Vision in Silver Page 41

“You wanted to talk to me?” Kowalski said.

Simon sniffed the air, trying not to be too obvious about it. Nerves. But not fear. That was good.

Since Kowalski was in the way, Simon walked around the counter instead of vaulting over it, flipped the simple lock on HGR’s front door, and stepped outside. When Kowalski joined him, Simon pointed to one of the stone buildings across the street. “Two bedrooms. I’m told it needs cleaning and paint. Is that a den you and Ruthie could live in?”

“Sure, but I don’t think we could afford it.”

“Once the Courtyard buys those buildings, you can afford to live there. The question is, would you?” Eve Denby would have first pick of the dens in the house across the street, and Ruthie could have the other, but he still wanted to know if the human pack would consider the apartments in the stone buildings as suitable dens. No point buying the buildings if their humans didn’t want to live in them.

Kowalski stared at the buildings on the other side of Crowfield Avenue. “Any space there for a small kitchen garden?”

“Not much. But for the human pack . . .”

He hesitated. It was his idea, but now that the moment had come to say something, did he really want to expose more of the Courtyard to humans? What if the humans couldn’t, or wouldn’t, accept the terra indigene who couldn’t pass for human?

And yet Kowalski was the second human today to ask about land to grow food. Someday he and Ruthie would have pups, so food was important. But why, at the beginning of the growing season, were humans thinking there wouldn’t be enough? The ground wasn’t quite ready for planting yet, and none of the earth native farms were reporting trouble.

He’d missed something. Maybe Vlad would know since the Sanguinati tended to pay more attention to human prattle.

“We have gardens where we grow vegetables,” Simon said. “We can expand some of them. We have fruits and nuts that we harvest. You do your share of the work, you get your share of the food.”

“Why are you doing this?” Kowalski asked. “You were pissed off at all of us yesterday.”

Simon sighed. “Maybe to say, ‘Sorry I almost bit you,’ to Ruthie?”

Kowalski stared at the buildings across the street. “We went out to all the farms yesterday, drove around for hours checking anyplace that might have been doing that to those girls. Lieutenant Montgomery, Debany, MacDonald, me. Even Captain Burke. And I’m pretty sure the captain had a quiet word with other patrol captains, because I saw men from other districts on the roads too, looking. It made you angry, hearing about what they did to girls like Meg, to the babies. It made us angry too. Maybe if I’d received a phone call like that, learned about it like that, I might have taken a swing at someone because I couldn’t think straight. Would have been sorry for it, and would have been glad that someone stopped me. What I’m saying is, we all understood why you lashed out. You don’t have to make up for being upset by offering Ruthie and me a place to live.”

He hadn’t expected understanding. Somehow that made him feel worse about snapping at Merri Lee and Ruthie.

“That’s not the only reason to do this. Maybe we want to find out if it can be done. The Intuits and the Simple Life folk have lived alongside the terra indigene for many generations, and each side fulfills parts of the bargain so that all sides have enough without constantly fighting for territory. But we haven’t made those kinds of bargains with your kind of human.” Wouldn’t have even considered making such a bargain until Meg started working for them and they had to allow for her need to have human friends.

“I’ll talk to Ruthie,” Kowalski said. “It’s a decision we need to make together.”

As mates should.

Kowalski’s mobile phone rang. A brief call. “Captain Burke wants to see me.”

Simon pulled the door open but Kowalski hesitated.

“Thank you. It means a lot that you would do this for us.” Kowalski went inside and headed for HGR’s back door.

Simon returned to the checkout counter and continued filling orders.

He’d said the words. Hopefully he hadn’t made a mistake that would threaten everyone in the Courtyard.

CHAPTER 16

Firesday, Maius 11

Meg sat at the top of the stairs leading to her apartment, a book beside her. Her porch provided shelter in bad weather and shade when it was sunny. It had latticework for privacy. What it didn’t have was anyplace to sit.

Some of the apartments in the Green Complex had porches; others didn’t. None of the other porches had the privacy latticework. They also didn’t have furniture. Too early in the season? Or didn’t Hawks, Owls, and Crows bother with furniture since the porch railing was a sufficient perch?

Tomorrow she would look through the ads in the Lakeside News to get an idea of what people might buy for outdoor furniture. This evening . . .

“Want to take a walk?”

She looked at Simon standing at the bottom of the stairs.

“Okay,” she said. “Aren’t you going to shift first?”

“No.”

Not the answer she expected. Simon usually shifted to Wolf as soon as he got home, relieved to be out of the human skin.

Taking the book inside, she exchanged the soft house shoes for sneakers. A walk with Simon could mean anything from an amble to a muscle-burning pace, and just because he started out in human form didn’t mean he wouldn’t be trotting along on four legs by the time it was finished.

She closed her front door, then joined Simon.

“You need to read this first.” He unfolded a piece of paper and handed it to her.

Haven’t we all faced enough today? she thought as she refolded the paper and handed it back to him.

She started walking, needing a distraction from the prickling around her shoulder blades. Simon fell into step beside her, saying nothing for several minutes.

Plenty of Courtyard residents out and about. Many saw them and hesitated, but no one approached.

“I remember her,” Meg finally said. “I remember cs821. She was younger than me. I can’t tell you her age, but she got her first scar last year or the year before, so the doctor’s guess sounds right.”

“She said she wants to live. Jackson isn’t sure she will. What can he do? What would help you if you were in her place?”

“They took away the silver razor?”

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