Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(26) by Connie Suttle
"Something you know, Director?" Winkler recognized the Director's attentiveness.
"Can't say for sure at this point. Just a suspicion at the moment. I'll work on that while I fly to Oklahoma. Expect me there around eight tonight."
"I'll be there; my private jet is fueling up right now." Winkler hung up.
* * *
"Agent Lawford is missing?" Ashe wanted to shiver. He'd liked the tall agent, who seemed both confident and competent. Agent North had met with Marcus in Cordell and now he, Marcus and Mr. Winkler were sitting in Ashe's kitchen with Ashe and his mother, while Denise DeLuca handed out soft drinks and glasses of sweetened tea. Sali had come with Denise, and he and Ashe sat together at the kitchen table. In half an hour, Aedan would wake and he and Nathan would be informed of the day's events. Ashe didn't look forward to seeing how angry his father might become when he learned Adele had been attacked.
"But if Mr. Lawford was already missing, and that man wanted information from Mom, doesn't that mean that Agent Lawford didn't tell him anything?" Ashe worked to keep the quaver out of his voice. After all, Agent Lawford should be alive. Might still be alive; Ashe hoped he was, anyway. "Mr. Winkler, that man hauled Jane Scott to Lake Altus to dump her. Do you think he'd go back there again? Since nobody has reported that she was found there?" Ashe turned imploring eyes to the Dallas Packmaster.
"Kid, I'll send Trace and Jason out right away. I'll let them sniff around and see if they can find anything." Winkler slipped his cell from a pocket and made the call. In minutes, Jason and Trace were on their way, after Derik North described where Jane Scott's car had been dumped in the water.
"If there's anything out there, they'll find it," Winkler nodded at Ashe.
"Thank you, Mr. Winkler," Ashe loosed the breath he'd unconsciously been holding. He'd expected resistance from Marcus and the others, and from the look on Marcus' face, that's exactly what would have happened if Winkler hadn't spoken up right away.
"Not a problem; they were pacing like caged wolves anyway, and since Roger and Toby took over watching those kids for a while, they needed something to do." Winkler grinned briefly at Ashe. Renegar chose that moment to appear in a corner of Ashe's kitchen, nearly causing Ashe to jerk in his seat. Sali lifted an eyebrow at Ashe anyway; he'd felt the slight twitch. Renegar gave the slightest nod in Ashe's direction.
You're still telling me when I'm right? Ashe guessed.
We need to hurry, don't we? Ashe sent.
"Mr. Winkler, ask them to hurry," Ashe stood, his eyes and his voice begging the Dallas Packmaster to move faster. Somehow, the situation was critical and a life likely hung in the balance.
Winkler pulled out his cell a second time. "Step on it," he barked into the phone when Trace answered.
"Will do, boss," came in clearly to Ashe's enhanced hearing.
"Mom, can I go outside for a little while?" Ashe asked.
"Sali, go with him," Denise nodded to Sali, who rose immediately from his chair. He and Ashe walked quietly through the door leading into the garage, and since it was open already, they wandered into a calm, Oklahoma evening. The sun was setting in blues, oranges and purples just above the horizon as Ashe lifted Sali into his mist and went straight to the roof of his house.
This is quite fine, Renegar settled on Ashe's left, whereas Sali had sat down on the right.
I'm glad you came, friend, Ashe said as all three watched the sun sink, leaving the prairie in twilight. Aedan would be up quickly and Ashe wanted the adults to handle the information dispersal without his presence.
I'm glad I came as well. Beauty is recognized by all races, did you know? Ren never turned to look at Ashe, keeping his eyes on the vanishing colors above the horizon.
Good to know, Ashe replied.
"Do you think Agent Lawford is still alive?" Sali ventured to ask, completely unaware of Renegar's presence.
"I sure hope so," Ashe replied softly.
* * *
Jason and Trace had both turned to wolf after parking their SUV in a picnic area near the lake's edge and leaving their clothing inside the vehicle. They'd have a much better chance at finding anything by tracking it in that manner, although both held good scenting ability while human. Trace found the scent first—he and Jason had a good whiff of the man from Cordell Feed and Seed. The culprit had allowed his anger to prevail and he'd left scent all over seed packets and gardening tools after swiping those items off shelves surrounding the cash register.
Silently tracking now, both wolves began racing after the scent—the man had dragged Nick Lawford after a while and the agent's scent was strong, along with that of his blood. Jason and Trace could think clearly while in wolf form, and they were fervently hoping they'd find a live agent at the end of their trail.
