Vision in Silver Page 81

Elliot took the keys and walked out, and that left two vampires and two cops in the room.

Vlad looked at Burke and smiled. Burke, regaining some color in his face, returned the smile.

Monty breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Then he looked at Stavros. “Would the Sanguinati really attack the Toland police force?”

Stavros looked surprised. “Why would we? They have not provided sufficient provocation for such a decision.”

“You said you would focus on Scaffoldon and his associates.”

“I wasn’t referring to the police. Not all the police,” Stavros amended.

Burke nodded. “Humans First and Last movement.”

Stavros turned to Vlad. “Why did you and Captain Burke find that human’s departure amusing?”

Vlad smiled, showing a hint of fang. “Because he’s scurrying back to Toland with a battered toy bear he was sent to retrieve.”

“Why?”

“Because that bear has a bag of jewels hidden inside it,” Monty said, reminded of the most likely reason that Elayne was dead and Lizzy had been in danger.

“Ah.” Stavros gave Vlad a curious look. “Is that why Grandfather Erebus waved away any discussion of jewels yesterday? Because he was allowing the gems to be returned to Toland, despite . . .” He stopped, then studied Vlad and Burke.

“Where would a young girl get a bag of gemstones?” Burke said. “It’s more likely that she was pretending to be a jewel thief or some other such thing that she’d seen in a movie and had stashed a bag of colored glass inside her partner in crime.”

Stavros looked delighted. “Colored glass?”

“Such pretty colors,” Vlad murmured. “Blues and greens and ruby red.”

Stavros laughed, long and loud.

Monty felt queasy. “When the HFL find out . . .”

“The Wolves tore off an arm and a leg, but the bear’s torso was untouched,” Burke said. “Scaffoldon didn’t say one word, didn’t ask one question about jewels. He has no reason to think we found them. That being the case, he certainly wasn’t going to tell me about them.”

“Especially since there have been many reports of jewelry being stolen from the Toland elite,” Stavros said. “And news reports have droned on about a couple of jewelry stores also being robbed. Humans were trying to blame the Crowgard, which is ridiculous. If an earring or a ring is dropped on the sidewalk that borders the Courtyard, a Crow won’t resist claiming it. But they don’t go into human houses and steal—and they don’t remove the gems from a piece of jewelry and discard the setting.”

“The police have no leads?” Burke asked blandly.

“The police investigating the thefts all wear little HFL pins on their lapels. So do the humans who were robbed. So do the owners of the jewelry stores that reported the theft of loose gems.”

“Elayne might have been caught up in the glamour of being with Nicholas Scratch and rubbing elbows with society people who wouldn’t have acknowledged her otherwise, but she would not have stooped to stealing jewels, and she certainly wouldn’t have put Lizzy at risk by hiding them in Boo Bear,” Monty said hotly.

Vlad leaned forward and said gently, “She found the secret, and she tried to run. They had to stop her.”

He rubbed his face, suddenly tired. “She should have left the jewels. Dropped them in a closet, scattered them over the floor so someone would waste time finding them.”

“It wouldn’t have made any difference. She still had the secret. So did the Lizzy.”

“Unlike the Toland police, we don’t think anything has been stolen.” Stavros pitched his voice to be low and soothing. “We think these were arranged . . . donations . . . for the HFL movement.”

“With the added benefit of pointing a finger at the Crows and feeding the animosity growing between humans and terra indigene,” Burke said.

“Exactly.”

Sickroom voices, Monty thought. Do they think I can’t, or won’t, handle the truth, whatever it may be?

“Someone should question Leo Borden,” he said. He couldn’t picture Leo being able to pull off a jewel heist, but he could see the man as a courier—and he could easily imagine Leo thinking that Boo Bear would be a good hiding place for a fortune in gemstones. After all, who would look for them in a child’s toy, especially a child living under the same roof as Nicholas Scratch?

She doesn’t have anything else Scaffoldon or Scratch would want, so Lizzy is safe now, Monty thought. The father wanted to believe it. The cop knew it wasn’t true, could feel it wasn’t true.

“What will happen when the HFL discovers the gems Scaffoldon brought back are fakes?” he asked.

“I believe you humans call it a domino effect,” Stavros replied as Elliot slipped back into the room. “Which brings me to the reason I came to Lakeside. I will, of course, talk to Simon directly, but Grandfather Erebus decided select humans as well as the terra indigene should be prepared.”

“Gods above and below,” Burke muttered. “Prepared for what?”

“According to humans, Toland is Thaisia’s center of commerce,” Stavros said. “Many ships dock there, and a great flow of goods comes into the city from other parts of the world. Just as great a flow of goods goes out.”

“Do terra indigene ships also dock there?”

“No. We have other harbors for our little ships, harbors we share with the Intuits.”

A sharpness in the words made Monty wonder if there had been trouble in the past: fights, sabotage, other kinds of incidents that had encouraged the Others to keep their distance.

“Our ships don’t dock in the Toland port, but we still pay close attention to what comes into Thaisia . . . and what goes out.”

Monty wondered if the weight suddenly clinging to his bones was a feeling of dread.

“What is going out?” Burke finally asked.

“The Crowgard can probably tell you more than the Sanguinati since they like to poke around in everything, and my kin tend to visit the area around the docks at night,” Stavros said. “I can tell you that ships coming in from Brittania aren’t receiving all the cargo they expected to load, but they’re still being charged for the full amount. Any captain who protests is threatened with being struck off the trade list.”

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