Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(34) by Connie Suttle
"Mom, what would you do if that was me instead of Randy Smith?"
"Ashe, it's not you."
"But what if it were? There's a story going around that Randy got framed. What if that's true? What if somebody set me up exactly the same way, because they didn't like me for some reason? What would you do?"
"Honey, your father saw the letter Randy Smith wrote. It's in his handwriting and everything. There are still some samples of his writing floating around, you know, so it would be easy to tell."
"When did Dad see it? Where's the letter now?"
"He saw it a few days after Mr. Harris got it—said the envelope was postmarked in Santa Fe and everything. Everything checked out, Ashe. That letter came from Randy Smith."
"Yeah? Did it smell like him?"
"Ashe, stop. Mail gets handled by so many people you can't even tell about things like that once they arrive."
"Fine." The fields of Cloud Chief blurred past Ashe's window as his mother drove, slowing down eventually to turn into their driveway. "I'll go do homework," Ashe said, slouching into the kitchen and leaving his mother to close the door and set the alarm behind them.
* * *
"Aedan, he's really upset over this Randy Smith thing," Adele had gone down to her husband's bunker when he woke. "Somehow, he's convinced that Randy Smith didn't write that letter."
"The evidence points to the contrary. We might have placed compulsion to ask if we'd found him, but he was already gone by the time we arrived in Santa Fe," Aedan pulled a shirt on. "No doubt Dawn got the warning and sent him away. That didn't keep the Grand Master's trackers from finding him."
"They had more time. You only had two days, Aedan, and no leads."
"Marcus won't allow anyone near the boy now," Aedan grumbled. "I'll arrange to have someone take Ashe away during the full moon next week if you think it will be better for him."
"It won't make any difference. That boy will still be just as dead, and Ashe knows that. It won't matter if Ashe is here or five hundred miles from here."
"I can place compulsion. But I don't want to."
"Ashe will never trust us again if we do that." Adele rubbed her forehead, attempting to ease the accumulating tension.
"I know. Come, love. We must be in Oklahoma City in an hour."
* * *
"Young man, would you like a soft drink or a bottle of water?" Ashe stared at the salesman, his arms crossed tightly over his chest.
"No, thank you," Ashe said as politely as he could. Surrounded by polished tile floors and shiny new vehicles, Ashe and Radomir remained inside the dealership while his mother and father test-drove the new SUV.
"Young one, I can feel your anger. One must learn how to hide such emotions," Radomir said softly when the salesman walked away.
Ashe blinked at the Enforcer. Perhaps it was easy for someone older than nine hundred years to hide emotions; he'd had plenty of time to learn, Ashe thought. And Radomir had to be older than nine hundred, since someone had been sent that had to be older than Old Harold. Ashe still didn't know why that was. Sure that he wasn't supposed to know for some reason, Ashe wiggled farther into his plastic chair and let his hands drop to his side, settling for a good, hard grip on the edge of his seat instead. When would people think he was old enough to know things? It made him angry that they kept their secrets. A television was still on inside the dealership, and Ashe's attention diverted to it when a newscaster announced that a child had been abducted in Little Rock, Arkansas. An Amber Alert had been issued for the thirteen-year-old.
"Authorities are now becoming concerned, as it has been revealed through an unidentified source that the parents of this child, as well as the parents of murdered children in Saint Louis and Fort Myers, Florida, all went to the same fertility clinic in St. Louis. While authorities have yet to confirm or deny these allegations, it has put many parents on alert," the female anchor said. Hands now in his lap and fingers clenched, Ashe wanted more than anything to have access to a computer and the internet right then. He hadn't gotten the ages of the children in St. Louis, but the twins in Fort Myers had been only a little older than he was. The one from Little Rock had just celebrated a birthday weeks earlier. Ashe would turn thirteen in June. He shivered visibly at the thought.
"It's just what I wanted," Aedan and Adele were back and ready to purchase the SUV. Ashe stared at his mother. Would she answer his questions? She'd never said where the donated egg had come from, or given any other information. Would it be like so many other things? A secret to be kept until Ashe reached some magical age in the future, when the adults thought he might be capable of handling the truth as they saw it?
"Young one, come," Radomir touched Ashe's shoulder gently. Ashe blinked at the tall Enforcer. That's what he was to all of them. Young one. Ashe stood and followed Radomir.
Ashe rode home with Radomir in Adele's old Ford while Aedan and Ashe's mother drove the new Escalade. The other one had been totaled in the accident. Aedan liked his comfortable vehicles; Ashe knew that much. Radomir glanced in Ashe's direction at times, but never said anything. His mind on other things, Ashe was perfectly content not to talk.
