Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(24) by Connie Suttle
"I got a card from Dawn Smith," Adele lifted the postcard so Denise could see. The photo on the front depicted a famous chapel in Santa Fe.
"What does she say?" Denise asked.
"Doing fine, hope the move went well," Adele read. "Randy heard from Cori that you had to leave Oklahoma. Sorry to hear that. Love to you and yours—Dawn."
The card had been addressed to the old post office box in Cordell. Dawn knew it would be forwarded.
"That was nice of her," Denise said.
"I wonder if she'll ever marry again," Adele sighed, setting the card on the kitchen island.
"I don't know. She and Terry were so close; I think it did major damage when he was killed and then Randy was almost killed, too."
"Randy would be dead if Ashe hadn't pulled him away."
"Too bad nobody else remembers that, including Dawn and Randy," Denise agreed.
"It's just too dangerous—too many people would come looking for Ashe. I wish there was some way we could protect him better, so he can lead something close to a normal life. Want a cup of coffee, Denise?" Adele went toward the coffeepot.
Ashe blinked at the television screen. And then blinked again—he was still half-asleep. Winkler had gotten him up to see the breaking news on all the television stations.
"Congressman Howard cannot be located," the journalist reported on a popular, twenty-four hour news program. "The Justice Department has warrants out for his arrest, for investing campaign funds in South American casinos and other illegal enterprises, with profits funneled to an offshore account. It seems that the congressman may have been tipped off and chose to leave town before arrests could be made." A photograph of the congressman, coming back from the supposed elk hunt in Colorado, was shown on the screen.
"I think he's running to Pruitt and Pruitt's contacts in Mexico," Winkler muttered. "If he makes it past the border, we may never get our hands on him again. If my hunch is correct, Pruitt was helping Tanner—with a lot of things. That means Howard knows of Pruitt and vice versa."
Ashe's hands were balled into fists. The congressman had tried to kill Wynn. He wanted to curse. "That creep. We should have taken care of him when we had the chance," Ashe snarled.
"We don't always get what we want, and criminals go free every day," Winkler said gently. "Don't let it worry you. He's likely out of the country, and Wynn is safe."
"But what about other shifters? There have to be some in Mexico, right?"
"I'm sure your father would say we can't let that upset us. Howard was likely doing this for a very long time inside this country. Now he's an outlaw and hunted. Hopefully, he'll be too busy hiding to do a lot of hunting of his own from now on."
"He's still a creep, and a murderous creep on top of that."
"I don't think I've ever seen you this upset before, Ashe," Marco sounded surprised. He'd come in to watch the news program with Ashe and Winkler.
"You didn't see him, Marco. He was going to take pleasure in killing Wynn, and he knew what she was. He knew she was human most of the time. He was so determined to kill her, even after I knocked him off his horse, that he grabbed his rifle and fired off a shot without looking. He killed one of his own guards."
"There are people who know what we are. Howard likely had that information from Tanner. They don't think any part of us is human," Trajan was not only out of bed, he was eating a sandwich as he walked into Winkler's media room. Ashe was still fuming when his cell phone rang. He checked caller ID—it was Sali. Ashe mumbled a greeting.
"Dude," Sali said, "you're not going to believe who came home for the summer."
"Who's that?" Ashe grumped.
"Jeremy Booth," Sali replied. "And Chad Hollis is with him."
"Arch nemeses Chad Hollis and Jeremy Booth? Chump and Wormy?" If Ashe thought his day couldn't get any worse, then he was very wrong. "Does Cori know?" Not only did Chump and Wormy hate Ashe, but Cori and Jeremy hated one another, with a capital H. Ashe agreed with Cori's sentiments concerning Jeremy—Ashe didn't think there were many redeeming qualities in Jeremy Booth. Jeremy had given Ashe a black eye, too, when Ashe had responded to one of Jeremy's insults at age twelve. Jeremy had hurled a terrible insult at Ashe, and Ashe hadn't taken it well.
"Yeah," Sali answered Ashe's question. "Man, I thought she was gonna march over to the Booth's house and punch Jeremy in the face," Sali chortled. "She'd probably get Chad, too, if he didn't duck and run."
"Good old Chump," Ashe grumbled. Chad Hollis wasn't any better than Jeremy; in fact, he was probably worse. For three years, he'd blamed Ashe for his mother's death when Ashe had nothing to do with it. He'd also set a mobile home on fire two years earlier, when he and Jeremy had attempted to frighten the human families and their half-human children who'd come to Cloud Chief for protection.
