Home > Lake Silence (The Others #6)(2)

Lake Silence (The Others #6)(2)
Author: Anne Bishop

Last bit of information. Sproing is a human village with a population of less than three hundred. Like most, if not all, of the villages in the Finger Lakes area, it is not human controlled. Sure, we have an elected mayor and village council, and we pay taxes for garbage pickup and road maintenance and things like that. The main difference is this: on the continent of Thaisia, a human-controlled town is a defined piece of land with boundaries, and humans can do anything they want within those boundaries. But villages like Sproing don’t have a boundary, don’t have that distance from the terra indigene. The earth natives. The Others. The dominant predators that control most of the land throughout the world and all of the water.

When a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

The surprising thing is there hadn’t been a reported interaction with one of the Others in decades. At least around Sproing. Maybe the Others have been coming in and buying COME SPROING WITH ME or I ♥ SPROINGERS T-shirts without anyone realizing it, but even though the village lost about a quarter of its residents because of last summer’s Great Predation, everyone still wanted to believe that the Others were Out There and didn’t find us interesting enough—or bothersome enough— to hunt down and have as snacks.

Which made me wonder if the Others came into town seasonally, like tourists. And that made me wonder if everyone had missed the obvious when stores ran out of condiments like ketchup and hot sauce some weekends—and whether a run on ketchup and hot sauce coincided with people disappearing.

Something to ask Aggie once we got past the whole eyeball thing.



Moonsday, Juin 12

Officer Wayne Grimshaw drove toward the village of Sproing, the cruiser’s flashing lights a warning to anyone else on the road that he was responding to a call and was all business. But the siren remained silent because that sound would have drawn the attention of everything for miles around—and when a man was in the wild country, even on a paved road that was a vaguely acknowledged right-of-way, it was better not to alert the earth natives to his presence.

Dead body reported at The Jumble near Sproing.

Sproing. By all the laughing gods, what kind of name was that for a village? It sounded like some kind of initiation or razzing— have the new guy respond to a call and then have to keep asking for directions to Sproing. Plenty of off-color jokes could be made about that.

Except he knew the name wasn’t a joke. He had seen it on the map at the Bristol station and had been told calls from citizens living around Lake Silence were part of Bristol’s jurisdiction. Added to that, the emergency dispatcher, who was a no-nonsense woman, had sounded reluctant to send him—and he’d been advised a couple of times by other officers at the station that if he had to answer a call around Lake Silence, he should get in and out as quickly as possible because things around that particular lake were a wee bit . . . hinky.

The village had a small police station but no longer had its own police force—not a single cop patrolling its streets. The people there were dependent on the highway patrol that worked out of the Bristol station, and even then . . .

Over the past few months, two officers who had answered calls around Sproing hadn’t returned. One officer was found in his patrol car, which had been crushed by something powerful enough to flatten a car with its fists or paws or some freaking appendage. The other man . . . Most of that officer had been found, but no one knew what had set off the attack or why it had been so vicious. Both deaths were harsh reminders that the highway patrol traveled through the wild country as part of the job, and a man never knew what was watching him when he stepped out of his vehicle.

Grimshaw had been patrolling the secondary roads south of Bristol— a loop that would have taken him close to Lake Silence anyway—so when he spotted a sign for the lake, he turned onto the dirt road, hoping it would take him to The Jumble, which he’d been told was some kind of resort right on the lake. Instead he found himself in the parking area for the lake’s public beach.

From what he had gathered from his captain’s orientation speech, the land on the western side of Lake Silence was privately owned—or at least privately controlled—as was most of the eastern side. There was no vehicle access to the northern end of the lake, which left only the southern end for anyone who wanted to take a cool dip on a hot day or take a boat out for fishing or recreation.

Grimshaw frowned at the two signs attached to the low stone wall that separated the parking area from the beach.

The first sign read:


The second sign read:





Nothing ambiguous about either message.

Grimshaw turned the cruiser around and got back on the main road, heading north. The next turnoff had a weathered sign for The Jumble. He made the turn and followed the gravel access road up to the main building. As he shut off the car, he pressed two fingers against his chest and felt the round gold medal for Mikhos, the guardian spirit of police officers, firemen, and medical personnel—a talisman he had worn under his uniform every day since he graduated from the police academy a decade ago.

“Mikhos, keep me safe.” It was the prayer he whispered every time he answered a call.

A woman stepped into view, looking agitated. Curly brown hair, a pleasant enough face, and a build he would describe as stocky if she had been a man. He couldn’t tell more than that from this distance, so Officer Wayne Grimshaw got out of the cruiser and went to see Ms. Victoria DeVine about a body.



Moonsday, Juin 12

“But I can’t!” Aggie wailed, sprouting more feathers when I told her she would have to talk to the police.

The additional black feathers in her hair were less distressing than the ones that suddenly appeared on her face and forearms.

“You have to,” I replied, striving to remain calm. I placed a saucer over the bowl with the eyeball. “You’re the only one who knows where to find the body. You’ll need to show the police when they get here.”

“But I’ll get in trouble!”

My breath caught and my heart thudded. Aggie was petite and had a small-boned physique—and my purse probably weighed more than she did. But being one of those Crows, she could be a lot stronger than she looked.

“Aggie, you didn’t . . . ?” What would I do if she admitted that she had killed a man in order to eat his eyeball? I imagined myself being strong and brave and performing some kick-ass self-defense moves despite not actually knowing how to do them. Then I imagined myself smiling weakly right before I ran away.

I liked the idea of running away. Much more sensible.

“I didn’t kill him!” Aggie sounded insulted. “He was already dead when I found him and only had the one eyeball.”

“What happened to the other one?”

“Dunno. Probably got eaten.”

Since I liked Aggie, I really didn’t want to ask more questions. I grabbed the bowl with the eyeball and went outside to wait for the police. Aggie followed me out the front door but started edging toward the trees.

“Aggie . . .” Hearing tires on gravel, I turned to watch the police car as it drove up within sight of the house and stopped at a spot that blocked the access road. When I turned back, a pile of clothes lay under a tree and Aggie was gone. So I stood there, alone, holding the bowl while I waited for the police officer to get out of the car.

You know those cartoon heroes with the strong lower jaws, sparkly teeth, broad shoulders, and tiny waists? The man who stepped out of the police car could have been the model for the caricature, but he was correctly proportioned and looked really official with all the doodads on his belt. He was wearing sunglasses, so I couldn’t see his eyes, couldn’t tell if the expression in them was a warm “Can I help you, ma’am?” or a cold “You’re being a pain in my ass, so talk fast.”

If he had stopped to help when I was stranded on a dark, lonely road, I would have been happy to see him. But that presence was less reassuring when I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t be labeled the villain.

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