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Hunter's Moon (Chapter 14)

The middle of the night in Crow Valley, Wisconsin, Jessie wasn't hard to find. My car and hers were the only ones trolling Main Street.

I stopped mine in the middle of the road, left it running, lights blazing. I felt safer that way.

She put the squad car in park, stepped out, leaned over the door. "What's your problem?"

"Got an hour?"

Her eyebrows shot up. "I got nothing but hours. They roll up the sidewalks around here at seven p.m.

You wanna come to the station?"

"How about your place? I'd like to talk to Will, too."

Jessie shook her head. "He's sleeping."

"At night? What is the matter with him?"

She smiled at that. "He tried to get used to my schedule, but he just couldn't cut it."

"Maybe we should wake him up?"

"Maybe we shouldn't." Jessie's expression was set and mulish. I recognized it from the mirror. She wouldn't budge.

"Fine. Station it is."

I got in my car and followed her. Inside the Andy Griffith museum, she took a seat at her desk. "What's up?"

"Did you find out anything about Damien?"

Jessie frowned. "Why the rush?"

I hesitated. How much to say? How much to leave out? I decided to tell her everything that wasn't personal. Which turned out to be quite a bit.

"Do you think he's a rogue agent?" she asked.

Rogue agents had been Juger-Suchers once. They'd gone off on their own, still hunting, still searching, but they no longer followed any rules but their own.

"Could be. All we have to do is ask Edward."

He knew every agent, past and present. I put the question on my mental to-do list.

"I talked to the owner of the tavern," Jessie said. "Fitzgerald is working for cash. The guy doesn't have his Social Security number, next of kin, address, or shoe size. The setup screams shape-shifter."

"Except for the silver ring and the silver bullet in his gun," I murmured.

"Which shoots that theory all to hell." She shrugged. "I ran the name Damien Fitzgerald, from New York.

Without his Social Security number to narrow down the field… I got back a sheet of Damien Fitzgeralds as long as my forearm. None of them have records, which means no fingerprints or photos on file."

"Damn."

"Yeah."

Silence fell between us. I was thinking as fast as I could, but I wasn't getting anywhere.

"You didn't come speeding into town to talk about Damien," Jessie said. "Something else spooked you.

Wanna tell me what?"

"Not really."

Jessie sighed and leaned back in her chair. "I know about your family."

My head came up so fast the room spun. My eyes narrowed.

"Relax. Mandenauer didn't say anything that wasn't in the police report." Her lips twitched. "Except for the part about the werewolves."

The police had decided that mad dogs killed my family. There were so many of them in Topeka.

"I can't imagine what it was like," she said gently.

"No, you can't."

"My best friend was a werewolf. She fooled me for years. Wanted to make me one of them. Then rule the world. I stopped her."

Our eyes met, and I saw how much what had happened in Miniwa had affected her. Having someone you trusted turn furry and try to kill you didn't happen every day. For an instant I wanted to reach out, but she just had to open her mouth again.

"You know something else, and I don't want to get killed because you're too much of sissy to tell me what it is."

I shook my head as if I'd been doused with a bucket of water, then wiggled my ringer in my ear. "Sissy?"

"You heard me. What did you see out there tonight that scared you enough to make you run to me?"

Jessie might be the most annoying person on the planet, but she wasn't dumb, she wasn't slow, and she wasn't going to go away until I told her.

In truth, I was scared. Had I seen the white wolf or hadn't I? If I had, we were all in deep shit. If I hadn't, only I was. Either way, it couldn't hurt to ask a question.

"Have you ever heard the name Hector Menendez?"

"Should I have?"

"I don't know. You're the sheriff."

"You think he's here?"

I sighed. "Maybe."

"What does he look like?"

"Six-foot-two, a hundred and eighty pounds, black hair, goatee, blue eyes, Hispanic. Very… handsome,"

I managed.

Hector had been one of the most beautiful men I'd ever seen. Beauty was part of his allure. By the time I'd discovered what that beauty hid, it had been too late.

"I haven't seen him," Jessie said. "But that doesn't mean anything. People come and go. Did you see him?"

