Written in Red Page 34

“Ma’am,” one of them said when they reached the counter. “I’m Officer Michael Debany. This is my partner, Lawrence MacDonald. We work with Lieutenant Montgomery and just wanted to introduce ourselves and let you know we’re available if you need any assistance.”

As they chatted and Officer Debany mentioned again that they would provide help if it was needed, Meg realized the men were fishing for information about what happened this morning to close Howling Good Reads and A Little Bite, but mostly they were trying to find out if she had been hurt but was afraid to leave.

She wouldn’t have gone with them even if she did need help, but it made her feel better that help was available for the other humans who worked for the terra indigene.

When the police officers left, she locked up the front room and continued sorting mail until Tess arrived to help her with clothes shopping and laundry. That turned out to be a more pleasant experience than she’d expected.

The only thing that marred the evening was when she looked out her apartment window before going to bed and spotted a man standing across the street, watching her.

CHAPTER 5

Eight ponies showed up the following day, looking for mail and carrots. Meg filled their baskets, handed out treats, and breathed a sigh of relief that she had just enough carrot chunks to go around. She wasn’t sure they could count and would know if the last pony only got one chunk instead of two, but it wasn’t a chance she wanted to take.

She waved when they trotted away, then closed the door, washed her hands, and got back to sorting. Apparently, Watersday was a light day for deliveries from human businesses, but the number of trucks with the earth native symbol on the cab more than made up for it. They didn’t stop at her office, though; they continued up the access way between the Liaison’s Office and the consulate to the delivery area for the Market Square.

According to Merri Lee, the Lakeside Courtyard served as a way station for terra indigene who wanted to enjoy human goods without having to deal directly with humans. Meat, dairy, and produce came in to the Courtyard from the farms run by the Others; clothes, books, movies, and incidental products that appealed to them went out.

Meg looked at some of the old packages. The labels said IN CARE OF THE LAKESIDE COURTYARD. Should those be going out to terra indigene settlements with the other merchandise? She didn’t want to bother Henry, who usually didn’t answer the telephone anyway. And she certainly didn’t want to call the big, bad Wolf. But she had to ask someone, so she called the bookstore and listened to the phone ring.

“Maybe he got run over by a tree,” she muttered as she imagined a log rolling down a hill and flattening a certain Wolf. It happened in some of the videos she had watched, so it could happen. Couldn’t it? The thought cheered her up, so she pictured it again, changing the log to a rolling pin that rolled out the Wolf like a furry piecrust.

“Howling Good Reads,” said a male voice that wasn’t his.

It took her a moment to realign her thoughts. “This is Meg Corbyn.”

“Do you want to talk to Simon?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

She tried to think of a question that anyone at the store could answer so she could hang up before someone told him that she had called. Then she looked at the packages.

Rememory. A woman locked in a box—a surprise to be delivered as a special gift. Except no one had known what was in the box, and no one had recognized the urgency of finding it when the box hadn’t been delivered as promised.

The girls might not remember a prophecy at the time they spoke the words, but the images weren’t lost. They were absorbed like the training images, connecting something remembered with something present. Jean called those images rememories because they were more than training images but less than personal memories.

There wasn’t a woman in any of the packages that had been left in the sorting room, and a life wasn’t lost in any of those small boxes. But each of those packages was stained by disappointment.

“Could someone tell me if any of the packages I have at the office should be going out on the earth native trucks with the other deliveries?”

A pause. “Someone who isn’t Simon?” the voice asked cautiously.

“Yes.”

Voices were muffled by a hand over the receiver, but Meg could still hear the emotion in those voices and wondered how much of a problem she was causing for whoever was working at HGR today.

The silence that followed was so full she thought she’d been disconnected. Then the voice came back and said, “Vlad will come over and look.”

“Thank you.”

She hung up and went back to sorting. She wasn’t sure Vlad would be any better than him, but at least Vlad hadn’t yelled at her. Yet.

* * *

Vlad leaned against the office doorway and gave Simon a smile that made the Wolf’s canines lengthen and his fingernails change into hard claws.

“I’m going to the Liaison’s Office,” Vlad said pleasantly.

“Why?” Simon snarled.

“Because it seems Meg is good at holding a grudge and doesn’t want to talk to you. And you must feel she has a reason for that grudge. You wouldn’t have spent all morning doing paperwork you don’t like if you didn’t have to make up for something.”

“I don’t have to make up for anything!”

“You stirred things up plenty yesterday.”

“She stirred things up.”

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