* * *
Edward is peering out his window, Ren informed Ashe as the last bit of light and color disappeared in the west. Stars were now twinkling overhead, their tiny illuminations littering the deep blue of a night sky, far away from the interference of artificial light.
"Son," Aedan's voice floated up from the ground. "The wolves have found Agent Lawford, but he's unconscious and chained to a tree. They need you to get him out of there."
"I'll go with him." Winkler was already prepared to go.
"I'll come as well. Son, forget what I said before. Do what you have to do," Aedan said after Ashe misted Sali from their rooftop perch.
"All right." Ashe turned Ren, Winkler and his father to mist and rushed toward Lake Altus.
* * *
"Ashe, if you can't get him out, I'll cut the chains." Aedan was prepared to use his vampire claws to release Nick Lawford, whose unconsciousness was due to a severe head wound. Ashe drew in a shaky breath—the agent's body was slumped against the tree trunk, his head wound covered in thick, clotted blood.
"I'd prefer not to do that," Winkler said enigmatically. "And we need to stake out this spot. There's a good chance the attacker will return, hoping to get information."
"He'll die," Aedan muttered grimly.
"No, we need him alive," Winkler disagreed.
While his father and the Dallas Packmaster argued and Trace and Jason remained silent, Ashe turned to mist and turned the unconscious agent to mist as well, pulling Nick Lawford out of his shackles easily. Who's coming with me to the hospital? Ashe sent.
"I'll come," Winkler volunteered. "Aedan, I know the perpetrator attacked your wife. If he shows up, please practice restraint." Ashe gathered Ren and Winkler inside his mist after that and rushed toward Clinton Regional Hospital.
* * *
"I'm ten minutes away," Director Bill Jennings was on the phone with Winkler, who paced in the same waiting room Ashe had sat in only a few days earlier. Seated in the same chair as before, Ashe watched while Winkler talked on his cell and paced restlessly, explaining to Mr. Jennings the circumstances surrounding Nick Lawford's discovery. Ren sat next to Ashe, just as he had before, and the two were carrying on a private conversation of their own.
Concussion, possible brain damage, in addition to the skull fracture, the physician says. The blow to the head was too hard, he also says. That explains the agent's unconsciousness. He might have died had he remained where he was. Ren explained what was happening inside the emergency room as a physician and the staff worked on Nick Lawford. They will perform scans and electronic monitoring, to assess the damage.
I hope he's okay. Ashe huddled in his chair, fearful for the wounded agent.
We must wait to see, Ren replied.
"The Director will be here in a few minutes," Winkler settled his tall frame effortlessly into the vacant chair beside Ashe. Somehow, Ren always managed to direct people away from his presence and Ashe wondered how the tall, blue-skinned youth was able to do it. Now, Ashe sat wedged between a Larentii and a werewolf inside a hospital waiting room. Winkler had already sent a text to Aedan, informing him that they'd arrived safely and that Ashe was guarded.
"How is he?" Bill Jennings, Director of the Joint NSA/Homeland Security Department asked the moment he and two agents posing as bodyguards stepped inside the waiting room.
"Still waiting for the doctor," Winkler replied, standing up and extending a hand to the Director. Bill Jennings shook briefly, nodded and smiled at Ashe and sat down with Winkler while his bodyguards took up positions on either side of the door. Ashe had no doubt that the agents had guns hidden somewhere; they had that look about them. Agent Lawford and Derik North always did, although Ashe had never seen their weapons.
"Did that man take Mr. Lawford's gun?" Ashe thought to ask.
"Yes. It wasn't on him when we placed him on the gurney," Winkler nodded to Ashe.
"Not good," Ashe muttered, crossing arms over his chest defensively.
"No. Not good at all, since the perpetrator now has another method of committing murder at his disposal," Director Jennings acknowledged. "Sadly, we have our suspicions as to who it might be and that isn't good news."
"But he didn't kill Elizabeth Frasier, did he?"
"No. It would be convenient if this one was the only one we had to worry about, but he doesn't possess the power needed to do what was done to that poor girl."
"Yeah. I got that idea, too."
The bodyguards shifted when the doctor walked in, but relaxed immediately when they saw who it was. "Mr. Lawford is resting comfortably at the moment, but we are monitoring him continuously," the physician, dressed in traditional blue scrubs, informed Winkler.
"How quickly can he be moved?" Director Jennings asked as he rose from his seat. Winkler was already standing.
"Perhaps tomorrow," the doctor replied, eyeing the Director suspiciously.
"This is Bill Jennings, Director of the Joint NSA and Homeland Security Department," Winkler introduced the Director. "Nick Lawford is one of his agents."
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