Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(28) by Connie Suttle
"It'll get better," Ashe said, wishing it would happen soon. It frightened him to see his mother like that. Aedan and Radomir found Adele and Ashe at the kitchen table, Adele sipping a fresh cup of coffee and Ashe talking with his mother.
"How are you feeling?" Aedan pulled out a chair next to his wife and placed an arm around her shoulders. Radomir watched, his eyes hooded. Ashe felt bad that he and the vampire Enforcer were intruding on a private moment. "I'll go downstairs and read," he said, heading for the middle door.
"I'll be down in a bit," Adele promised.
"Okay," Ashe called out and shut the door behind him.
* * *
Trace drove Sali to Taco Palace to buy lunch for all of them while Ashe and Jason stayed at the store to help customers on Saturday. Dawn Smith came in again while Ashe manned the register, ringing up six bags of fertilizer. Ashe recognized her right away, although she wasn't wearing the green blazer. The weather had turned warm and there wasn't any need for a jacket.
"Is Adele here?" Dawn asked after Ashe finished with the customer.
"Mom's sick," Ashe said softly, wishing Jason would come back from loading the fertilizer for the customer.
"Sick?" Dawn's voice held disbelief.
"Somebody drugged her. Tried to kill her," Ashe muttered.
"Oh, dear God," Dawn had a hand at her mouth. "Do you know what happened?"
"No. Mom can't remember much of it." Ashe imagined that if Dawn had anything to do with his mother's attack, she was doing a good job of covering it up. She seemed genuinely shocked and upset.
"What's going on?" Jason had gotten Dawn's scent the moment he walked inside the store.
"I'm Dawn Smith," Dawn knew Jason was werewolf, too; Ashe had seen her draw in a breath, her nostrils flaring slightly when Jason returned.
"The one with the boy." Jason's words were flat.
"Yes. But I don't recognize you," she said, turning golden-brown eyes on Jason's face and examining him closely.
"From the Dallas Pack," he nodded to her politely. "Brought in to provide security since the attack."
"I understand. Can you tell me anything about it?"
"Nope. Not allowed. If you want to talk to somebody," Jason pulled a business card from a pocket and handed it over.
"William Winkler? The Dallas Packmaster?" Dawn's disbelief was back.
"At the request of the Grand Master," Jason said. "Call that number. I think he'd like to speak with you."
"All right. Thank you." Dawn walked out of the store without another word. Jason went toward the back but Ashe heard Jason's portion of the cell phone conversation afterward. Jason called Winkler as soon as Dawn walked out the door.
"Boss, Dawn Smith just walked into the store, looking for Adele Evans. I handed one of your cards over after we told her Adele was sick. No, I don't know whether she plans to call." Jason listened for a minute or two while Winkler talked. Ashe wished he were close enough to hear both sides of the conversation.
Sali and Trace walked into the store carrying bags of food while Jason snapped his cell phone shut. "Boss has some info on the shootings," Jason said, taking one of the bags from Trace. "Ashe, can you and Sali handle the store while Trace and I talk inside the office?"
"Sure," Ashe shrugged, accepting a bag of food from Sali. "We can eat behind the register."
"Good. We won't be gone long." Trace followed Jason inside Adele's office and shut the door.
"Can you," Sali said before Ashe held up a hand to hush his friend. Sali stepped back, realizing that Ashe was already listening.
"They got word on the shootings, same gun," Jason told Trace amid noises of paper wrapping pulled from tacos. "Registered to somebody local, but the gun is missing from his gun cabinet. Says he hasn't been into it for several weeks and didn't even know it was gone."
"Does he have an alibi?" Trace asked. Ashe heard the crunch as Trace bit into a taco.
"Yep. Rock solid. He was in Weatherford when Terry Smith got hit. And at Betsy's Diner when the girl was shot. Too many witnesses in both places. Somebody stole the gun, but that's the only thing they got. Police are over at his house, checking for fingerprints, but so far they haven't found anything."
"Have you ever heard anything like this before?" Trace asked, taking another bite of his food.
"Nah. Damndest thing, too. "
"Trajan says there might be an explanation, but he can't say anything. I think Winkler is beginning to suspect something, but he's keeping it to himself."
"I sure don't want to end up shot and in a ditch someplace," Jason sighed, crunching into a taco.
"You think they're after just anybody, or do they have a specific target in mind?" Trace asked.
