Shadowed (Page 44)
"What did you find?" Jonas asked.
"Mountain lion," Marcus replied. "Have you lost anything?"
"No, everything’s accounted for."
"Then we may have a hunt if more tracks show up. I don’t want anything threatening the livestock," Marcus said.
"What did you find?" Amos Thompson joined the others. He’d come to help with the animals if needed.
"Mountain lion scent," Jonas sighed. "You should keep an eye on your poultry, Amos."
"I will. They’re all locked inside the chicken house right now, but we’ll watch." Amos nodded at Jonas.
"Aedan, I smell smoke," Nathan said.
"Yes. I smell it too," Aedan turned toward the scent. "Look. Isn’t that smoke near the Booth home?" An orange explosion lit the night sky, with a loud boom following close behind.
"Neil!" Diane Booth shouted. She’d been talking with Adele Evans and Denise DeLuca in a corner of the field, only now realizing that her home was ablaze.
"Get the pumper truck!" Marcus shouted. Aedan and Nathan had already disappeared; running toward the Booth home faster than the others could imagine getting there.
This looks intriguing, Ren sent to Ashe. He’d shown up at the bowling alley and seemed content to watch Sali, Ashe, Cori and Marco bowl.
You should try it, it’s fun, Ashe returned.
You know I cannot reveal myself. That could become interference. Aside, of course, from frightening your friends.
Too bad you can’t disguise yourself as me. I could turn to mist and watch you bowl, Ashe ducked his head to hide a grin.
I can do that, Ren said. That will work quite fine.
You’re kidding? Really? How can we do this?
Follow me. Tell the others you are going to get a drink of water, Ren rose from an empty seat. Again, no other had taken it, choosing other seats instead. Ashe found himself wishing for that trick more and more.
"I need a drink of water," Ashe tapped Sali on the shoulder. Sali nodded before turning back to watch Marco toss a ball down the lane. Ashe followed Ren, who was making his way toward the water fountain located just outside the restrooms.
"Turn to mist, I have us shielded," Ren said, once they reached the tiny hall outside the restrooms. Ashe blinked at the tall, blue youth before going to mist. He watched in astonishment as Ren altered his appearance, becoming Ashe’s identical twin. "Now, I bowl," Ren chuckled mischievously before turning and walking toward Sali and the others.
"I have achieved my objective," Ren laughed and clapped after throwing a strike on his third attempt. Ashe, hovering above Ren’s head, sent mindspeech.
Dude, you have to talk like me, too, Ashe reminded the Larentii boy.
"Dude, that was awesome," Ren (as Ashe) said as he grinned at Sali, who rose to bowl next. Ren went one further and high-fived Sali. If Ashe had been solid, he would have laughed aloud at Ren’s antics. Not only did the Larentii sound like him, he was now acting like him. Ren didn’t hear Marco’s cell phone ringing, but Ashe did.
"It’s Mr. Winkler," Marco pulled the cell from his pocket. "Mr. Winkler?" A note of surprise was in Marco’s voice, since it was only a few minutes past midnight. They weren’t late. Ashe maneuvered his mist until he hovered over Marco’s head so he could hear both sides of the conversation.
"Marco, have you seen Chad and Jeremy?" Winkler asked.
"No, sir. Aren’t they supposed to be at home? I thought they were under house arrest."
"They are. But they managed to sneak away and take Mrs. Booth’s car. After they left, the Booth home burned to the ground."
"Do you want us to come back?" Marco was standing in a moment, bowling forgotten.
"I think it’s for the best. We may need your help tracking those two."
"We’ll be there in half an hour," Marco replied and ended the call. "Come on, everybody. Chad and Jeremy are missing and it looks like they burned their house down behind them."
* * *
Pierce Ingram changed the bandage on his arm as he sat in the convenience store parking lot outside Clinton. His motorcycle was already gassed up—he’d taken cash from Nick Lawford’s wallet when he’d knocked the agent out. He’d chained the agent to a tree, determined to get information from Nick before killing him. Pierce had returned to Lake Altus to accomplish those things when he discovered the agent gone. Whatever had chased him afterward wasn’t a normal man. Pierce had the evidence to prove it—two very deep gouges in his left upper arm. If he hadn’t turned around and fired the agent’s pistol, he’d have been taken down. Pierce grimaced as he slapped a fresh bandage over the wounds. Pierce Ingram wasn’t his real name. It was the name on his current ID, though. He’d gone through several incarnations since coming to Oklahoma. So many, in fact, during his lifetime that he hardly remembered his real name any longer.
"Mister, how’d you like to make a few buck," two youths now stood beside Pierce’s motorcycle.
"How?" Pierce lifted an eyebrow in their direction. The agent he’d captured hadn’t carried much cash and Pierce spent most of that on food, gas and bandages.
"Fifty bucks, if you buy a case of beer for us," one of the boys replied.
"Show me the money first," Pierce growled. The two boys looked at each other and grinned.
Ten minutes later, Pierce handed the case of beer over to the boys and slid onto his motorcycle. He watched silently as the boys loaded the beer into the small import they were driving. Pierce was about to turn away when one of the boys spoke again.
"Sure glad that stupid human kid helped us out," the teen laughed. Pierce pulled his hand back from the starter, deciding to wait and follow the two boys instead.
* * *
"Dang." Sali glanced at Ashe. Ashe was back to himself and Ren was shielded and standing beside him as they stared at the burned ruin of the Booth home. Mrs. Booth was leaning on her husband and wiping tears away. Mr. Booth seemed stunned as he held onto his wife. Marco and Cori volunteered to go looking for the missing boys and had already driven away. Half the community had emptied for the same reason—adults had climbed into vehicles to search for Chad and Jeremy.
"Ashe, Sali can come with us," Adele walked up beside the boys. "Marcus and Denise are out searching with the others, and they said Sali can spend the night."
"Mom, do you think Chad and Jeremy did this?" Ashe swept a hand toward the smoldering remains of the Booth’s home.
"I don’t know, hon. Mr. Winkler says Director Jennings will send arson investigators tomorrow, to check things over. And if we find those boys, Nathan will place compulsion. I think your father may be too angry to do it. This may have exposed all of us—two big fires so close together, not to mention the fireworks."