Vision in Silver Page 20

“Gods, they must be terrified,” Monty said.

“Scared to death. Literally, in some cases. It appears the girls have been brainwashed to believe that the police will beat them until they lose their babies. And that the Others will eat them. They’re running away from help—and some girls have died as a result.”

Monty studied Burke’s face. “That’s not the worst of it. That’s not what pushed Simon Wolfgard over the edge a short while ago.”

“The second phone call was from Vladimir Sanguinati.” Burke’s hands curled into fists. “Most people prefer not knowing about the laws allowing benevolent ownership. And even people who don’t think humans should be able to ‘own’ another human will justify keeping troubled girls in special compounds for their own sake. How many of those people will try to justify not only breeding those troubled girls but also disposing of the unwanted offspring? Yes, gentlemen, apparently some of those compounds also have their own breeding farms. Can’t have that little secret coming out, can we?”

“The cassandra sangue are all girls,” Monty said. “Is there an orphanage for the boy babies?”

“Disposal, Lieutenant, not adoption. And that is what the terra indigene discovered while searching for the girls.” Slowly, with effort, he forced his hands to open. “The people responsible for breeding these girls like livestock need to be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of our law. The girls, and any surviving babies, need to be found and saved. The breeding farms need to be found and shut down. Lieutenant, I’m splitting up your team for the rest of the day. Each man will pair up with another officer from the station. That way there will be one man in each car who has had dealings with the Others. You go out to the farms around Lakeside. You check the barns, the outbuildings. You make a note of any building that could house these girls. If you run into trouble or run into anyone who doesn’t want you looking around, you call for backup—or fire a couple of shots in the air. I was told that will bring a different kind of help.”

“Captain?” Kowalski asked. “Do you think we’ll find anything?”

“No, I don’t. But we’re going to search anyway in order to reassure all the citizens of Lakeside.”

Pete Denby cleared his throat. “These girls. The ones who live around here. Do they need an advocate?”

“Not at the moment,” Burke replied. “But it’s good to know you’re willing to stand for them in that capacity.” He walked toward the door. “Let’s do this, gentlemen.”

“You’re going out to search?” Monty said. Shouldn’t the captain remain at the station to coordinate with other precincts, other captains? With the commissioner and the mayor?

“Oh, yes. I’m going out to search. I’ll keep my mobile phone turned on so you can reach me in the field.” Burke opened his office door and walked out.

Monty and the other men hurried to catch up to him.

*   *   *

Meg. The puppies.

Simon jerked awake and sprang to his feet.

Henry’s warning growl convinced him to stay put.

He studied the Grizzly, whose hands were furry and clawed. Henry could do a lot of damage with those claws.

Right now, he hated the human form. Right now, he thought his heart would tear if he had to wear that skin. But he didn’t think Henry would let him out of the Business Association’s room while he was in Wolf form, so he shifted. He pulled on the jeans, then pondered the rips in the knit shirt he’d been wearing. Had Grizzly claws or sharp Wolf nails done that?

“I didn’t bite any of them.” His voice sounded rough, as if his body was resisting the shift to human.

“You would have.”

Shame was an odd feeling. Despite their being human, he liked Ruthie and Merri Lee. More important, Meg liked them. He’d just been so angry at all of the monkeys for hurting girls like Meg. And he’d felt terrified that by wearing the human form as much as he did, by trying to understand them and have so much contact with them, he might absorb that terrible aspect of being human.

“Does Meg know about . . .” He swallowed. Couldn’t say the words.

“Not yet.” Henry shifted his hands back to human shape. “Meg is in no danger. We thought it was better to spread the word to the terra indigene who are searching for the girls so they know what to look for if they spot humans near water.”

“Has anyone contacted Jackson Wolfgard or Roy Panthergard?”

“You were asleep only for a few minutes—just long enough for Vlad to find out why you were so angry and tell us and a few others in the Courtyard before he started contacting the Sanguinati to give them this new information.”

“I’ll call Jackson and Roy.”

Henry dipped a hand in his pocket and held out a mobile phone. “Don’t know where your mobile phone is. Vlad’s using the phone in HGR’s office, so you can stay in here and use my phone. I’ll go down and use the phone in the store. Make some calls to the Beargard.”

Staying in this room would keep him out of sight—and keep him away from any humans.

Simon took the mobile phone. “I would never bite Meg.”

“I know that. But as long as you’re up here, you won’t have words with Tess. Right now, that’s better for all of us.”

He waited until Henry left the room. He didn’t call Jackson or Roy. The first call he made was to the Liaison’s Office to talk to Meg. But the line was busy, so he didn’t have the comfort of hearing her voice.

Sighing, he called Jackson to tell him what else humans did to each other.

*   *   *

Meg gripped the phone’s receiver so hard her hand hurt. “I don’t know what happened. Was this part of the visions I saw?” She’d made the cut that morning. It felt like days had passed since then.

“No,” Merri Lee said. “That’s why we don’t understand what happened. One minute Simon is telling the three of us to work together on the Guide, and the next minute he’s kicking all the humans except you out of the Courtyard. Ruth and I have gone over it again and again, but we can’t figure out what we did to upset him.”

“I’ll try to find out.”

“Be careful.” A pause. “That drug. The gone over wolf stuff. Could he have taken some of that accidentally?”

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