Written in Red Page 16

You left a wounded human with one of the terra indigene.

I didn’t feel a pulse. I didn’t realize he was still alive when I went to check out the rest of the house.

He hadn’t known the girl was a terra indigene Wolf. He hadn’t known the bastard he shot was still technically alive when he called for help and a medical unit and then left the girl so he could quickly check the rest of the house. He hadn’t known how much destruction a starving young Wolf could do to a human body in so short a time.

He shouldn’t have gone in alone. He shouldn’t have left the girl. There were a lot of things he shouldn’t have done. Considering what it cost him afterward, he regretted doing the things he shouldn’t have done. But shooting the pedophile? He didn’t regret that choice, especially after he found the bodies of six other girls.

If the girl he saved had been human, he’d still be living in Toland with his lover Elayne Borden and their daughter, Lizzy. He’d still be reading a bedtime story to his little girl every night instead of living in a one-bedroom apartment a few hundred miles away.

But he had shot a human to protect a Wolf, and no one was going to forget that. The Toland police commissioner had given him a choice: transfer to Lakeside or resign from any kind of police work forever.

Elayne had been furious, appalled, humiliated that he had brought the scandal down on her by association, making her a social pariah, making Lizzy the victim of teasing and taunts and even pushing and slaps from schoolmates who had been friends the week before.

No legal contracts bound them together. Elayne hadn’t wanted that much structure—at least until he proved his work could provide her with the social contacts she craved. But she’d been quick enough to call a lawyer and turn his promise of support money for Lizzy into a legal document after she flatly refused to consider coming with him and starting over. Live in Lakeside? Was he insane?

Lizzy. His little Lizzy. Would Elayne allow her to visit him? If he took the train back to Toland for a weekend trip, would Elayne even let him see his daughter?

I didn’t see a Wolf, Lizzy. I saw a girl not much older than you, and for a moment, I saw you in the hands of such a man. I don’t know if a policeman or a father pulled the trigger. I don’t know if you’ll ever understand. And I don’t know what I’m going to do in this place without you.

Taking a last deep breath of scented air, he left the temple and went to the police station to find out if he had a future.

* * *

Captain Douglas Burke was a big man with neatly trimmed dark hair below a bald pate. His blue eyes held a fierce kind of friendliness that could reassure or frighten the person meeting those eyes across a desk.

In the moments before Burke gestured to the seat in front of the desk and opened a file folder, Monty figured his measure had been taken: a dark-skinned man of medium height who stayed trim with effort and tended to bulk up when he ate bread or potatoes for too many meals in a row, and whose curly black hair was already showing some gray despite his being on the short side of forty years old.

“Lieutenant Crispin James Montgomery.” Giving Monty a fierce smile, Burke closed the file and folded his hands over it. “Toland is a big city. Only Sparkletown and two other cities on this entire continent match it in population and size. Which means people living there can go their whole lives without knowingly encountering the Others, and that makes it easy to pretend the terra indigene aren’t out there watching everything humans do. But Lakeside was built on the shores of Lake Etu, one of the Great Lakes that are the largest source of freshwater in Thaisia—and those lakes belong to the terra indigene. We have a few farming communities and hamlets that are within thirty minutes of the city boundaries. There is a community of Simple Life folk who farm on Great Island. And there is the town of Talulah Falls up the road a piece. Beyond that, the nearest human towns or cities are two hours by train in any direction. All roads travel through the woods. Lakeside is a small city, which means we’re not big enough to forget what’s out there.”

“Yes, sir,” Monty said. That had been one of Elayne’s objections to moving to Lakeside: there was no way to believe social connections meant anything when you couldn’t forget you were nothing more than clever meat.

“This Chestnut Street station covers the district that includes the Lakeside Courtyard,” Burke said. “You have the assignment of being the intermediary between the police and the Others.”

“Sir . . .” Monty started to protest.

“You’ll have three officers answering to you directly. Officer Kowalski will be your driver and partner; Officers MacDonald and Debany will take the second-shift patrol but will report any incidents to you day or night. Elliot Wolfgard is the consul who talks to the mayor and shakes hands with other government officials, but you’d be better off becoming acquainted with Simon Wolfgard. For one thing, he manages a terra indigene store that has human employees and tolerates human customers. For another, I believe he has a lot more influence in the Courtyard than our governing body thinks he does.”

“Yes, sir.” Deal directly with the Others? Maybe it wasn’t too late to go back to Toland and find some other kind of work. Even if Elayne wouldn’t take him back, he’d still be closer to Lizzy.

Burke stood and came around his desk, gesturing for Monty to remain seated. After a long look, he said, “Do you know about the Drowned City?”

Monty nodded. “It’s an urban legend.”

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