"I'm not sure."

"Maybe you'd better tell me who he is."

"Hector's the werewolf that killed my family," I said.

Her eyes widened. "And you saw him in Crow Valley?"

"I'm not sure," I repeated. "I thought I saw a wolf outside the bar. I followed him, but the one I shot was black, not white."

"You said Hector had black hair."

"He did."

"Then how could he be a white wolf?"

"His mother was blond and so was Hector."

He'd shown me a picture of her and him. Hector had been a true towhead as a child – the thick, wavy locks nearly white instead of blond. I'd thought it cute that he carried a picture of his mother and himself in his wallet. Later, when he'd told me the rest, the picture had disturbed me. Sadly, it hadn't disturbed me enough to make me stop seeing him. Although by then it was probably too late.

"His mother left the family when he was very young, and he hated her. So he dyed his hair the shade of his father's. Hector is a tiny bit psychotic, I'm afraid."

"How can you be a tiny bit psychotic?"

"Fine." I threw up my hands. "He's a raving lunatic."

"Swell. A psychotic werewolf." She stood up, kicked the desk. "Just what we need."

Suddenly she whirled toward me. "Wait a second. We're searching for a cannibal. Now you tell me there's a lunatic in town. That seems like too much of a coincidence to me."

"But the brown werewolf ate the others."

"Did he? You told me you saw the brown wolf, he killed one; then later we found them eaten. It doesn't mean he's our man." She frowned. "I mean wolf."

"But if he isn't, that means we've got a brown wolf killing and a white wolf eating."

"Or two of them doing both."

"Hell," I muttered.

Silence fell.

"Jessie?"

She glanced at me and something in my face must have reached her, because she sat down and spread her hands. "What?"

"I'm not sure I saw Hector. I – " This was hard to say, especially to her. "I lost my mind when my family died. Saw a lot of things that weren't there for quite a while. Maybe I saw Hector." I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, wished like hell for a cigarette. "And maybe I didn't."

I expected her to make some biting comment, put me in my place, then tell me she'd call Edward and have him take me away. Instead she shrugged, pulled a pad of paper across the desk, and picked up a pencil. "That's Menen-dez? M-e-n-e … ?"

I stared at her. She made an impatient sound. "How the hell do you spell his name?"

"But – "

"But what? If that psycho is in my town, I want to know about it."

"But what if I was seeing things?"

"What if you weren't?"

"Doesn't it bother you to work with someone who was once certifiable?"

"No more than it bothers me to work with someone who's as big of a pain in my ass as you are."

We stared at each other for several more seconds, until she gave an annoyed growl. "Do you mind, nut job? I've only got so much time available to check out your delusions."

Wow, another warm and fuzzy bonding moment.

" M-e-n-e-n-d-e-z," I spelled out.

"Gracias," she mocked.

Miss Politically Incorrect.

"I doubt you'll find much," I said. "Back when my family was killed… Well, by the time I was able to…"

Think without screaming? Talk without babbling? Breathe without crying?

"Articulate," I managed, "Hector was long gone. They checked him out."

"And?"

"He'd been pronounced dead in 1977 from a hunting accident. Kind of made it hard to put out an APB

on him."

"What did the police do then?"

I rolled my eyes. "What do you think? When they arrived at the scene of the crime, I was in a corner talking to myself. Three months later I blame a dead man. They thought I was loony toons."

"In other words, they did nothing."

"What were they supposed to do, Jessie?"

"Let me ask a better question: What did Mandenauer do?"

Her words made me smile. "He saved me that night, then called the police and disappeared. I saw him next at the hospital." I lifted a brow. "The psychiatric hospital."

She shrugged and made a whirling motion with her finger. Big deal; get on with it.

"After weeks of being told I was crazy, he believed me. He got me out of there. I'm not sure how."

Having someone to talk to who didn't give me a pill every time I said "werewolf" had cleared my head better than a cold shower. Just being with Edward had made me feel sane again.

"He told me my family was at peace. He'd made sure they wouldn't rise."

