Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(38) by Connie Suttle
"We'll do that," Micah said gently. "Ashe, you did a good thing—an impossible thing—today. I know we've persecuted you lately, and I want to apologize for that. Winkler says that Jeremy was aiming for Sali when Hayes stepped between them. If you hadn't arrived with Winkler and the others, the rest of them might have been killed as well. We found four more darts inside that case."
"Something to ask them about," Ashe nodded, settling on a barstool and staring at the kitchen wall. Whoever had lived in the house before had left a calendar hanging there. Winkler hadn't bothered to change it and it was still on July. Ashe recalled that a month ago, his life hadn't been so complicated and he still had parents. Now everything was different and he found himself navigating unfamiliar terrain. "Hayes was always the peacemaker," Ashe said softly. "He would joke around or do something to distract everybody and ease the tension. I know you don't think of your submissives as particularly brave, but Hayes may have been the bravest of all of us."
"I'm not going to argue with you on that," Marcus said. "He certainly proved it today—gave his life to do it, too. No Packmaster can ask for more than that."
"Somebody grilling one of mine?" Bear Wright walked into Winkler's kitchen.
"It's okay, Mr. Wright," Ashe sighed. "We were just talking about Hayes."
"Good. I don't like arguing with werewolves," Bear sat next to Ashe. "Has anyone informed Mrs. Evans?"
"She knows." Marcus said the words flatly. Bear Wright hunched his shoulders and didn't mention it again.
* * *
"Aedan, Casimir and I just finished placing compulsion on those restaurant guests," Nathan reported. He'd called his vampire sire as quickly as he could afterward. "Ashe, as I understand it, managed to save my oldest today. Nobody seems to understand how he did it—the same kind of poison dart killed Hayes Howard."
"Nathan, what are you saying?" Aedan was confused.
"We'll get the particulars, once we place compulsion on Jeremy Booth and Chad Daniels. They had tranquilizer guns, loaded with poison darts. Marcus says the poison was deadly—from those poison arrow frogs in South America. That will kill werewolves and just about anything else short of a vampire. Cori took a hit, as did Hayes after Salidar got into a fight with Chad Daniels. Chad started the fight but Sali was taking him down. Jeremy pulled the guns from the boot of his mother's car and shot Cori, who was protecting my youngest, and then Hayes, because Hayes stepped between Jeremy and Sali."
"And Ashe showed up immediately," Aedan sighed.
"Yes. Somehow, I'm not sure exactly, he managed to neutralize the poison in Cori's system. That's what she told me when I woke tonight—that Ashe told her that."
"Child, I'm alive because Ashe intervened. Those creatures had me hauled out into full sunlight when he showed up with Marco and Cori. We'd both be dead if not for my son."
"Aedan, he walks around in a daze. Adele called him that boy today. She doesn't recognize him any longer. Father, how could you do that?"
"I didn't intend for that to happen," Aedan said sadly. "He thinks we've both abandoned him."
"Father, you have abandoned him. There's no mistake, there. I might have thought otherwise, but to pull away all support? What would you have done if Winkler hadn't stepped in to support the boy?"
"I don't know. It was a rash decision, I should have left something with you," Aedan admitted.
"If he wasn't being cared for, he would be now. I owe him for both my daughters' lives, Aedan. And for mine. I owe him blood debt. As do you."
"I know. But this—I don't know how to deal with it, Nathan. Wlodek wants to turn him when he's eighteen—I'd bet my life on it. I don't want that for my boy."
"Aedan, if we don't make this right somehow, I have a feeling we'll all lose him. That he'll just walk away and we'll never get him back."
"I don't know what to do about that, child. In the meantime, I'll work on getting an assignment somewhere close. Perhaps if I can get to Adele, I can remove that portion of the compulsion. She needs to recognize our son at least. I know he's heartbroken over this, but the way things stand, I can't do anything about it at the moment."
"You could try to explain things," Nathan suggested quietly.
"I'm not sure I can. I don't think I'm strong enough," Aedan sighed.
* * *
"Kid, somebody else I know used to climb up on roofs and sit," Winkler settled beside Ashe. Ashe had misted through the ceiling to sit atop the roof of Winkler's temporary home. Ashe was high enough now to see the waxing moon over the gulf waters in the east. Winkler had been forced to climb onto the roof in a more conventional manner.
"How are Cori and the others?" Ashe asked.
"Shaky," Winkler said. "We questioned Jeremy and Chad under compulsion. They intended to kill both of us, kid."
