Blue Moon (Chapter 5)
I pushed past him into the room, but he was alone. "What did you do with Dr. Cadotte?"
His earring swayed when he tilted his head. "Do?"
He was also wearing glasses. No wonder I hadn't recognized him. Not that the small, round wire frames could detract from the sheer beauty of his face or the intensity of his eyes, but they made him appear…older, wiser, scholarly. And sexier than he'd been while standing naked in the moonlight.
I scowled at the unusual direction of my thoughts. Well, unusual for me anyway. I rarely thought about the sexual nature of anyone, specifically a stranger. Though I could be excused in this case, since I'd seen more of this man than almost any other of my acquaintance.
I recovered my sanity enough to hear what he'd said. "Are you Dr. Cadotte?"
My glance around the area was rhetorical. No one could hide in this joke of an office. I raised a brow.
"I'm William Cadotte, but I'm not a doctor. Yet. There's that pesky matter of a thesis, which I haven't been able to finish." He moved into the room. "Can I help you?"
His voice captured me again as it had last night. Not loud, yet still powerful, the ebb and flow just different enough to make me listen more closely to everything he said.
I'm not sure if he meant to crowd me or not, but the place was small and he was big. His heat brushed my face. Or perhaps I was just blushing again – something I seemed to do a lot of around him.
"No," I blurted. "I mean yes. Hell."
I was blabbering like a teenager. How could he seem taller, broader, more intimidating with his clothes on?
"Which is it? Yes, no, or hell?"
I could smell him, that same scent from last night – wind, trees, a certain wildness. He stared at me intently, as if I fascinated him, and that couldn't be true. A man who looked like he did would not stare at a woman like Jessie McQuade unless he –
My thoughts tumbled into an abyss. Unless he what? There was no reason for him to stare. None. So why was he?
"I wanted to talk to William Cadotte. I didn't know he was you."
"I see." He pulled off his glasses and slipped them into the pocket of his blue work shirt, then patted the pocket gently. "Or actually I don't see very well up close without these. Age and too many books."
I made a noncommittal murmur. He didn't appear much older than me. However, appearances were deceiving. Like a host of other things.
"What did you want to talk about? I assume you don't plan to arrest me for indecent exposure, since you didn't know who I was."
"If you don't mind, I'd like to forget all about that."
He gave a knowing smirk, which I did my best to ignore.
"Did you catch your wolf?"
" ' Fraid not."
His eyes said, / told you so, but to his credit he didn't voice the words.
"Did your bite victim get her shots?"
"Nope. She's a little too dead for them to help."
His mouth opened, shut. He tried to run his fingers through his hair, found nothing there to run them through, and let his hand drop back to his side.
"Isn't that a bit quick, even for rabies?"
I shrugged but didn't elaborate. Clyde wanted to keep things quiet, and I'd already said enough.
"What can I do for you?" He glanced at my T-shirt. "Are you here as an officer or a private citizen?"
His gaze lingered on my breasts, something that happened to me a lot. Guys might not be interested in me, but since I'd hit a 38 D cup in the eighth grade – much to my dismay and mortification – they had been interested in what I stored inside my T-shirt.
"I'm on my own time, following up with the case." His eyes met mine; they didn't stray south again. "I have a question, and I was told you were the expert."
"In what? I have several and varied interests."
His lips twitched. I ignored the implication. I'd never been any good at flirting. What a surprise.
Instead, I dug the totem out of my pocket, then held out my hand, palm up. The tiny wolf lay in the center.
Before I could ask a single question he snatched the stone and hurried around the side of his desk, turning on the lamp as he went.
"Hey! That's evidence, Slick."
His answer was a grunt. He tilted the lamp so the glare was square on the totem, squinted, muttered, and pulled out his glasses.
"What is it?"
So much for the charming flirt. Cadotte now ignored me as he peered at the carved wolf, mumbled, and scribbled notes on a scrap of paper he'd torn randomly from what looked to be a student essay.
I settled into the only chair not piled with books and waited. As I waited, I also watched. I couldn't help myself.
He wasn't dressed like any professor I'd ever had. But then I'd gone to technical school in Madison.
While the city had a reputation – at least in Wisconsin – for being a hotbed of anarchy, my police science instructors had been nothing if not staid. None of them would ever have worn a faded cotton shirt and even more faded jeans. An earring was out of the question.
Of course the sight of his jeans only made me wonder if he was wearing anything beneath them. Just because he hadn't bothered with underwear under his cutoffs didn't mean he didn't wear it to work. I considered what it would be like to sit in his class, listen to him lecture, knowing he was naked inside the denim. I shifted in my chair and forced my thoughts away from last night.
Perhaps fifteen minutes passed before he glanced up, blinked as if he'd forgotten I was there, tried to rub his eyes, smacked his knuckles into his glasses, and removed them.
Why did I find his absentminded professor behavior so appealing?
"Well?" I demanded.
"Where did you get this?"
"I thought I was asking the questions?"
"I can't answer yours until you answer a few of mine."
"Fine. Center line of Highway One-ninety-nine."
He frowned. "I don't understand."
"You and me both. The accident last night – "
"With the wolf?" His gaze was as sharp as his voice.
"That's the one."
His eyes shifted from keen to distracted in the space of an instant. Figuring he was deep in thought, I let him stay there as long as I could. Of course that wasn't very long. I never said I was patient.
My voice brought him back from wherever it was that he'd gone. "Mmm?"
