Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(30) by Connie Suttle
"Do you want us to come back?" Marco was standing in a moment, bowling forgotten.
"I think it's for the best. We may need your help tracking those two."
"We'll be there in half an hour," Marco replied and ended the call. "Come on, everybody. Chad and Jeremy are missing and it looks like they burned their house down behind them."
* * *
Pierce Ingram changed the bandage on his arm as he sat in the convenience store parking lot outside Clinton. His motorcycle was already gassed up—he'd taken cash from Nick Lawford's wallet when he'd knocked the agent out. He'd chained the agent to a tree, determined to get information from Nick before killing him. Pierce had returned to Lake Altus to accomplish those things when he discovered the agent gone. Whatever had chased him afterward wasn't a normal man. Pierce had the evidence to prove it—two very deep gouges in his left upper arm. If he hadn't turned around and fired the agent's pistol, he'd have been taken down. Pierce grimaced as he slapped a fresh bandage over the wounds. Pierce Ingram wasn't his real name. It was the name on his current ID, though. He'd gone through several incarnations since coming to Oklahoma. So many, in fact, during his lifetime that he hardly remembered his real name any longer.
"Mister, how'd you like to make a few buck," two youths now stood beside Pierce's motorcycle.
"How?" Pierce lifted an eyebrow in their direction. The agent he'd captured hadn't carried much cash and Pierce spent most of that on food, gas and bandages.
"Fifty bucks, if you buy a case of beer for us," one of the boys replied.
"Show me the money first," Pierce growled. The two boys looked at each other and grinned.
Ten minutes later, Pierce handed the case of beer over to the boys and slid onto his motorcycle. He watched silently as the boys loaded the beer into the small import they were driving. Pierce was about to turn away when one of the boys spoke again.
"Sure glad that stupid human kid helped us out," the teen laughed. Pierce pulled his hand back from the starter, deciding to wait and follow the two boys instead.
* * *
"Dang." Sali glanced at Ashe. Ashe was back to himself and Ren was shielded and standing beside him as they stared at the burned ruin of the Booth home. Mrs. Booth was leaning on her husband and wiping tears away. Mr. Booth seemed stunned as he held onto his wife. Marco and Cori volunteered to go looking for the missing boys and had already driven away. Half the community had emptied for the same reason—adults had climbed into vehicles to search for Chad and Jeremy.
"Ashe, Sali can come with us," Adele walked up beside the boys. "Marcus and Denise are out searching with the others, and they said Sali can spend the night."
"Mom, do you think Chad and Jeremy did this?" Ashe swept a hand toward the smoldering remains of the Booth's home.
"I don't know, hon. Mr. Winkler says Director Jennings will send arson investigators tomorrow, to check things over. And if we find those boys, Nathan will place compulsion. I think your father may be too angry to do it. This may have exposed all of us—two big fires so close together, not to mention the fireworks."
"Fireworks?" Sali turned to Ashe's mother.
"Somebody set some off in one of the O'Neill's pastures. We all ran in that direction to make sure the field didn't burn, and then the house blew up and burned to the ground. We got the pumper truck out but we weren't able to save much."
"Yeah." Ashe could see that for himself. "Where are Mr. and Mrs. Booth going to stay?"
"Marcie is moving in with Sali's parents, so the Booths can have Pat Roberts' old house," Adele patted Sali's shoulder. "I said Sali can stay with us as much as he likes. We have an extra bedroom that we don't use."
"Really? That's cool, Mrs. Evans," Sali was excited over the prospect of spending even more time with Ashe.
"Aedan, Nathan and some of the others will rebuild this house. They should have it finished in two or three weeks at most," Adele said.
"What will Marcus do, since Chad and Jeremy broke parole?" Ashe asked.
"Ashe, that's none of our concern. Come on, let's go home. It's way past your bedtime. But," Adele held up a hand at Ashe's protest, "You and Sali can stay up and watch movies and have popcorn if you want." Ren, following along invisibly, climbed into the Evans' SUV right behind Ashe.
* * *
Pierce was tired of listening to both boys whine about being punished. He'd gathered early on that they'd sneaked away when they weren't supposed to, and were now drinking beer and throwing empty cans in a rural ditch outside Cordell. Pierce didn't care that they'd broken the rules; he just wanted them to shut up and go home so he could follow them. They'd mentioned names of several children, calling them empties, and one of those names was the one Pierce most wanted to hear.
* * *
"That empty will pay sometime; just wait and see," Chad sneered, crumpling another empty can and tossing it into a weed-filled ditch.
