Home > Etched in Bone (The Others #5)(12)

Etched in Bone (The Others #5)(12)
Author: Anne Bishop

Kowalski drove for a minute, saying nothing. Then, “As long as he doesn’t ride a bicycle to the meeting, he should be fine with the Wolves.”

“I wasn’t worried about him meeting the Wolves. I was thinking about Tess.” And what Chen and Alvarez might say when they met Meg Corbyn and saw the proof of what she was.

      Officer Michael Debany

Chestnut Street Station

Lakeside, NER

Dear Michael,

You know how Mom and Dad look when they’re having a very intense discussion, which really means they’re having an argument about something? And how they can turn it off and speak normally to us as if nothing is happening, then go right back to being intense as soon as we leave the room? Well, I think I saw that kind of discussion yesterday between Jesse Walker and Tolya Sanguinati. I was riding past the general store in Bennett and saw them through the window. They saw me too. Jesse waved and Tolya smiled, and that’s what made me think of Mom and Dad.

I’m not gossiping. I’m really not. It’s just that Jesse is the leader of the Intuits who live in Prairie Gold and Tolya is in charge of Bennett, and having them mad at each other isn’t good, especially since the rest of us don’t know why they’re at odds all of a sudden when they’d been working together so well.

Could you ask the Sanguinati in Lakeside if they’ve heard anything about this? I’m not trying to butt in. Okay, I am, but I like it here, and one of the houses was cleared out this week and available for new residents, and I was given first choice, so Buddy and I are moving in to our new place next week. It feels weird to choose furniture that belonged to people who were killed by the Elders, but people buy furniture and other things from estate sales all the time, and I guess this is sort of the same thing, except the whole town died and it wasn’t from old age or illness. So I’m trying to think of it like a town-wide estate sale, but I’m glad they cleared out the house before I saw it.

I usually don’t dwell on why there’s a whole town empty of people. But it’s like a friend telling you that their parents are getting a divorce and then coming home and catching your own parents in the middle of a heated argument. You tell yourself it won’t happen to your family, and then you see it could be possible if people aren’t careful about what they say and do.

I’m not sure I’ll send this letter, because you’ll be worried and want me to come home. But I’m fine here. I really am. And I wouldn’t have said anything at all if I hadn’t seen Jesse and Tolya at that moment.

Here’s my new address. I’ll probably be moved in by the time you get this letter, but even if I’m not, Bennett doesn’t have a lot of residents yet, so the boardinghouse will hold my mail if you send it there.

Speaking of residents, a Wolf is our new sheriff. His name is Virgil Wolfgard, and he gives off an “I’m so dangerous I don’t need a gun” vibe. Actually, it isn’t a vibe because he really doesn’t need a gun. He just shows his teeth and growls to encourage law and order. He calls me Barbara Ellen. So does Tolya. I don’t know why. Everyone else calls me Barb.

And speaking of dangerous vibes, one of the Panthergard has taken possession of a small cabin just outside of town. There’s a young guy, a human, living with him. I’ve seen them walking around the town square, but they’ve kept to themselves so far. We’ve all been told to give them space—no bringing over a casserole to welcome the new neighbors. Not that any of us are really cooking since meals at the boardinghouse and hotel are free for the residents but you have to buy food that you cook for yourself. So why make a sandwich when you can get a Mom-approved balanced meal made by someone else?

Have to go. Love and big hugs to Mom and Dad. And you too.

Barb

To: Vladimir Sanguinati and Simon Wolfgard, Urgent

Jesse Walker is unhappy and has threatened to withdraw her assistance in dealing with all the stores and houses in Bennett. She wants to know what we intend to do with the town and the other human places that the Elders cleansed and reclaimed. Are we intending to repopulate them with Intuits and terra indigene? Are some places going to be abandoned and allowed to decay? Are the humans who have come to Bennett just temporary help and muscle or will they be residents in the fullest sense, taking up a trade or working in the businesses? She wants to know if Bennett is going to be a real town or just a stage setting for humans getting off the train.

As Grandfather Erebus requested, the Sanguinati are now established here. We are in charge of the railway station, the bank, and the post office/telegraph office, and I am the acknowledged leader of the town. We have shifters from many gards who have come in and are willing to work here, but most have little direct experience in being around humans. Most of the Intuit youngsters who have come to Bennett have little direct experience in being around the terra indigene. Since the Elders are never far away, this is a concern.

That said, I think Jesse Walker has a point. Originally, the intention was to secure Bennett because it had the only train station for many miles and shouldn’t be allowed to fall into the hands of humans who might be enemies of the terra indigene. To that end, I made note of the essential businesses we would have to keep. But if the town is going to be more than a handful of businesses that support the individuals working at the station, then we need to compromise and allow those who want to settle in a new place to come to Bennett—especially individuals who, like Barbara Ellen Debany, have a particular skill that we need here. We might even use Bennett as a posting station to send teams out to reclaim the other empty towns. But selecting the right humans is vital. We have plenty of young people who would stay if they had the opportunity to learn a trade. What we need now are adults who can run the other businesses.

   
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