Marked in Flesh Page 28

He wished he didn’t have to stay in human form to talk to Meg about the picture. He wished he could shift to Wolf and give her hand a couple of licks. He always felt better after giving her hand a lick. Couldn’t do that when he looked human. Could he? He hadn’t observed Kowalski or Debany licking their mates’ hands.

Just one more thing he didn’t know about humans.

Then he walked into the sorting room and found Meg standing at the table with postcards spread over the top—and wondered if, in her own way, she already had the answer.

“Meg?” Simon waited until she looked up. “I have something to show you.”


Windsday, Juin 6

Jesse Walker watched Shelley Bookman enter the general store in a way that made Jesse think of stories where the heroine snuck around searching for clues—and usually ended up in a lot of trouble. “Shouldn’t you be at the library?”

“One of my helpers is watching the desk,” Shelley replied, hurrying over to where Jesse was stamping prices on canned goods. “This came for you. You did tell me to monitor your e-mail, and this is from him, with a request that we pass along a copy to Joe Wolfgard.”

“What is it?” Jesse took the envelope from Shelley and noted the tremble in the other woman’s hands. She opened the envelope and pulled out two pieces of paper.

The first picture made her stomach roll, but she studied the dead bison and the bloody paw prints that dotted the carcasses like children’s handprints painted on a large sheet of paper.

“I’ll want to show this to Tobias.” Jesse put that picture back in the envelope. “He was out there this morning with Joe Wolfgard. He can say if this picture is about us.”

The picture of the scarred old woman disturbed her in a different way—and gave her the feeling that she’d seen this before.

The bell above the door jingled. Before Jesse could put away the second picture, Abigail Burch rushed over to them.

Abigail and Kelley Burch were newcomers to Prairie Gold, having arrived last summer. Kelley was a goldsmith who’d quickly realized most of the people in their small town couldn’t afford the kind of jewelry he could make, so he made pieces out of silver and semiprecious stones and eked out a living.

Abigail was a few years younger than Kelley and had blue eyes and strawberry blond hair and a preference for long dresses of a style that Jesse’s grandmother had worn in her younger years. No one would ask, but everyone wondered if Abigail was a bit simple or just a bit peculiar, because she was the only one among them who wasn’t an Intuit. Either way, Kelley, who was an Intuit, loved her, and that was sufficient for the rest of them.

“Jesse?” Abigail always sounded a little unsure and a little breathless. “You’ve talked to the Wolf who’s in charge of the . . .” She waved a hand in the general direction of the hills and the terra indigene settlement. “Could you ask him about the tallow?”

“Tallow?” Jesse looked at Shelley.

Abigail nodded. “I use tallow to make my candles and soaps. I make really nice candles and soaps.”

“You do,” Shelley agreed. “I’ve bought some of them.”

“Tallow, Abigail?” Jesse prompted, hoping for more explanation.

“Kelley heard about the dead bison, and he’s gone over to Floyd Tanner’s to help out however he can. I usually have to buy some of the fat when sheep or cattle are butchered for meat, but I got to thinking about the bison. They would have fat too, wouldn’t they? And I guess some of them are just going to go to waste? So I was wondering if I could harvest some of the fat? If bison have fat?”

Jesse’s left wrist started to ache. She had feelings about everyone in Prairie Gold, and most of the time it was just an easy sense about the person. But when her wrist ached, it was a warning, and she didn’t ignore such warnings. “I’ll ask Mr. Wolfgard. But don’t you go out to that field and try harvesting fat by yourself. There are plenty of predators of all shapes and sizes that are going to be out there feasting. Since Kelley is helping Floyd, he could ask about getting a bit for you to try out.”

Abigail beamed a smile at both of them. Then she looked at the picture in Jesse’s hand. “What’s that?”

“Just a picture someone sent to me.”

“Is the woman reading tarot cards? I read tarot cards. My grandmother read tarot cards. She gave her cards to me when she got feeble. And I bought a set for myself when I was . . . traveling.” Abigail studied the picture. “Why does that woman have so many scars?”

“I think she’s a cassandra sangue.”

“Like those girls who . . .” Abigail blinked. “Why would she need tarot cards?”

“Not tarot,” Jesse said softly. “Something close. Something I almost remember. Could I see your sets of cards?”

“Sure. I’ll bring them right over.” Abigail dashed out of the store, almost running into Tobias as he tried to enter.

“Need cold drinks. Whatever you’ve got,” he said.

“Why don’t I fill up a wire crate while you talk to Tobias,” Shelley said.

“Talk to me about what?” Tobias wiped his face on his sleeve.

“About this.” Jesse pulled the picture of the bison out of the envelope and watched her son pale. “Did it look like this?”

Tobias shook his head. “Mom, you can’t show that picture around.”

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