Home > Etched in Bone (The Others #5)(6)

Etched in Bone (The Others #5)(6)
Author: Anne Bishop

“Predator’s instinct,” O’Sullivan said. “If something runs, a predator will chase it.”

“But they’ve never chased any of us before, and we ride bicycles up to the kitchen garden at the Green Complex all the time.” The traffic light turned yellow. Kowalski braked instead of speeding up to slip through the intersection before the light turned red. “At first I thought the Wolves chasing me hadn’t heard that we’re allowed to ride on the paved roads. But I recognized Nathan and thought I recognized Simon. The roads are posted with Trespassers Will Be Eaten signs, and when I first saw them coming at me . . .” He blew out a breath and pressed the accelerator when the light turned green. “Just a game. Simon thought we’d had great fun. Bet the other Wolves did too.”

“And you?” Monty asked.

“We look at the same things, but we don’t see the same things. It made me realize how easy it can be to screw this up and send the wrong signal.”

Monty looked out the window and wondered what sort of signal the new mayor and police commissioner were going to send.

• • •

Meg opened the Liaison’s Office, then glanced at the clock. Nathan was late, but Jake Crowgard was at his spot on the shoulder-high brick wall that separated the delivery area from the yard behind Henry’s studio.

Just as well she had the office to herself for another minute or so.

Her arms tingled. It wasn’t the pins-and-needles feeling that warned of the need to cut and speak prophecy. This was milder, more like a memo than a screeching alarm.

Opening a drawer, she lifted the lid of the wooden box Henry had made for her and looked at the backs of several decks of fortune-telling cards that she was learning to use to reveal prophecy instead of cutting her skin with the silver razor. Maybe today she would finally take all the cards out of the box and start discarding what wouldn’t be needed to create the Trailblazer deck of prophecy cards.

She stirred the cards in a vague effort to shuffle them. Not that it mattered. When a question was asked, her hands would prickle, and the cards were chosen based on the severity of that feeling.

Meg closed her eyes so that she wouldn’t influence her choice by recognizing the back of a particular deck. Placing her fingertips on the cards, she whispered, “What will the appointment of the new mayor mean to Lakeside?”

Nothing. Nothing. Her fingers brushed the cards while even the tingling faded away to nothing. Then a buzzing in the fingertips of her right hand. She brushed away the top cards until she reached the one that created the buzz. She picked up the card and opened her eyes—and knew the answer before she turned the card to see the image. The card had come from a children’s game and had been mixed in with her prophecy cards. But the images from the game had proved useful, even if the answers they provided were usually unwelcome.

What will the new mayor mean to Lakeside? A big question mark. Future undecided. Lakeside’s future had been undecided ever since the terra indigene here realized the Elders’ response to the Humans First and Last movement’s actions was going to be very, very bad.

But she’d hoped for a different answer today.

She’d put the card back and started to close the box when she thought of another question. Lakeside was a human-controlled city, but the Courtyard belonged to the terra indigene. Any outbreak of hostility between humans and the Others could have terrible consequences in the wake of the recent conflicts.

Meg closed her eyes and placed her fingers on the cards again. When she’d first begun working with the decks, she had decided that a three-card draw would represent subject, action, and the result. She didn’t know if that was the way other people used fortune-telling cards, but it seemed to be working for her.

“What is going to happen to my friends in the Courtyard?” She repeated the question over and over while she searched for the images that would provide the answer. When she’d selected the three that had produced the severest prickling, she took them to the big wooden sorting table and turned them over in the order she’d chosen them.

The first card had three images: train, bus, car. The second card had an explosion. The third card . . . the question mark. Future undecided.

That was not good.

She took a notebook out of a drawer, turned to a fresh page, then wrote down her questions and the cards she’d drawn as the answers.

She felt reluctant to put the cards away before she called someone to look at them and felt equally reluctant to tell anyone from the Business Association about this particular answer. Maybe one of her human friends? Ruth Stuart lived across the street in the two-family house on Crowfield Avenue, and Merri Lee was moving into an apartment in one of the adjacent stone buildings the Courtyard had recently purchased to provide a place for their employees to live if they were turned away from human-owned rentals.

A knock on the doorway between the sorting room and the back room made her gasp. Then she relaxed when she saw Twyla Montgomery waiting to be acknowledged. The sorting room was usually out-of-bounds to humans except for a special few, and with so many new people visiting the Market Square, the boundary was being reinforced with snarls and sharp teeth.

“Good morning, Miss Twyla,” Meg said.

She heard a scrambling in the front room and realized Nathan must have come in while she was using the cards.

“Good morning, Miss Meg.” Twyla crossed the room and set a travel mug and container on the sorting table. “And good morning to you, Mr. Nathan. It’s going to be a sticky day, and I don’t envy you having to wear a fur coat, no matter how fine it looks.”

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