Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(18) by Connie Suttle
"Then who was he?" Marcus demanded.
"How good are you with Roman history?" Aedan asked.
"Not good," Marcus admitted.
"Wealthy Roman families at times employed Greek tutors for their children. Harold was a Greek scholar teaching language and mathematics nearly a thousand years ago. He cared for the children he taught. You never knew that he might have taught the children of Cloud Chief Greek and Latin. Better than anyone else, more than likely. Yet he settled for being a janitor and cleaning the school at night, before helping Nathan and me guard the perimeter. Harold would never harm any child from this community. It wasn't in him." Aedan shook his head.
"And now he's dead. Just like that." Marcus flung up a hand. "If Pat did this, I promise I'll kill him myself." Ashe wanted to shiver at Marcus DeLuca's words. "Come on, the doctor's waiting." They trooped toward Aedan's SUV. Ashe had no desire to be anywhere near when they cut into James's body, so he misted home instead.
"Ashe, are you in there?" Adele was banging on Ashe's bedroom door when Ashe misted inside the house. Hurriedly he slipped under the door, materializing immediately and opening the door, feigning a yawn.
"Sorry, Mom, I fell asleep," he mumbled, rubbing his eyes. Ashe felt guilty for lying to his mother, but he'd had no desire to stay behind and miss the chance to learn what happened to Old Harold.
"Your father called a few minutes ago. Old Harold's dead."
"Mom, that's awful."
"I know, honey." Adele pulled Ashe into a tight hug.
* * *
"Who cleaned?" Sali began complaining the moment he set foot inside the school Wednesday morning. It smelled strongly of disinfectant and that offended every student's nose, but the werewolves most of all. Old Harold had somehow struck a balance that wasn't overpowering when he used cleaning agents.
"Don't know, but I don't like it much," Ashe agreed. The one thing he could say was at least the trash was emptied and the floor looked clean again. He still felt bad about Old Harold, especially after his father explained who the old vampire really was. Ashe heaved a weary sigh. He could have asked Harold so many questions, and now that opportunity was lost forever. News of Harold's death was all over school, giving students yet another topic for their daily gossip. Ashe itched to ask Sali if he knew what the autopsy revealed. His chance came when they sat down in Transformational Arts.
"Did you hear anything? From the doctor?" Ashe whispered, kicking his book bag beneath the desk.
"Yeah. I wasn't supposed to, but I sneaked halfway down the hall so I could listen while they talked in the kitchen," Sali whispered back. "Dude, you cannot say anything. Promise."
"Promise," Ashe agreed.
"They said James's heart exploded. Like a bomb or something. Dude, that's just not natural."
"You're kidding. That's not possible. Are you sure you heard right?" Ashe couldn't believe what Sali was saying.
"I heard it, all right. Just don't tell, okay? Dad will be mad for sure."
"Mrs. Rocklin's coming," Ashe hissed and students rushed for seats as the class quieted.
* * *
"Honey, Denise says the witch will be here tomorrow to renew the concealment spells. Denise will be going out with her, so Sharon O'Neill, Wynn's mother, will pick you up after school."
"Okay," Ashe nodded and stared at his plate. He'd eaten two pork chops; he couldn't help himself. Maybe he was growing again, besides being able to turn. "Mom?" Ashe looked up at his mother.
"What, hon?" Adele asked.
"What happened to Old Harold? Did Dad say anything?" Ashe shivered, remembering the piles of ash in the floor from the previous evening. More and more he recalled that his dad might die the same way, leaving nothing behind except a scattering of grayish dust.
"It's not something I want to talk about right now," she said. "Finish your dinner; I'll wash up." She lifted her plate and walked to the kitchen sink. Ashe noticed she hadn't eaten much—perhaps she was thinking the same as Ashe.
"Mom, where did my name come from? Why did you choose it?"
"Your dad picked it out. Said it was from someone he knew."
"We're planning a service for James on Sunday. There'll be a smaller one afterward for Old Harold."
"Mom, we shouldn't be going to either one. Both of them should still be here."
"I know, honey. But we can't pull them back. We have to go on without them."
"Yeah. I'm done, Mom." Ashe took his plate to the sink.
"Only a little. And I wanted to start kicking around ideas for the essay contest."
"That's a good idea. The end of the school year is almost here. It's getting away from us, isn't it?"
