Written in Red Page 20

She managed to rough sort the first bag of mail and take two more deliveries before Jester returned.

“Not bad,” he said as he began shifting a few pieces of mail from one stack to another. “Corvine goes with Crowgard. It’s what they call the complex where most of them live. The Chambers goes with the Sanguinati. The numbers indicate a particular part of the Chambers. The Green Complex is the only residence that isn’t species specific. It’s located closest to the Market Square, and the members of the Business Association live there.”

“Is there any kind of map or list that would tell me who goes with what?” Meg asked.

Jester’s face went blank for a moment. Then he said, “I’ll inquire. Now come meet your helpers.” He walked over to the panel in the wall and unlocked the sorting room’s outside door.

Meg thought about dashing into the back room to grab her coat. Then she saw her helpers and forgot about the coat.

“This is Thunder, Lightning, Tornado, Earthshaker, and Fog,” Jester said. “They were the only ponies willing to make deliveries today.”

They were tall enough to look her in the eyes. Meg wasn’t sure if that meant they were typical pony size in terms of height, but what she saw were furry barrels with chubby legs and grumpy faces. Thunder was black, Lightning was white, Tornado and Earthshaker were brown, and Fog was a spotted gray.

“Hello,” Meg said.

No change on the grumpy faces.

“Each of them has delivery baskets,” Jester said, going back to the table for two handfuls of mail. “The baskets have the Courtyard sections written on them—see? So, for instance, the mail going to Corvine or anyone named Crowgard would go in Thunder’s baskets.” He put smaller mail in four compartments of one basket and then added the larger envelopes and catalogs to the basket on the other side. He looked at Thunder. “You go to the Crows today.”

The pony bobbed his head and moved out of the way.

Lightning was given the mail for the Wolfgard complex, Tornado went to the Hawks, Earthshaker to the Owls and the Pony Barn, and Fog to the Sanguinati.

“What happens when they get to the complexes?” Meg asked.

“Oh, there is always someone about who will empty the baskets and distribute the mail to the individuals,” Jester replied as he closed and locked the outer door. “Hmm. No one to take the mail to the Green Complex or the lake. Guess those will have to wait until tomorrow.” He tipped his head and smiled at her. “Did Simon give you your pass?”

She shook her head.

The smile gained a sharp amusement. “Well, he’s been a bit preoccupied today. Basically, once you step out the back door of this office, you need a pass to visit the Market Square or the Green Complex, which is the only residential area that isn’t completely off-limits to human visitors. The pass is something you should always carry with you to avoid misunderstandings.”

“Where do I get one?”

“From the consul’s office, which is the other building that uses the same street entrance as this office. I’ll pick that up for you and drop it off.”

“What do I do with the handcarts in the front room that are full of packages?”

Jester opened the interior delivery door and pulled the handcarts into the sorting room. “That depends,” he said as he secured the door. “If a package can fit in the basket, a pony can take it with the rest of the mail. Or you can deliver it in the BOW. We haven’t encouraged our previous Liaisons to make deliveries in the Courtyard, but it is loosely within the parameters of your job if you choose to include it.”

Was making deliveries really part of her job, or was Jester trying to get her into trouble for some reason? “Bow?” she asked.

“Box on Wheels. A small vehicle we use within the Courtyard. It runs on electricity, so remember to charge your BOW if you don’t want to be stranded. The one for the Liaison is in the garage directly behind the office. Can’t miss it.”

“I have a car,” Meg said, pleased.

“You have a Box on Wheels,” Jester corrected. “Not a vehicle you want to take out on the city streets.”

Leaving the Courtyard wasn’t something she planned to do.

“Do you want to take a break?” he asked.

She looked at the clock on the wall and shook her head. “I’m supposed to be available for deliveries until noon, so I’ll keep sorting the mail.”

“Suit yourself. I’ll get that pass for you.” Jester went out the Private door and vaulted over the counter. He returned a few minutes later. He didn’t have her pass, but he laid something else on the sorting-room table.

“This is a map of the Courtyard,” Jester said quietly. “It shows the driving roads and where each gard lives.”

My Controller would have paid a fortune for this, Meg thought as she studied the map. He would have killed without a second thought to get this much information about the interior of a Courtyard.

Wolfgard. Crowgard. Hawkgard. Owlgard. Sanguinati. Green Complex. Girls’ Lake. Ash Grove. Utilities Complex. Lakes. Creek. Water reservoir.

“I suggest you tuck this in a drawer when you’re not using it,” Jester said. “The last two Liaisons weren’t trusted with this at all and, like I said, we didn’t encourage them to explore. You should be careful about who knows you have this, Meg Corbyn.”

“Does Mr. Wolfgard know I have a map of the Courtyard?”

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