Vision in Silver Page 99

“Mikhos, watch over us,” Monty whispered. As he put his phone away, he looked at Pete’s pale face and grim expression.

“We’ll take Lizzy with us back to the duplex,” Pete said.

“Can you drop me close to Lakeside Hospital?”

“Sure.”

“What’s going . . . ?” Eve looked at both men and didn’t finish the question.

“One of my men,” Monty said, knowing he didn’t need to say more.

They hustled the children to the car. Monty wondered if he looked hunted. The gods knew, he felt that way.

*   *   *

“Gods above and below.” Captain Zajac shook his head as he looked at the destruction outside the stall market, which was in his precinct.

The older patrol captain had brushed against the Others when a former Courtyard employee named Darrell Adams died under mysterious circumstances—and a lot of people in the same area ended up in the emergency room with sudden ailments. Since then, Zajac had been fiercely insistent that he be kept informed about the “doings at the Chestnut Street station.”

“A third of the vehicles in this lot destroyed in seconds,” Zajac said. “I saw them burst into flames and felt the explosions as we were pulling in. Saw that female running past the cars just before they went up.”

“It could have been a lot worse,” Burke replied. He watched as the Courtyard bus was righted and attached to a tow truck. The bus would go to a garage that serviced police vehicles. If it could be sufficiently repaired, they would do that. If it couldn’t, he’d be sitting down with the mayor and the city’s comptroller, doing his best to persuade them of the necessity of purchasing a new bus for the terra indigene. The Others could afford another bus, and it wouldn’t be a hardship on the Courtyard’s annual budget—provided, of course, there were buses in the appropriate size for sale. A shortage of steel was starting to make itself felt in several industries, including the manufacture of vehicles. He’d heard from a couple of his sources that public transportation like cabs and buses would be given priority, and individuals might end up waiting six months or more to purchase a family car—and would have to choose from whatever models were available at the time or do without.

What his sources couldn’t tell him was why there was a shortage of steel when the terra indigene were selling the same quantity of raw materials to the manufacturers as usual.

A problem for another day, Burke thought when he heard the older man sigh.

“I know it could have been worse,” Zajac said. “Two exits for the whole damn building, and the back exit blocked by debris that had been thrown against the door. And people stuck behind a barricade of tables and merchandise blown around by a freak wind, with no chance of getting out if a fire had started in that part of the building.”

“That wasn’t a freak wind,” Burke said quietly. “That was done by an angry Elemental. The debris wasn’t blocking the back doors by accident, the roof wasn’t torn off this place by a chance gust of wind that just happened to find a weak point, and those cars didn’t explode because of a leak in someone’s gas tank and the heat of the sun on the pavement. That would be a plausible explanation—maybe—and if we’re smart, we won’t offer a different explanation, because if Fire had entered the building first instead of burning the cars as a way to disrupt the attack on the Courtyard bus, we would have had a lot of corpses and very few survivors.”

“Is this going to spoil things?” Zajac gave Burke a bitter smile. “Besides paying attention to what is happening at your station, I do keep my ear to the ground, Douglas. I’ve heard the Courtyard stores aren’t open to humans anymore. I’ve heard Wolfgard has bought at least one building outside the Courtyard to use as rental property. And I’ve heard from a couple of friends who serve on the Talulah Falls police force, what’s left of it, so I have some idea of just how bad it can be for us humans when the terra indigene truly hate us.”

Burke had heard a few rumors about Talulah Falls too. If anything like the attack in the stall market had happened there, the Others would have killed everyone, and it wouldn’t have mattered that the majority of those people hadn’t been involved in the attack. “Simon Wolfgard wants to use the Lakeside Courtyard as a kind of graduate school for terra indigene who need to interact with humans in one capacity or another. The shops might be closed to the general human population, but all their stores are open now to a select group of humans who are interacting with a lot more of the Courtyard’s residents. That gives us a chance to show the Others that humans can work with them for the benefit of all of us.”

“All of that would have been gone if Wolfgard had died today?”

“All of that would have been gone. And the next leader would not have looked favorably on any of us.”

They stood in silence for a couple of minutes, watching people absorb the loss of property. Watching people follow paramedics to the ambulances that would take loved ones to one of the city’s hospitals.

Watching the medical examiner’s van take away the dead.

“Douglas? Don’t know if you’ve seen the alerts yet, but there’s a lot of people who have gone missing all of a sudden.” Zajac stared straight ahead. “Not from Lakeside, thank all the gods. Closest to us is a dozen people in the Finger Lakes area, all from the same town.”

“Maybe they ran off together.”

“A fair number of alerts have come in from all the regions,” Zajac said as if he hadn’t heard Burke’s comment. “Groups of people all gone missing around the same time. Almost like someone had decided to put a company out of business by eliminating the employees. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that so many people can disappear and no one has caught sight of any of them?”

“Did the missing people live close to roads where the pregnant blood prophets were found?”

“Close enough.” A beat of silence. “What are you thinking?”

I wonder who gave the order to hunt down the people who ran the breeding farms. “I think those people are truly gone, and we shouldn’t look too hard for them or ask too many questions.”

They watched their men escorting people out of the building. A few people were taken out on stretchers, but most walked out on their own.

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