Written in Red Page 66

“The Others let an ambulance come in and take Roger to a city hospital. They did that because he had responded when the Crows called for help. Then they barricaded the roads. Now the only ways out of Jerzy don’t lead to anyplace human, and right now it’s unclear if people would survive if they tried to leave. But one thing has already happened in the city that is supplied by Jerzy.”

“Rations,” Monty said. He remembered a winter as a child when his mother was making more soups and got so angry when he or his siblings tried to take a second piece of bread. That spring, he and his father and brothers had turned a piece of their backyard into a vegetable garden, and his mother learned how to can fruit for the hard times, and never went to the butcher shop or the grocery store without her ration book.

“Rations,” Burke agreed. “And you can bet that will be news in every city throughout Thaisia, even if the reason isn’t. That will be all, Lieutenant, unless you have something to add.”

“No, sir. Nothing.”

As Monty walked back to his desk to check his messages, he remembered Vladimir Sanguinati’s words.

Next you’ll be eating your weak in order to keep the strong healthy.

He sank into his chair, his legs trembling. Was someone trying to provoke a war between humans and Others? Did anyone think humans could win?

And if humans started a war and lost, what would happen to the survivors? Would there be any survivors?

Monty took out his wallet and opened it to the picture of Lizzy. He stared at that picture for a long time.

I will do my best to keep you safe, Lizzy girl. Even if I never see you again, I will do my best to keep you safe.

Putting his wallet back in his pocket, he went out to find Kowalski.

* * *

“Yes?”

“By the gods! Did you hear about Jerzy? All those people dead!”

“There was some mention of a hamlet by that name, but the news reports were very vague.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“What happened has nothing to do with me. As for what you should do, this seems like the time to adjust the price for your crops. The prophecy did say an incident would create an opportunity for great profit.”

“But the prophecy didn’t say anything about slaughter!”

“Why should it? You wanted to know if you could make more profit on your farms without further investment. Prices always rise when there is a shortage. Since you own most of the farmland in another hamlet that supplies the same city, you’ll have great influence in setting the prices for a variety of crops.”

“But you didn’t say the shortage would be caused by people being killed!”

“And you didn’t ask about anything but profit when the girl was cut.”

An uneasy silence. “I should have phrased my request more carefully. I didn’t mean to imply I had been given an inferior girl.”

Quiet menace. “You paid for a cut on one of my best girls, and that is what you received.”

“Yes, of course. You run the finest institution, and all of your girls are of exceptional quality. But for my next appointment, could I reserve cs759?”

“Cs759 is not, at present, on the roster.”

“That’s a shame. She has the finest skin. It’s like she begins to attune to a prophecy even before the cut. When will you put her back in the roster?”

“Soon. I anticipate that she will be available again very soon.”

CHAPTER 10

Meg sat back on her heels and stared at the Wolf pup, who stared back at her. Sam seemed shy, which made sense since she was a stranger, but he also seemed interested in getting to know her. At least, he seemed that way while she refilled his food and water bowls. But when she reached into the cage with a couple of paper towels to pick up the poop in the back corner, he snapped at her—and kept snapping every time she tried to reach in farther than the bowls, which were in the front of the cage.

“Come on, Sam. You don’t want to smell poop all day, do you?”

The pup talked back at her. Since she didn’t speak Wolf, she had no idea what he said, but she had the impression he was embarrassed, and her noticing the poop only made things worse, but she didn’t know what to do about that. The terra indigene weren’t human, didn’t think like humans even when they were in a human skin. She’d learned that much in the week she’d been working for them. But they did have feelings. She’d learned that too.

She glanced at the wall clock and sighed. If she didn’t get moving, she’d be late for work again.

She secured the cage door. “All right. You win, because I have to go to work. But this discussion isn’t over.”

He talked back, then lowered his head.

She’d bet a week’s pay—if she had a paycheck yet—that Simon didn’t take that kind of lip from a puppy. Of course, she didn’t think Simon Wolfgard took that kind of lip from anyone.

She got to her feet and studied the pup. Why was he in a cage? If she asked, would anyone tell her?

He wasn’t always in the cage. Sam had been outside the other night. Simon would rip her to pieces if she let Sam go outside and something happened to the pup. But there had to be something she could do that would keep them both safe so she could take him outside.

“I’ll see you when I get back from work.” No response to the words, but as she locked Simon’s front door, she heard Sam’s squeaky-door howl.

Telling herself she shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving Sam by himself—after all, Simon did it all the time—she hurried to the garage, unhooked the BOW from its power supply, and headed for work. She still tended to stomp on the power pedal when backing up. Remembering all those training images from movies—clips of cars speeding up a ramp backward and sailing over another vehicle—kept interfering with the reality of a flat exit. But she was feeling more confident about forward driving, especially now that the main roads in the Courtyard were down to pavement.

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