Vision in Silver Page 48

“Junk?” Simon cocked his head. The Crows hadn’t gone out for their trash treasure hunts since the day some humans baited a street and tried to kill Jenni Crowgard and her sisters, as well as many other Crows. Meg’s warning had saved the Crowgard, but the experience had soured the Crows’ pleasure in finding bits of shiny among the trash humans set at the curb each week. Maybe this would be fun for the Crowgard? And they could discard whatever they didn’t want.

“We’ll look,” he said. Then he thought about Pete and his family packing up their car and escaping to Lakeside after Pete had helped Captain Burke search for the Controller. “You owned a house full of stuff.”

“Yes. Well, we rented a house.”

“But you owned the stuff.” He’d never seen the inside of a human house except on TV shows, but he had the impression a real house looked similar to the Crows’ shop, Sparkles and Junk—packed with all the bits and pieces humans couldn’t seem to live without.

Pete gave him a crooked smile. “Yes, we owned stuff. But stuff can be replaced.”

“What will happen to it?”

Pete shrugged. “The rent was paid through the end of this month. After that, I expect the landlord will haul everything out and put it in storage—or more likely keep the furniture and rent the house as furnished and sell everything else, claiming he couldn’t find me.”

As far as Simon was concerned, territory mattered because territory was about having a place to live that had plenty of food and good water, but a table was a table, a chair was a chair. As long as it functioned, one wasn’t any different from the other. But humans were more like the Crowgard. They collected stuff.

“Write down your address,” Simon said. “I’ll see if there is anything the terra indigene in that area can do about retrieving your possessions.”

Everyone—human and Other—looked at him in surprise.

“Appreciate that,” Pete finally said. He pulled out a ring of keys, removed two keys, and set them on the table. Then he wrote down the address and town. “If your friends have to choose what to transport, tell them personal things first—clothes, toys, the photographs. Those are more important to Eve and me than a piece of furniture.”

“I’ll talk to them,” Simon said. “Anything else you need from us?”

“No.” Pete put his papers in his briefcase and walked toward the door. Then he stopped and looked at them. “Thank you.”

As Pete walked out, Nathan Wolfgard walked in.

“The Addirondak Wolves want to know if they can send some of the pack to Lakeside for a visit,” Nathan said. “They’d like the Wolves who have studied how to interact with humans to have some day-to-day exposure to humans before taking an assignment in a Courtyard.”

“There are human settlements in the Addirondaks,” Henry said.

“Yes, but the settlements are small and have trading posts where the terra indigene go to buy human goods. I went to one of those places, and it had all the basic items we need when we’re in human form, but it’s a different experience than going into stores like the ones in our Market Square. The humans who live in those settlements and work in the trading posts are Intuits, and they’re polite, but they don’t really talk to the terra indigene, not like the humans are doing here.” Nathan shrugged. “We have things the Addirondak Wolves have only heard of.”

“Like our very own blood prophet squeaky toy?” Tess asked dryly.

Nathan squirmed.

Mine! Simon swallowed the thought—and the accompanying growl—when Henry shifted in his chair.

“We have our own human instructor who can show terra indigene details that humans learn when they’re young,” Henry said. He turned to Simon. “That’s why you hired Ruthie, isn’t it? So that more than the Lakeside Courtyard can learn what to look for in a human who could be a friend—and how to recognize behavior that indicates an enemy?”

“Yes,” Simon agreed. “We need to recognize both kinds of humans.” As soon as he could shift out of this skin, he’d give his fur a good shake—and take a quick run to find out what Meg was doing. “I’ll talk to the Addirondak Wolves. We have room for a few guests.”

That much settled, they went their own ways. Henry went to his studio. Tess went to A Little Bite. Simon and Vlad went downstairs to fill out book orders and open up HGR. They kept the Residents Only sign on the door to discourage humans from coming in, but more of the Courtyard’s residents were venturing in now for the experience of buying a book and having a small interaction with one of the humans in Meg’s pack.

“I’ll be back soon,” Simon said.

“If you have any sense, you’ll run away from the females, not toward them,” Vlad called after him as he walked into the stock room.

Ignoring Vlad’s laughter, Simon stripped off his clothes and set them on a chair near HGR’s back door. Then he stepped outside, shifted to Wolf, and trotted off to see Meg.

As long as he could outrun them, he wasn’t worried about dealing with the female pack.

CHAPTER 20

Watersday, Maius 12

The female pack—Meg, Merri Lee, Ruth, and Theral—met up at the Green Complex before walking back to the Market Square. It was an experiment to figure out what the cassandra sangue could absorb and what triggered overload. Since Merri Lee and Ruth were helping her write up notes for The Blood Prophets Guide, and Theral worked in the medical office and might need to know about the triggers, Meg had asked them to join her on a walk from her apartment to the Market Square.

She drove this road every workday and she often took walks with Simon and Sam. So the road was familiar and yet slightly different each time, but she didn’t remember experiencing her mind blanking out whenever something changed. So what did overwhelm cassandra sangue to the point of panic . . . and self-destruction?

She needed to find out because it wasn’t just about her anymore or about upsetting the Others in this Courtyard. The Guide wasn’t just Simon’s way of keeping the female pack busy. There were girls out there right now who wanted to live and might not survive because the people who wanted to help them didn’t know how to help them.

So she and her friends would walk, and she would look, and maybe they would find an answer to one question that would help some of the girls live a little while longer. Maybe even long enough for her to figure out the next answer.

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