Written in Red Page 162

“Well,” Burke said. “I’m guessing the hospital has provided a place for their staff and law enforcement to crash, so why don’t you take a couple of hours?”

Monty tipped his head toward the door. “It’s my shift.”

“I’m taking your shift, Lieutenant. Get some rest. You’ve earned it.”

He was swaying on his feet, so he didn’t argue. But he did wonder which one would be the first to poke his head out the door to get a look at the unfamiliar police officer: the Wolf, the vampire, or the Crow.

CHAPTER 31

On the Thaisday after the storm, Monty walked into Howling Good Reads and nodded to Heather as he scanned the front of the store. Then he walked up to the counter, giving her a warm smile.

“I noticed the Open sign,” he said. He and his men had driven by several times a day once the roads were cleared, checking for that sign. “No customers today?”

“Not yet,” Heather replied with forced brightness. Then she pointed to the stacks of paper on the counter and the full cart of books. “But there are plenty of orders to bundle up for shipping.”

You’re not sure the human customers will come back, Monty thought. He had wondered the same thing. Just like he’d wondered if the Others would open any of these stores to humans again. The Lakeside Courtyard was the most progressive Courtyard in the whole of Thaisia, with its human employees and human customers. Granted, humans still had limited access, but it was a positive start that could ripple through the continent and ease a little of the ever-present tension between humans and Others in cities and towns across Thaisia. But the Lakeside mayor and Northeast Region governor aiding and abetting someone the terra indigene considered an enemy could also ripple through the continent, and the storm in Lakeside and the slaughter in Jerzy were grim reminders of how the Others took care of difficulties caused by humans.

And yet there had been a bright note, and that’s what had brought him to HGR as soon as the store reopened.

“I’d like a word with Mr. Wolfgard if he’s in,” Monty said.

“I’ll see if he’s available.” Heather picked up the phone and dialed an extension. “Mr. Wolfgard? Lieutenant Montgomery would like to speak with you.” A pause. “Okay, I’ll tell him.” She smiled at Monty. “He says to go back to the stockroom.”

“Thanks.” As he walked to the back of the store, he realized this meeting would also have significant ripples, and the next few minutes would determine if those ripples would be good or bad.

“Lieutenant.” Simon glanced at him, then checked a list and pulled more books off the stockroom shelves.

“Mr. Wolfgard. No watch Wolf today?”

“They come and go. That was always true, although Ferus and Nathan were the ones who spent the most time on guard at HGR. Ferus is in the Ash Grove now, and Nathan thinks our Liaison is more entertaining than the customers.”

“Ms. Corbyn has returned to work?” He’d seen the lights on in the Liaison’s Office when he and Kowalski had driven past, and that, too, had been a good sign.

Simon nodded. “She should stay in the den until next week, but she snarled at me when I suggested it.”

Monty wasn’t sure if the Wolf was offended or pleased, so he didn’t reply. But he thought, Good for you, Meg.

“Something on your mind, Lieutenant?” Simon asked.

Many things, but he’d start with the one least likely to offend. “I understand you’ve set aside one of the efficiency apartments for my officers’ use. Thank you.”

Simon looked uncomfortable. Then he shrugged. “We had the space. We set two of the apartments aside for our human employees so they don’t have to go out in a storm. And Henry still has the one he prefers when he wants to stay close to his studio. Letting your officers use the last apartment was sensible.”

And it would add another layer of defense to the Courtyard.

“I heard you removed the water tax on the Chestnut Street Police Station and the hospital that took care of Meg.”

“So?” Simon disappeared for a minute, then returned with an armload of books that he put on the cart.

“It’s appreciated.” Now they’d come to the next layer of discussion. “And to show his own appreciation, Dr. Lorenzo would like to set up a small office here and provide medical treatment for your human employees.”

No reason to mention that part of Lorenzo’s interest was the cassandra sangue living among the Others. Having the opportunity to gain some understanding of Meg Corbyn’s race was not something the good doctor would pass up.

“We don’t have room for . . .” Simon stopped.

Monty held his breath.

“Maybe,” Simon said. “But allowing this doesn’t change the fact that most of you are still just meat.”

No, it doesn’t change that, Monty thought. But most of us is a long step from all of us, and if you can learn to trust some of us, all of us have a better chance of surviving.

“I’ll discuss this with the Business Association,” Simon said. “Maybe Dr. Lorenzo can come and talk to us about an office—and check on Meg while he’s here.”

“I’ll tell him to call Howling Good Reads and set up a time with you.”

He could read body language well enough to recognize Simon was feeling closed in by all this talk about more humans in the Courtyard, even if he was the one allowing them access. So this conversation wasn’t going to last much longer.

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