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Blue Moon (Chapter 32)

I hurried home to get dressed, where I found a message on my machine from just the man I wanted to see.

"Jessie, I went back to the cave last night. Now I must do some burning. I will meet you at the station for your shift."

"Can't leave him alone for a minute," I muttered as I put on my uniform. After checking my weapons, I grabbed more ammo and slipped the totem over my head. "Don't leave home without it."

It wasn't hard to find my man. I only had to drive to the place we'd been the night before, then follow my nose.

Mandenauer stood watch over a much larger bonfire than he'd made the last time. Thankfully, when I arrived what he was burning was no longer discernible – although I knew very well what it was. I'd never had a weak stomach, but those days appeared to be gone.

"You said no hunting last night."

He glanced my way. "No hunting for you. You'd had a shock."

"I have shocks every day. I can still do my job."

He shrugged. "I did not need any help. When they returned to the cave it was like… how do you say… ?

Shooting ducks in a pond?"

"That's what we say."

Lord knows why. The image was not very appealing.

"Why did they come back?"

He stared at me as if I'd just announced, "I was screwing a werewolf all afternoon."

I gave a mental wince. Better to not go there right now. That was one shock I wasn't quite up to handling, despite my brave words to the contrary.

"This is their hidey-hole. Where they go to change."

I frowned. "Why not just change… wherever?"

"They come in human form. They need a place to leave their clothes."

Such mundane problems had not occurred to me.

"There were clothes in the cave?"

"Of course."

"Any ID?"

"They are werewolves, not idiots."

I moved closer to the bonfire. "They don't change back when they die?"

He shook his head. "A myth. If they die as a wolf, they remain a wolf."

I sighed. Having the wolves return to human form would have been too easy. But couldn't something be easy just once?

"I was thinking… " Mandenauer made a noncommittal murmur. "Karen Larson hit a werewolf. Maybe we should be asking around about broken legs, hips, severe bruising."

He was shaking his head before I finished.

"Another myth?"

"Unless she hit the wolf with a silver car, any injury would have healed almost immediately."

Well, that let Will off the hook –  for the bruise at least.

My radio crackled. "Jessie?"

I frowned. Zee was at work early again. "Yeah?"

"We got a call from Clearwater. About twelve campers have gone missing. They'd like us to keep an eye out."

"Ten-four." I turned my gaze on the flames. "I think I know where they are."

Mandenauer didn't answer. When the silence became too loud, I asked, "Now what?"

"We keep hunting."

"Here?"

"No. The others will not come back to this place now."

"Where, then?"

"I am not sure. Have you discovered anything new since I saw you last?"

I didn't want to tell him, but I had to. This entire situation was getting out of hand, and Mandenauer was the only one doing anything to stop the madness.

So for the second time in twenty-four hours I spilled my guts. I told him everything and then some. When I was done, he stared into the dying fire for a long time.

"We should shoot your lover." I opened my mouth to protest, but he kept talking. "But shooting people always gets me into trouble. Better to wait until they are wolves."

Hard to argue with that.

"I've been thinking," I said. "Why would Cadotte need to research the ceremony? Why would he want to help me discover the truth?"

"Perhaps he was making sure you didn't discover it?"

"How?"

"By telling you enough to make you trust him, but not enough so you could stop it. He has also had his foot firmly in the enemy camp. Have you told him what you know?"

My face heated. He glanced at me sharply and sighed. "Jessie. He could have killed you while you slept."

"But he didn't. Another thing bugs me. Why would he give back the totem if it's so important to the ceremony?"

"You have the totem?"

Me and my big mouth. "Uh, yeah."

Guess I hadn't told him everything.

"You've had it all along?"

I nodded.

For once his expression reflected respect instead of annoyance. "Good. From what you read, they can do nothing without it."

"They can't make another one?"

"If it was that simple they wouldn't be searching for it so hard."

"Are they?"

"Someone stole the evidence from the police station."

"Cadotte."

"Perhaps."

I frowned. "But someone tossed his office, so it couldn't be him."

"Perhaps." I gave him a dirty look and his lips twitched. "He could have ransacked the place himself."

"Maybe. But it still makes no sense for him to hand the totem back to me. He could have said he lost it.

Or it was stolen. I would have been in trouble."

"True."

"Do you really think he's one of them?"

"In my mind everyone is one of them, until I know differently. Thinking in that manner has kept me alive for a long, long time."

I found a stick and bent over the fire, spreading the embers apart, trying to kick dirt over what was left.

My boot caught on a rock and I stumbled. Mandenauer grabbed my arm to keep me from eating ashes.

His body was between me and the forest.

As if from a long way off I heard an odd thunk. It wasn't until something whistled through the air that I realized what I'd heard.

If I hadn't known the sound from memory, the arrow sticking out of Mandenauer's shoulder would have clued me in. He fell to his knees, narrowly missing the remains of the fire.

I pulled my weapon, crouched in front of him, and searched the tree line. Nothing was there.

Mandenauer shoved me with his foot. "Go. I'll be fine."

He'd hauled his rifle into his lap, but with the arrow sticking out of his shoulder, he wouldn't be able to shoot very well.

I sighed. "I'm not going to leave you."

"He's getting away."

"He's gone and you know it."

I peered at the arrow more closely. A chill went over me. "This is from a crossbow."

"So?"

Pictures flashed in front of my eyes. Cadotte's semi-messy house. Papers. Books. Wolf head on the wall. Crossbow in the corner. Hell.

