Marked in Flesh Page 31

“Appreciate that. We need to stop there anyway to pick up a couple of big containers that will hold tallow for Abigail.”

Tom nodded at Joe and went inside the butcher shop, where every available adult human had been helping Floyd handle the glut of bison meat.

“Anything you need to do before we go?” Tobias asked.

“No.” The rest of the terra indigene already knew he was going to the train station with Tobias, and plenty of Hawks, Eagles, and Ravens would be watching them from the sky.

They picked up the food and drinks from Jesse, filled the gas tank on the way out of town, and started the two-hour drive to Bennett.

• • •

“You sure you’re not looking for tarot cards?”

Jesse hung on to patience. Shelley had found three Intuit companies that, among other things, printed tarot cards and fortune-telling cards, which, she’d been told, weren’t quite the same thing. This was the third company. The other two either didn’t know what she was talking about or weren’t willing to admit anything to anyone—which made her wonder how they were staying in business. But she had a feeling that trust had become a commodity more precious than gold.

“I’m sure,” she said to the woman on the phone. “I remember seeing decks of cards that were used by some women to get a sense of something coming, but that was four decades ago, and I’m trying to find out if cards like that are still being made.”

Silence. Then, “What kind of women?”

“Blood prophets. I’m looking into this for one of the cassandra sangue.” Not quite true, but close enough.

“You have one of those girls living in your community?”

“No, but we’re looking into fostering one or two of the girls.” Another gray truth since it had been a passing thought. When the other woman said nothing, Jesse continued. “The leader of the terra indigene settlement at Prairie Gold has connections to two of the girls. One of the girls had a vision about cards.”

A crackling silence. “Gods,” the other woman breathed. “You’re looking for the Trailblazer deck?”

“I—” Jesse’s left wrist throbbed. “Maybe I am.” Now it was her turn to hesitate. “There’s really a deck of cards called that?”

“Not officially. Not yet. Yesterday I pulled a few decks of fortune-telling cards from our stock. I had a feeling that a new deck was needed, but I didn’t know what was needed.”

“Maybe you’re not the one who is supposed to decide. Maybe you’re the one who is supposed to produce a special deck of cards that will be used by the Trailblazer.” Jesse thought for a moment. “You could produce a deck of cards from new art?”

“Sure, but we don’t have new art.”

Not yet. “The decks you pulled yesterday. You must have been drawn to them for a reason. Can you send me two of each of those decks?”

“Yes, I could.” The woman’s voice softened. “Yes, I could.”

Jesse gave the woman the mailing information for Prairie Gold, thanked her, and hung up. Then she threaded her fingers in her hair and pulled hard enough to relieve some of the tension in her scalp.

Need to stock up, she thought as she studied the shelves in her store and tried to ignore the increasing ache in her left wrist. Canned goods, dried goods, anything in a jar that will last until . . .

“Until what?” The sound of her own voice startled her, made her stop and consider why her thoughts had jumped from fortune-telling cards to the certainty that she needed to hoard supplies, and she needed to do it now.

As she looked around her store, her gaze rested on the shelves that held the books. Couldn’t purchase books from the publishers anymore. Couldn’t buy books from the bookstore in Bennett. Some might argue that books were a luxury, not a necessity. She didn’t agree, but as a test for depriving an isolated community of merchandise? People would be unhappy about the loss of new books to read but not angry. At least, not at first. But what if things they considered more necessary suddenly couldn’t be purchased? Things like food and clothes and, gods, even something as basic as toilet paper?

Two years ago, they’d had a rough winter, had been isolated for several weeks during a series of fierce storms. She’d had a feeling that year and had started stocking up on supplies in late autumn, ignoring the teasing from Tobias and Shelley about becoming a canned goods and paper pack rat. Then the storms hit a few weeks later. By the time they’d gotten the road cleared and could drive to Bennett for supplies, she’d had half a dozen cans of soup and two boxes of spaghetti on the shelves and had been breaking up the last packages of toilet paper and selling it by the roll so that every family would have some.

As she looked at the stock in her store, she had the same feeling, only this time it felt worse. Much worse.

Pulling out the notebook she used to keep track of items to order, she began reviewing the shelves and making a list. She’d completed the dried goods section when Shelley rushed into the store.

“Joe Wolfgard received an e-mail,” Shelley said. “From Vlad Sanguinati!”

“Joe has gone to Bennett with Tobias,” Jesse replied.

“Do you think we should read it?”


“I can access his e-mail and—”


“But it might be important!”

Jesse turned and eyed Shelley. “Even if it is important, there’s nothing anyone can do about it until Joe and Tobias get back.”

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