Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(22) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"You're saying it was the wind?" Agent Lawford stared at a grimacing Dale Sherman, whose leg was encased in a cast after x-rays at the hospital emergency room in Clinton determined it was broken. Lex was being treated in a cubicle next door for his own injuries—the parking lot surface had claimed quite a bit of skin across his chest and belly. The girl was dead—from a head injury after flying through the thick, plate-glass window of Teddy's Truck Stop east of Clinton.
"Man, I saw her fly through the air when the gust hit, and then it threw me into the car and the door almost slammed shut on my leg," Dale whined.
"If your uncle had informed us immediately, this might have been prevented," Nick Lawford snapped and stalked out of the cubicle.
* * *
"How many other deaths were reported under similar circumstances?" Director Bill Jennings stared at his assistant, Vince Jordan.
"Seventeen, sir. That we know of." Vince tapped the tablet in his hand for a moment, pulling up information. "It appears that this race can somehow command the wind or other weather elements."
"I was afraid you'd say that."
"Sir, if they can do this, it makes me think that the other murders in the area may not be by the same ones—how much easier would it be to just kill them with a blast of wind rather than breaking necks or strangling somebody?"
"True. Are any other deaths of these children by strangulation or broken necks?"
"None, sir. Plenty of gunshots, drownings and other things, but nothing like that."
"Then we may have two murderers, or sets of murderers, in the area."
"Possible," Vince handed the tablet to Director Jennings so he could scroll through the gathered information.
* * *
Marcus had allowed Sali to come; he and Ashe stood in the backyard of Ashe's home and watched as the dark limousine carried Mary Ellen and Francis Frasier away from Cloud Chief, the driver moving slowly through foot-high prairie grass toward the gravel road and Cloud Chief's hidden entrance. Ashe wished at that moment he didn't have exceptional hearing; he detected Mary Ellen's sobs as the car drove past.
"Son," Aedan's hand dropped gently onto Ashe's shoulder—the sun had set an hour earlier, bathing the Oklahoma prairie in twilight. Aedan and Nathan had already visited Elizabeth's grieving parents at Marcus' request. The human couple wouldn't remember where the supernatural community lay, or that it housed the unusual inhabitants that it did.
"Dad," Ashe's right arm slipped around his father's waist as the limo crunched onto the gravel road and rolled past.
* * *
"Ashe, do you want to go to work with me tomorrow?" Adele brushed Ashe's hair back from his forehead as he walked into the house a few minutes later. "It's Saturday and it'll be busy at the store. Your father said it was all right as long as you stayed inside the store with me."
"Yeah." Ashe nodded, his eyes downcast.
"Honey, you're only grounded one more week, and then you can play with Sali. School will be out, too, so you can help watch over Edward and the others."
"Mom, we need to find out if those kids can do anything that might get them killed. And they need to know not to leave Cloud Chief unless somebody's with them."
"I hope this has driven that lesson home, honey."
"It kind of has, Mom, but I still have the feeling that there's something going on with the rest of them that isn't affecting me, somehow." Ashe wasn't about to bring up Renegar; the blue-skinned Larentii said that Ashe was unreadable. The other six half-Elemaiyan children had been easy enough for Ren to locate. It made sense that the Elemaiyan hunters might possess the same talent.
"We can't know that for sure. Why don't you read or watch TV for a while?"
"I think I'll read." Ashe hadn't read anything for fun all week. He walked through the middle door and clumped downstairs. Ren was waiting for him at the bottom.
"I'm very sorry," Ren seemed sad. "I could not tell you she'd escaped, but you did realize quickly that she gained her abilities."
"How did you find that out?" Ashe shouldered past the taller child as he walked toward his bedroom.
"I placed Nexus Echo on Salidar's father and on the agents, so I know about the investigations."
"You know who the murderer is." Ashe turned sharply to stare at the Larentii youth.
"Ashe, I am not allowed to interfere." Ren's contrition was evident.
"But you are interfering. With me." Ashe wiped away the tear he couldn't hold back. "You stand there and tell me you have information you can't give while I watch people die. Do you know how frustrated and helpless that makes me feel? Do you?" Ashe stalked through his bedroom door and slammed it behind him, leaving Ren standing in the hall outside, worried that he'd lost his friend.
* * *
"Ashe made a good suggestion, Aedan. He says we should find out if any of those other children might have shown some kind of ability," Adele told Aedan as he stopped at the house for a brief break before Adele went to bed.
