Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(30) by Connie Suttle
"Yes." Aedan had dressed carefully in a suit and tie, and adjusted his cuffs and the tie's knot before nodding to Nathan. Steeling himself, Aedan strode purposely toward the front porch and climbed the steps. Before he could reach out to ring the doorbell, the front door opened and Adele threw herself at him, holding on tightly and weeping as she repeated his name, over and over.
* * *
Dad's home. Mom's happy. He's in shock, Ashe texted in response to Sali's question.
Great. At least I'm out of house arrest, so we can hang tomorrow after school if you want.
Maybe. I have to go online and check my assignments. No idea what that's gonna be, Ashe responded. Need to get with Mr. Winkler, too, and see what he wants.
You coming back to Star Cove, since your dad's home?
No idea. I didn't say much to Dad. He took Mom to the back deck for a talk, so I went to my bedroom.
Things are kinda messed up.
Some things are worse, some things are better, Ashe responded philosophically.
I need to get in bed, it's nearly two, Sali pointed out.
Ashe tossed his cell onto his old dresser before smothering a yawn. Part of him wanted to sleep, another part wanted to ponder his current problem. He couldn't avoid the worries that plagued him, wondering if anyone might be in danger while he was so helpless.
* * *
"I got your message." Hughes Humphrey stared at the one before him. He still hadn't figured out how a stranger might get not only his cell-phone number, but have information that might save his life.
"My name is Wildrif, and I'm something of a clairvoyant." Wildrif looked better than he had in a very long while. New clothes, shoes and a haircut had done wonders for the Dark Seer.
"Your eyes are different colors," Hughes pointed out the obvious. Wildrif held his sarcasm back.
"I have a business proposition for you," Wildrif said, ignoring Hughes' witlessness. "And money to get you to the country of your choice, should you decide to help me."
"It depends on how much money and what you want. I don't mind killing, but it has to be somebody who won't be missed too much. I'm in enough trouble as it is."
"That isn't what I want," Wildrif smiled.
"What do you want?" Hughes' curiosity was piqued.
"I want to be a vampire. Just make the turn and leave me in a safe place. When I wake up, I'll give you the number to a private account holding three million dollars."
"I don't have to stay and take care of you?"
"Certainly not." Wildrif sounded offended.
"Sounds good," Hughes shrugged. "Maybe if you cause enough trouble as a vampire, it'll take some of the heat off me."
"Precisely what I was thinking," Wildrif agreed. "How long do you think it might take?"
"Oh, you seem in pretty good shape. Maybe five or six days."
"Good enough. Is there somewhere nearby where we might do this quickly? I'll make sure you're safe enough from the ones who hunt you."
"Gavin Montegue never misses," Hughes agreed. "I need as much help as I can get to stay out of his way."
"Do what I say and your safety will be assured," Wildrif lied smoothly. "Shall we go? I've written out precise instructions for making a vampire. Be sure to follow them exactly."
* * *
"We have a message from the Bright camp." Raze fingered the envelope in his hand.
"They know where we are?" Baltis rose from his throne in alarm.
"Not at all. This was handed to one of ours outside the gate in Kansas City. I doubt there's reason to worry; from what I heard from the messenger, there may be good news inside this." Raze offered the envelope to Baltis. "I hear they have someone waiting for a reply from you, should you choose to respond, at the same location."
"This is rather unusual; I can't recall getting a message such as this before." Baltis warily accepted the envelope—it was addressed to him in the Elemaiyan language. Cautiously he lifted the flap and withdrew the paper.
Greetings, Exalted Baltis, the message began.
* * *
Ashe slumped at the island in Winkler's kitchen. His parents had spent the night together, and Aedan was now in his bunker while Adele slept late. Marco had gone to Star Cove to pick him up early; Ashe had left a note for his mother and quietly closed the front door behind him so he wouldn't wake her.
He was now going through assignments for his college courses; he had English Comp I, College Algebra and History, 1865 to the Present, to deal with. He envied Sali and his high school curriculum after reading the online syllabi for his classes.
"Read the syllabus?" Winkler asked, sipping a cup of coffee at the kitchen island while Ashe made notes for his first assignments on the new tablet. Flossie Thompson had set a plate of food in front of Ashe, and he was absently eating bacon and eggs while he scrolled through information.
