Written in Red Page 142

A man lounging in a doorway spotted her and stepped in her path. She didn’t know if he intended to rob her or rape her. She didn’t care. With him, she could slake her hunger.

She looked him in the eyes and held his gaze while he collapsed. She stepped around him and kept going. Eventually, when the cold had more bite than her anger, she tucked her hair under the wool cap, walked to the nearest bus stop, and took the next bus home.

* * *

On Firesday afternoon, Monty was at his desk, enjoying a cup of hot tea while he chipped away at reports. By yesterday evening, the egging had stopped—mostly because the grocery stores were out of eggs and the little neighborhood markets were keeping the eggs in the stockroom and only bringing them out for known adult customers. The firecrackers were still going off here and there, and someone had set fire to a section of junipers that the Others had planted as a privacy screen between the Courtyard and Parkside Avenue. A handful of men riding snowmobiles in Lakeside Park claimed they saw two people drive off in a pickup truck just before one of the riders spotted flames.

Fire engulfed the bushes, mostly because none of the snowmobilers had remembered to bring a mobile phone with them, and no one in the passing cars had thought to report seeing flames. By the time the fire department arrived, there was nothing for them to do because something had ripped up the bushes and dumped them, a section of the Courtyard’s wrought-iron fence, and more than two feet of snow across the northbound lanes of Parkside Avenue, bringing traffic to a skidding halt.

The damage was consistent with a tornado, although every meteorologist Monty called that morning swore there had been no indication of a weather pattern like that, and even if they had seen something, a selective strike was simply not natural.

He thought using a tornado to put out a fire was over the top, but it was a grim reminder that the humans didn’t know half of what lived in the Courtyard and watched them.

The break in the fence bothered him because it was another point of entry, along with the hole caused by a pickup jumping the curb late last night and punching a hole in the fence that ran along Main Street. Two different pickups and two random acts? Or the same people?

Monty shivered. There had been too many random acts lately. And that made him wonder whether someone was trying to cause trouble.

I guess I’m not the only one thinking along those lines, he thought when Captain Burke, dressed for the outdoors, approached his desk. Burke stopped, not looking at Monty while he pulled on his gloves.

“Get your coat, Lieutenant,” Burke said so quietly that Monty was sure no one else could hear. “We’re going for a walk. I’ll meet you outside.”

Even more uneasy now, Monty complied and met Burke outside the station.

“Let’s walk a bit,” Burke said, heading up the block.

“Anywhere particular?” Monty asked.

“Just away. Do you have your mobile phone?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now turn it off.”

Oh, gods.

They walked two blocks, then three blocks before Burke spoke again.

“I got a call from Captain Zajac a few minutes ago. You remember Darrell Adams?”

Monty nodded. “He worked for the consulate and was fired a few days ago.”

“He died last night. It appears he ate some poisoned sugar, since two sugar lumps were found near the chair where he collapsed.”

They walked another block before Monty was able to speak. “We didn’t help them, so the Others did their own test on the person they believed responsible?”

“I don’t think Mr. Adams would have gotten out of the Courtyard alive if the Others had believed he was the one who attempted to poison some of them. But he wasn’t chosen at random either.”

“Will the lab put a rush on the results for this death?” Monty asked.

“Now, now, Lieutenant. Don’t sound bitter,” Burke said lightly. “They have good reason to put a rush on it. The officers who responded walked in thinking they were confirming a suspicious death. After what else was found, Zajac is scared down to his toes, because he doesn’t know how many more deaths may follow.”

Monty frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“We’re assuming Adams ate some of the sugar. He’s dead. But there’s one of the neighbors who says he pounded on the door, and when he looked at the woman who walked out of Adams’s apartment, his left arm and shoulder went numb. He was taken to the hospital. No injury, no wound, but the muscles in the arm and shoulder are dead. Another neighbor, an old lady who claimed to see the woman arrive and peered out her door in time to see the woman leave, has a dead eye. No sign of injury, no explanation. Shortly after that, people began showing up at hospital emergency rooms, claiming shortness of breath or dizzy spells or chest pains or a sudden weakness in their limbs. By this morning, most of them have recovered without any explanation for what caused the physical symptoms. The only thing they have in common is they were near Adams’s apartment last night, all around the same time.”

“How are the officers who responded?” Despite the cold, Monty realized he was sweating.

“They’re fine.” Burke paused while they waited for a traffic light to change. Once they crossed the street, he continued. “So are the man and boy who came in just as the woman was leaving. The man says he caught a glimpse of her and immediately turned his back, putting himself between her and his son. He also held a hand over the boy’s eyes. He told the officers, ‘We didn’t look at her. I remembered the myths, and we didn’t look.’ The man wouldn’t tell the officers anything more, and Zajac is understandably reluctant to do more probing.”

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