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Hunter's Moon (Chapter 21)

We remained quiet all the way home. I don't know what she was thinking, but my thoughts were full of what would happen if one of us got furry.

Would I be able to shoot her as she'd asked me to? Yes.

Would she be able to shoot me? It didn't really matter, because I'd be able to shoot myself.

Jessie let us into her apartment. She went straight to the message machine in the kitchen.

"You have no new messages."

Her sigh of disappointment plucked at something too near my heart. I'd been in love once. I'd lost him, badly. I understood where she was coming from.

Will wasn't back yet; he hadn't called, and she was even more worried.

I glanced at my watch. Three a.m. Not good. I was starting to worry myself.

"Take a shower," I told her.

"Kiss my ass."

She's baaack,  my mind taunted. I'd been waiting for Jessie to snap out of her zone. It figured that she'd do so cursing me.

"I'll pass," I returned, "but thanks anyway."

"I don't want to take a shower," she said mulishly. "I'm still on duty."

"And I bet the people you've vowed to serve and protect will be thrilled with your new look. Blood and werewolf brains are such a fashion statement."

"Do you have to be right all the time?" She stomped into the bathroom.

"That was a rhetorical question, right?"

She slammed the door in my face.

I opened her refrigerator and helped myself to a can of soda. Then I sat on the couch and I considered what we'd learned.

Not much.

We still didn't know where their lair was, and I had no idea what they were up to, hiding human bones in the mine.

Hector was here. I was certain of it. But what was he planning? And how was the brown wolf involved?

What about the power eater legend Will had been mumbling about? I had to think we were hip deep in something serious.

A tap on the windowpane made me jump so high I nearly levitated. I spun around, gun in my hand, and came face to beak with a crow on the windowsill.

The thing tilted his head, first one way, then the other, as if trying to figure out what I was.

"Take off." I set my gun next to my cola, then made a shooing motion, to no avail.

Caw,  he returned, then stretched out and tapped the glass again.

I was so preoccupied with the damn bird, I didn't notice the scratching at the door until it was too late.

The lock clicked free.

I've been set up, I thought.

Crows and wolves work together in nature. Who's to say they don't work together unnaturally, too. Had the pesky bird drawn my attention away from the door long enough for one of the bad guys to get inside?

I sprinted across the room, pressed my back against the wall, waited for the intruder to show himself.

He did, and I jumped him. In a quick, professional movement, he flipped me onto my back, hard, then pressed a knee into my chest.

"Oh, hi, Leigh."

Cadotte was back.

He stood, then held out a hand to help me up. I couldn't breathe.

"You OK?"

I shook my head.

The bathroom door opened. "Leigh?"

Cadotte's face lit up from the inside out. He left me on the ground to die and ran to Jessie.

"Will," she whispered; then she slugged him.

"Ow." He rubbed his stomach. "What the hell was that for?"

She grabbed his cell phone from his belt and waved it in front of his nose. "Turn it on once in a while, dick weed. You scared me to death."

Jessie tossed the phone upward. He snatched it from thin air as she stalked past him and into the living room. Observing me on the floor, she smirked. "Did he flip you?"

I nodded.

"He thinks he's Jackie Chan."

Right now, I kind of thought he was, too.

Jessie spun toward Will. "Where's my gun?"

"In the trunk of my car."

"Fat lot of good it's going to do you there."

"Getting stopped with a loaded firearm would not be healthy, Jess."

I managed to get off the floor under my own power; then I collapsed in a chair. "Why not?"

Will pointed a finger toward his face. "Indian. Gun. Too many cowboys."

"I still don't get it."

Jessie made an impatient sound. "The civil rights movement hasn't gotten here yet. There's still a lot of prejudice against Native Americans."

"A loaded gun in the car is illegal," I pointed out.

"True. But there'd be a whole lot more than arresting going on if Will was stopped with one." She glanced at him. "Sorry. I wasn't thinking past your being safe from the werewolves."

He shrugged. "I'm fine. But why are you home, in the middle of your shift, wearing a towel?"

Jessie gave me a narrow-eyed glare, which I took to mean, Shut up. So I did.

"Never mind me," she said. "Where have you been?"

"Madison."

"You were supposed to be back eight hours ago."

He shrugged, his face sheepish. "I got distracted."

