Written in Red Page 36

Did they all think if they kept mentioning Simon she would forget how scary he had been yesterday? Maybe fear wasn’t something the Others retained, but humans certainly did.

Even humans like her.

It was a little before noon when she locked up the office and got in the BOW, making sure she had her pass in the side pocket of her new purse, where it would be easy to reach.

When Jester tapped on the window, she rolled it down.

“You all set?” he asked.

“All set.” She hoped she sounded confident. She really wanted him to go away before she put the BOW in gear.

“I’ll tell Tess you’ll be by later for your meal.”

She wondered what else he was going to tell Tess, but she smiled and said, “Thanks.”

The laughter was back in his eyes when she made no move to shift the gear to drive. Then he walked away.

Recalling training images of car interiors, she found the lights and the windshield wipers. She found the dial that controlled the heater. Shakily confident that she would be fine—as long as she didn’t have to do anything but go forward—she headed out to make her first deliveries.

After a couple of minutes of white-knuckle driving on a road that had been plowed, more or less, Meg began wondering if the pony and sled wouldn’t have been a better idea. The pony wouldn’t be inclined to slide off the road. Not that the BOW wasn’t a game little vehicle. It growled its way up an incline, struggling to find the traction it needed to get to the next piece of level ground.

From what she could tell from the map, she was on the main road that circled the entire Courtyard, so it should be sufficiently cleared all the way around. As long as she didn’t stray off it, she should be fine. Besides, the thought of going back and running into Simon was reason enough to keep going forward. That and not knowing how to drive backward.

It wasn’t her fault she’d never driven in snow—or in anything else. A sterile, restricted life meant the girls had no other stimulation except the images, sounds, and other visuals in the lessons, and what was used as reference for the prophecies could be verified because it was assumed all of the girls saw and heard the same thing. And it had been proven by the Walking Names that that kind of life made the girls more accepting of any kind of actual stimulation because they were starved for sensation.

Would the cutting be as compelling if there were other ways to feel pleasure, other sensations?

But that sterile life was her past. Now she was gaining the experience of driving in snow, and as long as she didn’t run into another vehicle or end up in a ditch, the Wolf had no reason to criticize.

The road forked. The left fork curved toward the Owlgard Complex and the Pony Barn. The right fork was the main road and had a sign that read, TRESPASSERS WILL BE EATEN.

Meg swallowed hard and continued on the main road, passing the Green Complex. Then she passed the Ash Grove and the Utilities Complex. Finally she reached the ornate black fences that marked the Chambers, the part of the Courtyard claimed by the Sanguinati.

She tried to pull up some memory about that name, was sure she knew something about them even though the girls had been taught very little about the Others. But Jester’s warning when she was packing up the BOW was clear enough.

The fences around the Chambers aren’t decorative, Meg. They’re boundaries. You never push open a gate and step onto the Sanguinati’s land for any reason. Anyone who enters without their consent doesn’t leave—and I’ve never known them to give their consent.

What unnerved her about the words was the certainty that they applied to the rest of the terra indigene as well as humans.

But she didn’t have to break the rules to deliver the packages. When she pulled up to the first white marble building positioned in the center of its fenced-in land, she saw nine metal boxes outside the fence, painted black and secured to a stone foundation. They didn’t have individual numbers, so they must be used by everyone who lived in the . . . Was that a mausoleum? It seemed small if the handful of names with this particular address actually lived inside.

She opened the door of the first box. Roomy enough for magazines and other mail of similar size. Another box was wider and the packages she had fit well enough. She put packages in three more boxes, then got back into the BOW and went on to the next building.

Four packages for the residents of this part of the Chambers. This time, as she closed the door of the last box, she noticed the soot around the mausoleum. Or was that smoke? Was something on fire inside?

She leaned into the BOW and fumbled for the mobile phone Tess had arranged for her to have. She had dutifully put in the contact numbers for Simon, Tess, and the consulate. But whom should she call to report a fire? How did the Courtyard handle emergencies?

Then the smoke drifted away from the structure with a deliberate change of direction—toward her.

She stopped fumbling for the phone, got into the BOW, and headed for the next fenced area.

This mausoleum didn’t look any different from the other two, except there was a smaller one built close to the fence separating the two structures. The walkway from the gate to the elaborately carved wooden door was clear of snow, as was the marble stoop.

Smoke drifted close to the fences.

Jester didn’t say she wouldn’t be harmed if she was on this side of the fence. He just said being harmed was a certainty if she went inside the fenced area.

Maybe they would appreciate someone finally delivering their packages?

Tucking her pass inside the coat pocket, she got out of the BOW, raised the back door, pulled out the packages, and filled several of the boxes.

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