Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(28) by Connie Suttle
"All right. Dad, I'm glad those bullets didn't hurt you."
"Bullets always hurt, but they generally don't kill a vampire. Getting them out is sometimes more painful than getting them to begin with. Goodnight, son, and don't worry about this." Aedan rose from his seat on Ashe's bed. "Mr. Winkler says you can talk to him tomorrow—he has questions, I think." Aedan walked out of Ashe's bedroom, closing the door carefully behind him.
* * *
"You going to the graduation tonight?" Sali flopped into a lawn chair beside Ashe.
"Yeah. Cori's graduating. Of course I'm going. Why wouldn't I?" Ashe shook his head at Sali's indifference.
"Marco called last night. He'll be here, too."
"Does this mean you'll come with me? Mom and Dad are coming; Mr. Thompson offered to help guard the perimeter since Nathan and Dad will be at the graduation. Trace and those new werewolves, Roger and Toby, will help Mr. Thompson. And Jason and Marcie will run the store for Mom until they catch the guy who attacked us." Ashe and Sali sat outside in lawn chairs on the south side of Ashe's house. Aedan had built a small deck there that led into Adele's solarium.
"Mom says that Aunt Marcie really likes Jason."
"I like Jason, too."
"Yeah, but I think Aunt Marcie might like to marry Jason."
"Really?" Ashe stared at Sali. "You think so? That's outstanding."
"She gets to pick this time. She didn't with Uncle Dominic. We might not see cousin Jackson or cousin Dustin again," Sali muttered. "They had to stay in Phoenix with Uncle Dom."
"That sucks," Ashe nodded.
"Well, we didn't see much of them before. Jack's a year older than I am, and Dusty's five years older. Uncle Dom didn't like it if Aunt Marcie wanted to visit us."
"He sounds like a jerk," Ashe said.
"He is. Dad never liked him, and having two Packmasters in the house can be a little tense."
"Are you coming to graduation or not?" Ashe changed the subject, going back to the scheduled ceremony.
"Yeah. I'll come. Let's sit in the back."
"But I want to see Cori. Mom said I could borrow the camcorder and record it. Besides, she worked really hard on her speech." Ashe didn't blink when Ren appeared and sat down on the wide boards of the deck, silently joining the two boys. He did blink, however, when Elizabeth Frasier's ghost floated in and settled nearby.
* * *
"You didn't see her? Man, she was right there beside you," Ashe paced inside his bedroom later, after Sali had gone home for an early dinner. Most of the community was preparing to attend the graduation later. Ren sat cross-legged on Ashe's bed, his tall frame leaning against the wall behind the bed. He'd taken up the habit after seeing Ashe and Sali do the same.
"We, as a rule, do not have the talent to see spirits," Ren offered. "A talented few among the many races that populate the universes can. Sadly, I am not one of them."
"So I can see ghosts. You don't think I'm crazy, do you?"
"No. I do have the talent for detecting lies. You are not offering an untruth."
"Good. At least I don't have to defend myself to you."
"You would not, anyway. You are trustworthy, Ashe Evans."
"I'm not telling anybody else. Sali couldn't see her, and he stared right at her several times. What's she doing here, anyway?"
"Many tales abound regarding the reasons spirits stay in one place or another. As I have not been able to question any of them directly, I have doubts concerning those tales." Ren's bright blue eyes were thoughtful as he seriously considered Ashe's question.
"At least she left after a while," Ashe blew out a breath. "That was a little creepy, though. And she just kept staring at me." Ashe shivered at the memory. Elizabeth's appearance had rattled him greatly and he'd barely been able to stay focused on Sali's conversation.
"Friend, do not take responsibility for her death," Ren said. "Only she bears that burden. If she stares at you, perhaps she hopes that you might help her in some way."
"If I can, but how can I know that for sure? It's not like we can have a conversation," Ashe muttered.
"Again, I have no experience in this area, so I cannot offer advice."
* * *
"Kid, I don't expect this to end pretty," William Winkler sighed, taking a seat beside Ashe in the school cafeteria. Ashe, camcorder in hand, sat near the front on an aisle seat so he could get images of Cori when she marched in. He'd come early, just to get a good seat.
"How do you think it might end?" Ashe turned a curious gaze on the Dallas Packmaster.
"I'm hoping for no more deaths or attacks, but I think that may be unrealistic."
"Yeah," Ashe huddled into his seat.
"Kid, none of this is your fault. If anybody should take the blame, then Director Jennings and I should take it."
"But I should have guessed sooner that they might develop their abilities."
