Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(25) by Connie Suttle
"Here," Radomir pointed to a spot outside the uneven circle. "This is a Wolf's paw print. No doubt about that."
"But what is this?" Aedan indicated another print he couldn't identify. The toes held claws, that much was certain. The print, what there was of it, resembled a human foot in a way; it was long, with a heel and toes. Aedan could see the deep gouges and furrows the attached claws had made in the soil. He was thankful the rain hadn't completely destroyed the prints.
"I've never seen anything like that," Radomir examined the ground carefully. Taking a tiny digital camera from his pocket, he proceeded to record images of the prints and surrounding area.
* * *
Marco stood beneath the darkening sky outside the Prairie Harvest Baptist Church in Cordell, with most of the others who resided in the small rural community. They'd come out for a candlelight vigil, to honor Megan Lindley. Each candle shone brightly in a mourner's hand in the deepening night. Marco felt the candles competed with the stars overhead. Were the heavens mourning Megan's passing, too? He liked to think so.
His father refused to allow him to attend Megan's funeral, so Marco hadn't asked about this; he'd just come. Marco was on the outs with his parents anyway; that's why he'd left the message on Aedan's cell phone. He'd visited every possible spot where James might have been lured away and killed. Somehow, Marco had known that James hadn't died behind the Evans' house. He couldn't fathom why his best friend's body had been dumped there, and it didn't matter. All that mattered to Marco was finding who'd killed James and Megan. And then giving the murderer what he deserved.
Marco had known, just as Cori did, that James maintained contact with Randy Smith. Didn't care, either. What harm could it do? His father always said that those were the rules, but sometimes the rules were stupid. And his father wouldn't listen. Marco wanted to turn on the spot, while hundreds of humans stood about him, holding candles to light the night. Wanted to turn and howl out his grief.
Randy Smith was scheduled to die in a matter of days; Marco overheard his father speaking to Mr. Winkler about the Grand Master's trackers, sent out to collect Randy Smith and bring him to Cloud Chief for execution. Marco growled low, but those around him were wrapped in their own grief and didn't hear. He also failed to understand why Megan had been included in the murders. She was human and had no connection to any of it, other than she'd sat and talked with him and James many times.
* * *
Ashe barely thought before he acted. The image of the car coming toward them as the truck careened into the oncoming lane had him solid in a moment, dropping into the driver's seat and jerking the steering wheel over, tilting the old Ford dangerously before it righted itself on the proper side of the road. His mother, still unconscious, slid farther down on the seat next to him. Frightened nearly speechless, he hit the brake and pulled over on the side of the road. "Mom?" he shook his mother's shoulder gently. "Mom?"
Adele stirred, moaning softly. Ashe, who had very little driving experience (his father had allowed him to drive on the gravel road that ran through Cloud Chief a time or two) cautiously looked both ways before making a U-turn on the highway and driving slowly back to town. Arguing with himself over whether he should stop at the tiny hospital in Cordell or go home, Ashe's fear of discovery, both for himself and his mother, convinced him to drive to Cloud Chief instead. As the miles were eaten away by the old truck, Ashe formulated his strategy.
Driving into the DeLucas' gravel drive, Ashe checked to make sure nobody watched as he opened the passenger door and helped his mother out. Still unconscious, she was dead weight against Ashe, so he misted her to the front door of Sali's home, became solid long enough to ring the doorbell and then turned to mist again, shooting like a rocket through the walls and straight into Sali's bedroom. Sali, who'd remained unsure about what to do once Ashe disappeared, almost shrieked when Ashe reappeared.
"Hush!" Ashe clapped a hand over Sali's mouth, listening. He heard Denise's shout for Marcus to come and then hauled Sali out of the bedroom with a warning. "You promised," he hissed before breaking into a run, Sali right behind him.
"What's wrong?" Ashe said worriedly as Marcus carried his mother's limp body inside the house.
"Ashe, stay calm, we have to call your father," Denise was nearly in tears, she was so frightened. Ashe fidgeted while Denise did her best to bring his mother around. Marcus had Aedan on the phone quickly, giving Ashe's father the small bit of information he had—that Adele had driven up and then fainted on their doorstep. Aedan was there in less than two minutes, and Ashe knew his father hadn't bothered to drive from wherever he'd been.
"A rún mo chroí, what has happened?" Aedan sank to his knees beside the sofa where Marcus had laid Adele. Ashe drew in a breath; Aedan seldom used Gaelic, allowing the accent to slip into his voice.
