Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(2) by Connie Suttle
"Do you think, sir," Vince mused aloud, "that we might put these six," he tapped the paper again, "where the seventh one is?"
* * *
"Director, what do you need?" William Winkler saw Bill Jennings' phone number displayed on his cell before answering right away.
"I have an unusual request," Director Jennings said. "I need your help. And the help of a few folks in Oklahoma."
"I think it would only be for a short while, and there's always compulsion afterward," Winkler spoke with Weldon Harper on his cell. He had to get the Grand Master's permission first and then obtain permission from the Head of the Vampire Council before calling Director Jennings back with an answer.
"We need the support of the community, too, don't forget that," Weldon pointed out.
"I think most of the community would agree. There might be a couple of holdouts."
"True. I can override those. I realize those kids are in danger—how many are there?"
"Only six families, Grand Master. One family has an older child that's eighteen from the mother's first marriage. The child the Elemaiya are after is sixteen. The other families have children ranging from fifteen to seventeen. That seems to be the age the Bright Ones are taking them."
"I'll allow this and have a word with a couple of people in Cloud Chief," Weldon said. "Do you want to contact Wlodek, or shall I?"
"I'll let you handle that," Winkler said. "And I'll arrange for temporary housing inside the community. If we're lucky and can place those families in Cloud Chief, maybe the summer is all we'll need to throw the hunters off their trail."
"I hope the same thing; I'm not sure how those kids might fit into a paranormal school, although I'll instruct the Principal to allow it if necessary."
"Understood, Grand Master. Perhaps Bill will have something else worked out by that time. What I still don't know is whether those families understand exactly what we're dealing with." Winkler blew out a frustrated sigh.
"Will they understand werewolves and vampires? Not to mention shapeshifters," the Grand Master said dryly.
"There's that," Winkler agreed. "I'll talk to Bill again. Let me know what Wlodek says."
"I'll leave a message—he's asleep at the moment. Do you think Ashe Evans might be able to help with those children? He's the same, except for his parents."
"Yeah. Those other kids don't have a vampire father." Weldon snorted a laugh at Winkler's comment. "Or a mother that flies whenever there's a full Moon," Winkler went on, grinning. "I have to go. I'll call Bill and get back with you."
"Good enough." The Grand Master terminated the call.
* * *
Charles nearly dropped the stack of files he carried two floors below Wlodek's private study. Wlodek, Head of the Vampire Council, and his staff occupied a rather large manor house in England, hidden in the countryside of Kent. Wlodek seldom shouted—Charles could hear a near-whisper from the ancient vampire while standing on the ground floor of the spacious home. Dropping the files on his desk, Charles sped through the house, up two flights of stairs and stood in Wlodek's study in less than three seconds without a hair out of place.
Wlodek studied his personal assistant before saying anything. Charles was eternally curious and loved information of any kind. His hazel eyes held a question as he, in turn, studied Wlodek. Wlodek's official title, Sanguis Rex, was seldom used. Instead, he was addressed as Head of the Council or Honored One. It gave the illusion at times that Wlodek's vote was only one of nine. The Council (and Charles) knew that he often made decisions on things that never reached the Council for a vote.
"Charles, make arrangements to send this amount to William Winkler in Dallas," Wlodek handed over a slip of paper.
"Might I inquire what this money is for?" Charles displayed no emotion, although three quarters of a million dollars was quite a large sum to be sending the Dallas Packmaster, who held sufficient wealth of his own.
"Temporary housing," Wlodek replied. "And if we're lucky, information on half-Elemaiyan children that might make fine turns one day. When they're of sufficient age, of course."
Charles knew not to blink or to show shock, surprise or any other emotion to the Head of the Council. "Of course, Honored One," Charles replied. "I'll have it done immediately." Turning quickly, Charles almost disappeared, he moved so swiftly.
"Good," Wlodek muttered and went back to sifting through a pile of requests.
* * *
"I've received a transfer of funds for temporary housing. What do you think that means?" Winkler asked the Grand Master over the phone. "Seven hundred fifty thousand. That's a lot of temporary housing."
"Wlodek never does anything in half-measures, or generally anything at all unless there's something that will benefit the vampire race in it somewhere," Weldon Harper grumbled. "We just don't know what that is at the moment. Doesn't matter. Tell Director Bill he can bring the families to Cloud Chief for the summer. How quickly can you get those prefab homes in place?"
