Vision in Silver Page 54

“Couldn’t you decline the appointment?” Monty asked.

“I could have. I didn’t. Helping these girls will have an impact on everyone. And thanks to my exposure to the Others here, I have a little experience dealing with the terra indigene, which is something the other doctors can’t say.”

“At least you won’t spend half your time traveling across the whole region.”

“Not in the beginning, anyway. First we have to locate the girls, and I doubt we’ll be successful unless the terra indigene choose to help.” Lorenzo eyed Monty. “You okay?”

“Been better.” He hesitated, but there was a medical office in the Market Square, and Lorenzo was here. “After you talk to Wolfgard, I’d appreciate it if you could give my daughter a quick checkup.”

“Is she sick?”

When Monty hesitated, Burke said, “Lizzy’s mother was murdered in the Toland railway station yesterday. The girl boarded the train on her own to come to Lakeside to be with Lieutenant Montgomery.”

“Gods,” Lorenzo breathed. “Sure, I’ll take a look. The girl wasn’t injured?”

“No,” Monty said. Then he tipped his head toward HGR’s back door. “Doctor, you go ahead. I need a word with the captain.”

Burke raised his eyebrows and waited.

“Someone close to Elayne and Lizzy slipped a bag of jewels into a stuffed bear that was seldom out of Lizzy’s reach,” Monty said.

“Unless it was Elayne herself, the short list is her mother, her brother, Leo, and Nicholas Scratch,” Burke said.

“Using Boo Bear was a desperate choice or hasty one. Scratch strikes me as being smarter than that.”

“Maybe. But if Leo playing doctor with Boo Bear and Lizzy meant operations—opening seams and sewing them up again—then planting the jewels in the bear had been part of a plan all along, although I would guess that the jewels had been hidden somewhere else in the apartment most of the time.”

“It doesn’t explain where the jewels came from,” Monty said. “Elayne’s family is sufficiently well-to-do, but I don’t think they could afford that many jewels unless they liquidated all their assets.”

“Not an impossible action if her family is committed to the Humans First and Last movement and is willing to support it to that extent. The other possibility is the bag of jewels represents contributions from many families or supporters.” Burke opened HGR’s back door. “And you’re forgetting the third possibility—that the jewels were stolen and Scratch or Leo Borden is involved.”

Instead of going forward, Monty rocked back a step. Despite the years he and Elayne lived together, and despite being in the same city, he’d never gotten to know her family. There was a coolness whenever he made an appearance at a family gathering that had kept him at a distance. Could he say with any certainty that her family wasn’t involved in stealing jewels?

“If the jewels were stolen . . .” Monty swallowed hard.

“Using Lizzy as a courier would have made Elayne the fall guy if something went wrong—especially if the investigating officer didn’t want anyone looking at Nicholas Scratch or other members of HFL. But Scratch hadn’t anticipated Elayne throwing him out for sleeping with another woman, and he hadn’t expected her to run.”

“Thaisday night, when I called Elayne, someone answered the phone. Just heavy breathing. I thought she was messing with me.”

“Someone could have been sent to retrieve the jewels,” Burke said grimly.

“If Elayne and Lizzy had been home . . .” Monty couldn’t finish the thought. “Would the Toland police tell us if any jewels had been stolen recently?”

Burke gave him that fierce-friendly smile. “The police aren’t the only ones who have an information network. And we know people who know people, don’t we?” He walked into HGR, leaving Monty to follow.

*   *   *

On busy days, HGR had had more humans in the store than there were right now, but they hadn’t been gathered around the counter wanting to talk to him.

“What?” Simon growled, eyeing Burke, Montgomery, and Lorenzo.

He decided to take the same approach as he’d take with vultures covering a kill: scatter them.

He pointed at Monty. “Meg asked the girls at the lake if the Lizzy could see the ponies, so Meg, the Lizzy, and Nathan have gone to the Pony Barn and should be back soon.” He pointed at Dominic Lorenzo. “Merri Lee, Ruthie, and Theral are at the Liaison’s Office, watching for deliveries and making notes to add to The Blood Prophets Guide. If you want to talk to them, I’ll have Henry go over with you.”

“That’s fine,” Lorenzo said. “I would appreciate any information. But I did want to talk to you about the task force that’s now responsible for ascertaining the mental and physical well-being of blood prophets in Lakeside and the surrounding areas.”

Stay human, Simon told himself. Tess had finally calmed down enough that she wanted to talk to him. It wouldn’t help anyone if he damaged the one doctor he was willing to have around Meg.

Besides, Vlad had just slipped into the front part of the store.

“I don’t think the task force will have a problem around here as long as you are the doctor making these visits,” Vlad said with a smile that showed a warning fang. “I think we can arrange for you to visit Great Island and talk to the people who are taking care of the blood prophets. Then you can assure the humans who didn’t care a week ago that the girls are being looked after properly. Make your report about their physical and mental condition. Just remember that it would be very unhealthy if the girls’ location ever showed up in a report.”

“One of the things I’ve been asked to decide is if a girl is an alleged blood prophet or a girl with other problems that manifested as some kind of self-harm,” Lorenzo said. “I’d like to talk to Meg Corbyn and get any insights she can offer.”

“Steve Ferryman might have someone who can provide you with some insights,” Vlad said.

<Ferryman?> Simon asked, using the terra indigene form of communication.

<A female showed up at Ferryman’s Landing, driving a car that was loaded with all her possessions, including a dog. She’s worked at several houses that took care of troubled girls. After being fired, again, because she isn’t afraid to share her opinions with anyone, she packed up and started driving. She told Ferryman she had a feeling this was the place she’d been looking for, the place where she could really help.>

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