"I think she's been drugged," Marcus said softly. "I can smell it."
"As can I. Now I wish that physician had stayed," Aedan muttered angrily. "Who could have done this? Who?" Aedan was very close to losing his temper.
"It will be all right, I was in the same situation once," Winkler knelt beside Aedan. "Her metabolism is higher than any human's, so it would take quite a lot to do lasting harm. Let's keep her warm and watch for signs of shock or vomiting. We can bring a physician out if you want, but compulsion will have to be placed afterward." Winkler seemed to know what he was doing.
"We'll monitor her pulse and respiration," Denise said, swallowing nervously and attempting to remain calm. "If things get worse, we'll get somebody out here."
"How did this happen?" Sali whispered. He and Ashe stood against the living- room wall, watching the adults tend to Ashe's mother.
"I think somebody tried to kill her," Ashe muttered angrily.
Radomir walked into the house; Ashe had heard his father's SUV driving up bare moments earlier. Radomir nodded to Aedan and then checked Adele over himself, sighing and saying the same thing Mr. Winkler had.
"Can we try washing her face with a cold cloth?" Denise asked.
"It might work," Radomir agreed. Denise went to get something. Nearly half an hour later, Adele moaned before opening her eyes. Aedan uttered an oath in Gaelic and grabbed his wife's fingers.
"Aedan?" Adele said weakly. "Where am I?"
"You're here at the DeLucas', love."
"I don't remember coming here. Somebody grabbed me outside Rory's office."
"Love, don't worry about that right now," Aedan said, jerking his head at Radomir, who flew from the house so quickly Ashe almost didn't see him move. Likely he was on his way to the accountant's office as quickly as he could get Aedan's SUV started.
"Wait," Winkler said, rushing toward the front door. Ashe heard the SUV start and run while Winkler raced out to climb in with the Enforcer. The second door shut and the vehicle drove away. Ashe thought it best if both went. At that moment, he worried that nobody in Cloud Chief was safe.
"What happened?" Marco walked into the house a few moments later. "I thought you were in your truck, Mr. Evans," he added, puzzled over Aedan's presence. "I saw it turning onto the highway toward Cordell."
"That was Mr. Radomir and Mr. Winkler. Adele was attacked outside the CPA's office tonight and they're going to investigate the scene," Marcus stood and frowned at his oldest son. "Where have you been, Marco?"
"I went to the candlelight service for Megan," Marco growled. Ashe, who'd watched the exchange, knew that Megan was a sore spot between Marco and his father.
"Son, go to your room. We'll discuss this later," Marcus DeLuca ordered. Marco, glad to get away from his father, walked swiftly down the hall leading to the bedrooms.
"I'd like to get Adele home," Aedan stood. "Ashe, will you go out and start the truck? I'll bring your mother out. You can help hold her up while I drive."
"Okay." Ashe walked toward the front door, Sali right behind him.
"Dude, what the bloody H was that?" Sali hissed, once they were outside.
"The disappearance?" Ashe asked. When Sali nodded, Ashe explained. "Dad told me that some really rare vampires can turn to mist," Ashe spoke softly as he walked toward the old Ford. "I turn to mist, Sali. And you have to keep your mouth shut about it. All right? I'll be in hot water up to my neck if some people find out."
"You've been sneaking around, haven't you?"
"Sali, if I hadn't discovered I could do this by accident, I'd have been torn apart by the Pack during the last full moon. I almost got caught in that tree, dude. Now, somebody is trying to kill Mom. You have to keep this secret, Sali. You promised."
"I will, but this will keep you out of Cordell Junior High for sure."
"You think I haven't thought about that?" Ashe climbed into the truck—he'd left the keys in the ignition earlier. Turning the key, the truck started right up. "Go back inside, Sali. Get in the house. We're not dealing with anything that anybody's ever seen before, I think. Don't go anywhere alone, okay?"
"You know more about this than you're telling."
"Sali, Dad's coming. Get in the house. Please."
"All right, but you owe me an explanation."
"And you'll get one. Soon. Go, Sali. It's not safe."
Aedan carried Adele out to the truck and settled her in the middle of the seat. Ashe climbed in on the outside and shut the door while his father slid into the driver's seat. "Ashe?" Adele woke briefly and turned to look at her son.
"Mom? Are you okay?"
"I feel dizzy. Maybe a little sick."
"We're almost home. Can you hang on until then?"
"I think so." Adele closed her eyes again.
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