Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(28) by Connie Suttle
"I think he knows that, Marcus. He has a gun."
Ashe muttered a word that might upset his mother. Mr. DeLuca, I'll get the gun, you get Principal Billings, Ashe sent. Marcus gave the briefest of nods. Everybody else was up and following Marcus from the room when Ashe turned to mist and went straight through the roof.
Micah Rocklin, Marcus' Second, was already out in the DeLuca's yard, attempting to reason with Billings. The werewolf Principal was waiting just off the front porch, pointing a pistol at the door of the DeLuca home.
"Don't try to talk me out of it, Micah. I deserve to be Packmaster. Should have done this a long time ago," Billings was hissing, spittle flying from his mouth. Ashe had never seen the Principal like this before. He sounded crazy, and that wasn't like him. Angry and biased, yes. Crazy—no.
Coming down now, Ashe sent to Marcus. He zipped down and only forming hands, snatched the gun right out of Billings' hands just as Marcus stepped outside the door. Hovering overhead, then, Ashe watched as Billings stared first at his empty hands and then at Marcus. Billings growled.
"I don't know what kind of tricks you're up to now, DeLuca, but your time is over," Principal Billings snapped.
"Ben, you don't want to fight me. Not like this. Go home. If you still want to challenge, we'll do it on the full moon, all right?" Marcus had his hands out in a placating gesture.
Billings cursed. Ashe was shocked—he'd never heard the Principal say words that foul. "I'll fight you here and now, Marcus. You're just scared to fight me—admit it. Whenever there's an execution, you let me take it. You're weak and you don't want to get your hands dirty."
"Ben, go home. Think about this. We'll settle it on the full moon," Marcus repeated his warning. Ashe, from his high vantage point, watched Marcus' hands. They were prepared to strike. The yard and the street beyond were filling up with people—mostly werewolves, Ashe realized. This was Pack business. Marco held Sali in a tight grip on the front porch and Micah was standing next to both boys. Greta, Micah's wife, was there with them, too. Denise DeLuca went to stand beside Greta, who put an arm around the Packmaster's wife. Among those gathered, Ashe saw Chad Hollis and Jeremy Booth, talking softly together. Ashe couldn't make out what they were saying. Dawn Smith was also there and surprisingly, Randy had gone to stand beside her.
"I'm not backing away or going home with my tail tucked between my legs, Marcus. This is going to be finished today. Then I'll have a few words with the Grand Master and this will be a wolf only community. Like it should have been in the beginning." Billings was putting up his fists.
"Ben, for the last time, go home. Now. As your Packmaster, I'm telling you to wait for the full moon to shine on a challenge." Marcus carefully observed every move Billings made. Benjamin Billings, Ph. D., werewolf, Principal, lunged at Marcus. His blows never landed. Marcus had his opponent's neck snapped in a blink—Ashe heard the bones breaking from overhead. Billings fell in a heap to the grass and Ashe, feeling ill, flew straight to his father's bunker, dumped the gun in the floor and then went to heave in the bathroom inside his bedroom.
"I take it you saw that," Marcus was inside Adele's kitchen later, talking to Ashe. "Where's the gun now, Son?" Marcus might have wanted to touch Ashe, but he was worried that Ashe might not want it.
"It's in Dad's bunker," Ashe muttered, letting his head drop into his arms at the kitchen island. Adele stood nearby, wearing a worried frown.
"Only the ones inside the house knew about the gun, Adele," Marcus turned to Ashe's mother. "So we won't have much damage control for Aedan and Nathan. I've already told the others to keep quiet about this. Denise and Marco won't be a problem, they knew already. Micah and Greta know. The rest we'll deal with later. Ashe, if I'm challenged outside the full moon, the fight is human. You're allowed weapons, but you have to give your opponent fair warning. At least two days. That wasn't fair warning, and he had plenty of opportunity to back away and meet me later. He chose not to do that."
"I know," Ashe whispered, lifting his head and staring at Marcus.
"Ashe?" Aedan knocked on Ashe's bedroom door before walking in. Ashe was sitting in his favorite spot on his bed; his back pressed to the headboard; short, white socks on his feet. Ashe had chosen to wear a pair of cargo shorts that morning. He didn't think he'd ever wear them again without remembering what happened that afternoon.
"Dad?" Ashe looked up as Aedan Evans walked in and sat on the end of Ashe's bed.
"I gave the pistol to Marcus, then Nathan and I took care of a few things. It wasn't much. You did right, Son. Marcus would have been killed in an unfair fight and the Grand Master would have been forced to come and sort everything out. I can't believe that old werewolf went crazy like that."
