Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(29) by Connie Suttle
"Good," Ashe bumped his forehead against his knees.
"Casimir is staying in Star Cove?" Winkler asked Nathan.
"Yes. He will help us guard the community."
"Good. I'll feel better, knowing there are three of you. I don't know about anybody else, but this thing with Dawn Smith and Wildrif has me worried."
"Yeah. It's not a good thing, either," Ashe mumbled against his knees.
* * *
Dawn fought off the urge to call Randy. She hadn't left a note, either. Perhaps it would keep him out of trouble with Marcus and the Grand Master. She'd dumped her cell and bought a temporary replacement so she couldn't be traced. Cursing Zeke Tanner for perhaps the hundredth time, she drove toward St. Louis, on her way to Chicago. If she were to be executed for murder, she'd like for one of the murders to be profitable to her. To Randy, too, if he'd only see the sense in it, someday.
* * *
"All three have criminal records," Matt informed Winkler over the phone. "We ran fingerprints through the database, and got positive IDs on all of them. I'd bet money they didn't have ties to Tanner, though. Their crimes were committed back east, mostly in New York and New Jersey."
"You were their target, that's easy enough to see," Winkler said. "They intended to take you down. They got Andy, instead."
"There's no reason for me to be on their radar—unless somebody sent them in my direction," Matt observed.
"I think that's exactly what happened."
"I'm beginning to agree with you. How's the kid?"
"Not good. Tanner somehow knew exactly what to do to take him out of the game."
"Wildrif knew. I'd bet a lot on it."
"You're right. You think he's playing all the pieces against each other?"
"How much are they paying him?"
"No idea. Bear in mind, though, that he didn't look wealthy to me when we picked him up with Obediah's bunch."
"True. Is he not spending the money, or is he being compensated in another way?" Matt asked.
"Something to think about," Winkler muttered. "I've got mine working on the Smith woman, hoping we'll get a hit on her credit cards."
"I've got her tag number and vehicle description distributed, but it varies, state-to-state, how actively they search for that," Matt said. "It's probably safe to say she's left the state of Texas."
"Long gone," Winkler agreed. "Her son says he has no idea where she might go, and New Mexico would be the first logical choice, so I'd bet she didn't go in that direction."
"Will Tanner send more after you?"
"No idea. If that were me and I'd just lost fifteen of my best wolves, I'd take time to regroup and form a better plan before making another attempt."
"Something must have made him think he'd be successful in this attempt," Matt said.
"Wildrif," Winkler growled.
"You have to ask yourself what Tanner actually accomplished in that raid, since I'm pretty sure the humans weren't on his payroll."
"All Tanner accomplished was taking the kid out of the game." Winkler held the phone away from his ear and cursed. Matt heard it anyway. "You think that was Wildrif's goal? What about the hit on Adele, when those Elemaiya showed up to take Ashe? Something doesn't add up, here."
* * *
Aedan sighed as he walked down the steps to the safe house. How would Adele react to his appearance? Would she take him back after he removed the compulsion? Would she forgive him for placing it? He didn't have many answers; all he knew was that he had amends to make—with his wife and his boy. Somehow, he'd been given another chance and he was determined to make it work.
* * *
Ashe was surprised when Trace spoke at Andy's funeral. Six werewolves, per tradition, had guarded the carved wood box holding the body since the evening before.
"I have hope," Trace said, "that this is not the end. That something else waits for us. A better time. A better life. Perhaps a better world. Andy certainly deserves all those things. What more can we ask of anyone, than that they give their life to save another? What greater gift is there?"
Ashe turned to watch Winkler as Trace delivered Andy's eulogy. Winkler's head was bowed, leaving his face in shadow. Ashe turned away, giving the tall werewolf privacy in his grief.
* * *
"Honored One, William Winkler has offered the use of his jet and a safe place to sleep while we work in the states." Tony had offered to make the call and Gavin allowed it, shortly after nightfall. "It appears Ashe's talents have been disabled through treachery—he was wounded during our last assignment, and the werewolf nurse was compromised. The boy was given a large dose of opiate and, as Winkler puts it, can't touch his talents because of it. We have no idea how long the effects might last."
"This is evil news," Wlodek said.