I glanced at Mandenauer and decided not to share. "Never mind."

He tried to see the arrow, twisting this way and that. Blood stained his shirt in an alarming flood.

"Hey. Quit moving around!"

"How can you tell what kind of bow it came from?"

"Shorter."

"It feels long enough to me." Sweat had broken out on his brow. His pale skin had gone a whole lot paler.

"Come on." I helped him to his feet with his good arm. "Let's get you to a doctor."

"Just pull it out. I'll be fine."

"You want a bullet to chomp on, big boy?"

"What?"

"Never mind. I'm not pulling that out."

"This is what they want. For us to be taken away from the hunt. If we do not destroy the werewolf army before the blue moon, evil will walk the earth."

"Evil always walks the earth, in one form or another."

He stumbled and I held on tighter. "You are right. Even if we succeed here, there is always another monster somewhere else. It never ends."

"Thanks, pal. Just what I needed to hear."

Along with the knowledge that Cadotte had tried to kill me, the idea that monsters were everywhere, for always, made my day complete. For a woman who had scorned all things woo-woo, I'd become awfully accepting of monsters. I suppose that was bound to happen.

I loaded Mandenauer into my car and headed for the emergency clinic, calling my whereabouts and the situation in to Zee on the way. She said she'd inform Clyde, if she could find him. He had a habit of disappearing when he wasn't on duty. I couldn't blame him. A man needed some time away from the chaos.

Mandenauer closed his eyes. I thought about crossbows. They weren't common –  it was illegal in this state to hunt with one unless you were over sixty-five or physically incapacitated.

However, owning one wasn't illegal, so its presence in Cadotte's house hadn't bothered me –  until five minutes ago. He had a right to buy one and use it for target practice. I winced at the memory of who had been the target.

I had kissed Cadotte, touched him, let him touch me in ways I'd never let anyone else. Half an hour out of his bed, and he'd tried to kill me. He could have told me he wanted to be just friends.

"Does anyone else know you have that totem, Jessie?"

Mandenauer's eyes were still closed. He faced me, his uninjured shoulder against the seat, the arrow sticking out of the other and pointing at the passenger window. Looking at it made me slightly nauseous, so I concentrated on the road.

"Just you and me."

"Best to keep it that way, hmm?"

"Sure."

"Better safe than dead," he murmured.

"Which brings me to the question: If they wanted us dead, why not use a bullet?"

"Why not indeed?"

"This answering with a question stuff isn't answering at all, you know?"

"No?"

My back teeth ground together so hard they hurt. "Maybe I should pull that arrow out."

"Be my guest," he said, but his voice was fading and there was blood on the seat.

I drove faster. By the time I reached the clinic, Man-denauer had passed out. I drove right up to the door and shouted for help.

The same doctor was working. He glanced at me and frowned. "I'm starting to think you're bad luck."

"Me, too."

They whisked Mandenauer away. An hour later I got to see him. He was fine but dopey. I figured now was as good a time as any to get a clear answer to any question I might ask. And I had quite a few.

Why did we have to shoot all the wolves? Wasn't there an easier way to get rid of them? Why couldn't we put them back the way they'd been before all this started? If anyone would know how to cure a werewolf, wouldn't it be the man who'd been hunting them for most of his life?

I sat in a chair next to his temporary bed. The small emergency section of the clinic didn't have rooms, only curtained partitions. If someone needed to stay longer than a night, they were sent to the hospital in Clearwater.

Thankfully Mandenauer wasn't that bad off, although he didn't look good. He'd lost a lot of blood, which was being reintroduced via an IV. I hated those things. They felt like someone had stuck a knitting needle into a vein.

"The doctor says you can leave in the morning."

He opened one eye, then closed it again. "Yee-ha."

I snorted. "You've been hanging out with me too long."

"Or perhaps not long enough." He opened both eyes. "You saved my life. Thank you."

"I think you saved mine. But you're welcome."

"You will not hunt tonight."

The words were not a question, but I answered anyway –  in a manner he could understand. "No?"

"No. You are not trained to do so alone."

"We don't have much time."

"True."

"Is there anything else I can do?"

"Bring me some vodka."

"I doubt that will mix well with the drugs. Anyway, I meant is there anything else I can do to the werewolves? Isn't there a cure?"

"None that I know of."

My heart flipped and settled like a stone in my belly. "None?"

He sighed. "That I know of that work. There are in-numerable theories, myths, legends. I prefer to be sure and use the silver. But I have an associate who has researched the cures. As of yet she's found nothing."

It was bad enough that Cadotte might be a werewolf, but I couldn't accept that there was no way to fix him. I wouldn't.

"Can I talk to her?"

Mandenauer's eyes popped open. He'd nearly been asleep. He waved a hand at his trousers, which were slung over a chair. "Her number is in my wallet. Elise Hanover."

I already had the pants in my hand. "Dr. Hanover?"

"You know her?"

"She works at the CDC. Or maybe not." Confused, I stared at Mandenauer. "She's one of yours?"

He nodded.

"You had my calls rerouted, didn't you?"

"Do not be angry. I had all the calls out of Miniwa sent through my people. Do you think we want the entire world descending on this town before we get it cleaned up?"

I thought we'd been lucky to avoid media mania. Instead we'd been manipulated.

I stood there with Mandenauer's trousers hanging from my hand and watched him drift off to sleep.

Every time I turned around there was a new secret, another conspiracy, someone who wasn't who I thought they were. It was getting old.

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