"Can you tell me what this is? Who might have dropped the thing? Any clues as to why it was lying in the middle of the highway?"
"Yes. Maybe. And none at all."
Well, that was what I got for asking too many nonspecific questions. I tried again. "What is it?"
"Totem. Or dodaim in Ojibwe."
"That much I knew. But it's different from the ones I've seen in town."
"The figures they sell two for a dollar at the T-shirt shop?" I nodded and he made a face. "A waste of bad plastic. What you have here is an Ojibwe wolf clan totem. Whoever lost this is probably frantic to get it back."
"Family protection, spiritual power, magic."
"Woo-woo," I muttered. I hated woo-woo.
His glance was quick and probing. "You say that as if you don't believe."
"In magic stones and wolf spirits? You got it."
"I suppose you only believe in what you can see, hear, and touch."
"What else is there?"
"What we know is true but can't prove."
I gave a snort so unladylike my mother would have fainted if she'd heard it. William Cadotte merely smiled. For some reason he found me amusing. Like a pet or a child, maybe an imbecile.
"Faith is for fools who don't know their own mind," I snapped.
As a kid I'd spent countless hours praying for my daddy to come home. He hadn't. I'd spent equal time praying to be like everyone else. I wasn't. So I'd given up praying long ago.
"I'd rather be a fool," he said quietly, "than believe in nothing at all."
I did believe in something – facts – but I found no reason to tell him that. Living in the middle of woo-woo land had taught me quite quickly that arguing with someone who believed the unbelievable was like smacking your head against a brick wall. Maybe someday you'd move the brick, but you were more likely to be dead first. 1 changed the subject.
"Any idea who might belong to that totem?"
He turned away and I frowned. Up until now he'd looked me in the eye when he spoke to me. Why the sudden change? Unless he couldn't lie to my face.
"Professor? You said you might know."
"I'm familiar with a few of the wolf clan in the area."
"Because I'm one, too."
"It's a fraternity or something?"
He faced me again, and any amusement I might have seen once was gone. Had I offended him? I wasn't sure how, but then, I rarely understood how I'd pissed someone off. Queen of the social gaffe? Me?
"In Ojibwe tradition each person belongs to a clan, the descent of which comes through the father.
Legend has it that we are the ancestors of the animal our clan is named for. So even if you were of the Lac du Flambeau band and I was Grand Portage, which I am, if we were wolf clan, we were blood. We couldn't marry."
"Double damn," I said dryly.
His lips quirked. Maybe I hadn't offended him after all.
"In other words, your people believed that wolf clan members descended from the wolves – "
"And bear clan from the bear, crane from the crane. Exactly."
"Interesting." And weird.
"It's a legend. Not too many of us keep up with to-temic clan lore these days."
"Except for you."
He shrugged. "It's my job, even if I didn't believe we should keep the old ways alive."
"Do you know who might belong to this totem?"
He picked up the tiny black herald, rolled the stone between his fingers. The thought of him using those fingers on me in much the same way made me forget for an instant what I was doing here.
"This isn't a common wolf clan totem," he continued, and I yanked my mind from fantasy to reality. "I'd like to keep this to study some more. I've never seen one like it."
"What's so different?"
"The wolf is… odd, and there are markings that disturb me. Something is not quite right."
Disturb? Odd? Not right?
"What are you getting at?"
"Ever heard of a manitou?"
"What?" His quick change in topic left me floundering to catch up. "You mean a spirit?"
"Kind of. Manitou means ' mystery,'' godlike,'' essence.'An all-encompassing spirit. Legend has it that Kitchi-Manitou, the great mystery, created all."
The great mystery. Despite my skepticism of all things woo-woo, I liked that. The great mystery was a good phrase for God and everything in that realm.
"Everyone has manitoulike attributes," Cadotte went on. "We each have our special talent. Yours must be sarcasm."
He quirked a brow. "Or maybe something hidden, which I'll uncover later."
"Don't count on it, Slick. What's your special attribute?"
"Besides my great big – " I caught my breath. "Brain?"
The air hissed out through my teeth, making a derisive sound. "Yeah, besides that."
"Maybe you'll give me a chance to show you my special talent sometime."
"I repeat, don't count on it."
He smiled. "Getting back to my story. Most of the manitous are helpful. They're guardians over us poor humans."
"And the ones that aren't helpful?"
"Two. Both are man-hunting manitous. Weendigos, or the Great Cannibals, and the Matchi-auwishuk."
His smile faded. "The Evil Ones."
Even though I believed none of this, the hair on my forearms tingled.
"I don't like the sound of either one," I admitted. "But what do they have to do with our totem?"
"The markings on this wolf remind me of certain drawings I've studied of Matchi-auwishuk."
"What does that mean?"
"I'm not sure."
"Swell." Silence fell between us.
"Why are you so interested in this?" he asked.
Good question. The totem could be anyone's, dropped at the scene of the accident for any number of reasons. It might not have anything to do with Miss Larson at all.
But I found it a tad too coincidental to discover a wolf clan totem at the scene of an accident involving a wolf. That, combined with the information on manitous and evil ones, as well as the violent death of the victim within twenty-four hours…
Well, call me silly, but my nerve endings were doing the tango.
I might not believe in woo-woo, or anything I couldn't verify by fact, but I'd had enough hunches turn out true that I'd learned long ago not to ignore the steady hum in my head that said something was rotten in Min-iwa.