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Blue Moon (Chapter 16)

I'd slept the day away and only had an hour before Ca-dotte was supposed to show up. The damn twine had rubbed a raw circle around my neck. A cold compress plus a liberal application of vitamin E took away the sting.

To hide the mark, I put on a sleeveless mock turtle-neck instead of a tank top; then I transferred the totem to a gold chain my mother had given me for my sixteenth birthday, which I'd never worn.

I doubted she'd approve of the way I was wearing it now, but the chain was my present and she wasn't here. My rationalization for a lot of the things I did that my mother wouldn't approve of.

I chose shorts instead of jeans. Judging by the heat of my apartment, we'd enjoyed the first true day of summer while I'd been asleep. I threw open a few windows. I couldn't see turning on the air-conditioning when the setting of the sun was only a few hours away.

Besides, I had good legs and, being tall, I had a lot of them. Swimming toned much better than jogging. I preferred round, feminine muscle to stringy sinew and emaciated calves.

I turned my cell phone on long enough to dial a pizza, then shut it off again. If there were messages pending, they were no doubt from Clyde. I'd have to deal with him later, and later was when I would deal with him. Right now I was going to enjoy the evening.

A little pizza, a little Cadotte. If things went well, I might even be in a good mood by the time I went to work. I was hoping sex could erase the memory of that very strange dream. I'd never been into bestiality, so what was the matter with me now?

The stone shifted between my breasts, making me jump. I'd been standing at the floor-length window, staring at the summer sun. I hadn't moved. Why had the totem?

The dream had me spooked, that's all. Dreams were just dreams, despite any woo-woo propaganda to the contrary. They were not truth or predictions, not buried secrets or hidden hopes. They were just images that meant nothing at all. But what images!

Illusions tumbled through my mind of bodies entwined, sweat-slicked skin, heated flesh. These were followed by the tactile memory of soft fur, a smooth tongue. A man and a beast become one –  or had that been a woman and a beast?

The doorbell rang and I started. I was rolling the totem between two fingers like a worry bead. The stone was warm. I dropped the icon back down my shirt as if it were on fire.

Woman and beast? That was a bit too kinky for comfort, and my mind shied away from the thought.

Cadotte stood in the hall with a pizza. I was so hungry I wanted to eat them both. What was wrong with me? Nothing that a little pizza and a lot of sex wouldn't solve.

"I met the delivery boy coming up."

"I'll pay you." I opened the door wide, inviting him in.

"Yeah, you will." He crowded me close, kicked the door shut, then kissed me –  hard, deep, and wet.

Maybe sex, then pizza was a better idea.

He stepped back and tilted his head. "There, all paid up."

"With one kiss?"

"You're a very good kisser."

I was left standing stunned in the hall when he strode into the apartment. I got so few compliments, and I'd never received one on how well I kissed. I had no idea what to say.

I wasn't required to say anything. By the time I reached the sofa, he had his mouth full of food. He'd brought wine. I got him a glass and a corkscrew.

"You don't drink?" He eyed the single glass.

"I have to work in four hours."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"Sure I drink."

I'd rarely met a cop who didn't, unless at one time they'd overindulged and were now on the wagon.

Police work, even in a tiny town like Miniwa, was stressful. Cops drank. Period. A lot of them smoked, too. Or did chew, like Clyde. Thankfully I'd been able to manage my stress, so far, with the occasional Bloody Mary and a twilight swim.

"I suppose working third shift makes a beer at the end of your day a lot less than appealing." He opened the wine.

I'd never thought of it that way, but Cadotte was right. When I got off at 7:00 a.m. I didn't want alcohol; I didn't even want coffee. I just wanted my bed. Although if I kept having weird dreams, pretty soon I wouldn't want that.

"Mmm." Cadotte had his mouth full again, so I joined him.

Fifteen minutes later we were done. Cadotte scooted back on the couch, half-full glass of blood-red wine cradled in his long fingers. His thumb stroked the bowl and I lifted my gaze from his hand to his face.

He took a sip. A drop clung to his lip, and his tongue swept out to capture it. His earring glittered in the glare of the setting sun. I wanted to take that earring in my teeth and tug him into the bedroom.

"Shall we get down to business?"

"Mmm-hmm," I murmured, captivated by the way the light turned the golden feather from red to orange and back again.

"Do you have the totem?"

"Huh?"

He smiled and set his glass on the coffee table with a click. Cadotte knew the effect he had on women and I found myself wondering: Was he playing me to get to the totem?

Paranoid? Moi?

Definitely.

Nevertheless, I straightened, shook off the sexual inertia, and turned away. "It's gone."

"Gone? What do you mean, gone?"

"Disappeared? Stolen? Poof? Take your pick."

I was getting mighty good at lying.

He got so quiet, if I hadn't heard him breathing I might have thought he'd gone over the balcony- –  this time in the opposite direction.

