Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(12) by Connie Suttle
"That's exactly what I'm saying," Winkler agreed. "They may tell you all sorts of things about themselves, but there's no way you can tell anyone else unless that person knows what you know already."
"Is there anything else you can say about them? Since there's not just the one? You said them."
"I did, didn't I?" Winkler's mouth tugged into a half-frown. "I think I can tell you they don't lie. Ever. But they word things carefully at times, so you have to pick through whatever they say."
"Are they dangerous?" Ashe searched Winkler's face for clues.
"Yes and no," Winkler said and left it at that. "Come on; let's go meet the candidates for Principal. You can tell me what you think."
* * *
Ashe shook hands with Catherine Copeland and her husband, Barton, from the Louisville Pack, learning that Catherine had been Vice-Principal at one of the school districts there. "I've already examined the test scores," Catherine said to Winkler as they settled in the DeLuca's family room. "They're all right but I think they can be better." Ashe disliked her immediately.
"Which scores?" Ashe asked. "There aren't very many students. Which scores are you talking about?"
"That's to which scores are you referring?" Catherine corrected his English. Ashe mentally intensified his desire to pass the GED.
"My apologies, ma'am," Ashe nodded politely. "To which scores are you referring? And how will your feelings toward shapeshifters affect your ability to run a school such as Star Cove Combined?"
"I will only answer those questions for the interviewing panel," Catherine replied haughtily.
"What if I want to know?" Winkler lifted an eyebrow. Catherine Copeland's head swiveled toward the Dallas Packmaster. She'd been courting him the entire time, Ashe knew. It was Mr. Winkler this and Mr. Winkler that, but when a prospective student opened his mouth, she became cold and arrogant.
"Children will be treated the same in my school," Catherine insisted. Ashe wanted to point out the lie, but held his tongue. He imagined that Winkler could smell a lie just as easily as he could.
"Of the seventy-eight students here, how many are werewolf and how many are shapeshifters?" Winkler asked innocently.
"Fifty-six werewolves and twenty-two shapeshifters," Catherine replied promptly. Winkler had asked that question for a reason, Ashe knew. If the race truly didn't matter, then she would have pointed that out. It was obvious that she'd studied this—had looked through the records already and knew which students were werewolf and which were shapeshifter. Ashe didn't want another bigot in the Principal's office. He'd seen enough of that already.
"How do you feel about moving to Texas?" Winkler turned his attention to Barton, Catherine's husband.
"Not a problem. I've been promised a position by the Grand Master if Catherine gets the job."
"What position do you think that might be?" Winkler straightened the crease in his black jeans. Ashe wanted to smile. Winkler dressed casually unless he had a business meeting, but he always looked tailored and well-dressed anyway. Ashe figured the jeans alone had cost quite a bit. The snakeskin boots? Probably made to order for the werewolf Packmaster.
"Some sort of administrative position, I think," Barton replied coolly. "Perhaps assisting Catherine in her work. I ran an insurance office in Louisville."
"Did you like selling insurance?" Winkler asked.
"Of course. I still do that part-time. If you have any insurance needs, I can give you one of my cards."
"I'll consider it," Winkler inclined his head. Ashe knew what that meant—Winkler was dismissing Barton Copeland politely. He was seeing a bit of the Winkler who sat in boardrooms and important meetings. This was a colder, more calculating Winkler. The Dallas Packmaster had already assessed Catherine and Barton Copeland, finding them shallow and inadequate.
"Ashe, are you ready to go?" Winkler stood with an easy grace.
"Yeah." Ashe stood as well and followed Winkler out of the DeLuca's house. They walked past Ashe's home on their way to the Anderson's. Ashe hadn't seen Wynn anywhere and imagined she might be with Dori. Dori's home was Winkler's next objective; he strode purposefully toward the Anderson home, leapt up the steps leading to the porch and rang the doorbell with a flourish, turning to wink at Ashe while they waited for someone to answer the door. Ashe's assumption proved correct—Dori and Wynn both answered the door.
"We're here to visit with Dexter Beesley," Winkler announced, smiling at both girls.
"He's in the kitchen, schmoozing Mom," Dori muttered, refusing to look at Ashe. He wasn't surprised, either, to find Sali, Marco and Cori sitting at the island with Lavonna Anderson. Dexter Beesley slid off a barstool and introduced himself to Winkler first. He wasn't as tall as Winkler—his hair was a medium brown with eyes nearly the same color. Dexter was dressed in a suit, even in such hot weather. "Dexter Beesley," he pumped Winkler's hand enthusiastically. "From the Boulder, Colorado Pack. I've always wanted to meet you, Mr. Winkler." Winkler managed to pull his hand away, resisting the urge, Ashe figured, to wipe it on his jeans afterward.