"Syllabi, and yes, I have," Ashe mumbled, biting into a strip of bacon.
"Did you get to talk much with your dad?"
"No. Mom jumped in his arms and started crying, so I sort of kept out of their way," Ashe shrugged.
"Wise," Winkler agreed. "Kid, your dad will probably talk to you tonight, and I need to see him, too. We'll get this mess straightened out. I won't revoke the guardianship until I'm sure he won't leave again."
"I don't think Mom remembers that she even signed those papers," Ashe set the tablet down on the island and turned to Winkler. "Stuff happened and I still can't explain it."
"No improvement on the ability front?"
"Not as of this morning. I'd have come without bothering Marco for a ride."
"Mr. Winkler, you're not obligated to keep me on the payroll. Without my talent, I'm a glorified file clerk."
"I doubt you'll ever be that," Winkler patted Ashe's shoulder. "It'll come back. How long to finish your first assignments? Loren could use some help with Andy's computer."
"Yeah." Ashe's shoulders slumped at the mention of Andy's name. "I figure I can finish this stuff in four hours or so."
"So, maybe after lunch, then?"
"Sure. Tell Loren to hang in there until then. At least they couldn't take some things away."
"Kid, you healed up quick from that bullet wound. Maybe this will go away faster than normal, too." Winkler's dark eyes stared at the cabinets lining the walls as Flossie bustled through, preparing spaghetti sauce for lunch.
"I sure hope so, but I don't know what the normal healing time for this is. Mr. Winkler, I had another visit from Griffin."
Winkler's head swiveled toward Ashe. "What the hell did he say or do this time?"
"He says that opiates are the bane of the Elemaiya. That it dampens their talents, leaving them virtually powerless if enough is injected. I didn't think to ask how long those effects last."
"We've pretty much figured those things out for ourselves," Winkler muttered dryly and took another sip of coffee.
"He said something else, but didn't bother to explain it, so it didn't help at all," Ashe added.
"What was that?"
"He said the answer to my problem is around my arm." Ashe pulled back the left sleeve of his T-shirt, revealing the eight gold medallions. "Griffin said that the Elemaiya can't read them now and don't know how to use them properly."
"Maybe you should focus on those tonight, then. After you get your work done."
"It may not do any good," Ashe sighed. "I can't read them, either. Never really tried. I thought the symbols were decorations and didn't mean anything."
"They don't look like letters, but what do I know?" Winkler shook his head. "I flunked Alien Studies in college."
"That's so funny," Ashe grinned. "You never flunked anything."
"My dad would have killed me." Winkler gave Ashe a quick hug. "Come on, finish your food and get to work. I have a meeting with the Grand Master and Matt before they leave for the airport."
"Have fun storming the meeting," Ashe quipped, going back to his food.
* * *
"I can't say it for sure," Matt said. "I wish the kid was okay—he could help with this."
"What can you do if you think he's tailing you?" Winkler asked.
"Curtis isn't known for being ethical about anything he does," Matt replied. "The President isn't really aware of the scope of his program, either. It sounds innocuous to anyone who isn't familiar with Curtis and his methods."
"U.S. Intelligence and Foreign Communications Division sounds innocent enough," Weldon agreed. "Sounds as if they monitor phone calls and email messages."
"They do that, too, even though other agencies are doing it. Supposed to be watching the watchdogs, if you can believe Curtis. I think it's just his way of collecting dirt on everybody, including highly-placed government officials."
"Including me, I believe." Matt didn't sound pleased. "It would be easy enough to send those three criminals after me, when he had intel from Zeke, who likely informed him that he was about to take Winkler down."
"Killing two or three birds with a single blow?" Weldon growled softly.
"That's what I think. Curtis has a lot of influence, so it wouldn't be hard for him to set up one of his puppets in my place if he can eliminate me. That will give him even more power. I have better, more reliable agents, and we can move faster. At least he doesn't know about the vamps and wolves."
"He doesn't need to know about us," Weldon snapped. "He certainly isn't trustworthy. Is there anything we can do about this? If he's trying to take you down, he knows you're associated with Winkler. It's only a matter of time before he gets something on me or somebody else just as important. It's a sure bet that Wlodek would be interested if this guy learned about the vamps."
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