Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(35) by Connie Suttle
"Ashe, what are you talking about?" Adele pulled over and stopped the SUV, putting it in park and letting it run.
"Didn't you see the news? Somebody let it slip that all those dead kids' parents went to the same fertility clinic in St. Louis, just like you and Dawn Smith did. Those kids are getting killed, Mom. Somebody is looking for them. Tell me why that is." Ashe's breath was ragged and he rushed through the words before he lost his courage to say them.
"Oh, dear God," Adele muttered. "Ashe, I don't know how you found that out, but you are protected, here. Do you think your father will allow anyone near you?"
"They didn't have to get close to Randy Smith, did they? They just found a different way to do him in. They're gonna let the werewolves do it," Ashe snapped angrily.
"We will not discuss this here in the car. I'm taking you home and you will go to your room and stay there until I talk to your father about this. Do you hear me?"
Ashe didn't say anything. He'd heard, all right. Of all the residents of Cloud Chief, Ashe had the best hearing.
* * *
"Ashe, what's this I hear about an argument with your mother?" Aedan's eyes hadn't gone red yet, but Ashe figured that wasn't far off.
"I can put two and two together, Dad."
"And that's because you went digging through things without asking," Aedan pointed out judiciously. "Didn't you?"
"Because nobody tells me anything." Ashe huddled into his seat on the living room sofa. He didn't want to fight with his parents. Didn't want to fight with anyone, if the truth were known. It made him feel nauseous. But this—this was too important to ignore.
"Son, we're trying to protect you. Granted we didn't put this together until you mentioned it, but every adult in Cloud Chief is committed to protecting the children."
"Like Randy Smith?"
"Son, do not bring that up with me. Radomir and I spent more time on that than we should have. The boy will pay the price for a few careless words and a letter afterward. That's Pack business. You know that just as well as anyone here."
"But what if he's innocent? Doesn't that bother you? That could be me, Dad. It could." Ashe was trying to make his point, but the look on his father's face told Ashe what he needed to know—that his father wouldn't interfere with Randy's execution. "Never mind." Ashe said helplessly. "I can see nobody would interfere if it was me, either."
"Son, that's enough. You'll do without dinner tonight, and stay in your room." Aedan rose and stalked from the room, his eyes red.
* * *
"He refused breakfast," Adele said. "And lunch." Did his mother think he didn't hear? Ashe heard his mother talking with Denise DeLuca. He'd been introduced to Denise's sister, Marcella, but everybody called her Marcie. She had a haunted look in her eyes, in Ashe's estimation. Likely from leaving her two sons behind in Phoenix. Denise sent him to Sali's room, saying Sali was waiting for him there. Ashe wasn't sure he wanted to talk to Sali either.
"Dude, come look at this!" Sali held what looked like an old family album on his lap as he sat cross-legged on his rumpled bed. "These cars are cool. Grampa had a convertible. Look, Ashe. This is the one we need to get!"
Unwillingly, Ashe piled onto the bed to look at the car Sali pointed at in an old photograph. An ancient Cadillac convertible, with fins and taillights that reminded Ashe of old movies he'd seen, was depicted in the creased photo. The photograph was so old, it was in black and white. "That's Grampa, sitting in it," Sali said reverently. "Mom told me." Sali tapped the photo. "It was red—the car, that is."
"It is a nice car," Ashe reluctantly agreed.
"There's more," Sali flipped a page or two, showing Ashe other vehicles from a bygone era. A few were in color; many were not. The photographs were filled with people Ashe didn't recognize. Sliding against Sali's headboard, Ashe settled in to look at pages of photographs, painstakingly affixed to heavy, yellowed paper by small black wedges holding corners of photos. "Aunt Marcie says that nobody's looked at this in a long time," Sali said, turning another page.
"I don't think we have any old photographs," Ashe sighed, staring at members of Sali's family, many of whom were deceased.
"Here, keep our place, I'm going to see if Mom will let me have something to eat," Sali hopped off the bed after shoving the album into Ashe's lap. Ashe sighed and watched as his friend disappeared through the bedroom door, holding their place with a thumb while he looked ahead. On the next to the last page, his eyes opened wide. Then, glancing furtively around, Ashe carefully removed a photograph and slipped it inside a pocket of his cargo pants.
"Wow, there's one missing," Sali said when they reached that spot later. Sali had been careful with the small bowl filled with potato chips, letting Ashe turn the pages while they searched for more cars. Several photographs of people on horseback were displayed toward the back of the album. Ashe liked those more than Sali did.
"Could have fallen out," Ashe shrugged, not meeting Sali's eyes.
