Vision in Silver Page 88

Several men noticed Monty standing in the cafeteria doorway, but only Louis Gresh came over to talk to him.

“I heard an earlier report,” Louis said. “Big to-do with Scratch and Toland’s mayor making speeches. The girls weren’t available for comment, but the reporter described them as walking sedately up the gangplank and waving to everyone once they were on board.”

“I wonder how heavily the girls were sedated in order to cope with that much stimulus,” Monty said quietly. “And I wonder if these girls are more valuable, or if someone decided to change tactics after smuggling cassandra sangue out of Thaisia didn’t work.”

Louis frowned. “Say that again?”

I shouldn’t have said it the first time. But Louis was on Burke’s short list of people who could be trusted with such secrets. He was on Monty’s list too, since he had worked with Monty and Burke to help the Others find the Controller. “Some girls were smuggled out as cargo. The ship was blown off course in a storm and was lost. No trace of it.”

“That’s the official version?” Louis asked.

Monty nodded. “Arrangements were made to pick up the cargo.” He felt relieved when Louis didn’t ask about the ship’s crew.

“If the Others don’t want any of those girls going to Cel-Romano, what difference will it make having Scratch splash this voyage all over the media?”

“To the terra indigene? None whatsoever. But it will give Scratch more ammunition to use in his humans-versus-Others speeches when the water-dwelling terra indigene sink the ship.” Monty held up the newspaper folded to a small inside article. “I have something else to talk to the captain about this morning.”

“Monty. Do you really think the Others will sink that ship, knowing those girls are on board?” Louis asked.

“They may try to save the girls, but even if they can’t, that ship won’t reach Cel-Romano. The Sharkgard and an Elemental known as Ocean will make sure of it.”

Monty walked to Burke’s office. Seeing his captain on the phone, he hesitated in the doorway until Burke waved him in.

“You got the bear,” Burke said. He held the phone away from his ear far enough that Monty recognized Felix Scaffoldon’s irate voice but couldn’t make out the words. When the yelling started to wind down, Burke put the phone up to his ear again and said, “What jewels?” He held the phone away from his ear for another minute before responding. “So the bear had a secret compartment where a little girl could stash whatever little girls stash. Be happy you found some bits of colored glass. If the bear had belonged to a boy, you might have found a couple of rocks and a desiccated frog. No . . . No, I’m not trying to wind you up. I’m telling you that we weren’t asked to look for anything inside the bear, so we didn’t look. Why did you expect to find something?” He nodded as he listened. “Oh, really? Do you think the murder was a falling-out among thieves? I thought the Crowgard had been accused of taking . . . Ah. They might be fencing the stolen jewelry. Well, if the thefts are being carried out by humans, the brother would be the most likely accomplice, although the thefts didn’t start until—”

Burke looked at the phone. “Huh. Scaffoldon hung up.” He leaned back in his chair, his smile a lot more fierce than friendly. “Sit down, Lieutenant. Let’s talk about Elayne Borden.”

Monty sat, the newspaper in his lap. “What is there to say?” He thought about the part of the phone conversation he had heard. “Scaffoldon found the substitute jewels?”

“He did. He was quite upset. Now the theory is that Elayne Borden was holding the stolen jewels for the as-yet-unknown thief and tried to abscond with the whole take instead of just her share.”

“If he keeps floating theories, he’ll sound like a fool,” Monty said.

“Well, he can’t exactly come out and say that Toland’s society darlings gave their jewelry to Nicholas Scratch in order to help finance the HFL movement but claimed the jewelry was stolen in order to collect the insurance money. But the stones are gone because someone put them in the bear, and the bear ended up in Lakeside with Lizzy, and that means Scratch doesn’t have the fortune he expected.

“And that brings us back to Elayne Borden,” Burke continued. “How does a woman go from being the lover of a disgraced police officer to the lover of a public figure like Nicholas Scratch?”

“I’ve thought about this since I first learned about Elayne’s involvement with Scratch,” Monty replied. “Elayne, or I should say Elayne’s mother, was always fixated on social status, but her family doesn’t have the money or the clout they want to believe they have.”

“But they do have, or had, something that Scratch wanted,” Burke argued. “They provided him with some kind of connection. Otherwise, why would he get involved with Elayne or her family?”

Why would he? Monty thought. “So someone has decided that if Elayne didn’t have the jewels on her at the train station, then Lizzy has them. Why not assume that they were hidden in the apartment and left there?” Monty paused, then answered his own question. “Because the apartment had been searched even before the police became involved. Whether Elayne was in on acquiring the jewels or had found them and realized who was involved, she knew too much and she was running. Therefore, she was a liability.”

“Someone knew where the gems were supposed to be, and Scaffoldon was sent to fetch them. It isn’t likely that he thinks Lizzy still has them. If he was going to believe anything, it would be that I found the jewels and kept them.” Burke smiled. “I didn’t, but I could have hidden them in the evidence lockup or in a desk drawer.” The smiled faded. “That being said, I think it would be a good idea for Lizzy to stay in the Courtyard unless she’s with you. Now, what did you want to tell me?”

Churned up about Elayne, and feeling he had forgotten something, Monty set the newspaper on the desk and pointed to an article about a woman being killed in a random attack while out shopping with her family.

“Heather Houghton?” Burke said.

“She worked at Howling Good Reads. Resigned last month after Meg Corbyn . . .” Monty’s throat tightened.

“Ms. Corbyn saw this?”

“Saw something. Meg reads the Lakeside News. I don’t know if anyone else in the Courtyard does.”

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