Home > Lake Silence (The Others #6)(15)

Lake Silence (The Others #6)(15)
Author: Anne Bishop

I’d fretted over where to put cars if I actually had more than six lodgers. There were places near the cabins where you could park, but you reached those areas by driving on what amounted to an open track in the woods—single lane, unpaved. The grass between the tire tracks looked mown, more or less. Grazed might be a better description. Maybe that’s why the old records that I’d been given had mentioned goats—nature’s lawn mowers.

“What were the terms of the original agreement?” Ilya Sanguinati asked.

“If I could just get my papers, I could show you how this resort goes against the agreement.”

“We don’t need your documents. I already have the second set of originals.”

I blinked. “You do?” I imagined giving myself a head slap. “You wrote up the original agreement.”

“Not me personally. That was a bit before my time.”

He looked to be in his mid- to late thirties. So either the Sanguinati aged differently than humans, which was likely with them being Others and all that, or he was lacing the words with dry humor when he said a few human generations was a bit before his time.

“A couple of residents from Silence Lodge did create the original contract, and we’ve enforced the terms of that agreement ever since.”

“But I never saw you until now. No one came to check on the work to make sure it complied with the agreement.”

He smiled, and I realized how naïve I sounded. Of course they’d checked on the work.

“We thought knowing about our presence might distress you, so we kept our distance. Now?” He did one of those subtle shrug movements with his shoulders. “Someone was interfering with you, so it was time to step in. Please tell me your understanding of the original documents.”

I took a breath. The anger had burned off, leaving me a little shaky. “Well, the gist was that the person who owned The Jumble couldn’t add more buildings and couldn’t add on to existing structures to increase the overall square footage of any of the buildings, but could ‘renovate and update the buildings to be in keeping with the times and local customs.’ Only so many acres could be cleared for crops that would be used as a food source for the residents or to trade for other items. Trees could be cut for firewood or if they became a hazard to a structure due to death or disease. Any other changes could be made only with the consent of the land managers. Since there wasn’t any contact information for these land managers, I was very careful about updating only what I needed to in order for the buildings to be sound and have the amenities paying guests would want, like en suite bathrooms, electricity, a roof that didn’t leak, and plumbing that did what plumbing is supposed to do.”

I finally took the next step. “Whoever that man worked for wanted to turn The Jumble into a posh lakeside resort. Which would mean buying me out—or forcing me out.” I looked at Ilya Sanguinati. “Would someone really kill a man and try to implicate me in his death in order to get access to The Jumble? There has to be other land where someone could build a resort.”

He took his time before answering. “There isn’t any human-controlled land in the Feather Lakes area, so there isn’t anyplace where a new resort could be built. Investors would have to buy the buildings and the land lease for an existing place—and there are a few places similar to The Jumble throughout the Northeast Region where humans can take a lakeside vacation or fish in the streams without having to totally ‘rough it,’ as I think you call it. But those places would have the same kinds of restrictions as The Jumble, and none of that land is ‘owned’ in the same way as The Jumble, making it even more dangerous for someone to come in and try to interfere with what already exists. And that doesn’t take into account the difficulty of acquiring building materials—something the human who drew up those plans clearly hadn’t considered.”

Huh. Hadn’t thought about that. After I arrived in Sproing and made a list of what I knew would have to be updated in the main house and the three lakeside cabins, I’d contacted companies in Bristol and Crystalton, the two towns of any size that were within range of Sproing. I’d ended up going with the companies in Crystalton—companies both Ineke and Julian Farrow had recommended. Well, Julian had recommended companies in Crystalton in general. It was Ineke who gave me specific names of contractors in Crystalton who could do the big renovations, as well as the names of reliable people in Sproing who could fix a leaky faucet or paint the rooms for a fair price. The Crystalton contractors said there was a waiting list for building supplies because there were further limits on raw materials after the war humans had foolishly waged against the terra indigene last summer.

Then the men had winked and said they would put in a good word for me. I don’t know who they talked to or what they said, but the supplies came in and the work was done.

“Are the Sanguinati the land managers for The Jumble?” I asked, wondering how much financial interest the residents of Silence Lodge had in the land on the other side of the lake.

“No,” Ilya replied.

“Then who is?”

A hesitation. “The rest of the terra indigene call them the Elders.”

“You mentioned the Elders when Officer Grimshaw called about the new trouble. Who are they?”

“They are Namid’s teeth and claws.”

Oh crap. “So they’re what, the world’s hit men?”

He blinked. Then he laughed, a rich, deep sound.

Personally, I didn’t think the question was that funny, especially when I started wondering how the dead man ended up dead.

“That is one way of putting it,” Ilya finally said as he wiped his eyes.

Since he found that amusing, I really didn’t want to know what other ways you could put it.

“If the Elders are the land managers, I’m guessing they aren’t going to rub their paws together in greedy glee over the prospect of having the woodland overrun with humans.”

I suddenly remembered a couple of bad jokes that were going around last summer just before Yorick started divorce proceedings and told me to find an apartment because he was keeping the upscale home in Hubbney that, apparently, the second official Mrs. Yorick Dane coveted.

Joke one. Why did the Bear chase the track team? He wanted some fast food.

Joke two. What do you call a flock of chickens caught in a fire tornado? Shake and bake.

On second thought, maybe the Elders would be happy about easy meals on their land—like campers who talk about tossing a line in the water and catching a couple of fish for dinner.

“Twelve cabins updated to match the times and social customs,” Ilya said, sounding serious now. “No more and nothing more.”

I pushed my fingers through my hair and wondered just how badly I’d been played. “What was that man doing here? I certainly wasn’t going to try to build a resort on this land.”

“Clearly someone thought it could be . . . finagled.”

“Who? I could see my ex-husband showing up now that I’ve had a few months to realize how hard I’m going to have to work for so little return.”

“Little return in human terms, perhaps, but there are other ways to measure a rich life,” Ilya countered.

I tipped my head to indicate agreement. “But going with the reasoning in human terms, I could see him offering the cash equivalent of The Jumble as it had been valued at the time of the divorce settlement, completely ignoring all the money I’d put in for capital improvements. I could see him doing that, but he wasn’t the person who emptied out my safe-deposit box.”

“No, he wasn’t.”

“As long as I have the original documents that show Yorick ceded The Jumble to me, I can block whoever is trying to push in and change things.”

“Yes, you can, and I will help you do that.”

I nodded. I wasn’t in the mood for self-examination, so I didn’t want to wonder why I trusted a vampire more than I trusted most humans. Since I didn’t want to wonder about that, I looked at the screen door and wondered about something else. “Do the Sanguinati have trouble with mosquitoes?”

“You mean, do the big bloodsuckers get pestered by the little bloodsuckers?”

   
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