"And who is this?" Dexter Beesley turned his smile on Ashe, extending his hand again. Ashe took it and everything shifted.
* * *
"Just keep him guarded," Winkler ordered. Trajan, Ace and Marco watched Dexter Beesley struggle with the silver handcuffs and ropes that bound his hands. He sat in a chair beside Winkler's desk, growling and angry. He'd shouted at first, but Winkler threatened to end him so he was quiet for the most part afterward. Winkler had already spoken with the Grand Master and now they all waited for Nathan to wake and place compulsion. Weldon Harper merely wanted verification of what Ashe had already seen. Winkler stalked out of his office and went to find Ashe.
"Ashe, they've been hunting this guy for two decades," Winkler settled on the sofa next to Ashe. "His victims—all those young girls—have disappeared throughout the past twenty years. I think that's how long he's lived in the Boulder area. If we figure out where he was before then, well, other things might come to light. Matt Michaels is working on this, too. His contacts at the FBI may be able to close the books on this tonight."
"Winkler, that was the most horrible," Ashe shuddered at what he'd seen, unable to complete the sentence. Dexter Beesley had already marked Wynn as his next victim when Ashe and Winkler met him at the Anderson's. Ashe's throat closed up every time he saw those images replayed in his mind—Beesley had mentally planned Wynn's murder.
"Kid, I'm just glad I decided to bring you along," Winkler admitted. "I didn't like him from the start but I wouldn't have known why."
"What will happen to him?" Ashe asked. He was almost afraid to know the answer, but after what he'd seen in the visions, he wanted an answer of some kind.
"If everything comes out under compulsion, he'll be executed. If Marcus doesn't want to do it, Trajan or I will take care of it. Weldon was clear—no vampires on this one. This is werewolf justice."
"This time, I don't disagree with that." Ashe felt nauseous. The day had gone from really bad to much worse.
"Ashe, this is the way we have to dispense justice. You and I know that werewolves and vampires are different. They're too powerful to be placed in a human jail. It doesn't work; we’ve tried it in the past. This is fast and everybody knows what will happen if they run afoul of the laws and get caught."
"Mr. Winkler, you don't have to convince me. I saw too much of what he did."
"I wasn't sure we were going to get you back for a while," Winkler grimly agreed. "I was calling your name for minutes afterward; you wouldn't let go of Dexter's hand. He was screaming there at the end."
Ashe didn't tell Winkler what he'd done—he'd tried to give as much pain back to Dexter Beesley as Dexter had given to his victims. Dexter begged to be taken away from Ashe after Winkler finally pulled him off. "Come on, there's still one more candidate to speak with," Winkler patted Ashe's knee. "Let's go see what he's about." Ashe followed Winkler out of the house.
* * *
"Alvin Wright," the shapeshifter extended his hand to Winkler. Ashe stared. The man was huge. Nearly as tall as Trajan, Alvin Wright was broad across the shoulders and looked like a powerful, shaggy wall. "But people call me Bear," Alvin Wright grinned. His smile was nearly as big as he was.
"Bear Wright?" Ashe gaped. "That's what the GPS says every time it wants us to go in that direction." Ashe wanted to clap a hand over his mouth after he'd said the words—Bear Wright might toss him into a wall with a careless swipe of a hand.
"Yeah. I laugh every time," Bear's grin grew wider. "But they called me that before those things were invented. Maybe I should sue for infringement."
Ashe couldn't help grinning back at the man. He was dressed casually and seemed muscular and fit while thick, light-brown hair stood out from his head, lending a more rugged cast to his bearing. Ashe couldn't help but think Bear Wright might fit well in a photo ad for outdoor clothing or equipment. Bear's nose, too, was slightly crooked—as if it had been broken a time or two. Warm brown eyes were still laughing as he pumped Ashe's hand, his grip firm and confident.
"You know the Grand Master?" Ashe asked as they took seats in the O’Neill's living room.
"Yep. Weldon and I got into trouble a time or two when we were younger."
Sharon O’Neill served glasses of iced tea and soft drinks to her guests. Jonas, normally quiet, was content to listen as Winkler and Ashe talked with Mr. Wright. "Got into a big fight with some sailors at the docks in San Diego during dubya-dubya two," Bear said. "Weldon had eight or ten on him. I was a yeoman at the time. I waded into that crowd and dispensed a little justice."
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