Vision in Silver Page 65

“The Wolf police bite you if you’re bad?”

“Yes,” Monty said. “They bite you if you’re bad. Today you got off with what my captain would call a caution, meaning now you know you did a bad thing, so the next time . . .”

Lizzy clicked her teeth together to demonstrate biting.

Monty nodded. “That’s exactly right.”

“Daddy? I’m hungry.”

They ate sandwiches from Nadine’s Bakery & Café, then watched one of the movies. He wondered if whoever had chosen the movies had picked them because of viewing age or to show Lizzy a few truths about the beings who surrounded her. Whatever the reason, the story about the Wolf Team provided some sharp lessons for both of them.

CHAPTER 30

Watersday, Maius 12

Late that night, as a quiet, soaking rain fell over the Courtyard, the Owlgard watched Douglas Burke tuck a paper bag against Howling Good Reads’ back door.

Responding to the Owls’ call, Vladimir and Nyx Sanguinati retrieved the bag and flowed over to Sparkles and Junk, where Jenni Crowgard, Jester Coyotegard, Jane Wolfgard, and Blair Wolfgard waited for them.

One by one the jewels in the bag were stored in a small, velvet-lined wooden box, replaced by sparklies they found in the shop. After studying the fancy ring, Blair made a fair copy using fine wire and bits of glass that Jenni removed from a piece of costume jewelry.

Their tasks completed, they replaced the bag inside Boo Bear, and Jane, being the Wolfgard bodywalker, stitched up the back seam. After some discussion, they didn’t restore the arm and leg, leaving the bear looking the same as when it arrived.

At the first hint of daylight, Vlad placed the paper bag outside of HGR’s back door, shifted to his smoke form, and waited in the shadows. A few minutes after that, the Owls reported a car parking across the street from the Courtyard. A minute after that, Douglas Burke quietly made his way to HGR’s back door and retrieved the paper bag.

As soon as Burke drove away, Vlad joined Nyx, who had waited for him in the Market Square. Together, they took the small box to Grandfather Erebus’s marble home in the Chambers, a place where no human could search for the jewels and survive.

*   *   *

Setting two candlesticks on the gleaming wood of an antique table, Vlad lit the candles and watched Grandfather Erebus tip the box and gently spill the jewels over the dark wood.

“A shining fortune,” Erebus said. “Humans have killed each other for a single gem. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill a woman and child for what these pretty stones could buy.”

“Things,” Vlad said, revealing his fangs. “They kill for things.”

Erebus stirred the stones. “That could be said of us too.”

“We kill for food, to protect our land and homes. To protect our kin.”

“Food, land, homes. Those are important things that are worth protecting, but they are still things, Vladimir. How much food do you think these pretties could buy?”

“You can’t buy what isn’t there.” Vlad considered what he’d just said. When, exactly, had this talk about food shortages started?

He stared at the jewels. “Maybe the food isn’t there because it’s already been purchased. Maybe the jewels were the payment. But why hoard food and let people think they and their young will go hungry?”

“We will see the answer soon enough. Hunger can be a sharp master.” Erebus swept the jewels back into the velvet-lined wooden box. “Now. Tell me about the humans who were breeding the sweet blood. Have they been found?”

“No.” Vlad swallowed bitterness. “I’ve talked to Sanguinati who live in the regions where the abandoned girls were found or where the bodies of the babies were discovered. As far as they can tell, no one is searching for the farms. No one is searching for the humans who ran those farms.”

“What about the police, the government here?”

“You’d have to ask Elliot about the government. The police here did search. This I know as truth. They searched and confirmed there wasn’t such a place anywhere around Lakeside. No abandoned girls. No dead babies.”

Erebus said nothing. Then, “It is not just things that have a price, Vladimir. Loyalty also can be bought.” He touched the box with a thick yellowed fingernail. “Since humans won’t search for the farms, then we will. Tell the Sanguinati to find the humans who hurt the sweet blood and killed their young.”

“Should I talk to the girls at the lake? Their kin could destroy the buildings once they’re found.”

“Wood. Stone. Glass.” Erebus shook his head. “Leave the buildings untouched. They mean nothing. Find the humans who worked in those places and kill them.”

“Should the bodies be left where they can be found?” Meaning, did Erebus want humans to know that the Sanguinati had delivered their own form of justice?

Erebus looked at him. Vlad wasn’t sure if the astonishment was real or feigned.

“After the Sanguinati have fed, there is no reason to waste the meat, Vladimir,” Erebus said, his voice a quiet scold. “No, no. Take the meat into the wild country where it will be useful. There are many there besides the terra indigene who will welcome easy food for their young.”

CHAPTER 31

Earthday, Maius 13

The girl huddled under the patchwork quilt and listened as the Wolves on the other side of the door woke up. Big yawns, soft vocalizing that reminded her of the howls she’d heard the night before. Then a female voice saying, “Jackson, make some toast. I’ll scramble a couple of these eggs for the sweet blood.”

They meant her. They wouldn’t call her cs821. They said it wasn’t a name.

Sweet blood wasn’t a name either, but calling her that didn’t offend them.

The female, Grace, had brought her pajamas yesterday and another change of clothes. Underpants and socks were tucked into one of the drawers in the desk. The rest of the clothes hung on pegs on the wall, including a long, thick sweater.

The girl slipped out of bed and dashed for the bathroom. She shivered while she peed, while she washed her hands and splashed cold water on her face. Hurrying, she stripped off the pajamas and put on jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, and the thick sweater. She had one sock on when the door opened and Grace and Jackson walked in.

“We don’t know how to cook many human foods,” Grace said. “But I have learned to scramble eggs, and Jackson made you some toasted bread.” She set a plate on the desk. Jackson set a glass of white liquid beside the plate.

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