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"An earthquake measuring eight point six on the Richter scale has been reported from a very localized area of Quebec," the newscaster announced as Winkler spoke on his cell with Matt Michaels. The television was merely noise in the background as Matt reported that more than twenty Elemaiya had been killed in the old Chicago sewers; mostly by vampires. The Elemaiya had a reason to be afraid of vampires; they could move faster than most Elemaiya could think to relocate or defend themselves.
"Only minor injuries," Matt said. "I am more than happy with the results."
"I've got bad news on this end," Winkler said, "the kid has disappeared again and this time he took Salidar DeLuca with him. We can't find either boy. I was hoping you'd seen him, even though I'd ground him if he showed up there."
"He wasn't here—not that we saw, anyway. There's no evidence."
"I've got all of mine out looking in the likely places, and Andy is checking to see if he's using his debit card anywhere. That's how we found him the last time."
"Wait, what am I thinking? Hold on a minute," Matt yelled at someone to get a trace on Ashe's watch. "He was wearing the watch, wasn't he?" Matt asked.
"Yeah. Last time we saw him, he had it on," Winkler confirmed.
"Got it, sir," Winkler heard the voice from somewhere near Matt. "Mr. Michaels, that signal is coming from Quebec. Right where the earthquake happened."
"Earthquake?" Winkler and Matt Michaels chorused.
* * *
"Young one, do not fret, he isn't dead." Griffin, the tall, mysterious stranger knelt beside Ashe's limp body as Sali shivered and attempted to locate a number on his cell. The phone wasn't getting reception.
"Are you sure? I can't wake him up," Sali moaned, dropping onto the grass again. He'd been trying to wake Ashe for what seemed a very long time.
"He used up every bit of energy he had to force the Elemaiya to leave," Griffin said gently. "Here, help me get him up. Providing transportation usually doesn't count as interference. Usually." A comforting smile played about Griffin's mouth.
"But," Sali said before he disappeared from Quebec and reappeared inside Winkler's kitchen, causing Winkler to jump and curse loudly.
"Calm down, he's just unconscious. You might be, too, if you'd just caused an earthquake and kept it from spreading past a half-mile radius," Griffin laid Ashe's body on the large kitchen island. "He'll be hungry when he wakes." Griffin disappeared.
"Get that nurse on the phone," Winkler barked at Trace who skidded into the kitchen. Trace made the call while Sali went to a cabinet in Winkler's kitchen, pulled out a glass, filled it with cold water and dumped it in Ashe's face. Ashe woke, sputtering and coughing, water dripping from his face and hair as he attempted to sit up.
"Whoa, kid," Winkler helped Ashe sit up when he saw how shaky Ashe actually was. "Come on, I have it on good authority that you're starving or something. Salidar, call your father and tell him you're safe and sound. Then I want you to tell me exactly what you two have been doing."
* * *
Ashe finished two protein drinks on the way to the restaurant. Trajan and Ace met Winkler, Trace and both boys in the parking lot of Pasquale's, a steak and seafood restaurant on the south end of Port Aransas. They'd decided to give Victoria's a wide berth since Adele was working.
"Kid, I never thought I'd see anybody who could eat more than a werewolf," Winkler spoke quietly as Ashe devoured a prime rib with a plate of spaghetti.
"Mr. Winkler, I thought I was going to pass out before all of them left."
"The Elemaiya," Sali answered for Ashe, who'd stuffed a bite of prime rib in his mouth. "They were all dressed for battle, Mr. Winkler. You should have seen it. The Roman army couldn't come close to that."
"Going to war," Ashe mumbled around a mouth filled with food. "Only way I could stop them."
"Why did you stop them, Ashe? I don't understand this." Winkler leaned back in his seat, confused by the entire incident. "We'd be better off if they killed each other."
"Can't happen. Chain reaction," Ashe muttered, twirling spaghetti around his fork and raising it to his mouth.
"Chain reaction?" Winkler was more confused than ever. "You're going to have to explain yourself, son."
"Salidar," Marcus walked in with Marco close behind him. "I hear you went missing for a little while, and now I hear you had something to do with that earthquake in Canada." Marcus' voice held anger and his dark eyes narrowed as he frowned at Sali.
"Dad, I didn't have anything to do with that," Sali tapped his chest with an index finger. "You'll have to ask Ashe about it."
"Not telling you anything," Ashe mumbled and refused to talk. Marcus growled.
