Vision in Silver Page 55

<A feeling? She’s an Intuit?>

<He thinks she is, but he’s not sure she knows what she is. He still wants to take her over to the island and see how she responds to the girls. He wants your approval. So does Ming.>

A few weeks ago, a man named Phineas Jones had tried to reach Great Island to find girls who might be cassandra sangue. He had been an enemy. The Controller was dead, and so was Phineas Jones, but other men running compounds could have sent other humans to find the girls.

<She doesn’t stay on the island, and she’s never alone with the girls,> Simon said.

<Ferryman said the same thing.>

Simon realized the humans had been watching this silent exchange, knowing something was being discussed. “If the woman who came to Ferryman’s Landing is acceptable to us, then you can talk to her.”

He didn’t think Lorenzo liked having decisions made for him, but an Intuit who hadn’t lived in one of their communities might understand outside better than individuals who had been accepted for their abilities their whole lives. And that was the person Lorenzo should see.

The lattice door between A Little Bite and Howling Good Reads opened. Tess gave no sign of noticing the cloth Simon had used to cover the lattice. Her wildly curling hair had streaks of brown, green, red, and black, as if she didn’t quite know how she felt.

Since he suspected her hair had been the death color an hour ago, Simon took all the other colors as a good sign that the rest of the Courtyard most likely would survive.

“When you’re done talking with each other, there’s something I want the four of you to see,” Tess said, looking at Vlad, Montgomery, Burke, and finally Simon. Then she retreated into the coffee shop.

“I’ll go over to the Liaison’s Office now, if that’s all right with you,” Lorenzo said. He looked at Montgomery. “If I finish up there before your daughter returns from visiting the ponies, you can find me in the medical office.”

Montgomery nodded.

“That takes care of the doctor,” Simon said. “Now what do you two want?”

Burke turned to Vlad. “We would appreciate a little more information from your kinsmen in Toland.”

“Ah.” Vlad looked at Monty. “We’ve heard nothing more about the death of your former mate.”

“I’m wondering if they’ve heard anything about stolen jewels or jewelry,” Burke said.

“Wouldn’t the Toland police have heard about such things? Why can’t they tell you?”

“The Toland police captain I talked to doesn’t like me, so I doubt he’ll tell me anything,” Burke replied. “Unlike the police captain, I don’t think the Sanguinati have any interest in the jewels that were found in Boo Bear. That makes them an unbiased source of information.”

Simon studied Burke. The police captain thought the Others would be more honest than his own kind? What did the Sanguinati think about the police in Toland?

“I’ll give Stavros a call and see what he or Tolya has heard,” Vlad said.

“I’d like to stay in the efficiency apartment with Lizzy one more night, if that’s all right with you,” Montgomery said.

“We set one apartment aside for the police, so you can stay,” Simon said. When the humans didn’t speak, he added, “Shall we find out what Tess wants to show us?”

He walked into A Little Bite. Vlad and the two policemen followed him.

Tess stood behind the glass display case, her hair now solid red coils. Angry again. But why?

He glanced at the food in the display case—the pastries, cookies, sandwiches, and other items that were delivered that morning. When he leaned down for a closer look, he understood, and shared, Tess’s anger.

Spoiled. All of it. Mold on the bread. Dried-out or moldy cheese in the sandwiches. Even with the lesser human sense of smell and the glass between him and the food, he could scent meat going bad.

“Is something wrong with your refrigeration system?” Burke asked.

“No,” Tess replied in a rough voice. “Something is wrong with the humans in this city.”

The bakery they had been dealing with had stopped making deliveries a few weeks ago. Trying to give the humans another chance before informing the mayor that the agreements between humans and terra indigene had been broken, Tess had contacted another bakery in Lakeside that provided the kinds of foods she sold in A Little Bite.

“This is what I was given this morning,” Tess said. “It was packaged in a way that I couldn’t see the rot, so I paid the invoice in cash, as required.” She came around to the front of the display case and jabbed a finger toward the food. “Would you eat that? Would you feed that to your child?”

“No,” Montgomery said.

“We’re not open to humans who aren’t connected to the Courtyard anymore,” Simon said.

“That’s not the point,” Tess snapped. “That was never the point. The agreements with the city are clear enough: we are entitled to anything available to humans. If they can buy it, so can we.”

“And if we can’t, neither can they,” Simon said.

“Are a few pastries and sandwiches that important?” Montgomery asked, sounding alarmed.

Simon looked around. “This coffee shop was modeled on the ones humans use. It provides the same beverages and foods. Most of those shops don’t bake their own products; they buy them from bakeries. So we did the same in order to understand why such a place would have any value. When the bakeries all close tomorrow because the agreements with the terra indigene were violated twice with regard to supplying food for the coffee shop, how important will the lack of those pastries and sandwiches be to the humans who go into those coffee shops?”

“I’m not sure the government will tell the bakeries to close or require the police to enforce those closings,” Burke said, sounding as wary as a coyote who’d just caught the scent of a grizzly.

“You won’t have to enforce anything,” Tess said. “The Elementals can take care of closing the bakeries. I’m sure Fire would oblige once I show her what the monkeys sent us as food for Meg and the other girls.”

Simon blinked. Ask one of the Elementals to burn all the bakeries in the city? That seemed . . . harsh. Better to burn down the troublesome ones, especially the one that sold Tess rotten food to give to Meg.

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