Written in Red Page 57

“Was there anything else you wanted Simon to know?” Vlad asked.

This, at least, was a piece of what he was here to say. “Yes. There is concern that with so many police officers looking for the individual on that wanted poster, mistakes in identification could be made.”

“You’re referring to that person who looks similar to our Liaison?”

Monty nodded. “I would appreciate being informed whenever Ms. Corbyn leaves the Courtyard. My men and I won’t interfere with her, but I would feel more comfortable being present. To avoid any misunderstandings.”

“That’s an excellent suggestion, Lieutenant Montgomery.” Vlad smiled. “Misunderstandings have been so costly in the past.”

Thinking of the Drowned City, Monty shivered. “Yes, Mr. Sanguinati, they have.” When silence was the only response, Monty took a step back. “I’ll leave you to your work. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”

Vlad took a step forward and held out his hand. “Anytime, Lieutenant.”

Not daring to give offense, Monty took the vampire’s hand—and instantly felt a prickling that was gone a moment later. And in that same moment, he felt the odd sensation of Vlad’s strong grip being less substantial.

“You can go out through A Little Bite,” Vlad said, releasing Monty’s hand and turning back to the display of books.

Glad to leave, Monty went to the lattice door. As he reached out to open it, he noticed the pinpricks of blood on his palm.

He swayed as understanding replaced puzzlement. He didn’t dare turn around and look at the vampire.

How much blood had Vlad taken from him in the few seconds their hands had touched? Was that a feeding, a warning, or a threat?

He hurried into the coffee shop and turned toward the door, wanting to escape. But Tess’s voice saying, “Don’t forget your coffee,” made him turn back.

The threads of black were gone, but the hair was still unnaturally curly.

She handed him some paper napkins first—and smiled.

It took effort not to run, but he walked out of A Little Bite and joined Kowalski, who was leaning against the patrol car, watching the roofs of the buildings.

“They sure are keeping close watch,” Kowalski said as Monty handed him one of the coffees. “A dozen Crows and a couple of Hawks have come and gone while you were inside. You all right, Lieutenant?”

“Let’s get in the car,” Monty replied.

When they were inside and partially sheltered from feathered observers, Monty pulled the napkins away from his hand.

“Gods above and below,” Kowalski said, whistling softly. “What happened?”

“I shook hands with Vladimir Sanguinati.”

“Why?”

“Didn’t have a good alternative, and considering the conversation prior to it, it didn’t seem smart to insult him.”

Kowalski paled. “They can take blood just by touching you?”

“Apparently. You had mentioned there was some evidence that they could take blood without biting a person. Looks like we’ve just been given a demonstration of what that other method is.”

Monty raised the cup to his lips, then lowered it without drinking. “Let’s get out of here, Karl. I need something to eat, and I need to get away from the Courtyard for a while.”

Kowalski secured his cup in a holder and drove out of the parking lot.

Warning signs everywhere, Monty thought. The mayor wanted the dangerous criminal caught and the stolen property returned to its rightful owner. Except the property wasn’t a thing; it was a person. Meg Corbyn had stolen her own body, had run away from someone’s “benevolent ownership.”

Considering what the cassandra sangues could do, how much of that benevolence was about profit?

Monty closed his eyes, letting Kowalski choose the place for a light meal.

Now that Vladimir Sanguinati had put the thought on the table, Monty wasn’t sure that, in this case, benevolence wasn’t another word for “slavery.” He also wasn’t sure if leaving a blood prophet on her own wasn’t a passive form of murder.

But he was sure that any intervention with regard to Meg Corbyn and her addiction to cutting would have to come from Simon Wolfgard now and not him.

* * *

The phone rang as Meg was pulling on her coat. “Hello?”

“Meg? It’s Jester. Listen, old Hurricane is coming up with the other ponies. He’s retired now—that’s why he’s living at Lakeside—but it would be good for him to feel useful. Could you give him the mail for the Owlgard or the Pony Barn?”

“Sure. How will I know which one he is?”

“White mane and tail, and a gray coat with a hint of blue. Can’t mistake him for any of the others.”

“Have to go,” Meg said when she heard the chorus of neighs.

She opened the delivery door and then stared.

There were twelve ponies waiting for her. Meg didn’t recognize four of them, but she figured out which one was Hurricane based on the description Jester gave her. Instead of forming their usual line, the ponies were all jostling for first position at the door, pushing and crowding until Thunder stamped a foot.

The boom shook the building and had Meg grabbing for the doorway to keep her balance.

She looked at the pony. Oh, he couldn’t have . . .

Suddenly a voice yelled, “Blessed Thaisia! What is going on?”

She’d never heard that voice before, but she was willing to bet it was Elliot Wolfgard yelling out a window in the consulate.

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