"Ashe, it's late and you have school tomorrow," Adele said when he and Radomir walked into the kitchen later. Nodding, Ashe went toward the middle door and clumped down the steps, not bothering to wish his parents good night. Dressing in pajamas and brushing his teeth, Ashe turned out his bedroom light, made sure no one was around to see or hear and booted up his computer.
At times like these, the internet was his best friend. Pulling up information on the deaths in St. Louis, Ashe sat back in his chair and stared. The four children ranged in age from fourteen to seventeen. He then began to look up other murders in the area. Someone had already thought the same thing, posting information on two other deaths, one young woman who was nineteen and attending college, and a young man who was twenty and working as an employee for the City of St. Louis. The blogger noted that both sets of parents used the same fertility clinic as the others.
"Where is it?" Ashe was digging through records and other things that he'd filched from the safe inside his father's office. He seldom went inside that small room right off his parents' bedroom. There wasn't any need. Until now. Ashe searched for his birth certificate, hoping other information might be there as well. And why, even if Ashe wasn't involved in any way, would someone target children whose parents visited a fertility clinic? It made no sense to him. The folder that held his birth certificate in his hands, Ashe turned to mist and zipped back to his bedroom.
Receipts. That's what he found. Payments made to the clinic and to a physician. In St. Louis. There was information, too, (some of which Ashe had difficulty understanding) about the transfer of a frozen embryo to another facility located in London. A great deal of money surrounded that transfer. Ashe had stared at the number of zeros that followed the one at the bottom of that transaction. Only it was listed as a donation. One hundred thousand dollars his father had paid for the transfer of a fertilized egg—Ashe at one stage of his life—to waiting supernatural scientists in London. Ashe hadn't realized his father had that kind of money. But then Aedan had just written a check for the total price of a new SUV, without waiting for the insurance check to come on the last one.
Disturbed, Ashe misted through the upper floors of his home and settled upon the peak of the roof, staring around him at the ghost town of Cloud Chief.
* * *
"Sali, I haven't forgotten that your Aunt Marcie will be here Saturday. I'm sure that Mom and I will be there with cowbells on," Ashe muttered as Sali ran to keep up with Ashe's swift walk toward Transformational Arts. Friday morning had arrived and Ashe suffered the effects of his sleepless night. His eyes felt as if they were filled with sand and he certainly wasn't in the mood to listen to Sali's chatter about his aunt's visit.
"Dude, you're in another funk," Sali's voice held irritation.
"What do you think Randy Smith is in?" Ashe snapped.
"Dude, you don't have to bite my nose," Sali replied, offended.
"More werewolf euphemisms, Sali?" Ashe increased his pace, leaving Sali behind, staring at his friend's retreating back.
* * *
Ashe discovered he wasn't the only one upset. Mrs. Rocklin definitely wasn't herself and called on Dori twice. Dori didn't argue, she merely turned a second time and Ashe gathered her clothing both times, following her to the changing room without being asked. Thankful that he hadn't been called on, Ashe escaped Transformational Arts and headed straight for English class without waiting for Sali.
"What is wrong with you?" Sali huffed, sliding into his seat next to Ashe.
"Sali, if I had an hour or two, I might be able to make a dent in what's wrong with me. In the meantime, you'll just have to settle for everything, all right? Everything is wrong with me."
"Well, let me know when everything isn't wrong with you." Sali turned in his chair and faced the front of the class. Mr. Harris gave the class a reading assignment and told them to start on it right away while he walked out of the classroom at least twice. Ashe glanced furtively at Mr. Harris, who seemed just as distracted as Mrs. Rocklin did. The rest of the day went much the same. Even Principal Billings didn't look happy. Figuring it was because his teachers weren't in a good mood, Ashe ignored the Principal of Cloud Chief Combined.
"Ashe, are you going to say anything?" his mother had driven the new SUV to pick Ashe up at school. Now she watched him as he wordlessly sat on the passenger seat of the new vehicle.
"Do you know what I have in common with Randy Smith? What Randy and I have in common with those kids that got killed in St. Louis and Fort Myers and Little Rock? Do you, Mom?" turning away after his outburst, Ashe stared out the window, watching green fields rush past. Spring had come and the hot weather that gripped western Oklahoma every summer wouldn't be far behind. Wheat would be harvested soon, and hay and straw baled. None of that mattered to Ashe at the moment.
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