Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(16) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"What the hell?" Winkler and Trajan were drinking their sodas on the deck and watching the waves roll in under a waning moon when Winkler received the text from an unknown source.
Hello, Mr. Winkler, the message began. My name is Peyton Miller. I've been working for Zeke Tanner in Mexico for more than twenty years. I've managed to get away from him, but he'll be hunting me, soon. He's hunting you, too. I'd like to meet with you and share information, in exchange for protection. Trajan was beside Winkler's chair quickly and reading over Winkler's shoulder.
"What the hell?" Trajan repeated Winkler's confused statement.
* * *
Peyton ground the cell Zeke Tanner had given him under his heel, destroying it as best he could. He'd just purchased another cell at a discount store and used it to contact William Winkler. He'd gotten Winkler's number from Zeke, who'd gotten it from another source. It didn't matter now—Peyton's life hung in the balance, and he'd prefer a quicker death from the Grand Master than what he'd likely get from Zeke and his trackers. No matter what happened, Peyton would be traveling to Corpus Christi. If Winkler agreed to meet with him, whether to kill him or listen to what he had to say, he no longer cared. Peyton was tired of the drugs and the killings.
* * *
Gavin Montegue, ancient vampire that he was, had never seen anything like this. Ashe, holding out a hand, had caused knapsacks filled with explosives to disintegrate and float away as harmless sparks. Six headless bodies littered the concrete floor of the base warehouse—Gavin and Tony had seen to that. Ashe now contemplated the bodies while a wave of nausea hit him.
"Kid, don't get sick. I hate that smell," Tony whined.
"I'll be fine," Ashe rasped, drawing in a shaky breath. "I just have to get it out of my mind before I send them back to Baltis."
"King of the Dark Elemaiya. He was doing this in retaliation for his brother's death in Chicago."
"One of those Matt Michaels and a few vamps took out?"
"Yeah. Baltis doesn't have much recourse against the vamps—and he's scared witless of you guys anyway. You move too fast. Humans, though, he doesn't mind killing because he's gotten away with it too many times."
"Young one, might we move faster? Anthony, stop distracting him," Gavin muttered.
"Gotcha," Ashe mumbled, holding out a hand again. The six bodies, with their heads, disappeared. "Now, all we have to do is clean up the blood and any evidence that we were here and we're good."
* * *
"We have to move swiftly." Wildrif was pulling off his clothing while one of two werewolves dressed a mangled, unrecognizable shapeshifter in Wildrif's discarded clothing. Wildrif had more clothing brought by the werewolves, but he'd just had a vision of six headless bodies appearing at Baltis' feet back in the camp. Wildrif's life would be worthless if Baltis found him again.
It didn't matter; Wildrif still had his contacts with the Bright Queen, and she was more than willing to listen. Zeke Tanner, too, would be putty in his hands. Wildrif had spent years building trust with both, and they would willingly listen to anything he suggested. Things were falling into place surprisingly well. Who cared if the Earth was destroyed, as long as Wildrif's revenge could be served?
* * *
Baltis' rage could not be contained. Ruin had contacted Raze, who as yet didn't realize what had happened. Six bodies and their disconnected heads lay at Baltis' feet, and he had already destroyed the tent and most of his belongings. Dark Elemaiya fled from Baltis' wrath, as he pulled energy from his crown to blast the sands beneath his feet.
"Hello, Rydley. Didn't expect us, did you?" Tony grinned at Rydley Huntington. The house in Atlanta where Ashe had taken Gavin and Tony was quite large. Rydley had employed compulsion to convince the wealthy owner to allow him access to his home and his extensive bank account. Explosives filled the six-car garage, too, forcing the human occupant to leave his expensive automobiles parked in the driveway.
"What the?" Rydley didn't get to finish his question; Gavin held him by the throat. "You will be still and answer questions. No other words will pass your lips." Gavin's eyes were red and the tips of his fangs showed as he placed a mind-bending compulsion on three-hundred-year-old Rydley. Rydley could only nod his compliance; Gavin held his throat too tightly.
What about the human? Ashe asked.
The compulsion will die when Rydley does, Tony said.
That's not scary or anything, Ashe replied.
Kid, don't say scary to me. I have a whole new respect for you, now.
"Hmmph," Ashe responded aloud and crossed arms over his chest.
"Shhh," Tony whispered.