"Ashe," Winkler patted Ashe's shoulders, "we all think we should have known things after the fact. A good friend called that hindsight once, and asked me if I had eyes on my ass."
Ashe snickered at Winkler's description before schooling his face—Mr. and Mrs. Booth had come in to sit across the aisle. Usually the parents were ushered inside first, ahead of the graduating seniors. Ashe wondered why Diane and Neil Booth weren't waiting for that. For a short while, he'd forgotten that Chad and Jeremy were graduating with Cori. Mr. and Mrs. Booth's appearance reminded him of that fact. At least Chump and Wormy couldn't give a speech and bore everybody; it was part of their punishment. Ashe felt sorry for Mr. and Mrs. Booth. They seemed like nice people. Perhaps a cuckoo had laid an egg in their nest, too.
"Hey, Ashe," Marco walked in, carrying a digital camera and smiling hugely.
"Marco!" Ashe grinned at Sali's older brother. "How's college?"
"Tough. Tougher than high school," Marco acknowledged before turning to Winkler. "Hello, Mr. Winkler."
Is that lipstick on your cheek? Ashe snickered mentally to Marco.
"Maybe. Depends on who's asking," Marco chuckled aloud.
"Are you two having a private conversation?" Winkler stood to allow Marco to move past him and sit down.
"Apparently I'm wearing some of Cori's lipstick," Marco grinned at the Dallas Packmaster.
"Good," Winkler laughed.
"Ashe, this is a new camera and I haven't figured it out, yet. Sali told me to give it to you to set up for me." Marco handed the camera to Ashe. It was a digital SLR and Ashe admired it as he handled it carefully, going through electronic settings quickly, setting up for auto focus and digital displays.
"Here," Ashe handed it back in a matter of seconds. "All you have to do is point and press the button now," he grinned at Marco. "Nice camera," he added.
"You've done this before?" Winkler lifted an eyebrow at Ashe.
"Nope." Ashe shrugged.
"Sali says Ashe never looks at the instructions for video games either. He was born knowing how they work, I guess," Marco supplied. "And he knows all the shortcuts, too."
"I just do," Ashe shrugged again.
"Kid, come see me when you're ready to graduate," Winkler said seriously. The community began filtering in quickly, so they turned their attention to the impending ceremony.
* * *
"No, we wait until Mom and Dad are asleep," Jeremy hissed. "Mom keeps her car keys on the counter beside the door. We can sneak out our bedroom window and go to Clinton. Somebody will buy beer for us, if we have the proper persuasion." Jeremy lifted the folded cash from his pants pocket.
"Put that back. You want somebody to see?" Chad hissed. "Are you sure the distraction will work? Can we even trust that kid?"
"I think he wouldn't mind causing a little chaos," Jeremy smiled grimly. "And we can drive out of here while the guards are busy elsewhere. They may even think Mom or Dad went somewhere, if they find the car gone afterward." Jeremy and Chad had chosen the English classroom to dress in their graduation robes. At least their punishment had one up side—they didn't have to give a speech before receiving their diplomas.
"I'm glad we found that walkie-talkie after Lizzie left us," Chad grinned. "Who knew two of those empties would help get us what we want?"
"I'm glad Mom's not here to tell us not to speak ill of the dead," Jeremy laughed.
* * *
Philip was angry. As angry as he'd ever been. Those two boys had burned down Luanne's house and they'd only been grounded for it. Sure, everybody called it house arrest, but he knew they'd found ways around their punishment. And then they'd had the nerve to contact him on Elizabeth's walkie-talkie, asking him to sneak out to find a box of fireworks they'd stashed somewhere and set them off while the night guards weren't looking.
Philip wasn't the only one who'd been observing the guards, once he knew what to look for and once he'd learned what he could become if he just concentrated a little. He'd lifted himself up after changing the first time, placing paws on his bathroom sink to see that he'd transformed into a mountain lion. He wasn't going to tell his mother or anyone else about this. It was a secret that might become useful when all was said and done. Now, he was waiting patiently for those two arsonists to contact him again by walkie-talkie, and he'd be out his window as a large cat, racing to the fireworks. Only he didn't intend for things to turn out exactly as those boys wanted.
* * *
Six students were in Cori's graduating class, and since Chad and Jeremy weren't giving a speech, that portion of the ceremony went quickly. Ashe recorded Cori walking in and sitting down, and then recorded a beaming Nathan and Lavonna Anderson as they watched their oldest daughter rise to give her speech. Marco, too, was snapping digital photographs as quickly as his camera would record them.
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