Written in Red Page 44

He walked up to Henry, who was shoveling the area between the back doors of the shops and the Liaison’s Office. Removing the snow. Eliminating the footprints.

“Hard not to leave a trail when there’s fresh snow,” Henry said. The look in the Grizzly’s eyes made Simon wary, especially after Henry added, “We had a visitor last night.”

Simon looked at the office’s back door. “An intruder?”

“Not there,” Henry said, tipping his head toward the office. Then he wagged his thumb toward the stairs leading up to the efficiency apartments.

For a moment, Simon just stared at Henry. Then he absorbed the meaning of the words and snarled as his canines lengthened, his nails changed, and fur sprang out on his chest and back.

“I told Meg we had rules about visitors. I told her . . .” He choked on the fury rising inside him—fury that wanted to rip and tear and destroy this strange and awful feeling of betrayal and the person who had caused it.

“Simon.”

He’d thought she was different from the other damn monkeys. He’d thought there was finally one of them the terra indigene might be able to work with, despite the way she made him half crazy with the not prey confusion. He’d consented to let her have a map of the Courtyard because she seemed to want to do her job. If he’d wanted a liar as their Liaison, he would have hired that Asia Crane!

“Simon.”

Hearing the warning in Henry’s voice, he made an effort to stuff himself back into the human skin.

“If you want to sneak a visitor past us, you don’t have him break the lock on the street door. And you don’t call attention to someone’s presence by yelling loud enough to be heard by the Grizzly staying in the apartment across the hall.”

“She didn’t know you’d be there,” Simon said, choking on the effort to get his teeth back to human size.

“Yes, she did. I saw her in the Market Square yesterday and told her I would be there so she wouldn’t be frightened if she heard me.”

Frightened. The word cleared away his fury and let him think again.

Meg was hiding from something or someone. He’d realized that when he hired her, but he’d been chasing his tail so much because of her—or dodging to avoid having it stomped on by someone else—he’d forgotten she had run away from something or someone.

He looked at the footprints coming out of the office.

“After the intruder ran off, she slipped out and spent the night on the sorting table,” Henry said.

Too afraid to stay in her own den? Unacceptable!

It took effort to shape words. “Did you see the intruder?”

“Not well enough. But I got the scent of him, and I’ll recognize it again if he comes around.”

If this stranger was hunting Meg, he would come around again. “Can’t get that lock fixed until tomorrow.” A Wolf and a Hawk were learning how to change and fix locks. They might be able to replace that broken one, but the Courtyard had an understanding with a lock company, and being willing to teach Others this skill was the reason Simon did business with Chris at Fallacaro Lock & Key.

“The Owls who kept watch last night will keep watch again,” Henry said. “I’ve already talked to a couple of Hawks and some of the Crows about keeping watch on this part of the Courtyard today. And I’ll be staying at the efficiency apartment again tonight.”

“What about today? With the stores closed, she’ll be alone up there during the day.” Not likely that someone would come in daylight, but imagining Meg by herself all day felt too much like watching a deer that was the perfect prey because it was separated from the rest of the herd.

And that reminded him too much of Daphne and Sam running alone that terrible night, thinking they were safe.

“Should we call the police?” Henry asked.

“And tell them what? That someone broke a lock? Nothing was taken. We aren’t sure the intruder was after Meg. We’ve had people try to sneak in and use the apartments. Could have been someone who just wanted to get out of the cold for a night and thought they could slip away before we noticed.”

“That’s called trespassing,” Henry pointed out. “Humans have a law against it too.”

“We’ll deal with it our own way,” Simon said. “I’ll get another shovel and help you clear the snow.” And erase the footprints that might tell a different kind of predator where to find his prey.

“What about Meg?”

She hadn’t asked for his help. It bothered him that she hadn’t asked for his help. He was the Courtyard’s leader, after all. “We’ll keep watch today. Tomorrow we’ll consider what else might be needed.”

Like getting some answers about who she was running from—and why someone would want her back.

* * *

Meg heard the howling as soon as she turned off the shower. Sounded like a whole pack of them was right under her windows. Drying off as quickly as she could, she wrapped the towel around her head, pulled on a bathrobe, and went to the windows to look out.

No sign of them, but judging by the way a car skidded as it came abreast of the Courtyard’s parking lot and the driver tried to accelerate to get away from whatever he saw, they weren’t far away.

There had been no sign of Henry when she hurried back to her apartment. Did he work in his studio on Earthday, or was she alone in this part of the Courtyard? Merri Lee had told her none of the shops were officially open on Earthday, but the library was never locked, and in the morning a couple of the Others served leftovers at the Market Square’s restaurant, Meat-n-Greens. So she could walk over to the restaurant for a meal and then spend some time browsing through the library’s books.

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