Marked in Flesh Page 56

“We’ll call our bodywalker,” Simon said.

“I’m fine,” Nadine said. “Just a little cold is all.”

Simon took a step toward her and sniffed the air. “You are not fine. I can smell blood.” He paused. “Not a lot of blood, but you are not fine.”

Montgomery escorted Nadine to the medical office. Moments later, Merri Lee looked out the door of Meat-n-Greens and came running.

Made sense, Henry decided. She was the human who most often helped Meg after the cutting. Even if someone else had to do the tending because Merri Lee still had sticks around one finger, she would know about human bandages and medicines.

Burke joined them, and the males, except Montgomery, returned to where Vlad and Elliot had waited.

“The mayor has called twice, wanting to know if we have any information about the fires,” Elliot said.

“Strange that His Honor is working so late,” Burke commented.

Elliot gave Burke a sharp smile. “I thought so too.”

“What did you tell him?” Simon asked.

“I told him he should ask the police commissioner about the fires since the man is a member of the Humans First and Last movement and would be better informed about these escalated attacks on innocent humans. He hung up.”

Burke barked out a laugh.

“Tess called,” Vlad said. “She’s bringing Lorne here, but she thinks he should be taken to a human bodywalker. She says it isn’t wise for her to go to such a place right now.”

No, it wouldn’t be smart for a Harvester to go to such a place.

“I can drive him to the hospital,” Burke said. “Chris Fallacaro should be there by now. I’ll find out when he’ll be released and then figure out where he can stay.”

“Bring him here,” Simon said. “I left a message on Dr. Lorenzo’s phone, warning him about the fires, and Vlad called Elizabeth Bennefeld. She received threatening phone calls tonight because she works in our medical office a couple of days a week. Vlad told her to come here because we can’t assume the monkeys won’t try to burn out anyone who works for us.” He gave Burke a challenging look.

“No, you can’t assume that,” Burke agreed. “Gods, the world has gone crazy tonight.”

“Not the world,” Henry rumbled. “Just your species.”

They went their separate ways, guarding and protecting—and preparing for the storms that were coming.

• • •

“Arsonists and mobs are being blamed for dozens of fires that burned down buildings in several of the city’s neighborhood business districts. The first wave of fires struck businesses that had been vandalized last week. Some accusations have been made that the Humans First and Last movement was behind the vandalism and the first wave of fires. The second wave of fires that swept through the city targeted bakeries, especially the bakeries displaying HFL signs, but investigators are refusing to comment about the cause of these fires. Police Commissioner Kurt Wallace has pledged that these fires will be thoroughly investigated and wrongdoers will be punished, regardless of their political affiliation or species.

“The bakeries that survived last night’s torching are closed until further notice. The owners of the businesses refused to comment about this decision, but other people in the neighborhoods speculated that the owners feared a run on their stores.

“Adding to last night’s troubles, a sudden storm blew in off Lake Etu. The driving rains put out the fires that firemen had battled all over the city, but the flash floods stranded many motorists and tore debris from the damaged buildings, damming up roadways and trapping people who tried to escape from the fires. At least twelve people have been reported drowned in the floodwaters and more are still missing. Market Street is currently closed to all traffic while police, firefighters, and volunteers search the debris of the buildings that were burned or flooded. We’ll be back at the half hour with a full list of road closings. This is Ann Hergott at WZAS.”

To: Joe Wolfgard

I have a ride to the nearest train station. Leaving Sweetwater now. Should arrive in Bennett on Thaisday. I will call you with the arrival time as soon as I know.



Thaisday, Juin 14

Tess poured a mug of coffee for herself, then sat at the table where Nadine stared at the plate of food. The woman had dark circles under her eyes, as well as cuts and bruises caused by the men trying to pull her out of the car.

“Humans First and Last,” Nadine said, her voice barely audible. “I thought they were strutting blowhards who enjoyed the sound of their own voices. I expected some trouble from them, but not this.” She looked up. “They were going to throw me in the fire. How can someone call himself a human and do that?”

Since she thought that savagery was completely in keeping with human behavior, Tess said nothing.

“I need to do something.”


“I don’t know. Work. Something to occupy my hands while I . . . I’ll talk to my insurance company. Not that it will do much good if they’re sporting an HFL decal on their door, but I’ll file the paperwork.”

“Then what?”

Nadine shrugged, then winced. “I appreciate you letting me stay here last night, but I’m not comfortable living on charity.”

Tess stood. “Come with me.” She led Nadine to the work area in her shop. “Does this have everything you would need?”

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