"I hate it when that happens," Jessie muttered.

I glanced at her quickly. "You've seen one?"

"Not seen – no. But I had a few disappear out of the morgue. One went in there with her head blown off."

"Uh-oh, someone didn't use silver."

"Bingo."

I found it disturbing, to say the least, to have corpses with body parts blown off suddenly rejuvenate. But when you were dealing with werewolves such things happened all the time.

Being bitten will cause a change within twenty-four hours. Day, night, full moon, no moon, it doesn't matter. You're bitten, you change. After that, you can heal damn near anything – except silver.

Hector had murdered my family. He'd been after me. He'd been inches away from biting me, but Edward had gotten there first. Too late to save the people I loved, but not too late to save me. Even so, Hector had left his mark on me forever.

"After Mandenauer sprang you from the crazy ward," Jessie continued, "what did he do?"

"He taught me everything he knew."

"Blah, blah, blah. I meant, what did he do about Hector?"

Oh.  "He used all the 7-5 resources to search for him, but we never found a trace."

"Which doesn't mean much."

"No."

Hector could be anywhere, using any name, doing anything he wanted. There was a certain freedom to being dead on paper.

"Do you know where he came from? How old he was? Who made him?"

The answers to any of those questions could help pinpoint where a werewolf might hide, who he might hang with. Sadly, I knew the answers to none of them in relation to Hector Menendez.

"I didn't know he was a werewolf until I saw him – "

I broke off as a vivid image flashed through my brain. My little sister, Jimmy, Mama. Hector's blue eyes shining from the face of a white wolf.

"Hey!" Jessie grabbed my hand, squeezed hard enough to make me wince. "I thought you were going to pass out there for a second."

I straightened and pulled away. I'd done enough fainting for one lifetime. "I'm fine," I snapped.

"Sure you are."

Being irritated with Jessie helped me focus on the here and now instead of my past. Which was probably why she was being so annoying. Or maybe she just came by it naturally. Like me.

"Hector told me he was from Texas. Corpus Christi. He sold drugs."

Her eyes widened. "Dealer?"

"Pharmaceutical rep."

Jessie turned a startled laugh into a cough. "And none of that was true?"

"None of it."

I'd met him in a restaurant where I'd gone for dinner with my parents. He'd been sitting in the bar alone, listening to music – Norah Jones, I think. Funny what you remember about one of the most important moments of your life.

He was tall and handsome; his dark skin and hair, combined with his light eyes and a well-trimmed goatee, gave him an exotic appearance. To little Miss Kansas and her white-bread, perfect life, Hector had been danger and desire all rolled into one.

I'd gone out with him a few times – secretly, of course. I'd been young, foolish, captivated, for a little while. Hector was quick to take insult – both real and imagined. He had a short temper and very little tolerance for anyone who was different from himself. An odd trait in a man named Menendez.

"You haven't heard from him since?"

I hesitated. "He called me at the hospital."

"How did he manage that?"

"I don't know. I may have imagined the calls."

As I'd imagined so many things.

"What did he say?"

I didn't want to remember all that Hector had told me – his plans, our future, his obsession.

"Nothing important."

She eyed me for a long moment, then let it go. "Why would he be here? Why now?"

I'd had the same thoughts. That Jessie had them, too, helped. I relaxed just a little. "I don't know," I admitted.

"I'll keep my eyes open. A guy like that shouldn't be hard to spot in a town like this."

She was right. And if I saw him first I wasn't going to wait around to see the whites of his eyes. I doubted Jessie would, either. The very thought made me feel stronger, more in control, safer.

"There's one more thing." I paused, then forced myself to blurt, "He has a tattoo."

Jessie lifted a brow. "Not a good thing to leave out, Leigh. A tattoo of what?"

"Pentagram."

She frowned. "Isn't that supposed to be protection against a werewolf?"

Surprise, surprise. Jessie didn't know everything.

"Not exactly. A pentagram is a five-pointed star. Some believe it's evil; others believe it's good."

"What do you think?"