"I know. Trajan, too," Ashe added. "But they got into a fight with Sali and the others, and since the guns were handy."
"Yeah. Boys sent to do a man's job, by somebody I'm hunting," Winkler agreed. "Jeremy's parents are devastated. It was a kindness to take Chad in, but he's done nothing except lead Jeremy astray. Now, since Jeremy was the one to pull the trigger, he won't live over it. Bear won't even defend him and the Grand Master has already passed sentence on Chad. We'll do the executions Sunday before the run."
"What happens to people, Mr. Winkler? What turns them in that direction?"
"I don't know, Ashe. As a Packmaster and Weldon's peacekeeper, I've seen more than my share. Some of them I've seen grow up from babies and they turn out like that. I figure Nathan and your father have seen the same. Some people, raised in the best of circumstances turn out bad, and some growing up in the worst of circumstances turn out good. I can't explain any of it."
"Is that your official title? Peacekeeper?" Ashe asked.
"More like an unofficial title," Winkler placed an arm around Ashe's shoulders. "Weldon's son is his official Second, to keep everybody's eyes off me. It allows me to move freely, and since I own a security company, I can have eyes and ears everywhere. It works out for the best, all the way around."
"I'll keep that to myself," Ashe said.
"I know you will. Just so you'll know, right now you're earning a little more than eight thousand a month. Half that goes into the savings account." Winkler patted Ashe's shoulder, then stood and stretched before walking to the edge of the roof to let himself down. "Don't stay up there too long," Winkler's voice floated up from the ground.
* * *
"You'll have to send your Trackers, Grand Master; Fergus and Eudora took off like frightened rabbits and managed to elude the wolves I had set up in the area." Winkler grimaced as he passed the news to Weldon Thursday morning. Everybody had a rough night and now Winkler was dealing with an early morning. Andy set a cup of coffee in front of his Packmaster. It was six a.m. and Winkler was waiting for Trajan and the others to rise so they could go out for breakfast.
He'd notified Adele the night before that they were having morning meals elsewhere from then on. He thought it best, since Ashe had witnessed his mother kissing Buck the day before. The problem would be solved after Friday anyway—he had a cook coming down from Dallas to prepare meals at the new beach house.
Jeremy and Chad were imprisoned inside a vacant home with three of Marcus' wolves standing guard. The boys had been bound with silver—both wore cuffs and chains on wrists and ankles. Silver didn't kill but it weakened dramatically. Werewolves and shifters never wore silver jewelry.
"I'll send the Trackers after Fergus and Eudora this morning," Weldon promised before hanging up.
"Andy, check the online records—I know you changed the passwords, but I want to know if those two got away with any more money," Winkler said.
"Sure, boss." Andy walked out of Winkler's office, heading toward his own. Winkler pulled up his email account to read the message he'd gotten from Matt Michaels. Matt was in Chicago already, preparing his team to go into the tunnels come nightfall. The sensors had been successful, locating the nest of Elemaiya in the oldest part of Chicago's underground tunnel system. Those areas were constructed of bricks and mortar and hadn't been used in a very long time. Matt had targeted those right away—he couldn't imagine that anyone, alien or not, would want to stay there for any length of time.
Winkler sighed as he closed the email. Wlodek and Weldon were cooperating to destroy the nest. Winkler didn't want to push Ashe on where the others were camped. That might be a dangerous prospect anyway; he had no idea what kind of power or ability both sides might possess. He'd risked his life once before, tracking down the Bright Ones. They'd considered killing him before they'd heard him out. Winkler shook away the memory. It hadn't been pleasant.
* * *
"I have a message for my King," Wildrif insisted. "It must be taken to him directly."
"You will give it to me. I will determine whether he should be interrupted," Prince Beldris snapped. Wildrif, bearing long experience at this sort of thing, fell onto the floor of Beldris' tunnel, jerking and weeping uncontrollably. Beldris watched as this went on for an interminable amount of time. "Very well, transport him to my brother," Beldris tossed up his hands and surrendered to the inevitable.
Liridael bowed to Beldris. Liridael and his brother Laridael, were the only two remaining Dark Elemaiya with the ability to transport many others at once. Most Elemaiya could transport one or two others when they relocated—parents could easily transport their children, after all. There weren't many Dark Elemaiya remaining who could relocate with half the camp, however. Baltis' Destroyers had the talent when using their medallions, but now the Destroyers were dead. The talent in any other was quite rare and exceptional among the Dark Ones. The Bright Ones still had several who could accomplish it. Consequently, Laridael remained with the King; Liridael was constantly beside Beldris.
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