Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(17) by Connie Suttle
"I'm sure someone will go out with him," Denise DeLuca reached over to pat Cori's hand. Cori sat in the front passenger seat; Dori had the middle section to herself since Sali didn't want to sit beside his nemesis, and Ashe had elected to sit beside his friend.
"Cori, call me if there's any problem," Ashe said as Cori and Dori climbed out of the van in front of their house. Like Ashe's home, most of it was below ground to benefit Nathan. Ashe had vague memories of when both homes were built; Aedan and Nathan had built them with help from Old Harold.
Like Aedan's private bunker, Nathan Anderson's was below the master bedroom floor. The rest of the house was quite different from the Evans’ home. The Anderson's kitchen was below ground and only the garden room and a sitting area were above. Ashe liked having the kitchen upstairs. He could watch sunsets while helping with dinner or the dishes.
"Why don't you boys move up here?" Denise suggested before putting the van in gear. Ashe and Sali moved forward. Sali got the front passenger seat; Ashe sat directly behind him. "Ashe, will you tell your father that Mr. DeLuca wants to talk with him and Mr. Radomir as soon as they rise?" Denise said as she drove toward Ashe's home.
"Sure, Mrs. DeLuca. I'll tell him."
"Good. This has all of us spooked, I'm afraid to say. I hope there's a good explanation for all of it, but right now we're in the dark."
Denise DeLuca waited until Ashe opened the garage door and closed it again before driving away. Ashe fumbled with the door code to get into the kitchen, finally getting it on the third try. He shut and locked the door behind him, breathing a relieved sigh.
"Mom, I'm home now, Sali's mom gave me a ride," Ashe said when his mother answered the phone with her usual "Cordell Feed and Seed."
"Honey, is the house locked up? Is the alarm on?"
Ashe knew his mother was frightened. "Yeah. Mom, I'm okay for now."
"I'll be there as soon as I can, but everybody wants everything today. I think I've filled up three trucks with chicken feed."
"Good sales day," Ashe observed.
"It is, but I've got other things on my mind. Be safe, baby." Adele hung up the phone.
His mother must have made record time getting home; she was closing the door behind her at six-twenty. His father wouldn't be up until nearly eight. The days were getting longer and that meant less time to spend with his dad. "Mom, Mrs. DeLuca said that Mr. DeLuca wanted to talk to Dad and Radomir as soon as they were up," Ashe pulled the pizza pan out of the cabinet; they were having homemade pizza.
"I'll make sure they call," Adele sighed. Normally, Ashe enjoyed making pizza. His mother made up the dough and then spread it on the pan after letting it rise; and then they dropped the toppings they wanted on their half. Ashe dumped mozzarella over the tomato sauce before spreading pepperoni slices and black olives on his side. Neither he nor his mother talked much as they ate. Ashe felt hungry and nauseous at the same time. They'd know soon enough if Old Harold was home or not. He wondered, too, whether anyone had heard from Pat Roberts.
"They'll be up soon." Adele glanced at the kitchen clock. It was seven forty-five, the dishes were done and the kitchen cleaned. Neither Ashe nor his mother thought to do anything other than sit and wait at the kitchen table. Five minutes past eight Ashe heard his father's steps on the stairs, followed by Radomir's lighter footfall. They were in the kitchen quickly.
"I see something's wrong," Aedan said right away.
"Aedan, Old Harold didn't clean the school last night. And Pat Roberts has disappeared." Adele gave the news straight away. "Marcus wants to speak with you, too. As soon as you were up, he said."
"I'll go outside and make the call," Ashe's father walked through the kitchen door, Radomir right behind him.
"I'll go do my homework," Ashe sighed and went toward the basement door.
"All right, honey." Adele was staring at the door to the outside and not at Ashe as he walked down the steps toward the lower level of the house.
It didn't take three seconds to turn to mist once his bedroom door was closed, and Ashe was zooming upward and under doors—twice—to get outside. His father was still on the phone with Marcus DeLuca.
"We'll pick Nathan up on the way to Harold's and call if we find anything," Aedan said and snapped his cell closed. Ashe fully intended to ride along invisibly with his father.
"We're going to get Nathan, and then we'll go to Harold's," Aedan poked his head through the kitchen door to let Adele know. "Make sure the doors are secure," he added before climbing into the SUV. Radomir settled on the passenger seat and Ashe misted inside before Radomir shut his door. The garage door closed behind them as Ashe watched, only wondering then how it was that he could see and hear while he was mist. Giving up the conundrum after only a moment or two, he gave a mental shrug, grateful that he could do those things.