Chad and Jeremy had gone to the same college in Arkansas after graduating from Cloud Chief Combined. They'd both called Ashe empty, the worst insult one could level against a shapeshifter, before Ashe revealed the bumblebee bat. They had then gone on to ridicule Ashe for shifting to such a lame and wimpy animal, before reverting to calling him empty again. The act of compulsion played a large part in the difficulties that seemed to follow Ashe everywhere. Ashe had breathed a very relieved sigh when Chad and Jeremy had gone away to college.
For the past two summers, they'd worked at jobs in Little Rock. For some reason, they'd decided to take the summer months off this year. Jeremy's parents had adopted Chad since he had no living relatives, and Marcus received funds from the Grand Master to help support him through college.
"Ashe, you'll be here, they'll be there," Marco said softly. He and everyone else inside Winkler's media room had listened to the conversation. Holding any sort of private communication around werewolves, vampires and shapeshifters was nearly impossible. They all had exceptional hearing.
"I'll be home on weekends," Ashe sighed. Sali heard Marco's comment, and then Ashe's reply.
"I'll help you punch them if they call you empty again," Sali offered. "They don't get to dis the bat. That's my job."
"They call you empty?" Winkler lifted an eyebrow.
"Yeah." Ashe nodded at Winkler. "Sali, I need to go." Ashe hung up before Sali could say good-bye. "I'm going to the beach." Pocketing his cell, Ashe headed for the doors that held newly replaced glass panes.
"I'll come," Marco rose from his chair.
"Marco, I need a little time," Ashe said and shut the door behind him.
"Let him go," Winkler motioned Marco down again. "I think he'll be all right. Just in case, Trace, can you watch him from the deck?"
"Yeah." Trace walked out the door and settled on one of the patio chairs.
"I've disagreed with Dad a lot over the years, but taking Sali's memories away that Ashe can do most of what he does? That's just lame." Marco rose and went to join Trace.
"I agree with Marco," Trajan said, taking his brother's vacated seat with a sigh.
"I didn't say otherwise," Winkler said.
"Who's this?" Ezekiel Tanner glared at the two Dominic Pruitt brought into his private study. Like Obediah, Ezekiel had chosen to decorate the large room with the heads of exotic animals, plus three taxidermic werewolves in human form. Dom was glad they were dressed. At times, Zeke left them na**d. Two were female, one male.
"New allies—an associate put me in touch with them," Dom smiled.
"Not human," Zeke got a good scent off the visitors.
"Of course we are not human. That is the worst insult. Do not offer it again or you will much regret it," one of them sniffed.
"What can they do for us?" Zeke growled at Pruitt. He didn't like threats of any kind and considered setting some of his wolves on these two.
"We can give you all of the young ones inside the village you are targeting, in exchange for one of them," the other guest answered while Dominic Pruitt searched for a suitable answer. "You must overlook my brother's impatience," the visitor spoke again. "He grows tired of this chase."
"And you are?" Zeke frowned at both of them.
"I am Baltis, King of the Dark Elemaiya," came the reply. "And this is my brother, Prince Beldris. I understand you need some youth within your ranks. Rest assured we will deliver, in exchange for the one we hunt. With a bit of assistance from you and yours, of course."
"What do you mean, you relayed messages for him?" Matt Michaels was angry enough to spit. Wildrif had been sequestered inside the mental hospital in D.C., with specific orders not to allow any visitors or for the staff to repeat anything Wildrif said. The one who'd circumvented that order now quailed before the Director of the Joint NSA and Homeland Security Department.
"Took money," one of Matt's agents dropped a folder onto Matt's desk. "That shows bank deposits. Around half a mil."
"From Howard, no doubt. Now I know how those terrorists knew we were sending someone in at the British Embassy. Did you contact the same one for that particular piece of treason, or somebody else?"
"I called the number Wildrif gave me," Orderly Kelly Tharpe tried to make himself smaller. He was handcuffed and shackled to the chair beside Matt's desk. "Somebody answered. I gave the message Wildrif passed to me."
"And what was that message?" Matt was becoming angrier by the second.
"He said to tell them that if they wanted proof of what the boy could do, to go to the British Embassy at a certain date and time."
Matt cursed. Kicked the side of his desk and cursed again.
"What about the second message. To Congressman Howard?" Matt's agent asked the question, since Matt was still cursing under his breath.
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