Ashe watched as Gavin questioned Rydley Huntington about his dealings in arms, who he'd sold to and what, which humans had died and which he still did business with. The list was long. Ashe listened with interest.
* * *
"You weren't gone as long as I thought you might be," Winkler remarked as Ashe wandered into the kitchen at noon the following day.
"Mr. Winkler, have you ever seen a vampire die?" Ashe opened the fridge and stared at its contents absently.
"Yeah. Several times. Killed a few of 'em myself. Why do you ask?"
"They just turn to ash. Dust. Whatever." Ashe shrugged.
"Yep. You can clean up an entire vamp with a hand vacuum." Winkler sipped the cup of coffee in front of him—he'd made a pot for himself.
"That's funny. And not funny. At the same time," Ashe hauled the milk jug from the fridge and pulled a tall glass from a cabinet. "Where's grumpy?"
"Oh. Sent him to Amarillo this morning after breakfast. Grand Master needed help cleaning out the Amarillo Pack. Nick Robbins is no more."
"Too bad. He was involved in a lot of crime. Inadvertently sometimes, through Josiah Dunnigan. Didn't argue when he got paid, though."
"Weldon never did trust him. Nick tried to take down the Grand Master last night. Obviously that was a mistake."
"What, Mr. Winkler?" Ashe gulped half a glass of milk quickly.
"Know anything about Peyton Miller?"
"He contact you?"
"You should hire him."
"He's mighty tired of Zeke Tanner. Might be willing to help fight off what Zeke sends our way."
"Kid, I've already talked with the Grand Master. He wants to question Peyton before executing him. This'll throw a wrench in the works." Winkler shook his head, his dark eyes focused on Ashe.
"I just saved the Grand Master's posterior. Maybe he'll cut me some slack on this." Ashe drained his glass of milk. "Who are you getting to replace Craig? Good move, by the way. He was prejudiced up to his eyeballs."
"I hired Amos and Florence Thompson this morning. She'll cook, and he'll help guard during the day."
"Another good choice. Mr. Thompson is cool."
"It's not every day you meet a white buffalo shapeshifter," Winkler flashed a grin. "They're even rarer as shifters. Almost as rare as unicorns and bumblebee bats."
"Don't dis the bat, man."
"Not dissing the bat," Winkler laughed.
"Who's dissing the bat?" Trace walked in and ruffled Ashe's hair with a large hand.
"Everybody," Ashe ducked his head to hide a half-grin.
"Heard you got into it last night," Trajan slouched into the kitchen and went straight to the coffeepot.
"Gavin and Tony, well," Ashe shook his head. He still found it difficult to believe how fast they'd moved. Six heads had been removed before Ashe could blink twice. And then there was so much blood—blood he'd had to destroy by turning it to sparks. If it hadn't been important to return the bodies to the Dark King, he'd have done the same with them. He found it nauseating to look at them afterward. Sighing, Ashe worked to get the visions out of his head.
"Kid, it's the nature of what we are. What the vamps are. And the way I hear it, those six were prepared to destroy Fort Arland. How many others would have died if they'd succeeded in their plan?"
"I tried to send a message to the Dark King. Tried to tell him his revenge against the humans is useless. He may choose another target to go after," Ashe muttered, pulling out a barstool at the island and sitting down. "Displacement."
"You mean choosing someone else to vent your anger on?" Winkler lifted an eyebrow while he sipped coffee.
"Yeah. Guess you had a chat with Gavin and Tony after we got back last night."
"It wasn't even one o'clock when you got back. Tony said it was the fastest they'd ever gotten anybody."
"I hope he doesn't expect that every time," Ashe replied, rising and going back to the fridge. "Anybody else want scrambled eggs?"
* * *
"Why can't the teachers get together and stagger homework assignments?" Dori was already complaining about the assigned paper in English, the math homework and the research required for a history exam. She and Wynn sat at a table in the new school cafeteria. She could see Adele Evans behind the serving line, talking with the two shapeshifter women serving lunch to the students.
"Our school is getting smaller," Wynn remarked, ignoring Dori's complaint. "We only have sixty-two students this year."
"There isn't a first or second-grade class," Dori agreed, watching as students went through the line to get trays of food. "You don't think the shifters and werewolves are dying out, do you?"
"You know," Wynn pointed her unwrapped straw at Dori before dropping it into her milk carton, "that sounds like a good essay to research and write at the end of the year."
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