Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(31) by Connie Suttle
"What if we meet up with any of Shirley Walker's wolves?" One of Ezekiel's werewolves asked.
"Kill them. I'm handing out the assault rifles. They won't likely be armed if they're nearby. No witnesses, got it? I don't want anybody left alive who can identify any one of you."
"What about me? I can handle a gun just as well as the next person," former Congressman Jack Howard spoke up. "I think I wouldn't mind doing a bit of murder." He cracked his knuckles pretentiously.
"Howard, it amazes me that you could actually convince people to vote for you," Ezekiel snapped. "You'll stay here. You get caught in the states; I won't be forming a posse to rescue any part of your sorry ass. Stay here, you're safer."
"Then take me along to guard the boat while you're off it," Howard suggested. "Surely you can't argue with that logic."
"Fine. You stay with Julio and guard the ship. Julio, if he steps a toe out of line, shoot him." Ezekiel nodded to a grizzled rogue who grinned, showing missing teeth.
"Hey, wait just a minute," Jack Howard huffed.
"Howard, you ceased being important to me when they froze your assets. Right now, you're as useful to me as lips on a chicken. Stay out of my way—you'll live longer. Any questions? You all know the plan?" Zeke looked at those gathered around the room. Nobody said anything. "Good. We'll travel by land to the gulf, through Matamoros. The boats will be waiting for us south of the Las Palomas Wildlife area. Be ready to carry your gear on foot for a little way. We leave tonight."
"Ashe, I convinced Tony to give me a copy of what you got," Winkler called Ashe to his office after breakfast. Winkler had a copy of the three pages in his hand when Ashe sat in front of Winkler's large desk. "How many of these things can you do?"
"My dad doesn't want me to discuss those things," Ashe said. "And I really couldn't say. I haven't tried most of them." Ashe had been thinking about the one regarding Relocation. When he'd played around with that ability, he'd done it repeatedly, without tiring. The information on the pages made it sound as if the Elemaiya wore themselves out after doing it two or three times, so they held it back for emergencies.
"Kid, this has me worried. Do you think the Elemaiya know exactly what you can do?" Winkler's forehead was creased in a frown.
"I hope they don't know anything except about the bat. That's all Dad will allow, except with Marcus, Marco, Marco's mother and Micah and Greta Rocklin. Well, Nathan, too. And Cori knows. That's it. The rest of them think I'm a wimpy shapeshifter."
"Three years ago," Winkler sighed, "I hoped we'd gotten the leak, after you pegged Paul Harris. Now I'm worried that someone else might have taken over his spot, or was working independently as a spy. It bothers me that somebody seemed to know Wynn would be traveling to Amarillo to visit relatives. And somehow, their mutant creature was headed right for Cloud Chief when he killed that human boy." Winkler stood and raked fingers through his hair.
"You think somebody told him where to look?" Ashe was frowning now. "That he didn't just track us down?"
"Ashe, when you're in this business, you have to look at all possibilities. Honestly, I was keeping an eye on Ben Billings, but he's taken himself out of the game. So, if there is a leak, then it wasn't Ben. Or if he was involved, then he's conveniently out of the way."
"Mr. Winkler, that wasn't Principal Billings. Well, it was him, but he wouldn't do something like that. What if somebody placed compulsion? Forced him to do that? I don't think Dad or Nathan would even consider it. But what about another vampire?"
"Ashe, you read these pages," Winkler held up the copy he had. "The Elemaiya—some of them, anyway—can do that too. But I can't figure out why somebody would tell him to make a challenge."
"Yeah. This is so confusing," Ashe sighed. "And now he's dead. Is this the way it feels?" Ashe studied Winkler's face. "You have someone you consider an enemy, and when he dies under unusual circumstances, it's—just weird."
"Weird is a good word. Mixed emotions best describes how I feel. Billings was old school. He remembered too well the race war between vampires and werewolves. Back then, we were trained to track and kill, Ashe. Weldon and Wlodek knew both races were headed toward extinction. They hammered out a peace agreement. So far, it has held. There are a few on both sides who don't like it, but most of us see the sense in it. We both hold to our own laws, and both races have a law against killing humans. Mostly it's to keep the races hidden. If my sources are correct, the vampires don't place compulsion for unethical reasons. Your father and Nathan are trying to protect you. I know that's a little hard to accept right now, because you have talents that most people only dream about."
"Next time, you rescue the girl, hand her over to your best friend while somebody else takes the credit and see how that feels," Ashe snapped.