Gavin, who stood nearby as Tony placed the call, nodded his agreement. "Honored One," Gavin began, knowing Wlodek would hear his voice clearly; "it is evil news. The boy was more than cooperative, and surprised both of us with his willingness to help. The talents he possesses are, if anything, even more astounding than originally reported. It is my suggestion that we court him for future work. His ability to move about in the day will be a decided asset. I see no need for vampirism in this case. The Council can pay him fairly and the boy is not greedy, if my sources are correct."
"Yes, I have had information on that as well." Wlodek didn't elaborate and Gavin didn't press the matter. "I will agree to leave you where you are; I merely expect you to keep me apprised if your situation changes."
"Of course, Honored One," Gavin replied. He nodded at Tony, who ended the call on his cell.
"I feel better now," Tony breathed a sigh. "I hope the kid can get that crap out of his system soon. We could use his help."
"I know. Our next objective is Hughes Humphrey, and he is younger and less intelligent than our previous targets. We can pursue him easily enough without assistance from Ashe."
"Where is he?" Tony sorted through folders in Gavin's briefcase, searching for the proper one.
"New York, according to his file. And then we must find Alan Everett," Gavin added.
"Where is Alan? Best guess?" Tony lifted an eyebrow in curiosity.
"Likely in New Orleans," Gavin replied.
"No. A vampire in New Orleans? That's rich."
"Anthony, this is no time for levity." Gavin offered Tony a severe frown. Tony burst out laughing.
* * *
"Marco gathered clothes and sent this," Cori handed Ashe a duffle filled with Ashe's clothes, plus a bag from a popular electronics store.
"What is this?" Ashe dug in the bag, first.
"Something Gavin asked him to give you," Cori grinned. "I already peeked. You'll like it."
"Holy cow. It's the new tablet," Ashe was tearing into the shrinkwrap-covered box quickly. "Gavin bought this for me?" Ashe stared at the tablet as he considered the possibilities.
"Look, it's one of those with an Internet connection anywhere, and the contract has been paid for a year," Cori waved the receipt in front of Ashe.
"He paid for that? Dang, that was nice," Ashe breathed, checking the tablet to see if the battery was charged. "I can use this to place calls and do face time," Ashe powered it up, finding it had a partial charge. "I'll plug this in and start getting apps loaded."
"Marco wants one," Cori grinned. "I'm saving money to get him one for Christmas."
"Cori, I'll lend you the money and you can pay me back," Ashe offered.
"Really? That would be awesome," Cori laughed.
"Here, let's order it online, and send it to your home address," Ashe began tapping on his new tablet.
"Ashe, we really miss you around here. I know you work for Mr. Winkler, but it's just not the same. And after Hayes and all that," Cori said.
"Yeah. Jimmy, too. And Andy."
"Marco says Winkler misses Andy. More than he's letting on. I know werewolves see friends and Packmates fall, but we've had more than our share."
"Yeah. I hope we don't see any more of it. If I get my stuff back, I'm going hunting." Ashe chewed his lip in determination as he ordered a tablet and entered Cori's address through an online website.
"What will you hunt?" Cori whispered, blinking at Ashe in concern.
"That's who, Cori. And there might be several on that list."
"I just don't know how to act," Adele smoothed her dress nervously. "I feel as if I haven't seen Aedan in months." Adele had taken extra care with her clothes and hair while waiting for Aedan to arrive.
"It hasn't been that long, Mom," Ashe said. It was late—past midnight—and Nathan had left Star Cove an hour earlier to collect Aedan at the airport. He'd taken Hector and Edmond with him; they'd be boarding the Council's jet for a return flight to New York and would fly from there to the U.K. the following evening.
"I know, I just miss him," Adele breathed.
"Maybe I should go to Sali's, or go back to Mr. Winkler's place tonight."
"No, hon. You stay here. You haven't seen him, either." Ashe didn't point out that he had seen Aedan, and Aedan had sent him home. It wasn't a good memory.
"Is that a car in the drive?" Adele ran to a window near the door to peek. "It's them. Honey, do I look all right?" She turned to Ashe, a mixture of hope and terror on her face. "Will he be happy to see us?"
"I sure hope so," Ashe mumbled.
* * *
"Ready, Father?" Nathan asked as he and Aedan climbed out of Nathan's car.
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