Vision in Silver Page 40

Gods above and below, what was Elayne mixed up in?

*   *   *

One advantage to living with predators is we know how to wait, Tess thought as she and Meg sat at the little table in the back room of the Liaison’s Office.

Meg didn’t seem to be in distress. She wasn’t digging at her skin—a sign that she was plagued by a pins-and-needles feeling that indicated something that might be revealed in a vision.

How much was too much? When you thought about how many things had happened to Meg since she stumbled into the Courtyard a few months ago compared to how little had happened to her during her first twenty-four years, was it any wonder that her mind was overwhelmed? Of course, what had happened to the girl during those first twenty-four years might have been repetitive, but Tess didn’t think any of it had been kind.

“Merri Lee, Ruth, and I watched a movie recently,” Meg finally said. “It had a large dog with lots of hair. Ruth says there are lots of breeds of dog, but we weren’t taught breeds, just general identification of animals.”

“Makes sense,” Tess said. “Why would someone pay for a prophecy about an animal unless it was valuable? Why are you thinking about the movie?”

“The dog kept getting into trouble. It didn’t mean to, but it did. It knocked things over or chased a cat through a party so that people fell into a swimming pool or ended up with gooey food spilled over them.”

Tess got up, rummaged in the under-the-counter fridge, and found a bottle of cold water. She filled two glasses and brought them back to the table.

“We had enough fuss with a cheese sandwich, a stuffed bear, and an idiot Wolf,” she said.

“Exactly!”

She studied Meg. “What exactly?”

“Merri Lee and Ruth said the movie was a comedy, that the dog getting into trouble and getting snobby people wet or dirty was supposed to be funny. But the people weren’t laughing. They looked angry and yelled at the dog.” Meg sipped water. “Some training images produce feelings. Like seeing bugs crawling on food. I didn’t like looking at those images. So that’s a bad thing.”

“If you’re someone who eats bugs, that would be a good image and show what kind of bait should be set out.”

Meg stared at her.

Tess shrugged. “For many things, good or bad is how you feel about it. If you see a picture of Wolves killing a deer, you might feel bad for the deer. Or you might understand that the Wolves have fed their family that day, the same as a human who kills a cow or a chicken to feed his family.” She considered what she knew about Meg. “You have all these images in your head. Thousands of pictures, and you absorb more images every day. But now that you’re having your own experiences, now that you’re learning your own likes and dislikes, you’re also trying to assign the proper feelings for all those images, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Some things are easy. Sam is easy. And working here, and knowing all of you. Those things are easy. I feel good working here. I feel good when I’m learning new things, at least until I get tired. But sometimes I don’t know how I should feel.”

“For instance, should you feel upset like Lizzy because Boo Bear was damaged, or feel embarrassed like Lieutenant Montgomery because his little girl saw a naked boy, or laugh because it was like watching one of those absurd movies.” Tess paused. “Or be like me—grateful that Skippy didn’t manage to eat any of the bear so I don’t have to deal with barfed stuffing all over the coffee shop.”

“One image, but feelings change how it can be seen,” Meg said quietly.

“I’d say that’s true of most things. Wouldn’t you?”

Meg took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh.

Relaxed. Balanced. She had provided the answer Meg needed.

“Your hair is brown again,” Meg said.

“I’m sitting here talking to you.”

Meg was rather like that big dog in the movie. Didn’t mean any harm but managed to set all kinds of things in motion.

“Why are you laughing?” Meg asked.

“Just thought of something no one else would find amusing.”

*   *   *

Simon filled a few book orders while he waited for Kowalski. Not much else he could do. Vlad was in the office upstairs, hopefully dealing with some of the paperwork that seemed to breed faster than bunnies. Nathan had messages from the Addirondak Wolves, but those would have to wait until the police finished sniffing around Boo Bear and asking their questions.

Which meant the only useful thing he could do right now was fill orders—and consider if he wanted to suggest to the terra indigene who ran small publishing houses that they should publish more books, maybe even a few by human authors. It was getting harder to purchase books from the human publishers, and written stories, like recorded music, were two human things the Others really enjoyed and wanted.

Or maybe the Intuits published books? Something to ask Steve Ferryman.

So many things to think about, at least until it was time to go home. Then he could shift and think about good things for a while, like the taste of water and the scents of bunnies and deer, and maybe playing an easy game of chase with Meg. Wolf thoughts.

Kowalski walked up to the checkout counter. He and Ruthie were going to be mates officially next month. Simon wasn’t sure why that made a difference since they were already mating—any Wolf could smell that—but apparently humans couldn’t tell, so Kowalski and Ruthie had to have a ceremony and be given a piece of paper so that other humans would know they were mating.

“Lizzy has her things,” Kowalski said. “Officer Debany and Nathan are at the medical office, observing while the bear and jewels are bagged. Captain Burke is there too and would like to talk to you when you’re available. And . . . Jane? . . . said to tell you she took Sam and Skippy back to the Wolfgard complex.”

And Meg? Simon thought.

He didn’t hear anything, even with his superior hearing, but he turned toward the archway when he saw Kowalski tense, then make a visible effort to relax.

“Meg is fine,” Tess said. “She’s with Henry in his studio. They’re talking about wood and listening to earth native music.”

He nodded, noting as Tess ducked back into the coffee shop that her hair was brown and the curls had relaxed to waves. So Meg was fine and Tess was calm. Both good things when humans who weren’t pack were sniffing around. He’d given his consent, but that didn’t mean he liked it.

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