Written in Red Page 69

Meg hurried to the back room, catching Merri Lee on the doorstep. “When does the bus leave for the plaza?” she asked, feeling her skin almost buzz in response to her excitement.

“Eleven thirty. It returns from the plaza at one thirty.”

“Thanks.”

As soon as Merri Lee left, Meg went back to the sorting room and pulled out the Lakeside phone book. Ropes wouldn’t work, but . . . Yes! The plaza had a pet store. She should be able to find something there that would be comfortable for Sam and keep them together.

Her hand hovered over the telephone while she went through the list of Others she knew. Vlad and Tess would be working in their own stores. So would Jenni. And Henry would be on the bus. Julia or Allison? Maybe. Blair? Remembering what he said about deliverymen and Wolves, definitely not. Which left . . .

The phone was answered on the second ring. “Pony Barn. Jester speaking.”

“This is Meg.”

A pause. “Is there a problem, Meg?”

Did her name automatically mean trouble? “No, but I wanted to ask you for a favor.”

“Ask.”

“There’s something I want to get at the plaza, and the bus leaves at eleven thirty. I need someone to watch the office in case a delivery comes in before we close for the afternoon break.”

“I’ll come up with the ponies and stay until you get back.”

“Thanks, Jester.”

After hanging up, she stared at the phone and thought about what she was about to do. It was safe in the Courtyard. No one could touch her in the Courtyard. But in a human plaza where human law did apply?

Risky.

She turned her right hand palm up and studied the scars on the back of each finger. Didn’t usually get much from a finger cut. A few disjointed images at the most.

Get on a bus full of terra indigene with a fresh cut on her hand? Did she really want to take the chance of setting off an attack? Besides, she was pretty sure Henry knew she was a cassandra sangue, so how would she explain the cut if he noticed it?

“You don’t need to cut to go to the store,” she told herself. “Jester is the only one who knows for sure that you’re leaving the Courtyard. You’ll be fine. Just buy the things for Sam, then go back to the bus and wait for the rest of them.”

She briskly rubbed both arms and tried to ignore the pins and needles under her skin by focusing on the mail she had to get ready for the ponies.

* * *

It’s a good thing Captain Burke expects each of his lieutenants to report at least once per shift, Monty thought as he stepped into Burke’s office. Otherwise, the other men would start wondering if he was screwing up big-time.

“Something to report, Lieutenant?” Burke asked.

“Someone named Jester called to tell me Meg Corbyn was on the Courtyard’s shopping bus, along with about fifteen Others, including Henry Beargard and Vladimir Sanguinati.”

Burke stared at him, and Monty couldn’t read anything in those blue eyes that gave him a clue as to what the man was thinking.

“Give me a minute, and then I’ll buy you lunch,” Burke finally said. “We’ll take my car, so tell Officer Kowalski to meet you at the plaza. Maybe he’d like to pick up some lunch or stretch his legs.”

Leaving Burke, Monty waited at his own desk for Kowalski. No messages. No reports. And thank the gods, no DLUs to fill out. He hoped that would still be true after the terra indigenes’ shopping trip.

When Kowalski joined him, he told Karl about the call and that he and Captain Burke would be at the plaza.

“But he wants a patrol car parked nearby,” Kowalski said, nodding. “I probably won’t be the only one. The Courtyard bus brings Others to that plaza every Sunsday and Firesday at the same time. Patrol cars tend to drive through the parking lot or park for a while to pick up lunch. Helps to keep everyone honest.”

“I’ll see you there,” Monty said as Burke walked out of his office, adjusting the collar of his winter coat.

He wasn’t sure if Burke expected small talk from his officers or wanted silence in order to concentrate on driving. A thin layer of snow covered the streets, and after seeing a couple of cars fishtail while trying to stop at a light, he decided not to pull Burke’s attention from the road.

* * *

Asia followed the Courtyard bus to the plaza, parking where she could see the dark green vehicle but wouldn’t be noticed by the Others. Scanning the lot, she noticed a white van pull in from the other direction.

Not a good place for a snatch unless Meg walked so close to the van that the driver could grab her and be gone before the terra indigene realized there was trouble.

Then a patrol car pulled into the lot and parked a few spaces down from the bus, and another one pulled in from the opposite direction and also parked a few spaces away.

“Damn,” Asia whispered. Wasn’t unusual to see cop cars in the plaza on the Others’ shopping days, but they weren’t even trying to be subtle this time. Which meant they were more worried than usual and were going to shut down trouble before it started.

Were they antsy because of what happened in Jerzy, or was there a more immediate concern?

Asia figured she had an answer of sorts when Meg Corbyn stepped off the bus.

* * *

Burke parked a couple of spots from the small, dark green bus with LAKESIDE COURTYARD painted on the side.

“I wouldn’t think they would want to advertise which vehicle was theirs,” Monty said. He looked around at the rapidly filling parking lot. “Especially since they’ve parked the bus to take up four spaces.”

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