Written in Red Page 111

“Understood.” With a nod of dismissal, Monty turned to Debany and MacDonald.

“Nobody at A Little Bite knew there was trouble until Tess locked the front door and ran out the back, leaving the Hawk as guard and Ms. Lee to deal with customers,” Debany said.

“Pretty much the same story at Howling Good Reads,” MacDonald said. “Locked door, Wolf standing guard, no explanation.” He looked at Kowalski. “Ruth was there. Apparently, humans who have been given a pass to the Market Square can be tagged as temporary employees. Or maybe she volunteered to help. That part wasn’t clear. Either way, she ended up working the cash register and having an ongoing discussion with a Crow about the necessity of giving people correct change, even if that means giving them coins that are shiny.”

After Debany and MacDonald had the pizza order and were on their way, Monty turned to Kowalski. “Take five minutes and have another look around HGR.”

“Thank you, sir.”

When he and Burke were the only ones left, Monty walked over to his captain.

“Any reason to keep the intersection blocked?” Burke asked.

“No, sir. I don’t think there will be any more trouble here today.”

“Today,” Burke said heavily. “Seems that someone is still whispering in the governor’s ear, and he’s still leaning on the mayor to find that stolen property. You think this is connected?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So do I. What have we got?”

Monty told him about the unmarked van and the suspicious behavior of the man posing as a deliveryman. Then he told him about the reports of a wolf man, and watched Burke pale.

“You’ve seen one of the Others like that?”

Burke nodded. “Early in my career, I worked in a village smack in the middle of wild country. Most of Thaisia is wild country, but we said it like that to indicate the village wasn’t close to a bigger city. The Others who live in the wild places . . . Nobody knows if they can’t shift into the human form well enough to pass for human or if they just don’t want to. But you’ll see those blends if you have to go out and visit their settlements, and they truly are the stuff of nightmares.” He blew out a breath. “You think that van and driver left the Courtyard?”

“No, sir. But I’m hoping Simon Wolfgard will feel obliged to us enough to ‘find’ the man’s wallet and hand it over.”

Burke didn’t say anything. Then he pushed away from the car and opened the door. “You’re managing to keep things smooth, Lieutenant. Good work.” He got in, started the car, and drove off.

And a handful of Crows went winging into the Courtyard to report.

Monty got into his car. While he waited for Kowalski, he took an envelope from the coat’s inside pocket. The envelope was in Elayne’s handwriting, and the pressure of pen on paper told him she had been cornered into sending it. The handmade card inside was from Lizzy, his darling girl. Hugs and kisses for her daddy.

He put the card away and closed his eyes. Keep things smooth. Besides all the lives at stake here in Lakeside, he had one very good reason for keeping things smooth.

* * *

With a little effort, Asia picked the lock on the apartment door and slipped inside. By the time she was done with this assignment, she would have some serious skills for her TV series. Asia Crane, Special Investigator, would be a native of Toland. . . . No. Most of the PIs currently on TV were from the East Coast’s Big City. She would be a specialist brought in from the Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations to uncover corporate intrigue in Thaisia, or unmask a threat to the human government, or even deal with problems between humans and the terra indigene. Maybe her character could have an ongoing romance with an officer on the ship that routinely traveled across the Atlantik, providing transport between Cel-Romano and Thaisia. Maybe she could have a tame Wolf as an assistant, who could sniff out information other investigators wouldn’t be able to find. Wouldn’t that be a kick in Simon Wolfgard’s ass?

One way or another, this assignment was going to make her a very hot property who could write her own ticket—and name her own price.

Thank the gods she’d parked on a side street when she returned to the Courtyard. She had wanted to be around when Simon Wolfgard realized Meg the feeb was missing. Instead, she’d found cop cars all over the place, the intersection blocked, and all kinds of talk about someone trying to do something suspicious at the Liaison’s Office. Something to do with a box or a van or . . . something.

Everyone who had a mobile phone was chattering nonsense, but it was enough to tell her that White Van had failed big-time.

The idiot not only bungled the snatch; he got caught. She wasn’t worried about him coming back here and finding her searching his apartment. Even if he managed to get out of the Courtyard, he was gone, gone, gone. But she had left a couple of printed notes under the van’s windshield wiper, providing information about Meg’s routine. A pro would have disposed of the notes.

A pro wouldn’t have gotten caught.

As research for her upcoming role, she’d followed White Van one night to find out where he lived. His location had been a tidbit of information for her backers and not of much interest. However, she figured it would come in handy if she needed to point the cops toward a convincing suspect. But the fool had done that himself. Worse, he’d thrown himself to the Wolves, and the gods only knew what he would tell them before they killed him.

So she was here, doing a fast search to make sure the police—or someone worse—wouldn’t find anything that would come back and bite her.

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