Written in Red Page 47

* * *

Simon pulled all the slips of paper out of the envelope and arranged them on the counter according to gard. Most were book orders from the terra indigene settlements that were serviced by the Lakeside Courtyard. A few were orders that he’d pass along to other stores in the Market Square.

Like telephones, electronic mail through the computers was a useful way to communicate when information had to travel from one Courtyard to another quickly or when dealing with humans. But terra indigene who didn’t have to deal with the monkeys had only a passing interest in electrical things, so a territory that covered three times the area of the city of Lakeside might have a dozen buildings that had phone lines and the electricity for computers. Except in emergencies, most Others still used paper when sending an order or request to a Courtyard.

A Little Bite always did a brisk business on Moonsday mornings, but HGR was usually quiet until lunchtime, which was why he set aside this time for filling orders. Retrieving a cart from the back room—and taking a moment to make sure Heather was actually working and not curled up somewhere in an effort to hide from him—Simon returned to the front of the store. After a quick scan of titles, he rolled the cart to the new-books display and filled the top shelf with a handful of each book. Then he rolled the cart back to the counter, picked up the first slip of paper, and began filling the order.

“Rubber bands,” he muttered. Rubber bands were small, useful items and were a perk that came with placing an order. Even if only one book was ordered, he sent it out with a rubber band around it.

Before he could vault back over the counter to get the bag of rubber bands, the door opened and Lieutenant Montgomery walked in.

The lieutenant and his men had been very much in sight since that first meeting last Thaisday. Not a dominance challenge or anything foolish like that. More like a quiet version of a Wolf howl—a way to say we are here. Kowalski had come in and bought a couple of the horror books the day after the arguments had closed HGR and A Little Bite.

Simon wasn’t sure Kowalski or his female was interested in those kinds of books or if it had been an excuse to look around. He had a feeling the police officer had been as relieved not to see any fresh bloodstains as the other customers were disappointed by that lack of excitement.

The lieutenant approached the counter. “Mr. Wolfgard.”

“Lieutenant Montgomery.” Simon absorbed the look on the face, the expression in the dark eyes, and the smell of nerves that wasn’t quite fear. “You aren’t here to buy a book.”

“No, sir, I’m not.” Montgomery pulled a piece of paper out of his sports coat pocket, unfolded it, and set it on the counter between them. “I came to show you this.”

His mind took in the words most wanted and grand theft, but what he saw was the picture of Meg.

He didn’t realize he was snarling until Montgomery eased away from him, a hand brushing the overcoat and sports jacket out of the way in order to reach the gun. Knowing what he would do if the hand touched the gun, he stared hard into Montgomery’s eyes. The man instinctively froze, not even daring to breathe.

Satisfied that Montgomery wouldn’t do anything foolish—at least not right now—Simon looked at the poster again.

“It’s not a fuzzy picture,” he said after a moment. “So why is there no name?”

Montgomery shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“I watch your news shows sometimes. When you catch a picture of someone stealing in a store or bank and don’t know them, the picture is fuzzy. When you have a picture like that”—he pointed at the poster—“the police always know the name of their prey.”

He’d known she was running from someone. He’d known Meg Corbyn wasn’t her name. He should have let her freeze in the snow instead of taking her in. But now that she was in, what happened to her was his decision.

“Why is there no name?” Simon asked again.

He watched Montgomery study the poster and smelled the man’s uneasiness.

“Looks like an ID photo, doesn’t it?” Montgomery said softly. “Like a driver’s license photo or . . .” He reached into a pocket, pulled out the leather holder, and flipped it open to show his own ID. Then he put the holder back in his pocket. “If someone could supply that kind of photo, why wouldn’t they be able to supply the name?”

Simon was going to get an answer to that question. He’d decide later if that answer was something he would share with humans.

Taking the poster, he refolded it and slipped it into his trouser pocket. “I’ll talk to the members of our Business Association. If we have any information about this person, we’ll let you know.”

“I must emphasize that we’re looking to apprehend and question this person about the theft.”

Simon smiled, deliberately showing his teeth—especially the canines that he hadn’t been able to get all the way back to human size. “I understand. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Lieutenant Montgomery. We’ll be in touch.”

Dismay. Worry. But Montgomery had sense enough to walk out of the store without further argument. There was nothing the police could do about whatever happened in the Courtyard.

He waited a few moments, then called Vlad.

“Simon,” Vlad said. “Nyx and I need to talk to you.”

“Later,” Simon replied, trying not to snap. “The Business Association has something to discuss. I need you to call them. I want everyone who’s available in the meeting room in an hour. And call Blair and Jester. I want them there too. And a representative from the Owlgard, Hawkgard, and Crowgard.”

Prev Next