Vision in Silver Page 22

A matched pair, Vlad thought as he walked toward the car and the man who stepped out of it. Until recently Debany and MacDonald hadn’t been around the Courtyard as much as Kowalski and Montgomery, so it wasn’t always easy to tell them apart—unless you were a Wolf, who not only recognized the scent of each male but knew which female scent should also be present on their skin and clothes.

It took him a moment to decide it was Lawrence MacDonald who was waiting for him to approach. The officer still in the car, looking sweaty and pale, wasn’t Debany.

“Mr. Sanguinati.” MacDonald removed his hat and held it, making a noticeable effort not to fidget.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Vlad said. “You know that.”

“Yes, sir, I do. But I have to ask. Is the Courtyard closed to humans for good or just today? Can Theral come to work tomorrow?”

Interesting question, especially when it was so obvious by MacDonald’s control that the answer was very important.

“Can’t she stay home for a day?” Vlad asked.

“Not alone.” MacDonald looked uncomfortable. “She lived with someone for a while. He . . . hurt her, and she left. But he’s caused trouble for her. That’s why she moved to Lakeside, why she’s living at my parents’ house, trying to start over. Over the past few days, there have been phone calls to the house. Person hangs up as soon as someone answers. We think Jack Fillmore—that’s his name, Jack Fillmore—we think he’s looking for her. If he came to the house when no one else was home . . .”

Another girl at risk. Was the threat to Theral that much different from the men who had come after Meg? Vlad had a pretty good idea what Meg would say.

Would she forgive him, or Simon, if Theral was harmed by a bad human when being in the Courtyard, being protected by those who lived in the Courtyard, would have kept the girl safe?

“I’ll talk to the other members of the Business Association,” Vlad said, feeling reluctant but not seeing what else he could do. “I’ll call you tonight with our decision.”

MacDonald pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket. “All of my phone numbers, so you don’t have to look them up. Thank you.”

Vlad watched them back up and drive down the access way.

<Our Meg is returning to her office,> Jake Crowgard reported as he flew back to his usual place on the wall that separated the delivery area from Henry’s yard.

Vlad hurried back to Howling Good Reads, slipping inside just as Meg came into sight. A cowardly act? Perhaps. But, he thought, an understandable response.

What the Others had discovered about the other blood prophets and the babies would hurt her, and Vlad didn’t want to be the one who hurt Meg.

*   *   *

Exhausted and heartsick, Simon returned to the Human Liaison’s Office a few minutes before Meg closed for the day. Every terra indigene who knew how to use a telephone or send an e-mail had been put to work calling other Courtyards in the Northeast Region and then beyond. He and Henry had made calls to the Wolfgard, Panthergard, and Beargard in the Midwest and Northwest. Jenni and Starr had sent word to the Crowgard in the Northeast and High Northeast. And a little while ago, Jester Coyotegard showed up at HGR on behalf of the Elementals, who wanted to know why so many terra indigene were upset—and why Meg was upset.

When they were returning from the Midwest last month, he’d told Lieutenant Montgomery and Dr. Lorenzo that until someone no longer needed to breathe, a human couldn’t hide from Air. The Elementals rarely took notice of individuals unless provoked or, in Meg’s case, intrigued. But Jester’s appearance had made him realize there had been one group of terra indigene who could have found the abandoned cassandra sangue faster than the rest of them. It just hadn’t occurred to him to ask for their help.

After explaining why it was so urgent to find the blood prophets who were alone and frightened, Simon told the Coyote about the sacks being thrown into lakes and ponds. He didn’t know what, if anything, the Elementals who lived in the Lakeside Courtyard would do with the information, but if they told the rest of their kin, there was a chance of finding more of the girls and babies alive.

Lieutenant Montgomery had called to let the Business Association know that police officers throughout Thaisia were out there searching. Montgomery also said that many government officials were sounding outraged and fierce when television reporters asked questions about the abandoned girls.

Simon didn’t ask how many of those outraged humans had bought a cut on any of those girls. But Vlad, who had listened to the news reports, took note of who denied the existence of blood prophets.

The terra indigene in Lakeside had done as much as they could today. Just one more thing for him to do.

He opened the back door of the Liaison’s Office and looked around. How little was the little thing that was too much for Meg to absorb?

But she had learned how to do a job, and she did it so well she had changed how the Others saw the people who worked for them. She had learned how to take care of herself, was learning how to cook simple meals. She had even learned how to drive, more or less. Not that anyone in the Courtyard would let her go out on the city streets, but she chugged along just fine in her Box on Wheels as she made deliveries to the various complexes where the Others lived.

Meg, the Trailblazer. The one who could show the other girls how to live and survive and enjoy the world they’d seen only in pictures.

He walked into the sorting room. Meg stopped tidying the stacks of magazines and waited.

“They killed the babies,” he said, not knowing how else to tell her. “Humans like the ones who caged you put babies in sacks and threw them into water to drown. The girls who were left beside roads weren’t from the compounds; they came from dens where females had their pups.”

Her hands trembled. “Is that one of the things I saw in the prophecy? Was that one of the things Merri Lee didn’t want to tell me?”

“No. You saw the girls who were in trouble, not the babies.”

She said nothing. He waited. A Wolf knew how to be patient.

“Dragging the lake,” Meg said. “Are the police going to drag the lakes?” She smiled bitterly. “I know that phrase because I read it in a couple of thrillers recently. But I don’t recall any training images that would match those words.”

“Wouldn’t that be an important image if someone wanted to find a missing human?” Simon asked. Humans did drown by accident.

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