The Shambling Guide to New York City
of that water sprite from the office, Morgen. They were walking in the same direction, so Zoë didn’t have to deviate from her path to watch him. He was dressed well, but a little underdressed for the weather, wearing only a linen suit and no coat, while everyone else was bundled against the unseasonable cold.
    The man, to Zoë’s delight, walked into Bakery Under Starlight. She followed him and took her place in line behind him.Zoë had a hunch that one did not come out and ask if someone was coterie. It probably had the same etiquette-ignorant grace as asking someone what race they were. Still, she was dying to know.
    When it was the man’s turn in line, he smiled at Carl. Behind the glasses, he was quite handsome. “Morning, Carl,” he said. “Can I have a Tibetan Blue tea?”
    Carl nodded and got a mug ready. “Can I tempt you with a pastry?”
    The man grinned wider. “You know you always can tempt me, Carl.”
    Zoë shuffled her feet, suddenly trying not to eavesdrop on this blatant flirtation. The man bought two scones along with his tea, and then it was Zoë’s turn. She greeted Carl by name.
    “I didn’t think to see you again,” he said, his voice losing its flirtation.
    “Your pastries are unmatched, how could I not come back?” she said, smiling, hoping to mend the tension between them regarding the incident of the old homeless woman. “So, do you know everyone?” she asked.
    He shrugged. “Pretty much. I’ve got a lot of regulars. What can I get you?”
    Catching the cue that he had no desire to talk to her, Zoë made her breakfast order and then sat down with her coffee and pastry.
    The café was crowded, but Zoë looked around and realized that a lot of the patrons had a similar…
oddness
about them, like the man she’d stood behind. Some moved with an unearthly grace. Some had hats that sat oddly on their heads, ill-fitting hats that looked as if they had a more important job than just being fashionable. Others had coats with collars pulled up high, and one man looked gray and ill, like a zombie that hadn’t started peeling.
    Zoë was the odd woman here. She realized with a start that it was a coterie establishment, like Italy’s Entrails.
That’s why Carl knows everyone. That’s why John was in here.
    She looked at the man behind the counter again. There was absolutely nothing otherworldly about him; he seemed like a normal, tall, muscular man, flour dusting his shirt, making his dark hands much lighter than the rest of him.
    Zoë shrugged. She had a lot to learn. Maybe she’d be able to tell coterie from humans after working with them for a bit.
It would make life easier, that’s for sure.
    A couple of hours drifted by as she read more books on coterie. She sat at the same table she’d been at when she had applied to the job at Underground Publishing. After getting a refill, she checked the bulletin board again. Beside the Underground Publishing flyer now hung a notice about a lost hellhound, a request for a carnivorous-plant sitter while the owner was on vacation, and a flyer advertising the grand opening of a Chinese restaurant, the Jade Crane.
    Zoë frowned. That seemed rather out of place among the other, more specifically coterie-focused flyers. Was the Chinese food more tailored to coterie? Chinese coterie? Or was it for coterie who preferred eating Asian people? Zoë shuddered. That one was a little too morbid for thought. She took note of the restaurant’s address and realized it was just a few blocks north. Lunch sounded like a great idea.
    For a restaurant celebrating a grand opening, the Jade Crane looked pretty dead, not to mention that the storefront looked thirty years old instead of new. Zoë squinted through the dirty window. A Chinese hostess sat behind a register, wearing a traditional red brocade shirt and black slacks, flipping througha
Vogue
magazine and glancing at the clock. She looked to be about twenty-five, short and thin.
    Zoë poked her head in. “Are

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