Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(4) by Connie Suttle
"Come on, Billings always goes home early on Fridays. And it's the start of spring break. Everybody will be out of here in no time. We can slip into Billings' office and find out before we go home today," Cori wheedled, slipping a lock of long blonde hair behind an ear, her green eyes begging.
"What if he locks his office?" Ashe wanted to wriggle out of sneaking into the Principal's office, although Sali was now staring at him with mischievous interest.
"Lock's broken. Marco did that," Cori smiled maliciously at Sali. Sali's older brother had broken the lock; he and James Johnson had been sent to Principal Billings' office for disrupting class. They'd shoved each other while standing near the door, waiting for the Principal to call them in. Marco slammed into the door, breaking the lock and causing the door to swing wide. He'd gotten detention for a week over it.
"It's still broken 'cause Billings doesn't know how to fix it," Sali muttered. "And he won't ask Dad to come fix it for him." Cori snickered at Sali's explanation. Marcus DeLuca, the werewolf Packmaster, was also a locksmith with a small office in Cordell.
"Look, dude, everybody else is gonna be crazy to get away from here. And Old Harold won't come by to clean until eight." Sali was just as curious as Cori was. Ashe frowned at his friend; Sali wouldn't be the one in real trouble if they got caught.
"Come on, it won't take five minutes," Cori coaxed. "How are we going to learn what really happened if you don't?"
Shrugging his thin shoulders, Ashe gave in. "All right. If nobody is around and you agree to keep watch."
"Great!" Cori giggled and clapped her hands.
* * *
"This isn't going to work," Ashe muttered to himself as he and Sali hung back while their classmates raced away from the classroom. Spring break was officially started.
"Getting cold feet?" Sali slapped Ashe on the back. As a werewolf, even a young one, Sali was stronger than he looked, nearly knocking Ashe out of his chair.
"I had cold feet when Cori mentioned it the first time," Ashe replied, watching as Miss Campbell, their Social Studies teacher, left the room.
"Let's go find Cori. Maybe we won't have to dawdle after that," Sali gathered his backpack and slung it over a shoulder. They'd waited ten minutes before rising to leave the classroom behind.
"I think the others are gone." Cori found Ashe and Sali instead, right outside their classroom. Ashe blinked at Cori in near-darkness—the hall lights had already been turned off as the last teacher left the school, leaving only weak afternoon sunlight shining through the school's front doors to illuminate the hallway. Ashe knew Cori and Sali, being what they were, could see much better than he could in the dimly lit corridor.
"I just walked past the Principal's office," Cori whispered, bringing Ashe's attention back to their intended espionage. "It's empty."
"Come on," Sali bent over, cautiously looked both ways and darted silently to the next classroom doorway, preparing to repeat the action.
"Dude, what are you doing?" Ashe stood in the middle of the hall, staring at Sali. Cori, standing beside Ashe, covered a smile.
"Spy stuff," Sali said, bending over again.
"Sali, the school is empty—I can't hear anything except us," Ashe pointed out.
"Oh." Sali straightened. "Well, let's go, then." His athletic shoes squeaking on tile, Sali trotted off toward the Principal's office. Ashe shook his head at Cori before following Sali down the hall; the young werewolf was humming the theme from Mission: Impossible.
"We'll be right outside," Sali shoved Ashe inside Principal Billings' office moments later and shut the door.
Ashe stood still, staring at the closed door for precious seconds, wondering how he'd gotten involved in the mess to start with. Shaking himself mentally, he surveyed the utilitarian cube of an office before turning toward Principal Billings' desk. Built of Mahogany, the solid wood behemoth was positioned toward the back of the small space.
Sliding onto the Principal's leather chair, Ashe tapped the keyboard to dismiss the screensaver and entered the password. All of Principal Billings' files popped right up. Thankful for the high-speed internet service the community paid for, Ashe went searching through files. He found one for Randall Smith, the ousted student, but right beside Randy's name, Ashe found his own. Gulping nervously and quaking a little, Ashe opened Randall Smith's file first.
Randall Smith is charged by the community with exposure of the community, punishment for which is expulsion with compulsion not to mention the community to humans for the rest of his life. Compulsion performed on Seventeen February, by Aedan Evans. Should perpetrator Smith commit a similar crime in future, according to Pack Law he will be condemned to death. Randall Smith may not approach or contact the community from this point forward or the death penalty will be levied.
The official-looking document was signed by Packmaster DeLuca and witnessed by three other werewolves. Principal Billings was one of those three. Ashe drew in a breath as he paged to the second document.
