Written in Red Page 82

Something was wrong with Sam—or had been wrong. She’d understood that from the cage in Simon’s living room and the kibble, which she doubted was a typical food for any of the Wolves.

Something had changed in the past few days. Sam seemed more responsive, more like a curious puppy now. If he was behaving more like a typical Wolf pup, maybe that explained his increasing lack of interest in the kibble.

Although it didn’t explain his interest in the cookies she had bought for him.

Since she couldn’t ask Simon for advice—and she sure didn’t want to ask Blair—she called the Market Square butcher shop to see if she could get an answer.

And as she listened to the phone ring, a thought niggled at her. She’d been in the Courtyard almost two weeks now and heard them every night, so why hadn’t she seen any of the Wolves in Wolf form? Were they under orders to avoid her when in that form? Were they really that scary?

“We got meat and fish today,” a male voice said. “Whaddaya looking for?”

“This is Meg, the Liaison. Do you have any special meat?”

Silence, followed by sputtering. “Special meat? You want some of the special meat?”

Obviously there was a special meat. Just as obviously, not everyone was allowed to have it.

“It’s for Sam,” Meg said. “He’s not enthusiastic about the kibble, so I wondered if there was a special meat for puppies. Well, maybe something like rabbit or deer isn’t really special, since Wolves eat it all the time. Don’t they?” When he didn’t say anything, she plowed on. “Little Wolves Sam’s age do eat meat, don’t they?”

A gusty sigh. Then that voice, sounding relieved, said, “Sure they eat meat. Sure they do. Got some nice bits of beef in today. That would be more of a treat than deer or rabbit—unless you want a whole haunch of rabbit. Got a haunch left from the one I caught this morning.”

Suddenly feeling queasy, Meg said, “A small piece of beef would be fine. I don’t want to give him too much if he hasn’t had it for a while.”

“I’ll bring it over.” He hung up.

Meg stared at the phone. “Why was he so upset about me asking for special meat?”

Not everyone was allowed to have it. Or was it just the humans who weren’t supposed to want it because . . .

Before she lost her nerve, she called A Little Bite and silently thanked all the gods when Merri Lee answered.

“Are humans considered special meat?” Meg asked.

“This isn’t a good thing to talk about over the phone,” Merri Lee finally said.

For a moment, Meg couldn’t think, could barely breathe as a drawing of a cow with arrows pointing to the various cuts of meat popped into her head. Then she imagined a drawing of a human with the same kinds of arrows. Could there be a sign like that in the butcher shop?

“Merri? Does the butcher shop in the Courtyard sell people parts?”


“Oh, gods.”

After another silence, Merri Lee said, “I’m pretty sure the special meat isn’t sold in the butcher shop anymore, if it ever was,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “And I’m pretty sure when the Others kill a human, that person is usually consumed on the spot and there aren’t any leftovers.” She swallowed hard enough that Meg could hear it over the phone. “But when special meat is available, you’ll see a sign on the shop door. It’s not obvious what it’s for, but we’ve all been able to guess why it goes up. Like I said, I’m pretty sure they don’t sell the meat there, but the sign tells all the Others that it’s available.”

“But we’re supposed to shop there!”

“Have you been inside yet?”

“No. I don’t know how to cook, so I haven’t bought any meat there yet.” And might never buy any.

“When you do, be sure to ask what meat you’re getting. Or tell them what you’re looking for. If you ask for a steak and don’t specify the animal, you could get beef or horse or deer or moose or even bison. That can be interesting, but you don’t always want interesting.”

Feeling wobbly, Meg braced a hand on the counter and wished she’d never thought of getting a treat for Sam. “Okay.” She blew out a breath. “Okay. Thanks, Merri.”

She hung up and went back into the sorting room in time to hear a loud knock on the back door. Sam followed her, still wearing the harness and leash because he wouldn’t let her unclip the safety line.

She opened the door. The man had the brown hair and eyes of the Hawks she’d met, and he was wearing a blood-smeared apron around his waist. He held out two packages wrapped in brown paper.

“Chopped up a few pieces of stew beef,” he said. “Let it get body warm before you give it to Sam. The other package has pieces of dried stag stick. The pups like chewing on those.”

“What’s a stag stick?” Meg asked, taking the packages.

He stared at her for a moment. Then he put a fist below his belt and popped out a thumb.

“Oh,” Meg said. “Oh.”

He spun around and ran back to the Market Square.

She closed the door, looked at the packages in her hands, and said, “Eeewwww.”

But Sam was bouncing all around her, dancing on his hind legs to sniff at the packages.

The first package she opened had the beef. Figuring she could warm it in the wave-cooker, she put that package in the little fridge. The next package held three pieces of . . . stag. Using thumb and forefinger, she picked up a piece and gave it to Sam. Then she hurriedly wrapped up the rest and ran to the bathroom to wash her hands. Twice.

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