"Marcus, take Sali and go, if that's why you're here," Winkler growled back. The full moon was too near for two Alpha werewolves to be at odds and in such close proximity. Trajan and Trace stood; ready to take on the Star Cove Packmaster. Marco pulled Marcus away and Sali slunk along behind them.
"Awkward," Ashe said as Trace and Trajan sat down again. "Should have left Sali at home."
"And perhaps you should have stayed home as well," Winkler snapped.
Ashe looked up from his food and stared at the Dallas Packmaster. Winkler acted as the hidden Second for the Grand Master, but few knew it. Ashe was one of those few. "Mr. Winkler, you'll have to trust me on this. I had to go. I would have stopped Mr. Michaels if I could have. Neither of you know exactly what you're dealing with."
"Do you know what we're dealing with?" Winkler tossed up a hand in disbelief.
"A little better than I did," Ashe said, buttering a dinner roll and biting into it. "Mr. Michaels will likely be sorry he did what he did. He killed the Dark King's brother."
"Ashe, you're not proving Marcus right, are you? You're not sympathizing with the—well, those people?" Winkler recalled at the last moment that he was in public and the waiter was on his way to refill iced tea glasses.
"No, Mr. Winkler. I sympathize with innocents. The Earth is filled with them, remember?"
"Kid, I have a headache and you're talking in riddles. I'm not sure you know what you're saying right now," Winkler said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Finish your dinner and let's get out of here. I'll have the nurse check you over."
"Suit yourself." Ashe shrugged and went back to his food.
* * *
"Could be a little anemic," the werewolf nurse looked Ashe over after they arrived in Star Cove. "But a few good meals should take care of that," he added. "With lots of protein and iron."
"Mr. Winkler, I felt almost the same after the thing with the water," Ashe remarked while slipping on his shirt. The nurse had him take it off for the brief examination.
"So what did you do, then?"
"Well, it wasn't quite this bad, and I cleaned Betsy's out on chicken and dumplings." Ashe referred to the best diner in Cordell, Oklahoma. Winkler paid the nurse with a wad of cash and sent him out the door. He grinned and told Winkler to call anytime. Winkler just waved and shut the door behind the werewolf.
"Now, young man, I want to ground you, but I'll trust you this time and accept that you somehow needed to be where you were. A little heads-up next time so we won't run around like scared rabbits?" Winkler lifted an eyebrow at Ashe.
"I know. I'll try not to worry you next time."
"Sounds good. This isn't the best thing, so close to the full moon," Trajan patted Ashe's back. "Man, I thought we'd lost you and Sali both."
"Trajan, I'll do my best to send mindspeech next time," Ashe climbed off the barstool at the island. "I'm really tired and I'd like to go to bed, now."
"Yeah, get some rest, kid. They're holding Hayes' service in the morning. Did you want to go?" Winkler asked.
"I don't know. What do Hayes' parents want?"
"I think they want all his classmates there, to see him off," Winkler sighed. "This is hitting them terribly hard."
"Yeah. I know," Ashe muttered.
"Don't dwell on that—we understand that you can't be in two places at once."
"I wish I could," Ashe said. "Goodnight, Mr. Winkler. Trajan. Trace." Ashe walked toward his bedroom that doubled as an office. If things went as planned, the move to the beach house would happen Friday after the service for Hayes, which would be held deep in Shirley Walker's groves.
* * *
"Salidar, tell me exactly what you saw," Marcus demanded. Denise stood with Marco inside the DeLuca kitchen, watching as Marcus grilled his youngest son. Sali squirmed uncomfortably. Finally, deciding that Winkler had likely gotten the same information from Ashe, Sali described everything he'd witnessed in Canada.
"Ashe can't have caused an earthquake. That's just not plausible," Marcus raked fingers through his dark hair. "It was just a coincidence."
"Even the authorities are saying they don't know why it didn't affect any other area—something that big would have," Denise ventured to say.
"Denise, don't interrupt," Marcus growled. Denise kept quiet after that.
* * *
"You're saying the boy did this?" Wlodek spoke with Edmond over the phone. Edmond and Hector had listened outside the DeLuca home while Marcus questioned Sali. Eavesdropping was the best way to get information that might have stayed with the werewolves, otherwise.
"That's what the young werewolf says. He insists that Ashe Evans transported him to Quebec, kept him shielded—that was his term—shielded, walked through an entire camp of Elemaiya without raising a stir and then appeared between two armies. The werewolf boy says Ashe lowered the shields of those armies and talked with the leaders from both sides before an attack was precipitated by one side. Ashe then caused the earthquake to stop the battle and send all of them on their way."