Swamped Chapter 18 Page 3

It occurs to you that Starling’s had an interest in animals for as long as you’ve known her. She’s been eager to talk to Shrike whenever she gets a chance. And she does seem to enjoy being around Rider’s menagerie, even if that means cleaning up after them.

But that’s not the meeting you really want to bring about. Jackson’s not the animal expert, and you’d have a tough time sneaking him into the interrogation room in Dean’s place without someone catching on.

Hang on. Rivers is always around when Starling talks to Shrike, isn’t she. And she does seem to be in a slightly better mood when cleaning.

Could Rivers have an interest in animals, too? She’d never admit it to you, of course, but it does make a good deal of sense now that you think of it.

Maybe you can get Rivers a questioning session first, then Starling’s sure to ask for a chance to do the same. Then you can arrange for her to see Jackson, and explain things once they’re both in the room.

It’ll be a good deal harder for Rivers to object if she’s already had a turn, after all.

But Dean’s already been questioned. You’ll have some work to do before you can set this up. You’ll need permission from an officer, and right now Mudviper wouldn’t be too eager to test the limits of her authority.

Crosswinds might agree, but good luck finding them. Besides, they don’t usually take an interest in prisoners, so it would be hard to explain why they gave you the order.

You can’t think of anyone else who might agree and have a plausible reason to ask… maybe Claws or Mantis if you made the right appeal, but the council’s probably got enough on its plate right now.

Wait. You can think of someone. Goddammit.

Doc already questioned Dean. Maybe you can find out what she wants as a follow-up and use that as an excuse.

Of course, that means talking to Doc.

Well, you’ll worry about that in a bit. Right now, your main concern is getting the girls interested.

“You know, with Rider gone, just who’s in charge of this place now? Who’s feeding the animals?”

“Don’t know. They’ve been fed today,” Starling says. “Except the Fenguin, but it seems to be holding up all right. Maybe it’s used to going without food?”

“We’d better sort that out. Would you be interested in feeding duty? You seem to like it down here.”

“I think I could manage it. Rider’s shown us how before.”

“Can we talk about this after we finish cleaning up?” Rivers grumbles.

Well. You suppose that’s as close as she’ll come to admitting interest.

It takes a good half-hour, but you finally get the pens cleaned out. After that, Crook comes by.

“Corvus?” he says, raising an eyebrow. “You’re working here?”

“Just helping out my squadmates a bit,” you say. “Crook, who’s in charge of the zoo now? Or have they even decided that yet?”

“Well, until further notice, the council handed it off to… uh, who was it again…”

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she’s not happy about it.