Home > Lake Silence (The Others #6)(5)

Lake Silence (The Others #6)(5)
Author: Anne Bishop

Julian had been a brilliant cadet. While he didn’t excel to the point of ruining the curve for the rest of them when it came to some of the tests, he had an uncanny ability to sense his surroundings and know when something was off, even when there was no indication of trouble.

During the academy drills, he knew when police needed to go down an alley with weapons drawn and when their mere presence would break up—or calm down—whatever trouble was stirring. Once he was on the force, that ability had saved his fellow officers too many times to count. Which was why the Incident was more damning than it might have been.

Julian had uncovered some bit of naughtiness—probably some kind of corruption within official or police circles. The kind of naughtiness that destroyed careers and came with prison sentences. But no one was really sure, because one night when he was on the late shift and his partner had called in sick, Julian responded to a call for assistance. When he arrived, he didn’t find the frightened woman who had called the emergency number; he’d found five men wearing balaclavas waiting for him. Wielding clubs and knives, they jumped him before he could draw his weapon and fire.

Or tried to jump him. He hadn’t walked far enough into that alley for them to make a thorough job of it. Two of them managed to stab him and a couple more landed damaging blows with clubs before Julian shook free and ran for his life.

Maybe he’d been disoriented. Or maybe his uncanny sense of place, which seemed to have let him down in that alley, started working for him again. How else to explain why he turned down another alley, one that ended at a solid wall. He’d scrambled up on the big garbage containers and managed to get over the wall before he blacked out, having lost a lot of blood.

That was the testimony he gave: he blacked out and couldn’t provide any information about what walked into that alley behind the five men who were chasing him. But something did. Something large enough and powerful enough to eviscerate five men before ripping off their arms, their legs, and their heads. The savagery had shocked the entire police force in the Northeast Region, to say nothing of causing a panic among the citizens in human towns who had thought they were safe from the terra indigene as long as they stayed within town limits.

No one could prove Julian hadn’t blacked out, that he hadn’t heard everything that happened to those men. No one could prove he’d chosen that alley with the intention of trapping those men. No one could prove he was anything but the victim of attempted murder—or assault at the very least if the men were only supposed to “discourage” him from further investigations into the naughtiness.

No one could prove anything. But everyone on the force who had gone to the academy with him or had worked with him knew about his ability and were certain he hadn’t chosen that alley at random, that he’d known in some way that it was his only chance of escape.

And no one could prove that he’d sensed what would happen to the men who followed him into that alley. But two of those men were fellow officers, which caused a stink and all kinds of investigations. In the end, Julian was awarded a settlement for his wounds, which were declared grievous enough to end his career as a police officer, and he disappeared.

Until now.

Grimshaw looked around. Didn’t seem to be a thriving business, but that could just be the time of day. “A bookstore?”

“Have to make a living,” Julian replied. “I like books, like to read.”

And I know an evasive answer when I hear one. “Why here?”

“Why not?”

Grimshaw rested both forearms on the island, a relaxed “Let’s shoot the bull” stance. After a moment, Julian mirrored his posture so that, at first glance anyway, they looked like two friends just catching up with the “How’s your life been?” news.

“Why are you really here?” Grimshaw asked. “Before you try to bullshit me, let me remind you that I’m not stupid and we do go back a ways. And there was always something a little hinky about the way you left the force.”

“You think there was anyone on the force who would want to work with me after the Incident?” Julian countered.

“I would have.” Simple truth. He studied the man who had been his friend. “Why didn’t you tell anyone you’re an Intuit, that your ability wasn’t exclusive to you?” He made it sound like he’d known for a while instead of waiting now for the answer that would confirm his educated guesses.

“And risk exposing my people to discrimination or persecution?” Julian’s gray eyes looked as hard as stone. “We’d already been down that road, already had the experience of how other humans responded to our ability to sense things. That’s why our communities are in the wild country—and why we don’t admit what we are when there is a need to spend time away from our own.”

“Now that some Intuits have come out of the closet, so to speak, it’s been estimated that one out of three human communities in the Finger Lakes area is an Intuit community or a mix of Intuit and Simple Life folk,” Grimshaw said.

“Something that still isn’t commonly known outside of government and police circles, and which communities are Intuit hasn’t been confirmed. And the Finger Lakes, or Feather Lakes as the Others call them, are the wild country. There isn’t a single human-controlled village on any of these lakes. Being part of the highway patrol, that is a fact you know well.”

Yes, he did. “If you had to keep what you are a secret, why not attend an Intuit police academy in one of your own communities?”

“There wasn’t one. Not then. There are a couple of them now in the Northeast Region for the men who feel the need to serve and protect.”

Grimshaw continued to study the man who had been his friend. Julian’s dark hair was long enough to pull back in a tiny tail, but he wore it down so it looked shaggy—or maybe just disheveled in a way that might appeal to some women. A lean build and finely sculpted face with a thin scar across one cheekbone, a souvenir of that attack—or maybe just the scar that people could see. Grimshaw suspected Julian Farrow had a few other scars from that night that weren’t on the skin or visible to the eye.

But he’d also been a good cop. Even more than that, he’d been a good investigator.

Which left the question: what had Julian Farrow really been doing all these years?

“You sure that’s all you’re doing here in Sproing? Selling books?”

Julian looked toward the screen door. Grimshaw thought he heard a quiet scratching on the screen, but when he looked over his shoulder he didn’t see anything.

“I have just the thing for an evening read,” Julian said. “Something I doubt you would have read before.” He walked into the back area of the store and returned a minute later. He placed two books and what looked like a narrow trencher on the counter. Opening a container, he put ten pieces of carrot on the trencher and walked over to the screen door. He propped open the door with a gallon jug that must have been filled with sand or water—Grimshaw couldn’t tell which from where he was standing—and set the trencher on the floor just inside the threshold.

As he walked back to the island, he held up two fingers and said, “Two pieces for each of you.”

Grimshaw stared at the critters who gathered at the door. Five of them. For a moment, he wondered if Julian had gone completely out of his mind to be feeding giant rats. But the faces didn’t belong to rats. What could look that happy about a piece of carrot?

“Alan Wolfgard writes thrillers,” Julian said when he resumed his place on the other side of the island’s counter. “And the other is a mystery written by an Intuit writer.”

“What the fuck . . . ?” Grimshaw whispered. Then he caught the warning in Julian’s eyes and picked up one of the books. “Never heard of Alan Wolfgard.” But he knew the name meant the author was a terra indigene Wolf. “You like his stuff?”

“I do. And his perspective on the genre is . . . different.”

I’ll bet.

“And something you may find useful,” Julian whispered.

Hearing a scraping at the door, Grimshaw looked back to see the five whatever-they-were push the wooden tray to one side of the door. Then they made that happy face and hopped away. Not like a rabbit or anything else he’d ever seen.

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