Written in Red Page 65

Thank the gods for Merri Lee. “Thank you.” When he stared at her, she added, “I don’t need any more help right now.”

He turned and went into the back room. Meg was reaching for the coffee when he walked back out, naked. He went right by her, vaulted over the counter, then held out an arm for the Crow, who hesitated but hopped on his arm. The two of them left the office. The Crow joined its friends on the wall that separated the delivery area from Henry’s yard. The Hawk stood in full view of anyone driving by long enough to make Meg wonder how to explain the cause of all the car accidents when the police came calling. Then he shifted and flew off.

Putting all the pens back in the holder, Meg went into the sorting room. There was nothing to do until the mail truck arrived, so she ate her breakfast and skimmed through the Lakeside News from first page to last. She found a few things she thought might be of interest to the Others, but she’d ask Tess or Vlad before doing anything.

What she didn’t find was any kind of news that would explain why Simon had left in such a rush that morning.

* * *

Monty hesitated in the doorway of Captain Burke’s office. Something about the way the man sat behind the desk gave the strong impression that intruding for anything but an emergency wouldn’t be tolerated.

But when Monty took a step back, Burke said, “Come in, Lieutenant, and shut the door.”

He shut the door and approached the desk.

“Something on your mind?” Burke asked. He sounded subdued.

“Simon Wolfgard and two other terra indigene caught a westbound train this morning,” Monty said. “Henry Beargard called me with this information and suggested that a patrol car be at the station to ensure good behavior on the part of the humans. Officer Kowalski tells me this is unusual because the Others travel by train all the time and police presence isn’t requested.” He studied Burke. “It means something, doesn’t it?”

“It means Simon Wolfgard knows more about what’s happening out west than we do,” Burke replied. He sighed and sat back. “Most likely, the newspapers and television news will receive a watered-down version to avoid things escalating out west or spreading to other parts of Thaisia.”

Monty shivered. “Sir?”

“In hamlets that have less than a thousand people, the Others don’t have a Courtyard. They don’t need one because there is no way in or out of those places except on roads running through terra indigene land. But the Others usually have a house at the edge of the village, a place for mail and packages to be delivered and the place where they have electricity and telephones and where they enjoy the technology we’ve developed. The gards take turns using the house and looking after it, as well as dealing with the mail and deliveries.

“Last night in Jerzy, a farming hamlet that provides about a quarter of the food for one of the bigger cities on the West Coast . . .” Burke stopped and just stared straight ahead for a long moment. “Well, we don’t really know what happened, except some young fools hopped up on some damn thing figured out the Crows had gathered for a movie night, broke into the house, and attacked the Others. One of the Crows managed to reach the phone and call for help, and a couple of them got away and alerted the rest of the terra indigene. The police officers who responded to the call were shot by the intruders, along with several Crows. That much is clear. After that . . . The Others caught some of the attackers and killed them, right out on the street. And then they went crazy. Some of the people in the village, instead of staying in their houses, grabbed whatever they could for weapons and went out and escalated the fight.”

Burke clasped his hands and pressed them on the desk. “By the time police reinforcements from other hamlets arrived, the fight was over and the Others had disappeared into their own land. We don’t know how many terra indigene died in that fight, but one-third of the people in Jerzy are dead. We know the humans started it, so the survivors are damn lucky the Others left anyone alive.”

Burke’s voice had risen to something close to an angry roar.

Out of the corner of his eye, Monty saw men jerk to a stop and stare before hurrying away.

“How did you find out about this, sir?” Monty asked.

Burke sagged, his face an unhealthy gray. “One of the officers who responded to the call is the son of a friend of mine. The Others found Roger and took him to the clinic. Saved his life. The other three police officers didn’t make it. So Roger was the only one who knew for sure what happened up to his being shot. My friend called me this morning, both to tell me about Roger and to warn me about something Roger had heard before he passed out.” He pushed back from his desk and stood up. “I will be talking—quietly—to the chief, to other captains, and to all the team leaders in this station. The chief will decide who else needs to know.”

“About the attack?”

Burke shook his head. “About something that pumps up aggressive behavior. One of the attackers was boasting about having ‘gone over wolf’ and how they would become the enemy in order to defeat the enemy.”

“Gods above and below,” Monty whispered.

“So if you hear any whispers about humans having ‘gone over wolf’ or about something on the street that pumps up aggression, I want to know. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir.” He hesitated, not sure he wanted to know. “What about the rest of the people in that hamlet? What will happen to them?”

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