Shadowed (Page 16)
"I sure hope so, son. Nathan, let’s get water on the grass around the home so the fire doesn’t spread," Aedan muttered grimly. Ashe watched as his father and Nathan Anderson went to find hoses to do what they could. The heat from the burning home was almost unbearable, so Ashe helped Luanne stand and walk farther away. Other parents assisted Peter and Linda Jansen. They followed Ashe and Luanne, eventually turning to watch as the two vampires sprayed the field surrounding the burning home.
"How did you get us out?" Peter Jansen thought to ask Ashe.
"It’s just something I can do," Ashe shrugged. "Not important. Ask my dad about it." Ashe knew his father would place compulsion, but it couldn’t be helped. He’d rather expose himself than allow three people to die. "Look, if you don’t need anything else, I have to go find my mom." Allowing his father’s shirt to drop, Ashe turned to bumblebee bat and flapped silently away.
Sending out echolocation signals again, Ashe found whom he believed responsible—two forms huddled beneath a tree roughly a quarter mile away. Ignoring them for the moment, Ashe went in search of his mother’s falcon.
* * *
Chad and Jeremy sat inside Principal Billings’ office while Marcus paced. Benjamin Billings waited outside, listening in on the conversation. "So you thought you’d get away with this," Marcus DeLuca growled. Chad was the one whose condition had given them away—he had burns on his hands and across his chest. His cheek, too, bore a cut from broken glass. Chad had already offered an insincere apology to the Cloud Chief Packmaster; the feigned contrition hadn’t escaped Marcus’ harsh scrutiny, however.
"We just wanted to scare them," Jeremy whined.
"Shut up!" Chad hissed.
"You burned the whole damn house down," Marcus exploded. "What do you expect me to do about that? What kind of punishment do you think you deserve? They were frightened enough to begin with. Now they’re terrified. We offered them hospitality, and you do this? Chad, if Ashe hadn’t acted, those three would be dead now and the Director of the NSA and Homeland Security Department would be here asking questions. As it is, he still may come and I may turn you over to him. Is that what you want?"
"I didn’t mean it, Packmaster," Chad lied, groveling before Marcus.
"I’m taking this to the Grand Master and allowing him to make a decision as to punishment, Chad. Jeremy, I know you were in on planning this, but the school administrators will hand out your punishment." Marcus was one of the three administrators, along with Nathan Anderson and Jonas O’Neill, Wynn’s father. All three of Cloud Chief’s races were represented.
"Go back to the cafeteria; you’ll know soon enough what your punishment is," Marcus said. Both boys left Principal Billings’ office quickly; Ashe misted away right behind them.
* * *
"It’s the empty’s fault we got caught," Jeremy hissed as he and Chad walked down the hall toward the History classroom. They’d decided to skip the noon meal; everybody would be staring and whispering if they walked into the lunchroom now. Jeremy was obviously upset; not that he and Chad had done wrong; just that they’d gotten caught.
"Yeah. Packmaster DeLuca pats him on the back for saving the Jansens, and he blabs that he found us afterward by echolocation. You can’t convince me he did that. He was making a stab in the dark, man. He accused us with no evidence."
"Too bad you got burned and cut up a little. Most of it was healed up already, but you still have a cut on your cheek and your hands are blistered. No way to convince the Packmaster we were innocent, once the stupid bat pointed him in our direction," Jeremy cursed softly under his breath. This was Ashe Evans’ fault; start to finish. The empty was becoming more of a problem every day.
"We’ll get back at him," Chad snarled. "It may take a while, but we’ll get him."
* * *
"Dude, the Grand Master is gonna hand out punishment for Chad, but the school administrators have to decide what happens to Wormy," Ashe settled into his cafeteria seat next to Sali. He’d misted straight to the lunchroom after leaving Principal Billings’ office.
"What do you think they’re going to do?" Cori had helped hide Ashe’s absence from Mrs. Rocklin, who was supervising the crowded cafeteria. She and Sali had huddled together to conceal his disappearance from the other students, too—all of whom were eating, laughing and engaging in boisterously noisy activity.
"No idea. Cori, those people could have died," Ashe muttered, staring at his now-cold cheeseburger. Making the best of congealed meat and cheese, Ashe bit into it and chewed.
"Dad said the girl was burning candles in her bedroom. Chad wouldn’t have set the house on fire if she hadn’t done that."
"Cori, don’t take their part in this," Ashe lifted his milk carton. "None of this would have happened if Chump and Wormy hadn’t decided to terrorize those people. Now the Jansens are living in Old Harold’s house because theirs burned down, with everything they owned inside it."
"I know. Mom is going through our stuff to see if we can donate anything." Cori crumpled her paper napkin and dropped it onto her tray.
"I think those two agents are working to get furniture for them; Old Harold didn’t have a lot and most of it was ancient," Ashe said. "They’ll need clothes, too."
"I think Mom is taking dishes over; Aunt Marcie had a bunch of stuff she didn’t need." Sali’s Aunt Marcella now lived in Pat Roberts’ old house. She’d moved to Cloud Chief after leaving her husband and two sons behind in Phoenix.
"Mom said she’d go by the grocery store on her way home tonight," Ashe said.
"But this separates that family from the others," Cori pointed out. "They’re more than a quarter of a mile away."
"I get the feeling that the other kids lean on Luanne a lot," Ashe observed. "I overheard that Philip kid saying he wanted to ride with her on the way up and Macy, one of the other girls, had just talked to her on her walkie-talkie before Chump set the house on fire."
"Even I can’t believe he did that," Cori shook her head. "Talk about dumb."
"Well, they’ve never been particularly intellectual," Sali grinned.
"Sal, you just used two five-syllable words back to back," Ashe pounded his friend on the shoulder.
"Just checking to see if you were listening, dude," Sali said.
* * *
"No, I don’t have any idea why someone would target the Mayor or my husband," Wanda Hicks wiped tears away as Agents Nick Lawford and Derik North questioned her. She was only now learning that the same person was responsible for both deaths. "They knew each other, but," she tossed out a hand in helpless frustration. "There wasn’t any reason for this. None."