Hovering behind Nathan's head later after Nathan slipped into the back seat, Ashe watched as his father drove down the narrow dirt track leading to Old Harold's house. Harold had never bothered to put gravel down around his home. He didn't drive much, preferring to walk or run everywhere. Vampires could and did run—quite fast, actually, when they wanted.
"Do you have the code?" Radomir asked as he, Aedan and Nathan stood outside Old Harold's garage door later.
"We have the code to the garage," Aedan said. "We can knock down the inside doors if necessary." He rang the doorbell next to the keypad. And rang it again. When there was no answer on the third try, Aedan punched in a code. The garage door lifted readily on well-oiled tracks. Ashe would have drawn in a breath if possible while turned to mist; the inside door into Old Harold's upper floor was hanging loose on its hinges.
"Claws out," Radomir ordered. Ashe was shocked as perilously sharp, foot-long claws grew on all three vampires' hands. Ashe, feeling shaky even as invisible mist, followed along behind as all three vampires, alert for any sound or movement, crept through the house. There was no light to see and nothing there to warrant the claws, so all were retracted quickly. Somehow, Ashe's night vision had greatly improved. He could see much better in the dark, now. Perhaps it was the bat in him, tiny as it was.
They didn't have to go far, as it turned out. Radomir found what he was searching for in Harold's aboveground sitting area. A pile of ash lay there in the shape of a headless man. Disturbed, Ashe wanted to fly away and stare at the same time.
"Head over here," Aedan found a second, smaller dusting of ash. Nathan cursed while Radomir remained silent, examining everything around the body before sniffing through the room.
"I believe he knew the one that killed him. Harold likely allowed his visitor inside the home and led him into this room, where the murder took place. Afterward, the back door was knocked down when the perpetrator rushed to get away. Perhaps he wasn't strong enough to break down a steel garage door, so he opened it with the button and closed it the same way. The button is near enough to the door to get out if you hurry."
"Ashe does it all the time; he and Sali make a game of it," Aedan agreed. Ashe shifted his mist uncomfortably at the sound of his own name.
"I will do some sniffing in the garage, then." Radomir walked toward the broken door.
"Will you recognize this scent again?" Nathan asked Radomir later, after Radomir searched the garage.
"A werewolf was certainly here," Radomir observed, "but the scent is strange. As if it has been mixed with something else to nearly destroy the scent, somehow. I don't know that I could truly connect it with anyone."
"Pat Roberts' disappearance could certainly be connected," Nathan suggested.
"Of course, and we will demand to see his home," Radomir inclined his head in agreement. "But that will still not guarantee that I can distinguish the scents. I wonder how this was accomplished." The Enforcer was definitely puzzled over the scent.
"Let's go to Marcus and let him know. He may have a way to get into Pat's house," Aedan walked out of Old Harold's garage. Ashe waited outside the house as Nathan closed the door. Silently, sadly, Ashe said good-bye to Old Harold.
"So, he's dead, then?" Marcus asked later, standing in his brightly lit kitchen.
"Yes. There is some scent there, likely werewolf, but it is confused, somehow," Radomir stated flatly. Ashe, hovering over his father's head, desperately wanted to drop onto his father's shoulders and hug him. He would certainly be in trouble if he did that, so he held himself away and watched while Sali's father paced.
"We have nothing on Pat," Marcus growled. "Message after message left on his cell and no reply. We'll go over there now, but Micah and I went earlier. There's no sign of him."
"I only wish to get the scent," Radomir said.
"Then come. The autopsy can be performed afterward. Mr. Winkler and the doctor are at the O'Neill's now, but they know things might be put off for a little while." Once again, Ashe misted inside his father's SUV, but the vehicle was becoming crowded. Marcus climbed into the back seat and rode with Nathan. Ashe was hovering in the cargo area as his father drove to Pat Roberts' farm.
"It looks as if he hasn't been home for at least two days," Marcus observed, once they were all inside Pat's small farmhouse. It only held one bedroom, a kitchen, the small sitting room and a bath, with no lower level. Ashe had spent all his life in a home where most of the rooms were below ground. He felt exposed, somehow, in Pat Roberts' house.
"I can't tell," Radomir was sniffing around the house. "This makes things so much more difficult."
"How did Harold die?" Marcus thought to ask.
"Beheading," Aedan growled. Marcus didn't reply; he merely nodded. "Old Harold didn't kill that boy," Aedan said. "You don't know what he was—who he was—before. I promised not to tell while he was alive. But since he's dead, now," Aedan didn't finish.
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