Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(9) by Connie Suttle
"So, what about the vampires, then?" Steven Pendley asked.
"Can't talk about that," Ashe replied. "And I wouldn't ask my dad or Mr. Anderson, either. That's a closely guarded secret. I don't even know and dad won't tell me."
"Mr. Frasier came by this morning," Edward muttered.
"I heard about that," Ashe nodded, watching Sali, who was about to fall asleep in the floor. "Dad didn't threaten Mr. Frasier. He was doing his best to warn him. He can't protect everybody if they won't cooperate."
"Not a surprise that Frasier would exaggerate; he was an investment banker before all this happened," Mr. Pendley sighed.
"We should go," Ashe said, nudging Sali with a toe of his sneaker. Sali had begun to snore softly.
"It was nice seeing you again; come back anytime," Mr. Pendley said as Ashe and Sali walked out of the house. Ashe waved at Edward before he and Sali trotted toward his home.
"Mom, is there anything on the news about a farmer getting killed two miles from here?" Ashe asked as he and Sali walked into the kitchen. Adele was putting a chicken into the oven to roast.
"I don't know, hon. Turn on the television and check."
Ashe turned on the small television on the kitchen counter while Sali trotted downstairs to turn and retrieve his clothing from Ashe's bathroom. Clumping up the steps again a few minutes later, Sali sat down with Ashe at the island and watched for any information.
"Look—there it is," Ashe pointed to the crawler across the bottom of the screen. "Mom, it says a Cordell rancher was found murdered inside his barn," Ashe read the information on the screen. "No suspects in the case," he finished. "Now they're saying that this may be related to Mayor Taylor's death two days ago."
Adele now stared at the screen in alarm. "I wish your father were awake," she said.
"Trace got a call from Mr. Winkler, that's where I heard it," Ashe said. "Mr. Winkler told Trace to contact Sali's dad and get with the two agents Director Jennings is sending."
"Honey, I'm sure it's just to rule out any connection with our new residents," Adele soothed. "These victims are local humans. How could they possibly have any ties to the ones out back?"
"I don't know," Ashe shrugged.
Sitting inside his bedroom later and with Sali looking on, Ashe surfed the Internet, searching for additional information on the recent murder.
"Sal, look," Ashe pointed at his computer screen. "An unofficial source reports that Mr. Sparks was strangled with a chain found inside his barn."
"So, Mayor Taylor's neck was broken and Mr. Sparks was strangled with a chain," Sali looked over Ashe's shoulder to read the information for himself.
"Oh, no," Ashe said, staring at further information. "He had a family. A wife and two kids, who were at church when the murder happened."
"Definitely not cool," Sali breathed.
* * *
"Who the hell are you?" Washita County Sheriff Cliff Watson stared at the four men who walked up to the crime scene.
"Special Agent Nick Lawford," Nick held out his identification for the sheriff to see. "This is Special Agent Derik North," he introduced the second agent. "These two," Nick jerked his head toward Marcus and Trace, "are helping us with an investigation."
"And what investigation would that be?" Cliff Watson demanded.
"This one—and the Mayor's death, of course. Our department isn't completely satisfied that the proper suspect was accused of the murders last year. We want to make sure these aren't connected in some way."
"But that woman had the gun in the back of her van," Sheriff Watson blustered.
"And no evidence whatsoever that she was anywhere near either crime scene," Nick snapped. "You know that as well as I do. The OSBI still lists the case as inconclusive." Nick referred to two human deaths the year before—Megan Lindley, a high school senior and Terry Smith, Randy Smith's father.
"So I get no call and you just show up?" Cliff was still grumbling. He hated it when his authority was questioned.
"This crime hadn't happened when we were dispatched," Nick said. "We were notified about an hour ago. Are you going to let us in or do I have to make a call?" Nick held up his cell phone. Nick, a tall black man, had worked for the agency for eleven years. Derik, brown-haired, blue-eyed and with only three years of experience, was happy to allow Nick to do the talking. Trace and Marcus stood a few steps behind, content to watch as the agents handled the local sheriff.
"Fine," Cliff wiped a hand over a nearly balding head before pulling away crime scene tape and allowing the four men inside.
