Vision in Silver Page 92

The Courtyard bus had left right after lunch to go to the stall market—the experimental field trip for Jenni, Starr, and Crystal Crowgard. Ruth and Merri Lee had invited her to join them, but they were quick to point out that the quantity of merchandise, not to mention the crowds and noise that were typical on a Watersday afternoon, might be overwhelming for her.

She took their word for it. Besides, taking a leisurely walk back to the Liaison’s Office—or as leisurely a walk as a human could have with Sam and Skippy for company—suited her.

“Why can’t I mark trees the way Skippy is doing?” Sam asked.

“Because you’re in human form,” Meg replied.

Skippy, who seemed to be paying no attention to their conversation, lifted his leg and gave them a Wolfie grin.

“Humans pee on trees too,” Sam said, glaring at Skippy as the juvenile Wolf trotted off to sniff at something else.

Unable to recall any training images that would confirm or deny that statement, Meg said nothing and kept walking. Tipping her head up so that she could see past the brim of her hat, she spotted the Hawk soaring above them, keeping watch. If Sam ran off to prove that a boy could pee on a tree, he wouldn’t be completely on his own, even if she kept walking. And, really, all he had to do was follow the road to the Market Square, so it wasn’t like he’d get lost. They might have to hunt up his clothes later if he stripped and shifted to Wolf, but apparently finding abandoned clothes in the Courtyard was pretty common during the warmer months.

Not abandoned, Meg reminded herself. Left where they can be found again—as long as a human doesn’t come along and take the clothes somewhere else.

She’d learned that lesson yesterday when she spotted a pile of clothes near the road while making a few deliveries. Since they were coveralls and work boots, she dropped them off at the Utilities Complex—and then had seen a little too much of an annoyed Blair, who had come looking for the clothes he’d set aside when he’d shifted to Wolf to do whatever it was he’d needed to do in his furry form.

Maybe she should talk to Eve Denby since Sarah and Robert played with some of the Courtyard’s youngsters. After all, if Sam was going to grumble about not being allowed to pee on a tree when he was in boy form, would Robert grumble about not being allowed to strip off his clothes and run around naked just because he wasn’t going to shift to something with feathers or fur?

She had no training images that matched what young males of any species thought about or found interesting. Apparently such things were not considered useful knowledge when speaking prophecy.

By the time they reached the Market Square, Meg was warm and dewy—a phrase Ruth said her grandmother used because the old woman insisted that ladies didn’t sweat.

Ruth’s grandmother obviously never had Wolves for playmates. When you played with them, you weren’t dewy, you dripped.

“The whole Courtyard is here,” Sam said, sounding impressed.

She knew that wasn’t true, but it sure looked like every resident had crowded into the square.

Focus on one or two things, she thought. Let the rest be a busy background, as if you were seeing a vision occurring in a crowded place instead of a deserted place.

Feeling steadier after making that decision, Meg looked around and focused on Jester Coyotegard, who pointed to various stores and seemed to be explaining something to a man with red hair and a face that looked sufficiently Foxy not to pass for human. She hadn’t delivered any mail to anyone who was Foxgard, so this male was either a visitor or a new resident.

She noticed Blair, who looked like someone was chewing on his tail, which wasn’t likely because he was in human form. Then she forgot about the Wolf when she spotted Julia and Marie Hawkgard coming out of Chocolates and Cream, licking ice cream cones.

Had she ever tasted ice cream? She wasn’t sure. But she knew she’d never experienced eating an ice cream cone. And Sam hadn’t had ice cream in years, if he’d ever had any when he was a little puppy. They would go over to Chocolates and Cream, and she would buy ice cream cones for both of them. And Skippy too, so he wouldn’t be left out.

She looked at Sam. “Would you like to get . . .”

The harsh buzz began in her chest, quickly spreading to her left shoulder.

“Get what, Meg?” Sam tugged on her arm. “Meg?”

Meg looked at the Market Square. Crowded place. Too many people, too little room to move, to escape.

The Market Square looked familiar, but it didn’t feel familiar anymore. And the certainty that she needed to escape grew stronger the longer she stood there.

“Something’s wrong,” she whispered. She patted the right cargo pocket in her shorts. Empty.

How could it be empty? How could . . . ?

She pressed her hand against the left pocket and felt the shape of her folding razor. She’d put it there—and buttoned the pocket—so that the razor was with her but harder to reach.

“Meg?” Sam whined as he tugged on her arm again.

Meg worked to steady her breathing. She should turn around and walk away from the Market Square, walk back to the Green Complex or as far up the road as she needed to go until the painful pins-and-needles buzz under her skin stopped.

She looked at Sam and Skippy, intending to tell them they had to leave.

But what if the prophecy was about one of them? Could she take that risk? Could she live with the pain if either of them got hurt?

Be sure, she thought. The last time you didn’t walk away, you upset so many friends. You hurt Nathan. And Simon. Be sure.

She hurried away from the Market Square, intending to reach her office and call . . . who? Simon was at the stall market with Jenni Crowgard and her sisters. Nathan, Vlad, Henry, and the human pack were with them. Except Theral, who was working at the medical office this afternoon because she didn’t want to go to a crowded place where her ex-lover might look for her.

Could Theral be the reason for the prickling? There had been no sign of that man since the flowers arrived as a way to confirm that Theral could be found in the Courtyard. But no human could reach Theral in the medical office. Especially not today with so many of the terra indigene gathered in the Market Square.

Crowds and the sting of sharp, unpleasant smells. Pushing and shoving. Shouts and screams. No room to escape if . . .

“Meg?” Sam said. “Where are you going?”

She ran to the Liaison’s Office. Get inside and call . . . Blair, the Courtyard’s dominant enforcer. No, he was in the Market Square, close by. She would call Nyx. The Sanguinati would help her.

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