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Hunter's Moon (Chapter 15)

Before she could dial, the door crashed open. Jessie and I pointed our weapons toward the sound.

Will stopped dead. "I have to go."

Jessie waved her .44 toward the sign that read: rest-room. "Go."

He shook his head. His earring waggled, catching the light and throwing speckles of gold across his jaw.

"I found something."

In the act of putting away our guns, Jessie and I tensed.

"What?" she asked.

"I'm not sure."

"There's a lot of that going around," I muttered.

"Huh?" Cadotte's eyes were unfocused behind his glasses. He stared at me as if he couldn't remember who I was. Then understanding dawned. "Oh, hi, Leigh. What are you doing here?"

"Never mind her, Slick. What did you find?"

"I did an Internet search on Weendigo, and I came up with the Legend of the Power Eater."

Jessie and I exchanged glances. "What's that?" she asked.

"I've never heard of it. But there's a book – "

Jessie groaned. "Not another book. Haven't we been through this?"

Confused, I looked back and forth between them. Jessie explained. "Will had a book on raising the wolf god. Sadly, a page was missing. A very important page."

"I ordered another one," he said.

"Which the werewolves conveniently intercepted."

"That's why this time I'm going to the book."

"Pardon me?"

"There's a copy in Madison. I'm leaving now."

"Now?" Jessie sounded forlorn. I stifled a smirk.

"I should be able to see it first thing in the morning. If there's anything useful I'll bring the book back or make a copy." His gaze softened. "I'll be home by tomorrow afternoon, Jess."

"Fine. Whatever. I've got plenty to do here."

"Uh-huh."

Cadotte wasn't buying it. He crossed the room and scooped her into his arms. Jessie was a big girl, but he was an even bigger man. He held her as if she were a child. Her usually stern face went all dopey with love. I turned away. But I could still hear every word.

"I'll be back before you even miss me."

"Too late."

Smoochy sounds followed. I tapped my foot, stared at the ceiling, considered leaving the room.

"Take this."

I spun around. Jessie was holding out her service revolver. Will stared at it with obvious distaste. "I don't like guns."

"I don't like dead boyfriends. I'm silly that way."

"I don't want a gun."

"Last time, Will, they needed you for the ceremony."

"You, too."

"But I can take care of myself."

"And I can't?"

She sighed. "For me? Please?"

He took the gun, holding it between two fingers, as if the thing might go off at any moment. Jessie glanced at me and together we rolled our eyes.

"He's going to shoot off his toe," I commented.

"Oh well, he's got nine more. Just don't shoot off something I'll need later. Especially something you've got only one of."

I blushed. I might be a big, bad werewolf hunter, but bawdy sexual innuendos flustered me.

"I think I embarrassed the duchess."

"Leave her be, Jess."

They were both staring at me. Jessie's gaze was contemplative. She saw more than I wanted her to.

Will's was sympathetic. I didn't like his any better.

"I'll leave you two alone to say good-bye." I practically ran outside.

The half-moon slid toward the horizon. Soon the sun would come up and I could sleep. Here I was a werewolf hunter living like a vampire. That might even be funny, if I did much laughing anymore.

I took a minute to observe the clear navy blue sky. Living in Topeka for most of my life, I hadn't known how brightly stars could shine away from the glare of city lights.

A flash at the corner of my vision drew my gaze, and I watched a star flare, then drop. City dwellers rarely caught a glimpse of a falling star. Every time I saw one, I was amazed and humbled. There was so much out there we didn't understand.

"I wish I…" My words trailed off into the chill of the autumn night. What did I wish?

That I could catch the Weendigo – kill a killer at any cost?

Or that I could have back the life I'd lost?

Did I want death or to start anew?

I had no idea anymore, and that scared me. Until I'd come to Crow Valley I'd only wanted to kill them, not caring if I died, too.

But suddenly there were people I liked all around me, not friends exactly but no longer strangers, either.

There was sexual attraction, something I hadn't experienced in years. Lust had made me want to live. At least until I tasted it again.

That wasn't good.

The not caring had made me damn near invincible. I took chances no one else dared to. The monsters sensed I'd die before I let them live, which gave me an edge.

Suddenly the edge was lost. What if in the middle of a death battle I started remembering Damien and his kiss? Longing for it, for him? I'd sneered at Jessie because of her attachment to Will. Was I any better?

I couldn't afford to be distracted. So what was I going to do about it?

I had a pretty good idea.

The door opened and Jessie, then Will, stepped out. Her uniform was untucked, her shirt buttoned wrong. His pants were unzipped; his glasses had fingerprints all over them. Talk about a quickie.

I wanted one.

"Take care of her, OK?" Will asked.

Jessie snorted. "Right."