"What happens to the essays after we turn them in? I've never gotten one back."
"Well, all the teachers vote on the winners. Ben Billings keeps them in a file somewhere, I think. Copies are sent back to the winners' parents. Jamie Waters' mother got a copy last year."
"But that's a copy and not the original?" Ashe persisted.
"I saw a copy, yes. Why are you so curious about this?"
"No reason. Sali wants to win this year, because his dad says he can buy a cell phone if he wins."
"Is that what this is about? You want us to promise a cell phone if you win?" Adele smiled at Ashe.
"Mom, a cell would be great."
"If you win, I'll mention it to your father."
* * *
"Sali, did your dad say anything about Old Harold?" Sali called later, while Ashe wrote and then crossed through potential essay subjects. His notebook was now littered with words obliterated forcefully with Ashe's favorite pen.
"No, dude. Even Marco asked, and Dad wouldn't tell him. He just clammed up and wouldn't talk."
"Dang." Ashe marked out human interaction, his pen nearly going through the paper when the notebook slipped on his knee. He'd braced it against his leg with one hand while holding the cordless in the other.
"But your dad and Cori's dad are supposed to plow the garden tomorrow night," Sali offered what little information he had.
"It was supposed to be done last night," Ashe pointed out.
"Yeah. I figure we'll be planting on Saturday, since James's funeral is Sunday."
"Old Harold's service is right after."
"Dude, I don't know if I want to go to that."
"Suit yourself, but you might learn some things you didn't know before."
"I'll come, then."
"Okay. Did you finish your English homework?" Ashe knew Sali was probably stalling for time. He hated English.
Ashe realized Sali's mother was listening when she told Sali to hang up the phone and do his homework. He figured Sali would ride him the following day about getting him in trouble. Ashe grinned and punched the off button on the cordless.
* * *
"Thanks for making Mom stand over me while I finished that book report on Huckleberry Finn, Sali poked Ashe in the ribs on their way to class the following morning.
"Come on, it was a good story," Ashe said.
"You already read it. It was easy for you," Sali grumped.
"I read it twice," Ashe grinned, knowing that would cause further retaliation. He wasn't wrong; Sali side-kicked him, nearly tripping afterward. "But the good news is," Ashe moved away from Sali, the kick hurt, "you can read The Hobbit for your last assignment."
"The Hobbit?" Sali made a face at Ashe.
"One of those books I loaned you last year. Haven't you opened that box yet? I carry all that stuff to your house, and it's probably still stuffed in your closet." Ashe poked a finger in Sali's ribs. Sali elbowed Ashe. Ashe stomped Sali's toe. Sali went after Ashe. They might have made it through the door of Transformational Arts if Principal Billings' wide body hadn't been blocking it.
"That's enough," he snarled. "Both of you, come with me." Sali's eyes were huge as he stared at Ashe. Ashe shrugged at his friend and fell in behind Principal Billings' sturdy body.
"Now, you will explain what this is about," Principal Billings demanded, once both boys were seated inside his office.
"Ashe poked me," Sali said right away.
"Because you haven't even looked at those books you borrowed from me last year," Ashe accused.
"I may have a bruise," Sali lift the hem of his shirt.
"Whiner," Ashe wrinkled his nose at Sali.
"Bookworm," Sali shot back.
"Principal Billings, I'm afraid there's something going on in eleventh-grade Math," Mr. Dodd, the history teacher poked his head inside the office.
"Stay here and try not to damage one another," Principal Billings snapped at Ashe and Sali before rushing out the door.
Sali grinned at Ashe. "It worked," he whispered. "Get to it, dude, you have five minutes, maybe." Ashe was up and hauling file drawers open as quickly as he could.
"Not here, these are old grade books." Ashe shoved the top drawer shut and opened the next one down. "Nope, not this one either," he said, finding folders of invoices for school expenditures. Shutting that one, Ashe moved down to the third drawer of the five-drawer cabinet. It failed to yield the desired paperwork. Ashe dug through both remaining drawers, then opened drawers in Principal Billings' desk. It wasn't there. "He must keep the file of essays at his house," Ashe muttered, shutting the last drawer with a thump and frowning at Sali. "He's coming!" Ashe shot around the Principal's desk and was sitting innocently in his seat when Principal Billings walked back inside.
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