Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(24) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"Kid?" Matt Michaels stepped over a pile of glass from a lamp shattered in the shooting. The vampires had gathered those who still lived among the attackers—two humans. The others, including the female werewolf, were all dead. No signs of Winkler or any of his party were inside either room.
"Here," Ashe dropped his still-sleeping cargo onto the beds inside Winkler's room, causing all three werewolves to wake with a start.
"What the hell?" Winkler was up and growling immediately, his back to a wall in no time. Trajan and Trace flanked their Packmaster, ready to defend him. Ashe solidified on the floor not far away, hanging his head and looking sheepish.
"Sorry, Mr. Winkler," Ashe apologized. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just kept seeing Trina's face in my head and then I couldn't help myself. I picked all of you up while you were sleeping and misted outside. I followed Trina and the others inside the building. I think she had a master key to get in and somebody else had bolt cutters."
"He's right." Matt nodded to one of his human agents, who held both items. "Now, we’ll just take these two somewhere for a little questioning," he jerked his head toward the two humans his vampire agents held. They were hauled quickly from the room.
"I’ve got people checking to see whose key card this is," Matt went on. Temper flashed in his hazel eyes as he accepted the card in question from his agent. "If we find ‘em, we’ll haul them in, too. In the meantime, I’m moving you to another hotel, so gather your things. Nobody will know where you are after that. A car will come to pick you up around nine in the morning. I’m rescheduling the hearing for later in the day."
"Kid, come here." Winkler, dark hair disheveled and dressed only in pajama bottoms, motioned for Ashe to come to him. Ashe gulped. He was about to get in trouble with the Dallas Packmaster. Ashe's feet felt stuck to the floor and he moved them with difficulty. As soon as Ashe was within Winkler's reach, Winkler grasped Ashe's upper arm and hauled him into a tight hug while Trajan and Trace watched.
* * *
Rabis sighed. He knew—he'd been following the movements of William Winkler, the werewolf Packmaster. The Bright Elemaiyan Foreseer was successfully outmaneuvering Wildrif. Wildrif and Winkler he could see. His grandchild he could not. Come the morning, Friesianna would ask questions that Rabis would be forced to answer truthfully. "Be safe," he whispered to the winds flowing over Montana fields. The boy had to live. Had to.
* * *
"Dude, Randy and his mom are moving to Star Cove!" Sali couldn't help calling Ashe, though he knew they were still at odds with each other. Ashe had always liked Randy for some reason, and had defended him when everyone thought him guilty of exposing the Pack. Sali figured Ashe would want this information, no matter the source.
"Sali, what are you saying?" Ashe rubbed his eyes and blinked for a few seconds. He felt the effects of a very short night with little sleep as he spoke with Sali on his cell. He, Winkler and the others were currently riding in the back of a limousine toward the location selected for Jack Howard's hearing. "And dude, we're still on the outs, in case you hadn't noticed," he added.
"Yeah. I get that," Sali replied. "I’m sorry, man, but I thought you'd want to know. They’ll be here in three days. Randy just stored all his stuff at his uncle's house. His mom got a transfer to the Corpus Christi Post Office and Randy has an interview with the Corpus Christi newspaper."
"That's nice, dude. I’m going back to being mad now."
"Dude, we’ve been friends for a long time," Sali whined.
"Sali, we’ve been friends since I saw you the first time. But that doesn't mean anything to me right now."
"Come on, I found a burger place in Aransas Pass. I’ll drive you there when you get back. You can cuss me while we eat."
"As attractive as that sounds, we have to discuss this later. I have work to do." Ashe ended the call and flopped his head against the back of the seat.
"He's trying, Ashe," Trace said softly.
"Yeah. Does he still remember what I did, or has that been wiped away again?"
"I don't know. Perhaps you should ask Nathan."
"Nathan is a vampire, Trace. And likely just as much under the Council's thumb as anyone else. I’ll be careful what I show to a vampire from now on."
"Kid, when we get out of this questioning session today, you and I are going shopping. You can buy as many pairs of cargo pants and shorts as you want. Banana Republic is calling your name," Winkler grinned. "And you’ll get a little bonus in your paycheck." He and Trajan sat facing Ashe and Trace in the back of the limo. Bottled water, soft drinks and a few bottles of harder stuff were lined up inside a mini-fridge in the back. Ashe held a bottle of expensive water and sipped occasionally as they were ferried by one of Matt Michaels’ drivers.
