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Blue Moon (Chapter 28)

My cell phone shrilled into the silence that had fallen between us. I glanced at the caller ID.

The station. Oops.

"Hello?"

"Why is it that I'm constantly asking, Where the hell are you, girl?"

I winced. "Sorry. Is there a problem?"

"Yeah. That Lucy Kelso chick has been calling every hour on the hour."

Hell. Tina. I'd forgotten her again. Obviously she hadn't shown up yet.

"I'll get back to her."

"Where are you?" Zee repeated.

"With Mandenauer. We had business to discuss."

"Kill yourselves anything tonight?"

"Not tonight."

Zee's exhale was so heavy, I nearly saw the smoke curl out of my phone. "You comin' in soon?"

"I need to do one more thing."

"Fine. But do me a favor?"

"Anything."

"Turn on your fucking radio. You think it's for decoration?"

Zee slammed the receiver down hard enough to make my ear ring. I flicked on my radio, then caught Man-denauer's eye. "I need to get back to work."

He stood. "Me, too."

"Where do you think you're going?"

All this talk of monsters and Nazis had me worried. I'd seen enough in my life to know that evil was damn near impossible to kill, and suddenly I didn't want to let Mandenauer out of my sight.

"I must return to my cabin and check in with my people."

"Your people?"

"The other Jager-Suchers. They are scattered from west to east and north to south all over this world. I am their leader since I began the journey. We keep in contact now on the lovely Internet." He shook his head. "What an invention."

"Who do you work for?" I asked again.

"That federal government you are so fond of."

"Of the United States?" My voice squeaked.

He smiled. "What other one is there?"

I shook my head. "I have never heard of a unit like yours associated with the U.S. government."

Mandenauer just raised a brow and didn't comment.

Well, duh. Secret Special Forces. But a monster-hunting society and a Nazi werewolf army division?

Please.

"You said Clyde doesn't know who you really are."

"The DNR sent a hunter, which is what I am. We have contacts with resource departments everywhere.

In this way we are kept informed of any odd situations and we can investigate, then deal with whatever we find."

"But –  "

Mandenauer held up a hand. "Enough for one day, Jessie. You know what is important. You must be care-ful. We will talk again tomorrow." He started for the door.

"Wait."

He had told me what I needed to know to be safe. The least I could do was return the favor. Though Ca-dotte had asked me to keep what he'd discovered between us, after what I'd seen and heard tonight, the time for that was gone.

I quickly filled Mandenauer in on Cadotte's theory of the Matchi-auwishuk.

"The Evil Ones," he murmured. "And a wolf god. He may be right."

"But how do an ancient Ojibwe legend and a Nazi experiment fit together?"

"I am not sure. I will have some Of my people investigate. In the meantime, you keep an eye on the professor."

I didn't think I'd have any problem with that.

Mandenauer opened the door, then paused. "But be careful," he murmured. "Do not trust him too much."

"Why?"

"I have discovered over the years that the one who knows the most about a secret is often the one behind the secret."

"You think Cadotte is a werewolf?"

"He could be."

"Why would he tell me about them if he's one of them?"

"To gain your trust. And you must trust no one, Jessie. It is the only way to stay alive."

"Why do you trust me?"

He shifted his rifle in my direction. "I could always shoot you with silver and see if you die."

"I'll pass, thanks."

He smiled and left. I wasn't all that sure he'd been kidding.

I patted my pocket where the weight of Tina's keys still rested. I was going to her house and dealing with this case before it slipped my mind again. I was starting to have a very bad feeling about Tina.

Instead of returning my rifle to the safe, I took it with me to the car.

Even though it was past midnight, I knocked on Tina's door. I hoped she'd open it, pissed off that I'd woken her. No such luck.

Maybe she was a heavy sleeper and I'd walk in on her. Or maybe she was a thorough lover and I'd walk in on them. I didn't care. At least she'd be alive and off my to-find list.

I pulled her keys out of my pocket. Something fell to the floor with a clatter. I bent and picked up the key I'd found next to Mandenauer's wolf pile. Holding that one in my left hand, I used my right to try all the keys on Tina's key ring.

None of them fit.

I tried again, tilting them every which way, jiggling them in the lock, trying to entice one to open the door.

Maybe these were a friend's keys. The car keys. The keys to the Clip and Curl. Hell. I was going to have to wait until tomorrow and get Lucy's copy.

I shoved the key ring into my pocket, switched the single key I'd found in the forest from left hand to right, then –  I have no idea why –  tried the mystery key in Tina's door.

It slipped right in.

My breath caught; I turned my hand. The lock clicked. One tiny push and the door swung open.

A cold wave of dread washed over me, but I stepped over the threshold anyway. "Tina?"

Come on; come on. Be here. Be mad. Be very, very mad.

My plea did no good. As I walked from room to silent room, I heard nothing, saw no one.

I checked her messages and heard only frantic pleas from her boyfriend and Lucy to call them.

I went through the mail. Nothing but bills and junk.

I didn't see a computer. She probably kept that downstairs in the shop. I was sure Lucy had already checked Tina's e-mail if possible.

Tina Wilson appeared to have vanished.

I opened my hand and stared at the key. What did it mean? I had a niggling, nasty suspicion.

Mandenauer had killed a cinnamon-shaded female, then burned the body. I'd found Tina's key next to the fire.

I reached out and picked up a photo of Tina and Lucy outside the Clip and Curl. The blonde and the redhead, although Tina's hair had been more reddish brown. Auburn, some called it –  perhaps cinnamon.

I set the photo down with a click, then collapsed onto the sofa.

What 1 was thinking was crazy. Tina had run off with some guy. It happened all the time.

Of course, how did I explain that her purse, her car, her keys, her clothes were still here?

She'd run off with a rich guy who'd promised to buy her the world?

Maybe.

I remembered the last time I'd seen her, when she'd questioned me on the street. Had she truly been concerned about mad wolves or more interested in discovering what we were doing about them? Hard to know when she wasn't here to ask.

Well, I'd follow procedure. Report her missing and send out the appropriate information to the media and other police stations. But I didn't think Tina was going to turn up.

My gut feeling was that the local hairdresser was one dead werewolf.

How was that going to look on a report?

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