episode” now could cause a lot of trouble.

Well, she just wouldn’t have an “episode.” At least, not until she got home and could hide from everyone.

She wrote Back in ten minutes on the paper, taped it to the office’s front door, and hurried out the back door and over to the Market Square.

There were usually a few of the terra indigene picking up a bit of food from the butcher’s shop or the grocery store. There was usually some activity at Music and Movies and at the library. Today the square was empty, felt deserted.

Hurrying to Sparkles and Junk, Meg felt relieved to find the shop open—until she stepped inside. The shop run by the Crows was a visual explosion of colors and shapes crammed together and piled high.

This was a mistake, Meg thought, holding the doorframe for support. Then she focused on Crystal, who stood behind a glass counter at the back of the store.

“It’s our Meg.” Feathers sprang up all over Crystal’s head, a sure sign of distress.

She doesn’t want to see me today, doesn’t want to be the one who lets slip whatever they’re all keeping from me. Just my being here is upsetting her. Can’t ask and can’t retreat without causing a different kind of trouble.

Keeping her eyes focused on Crystal so that she wouldn’t be overloaded by the rest of the store, Meg walked up to the counter and forced herself to smile.

Crystal looked toward a curtained doorway behind her. “Jenni and Starr are making phone calls. Does our Meg need something?” More feathers replaced hair.

“I’m learning how to be in a place that has a lot of things. To help the other cassandra sangue so that they can go into shops too.” Not a lie, just not the whole truth.

“Oh.” Crystal looked around. “We have lots of treasures. Not so many as we did, but we still have lots. Do you want to look?”

Meg glanced down at the shelf she could see through the glass and felt dizzy. There must be an entire binder of images on that shelf alone! “No. I can’t look at too many things at one time.”

The feathers on Crystal’s head smoothed into a more relaxed position. She picked up a green glass bowl and set it down in front of Meg. “Maybe this?” She dipped her hand into the bowl and came up with a handful of shiny coins. “I like to hold them, watch them shine as they fall back into the bowl. You can try it.”

To please her friend, Meg dipped her hand in the bowl. Shiny coins. Crystal must have spent hours polishing so many coins. Or did she just keep the coins that were already shiny?

“This was good. Thank you,” Meg said when the last coin fell back into the bowl. She started to turn away, bracing herself for the ordeal of walking to the door.

“Wait.” Crystal dashed to one of the tables and rummaged through a basket. She hurried back to Meg and held out her offering. “I don’t have the right kind of string. Blair might. You could ask. He wouldn’t growl at you.”

Sure he would.

Meg took the faceted oval piece of glass, not sure what to do with it.

“You hang it by a window, and rainbows will dance in your room!”

“This is wonderful. But I didn’t bring any money.”

“This is your first treasure hunt. You keep it. As a gift.”

“A crystal from Crystal. Thank you.”

“Is our Meg going back to the office now?”

“Yes. But I might sit in the Market Square for a minute before I do.”

As she chose a bench in the square, Meg wondered how many of the Others would know exactly where she was by the time Crystal finished relaying the news about her first treasure hunt.

*   *   *

Vlad watched Meg hurry toward the Market Square. Unusual for her to break routine. Of course, this entire day had broken a lot of things that had been carefully established over months, even years. He wouldn’t have been surprised if any of the other Wolves had lost control and turned on the girls today, but Simon? The leader who, just this morning, had talked about buying buildings to provide homes for these same girls?

He turned toward the desk, steeling himself to read the e-mail messages that had started pouring in as blood prophets were found in other parts of Thaisia, alive or dead. Then he heard a car pull into the area behind the store and looked out the window to see who was foolish enough to come here today.

Police car.

“Blessed Thaisia,” he muttered as he raced out of the office, down the stairs, and out HGR’s back door.

Three police officers worked with Lieutenant Montgomery to keep the peace between the humans living in Lakeside and the Courtyard. Karl Kowalski, Montgomery’s partner and Ruthie’s mate, had dark hair and brown eyes. The other two, Debany and MacDonald, had dark blond or light brown hair and blue eyes and were about the same height and build.

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