Written in Red Page 140

“Two dozen men amount to a lot of expense to retrieve one item.” Asia swallowed a spoonful of soup. She hadn’t believed the benefactor would send that many men for this job. Her backers would want a large chunk of the finder’s fee that she’d been promised, but even so, her cut would be substantial. And that was just from helping the benefactor reacquire Meg. The real money would come from the acquisition of the Wolf pup.

“According to the weather reports, there’s a storm coming in on Watersday.” The messenger wiped his mouth with a napkin. “We’ll use it to cover our tracks and reacquire the property.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to get in and out before the storm hits?” Asia asked. “No,” she continued, answering her own question. “Those damn Crows are always watching.”

He nodded. “My men scouted the neighborhood, including the area of the park nearest the Courtyard. Some of the Crows spotted the snowmobiles and followed two of them halfway across the park. The birds need to be grounded by a storm so we can work without being spied on.”

“You’re taking a chance if the city closes some of the roads.”

“The storm is coming down from the north, and we’ll be headed out on the roads running east or south. We’ll stay ahead of it, and even if we have to hole up for a few hours, we’ll get far enough away that anyone trying to follow us will lose our trail. In the meantime, we’re going to cause some mischief.”

“Like what?” Having more appetite now than she’d had at the start of the meal, Asia tasted her sandwich.

“A few college boys with good throwing arms, a van with a side door, and a few dozen eggs to make a mess. Firecrackers thrown over the fence by a team on a snowmobile. Setting rags and paper on fire at one of the Courtyard entrances. We’ll be pulling the same pranks on neighborhood streets in the area.” He gave Asia a big smile. “Besides keeping the police busy, we’ll have a chance to observe how the Others respond—how many head for the problem, how many head for whatever places they think need defending, and what areas are left vulnerable that we can exploit.”

“The business area of the Courtyard is usually deserted once their stores close,” Asia said.

He nodded. “And the door in the parking lot’s back wall is wood with a simple lock. Their security is pitiful. Makes you wonder how they’ve managed to stay in control of this continent.”

“When does this mischief begin?” Asia asked. Then she almost dove to the floor in response to a rapid series of loud bangs.

The messenger grinned. “Right about now.”

* * *

“Is this typical spring fever?” Monty asked as Kowalski drove them to the next case of reported mischief. They’d already had three calls from the Courtyard. Simon Wolfgard had been annoyed about the first set of firecrackers that had been tossed in the Liaison’s Office delivery area and the Courtyard’s customer parking lot. And he hadn’t been amused by the eggs that had been thrown at the windows of Howling Good Reads and A Little Bite. But he’d been seriously pissed off about the second set of firecrackers tossed in the delivery area, because the dumb-ass teenagers had lingered on the sidewalk, taunting Nathan, who slammed out of the office in challenge. Then Meg ran after Nathan. She tripped and might have hurt herself if she hadn’t landed right on the Wolf, effectively stopping him from getting too close to the firecrackers.

Louis Gresh had answered that call, and Monty was waiting to hear from the bomb squad’s commander whether there was anything hidden among the firecrackers that could have injured woman or Wolf.

“Typical?” Kowalski shook his head. “Most kids aren’t going to risk getting smacked for using the week’s ration of eggs, so this egging windows is new.”

“They could be buying the eggs on their own,” Monty said.

“Eggs cost twice as much without the household ration coupon,” Kowalski countered. “High school and college boys coming in to buy eggs and paying that price are going to get noticed. And if they buy from a store in their own neighborhood, we’ll hear about it or their parents will.”

Monty pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don’t like this, Karl. It feels like we’re being set up.”

“By whom?”

He lowered his hand and sighed. “I don’t know.”

They pulled up to the curb and got out. Looking at the egg-splattered front window, they didn’t need to ask the irate owner what the problem was.

“Storm is coming in on Watersday,” Kowalski said. “That should put an end to this.”

Monty took out his notebook and pen. “I hope you’re right, Karl. I truly do hope you’re right.”

CHAPTER 23

With exaggerated care, Captain Burke set the phone’s receiver in its cradle. Then he looked at Monty and said, “We’re being stonewalled, Lieutenant. The lab just informed me that they have to deal with evidence that pertains to actual crimes first. Our request is for a crime that was almost committed. My guess is we’ll see summer before we see a report.”

“Humans First and Last,” Monty said, thinking about the mayor’s potential reelection platform.

Burke nodded. “That’s how I’m reading it. Now. What are you going to tell Simon Wolfgard?” He gave Monty his fierce smile. “There’s not much that goes on in this station that I don’t know about, so I know Wolfgard has called once already this morning looking for an answer.”

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