"Yeah. It's always Ashe this and Ashe that. It'll be worse since he won that stupid contest and gave the money away." Jeremy threw his can farther than Chad, just to show he could.
"Come on, last two," Chad popped the tab on a beer and handed it to Jeremy before grabbing the last one for himself.
"Too bad; we shoulda asked for two cases," Jeremy hiccupped.
"Yeah. We'll know next time," Chad burped rudely.
* * *
"What's that—down that road?" Marcus pointed toward a car sitting in the middle of a narrow, dirt road between barbed wire fences. Winkler was driving a Winkler Security van with the lights turned off. The only things they'd seen on the road so far were a skunk and a raccoon.
"Let's look," Winkler shoved the van into reverse and backed up to turn down the road.
* * *
Pierce was hiding in brush behind a barbed wire fence. His motorcycle was parked and well hidden farther down. He heard the van before the two teens did; both were now quite drunk and laughing. Pierce ducked lower so he wouldn't be seen as the van slowly pulled near before turning its headlights on full, bathing both boys in a bright light.
* * *
"Both of them stinking drunk," Winkler muttered as Marcus hauled Chad from the back of the van, narrowly avoiding Chad's vomit as the boy threw up. Jeremy, still inside the van, began to vomit as well. Winkler cursed. He'd have to get the van cleaned before he could drive it again—a smell like that offended any werewolf's nose. Aedan and Nathan watched as Chad and Jeremy were pulled from Winkler's van. They'd appeared after hearing the van pull through the gate into the community. Winkler had driven Diane Booth's car back, after helping Marcus shove both teens into the van. The smell of beer had been everywhere when they'd picked the boys up—Chad and Jeremy weren't used to drinking and they hadn't been neat about it, either.
"Why are we here?" Chad had finished vomiting and only now noticed his surroundings. The van was parked outside Pat Roberts' old house, where Marcie Pruitt now lived.
"Your house burned to the ground while you were out drinking," Marcus growled. "Know anything about that, or the fireworks that were set off as a distraction?"
"Marcus, they're too drunk," Aedan muttered. "We'll have to question them tomorrow, after they sober up." Aedan turned and zipped away. Nathan shook his head over the entire state of affairs before following Aedan.
* * *
Pierce let his motorcycle idle as he sat outside a barbed wire fence, searching for the opening. He'd seen the van and car drive through, but the entrance had disappeared before he could reach it. He'd kept his headlight off and stayed far enough behind that his quarry hadn't seen him, and they'd managed to escape somehow. Now, he couldn't detect an opening anywhere. While he was searching, his cell phone rang. That shouldn't be—it was a disposable phone and only one other person had the number. That one wasn't scheduled to call until the following day. Several seconds passed before Pierce decided to answer.
"Hello?" he said.
"I was hoping you'd answer, Pierce," Wildrif had a smile in his voice. "If you'll give me a week or two and agree to meet with my representative, I think we can arrange to get what you want."
"Who the hell are you?" Pierce growled into the phone.
"A friend," Wildrif replied. "And if you want to get your boy away from the ones that look human but aren't, then you'll do what I tell you."
* * *
"There's no cure for stupid," Sali muttered as he and Ashe sat down to breakfast. Sali and Ashe had checked their email earlier, learning from Cori that Chad and Jeremy had sneaked away the night before, convinced somebody to buy beer for them and then proceeded to get as drunk as possible before throwing up in Winkler's van. Cori also informed Ashe through email that Chad and Jeremy had been too drunk to answer questions about the fire. Marcus was waiting until they slept it off before questioning them.
"Nathan and your father will be assisting Marcus tonight," Adele set a glass of milk down for Ashe. "That means Toby and Roger will be patrolling Cloud Chief until they're finished."
"Mom, I don't get that Chad and Jeremy," Ashe began (he'd almost said Chump and Wormy, but held back), "would set their house on fire. All their stuff was in there. Jeremy always talked about his video games, so I don't think they had anything to do with it."
"Are you defending them?" Sali stared at Ashe.
"I'm just saying that's not like them," Ashe spread blackberry jelly on his toast and crunched into it. "Jeremy liked his stuff too much. Chad, too. The fireworks, though, sound exactly like them."
"Your father says they found evidence that a mountain lion may be in the area," Adele interrupted. "Sali, if you find any evidence of a mountain lion, you need to tell your father. A real predator like that could kill lambs, calves or the Thompson's poultry. Marcus says he'll arrange a hunt if the mountain lion comes back."
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