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Blue Moon (Chapter 6)

Cadotte's voice broke into my thoughts. "You aren't going to tell me, are you?"

"Tell you what?"

"Why you're so interested in a stray wolf totem."

"I'm curious."

"Funny, but you don't seem the curious type."

"You're wrong." I stood. "Number one on the ' what you need to be a good cop'list is curiosity.

Otherwise we wouldn't keep asking all those annoying questions."

"Hmm." He got up and strode around his desk, coming too close, crowding me again.

I liked my personal circle of space, and he was invading it. But to back off would mean I was nervous, that he affected me. I was and he did, but why let him know? Perhaps one of my other attributes was bull-headed stubbornness.

Nah.

"So, should I call you?"

I gaped. "C-call me?"

There went my tough girl image.

"If I find out anything about the totem."

Of course. The totem. Not me. Never me.

Poof went my silly female fantasy.

"Yeah. Sure." I dug out a card with my various phone numbers.

He stared at it, then lifted his eyes to mine. He was still too close. I was still not backing away.

"Jessie?" he murmured. "Short for Jessica?"

"As if."

Jessica was the name of a pink-cheeked, blond-haired, petite ballerina girl.

He laughed. "I can keep this?" He flicked a finger at the totem, which remained on his desk.

I hesitated. Though I hadn't logged the thing into evidence yet, I should. Whether it meant anything or not, who could say? Maybe William Cadotte.

"For now." I grabbed a plain piece of paper, scribbled on it, then stabbed my finger at the bottom. "Sign this."

He picked up a pen and signed before asking, "What is it?"

A lawyer he wasn't. "That's evidence. You just signed for it, but I'll need the thing back."

"All right."

Silence again. Time to say good-bye. I wasn't sure how.

"I'll be in touch. Jessie."

The way he said my name made me recall the sheen of his skin in the moonlight. The way his muscles had rippled, the way his earring had swayed.

When was the last time I'd had sex? Far too long, from the direction of my thoughts. Far too long, since I couldn't quite recall. Not the when, nor the why, I could barely recall the who.

I needed to remember that Cadotte was an expert consultant, nothing more, before I made a bigger fool of myself than I already had.

I got a grip and pulled out what company manners I had. "Thanks for your time, Professor."

He took the hand I offered. My mind went all girlie again. I wanted to know what those dark, long fingers could do; I wanted to feel those large, rough palms against my skin. I wanted to see everything I'

d seen last night. Touch it, taste it, too.

"My friends call me Will." He released my hand.

Friends. Right. I was an idiot.

"I won't," I replied, then escaped.

Yes, my mother would be mortified at my behavior. This time I would have agreed with her. There was no cause for rudeness, beyond my own sense of inadequacy and a tiny kernel of fear that lodged hard and cool beneath my breastbone.

William Cadotte scared the hell out of me, and I didn't like it one bit. So I lashed out.

The need had been born in me long ago to hurt before I could be hurt, reject before I could be rejected, walk away before I could be walked away from. I couldn't change who I was inside, or out for that matter, suddenly become well adjusted, pretty, and proud of it. Don't psychoanalyze me; I've been doing it myself for years.

I'd had friends, but I never let any get too close. I was always waiting for them to turn on me as everyone else had. I'd been in love once, right out of high school. The relationship had ended badly.

Probably because I'd been expecting it to.

I knew who I was. A good cop. A decent person. But a loner. I wasn't scared of much, because I had so little to lose. Which was just the way I liked it.

I'd been telling myself this for years, believing it, too. So why did I suddenly feel lonely and sad in the middle of the day?

I left the university and returned to the station, hoping Dr. Bozeman might have left a message, or even the report. I'd have had better luck hoping the sun would rise in the west.

I filed my own report, then logged the evidence and placed it in the evidence room, leaving the paper Cadotte had signed with the rest.

Since my shift didn't start for several hours and I hadn't eaten anything lately, I returned to my apartment, where I made a small pizza, watched sitcoms, and tried not to think of the case for a while.

When it was time for work, I changed into my uniform and returned to the station. I was barely in the door before Zee started shouting. "Hell and tarnation, what were you doing at that school today, girl?"

"Hello, Zee. Nice to see you, too."

"Fuck that. You could have been killed."

"I wasn't. Get over it."

She blinked. I was usually more deferential to her moods –  or rather mood: she only had one and it was bad. I knew she meant well. Zee might cuss like a construction worker, but her old-time upbringing made her reserve the F-word for serious concerns. She'd been worried about me.

I softened, leaned over the counter, and got a faceful of smoke for my trouble as Zee finished lighting her next cigarette off the stub of the last one.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" she asked.

I stared at her. She scowled back, not in the spirit to be mollified –  by words, at any rate. I'd bring her a doughnut and coffee in an hour. Nothing said "I'm sorry" like fried dough and caffeine.

"Any messages for me?"

"Did I give you any?"

"Uh, no."

"Unless First and Second Shift screwed up again, what does that mean?"

Zee never referred to the other dispatchers by name. Until they'd worked here as long as she had –  and no one ever would, or could –  they hadn't earned the right to a name.