"That's just what I thought. He wasn't acting normal. I don't know what caused that, but it was scary."
"He didn't suffer. Marcus was trained to kill quickly and cleanly by the military. He was Special Ops, but he doesn't like killing. That's why he allowed Billings or one of the others to take executions when necessary. That doesn't mean he won't fight if he must. He holds his position because he can."
"I'm not questioning that. I just feel that Billings might have been pushed into this, somehow. Otherwise, it just doesn't make sense." Ashe picked at his comforter.
"I'm not going to argue with you on this. I know what happened the last time." Aedan stood. "But if ye need to talk, or just to be with somebody, I'll be up all night, and your mam won't be doin' much in the way of sleepin' either." Aedan's accent had come through. Ashe liked the lilting speech when his father used it.
"I know, dad. I think this is something that has to go away on its own, but I'll let you know."
"Good. You're me baby boy, Ashe, and don't ye be forgettin' it." Aedan stole from the room.
Ashe's cell rang half an hour later. Winkler was calling. "You all right, Ashe?" Winkler asked.
"Yeah. It was just a shock, that's all."
"If you need to get away, you can come here. My kids came in, but they won't bother you if you need peace and quiet."
"Yeah. I think I'll be okay, but I'll let you know." Ashe said good-bye and hung up.
"Usually the family has a private service," Sali whispered. Ashe was playing a mind-numbing game on his laptop close to midnight and Sali had sneaked into Ashe's bedroom. Ashe knew Sali's memory had already been adjusted. Sali thought Marcus had taken care of the entire incident. This time, Ashe didn't mind so much. Now, Sali was giving Ashe information on what would happen to their former Principal.
"But Billings doesn't have any family here," Ashe agreed.
"Yeah. So Dad is going to let Mr. Dodd handle it, and anybody that wants can go. Shirley Walker says they can bury him on her property—there's a couple others buried in the same spot already."
"I can't believe he challenged," Ashe sighed, shutting down the game. "He was smarter than that. There's something else behind this, dude."
"Ashe, I don’t know what it could be. Dad says Billings was old—almost one-ninety. He thinks he just went crazy."
"Well, he might have been crazy; I'm not arguing that point," Ashe agreed. "But I think something made him go crazy."
"And the weekend was great, until that happened."
"Yeah. When will they have the service?"
"Tomorrow. There's no place to keep him," Sali pointed out.
"Yeah." Ashe recalled that the body of James Johnson, the seventeen-year-old werewolf who was killed three years earlier, had been kept inside a walk-in refrigerator in the O'Neill's barn. Ashe shivered at the memory.
"Dad won't go. It's tradition not to recognize a challenger after the challenge. So we'll be home."
"Marco and I will go back to Winkler's tomorrow night."
"I know. And we have to go back to picking fruit on Monday." Sali didn't sound pleased about that.
"Sali, be careful out in those groves. And keep an eye on Dori for me, okay?"
"This is what our spy was able to get," Pruitt showed Ezekiel Tanner the video sent by cell phone. One of King Baltis' guards also watched what had been sent.
"Are those hands? Coming out of nowhere?" Ezekiel drew in a breath as the pistol was snatched away from the grasp of the challenger and then disappeared, as did the ghostly hands. Baltis' guard hissed as well. "I must inform my King," he said, and rushed from Ezekiel's study.
"I hate those guys," Dom Pruitt huffed when the Elemaiya disappeared. "The sooner we get rid of them, the better."
"If that is the one he wants," Ezekiel was running the video back to watch it again, "we may have a tussle over it. Do you see the possibilities, here?" Ezekiel lifted an eyebrow as he looked at Pruitt.
"Yeah. If that one can carry a gun away without being seen, imagine what else he might carry."
"My King, I had to rest. My apologies for arriving at this time," Rend bowed before Baltis, out of breath and breathing with difficulty.
"No matter, I was not asleep," Baltis sighed. Both Dark Elemaiya stood inside an underground chamber hollowed out beneath Chicago's streets. "What do you have for me? Or did you merely wish to get away from those foul-smelling creatures?"
"I have news, my King. The one whom we seek? What if you could turn him to our purposes?" Rend gazed at his King's back. Baltis had no view. He had no windows. Instead, he stared at a painting his servants had hung on the newly formed walls of his chamber.
"Why would we need him? We have shapeshifters in plenty. We have always birthed more of those than our Bright cousins."
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