Since the only time I'd ever seen one was as a tattoo on Hector's chest, I kind of thought the pentagram was Satan's tool.

"Supposedly, depending upon how the star is positioned, it can summon the powers of light or the powers of darkness."

"I guess we know which one Hector was after."

"Yeah."

"So where was this tattoo?"

I tapped a finger between my breasts.

Jessie's mouth fell open. I glanced away. I didn't need to explain how I'd seen Hector's chest. I'm sure she could figure it out.

"I doubt I'll get a good look at a stranger's breastbone," she remarked.

I doubted she would, either, but I'd told her all I knew.

Now we had to figure out if he was slinking around town. Knowing Hector, we wouldn't see him until it was too late.

"I ran an Internet search on cannibals."

"Excuse me?" Jessie's rapid change of subject left me blinking. "On what?"

"You heard me." She shoved some papers across the desk. "Will said the original Weendigo was a man who ate human flesh."

"That's just a legend."

"So are werewolves."

She had a point. I picked up the papers and started to read.

Albert Fish – 1935 Stanley Dean Baker – 1970 Omaima Nelson – 1993 Nathaniel Bar-Jonah – 1996

And, of course, Jeffrey Dahmer, the man who made Milwaukee famous.

The accounts were gruesome, nauseating, thorough. I read them anyway. When I was done, I shoved the papers back across the desk, unwilling to hold on to them any longer. My fingers felt slimy already.

"What exactly are we trying to find?" I asked.

"Hell if I know. Something out of the ordinary."

"In there?"

Everything I'd read had been far from ordinary.

"I noticed one thing," Jessie continued. "Before World War Two, there were very few serial killers."

"Maybe it was just harder to catch them then."

"Could be."

"You don't think so."

"Do you remember what happened in World War Two, Leigh?"

"Wanna be more specific?"

"What happened that involves us?"

Oh, that.

During the war Edward had been a spy. He'd discovered that Josef Mengele had been doing more than experimenting on the Jews at Auschwitz. He'd also had a secret lab deep in the Black Forest.

There he'd manufactured monsters. Hitler had demanded a werewolf army, among other things.

Edward's mission had been to eliminate everything Mengele had made. By the time Mandenauer reached the lab, the Allies had hit the beaches and Russia was closing in. Mengele panicked and released all his creations into the world. They had been multiplying, mutating, spreading, ever since.

Edward, being Edward, was still following the orders he had never completely carried out.

"You think the increase in serial killers has something to do with the Nazis?" I asked.

"You got a better idea?"

I thought about it. We didn't know to this day everything Mengele had been manufacturing in his lab.

Sure, there had been monsters before he started making them. History was full of 'em. But after – there'd been a whole lot more.

"What's your theory?" I asked.

"Maybe some of these cannibals were werewolves, too. Maybe they can't control themselves even when they're human."

"Maybe."

Or they could just be nuts.

"What does that mean to us?" I asked. "Here and now."

"Maybe this Weendigo started out as a human."

"They all started out as human."

"Let me finish. Instead of being bitten, he was cursed by his lust for flesh. He became a beast, like the legend. But even in beast form he can't stop being a cannibal."

She was making a weird sort of sense.

"I still don't see how we're going to figure out who it is that we're searching for."

"What if there's a suspect in a cannibalistic serial killer case who suddenly disappeared?"

"Yeah?"

"And what if a lot of dead, half-eaten wolves had turned up in the same place?"

She could be on to something, except –

"Edward said there'd been no incidences of cannibalistic werewolves but this one."

Jessie cursed. There went her theory.

But something tickled at the back of my mind. "Wait."

I held up my hand, tilted my head, thought hard, and suddenly there it was. "What if he's been soothing his need for cannibalism in human form and he just started satisfying that particular peculiarity in wolf form?"

Jessie stared at me as if I'd just said something very interesting. "I guess it couldn't hurt to get information on open serial killer cases."

"Right. But we don't want the FBI showing up here. They never can manage to blend in."

"Who has a contact at Quantico?"

"Mandenauer," she said, at the same time I said, "Edward."

Jessie picked up the phone.

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