Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(20) by Connie Suttle
Grateful that he'd been barefoot, Ashe quickly gathered his jeans and underwear the same way and flew homeward, arriving bare seconds ahead of his mother. Well, it worked with his clothing—Ashe flew right through the door, a feeling of elation hitting him as he passed through the heavy steel, ending up inside the kitchen. He performed the miracle twice more, through the middle door to the basement and then through his bedroom door.
"This is the best ever!" Ashe whispered as he danced and punched the air, his clothes hurtling across the room as he sent them flying.
"Ashe?" his mother called as she came down the steps.
"Just getting into pajamas, Mom," Ashe called out, calming himself. "Be there in a sec." Ashe pulled his PJs from a drawer, stepped into underwear and then slid into his favorite top and striped bottoms. "Did you find anything?" Ashe opened the bedroom door, finding his mother standing right outside.
"I thought we did, but it must have been a wild animal or something," she said. "Feel like a cup of cocoa?"
"Yeah." They had more than cocoa. They had a snack of cheese and crackers, too. Adele was always hungry after turning; Ashe discovered that he felt the same.
"An animal?" Ashe crunched his cracker, spread with soft cheese.
"We spooked it, I think," his mother said. "It ran away. It probably smelled the body and came to investigate."
"Oh. I never thought about that," Ashe said, sipping cocoa with tiny marshmallows floating in it. He felt his mother was attempting to protect him. He realized he was doing the same. Aedan, Nathan and Radomir walked in while Ashe and his mother were sitting at the table.
"Didn't find anything," Aedan said. "And Marcus called. Whatever killed James killed Pat. Same claw marks. Same problem with the heart." Ashe set his cup down. Was it aiming for all of them, whatever it was? Catching them alone so it could make their hearts explode? And who—or what—could do that?
"Aedan, will we have to move?" Adele stood, her face filled with worry. Ashe knew she was frightened.
"We can't. Not until we discover what it is. We could be moving it with us, you know," Aedan raked fingers through his hair in a gesture of frustration. Ashe knew his father was more than upset—he seldom showed this much emotion.
"I'll go downstairs." Ashe placed his cup in the sink and walked toward the door.
"Son, I'll stop by and talk to you later," Aedan said. "I have to drop Nathan off. Sharon and Jonas are going to plow the field tomorrow afternoon." Ashe nodded at his father before closing the door and walking heavily down the steps.
"Son, don't go outside alone," Aedan cautioned later as he sat on the edge of Ashe's bed. Ashe was sitting with his back to the headboard, an open book on his lap when his father knocked and came in.
Ashe nodded, wondering what his father might do if he knew what Ashe had done already and intended to do in the future. "Dad, what's happening?" Ashe placed a bookmark inside his book and closed it. Aedan took the book from his son's hands and set it down on the bedside table.
"We don't know, son. I've never seen anything like this before and I've seen plenty of strangeness in my lifetime. Scents either aren’t there or confused somehow, and I don't know what can do that. Marcus plans to talk to the witch tomorrow and see if she knows anything. Micah thought she might be involved at first, but she was in Tucson the past three days and in Phoenix before that."
"Have you heard anything else on Terry Smith?"
"The human authorities have the body and there's no way we can get in to check on it. Besides, they've said already he was shot. That's not how any of ours died."
"Yeah." Ashe picked at his thumbnail. The edge was ragged and needed trimming.
"Here." Aedan didn't do it often, but he allowed a bit of a claw to slide out; barely an inch or so, and carefully shaved Ashe's fingernail.
"That's so cool, Dad." Ashe examined the neatly trimmed nail.
"It has its perks. And its downside. If I could only be available if needed during the day, I'd give up some of these perks." Aedan rose to go.
"Dad?" Aedan already had a hand on the doorknob.
"Mom needs a hug."
"I know." Aedan walked out of Ashe's bedroom.
* * *
"So, James and Pat died the same way." Ashe didn't have to tell Cori, Sali did. He'd heard his father discussing it with Mr. Winkler and the doctor.
"You still think Pat killed Old Harold, and then whoever killed James killed Pat?" Sali asked Ashe, who'd remained silent on the ride to school and now on the trek to Transformational Arts.
"Sali, think about this for a minute. Old Harold's heart didn't work anymore, so it might not have done any good to make it explode. What if the same one killed him, and wanted to make it look like Pat did it? Only they didn't expect us to find Pat, maybe. He was buried, you know, and James wasn't."
