Written in Red Page 55

Burke understands the danger. Why would he . . . ?

Monty looked at the faces of the other men as they glanced at the poster and then studied their captain, and their reaction to this particular assembly began to sink in.

When everyone was seated, Burke gave them all that fierce smile.

“Most wanted,” Burke said. “Grand theft. You will notice there is no mention of what was stolen or the identity of this person, despite an indication that she is, in fact, known to the person or persons who reported the theft. I’ve been told that all cities in the eastern half of Thaisia have been asked to be on the lookout for this person, and we will do our duty to our government and our city by keeping our eyes open.

“But, gentlemen, there are a couple of things I want to emphasize. First, nothing leads me to believe this person is armed or dangerous or in any way a direct threat to us or the citizens of Lakeside. So if you believe you have sighted this woman, force is not required for initial contact. Be clear about that.

“Second, it’s been said that every person has a doppelganger—someone who looks so much like you as to be mistaken for you. That can make for interesting stories of mistaken identity—unless that doppelganger happens to live in a Courtyard.”

Sudden shifting in the chairs. Nervous twitches. Nervous coughs.

“It has come to my attention that someone living in the Lakeside Courtyard bears a strong resemblance to this woman on the poster. I trust you can all appreciate the consequences to this city if we try to apprehend the wrong person. Lieutenant Montgomery and his team are assigned to handle any incidents that deal with the Others, whether the terra indigene are in the Courtyard or out amongst us in the city. If you see someone with the Others who looks like the woman in the poster, you call Lieutenant Montgomery. If he or any of his team asks for backup or assistance, the rest of you will provide it.

“The governor wants this alleged criminal apprehended and the stolen property returned to its rightful owner. He’s given his orders to the mayors of all the cities and towns in the Northeast Region. Those mayors have given their orders to the police commissioners of their cities, who have passed those orders down to the chiefs of police, who have passed them down to the captains, who are, like me, passing them down to the rest of you.”

Burke paused and looked at all of them. He was still smiling, but his blue eyes were bright with anger. “So now you know what His Honor wants you to do. I hope you all understand what I want you to do.”

Monty walked out of the assembly, saying nothing. He stopped at his desk long enough to grab his coat, then left the station. Kowalski caught up to him at the patrol car.

“Where to, Lieutenant?” Kowalski asked as he started the car.

Monty released his breath in a sigh. Burke had walked a verbal tightrope to warn the men of a potential conflict with the Others. He hoped his own careful talk would be as successful. “Howling Good Reads.”

Kowalski drove away from the station. “I don’t think HGR is open this early, but A Little Bite should be open by now.”

Monty glanced at the other man before staring out the passenger’s window. “Karl, coffee on the house is one thing, but we can’t accept breakfast sandwiches and pastries every morning. And MacDonald and Debany shouldn’t be going in for free soup every afternoon.”

A quick smile, there and gone. “I don’t think Officer Debany is stopping by for the soup.”

“Oh?” He thought of the human woman who worked for Tess and understood Debany’s interest. “Nevertheless, this constant largesse could be misunderstood, and we might be creating a tab we don’t want to pay.”

“The last time I offered to pay for the food, the owner seemed insulted, and, frankly, Lieutenant, I’m a lot more scared of her than I am of you.”

Tess. Definitely not someone he wanted to insult. “All right. But . . . restraint.” Monty sighed again. “Besides, if I keep eating like this, I’ll have to find a gym.”

Kowalski was suddenly paying the roads an excessive amount of attention. “Ruthie has been making noises about joining a gym or fitness center—specifically, joining Run and Thump, since it’s the closest place to the apartment we’re moving into. All the residents and employees of the Courtyard can use R and T, but there are also a few memberships open for humans who don’t work for them.”

“This might not be the best time for such a membership,” Monty said. “If anything goes wrong . . .”

“I know, but Ruthie thinks giving the Others positive exposure to humans might help us in the long run. She goes into HGR all the time and says she never feels threatened. If she’s polite, the Others are polite.”

“Help who? The police?”

“Help all of us. Isn’t mutual exposure the whole reason Simon Wolfgard opened a few stores to humans?”

Maybe, Monty thought. After a few days of contact with the Others, he didn’t think Wolfgard wanted to be friends with humans any more than the Wolf wanted to be friends with deer, but having a better understanding of one’s prey was useful for all kinds of reasons.

“Just be careful, both of you,” Monty said.

“Count on it.”

When they reached the Courtyard, HGR still had a Closed sign on the door, but A Little Bite was open. Kowalski pulled into the parking lot.

“Wait here.” Monty reached for the door handle, then stopped. Something about the way Burke had worded things when talking about the Courtyard. Something about the way the men suddenly got twitchy.

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