Letter received from Randall Smith on March 25. Paul Harris, a former instructor, neither requested nor condoned the forbidden communication. All information has been presented to Packmaster DeLuca for authentication. Authentication verified March 26. Pack Law is clear; Randall Smith should be sentenced to death—Benjamin Billings, Pack Secretary.
Principal Billings had inserted a personal note at the end. I will volunteer to perform the execution, he'd written. Ashe's breaths were ragged gasps. He knew Pack Law was different from the laws humans followed, but this—surely they couldn't do this. And how had Randall Smith found Mr. Harris to send a letter? That shouldn't have been. It made no sense at all to Ashe. He could see Randy contacting some of his former friends, but why a teacher?
Hurriedly Ashe closed that file, wondering what he should tell Cori and Sali. While he pondered that dilemma, he opened the file labeled with his name, coming face to face with the note Principal Billings sent to his parents.
* * *
"What did you find?" Cori pushed for information as they walked out of Cloud Chief Combined together a few minutes later.
"Just a note from Principal Billings, saying that the letter was neither requested nor condoned," Ashe replied. He wasn't lying; he just wasn't giving complete information. Randall Smith could be condemned to death during the next full moon, which fell on March thirtieth. The werewolves would take care of Pack business first, before making the change.
Nobody living in the community ever forgot when the full moons came—the wolves were forced to change and hunt. The shapeshifters also changed, but theirs was a less frenetic transformation. Ashe's mother, a peregrine falcon, went out flying by moonlight, his dad going out with her and watching over her; waiting on the ground below with a robe when she tired and came back to him.
Ashe hunched his shoulders, refusing to mention his file or the note that Principal Billings sent to his parents. If he couldn't find his ability (Principal Billings was convinced he didn't have one) then he would be enrolled in Cordell Junior High come August.
He'd never had human friends. He knew how to act around them for the most part, but never being able to talk freely about his life again? To be constantly on guard against anyone learning what he and his parents were? It frightened him. He could never bring human friends home; it was forbidden. Would they become suspicious? Ashe worried about that, too.
Shoving hands in his pockets, he walked silently beside Sali and Cori as they made their way home. The day was fine and warmer than the one before, even if the ground was still soggy after the brief snowfall. Ashe might have stood in silent wonder as a rabbit leapt from a clump of dead grass and raced away, but his mind was clouded with personal misery.
A hint of green lay across the prairie, with the beginnings of new grass and wildflowers peeking between the taller, pale-brown stalks left over from the previous year. Slender stems waved cheerfully in an Oklahoma breeze as Ashe walked quietly homeward. Cori broke away first—her home was less than a quarter mile from the school. Sali and Ashe split shortly after, Sali going north, Ashe following the gravel road that ran next to his house.
The Evans home had an elaborate alarm system; Ashe punched the code on the keypad located outside the garage, letting himself in. Another keypad waited beside the kitchen door, with a separate code to get through it. Ashe keyed in the second code to get into the house.
It was only four-thirty; his mother wouldn't be home for another two hours and his dad wouldn't be awake until an hour after that. The thing Ashe liked most about the winter months was that his dad was up earlier in the evenings. During spring and summer, the daylight hours stretched endlessly.
A note lay on the kitchen table when Ashe went to the sink to get a glass of water. Your dad will take us to Oklahoma City to buy books tomorrow evening, his mother had written. Normally, that would have made Ashe punch the air in delight. They'd leave right after sunset, eat at a nice restaurant and then visit one of the bookstores that stayed open late.
After reading the two files in Principal Billings' computer, Ashe was so depressed he didn't feel like doing anything. He'd never met Randy Smith, but he didn't think that writing a letter should result in someone's death. The contents of the letter hadn't been in the file; Ashe wondered what Mr. DeLuca had done with it. Briefly, he pictured himself as Randy Smith, with Principal Billings offering to execute him if he let anything slip at a human school. The thought made him shiver.
Ashe was working at his computer later when Adele looked in on him. "Honey, I'm about to start dinner, will you bring your laundry out? We'll work on it tonight." His mother gave him a warm smile.
"All right." Ashe shut off the computer and went to gather dirty clothes. While Ashe loaded the washer and added detergent, he wondered why his parents hadn't given him the full contents of the note. Perhaps they didn't want him to be upset over spring break. He certainly was upset after learning he was destined to attend a human school. Now he was forced to act as if he didn't know.
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