Neither one of them paid any attention to me.

"What was it this time?" Jessie asked.

I waited to hear what his vice was – drinking, drugs, gambling. Considering Jessie's short fuse, I doubted it was women.

"The book was ancient, Jess. Written practically on papyrus. You should have seen it." His face went all dreamy. "Remarkable."

She rolled her eyes, shook her head, then looked at me with a shrug. I tried not to laugh.

Cadotte's vice was books.

"Never mind that, Slick. What did it say?"

"Right." He pulled his glasses out of his shirt pocket and a sheaf of papers out of his pants. "I had to write all his down. They wouldn't even let me use the copy machine. Can't blame them. Who knows what artificial light would do to something so old?"

"Steady, boy." Jessie put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't start mumbling and drooling on me now. I need that info."

He nodded, shuffled papers, shoved his glasses up his nose in an absent gesture that made Jessie's face soften and her fingers tighten on his arm. "From what I can gather, the power eater is an obscure legend
– "

"Again?" Jessie said drily.

He lifted his gaze from his notes and winked. "Stick with me, kid; I've got a million."

"The wolf god was an obscure legend, too." Jessie faced me. "You know how well that went."

Will held up one finger. "But I know the whole legend this time. No missing pages."

"Then get on with it."

"A Weendigo becomes a power eater by eating power."

"Hence the name," Jessie drawled.

"Let him finish," I snapped.

She shot me a glare, but she closed her mouth.

"Werewolves are very powerful," Will continued. "Taking their life destroys the power forever unless – "

"They eat it," I guessed. "By eating the werewolf."

He nodded, then stared at his precious papers some more. "A human becomes a beast, a Weendigo, by practicing cannibalism, then being cursed. A Weendigo becomes a power eater by being a cannibal – of a different sort."

"Could a non-Ojibwe become a Weendigo?" I asked, remembering my earlier question in regard to Hector.

"Of course. Weendigo is an Ojibwe term for 'werewolf.' A general word, not necessarily race specific."

"Uh-oh."

"What?" he asked.

Will didn't know about our Hector theory yet. I waved his question off for now.

"You said the first Weendigo was cursed by the great mystery. What about the ones since then? How did they get to be the way they are?"

He glanced at Jessie, frowned. "I thought Mengele – "

"Yeah, yeah," I interrupted. "But not every werewolf was created by him. Obviously, since the Weendigo legend predates the rise of the Reich and all the subsequent good times."

"True." He shuffled his papers again, found one, began to read. "Humans who develop a taste for human flesh are cursed. They become the beast that lives within them."

"How?"

He shrugged. " Poof! They're a beast."

Well, stranger things had happened.

"What does the blood moon have to do with any of this?"

"That's where it gets fascinating."

"I bet," Jessie muttered.

He ignored her and so did I. "Beginning on the night of the harvest moon the Weendigo hunts his own.

He eats their power, night by night, gaining strength and ability, until the eve of the blood moon, the hunter's moon, when the power eater becomes the supreme alpha."

"Yada yada," I said. "So what?"

Will's lips twitched. He really was a nice guy. Most people would be sick of my mouth by now. But then look who he was in love with.

"The power eater is the ultimate werewolf. A shape-shifter beyond anything the world has ever known."

He lowered his notes and stared at Jessie, then me, in turn. Any trace of amusement was gone. "The power eater can do anything."

"He's already a shape-shifter; what more is there?"

"I don't know."

"Thought you knew everything."

"Everything there is to know from the book. Unfortunately, it was a little vague on the specifics."

More like a lot, but what can you do?

"The ultimate werewolf," I murmured.

As if we didn't have enough problems with the regular ones.

"What, exactly, is a supreme alpha?" Jessie asked.

"I think that means he's in charge of all the other werewolves."

"Let me guess," she continued. "They're his army. He's the head man-wolf. He gets to rule the world."

"Appears that way."

"What is it with wanting to rule the world?"

"Got me." Will shrugged. "Sounds like a pretty lousy job."

I had to agree. "How does the power eater become the supreme alpha?"

"By eating the power of a hundred werewolves before the hunter's moon."

"Yuck."

"You asked."

"What should we do?"

Jessie was staring at me. I was kind of surprised. But then again, I was supposed to be in charge.

"Kill them," I said. "Kill them all."

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