Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(39) by Connie Suttle
"Hence the receipt," Radomir tapped the receipt for fuel that bore the Santa Fe address. "He then attempted to place the blame on Harold for James's death, beheaded Harold and killed Pat Roberts, only Pat's body wasn't supposed to be found so we'd think Pat killed Harold and fled afterward. And then had his cronies place more compulsion on the Daniels woman to kill herself and attempt to kill Ashe at the same time, to account for the human deaths. When he was standing in your yard, Mr. DeLuca, pretending to help guard the children, one of his partners tried to kill Ashe with another stolen gun."
"But what about Megan?" Marco had listened silently while Paul Harris confessed, but no mention had been made of Megan.
"We don't need humans infiltrating Cloud Chief," Mr. Harris focused on Marco. "You would have brought her in; don't try to deny it. So I had her killed. It was convenient, too, after we killed Terry Smith, to make it look like a human serial killer was on the loose. The Daniels woman was a perfect choice for my plan." Marco cursed at Paul Harris' words.
"Unbelievable," Marcus said, shaking his head and hauling out his cell phone. "Grand Master?" Marcus said when the call was picked up on the other end. "I have a new development."
* * *
"I'm not sure I've ever heard of a high school graduation held in a barn," Sali grumped, fanning himself with the folded leaflet listing names of the graduating class. Marco's name was one of seven.
"Come on, it's fun," Ashe grinned at his friend.
"Ashe," Marco, dressed in a black graduation robe and mortarboard hat with a silver tassel, leaned over Ashe's shoulder and whispered his name.
"Huh?" Ashe stared up at Marco. Marco tapped his left shoulder. Ashe stared for a moment before grinning and nodding his head. "I'll be back," Ashe said and rose to follow Marco.
Fifteen minutes later, Sali was still sitting by himself in front of the small stage Aedan and Nathan had built for the graduation ceremony. They were only waiting for night to fall before the lights would come on, the vampires could appear and the graduation would commence. Sali watched as the sun set moments later and lights winked on inside the O'Neill's barn. Each year, the graduating seniors all made a speech when they accepted their diplomas. They were warned every time to keep them short and polite.
"Salidar," Aedan smiled and sat next to Sali, with Adele sitting on the other side. Sali had chosen seats in the second row, right behind the ones his parents would occupy when they came in. Graduation was quite a ceremony for the community.
"Here come Mom and Dad," Sali whispered, causing Aedan to chuckle. All the parents of the graduating seniors were led in behind the school faculty and seated in the front row. Once that was accomplished, Melody Patterson, the science teacher, moved to a piano and began to play Pomp and Circumstance. The crowd hushed and the seniors marched in. Sali looked across the aisle where Dawn and Randy Smith sat. Cori, Dori, Nathan and Lavonna sat with them. Cori smiled at Sali before turning her attention back to the seniors, her eyes mostly on Marco.
Principal Billings gave the usual address to the crowd before calling the seniors forward, one by one. Marco had asked to be last. "Where's Ashe? He's missing this," Adele whispered to Sali, who shrugged. Some of the seniors' speeches were funny, some fumbled, some poignant. And then it was Marco's turn. He walked to the podium and gripped the edges lightly, surveying the community before him.
"My friend James was supposed to be here tonight," Marco said. Many heads bobbed in the seats before him. "All I can do is honor him and his memory, in a ceremony that he was supposed to share with us," Marco added. "I haven't ever been good with words and as a senior, I know I'm supposed to say something profound," Marco went on, grinning suddenly at the crowd. "But my dad always told me actions speak louder than words. I think James would appreciate my actions tonight. Principal Billings, this is for you."
Marco stood back and tapped his shoulder. What looked to be a tiny brown spot dislodged and flew away from Marco, only to hover and flap in Principal Billings' face for several seconds. The frightened Principal flailed his arms, screeched loudly and did his best to fend off the tiny creature. When the miniature bat sent out his piercing call, every werewolf, vampire and shapeshifter in the crowd heard it and winced. As if by magic, Ashe appeared on stage before a stunned and terrified Principal Billings, while Marco whipped off his graduation robe and settled it over Ashe's bare shoulders.
"Guess I won't have to go to Cordell Junior High after all," Ashe announced with a grin. Principal Billings scowled angrily as the crowd stood and cheered.
The Grand Master turned the envelope over in his hand. It had been mailed from Cordell, Oklahoma, and the sender had only placed initials instead of a name in the upper left corner. It was properly addressed, however. Someone had gotten his name and post office box. Slitting the envelope open, two pieces of paper dropped out. The Grand Master opened the smaller of the two.
I know you didn't get this the first time, so I'm sending it to you now—A. E. The second, longer piece was then unfolded and read thus:
Every year we plant a community vegetable garden. Ground is plowed, tilled, sowed. I walk behind a shapeshifting Lioness as she drops seeds into the moist, turned earth, watching as the corn kernels fall from her hands. Most land in the furrow. I see one that falls outside it, blown by the wind perhaps, or by fate. I am that seed. The one that fell beyond the accepted trough of soil. The one to be culled as soon as it sprouts away from conventional parameters. It doesn't belong. Will never belong. Neither to the community that birthed it nor to those who surround it. That is my fate—to live, unaccepted by two worlds and not just the one.
I am half werewolf, but that half lies dormant within me, a seed that never grew. A siren that taunts and teases and remains forever out of reach. How many others like me are there? Taught from birth that they will never truly belong anywhere? Sighing, I carefully rake soil over the row of planted corn and when the others aren't watching, I tip the errant kernel into the furrow with my boot and cover it, too. Unlike me and others like me, it will have a chance, now. An opportunity to belong to only one world. A chance to be accepted by the neighbors around it. That opportunity will never come for me. Even now, those around me distance themselves. I will be outcast soon. Oh, I will still come home every day to my parents. For a few years, at least. But the friends I grew up with will drift away, when we no longer have the bonds of common interest to pull us together. The knot has been untied. No, severed. Once broken, it will never repair itself. Cannot repair itself.
I am the wound that will not heal. The scar to be removed, the weed to be pulled. An injured limb that will fester and infect the rest of the body if it isn't cut away. Perhaps I will stand before the Grand Master someday and argue for the rights of the half-children. The ones cast away after the age of twelve, sent to learn among humans.
My mother says she loves me, but she is werewolf. My father says the same, and he is human. Yet neither of their worlds accepts me as their own. Neither will step forward and claim the misshapen child they produced together. No, the deformity is not on the outside. It is inside and hidden. Can never be brought into the sunlight and examined. Talked of. Explained. This will be my life from now on. Shunned. Forced to walk apart.
Ashe's adventures will continue in Shadow (Legend of the Ir'Indicti #2)
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