"I've already made arrangements; all we have to do now is inform the community that they'll be hosting humans during the summer." Winkler didn't really want to be the one to make that announcement.
"I'll leave that to you," Weldon said, causing Winkler to grimace. Grateful that the Grand Master couldn't see the face he'd just made, Winkler said, "I'll get on that immediately," and hung up.
* * *
"What's going on?" Sali slid onto a cafeteria bench beside Ashe. Principal Billings' announcement on the intercom had interrupted their last class of the day. Billings seldom used the intercom for announcements, and the device had crackled and grumbled as the principal instructed all students and faculty to gather in the cafeteria. In Ashe's opinion, it was likely from lack of use. Benjamin Billings preferred to bellow at wrongdoers and anyone he suspected of wrongdoing. This time, the electronic intercom was used instead and all students were instructed to attend an unscheduled general assembly. Tables had been hastily folded up and shoved against a wall, leaving benches and chairs for seating inside the recently constructed school. The old school building had been destroyed a year earlier by a tornado.
"Dude, there's a bunch of people walking down the hall," Ashe hissed, his acute hearing detecting many footsteps and the banging of doors on the north end of the schoolhouse.
"Look," Sali whispered, nodding toward the wide doorway leading into the cafeteria. His mother, Denise DeLuca, led a crowd of Cloud Chief residents inside the lunchroom.
Principal Billings, surrounded by the faculty of Cloud Chief Combined, watched as representatives from the community took seats in the swiftly prepared assembly. When all was quiet except for a few coughs and throat-clearings, Principal Billings stepped to the podium.
"I have a special guest here today, with an announcement from the Grand Master and the Head of the Vampire Council," Principal Billings began. "Most of you know him already—he was here for the investigations a year ago. Mr. Winkler, if you'd like to come in, now." Principal Billings held out his hand and William Winkler strode through the door, coming to stand next to the Principal. Taller than Billings by a good six inches, while his presence overshadowed that of Cloud Chief's Principal, William Winkler smiled and nodded at the assembled crowd before taking Billings' place behind the podium.
"I realize this meeting is a surprise to most of you, but I have a prepared joint statement from the Grand Master and from the Head of the Vampire Council," Winkler began, his nearly black eyes scanning the crowd. "I ask you to remember that they helped put these communities together, and it is our duty to follow their instructions. Here is the statement." Winkler pulled a folded paper from his shirt pocket and opened it.
Dude, this is weird, Ashe sent to Sali, who nodded in silent agreement. "It is agreed between the werewolf and vampire races," Winkler began, "that we should provide shelter and protection for the families of the half-Elemaiyan children who have been preyed upon by the Elemaiya. These children face kidnapping or death if we do not act. It has been requested by the authorities within the U.S. Government that we provide homes for these families until a more permanent solution may be found."
"What?" Sali mouthed at Ashe. Whispers and murmurs interrupted the silence in the cafeteria—students and adults were expressing their surprise and alarm at this strange turn of events. Everything from curiosity to animosity was uttered between neighbors and classmates. Winkler held up a hand and silence resumed.
"What that means," Winkler went on, "is that there are only six children left. Six who haven't been kidnapped or killed, out of hundreds. The government has attempted to relocate the families, but even that hasn't worked. They've lost at least fifteen others since they started the relocation program. They're asking us now to take the remaining six families in until a better solution can be arranged at the end of summer. The Grand Master has decreed it," Winkler offered a hard stare to the werewolves around the room.
Ashe watched one particular person, knowing he would be the barometer for the racism and bigotry that would likely ensue—Principal Benjamin Billings, PhD., werewolf. If there were a more sour expression attainable on the Principal's face, Ashe was never destined to see it. Billings was angry, with a capital A. His gaze turning from Billings, Ashe searched out the other two—Chump and Wormy.
Chad and Jeremy were already huddled together, whispering. Ashe might have heard what they were saying if the cafeteria wasn't already buzzing with micro-conversations. "Where will they live?" Mr. Dodd, the History teacher raised a hand.
"Temporary housing will be trucked in," Winkler answered. "All paid for by the Vampire Council. I believe the Council has arranged to have vampire assistance tomorrow evening to put everything in place. You won't be expected to do anything except treat our guests with respect while they're here."
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