Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(34) by Connie Suttle
"Here's the information on the Little Rock thing, boss. Fergus fired the accountant. According to Fergus, the man was sniffing after Eudora. Said it was a relief to get rid of the guy."
"Any way to get the money back? Eudora should have reported it instead of taking the money. That's Fergus' Second's wife, you know. We could bring the matter up with the Grand Master. Weldon could remove Fergus' Second, Jarrett Long, if Jarrett knew anything about his wife accepting some mighty big paychecks. Eudora works as a secretary in Fergus' regional office and got paid three times what she was supposed to get." Winkler had offices located in many the major cities across the U.S., plus several in foreign countries. "Ask Fergus about that."
"I'll ask," Andy agreed. "Probably won't know anything until tomorrow, at the earliest."
"If you can't get it that way, see about bringing charges against that fool accountant. That's nearly fifty thousand, Andy. See what evidence Fergus has against the man."
"Yeah. I'll work on that. Find what kind of proof Fergus can produce and then hand it over to the D.A. in Little Rock."
"Do that. Email the Grand Master, too, and see if he's got any information from the investigation on the Amarillo Pack."
"Will do, boss." Andy walked out of Winkler's office.
"Now, what else can I do before the day's over?" Winkler grinned.
* * *
"You think they'll take the bait?" Trajan sat at the all-night diner in Port Aransas, nursing a cup of coffee and staring across the table at Winkler.
"I'd bet money on it," Winkler grinned. "Around fifty thousand ought to do it."
"Expect any trouble?"
"Nah. Piece of cake," Winkler said. "I've got several in the area already. When Fergus tries to run, probably with Eudora, they'll have both of 'em."
"What about Jarrett?"
"He probably doesn't suspect a thing, more's the pity," Winkler's grin faded. "He's decent. Have to see what he wants to do after Fergus and Eudora are hauled in. The accountant is locked up already; Fergus just doesn't know about it."
"Since Andy doesn't know the details, his emails will put Fergus on the run," Trajan sighed. "Boss, you're always a step ahead."
"I wish I was as far ahead as Ashe is, most of the time," Winkler dumped sugar into his coffee and stirred.
"Kid knows more than is good for him," Trajan agreed. "And he's only sixteen. What do you think he'll be like when he's twenty?"
"Scary as hell," Winkler muttered and sipped his coffee.
* * *
"Ashe, Sara's coming for the weekend," Randy was nearly vibrating with happiness. Ashe sat at the kitchen island, having a soda and reading one of his GED study guides. Andy had invited the newest reporter for the Corpus Christi newspaper into the house when he rang the doorbell.
"That's great, dude," Ashe said. "Want a soda?"
"Yeah. Whatever you got," Randy nodded. "My boss gave me an assignment already so I could do a little research before starting officially at the paper. My next story will be covering all the garbage that people dump on the beach. Right now, the only way to pay for cleanup is through the hotel tax."
"So, somebody is thinking about getting tax money from another source to pay, or organizing the locals or something?" Ashe poured a can of soda into a glass of ice for Randy.
"Among other things. It'll be a fight, more than likely. Costs are going up for those tractors that rake the beaches. I did research already on other states—Florida has taxes allocated for beach maintenance, but Texas doesn't collect state income tax. Can't do it that way."
"So, that's where the fight will be the fiercest," Ashe grinned.
"Yeah. It'll be fun," Randy settled back on a barstool and sipped his soda. Ashe's cell phone beeped to let him know he had email. Hardly anyone emailed him anymore. Curious, Ashe pulled out the cell to check his message.
"What is it?" Randy asked when Ashe's eyes widened.
"Uh, nothing. Just something I wasn't expecting to get," Ashe pocketed the cell. "How's your mom? She gonna be all right with Sara coming?"
"I haven't told her. I figure Sara and I can stay at a hotel on the beach, since Sunday is full moon. Honestly, I forgot to check the calendar," Randy muttered guiltily.
"Yeah. Been there, done that," Ashe said, hauling chips out of a cabinet and passing the bag to Randy. Randy opened it and pulled out a handful of crisps.
"Too bad Billings is dead now—it used to be funny telling that story about graduation," Randy said. "Now that he's gone, it's speaking ill of the dead."
"I don't mind badmouthing Hitler, and he's dead," Ashe observed.
"Well, that's different," Randy crunched into a potato chip. "Mom won't talk about him at all—she somehow found out that Billings wanted to take the execution."
