There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.
One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.
But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the outlaw Blackstone Clan will either unite Others and humans...or bury them all.
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Anne Bishop / WILD COUNTRY
Windsday, Sumor 25
Jana Paniccia followed the gravel paths through the memorial park. There were no cemeteries on the continent of Thaisia, no individual gravestones, no family mausoleums unless you were very rich. Cities couldn’t afford to waste land on the dead when the living needed every acre that they were grudgingly permitted to lease from the terra indigene who ruled the continent.
Who ruled the world. They had smashed and torn that harsh truth into humans around the world, and only fools or the blindly optimistic thought there was any chance of things going back to the way they had been before the Humans First and Last movement had started the war against the terra indigene here in Thaisia and in Cel-Romano on the other side of the Atlantik Ocean.
Instead of gaining anything from the war, humans had lost ground—literally. Cities had been destroyed or were no longer under human control. People were running to anyplace they thought could provide safety, thinking that the larger cities were less vulnerable to what the Others could do.
In that, too, humans were wrong. The destruction of so much of Toland, a large human-controlled city on the East Coast, should have taught people that much.
But this wasn’t a day to think about those things.
Jana found the large flower bed with the tall granite marker in the center.
There were no graveyards, no gravestones, in Thaisia, but there were memorial parks full of flower beds and small ponds, with benches positioned so the living could visit with the dead. She looked down the double column of names carved into the granite until she found the two she’d come to see. Martha Chase. Wilbur Chase. The foster parents who had taken her from the foundling home and raised her as their own. There hadn’t been even a birth certificate left with her when the Universal Temple priests had found her on the temple doorstep. Just a printed note with her name and birth date.
All bodies were cremated and the ashes mixed with the soil in these flower beds, the names carved in the granite the only acknowledgment of who was there. Martha had loved growing flowers, and Pops had always tended a small vegetable garden in their backyard. Jana was the one who had no skill with the soil, no matter how hard she tried. She knew a rose from a daisy, understood the difference between annual and perennial, and, most of the time, had dug up weeds instead of flowers when she tried to help Martha tidy the beds.
You have other talents, Pops used to say with a laugh.
Other talents. Gods, she hoped so.
They had died in a car accident just a week after she’d been accepted into the police academy—one of only three women to be accepted. She’d spent the first few months struggling with her classwork and the hostility of her classmates while traveling from Hubb NE to a village near the Addirondak Mountains to meet with the Chases’ attorney and take care of her foster parents’ estate. There wasn’t much. Martha and Pops had never been interested in things, but the sale of the house and furnishings was enough to pay off the school loans she’d taken out to attend a community college while she tried to get accepted into the police academy. It was enough to pay for the academy and living expenses. She’d been frugal, but if she didn’t get a job soon . . .
“Hey, Martha,” Jana said softly after looking around to make sure she was alone. “Hey, Pops.” She sat on the bench, her hands folded in her lap. “I graduated from the academy. The only woman who stuck it out. Martha, you always said I was stubborn, and I guess you were right. I have a meeting with the academy administrator next week. Hopefully it will be about a job offer. The gods know, every human community needs cops right now, and everyone else in my class has already been hired by towns in the Northeast Region, which lost officers last month because of the war. But I know there are positions that haven’t been filled yet because no one wants to take a job in a village stuck in the middle of the wild country. They say that’s just delayed suicide. Maybe they’re right, but I’d take that chance.”
She looked at the flowers growing in the bed and wished she could remember the names of some of them. “I came to say good-bye. It’s getting harder and harder to purchase a bus ticket, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back here again. And if I’m hired—when I’m hired—I may be leaving in a hurry.” She paused. “Thanks for everything. When I get to wherever I’m going, I’ll light a candle in remembrance.”
Jana hurried through the park, gauging that she had just enough time to reach the bus stop near the park gates and catch the bus back to Hubb NE. She hoped that by this time next week she’d be heading to another town to do the only job she’d ever wanted to do.