"Oh well," he said at last. "I guess it's a good thing I sketched it."

Paper crinkled and I spun around. He leaned over the coffee table, smoothing a white rectangle. Then he pulled a bunch of other papers from his back pocket and set them all side by side.

"Y-you aren't upset about the totem?"

He glanced up. He'd put on his glasses. My heart went ba-boom. "Upset? Why should I be? It wasn't mine."

"Wasn't mine, either," I grumbled.

He studied me for a moment. "What happened?"

I didn't think I should tell him about the evidence room fiasco. Clyde would say that was police business, and since I was in enough trouble with Clyde already, I decided to keep my lips zipped on the subject.

"I really can't say."

"You're in trouble?"

I was, so I nodded. Cadotte beckoned, then patted the sofa at his side. "Come here."

My paranoia seemed just that in the face of his lack of concern over the missing totem. Of course, what good did it do him to be upset? The thing was gone –  or so he thought.

When I joined him on the couch, our hips bumped. I shifted away. He followed, pressing his jean-clad thigh to mine. When I cast him a quick glance, however, he was staring at the paperwork and not at me.

I left my leg right where it was.

"See this?"

I followed his finger to an extremely accurate pencil drawing of the totem, larger than the actual stone; the markings had been enlarged as well. They were much easier to see this way.

"You're good," I said.

"You have no idea."

That surprised a laugh out of me. The sound made me realize how seldom I heard it. Pretty sad. I was twenty-six and already the laughter had died. Perhaps with this man I could get it back.

Cadotte shuffled the stack of papers –  printouts from the World Wide Web.

"What would we do without the Internet?" I murmured.

"A lot of work. I can find more there in an hour than I could find in a week at the library. Aha!" He snatched a sheet out of the center of the pile. "Look at this."

Placing the two papers next to each other, he slid them closer to me. The Internet printout showed an ancient, emaciated being with long teeth and even longer fingernails.

"Matchi-auwishuk," he whispered.

The trees rustled outside, and a sudden breeze came through the open balcony doors. As if expecting it, Cadotte put his hands on top of the papers. The breeze stopped as suddenly as it had begun.

Okay. That was weird.

I glanced at him, but he didn't seem disturbed. By the breeze. Instead, he scowled at the drawings.

"I don't remember seeing that." I pointed at the Matchi-auwishuk.

"I used a magnifier to identify some of the smaller markings. It's there. Take my word for it."

I would. Until he left and I scrounged up my own magnifying glass.

"And take my word on this." He shoved another piece of paper at me.

A shiver ran from my neck to the base of my spine. The Matchi-auwishuk had been ugly, but this was downright creepy –  given the circumstances.

The figure was half-man, half-wolf.

"What in hell is that?"

"The wolf god."

The drawing was exemplary, the naked man impressive –  sleek and muscled –  perfection except for the paws growing where his hands and feet should be. A tail sprouted from his backside and ears from the top of his head. Instead of hair he had fur, and a snout blossomed where his mouth and nose had once been.

But those little foibles weren't what made me shrink away from the table, irrationally terrified of touching the picture or having it touch me.

Nope, what bothered me about the drawing were the damn eyes –  sly, intelligent, human.

"Where did you find this?"

"There's an old and obscure legend of the Ojibwe. The wolf god can be brought to life during a blue moon if the way is paved by an army of wolf men. And women."

I turned my head so I could see his face. He wasn't laughing –  so I did.
' "What does that have to do with anything?"

"' Jessie, aren't there a few too many coincidences here? The totem, the madness of the wolves, and the blue moon?"

The blue moon. I remembered telling Zee about it the night Karen Larson had been bitten by a wolf. The night I'd found the totem. The night I'd met William Cadotte running around naked in the woods.

"What's a wolf god, and how is it brought to life?"

He shuffled some of the papers, scowled, pushed his glasses up in an absent gesture. "I'm not sure."

"What good are you then?"

"We'll get to that later." He winked. Even in the middle of his delusion, he was propositioning me. Why did I think that was cute?

Cadotte returned his attention to the gibberish he'd been reading. "All I've determined so far is that a werewolf army is needed –  "

"Whoa!" I jumped to my feet. "Werewolf army? Where did that come from?"

"What do you think wolf men and wolf women are?"

"A figment of your imagination?"

"Mine and whoever else has decided they want to be the wolf god."

I rubbed my forehead. "Back up a minute. Someone is going to be the wolf god?"

"I guess so. I haven't been able to determine how that happens, exactly, but the making of a werewolf army between the two moons is the beginning."

"Between what two moons?"

"Two full moons in a single month –  "

"Makes a blue moon," I finished.

"When the becoming takes place." He glanced at his watch. "That's in five days."

I plopped down on the couch. "You believe this stuff?"

"It really doesn't matter if I do or not."

"Why?"

"Because someone believes, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to make the legend come to life."

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