"What execution?" Ashe watched Randy pull more chips from the bag.
"Mine. Sounds weird, doesn't it, that they were ready to kill me?"
"Randy," Ashe sighed. "What do you remember about all that?"
"It gets blurry after the Trackers hauled me in. I was hiding out in a mountain cabin that one of Mom's friends from the post office built as a ski lodge," Randy replied. "But they found me anyway. Figured they would."
"Did your mom ever say who contacted her from Cloud Chief?"
"No. Mom doesn't talk about that. And if you mention my dad, she has a meltdown."
"Yeah. I can understand that," Ashe said. Terry Smith, Randy's father, had been killed by Paul Harris, the werewolf English teacher at Cloud Chief Combined. "I know that you and James still talked," Ashe said softly. Randy jerked his head up.
"Ashe, that can get me in trouble, still," Randy said breathlessly.
"And that's why nobody else will ever know. I figure you didn't get to mourn James properly, either," Ashe went on. "I just wanted you to know how he died, dude."
"How? That memory is a little fuzzy, too."
"Those rats in the tunnels? James died the same way." Randy was standing and staring at Ashe in a blink.
"That can't be," Randy had difficulty breathing. "That just can't be."
"If they can make rat hearts explode," Ashe shrugged.
"They who? Who did that? I thought Paul Harris did it," Randy said.
"He had a few allies," Ashe said. "Randy, this isn't something to discuss with anybody else. Most people just don't remember the exact circumstances. With a little help, you understand."
"Yeah. Vampire help," Randy sounded angry.
"Dude, don't badmouth my dad. Everybody else had a hand in it, too. Maybe it is safer if nobody knows."
"You just handed a mystery to an investigative journalist. You think I won't figure out the truth?" Randy emptied his glass of soda and thumped the tumbler on the island. "Thanks for the info, Ashe. I'll get to the bottom of this."
"I hope you do," Ashe murmured quietly as Randy shut the front door behind him.
"I don't like this, man." Jeremy handled the case of darts carefully. Chad glared at his friend—they'd borrowed Jeremy's mother's car to drive to the beach. "I can't believe they expect us to do this on the full moon."
"Look, just load darts into both guns, get two shots off and then turn," Chad hissed. "And make sure you do it near a tree in case somebody comes after you."
"That's easy for you to say; you'll be out in the crowd, looking innocent while the guilty wildcat is up the tree."
"They probably won't even notice. If we let that deer out, they'll be chasing it instead. You know how it is—if a wolf gets the scent of prey, that's all they focus on. So what if two go down? Less competition for the others." Chad nodded for Jeremy to get on with the task of loading both tranquilizer guns with poisoned darts.
"Too bad we can't get the stupid bat-boy while we're at it."
"Too small, man." Chad snickered at the thought. Ashe's bumblebee bat was too insignificant to hit with a dart. "We can get him later, though. When he's asleep in his coffin."
"Nah, that's just his dad," Jeremy hooted. "Ashe hangs upside down in a cave with little, tiny claws." Jeremy held up a hand in a claw-like gesture. "Maybe if his parents had worked a little harder, he'd be a sparrow." Chad guffawed at Jeremy's description.
"Besides," Jeremy continued, "Fergus says Zeke Tanner will offer jobs to us after we do this," he loaded the second dart. "Good paying jobs. All we have to do is make runs back and forth across the border. We'll have anything we want after we work just a few months for him. Fergus figures Zeke might pay for the information we have on the shifters trying to organize, too." The dart case was closed carefully—it held an extra four darts. "There, all loaded up. We can break into the six-pack, now." Jeremy settled both guns into a case inside his mother's trunk and lifted the cooler lid.
* * *
With fingers shaking slightly, Ashe opened the email he'd received earlier. I am risking my life to send you this, the message began. I have to trust that you keep it hidden or my life will be forfeit. This was yours—was meant for you all along. I have no desire to see more injustice aimed in your direction. Therefore, I hope you accept this in the spirit that it was meant and someday, I hope to meet you in person and call you friend—Charles. What followed was every bit of the H'Morr that had been translated by the strange man he'd met—Griffin. Wiping away a bit of moisture from his eyes, Ashe began to read.
* * *
"Late night?" Ashe was yawning at breakfast the following morning. Winkler accepted a cup of coffee from Adele with murmured thanks.
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