"It isn't a bad idea, but how do we find these things out? I have no idea what the talents might be, so how do you ask or test for these things? We still don't know how Ashe discovered his talents or when. And these children are older than he was when he developed them." Aedan shook his head in confusion.
"Ashe is always ahead of the curve, Aedan," Adele pointed out. "What if these others are ripe to develop these talents? Do we have any information from the Director or those agents regarding the average age these children are disappearing? Perhaps we shouldn't gauge the dead ones against the ones that are counted as missing? There are two sides in this; two sides that are hunting these children for two very different purposes, according to Mr. Winkler."
Had they known it, Ashe was in his bedroom surfing his computer, searching for the same information.
* * *
"Ren, you can't offer information, but will you tell me if I'm right?" Ashe hadn't spoken to the tall youth until then, but he hadn't chased Ren away when he'd appeared inside Ashe's bedroom.
"If you say what's true, I can confirm that," Ren nodded slightly.
"Good. What I'm seeing here is that the ones who disappeared, most of them anyway, came up missing around age fifteen or sixteen. That means their talents develop around that time. True?"
"Correct," Ren verified the information Ashe had gathered.
"Then how did I get mine before turning thirteen?" Ashe mumbled to himself.
"I cannot say, since I do not have an answer for that," Ren replied, although the question hadn't been aimed at him.
"Elizabeth was fifteen and a half; anyway that's what Luanne told us when we visited Wynn and Dori last week, so that fits," Ashe ignored Ren's statement, putting his musings together aloud. "Edward is already sixteen, so he may be able to do something and not even know it. Macy is seventeen, so same there. In fact, all of them are older than Elizabeth, so we may be sitting on a time bomb."
"Correct," Ren affirmed.
* * *
Jane Scott settled her cell phone on the kitchen counter after talking with a friend. Jane lived alone and after a long and trying day at the dress shop (would she have to cover for the charges made on a stolen credit card?), she settled for a microwaved dinner. Doors carefully locked and the alarm set, Jane waited for her meal to heat. Locked doors and an alarm failed to prevent the burly male from leaping through the picture window in Jane's living room. Jane screamed and reached for her cell as the alarm blared and a neighbor rushed toward Jane's home from next door, a loaded shotgun in his hands. The intruder clapped a hand over Jane's mouth and dragged the struggling woman toward her garage.
* * *
"How can this be a coincidence?" Marcus stared at Agent Lawford. "We're in her store this afternoon and tonight she's abducted? I don't doubt we'd be dealing with a body now if she hadn't had an alarm system and a neighbor who came running with a gun."
"I agree with Marcus," Aedan nodded slightly at the Cloud Chief Packmaster. "The kidnapper had no desire for discovery so he took the woman away in her own vehicle. It is a shame it was dark and the neighbor didn't get a good description."
"Agreed," Nick Lawford said. "The local sheriff has his employees searching, but so far there has been nothing. We have a search helicopter en route from Oklahoma City, but the woman may be dead before it arrives. Mr. Evans, will you allow Ashe to help with this?" Nick Lawford was begging that Ashe might help prevent Jane Scott's murder. He felt responsible, somehow, for sending the killer in her direction. Obviously, someone was keeping a very close watch on local events.
"You have a description of the vehicle and which direction it was heading?"
"Then we'll try."
Before Agent Lawford was prepared, Aedan lifted the tall black agent with one arm about his waist and rushed toward the Evans home so quickly Marcus almost missed the movement.
* * *
Ashe jerked in his seat when his father knocked on the bedroom door. Ren was still sitting on the end of Ashe's bed while Ashe did his best to locate more information regarding the missing children on his computer.
"Ashe, we need your help, son," Aedan walked inside Ashe's room with Agent Lawford right behind. Knowing Ren was shielding himself from visitors; Ashe stood and nodded silently at his father.
I will come with you. Do not fear, they will never know, Ren sent mindspeech to Ashe.
Understood, Ashe returned without betraying his silent conversation to his father or the agent.
"We need your invisibility trick, son," Agent Lawford said. "We're looking for a red Buick Regal, heading southwest out of Cordell."
"I can do that," Ashe said. Without another word, Ashe gathered his father, Nick Lawford and a tall Larentii child in his mist. Ren exclaimed happily as they shot through two levels of the Evans home and straight into the night sky.
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