Written in Red Page 163

“I have work to do,” Simon said, a growl of warning under the words.

“Then I’ll be brief,” Monty replied. “Your anger at the hospital was excessive even under the circumstances. I think you know that. Do you have any idea what caused that enhanced aggression?”

“No.”

Flat. Cold. The voice of a leader who will allow no challenge.

And a lie.

“All right,” Monty said, taking a step back. “I’m willing to help. Please remember that.”

Red flickered in the Wolf’s amber eyes.

The sound of a door closing. A moment later, Jester approached them.

Giving the Coyote a nod, Monty walked out of the stockroom. He stayed in the store a minute longer, scanning the display of mysteries and making a selection.

Humans have courage and resilience and they endure, Monty thought as he paid for the book and left Howling Good Reads. Roads would be opened, buildings repaired, and life would go on.

And the humans who had contact with the Courtyard would do their best to help everyone survive.

* * *

Simon stared at the Coyote while Montgomery’s words circled around him, closing in.

“Your anger at the hospital was excessive even under the circumstances.”

“How much did you hear?” Simon asked.

“I like it here,” Jester said. “I want to stay.”

Montgomery’s words seemed to echo in the room.

“Do you have any idea what caused that enhanced aggression?”

“How much did you hear?” Simon snarled.

“I won’t tell,” Jester said. “I’ll never tell.”

Quick-thinking Coyote who sometimes saw too much, heard too much. But unlike many of his kind, Jester wouldn’t break his word.

“You can stay.” Of course, what wasn’t said was if he couldn’t trust Jester to stay, he also couldn’t allow the Coyote to leave. But he figured Jester knew that already.

“Thanks, Simon.” Jester backed away. “I’ll go check with Meg and see if she wants the ponies to come up today.”

Then he was gone, and a moment later, Simon heard HGR’s back door closing.

“Do you have any idea what caused that enhanced aggression?”

Oh yes. He’d had plenty of time to think about it while they’d waited to take Meg home, and he had a very good idea what had caused that strange anger. Even the Sanguinati wouldn’t drink the sweet blood of the cassandra sangue, and he’d licked up plenty of it from the gash in Meg’s chin.

Winter and Air hadn’t paid attention to him on the race to the hospital, but Jester had been with him. And Blair and Vlad had been with him at the creek when they pulled Meg out of the water. Give either of them enough bits of information, and they would figure it out too.

He would keep his suspicions to himself for a few more days. Then he would talk to Henry before deciding who else needed to know what he suspected: that the blood of cassandra sangues was the source of the sickness that was touching humans and Others in the West.

But that was for another day, and Henry already carried the weight of another secret.

Simon had been at the hospital guarding Meg when Asia Crane was found. He hadn’t seen her, but Henry had. And all Henry said to him was, “I know what Tess is. We will never speak of this.”

Dangerous to be the only one who looked at a body and understood a truth about the predator who did the killing. Or maybe wise to be the only one to carry that burden. Either way, Tess was still running A Little Bite and baking chocolate chip cookies for Meg and Sam.

“Enough,” he growled. “You have a business to run.” And until he pulled these books so Heather could fill the orders, he had to stay here instead of going over to the Liaison’s Office to play with Meg for a few minutes.

Checking the list, he pulled more books off the shelves in the stockroom and thought about Meg, because thinking about Meg made him feel calmer, happier.

She had been released from the hospital on Moonsday, but he’d used Sam’s need to stay close to her as a way to keep her home for a few more days. And he’d also pointed out that most of Lakeside was still shut down, so the stores couldn’t send out any deliveries. Even then, she’d been stubborn about staying indoors.

Well, he could be stubborn too, especially when dressing Meg had turned into a game. He and Vlad and Jenni had raided the Market Square stores for clothes to keep Meg warm. They made fingerless gloves for her, and then demanded that she wear mittens over them if she so much as stuck her nose outdoors. If she actually went outside for even a minute, she had to wear an undershirt, a turtleneck, a sweater, and a down vest zipped up all the way so her chest would stay warm. Plus her winter coat and a scarf and wool cap. And two pairs of socks with her boots.

None of them had given the colors of the clothes any thought until Merri Lee came back from visiting Meg on Windsday afternoon and grumbled about her friend being dressed like a paint-store explosion.

Shortly after that, he’d overheard Merri Lee, Heather, and Ruthie ordering clothes that, they said, would work with what Meg already had, so he figured the clothes game had run its course.

But there was still the hat game.

He scanned the shelves again when he didn’t find two of the books he wanted.

“We’re out of that one too?” he muttered as he added another caught-in-a-storm thriller to his list of reorders. Despite the lack of customers today, he’d been on the move since he unlocked the door, and he’d done nothing but pull stock to fill orders going to terra indigene settlements!

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