"Ah. I think I'm beginning to see." Winkler huffed out a breath. "Ashe, I'm sorry about that, but I don't see any way out of it now. We all want life to be fair, and it so seldom is."
"What does not destroy me makes me stronger? Is that what you're trying to say?"
"Spoken like a true dead philosopher," Winkler grinned.
"Mr. Winkler, I've been thinking about the vampires who got permission from the Council to have children. I wonder if it's given permission recently. The big drawback in having a vampire father is that I never get to see him during the day. Mom and I go shopping alone most of the time. If Dad goes, it's late at night. If anything happens during the day, he doesn't know until he wakes. Like Principal Billings' challenge. It frustrates him, it frustrates me and it frustrates Mom. She won't ever say it, but there have been times—like when I got shot—that she really needed him and he was asleep."
"Ashe, Tony told me last night that the Council has shut down the experiment with vampire children. That's what it was—an experiment. And those reasons were cited. Children are a huge responsibility, and I can only imagine that the vampires have had a terrible time dealing with kids who could walk in the sun. Mates, too. The Council hasn't given permission for twelve years. I think you were among the last to be born. And Nathan having two children is almost unheard of."
"Yeah. I think you're right. What did you want me to work on today?"
"Actually, I'd like some files cleaned out in my computer system. I'll hand my desk over to you and let you take care of a few things. I have a list of files here that I want deleted." Winkler lifted another paper and waved it at Ashe before setting it on his desk and moving away. "I have some errands to run in Corpus today, so if you need anything, ask Trajan."
"All right." Ashe traded places with Winkler, watching as the werewolf walked out of his office before settling in to delete files.
"I got flowers?" Dori stared at the pink roses Mr. Dawkins dropped off. He'd been manning the guard kiosk located outside the gate and signed for the delivery. Lavonna had shown them to Dori the moment she got home from working in the groves. "Who are they from?" Dori sniffed a delicate pink bloom.
"Read the card," Lavonna smiled. Dori lifted the tiny envelope from the bouquet and opened it.
"It says Happy Monday—Ashe. They're from Ashe. This is so cool! Wynn didn't get flowers!" Dori was hugging the card to her chest and bouncing on her toes with excitement.
"I'm not surprised Ashe sent flowers," Lavonna laughed.
"So we found out who the Lothario was?" Cori walked in from the deck.
"Here, read for yourself," Dori passed over the card and sniffed another pink rose. "They smell so good."
The doorbell rang. Cori went to answer, finding Wynn on the porch. "Come on in, Dori's having a fit about the flowers Ashe sent."
"Dori got flowers?" Wynn was in the kitchen quickly, cooing over the pink roses and reading the card. "He sent you flowers 'cause it's Monday?" Wynn sighed. "That's so romantic."
"Do you think I should call?" Dori looked at her mother.
"It's polite, to let him know you got them," Lavonna said. Dori pulled her cell phone from a pocket in her jeans and dialed Ashe's number. He picked up right away.
"Ashe, I got the flowers. They smell so good. I love them."
"Somebody sent somebody flowers," Marco teased. He, Ashe, Wayne and Wynter were dressed for a run on the beach before dinner. Ashe was standing on the deck dressed in shorts, running shoes and an old T-shirt when Dori called.
"Did you like the color? I saw your pink bikini and earrings and thought you might like pink," Ashe said, coloring a little. Marco stood nearby, listening to the conversation and smirking.
"I love pink, Ashe. These are the first flowers I've ever gotten. Thank you."
"Great. I'm glad you like them," Ashe was now fending off Marco, who was grinning and trying to flip Ashe's ear. "Dori, I have to go. Marco wants to get a run in before dinner. I'll talk to you later, all right?" Dori agreed and hung up. "Dude, I can depants you the next time you're kissing Cori in front of the entire universe," Ashe threatened Marco.
"You think you can? You have to catch me first," Marco grinned and took off, running down the steps to the deck and then out to the beach, Ashe hot on his heels. Wayne and Wynter struggled to keep up. Ashe was keeping up with Marco easily. Running was easier for him now, and the weight lifting with Trajan was showing some results. "Man, now I have to give Cori flowers, just to keep her happy," Marco grumped good-naturedly as they ran.
"Hey, slow down, some of us are out of shape," Wayne jogged up beside Ashe. Wynter was still running gamely behind.
"Trajan can fix that," Marco grinned. He slowed down anyway.
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