"Smells human, but those Elemaiya smell similar to humans; there are only a few differences in the scent," Marcus growled as he and Trace sniffed unobtrusively around Granger Hicks' barn. The body lay on the floor nearby, covered with a sheet. "Unless they were part animal, like that one Winkler dealt with." Marcus referred to the hybrid that Winkler and two Bright Elemaiya had tracked and killed the year before. "That one smelled half animal, just like he looked."
"Let's take a look at the body," Nick suggested, leading the two werewolves in that direction.
"Definitely strangled with a chain," Marcus said when Nick carefully pulled the sheet back. The marks stood out in sharp contrast against the farmer's paler skin. "This would take a strong human—that's a large chain." Marcus nodded toward the chain that lay on the dirt floor close by.
"No fingerprints on the chain, so the perp wore gloves," Derik offered.
"Same with Mayor Taylor," Nick agreed. "No fingerprints found at that scene either, according to local authorities. They may have lifted one fingerprint here, but we're all waiting for the results."
"I might be able to tell if the same scent was in both places," Marcus suggested.
"We can try, but there's been a lot of traffic in and out of that place," Nick said. "Don't worry; I've worked with a couple of werewolf agents in the past. I know the drill." Nick dropped the sheet, allowing it to cover the victim's head and neck. "I'll have to ask permission to get into the Mayor's house." He grimaced at the thought of going to the Sheriff to gain that permission.
"There's a way to get in without it," Trace offered.
* * *
"We just need to borrow Ashe for a little while; we don't have much time," Marcus explained to Adele. "We'll drive into Cordell, park in a secluded spot and Ashe can take us from there."
Ashe watched in fascination while Marcus, Trace and two agents spoke with his mother. He was going to get to examine the murder scene with them. He was going to get to mist them inside the Mayor's home. Ashe was excited about the prospect. After all, he'd never told anyone, not even Sali, that he'd followed his father and Radomir, the Council's Enforcer, a year earlier when several crime scenes and James Johnson's body had been examined.
"All right, but keep him safe," Adele warned. "Ashe," she turned to him, "Do everything they say."
"I will, Mom." Ashe would agree to almost anything if it meant he could go.
"Come on, kiddo, let's go," Trace ruffled Ashe's hair. Ashe followed them out of the house, loaded into the agents' rented van and sat in the third row of seats as Agent Nick Lawford drove toward Cordell.
* * *
"I saw Ashe get in a van with Trace and three others," Philip reported to Luanne. Philip always felt calmer around Lu. Calm enough to act and feel close to normal. Keith and Bryce, who'd already sought out Luanne earlier, listened while Philip described what he'd seen.
"Which way did they go?" Bryce asked.
"Toward the entrance to this lost continent," Philip grumped.
"Why would he leave with them? Doesn't make any sense," Keith, the practical one, pointed out. "What did the others look like?"
"Two were dressed like the agents that rode up here with us," Philip said. "So I'm guessing they're the same. The third one I didn't recognize wore jeans and a pullover."
"So, two agents, one werewolf and one we don't know, took that Ashe kid with them off the reservation," Keith summed up what they knew. "Who can ask the kid later what's going on?"
"I don't think anybody here knows him well enough to ask," Luanne said. "But Edward does."
"Let's go find Eddie, then," Philip suggested.
* * *
Agent Lawford parked half a mile from the Mayor's farm, on the southern edge of Cordell. A church parking lot was chosen and Ashe wondered if it were the same church attended by the second victim's family as he climbed from the van. "You'll be safe enough in my mist; I've carried others this way," Ashe reassured the adults. He had carried others, just not these four.
"Randy Smith," Marcus coughed into his hand.
"Are you gonna get onto me about that now, Mr. DeLuca?" Ashe turned questioning blue eyes on the Cloud Chief Packmaster.
"No, kid. You did what you thought was right. If you hadn't been right, though, we might have had a conversation."
"Glad I was right, then," Ashe muttered. "I'll get you there as quick as I can."
Lifting the others inside his mist, Ashe zipped toward the first crime scene.
"Kid, if you were older, the Department would definitely come knocking," Nick Lawford stared at Ashe after he'd set all four adults down inside the Mayor's home. Two police cruisers were parked outside, with two officers guarding the scene, completely unaware that Ashe and the others were now inside the house.
"Body found here," Derik North pointed to the spot designated by a numbered marker on the floor.
"Don't disturb anything, Ashe," Marcus cautioned as he and Trace began sniffing through the home.
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