"How did you know he was buried?" Sali demanded.
"Mom said so," Ashe defended himself.
"Then why wasn't James buried?" Sali asked.
"Dude, how should I know? Maybe the killer got spooked or something."
"Ashe, no more." Cori looked green.
"Time to shut up, dude," Ashe warned. Sali closed his mouth.
Ashe was called on for the first time all week. It would have been so easy to give in and make the turn as Ashe stood in front of the class, feigning an effort. He sat down with a sigh as soon as Mrs. Rocklin said he could.
* * *
"You're all coming home with me today, since Sharon and Jonas are plowing and Adele won't be home until later," Denise DeLuca announced when everyone piled into her van. Wynn shrugged at Dori before both girls turned and glared maliciously at Sali. "I didn't do anything." Sali raised his hands in surrender.
Ashe thought Sali would have a continuous fight on his hands the entire time Wynn and Dori were inside his house, but the moment both girls saw Mr. Winkler leaning against the kitchen counter with his shirt off while drinking a cup of coffee, all they could do was stare. He grinned at their openmouthed adoration and found a Yahtzee game somewhere. Soon, Ashe, Sali and Cori were playing and laughing at the kitchen table with Winkler, Dori and Wynn.
"I have twins," Winkler informed Wynn when she asked if he had children. "A boy and a girl. They're nearly grown and will graduate high school next month. They're both pre-enrolled at the University of Texas."
"So, not married?" Wynn worked up the courage to ask.
"Not anymore. There was someone else, but she died," Winkler's gaze lost focus for a moment. Shaking himself, he smiled at Wynn and Dori. "That was years ago. Now, whose turn is it?"
* * *
"We played Yahtzee with Mr. Winkler," Ashe said as he climbed into his mother's old truck when Adele came to get him.
"He's the Dallas Packmaster," Ashe's mother said, causing Ashe to blink. "Your father says he owns a security company. The Grand Master must have exerted quite a bit of pressure to get him here."
"He seems nice," Ashe said. "He said he has twins who are about to graduate from high school."
"And he may be nice outside the Pack, Ashe. Just never forget that every Packmaster has killed to get where he is."
Ashe had to digest that. He'd never thought much about it before. Sali's father was Packmaster. "Who did Sali's dad kill?"
"I don't know. Marcus was Packmaster already when Aedan and I joined the community. You know that Hollis Daniels died in a challenge against Marcus not long after that. Now, Georgia Daniels and her son lower their heads around Marcus."
"Mom, whose idea was it to put these communities together?"
"Don't worry about that right now, all right? I shouldn't have said anything. Sali's your friend. Don't forget that."
"How hard would it be for us to live among humans?" Ashe asked.
"Well, think about that for a moment. Your dad can never come out in daylight. How long before the humans start to notice? How long past that before they begin to ask questions? Your father can't place compulsion on all of them. And when the full moon comes, I have to change. There's no way I can avoid that. Here, everybody knows what I am and accepts that. I don't have to hide from any of them. I did before, though. Before I met your father. My parents waited a long time before I was born. They both died before you came along."
"What made you marry Dad? Since you're so different?"
"When I saw your dad the first time, that was it," she said. "He says it was the same for him. I was having a sandwich at a pub in London—I'd saved enough money to spend two weeks there. I always wanted to see England, Ireland and Scotland. So I scrimped and put the money together. The third night I was there, I was having dinner in the pub near my hotel. Your father came to sit beside me and that was that."
"Why haven't I heard this story before?" Ashe asked, curious.
"Someday, we'll tell you. Your father and I. In the meantime, just remember that we love you and wanted you. Nothing else matters. Now, Denise will pick you up tomorrow morning around nine. You'll help the others plant the garden."
"I want to plant the tomatoes," Ashe said.
"Sharon will be handing out the assignments, so talk to her."
Ashe did get to plant tomatoes in the early Saturday morning sunlight. Much of the rest of the community was there, too, all dropping seeds into neatly tilled rows, or covering them up or carrying water. The land was right next to the O'Neill's barn and Ashe never forgot that James's body lay inside their walk-in refrigerator within that barn. Heaving a sigh, Ashe placed another tomato plant and pushed dirt around the slender stem.
He and his mother would come later and place wire cages around the plants to keep them from drooping and breaking when the tomatoes came and weighed down the plants. "That's what we all need right now," Ashe said to himself as he worked. "Something to prop us up and keep us from drooping."
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