Vision in Silver Page 33

“It’s a two-family wood house, with one flat above the other,” Eve said. “The upper flat had been occupied by the woman’s son and his family, but the son recently took a job in a place called Hubbney. Is that really a town name? Anyway, the flats have three bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, and bath. There is off-street parking behind each of the buildings, as well as on-street parking on Crowfield Avenue. Not much land for gardens and such.”

“That wouldn’t be a problem,” Simon said.

“Tenants might appreciate being able to grow a few vegetables. Anyone trying to feed a family will want to grow a bit of food in order to pay for things like bread, which doubled in price in the past week and is becoming a luxury item.”

Bread was a luxury item? That didn’t sound right. Then again, he ate bread only when it was part of a meal served at Meat-n-Greens or when he picked up a sandwich at A Little Bite.

Simon looked at Tess, but she was studying Eve.

<Is bread a luxury item?> he asked Tess.

<I thought it was a basic food, the sort of thing every human ate,> she replied. <If something has happened on human farms to change that . . .>

<If you hear anything, let me know.> He’d rather eat fresh deer than fresh bread, but Meg should have bread whenever she wanted it.

Eve pulled a piece of paper out of her purse and handed it to Simon. “Anyway, that’s what Mrs. Tremaine would like for her house, but she wants to relocate soon to be with her son, so she’ll take any reasonable offer.”

Simon walked to the windows and studied the buildings across the street. <If we buy all three, we would own all the buildings on that block, except the commercial building that faces Main Street,> he said to the other terra indigene.

<That’s a lot of humans,> Henry said.

<Maybe.> He turned. “You. Handyman Eve. Could you live in that house?”

“The two-family? Sure,” Eve said. “Needs a little work, but nothing I couldn’t do. Of course . . .” She looked at Pete. “I doubt we could afford to rent a place that size. Not right now.”

“You wouldn’t pay rent. You would be the manager who took care of the buildings for us.”

Pete and Eve looked like a pony had kicked them in the head. He wished they didn’t look that way. He’d feel better about the plan that was taking shape if he was confident that their brains would keep working.

“You’re offering me a job as your property manager?” Eve finally said.

“Yes. And Pete could be our attorney when we have to deal with human matters.”

<Simon!> That came from Tess, Elliot, and Vlad. But not, he noted, from Henry.

“We will buy the buildings, and you will take care of them,” he said.

“What about tenants?” Pete asked. “Are you going to advertise that you have apartments for rent?”

He knew by the look in their eyes that he no longer passed for human.

“No,” he said. “We will choose who lives on our land.”

Pete blew out a breath. “In that case, let’s talk about what kind of offer you want to make for each building.”

Henry looked at Simon and nodded. After a moment, so did Tess and Vlad. Elliot wasn’t part of the Business Association, but he would have to deal with Lakeside’s government. When the Wolf nodded, Simon focused on Pete and Eve. “Yes, let’s talk.”

*   *   *

After agreeing with what Pete and Eve needed to do next in order to purchase the buildings, Simon walked them to the Market Square, where they collected their children and then drove away. When he returned to HGR, he wasn’t surprised that Vlad, Tess, and Henry followed him up to the office, but he hadn’t expected Blair Wolfgard to slip in behind them.

“You can tell me about this later,” Blair said. “I just wanted to let you know that Nathan is on his way home and wants me to pick them up at the train station this afternoon.”

“Them?” Simon said. Human ears just didn’t prick properly to show interest. “Nathan found a mate?”

Blair hesitated. “Didn’t sound like it. But he is bringing someone with him.” The Courtyard’s primary enforcer walked out of the office, closing the door behind him.

“Is it wise to become so entangled with humans?” Henry asked.

“Our terra indigene ancestors allowed some humans to settle in Thaisia. Were they wise?” Simon countered. “Maybe not. But they made that choice, and we have to find a way to live with the humans who are here now.”

“They have to find a way to live with us,” Tess said. “While some pieces of the world belong to humans, Thaisia was, is, and always will belong to the terra indigene.”

“I agree,” Henry said. “And it is the humans who are trying to live with us who are under discussion.”

“So what choice are we making for Lakeside?” Vlad asked.

“Balance,” Simon said. “Talulah Falls has been reclaimed, and the terra indigene are now in control of that town. They allowed the tourists who survived the reclaiming to leave. They also allowed the students who were attending the university to leave. But they’re holding the adults who live in Talulah Falls responsible for the explosion that killed several Crows and for the insane human who killed one of the Sanguinati. Those people are working, and living, in fear.”

“You could say that most humans in Thaisia are living in fear, except those who live in the largest cities and are willfully blind to the truth of what it means to be a human living on terra indigene land,” Vlad said.

“This is different. There has never been so much anger toward humans that we held some captive.” He saw the small, uneasy movements they all made. The terra indigene killed humans as meat or killed them as enemies or rival predators. They destroyed cities when humans became too much of a threat. But they had never held humans captive within a town before the troubles in Talulah Falls.

Simon rubbed the back of his neck, trying to ease tight muscles. How human was too human? There was always a risk of absorbing too much of a form. Is that what happened to the Others who accepted the task of controlling Talulah Falls? Had they absorbed too much human behavior?

They’re behaving with those humans the way the Controller behaved with Meg and the other blood prophets.

He shook his head, as if that would shake out the thought before it had a chance to burrow. “The Wolves, Crows, and all the other earth natives who live in Courtyards are the buffer between humans and the rest of the terra indigene. The humans who are being branded Wolf lovers are a buffer between us and the rest of the humans.”

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