Blue Moon (Chapter 31)
But he was a careful driver, and we reached the end of the dirt trail that led to his cabin without incident.
He parked my car next to his, a Jeep, and we set off toward the house.
I'd never been inside his place, only looked in the front window like a voyeur. I'd forgotten that occasion until I followed him inside and got another scare from the wolf hanging in the hall.
"What's with that?" I asked.
He didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd display dead things on the wall.
"Gift from a friend."
Now that I could see more closely, the wolf's head was a hat and the skin a cape. I'd seen pictures of men wearing them at powwows and such. People wore all sorts of interesting things when they danced in ceremonies.
"Do you use this?" I asked, thinking it must have something to do with the wolf clan.
"No. That's a Plains tribe affectation. The Navajo believe a witch becomes a werewolf by donning a wolf skin." Cadotte nodded toward the one on his wall. "Like this."
"Believe? As in present tense?"
"Yes. Or at least some of them do."
"Like your friend?"
"What about you?"
"I believe in werewolves. But I've tried on that skin and I was still me – wearing the head of a wolf."
He continued into the main part of the house, leaving me to stand alone in the haB or join him. Since the wolf skin creeped me out more than it should, I hurried after.
Cadotte wasn't in the living room. Or the kitchen, which I could see from where I stood. The place was cleaner than I'd expect for a guy who lived alone, but not neat by any means. Papers and books were strewn over every fiat surface, and the paraphernalia of life was stacked in the corners and behind the furniture.
I let my gaze wander over his stuff, then around the room. Wood shutters graced every window. Huh. I'd seen storm shutters attached to the outside of a cabin. I wondered why he had them on the inside, too.
Must be better insulation.
A door to the left stood open, so I went in. He was already in bed.
I raised a brow. "In a hurry?"
"I thought you were tired."
Seeing him there with the sheet pooled at his hips, chest all bare and beautiful, I wasn't so tired anymore.
I dropped my bag, lost the shirt, and crawled in beside him. But when I ran my hand up his thigh, he put his over mine.
"I promised we'd sleep."
He tugged my head onto his shoulder. "Rest, honey. Let me hold you awhile."
I jolted at the endearment. "You know, if any other guy called me ' honey,'he'd be having his teeth for lunch."
"I guess I'm not just any guy."
"I guess you're not."
His lips brushed my hair. "That might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
"Don't let it go to your head."
Fingertips trailed along my spine, gentle, light, a relaxing touch that made my eyes drift closed. But I didn't fall asleep. There was something I had to ask.
"The night we met, you had a bruise on your hip."
"I get a lot of bruises."
"You do? Why?"
"I'm kind of a klutz, or I used to be. Which is why I started practicing martial arts. It helped my balance.
I don't stumble over my own feet nearly as much as I used to."
A good excuse, but he still hadn't answered my question. I asked him again.
"Why don't you tell me where you think the bruise came from?"
When I tried to articulate my doubts, I found I couldn't put anything so silly into words. So I didn't.
However, Cadotte had no such compunctions.
"You think I got hit by a car while in wolf form, and by the time you saw me I had a bruise."
I started, colored, shrugged. "Well, the bruise was gone by the first time we… you know."
I winced. I hated that term. Love was a foreign emotion to me. I wasn't exactly sure what it meant. My father hadn't loved me, obviously. My mother had an odd way of showing it. I'd never loved a man and a man had never loved me. Maybe what I felt for Zee was love – maybe.
"Whatever," I muttered.
"I heal quickly. Always have. Healthy lifestyle. And some Ojibwe medicine."
"What kind of medicine?"
"My grandmother was a member of the Midewiwin."
I frowned and he quickly clarified. "The Grand Medicine Society. She was what people refer to as a medicine woman. She used natural remedies – herbs, bark, eye of newt." He winked. "She knew the old ways, and she taught them to me."
"She died of pneumonia when I was ten. Some things can't be cured."
"So was I."
My hand rested on his chest. His heart beat steadily beneath my palm. The room was quiet and I drifted toward sleep.
"Why do you think so little of yourself?" he asked.
"What?" I struggled to follow the sudden change in subject. "I don't."
"Right. That's why you're so worried about what people will say. Beauty and the Beast, but I get to be the beauty. There's a switch."
"I know who I am. I have my strengths. Being a girl isn't one of them."
His free hand slid over my hip, cupped my butt. "I think you're wrong. You make a very nice girl."
"You would say that."
"Yes, I would, because I think you're beautiful."
"You're slow and blind."
"Don't be sarcastic."
"But I'm so good at it."
"You are. That's true." He kissed me on the head again. "Don't tell me you aren't beautiful. I know that you are."
I shifted, squirmed. Talk like this made me more uncomfortable than facing a drunk with a broken bottle.