Will ignored her, focusing instead on me. "Please?"

"Of course."

Then he was gone.

Jessie made an impatient sound. "Let's get one thing straight, Duchess. I can take care of myself. I don't need you or anyone else to help me."

"Me, either. But we can humor Edward. And the boyfriend."

She scowled at my term for Will and I almost laughed. It was so easy to yank her chain.

"Come on. You can call Mandenauer this time."

I'd forgotten that we'd been about to call him when Will showed up. I went into the station and sat at Jessie's desk.

"Make yourself right at home," she said.

"Thanks." I picked up her phone.

Edward answered his direct line on the second ring. "Jawohl? Was ist es?"

I frowned. It wasn't like him to speak in German. He'd been in this country for longer than I'd been alive.

I'd only heard him revert to his native tongue when he was very, very tired, sick, or hurt – which had happened maybe twice since I'd known him.

"Are you all right?" I asked.

"Leigh? Yes. Of course. I was sleeping."

Something he rarely did. But when he slept, he'd always awoken completely alert and ready to deal with anything at a moment's notice. Military training did that to a guy, or so he said. His behavior concerned me.

"Is Elise there?"

"No," he said shortly.

"Why not?"

Elise watched over Edward like a mother hen. Drove him nuts, but she wouldn't stop.

"Because I am in my room and she is… I don't know where. Now what do you want at… four a.m.?"

Quickly I filled him in on what he didn't know.

"Can you contact someone in the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program?"

"Certainly, You will have your data by midday."

Edward the efficient.

"There's one more thing."

I glanced at Jessie. She made a whirling motion with her hand. Get on with it.

"Have you ever had an agent named Damien Fitzgerald?"

Edward thought for an instant. "No. The name is not familiar. Why?"

I filled him in on a little bit more.

"He could have changed his name," Edward murmured. "I will send you photos of the rogue agents I am aware of."

"Thanks."

"So why did Elise need you back there pronto?" I asked.

Silence settled over the line. I wondered if he'd hung up.

"Edward?"

"I am here."

"Well? What's up?"

Elise had been working on a cure for lycanthropy. So far she'd come up with zilch. The only reason I could think of for Edward to rush to 7-5 headquarters in remote Montana was that she'd had a breakthrough.

The idea made me nervous. If Elise found a way to cure them, what would I do with the rest of my life?

"Nothing is up," he said. "Elise thought she might have discovered something."

"Did she?"

"That remains to be seen." He sighed. "But I do not think so."

I let out the breath I hadn't even known I was holding. "Will you be back soon?"

"No. You and Jessie can handle things in Crow Valley."

"But – "

"I am tired, Leigh. I need a rest."

My heart started thudding faster and harder with dread. "You're sick."

"Perhaps. Sick and tired of the blood, the death, the killing. And for what? There are always more."

I'd never heard him so down. Usually Edward was the one buoying everyone else's spirits.

I glanced at Jessie, frowned. He'd never been like this before he'd met her.

"I'll make sure there aren't any more here," I promised, and hung up. "What exactly happened in Miniwa?" I demanded.

"You know."

"Wolf god, totem. Been there, heard that. I meant to Edward."

Her gaze slid away from mine.

"What?"

She shrugged. "He made a few mistakes. Nothing major. Everything worked out for the best."

Mistakes? That didn't sound like Edward.

"What kind of mistakes?"

"He got distracted. We got captured." She shrugged. "It happens."

"Not to him."

"Never?"

Not that I knew of.

I'd considered telling Edward I thought Hector might be here. Until he'd answered the phone speaking German. Until he'd gone all Eeyore on me.

"He's acting so weird," I murmured. "He didn't want to come back."

"Can you blame him? The guy's been hunting werewolves, and Lord knows what else, for sixty years. I'd be ready for a break."

I suspected she was right, but I didn't like it. I decided to keep my suspicions about Hector between myself and Jessie until I was sure I wasn't seeing things again. Why upset Edward if I didn't have to?

"What about the information from Quantico?" Jessie asked.

"By noon."

"And Fitzgerald?"

"He doesn't recognize the name, but he's sending rogue agent pictures."

"Good. There's not much else we can do until then. I'd better make my rounds. Not that I'll see anything, but I try to at least pretend to earn my second paycheck."

"This place is awful quiet after the sun goes down."

"Creepy, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

Crow Valley after sunset was as quiet as the proverbial tomb. No lights in any of the windows. Not even a cat trolling the streets.

The entire town had a deserted air. As if too many of the citizens had disappeared. We just didn't know how many.

Where there were werewolves, people went missing. Which was usually how the Juger-Suchers ended up being called to the scene. Then we made sure the missing were explained. Our favorite excuse was that they'd walked into the woods and never come back out. It happens more than you'd think.

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