"Don't have the answer to that," Jason replied.
The bell tinkled over the door and Ashe had to leave the conversation behind to help a customer with plants from the greenhouse.
* * *
"Your mother wants you to stay with us for a little while, Sali," Adele was waiting for Jason and Trace to drop Ashe off later. "The werewolves are having a meeting at Sali's house," she added. "You two are expected as well," she nodded to Trace and Jason.
"Thanks, ma'am," Jason nodded toward Adele. Ashe watched as the van drove out of their yard before he and Sali closed the garage door and Ashe set the alarm.
"I hope you two don't mind sandwiches," Adele said.
"Nope," Sali grinned. He and Ashe put sandwiches together and sat down to eat. When Ashe's father and Radomir woke and walked upstairs, Ashe and Sali went to Ashe's room.
"Sali," Ashe whispered as quietly as he could, "Principal Billings will be in that meeting."
"Yeah. So?" Sali wasn't sure what Ashe was getting at.
"So his house is empty. Nobody there. Now might be a good time to go snooping and see if Randy Smith's essay is there."
"Are you still worrying about that?" Sali grumped.
"I am. What if they've caught Randy already? What if that's why his mom was in the store today? What if they have the wrong person, Sali? What if he never did anything?"
"Dude, you worry too much about that. We have to protect ourselves."
"Sali, I just think this is all wrong, somehow. I can't explain it, I just do." Ashe worried a shoe—it was pinching his toes.
"But what good is it that Billings' house is empty?"
"I can go digging around in it, if you cover for me," Ashe said.
"What?" Sali hissed, forcing Ashe to shush him.
"Just what I said. If you haven't figured out yet that Mom didn't make it home by herself the other night, then you'd better think again."
"You brought her back?" Sali gaped at Ashe in astonishment. "Dude, I don't know whether to say that's the coolest thing or the dumbest thing ever."
"If I hadn't gone, Mom would be dead. I found her passed out in the truck with nobody driving," Ashe hissed. "I had to drive the truck back here. I was scared to death I'd get stopped by the police, and you know what Dad might do if I got caught."
"Eternal grounding," Sali nodded sagely.
"And if your dad's a vampire, eternal takes on a whole new meaning," Ashe agreed. "Come on, cover for me. If Billings comes in, I'll just zip out of there and come right back."
"But what if your mom comes in?" Sali muttered angrily.
"Then tell her I ran outside or something. I'll get in trouble, you won't."
"Fine," Sali sighed.
"Good. I'll be back," Ashe assured Sali and turned to mist.
Principal Billings' house was a mile away from Ashe's, on the western edge of Cloud Chief's boundary. The fence marking the witch's concealment spells stood twenty feet from Benjamin Billing's large house. Since he lived alone, Ashe always wondered why the Principal needed so much room. Mentally shaking himself in order to focus on the task at hand, Ashe steeled his nerves and went right through the roof.
If I'd known it would be this easy—Ashe thought. He didn't have to go into the main part of the house; he found what he wanted in the attic. Each file box was carefully labeled with the word Essays written in bold black lettering, along with the year they'd been written. Counting backward, Ashe found the proper box, pulled it inside his mist and hurried away.
"Dude!" Sali's eyes were huge when Ashe and the box landed on Ashe's bed roughly five minutes later.
"Come on, let's see if it's in there," Ashe pulled the lid off the box eagerly and began sifting through the contents.
"Ashe, Sali's mother is here," Adele knocked on the door, making both boys jump in alarm. Ashe shoved what he'd pulled from the box back inside and slapped the lid on it. The container was then stuffed inside his closet while Sali rose to open the bedroom door.
"We'll talk about our essays at school on Monday," Sali gave Ashe a pointed look. Ashe knew what that meant—that Sali would grill him over the whole thing when they were together again.
"Fine," Ashe said. Sali left with his mother only a few moments later.
"Where's Dad?" Ashe asked.
"Out with Mr. Radomir," Adele sighed. "They found out who owned the gun used to kill Megan and Terry, but he'd reported the gun stolen and they can't link him to either crime. So we're no better off than before."
"The same gun was used?" Ashe already knew that, but he didn't want to let it slip that he'd eavesdropped earlier.
"Looks like it," his mother said. "Would you make a cup of coffee for me?"
"Sure, Mom. Sit down; I'll take care of it." Ashe had a cup of hot chocolate while his mother sipped her coffee later.
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