Hunter's Moon (Chapter 10)
What was it with the people in this town? Didn't anyone flinch at the sight of a gun anymore?
"What the hell are you doing?" Jessie snapped.
I ignored her. "Where were you last night?"
"Anyone who can verify that but her?"
"What's wrong with her?" Jessie demanded.
"You love him. If he turned furry beneath the moon, you'd protect him."
"She's right." Will cocked a brow in Jessie's direction. "You would."
"But I don't have to. You're not a werewolf."
"Prove it," I demanded.
"He already has."
"Take off your shirt."
"I don't think I will," I said.
Jessie sneered. "Not you. Him."
"I'm not into kinky."
I wanted to say something smart, but Cadotte drew his T-shirt off. He knocked the glasses and the pencils to the floor. He had almost as good a chest as Damien. Almost.
There was a nasty just-healed wound in his upper arm. A bullet wound.
"Mandenauer shot him with silver."
That sounded like Edward. He might look like someone's granddad but wasn't. He could be the meanest, most ruthless son of a bitch I'd ever known, if he needed to be.
"Do you think our boss would let Will into the group if he wasn't certain he was safe?" Jessie asked.
She had a point.
I put up my weapon, taking my eyes off Jessie. Big mistake. She grabbed me by the shirt and slammed me against the wall.
"If you ever pull a gun on him again, you'd better kill me first." Another slam and my head thunked the plaster. I saw stars. "Got it?"
I got it. Any warm and fuzzy moments between us were just moments. She didn't like me any better than I liked her. But we had a job to do.
"Leave her be, Jess. I can't count the times you stuck a gun in my face."
"That was different."
"I know. You had the hots for me from the start." He smiled. "Did she ever tell you how she found me naked in the woods?"
I glanced at Jessie, remembering her comments the first time we'd met. "She did mention something."
"She thought I was a werewolf, too. But she couldn't keep her hands off me anyway."
I frowned. They'd slept together when she thought he was a werewolf? Ugh.
My disgust must have showed on my face, because Jessie rolled her eyes. "You've obviously never been in love."
I had been. But the werewolves had taken care of that. Since I didn't want to elaborate, she shrugged and didn't comment.
"Why did you think I was a werewolf?" Will asked.
Thankful for the distraction – which took my mind off the memories and my mistakes – I pointed at his arm, then flicked my finger toward his neck.
He clapped his palm over the bandage. "Oh, I forgot. I went to the grocery store." He peeled away the adhesive strip to reveal a hickey. "Kind of embarrassing at my age."
I glanced at Jessie. Her face was suspiciously red. I couldn't resist. "Miss high school much?"
"Not in this lifetime," she muttered.
Huh. High school was the most fun I ever had. Considering my present life, this was understandable.
Sad, but understandable.
"What about the scratch on your arm?" I asked.
Will shrugged. "Jess needs to cut her fingernails."
Suddenly I was the one blushing.
I'd had sex. With Jimmy and… My mind skittered away from that mistake like a crab running for safety beneath a rock. There were some places I would not allow my memories to go, ever, and the only time I'd slept with anyone but Jimmy was one of those places.
Still, I'd never had sex that necessitated scratching and biting. I didn't get it. Didn't want to.
"What happened last night?" Will asked.
Jessie quickly filled him in.
Will's dark brown eyes narrowed. "Nine wolves were eaten?" He turned and sat back down at the table.
"I saw that. I just saw that."
"Forget it." Jessie shook her head. "He's gone. He won't hear you until he comes back to a little place I like to call earth."
The two of us stood there, avoiding each other's gaze, watching Will mutter and shuffle papers. He tapped at the computer, squinted, patted his head, and blinked owlishly.
"Here." Jessie leaned down and picked up his glasses from the floor.
He took them without looking at or thanking her, set them on his nose, and kept muttering, shuffling, and tapping.
"Aha!" he cried, then tapped some more.
A half an hour later, he sighed, lifted his glasses back onto the top of his head, then turned to us.
"Weendigo," he said. "The Great Cannibal."
"Another manitou?" Jessie asked.
"Someone better explain, in English, for us i-juts."
Jessie spread her hands. "All yours, Professor."
"Better have a seat." Will gestured to one of the kitchen chairs.
"Only if I get some of that coffee Jessie keeps taunting me with."
He laughed. "Sure. I have a fresh pot set to go. Can you pour the water through, Jess?"
"I guess. I've heard your spiel before. But don't go any further than Matchi-auwishuk."
She disappeared into the kitchen, and I returned my attention to Will. "Matchi-auwishuk?"
"The Evil Ones."
Well, this just kept getting better and better.
"You heard about the wolf god?" he asked.
"It was raised in an Ojibwe ceremony. A totem with the markings of the Matchi-auwishuk was used in combination with… other things."
"Blood, death, fire."
"You people sure know how to throw a party."
"Where's this totem now?"
"Dr. Hanover has it. She thought she might be able to…" He trailed off, frowned. "I'm not sure what."
"You and me both." I wasn't sure what Elise was up to half the time, and that was just fine with me.
"At any rate, the Matchi-auwishuk and the Weendigo are the two evil manitous of the Ojibwe people."
"And a manitou is?"
"An all-encompassing spirit. Legend has it that Kitchi-Manitou, the great mystery, created everything.
Manitous are guardians over humans, and everyone has mani-toulike attributes."
"There's a little bit of God in us all?"
"What about the evil manitous?"
"I like to think they aren't within us all, but sometimes I wonder."
After what I'd seen, what I'd done, I had to wonder, too.
"So the Evil Ones helped to raise the wolf god in Miniwa?"
"And the Weendigo?"
"Hold that thought!" Jessie shouted from the kitchen.
Seconds later she entered with three mugs. I could tell just from the smell of the steam that something wonderful was on the way.
"Sugar or cream?" she asked.
I shook my head, took a sip, swallowed, groaned.
Jessie winked. "Told you his coffee was almost as good as him."
"Can he cook, too?" I asked.
Will just smiled and sipped. I wished I were as at home in my own skin, as at ease with my differences, as he was. But I doubted I ever could be.
"Get on with it, Slick," Jessie ordered. "What are we up against this time?"
"I'm not sure." Will set his cup on the coffee table, far away from his precious papers. "Legend has it the first Weendigo was a fierce warrior who, after a particularly harrowing battle against mortal enemies, hacked off a piece of flesh from a fallen foe and ate it to show they were vanquished."
"That'll do it," I murmured.
"Except the warrior grew to like the taste of humans and, despite warnings from the elders, he began to prey on people for his food."
I remembered the brown werewolf. Had he eaten one – make that nine – of his own? The memory gave me food for thought. Ha-ha.
"After a time the great mystery ordained that any human behaving like a beast should appear as one, and the warrior became Weendigo. Cursed to haunt the forests and the wasteland of the north, forever hunting, forever starving, because no amount of flesh is ever enough."
Will rooted through the papers scattered across the kitchen table, pulled one free, and gave it to Jessie.
Her eyebrows lifted. She handed the sheet to me.
Weendigo, read the caption. Lucky it did. Because I could swear the thing was a werewolf.