When the limo pulled to a stop, the door was opened for him and Ashe stepped out of the car, looking around at the guarded parking garage. The space was constructed mostly from concrete, with steel pillars placed at regular intervals and no signs anywhere to tell him where he was. Still clutching his bottle of water, Ashe trailed the others, who followed their driver.
An elevator carried them up three flights until they arrived at an unmarked floor. The elevator doors opened to reveal a tiled foyer and a security desk, manned by a uniformed, armed guard. Ashe blinked as two more guards stepped away from both sides of the elevator to flank them as they walked toward the desk and the man waiting there for them.
Ashe hauled out his driver's license when the guard requested ID—he'd barely gotten to use his license and remembered with mixed feelings the day he'd gotten it and Sali's teasing afterward. He missed Sali, when all was said and done. That didn't mean he wasn't still angry, though.
"What's a sixteen-year-old doing here?" The guard muttered gruffly.
"Material witness," the driver snapped. "Matt will have something to say if you bother him."
"Why didn't you say that to start with?" The guard handed Ashe's license back. He took Winkler, Trace and Trajan's IDs next, looked them over and passed them back. "Go ahead." He pressed a button and a door behind the desk swung open. Ashe, walking between Trajan and Trace, strode down a narrow hall behind Winkler and their driver. He wanted to ask where they were. That would likely get him in trouble so he remained silent. They passed several doors on both sides of the hall, Ashe noticed, but none of them were labeled with anything other than numbers.
The door at the end of the hall was their destination. It opened when they arrived and Ashe was ushered inside. Matt Michaels and eight others were waiting. Ashe recognized some of them. Two important members of Congress sat in comfortable, high-backed seats behind a horseshoe-shaped table. Former Congressman Jack Howard, looking nervous, sat at a smaller desk in the center with someone—likely an attorney, at his side.
"Ashe, these people all know about the Special Paranormal Division of the FBI, and they are aware that vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters exist," Matt said as he led Ashe, Winkler and the others to seats around the horseshoe. Ashe, dressed neatly in his new suit, watched Winkler closely and unbuttoned his jacket just as Winkler did as he sat down. Trace and Trajan were ahead of him in getting as comfortable as a suit might allow. Ashe was introduced to both members of Congress and he nodded respectfully to them. At any other time, he might have liked to ask questions, but this wasn't the time. He did have a question, however, that couldn't wait.
"Mr. Howard's attorney is also aware that vampires, werewolves and shifters exist?" he asked.
"Mr. Howard's attorney, unbeknownst to Mr. Howard until now, is a shapeshifter," Matt Michaels stifled a grin. Ashe wanted to grasp the shapeshifting attorney by the throat and tell him exactly what Jack Howard had attempted to do after Obediah Tanner kidnapped Wynn. Instead, he remained silent. Jack Howard, however, did not.
"I want another attorney," he sniveled.
"You can have one after today," Matt said. "Mr. James had no trouble defending you against other charges. I assume he will also defend you to the best of his ability in these proceedings as well. This is not a court of law, Mr. Howard. This is merely a fact-finding session. If you answer questions truthfully today, we might be able to present a plea bargain somewhere down the road that won't be completely unpalatable. Ashe, will you come and place compulsion upon Jack Howard?" Matt asked. "Order him to tell the truth to all inside this room. Mr. James, you do not object?"
"No, you’ve already assured me that this information will not go any farther and that national security is on the line. I’ll allow it." Jack Howard glared at his attorney but didn't speak. Ashe figured the esteemed former Congressman was cursing his attorney silently. Ashe rose and came to stand before Jack Howard.
"You will truthfully answer all questions asked by anyone inside this room. Do you understand? Answer now."
"Yes. I understand," Jack Howard wasn't happy but he answered anyway.
"Good. Quack like a duck," Ashe said. Matt Michaels rubbed his forehead and Winkler hid a smile as Jack Howard quacked several times before Ashe stopped him. "He's ready," Ashe said and moved back to his seat.
* * *
"Does the boy know how to shield? Your best guess, Rabis," Friesianna demanded. "Can he command the visions as well?"
"I believe the answer to both questions is no," Rabis bowed before the Queen. He was sworn and compelled to answer her. "All must be taught these things—they are not something one can stumble upon accidentally. There are none to teach him, my Queen."
"Then he is vulnerable. My spies tell me Baltis still wishes to capture him. That is foolish in my opinion. We will kill him instead and eliminate this threat. I cannot understand how Baltis fails to see the boy as such."
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