"I guess. This is neat, huh? Aunt Marcie said she found this in Grampa's things," Sali said.
"You never know what you might find when you go looking," Ashe replied enigmatically. "Will the Pack approve her membership?"
"Probably. Dad said she could take over Pat Roberts' house, if she wanted it and the Pack approves her application."
"Will she have to marry somebody here?"
"She gets to pick this time. Most female werewolves don't stay single long unless they want to. Anyway, that's what Dad says."
"Hey, squirts. Wanna go outside and play football or something?" Marco stood in the doorway, a football in his hands. Ryan Phillips was standing right behind him. "Come on, tapeworm. Let's get some sun while Mom and Dad say it’s okay." Marco was tossing the football from one hand to the other and grinning.
"He called you tapeworm," Ashe grinned at Sali.
"Yeah. Let's go." Sali closed the album and left it on the bed as he and Ashe slipped their shoes on and followed Marco and Ryan.
"Ashe!" Cori hugged him the moment he'd walked outside—Dori and Wynn, with classmates Hayes, Jeff, Larry and a few others were all in the yard. Ashe looked around and saw Mr. Dodd, Micah Rocklin and Mr. Harris, all in the yard, talking quietly together.
"Ashe, everybody's on alert because Dawn Smith made some threats," Cori whispered in Ashe's ear as she hugged him.
"What?" Ashe stared into Cori's green eyes, a worried frown plastered on his face. "What kind of threats?" he asked softly.
"She said Randy might not be the only kid killed," Cori muttered. "Come on, let's go play Frisbee or something."
Ashe knew it was after six when Winkler, Trace and Jason drove up in Winkler's van. Trace and Jason were still running the store for his mother, and Mr. Winkler must have gone with them. Ashe leapt to catch the Frisbee Sali tossed in his direction, playing in human form this time. Ashe flipped it toward Cori, who laughed and went chasing it. "Dinner will be ready in fifteen," Marcus DeLuca stuck his head out the door and then stood back to allow Winkler, Trace and Jason inside.
"Heads up!" Sali shouted, hurling the Frisbee in Ashe's direction. Sali's aim was off, forcing Ashe to leap to the side in order to catch the flying disc. The sudden movement saved Ashe's life. A sharp crack sounded and Ashe felt the sting in his right shoulder as his hand stretched out to grab the plastic toy flying toward him. The Frisbee grazed the tips of his fingers as Ashe fell, things going dark around him while shouts and screams sounded. Ashe was unconscious by the time he landed across the new grass in Sali's front yard.
"Ashe, honey, please wake up." His mother was crying and his right shoulder ached.
"He's coming around," Radomir's voice was close. Ashe blinked at the Enforcer, who stood behind his mother. Adele Evans sat on the edge of Ashe's bed, his fingers gripped tightly in her hand.
"What happened?" Ashe croaked. His mouth was so dry he almost couldn't speak.
"Somebody shot you. Your dad, Nathan and most of the werewolves are out looking for the gunman. Or woman."
"Mom, it wasn't Dawn Smith. You have to believe me," Ashe squeezed his mother’s fingers. Right then, he felt as weak as a newborn lamb.
"Baby, I want to believe you. I do. But what if you're wrong?" Adele choked back a sob.
"Ashe, do you need something for pain?" Radomir asked. "I should go help your father while I can."
"Mom, do we have ibuprofen?" Ashe's pain was waking. "Who got the bullet out?"
"It went all the way through, young one," Radomir almost smiled at Ashe. "While I have some experience removing bullets from a vampire's flesh, I would have been afraid to take one from your shoulder. Thankfully, that was not necessary, although you have wounds on both sides, now." He pointed to Ashe's shoulder. "We have bandaged the wounds as well as we could, but you must rest after your mother brings the medicine."
"Mom, they were aiming for my heart. I jumped to catch the Frisbee. Sali's terrible aim saved my life." Adele wiped away more tears at Ashe's explanation.
"We'll buy Sali a nice dinner soon," she said, and rose to go find the bottle of pain reliever.
"I will go now, since the young one is awake," Radomir did smile this time. He nodded at Ashe and left the room.
Ashe discovered he still wore the cargo pants he'd had on earlier, although his shirt had been removed and a thick pad of gauze showing a bit of red was taped to his right shoulder. Reaching down, Ashe patted the large pocket on the side of his pants. The photograph was still there. Now he had to make careful plans, and having a bullet wound in his shoulder certainly limited what he might be able to do. Pulling the photograph out, although it shot shards of pain through his shoulder to do it, Ashe placed it in the drawer of his bedside table and shut it as quietly as he could.
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