I knew what to do about that. But compliments? I wanted to run, hide, never come back.
Because if I believed them, I'd only be hurt more when I discovered he'd lied. But why would he lie? I couldn't quite figure that out. Yet.
As if he knew what I was thinking, Cadotte tugged me closer. "You're special to me, Jessie. Don't run away before we figure out what that means, okay?"
"Okay," I said, before I could stop myself.
"So when did my werewolf delusion become yours, too?"
I hesitated. Should I tell him, or shouldn't I? I wanted to tell someone and why not Cadotte? I knew he wouldn't laugh at me. Much.
I told him everything. I couldn't shut up. About Man-denauer and his secret society. About the wolves I'd seen. Tina. The cave. The man-wolf shape on the wall.
He listened. Not once did he interrupt. At certain points in the story, I'd hear his heart speed up – but then so did mine. Other times he'd tense, then relax. When I was done, silence fell over the room.
It went on too long and I lifted my head, turned to look into his face. I stiffened, half-expecting him, despite his belief in all things woo-woo, to be staring at me as if I'd lost my mind. Hearing the story out loud had made me wonder again myself. But his expression was thoughtful, considering. He peered across the room.
"What?" I asked.
He jumped, glanced down at me, smiled, but the smile was distracted – not the smile I was beginning to adore.
"Quite a story," he murmured.
"What do you think?"
"I think the government always knows a helluva lot more than they're letting on."
"Gee, what a surprise."
He laughed. "That's my girl. I'll have you seeing conspiracies around every corner soon enough."
"I already do," I muttered.
He'd gone off again, thinking. I'd never dated a brain-iac professor before. I suspected he went off like that a lot.
"Do you know Tina?" I asked.
"The missing girl?"
"I'm sure I do. But I can't place her right now."
"Neither can anyone else."
"I thought she was ashes to ashes."
"Maybe. Don't you think it's weird that she was in your class?"
"Not really. We've established that someone is trying to raise a wolf god. That's an Ojibwe ceremony.
If this Tina was one of them, it made sense for her to be in my class."
"Maybe she was trying to discover something obscure that would help her leader."
I frowned. "Did you ever get that book you ordered?"
"Huh? Ah, no. Not yet." He went back to staring.
I cuddled closer and the beat of his heart beneath my cheek, along with the sure, steady stir of his breath against my hair, relaxed me. Combined with very little sleep and a whole lot of stress, I was out in thirty seconds.
I awoke to the sun slanting through the windows at an angle that signified early evening. Cadotte was still asleep beside me. I had to go to work, but I needed my clothes.
Slipping out of bed, I watched his face. He really was too pretty for me. Strangely, I was starting to like it.
He never moved, even when I kissed him on the brow. I tiptoed into the living room, stopped to get a drink of water in the kitchen – and found it.
At first I thought he'd left notes scattered across the counter. I was even smiling at his absentmindedness as I drank from a Flintstone jelly glass.
Then my own handwriting caught my eye. The words registered in my brain a second later. I nearly dropped the glass, which would have been a shame – the thing was damn near an antique.
I snatched the papers. One was the receipt I'd had Cadotte sign for the totem; the other was the crumpled, torn page of the evidence log. And beneath them both was the bag of fiberglass and plastic that I'd swept off the pavement after Karen Larson's accident.
What was the missing evidence doing in Cadotte's kitchen?
I had no idea. But before I beat it out of him, I was going to find out what else he was hiding around here that I wanted to know about.
I didn't have far to go. Spread across his coffee table were books and notes. All of them related to Miniwa's little problem.
He'd been very helpful, highlighting the pertinent passages. One book in particular – Legends of the Ojibwe – was fascinating. Was this the book he'd been waiting for? The one he'd told me hadn't arrived? From the amount and nature of information highlighted I suspected this was the case.
I swallowed the thickness at the back of my throat that tasted too much like tears. I did not cry over men. Hell, I didn't cry over anything.
I glanced at the bright and shiny yellow highlighting, which swam before my eyes. I closed them tight, gritted my teeth, and when I looked again the words were all too clear.
The ceremony must take place beneath a blue moon. Which, by my calculations, was tomorrow night.
I felt as if time were rushing past, pulling all of us inexorably toward that second full moon.
I forced my attention back to the book.
The way must be paved by a werewolf army.
"Yada, yada, yada," I murmured. "Been there, know that."
I turned the page. A jagged edge was all that was left. Will, or someone else, had torn out the rest of the information. That couldn't be good.
I found nothing more of interest in the book, so I went through Cadotte's papers again. I didn't find the missing page, but I did discover one tidbit.
A wolf totem with the markings of the Matchi-auwishuk was needed to complete the ceremony. Sadly, his notes didn't say how.
I put everything back where I'd found it; then I snuck out of Cadotte's house and went searching for Manden-auer.