"I guess that means I have no messages."

Damn, I'd have to dog Bozeman's every step tomorrow.

"Sometimes you are too bright for your own good, princess." Zee turned her back on me.

I left thinking I'd better bring back two doughnuts and coffee with half-and-half if I wanted to ever get into Zee's good graces again.

The night was uneventful –  a nice change from the one before. I remembered that Clyde had asked me to talk to Brad and Zee, which I did.

After eating both the doughnuts and drinking all of the coffee, Zee agreed to the wisdom of keeping her mouth shut about Miniwa's little problem. Brad didn't need bribery, just a threat, which had always been my specialty.

I went home on time for a change, slept until two, and headed for the ME's office. Dr. Bozeman should have had time to examine at least one of his bodies, if not both.

Should have. Would have. If he'd had any bodies.

"What is going on here?" I shouted over the amazing din created by Clyde, Dr. Bozeman, and his itty-bitty secretary.

My boss shoved the other two out of his way. "The bodies are gone."

"What?"

"That's what I said. When Bozeman got here this morning, no bodies. They could have been gone since yesterday for all we know." He rubbed his eyes. "This just makes my day."

"They couldn't get up and run off." I glanced at the secretary. "Right?"

She ignored me. I couldn't say that I blamed her. I returned my attention to Clyde. "What happened?"

"No idea. But we'd better find out." Clyde beckoned me away from the others. "Jessie, you aren't gonna like this, but before you explode, hear me out."

I didn't like it already, but I shrugged, so he continued.

"The DNR is sending someone to kill the wolf."

I blinked, frowned, shook my head. I could not have heard that right.

"But didn't you tell them? I mean, how could anyone from away be better at hunting these forests than –  ?" I broke off.

"You?"

"Well, yeah. You've always sent me when we had animal trouble before."

"I know, and I'm sorry as hell about it, but I have no choice. You know how the DNR is, especially about their wolves. They're sending a Jdger-Sucher."

"A what?"

"That's hunter-searcher in German." Clyde lifted one broad shoulder. "It's what he calls himself."

"Who?"

"Edward Mandenauer. From what I hear he's the Special Forces of wolf hunters."

"I can't take my rifle and blast this thing into the next county?"

"I wish. But this is out of my hands. The guy's hired and here already." He paused and rubbed the back of his neck as if it ached. "I was hoping you'd go to the office, drive him out to the scene. I won't be able to today."

"You're kidding, right?"

"I rarely kid, Jessie."

How true. Five minutes later I was at the station. First Shift was at the desk. Hell, I didn't even know her name anymore. Had I ever?

I glanced at the tag on her chest, but the word was too long and too Polish to figure out without closer scrutiny and a translator. Her eyebrows lifted in surprise at seeing me in the office two shifts ahead of myself.

"Clyde wants me to meet and greet his super-elite wolf killer. I can't wait to get a load of this geek."

First Shift didn't answer. Instead she stared over my shoulder with a frozen smile. Ah, hell.

I turned. I had to force myself not to gape, but I did blink. The man was still there. He was still the most pathetic excuse for a super-elite wolf killer I'd ever seen. Not that I'd seen very many.

Mandenauer stared at me with eyes so light a blue they were eerie. His white hair had the muted hue of the once blond; his complexion was that of the Aryan brotherhood ventured out in the sun too many times.

He was tall, cadaverous thin, and at least eighty-five. I couldn't imagine this man striking terror into the heart of any beast. But then, a gun did wondrous things for the fear factor.

I decided that the best defense was an offense. I'd pretend I hadn't said anything rude and maybe he'd let me.

"Hello. I'm Officer McQuade." I offered my hand. "Sheriff Johnston sent me. He's… unavoidably detained."

Mandenauer continued to stare. He did not shake my hand. The silence became awkward. I lowered my arm and gave in. "I apologize for my rudeness."

He dipped his chin, a courtly, old-world gesture. "No matter, Officer."

Though I'd been likening him to the master race, his accent still surprised me. He was German, Austrian maybe. The accent was one that never went away no matter how many years the speaker spent in the U.S. – just listen to Schwarzenegger.

"What has detained the sheriff?"

"A problem at the ME's office. The case of the disappearing bodies."

He straightened to a height of at least six-four. How did he sneak through the woods without smacking into a tree limb? His gaze became shrewd. "The bodies? Were they bitten?"

"Yeah."

He started for the door. I glanced at First Shift. She appeared as confused as I was. I hurried after him, catching up on the front steps.

"Sir? Mr. Mandenauer. Don't you want me to take you to the last place the wolf was seen?"

"Not yet. Escort me to the office of the medical examiner."

I raised an eyebrow at the order. I didn't mind being a chauffeur –  much –  but I didn't care for being a slave.

He must have seen mutiny in my eyes, because he touched my arm and murmured, "Please."

For an instant I almost liked him. Until I remembered why he was here. I pulled my arm out of reach.

"Sure. Fine. Whatever," I muttered. "But why are you so interested?"

"Because we may have a bigger problem in your fair town than one mad wolf."

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