Blue Moon (Chapter 11)
Man, was I in trouble.
Perhaps if I'd swum until I felt nothing but limp, I wouldn't have been so distracted all night. However, I doubt anything could have erased his taste from my mouth and his image from my mind.
I know that an hour's worth of pacing did not get rid of the question: Why me? Cadotte certainly hadn't been dazzled by my charm or my appearance. I wasn't wealthy, brilliant, or hot. What was he up to?
The questions swirled in my head as the mortification swirled in my gut. I'd shared an appallingly intimate moment with a stranger. How was I ever going to look Cadotte in the face again?
I wasn't sure I could, but I'd have to. He hadn't given me one speck of the information I'd asked for.
The memory of my moans and gyrations haunted me all the way to work, which only meant that I had a mood to match Zee's.
The phones were ringing like the church bells on Christmas Eve when I walked into the station.
Thankfully Zee triaged better than anyone I'd ever met. She put one call on bold, routed another to the fire department, a third to the clinic, and spoke to the fourth.
I'd never make it as a dispatcher. My crisis management skills were heavily weighted to action rather than reaction.
"Two Adam Four, do you copy?"
"Two Adam Four. I copy and am ten-forty-two.' '"
"My ass you're off duty," Zee muttered, though not over the radio for a change. She glanced at me.
"Henry's been to three fights already tonight. He's going to love this."
As everyone in the department knew, Henry – one of our second shift officers – loathed overtime. He had a young wife and no children – yet – though not for lack of trying.
"Ten-seventy-four that," Zee continued. "There's a ten-ten in progress at the Sportsman."
"Another one? What are people drinking? Okay, I'm ten-seventy-six to the Sportsman."
"This whole town has gone ape shit," Zee muttered. "You'd think rabid wolves and a school shooting would make people stay home and play nice. Instead, they're out drinking and driving and fighting."
She picked up the call on hold. "Yeah, she's here now." Zee listened. "I'll tell her."
After hanging up, she lit a new cigarette off the stub of her old one and took a deep drag, letting the smoke blow out of her nose on a sigh of contentment. Zee loved her cigarettes nearly as much as she loved me. Or maybe it was the other way around.
"Who's here?" I prompted when she continued to smoke and ignore me.
"Who the hell do you think? You see anyone else hanging around?"
Since I was accustomed to Zee's usual manner of conversation, I didn't even blink at her words or her tone. "Someone's looking for me?"
"Yeah. That spooky old fart the DNR hired. He's on his way. You're supposed to wait for him."
I flicked a finger at the phones. "Don't I have work to do?"
"Hell, yes. But Clyde said you deal with Dr. Death first."
I glanced around the office. The second shift hadn't come back in yet. The rest of the third shift must have already gone out. Zee and I were the only lucky ones in the place. I hated waiting around with nothing to do. I stuck my hand in my pocket and my fingertips nicked the totem.
"I'll be in the evidence room," I said. I could at least put this back where it belonged and get Clyde off my ass.
As I walked by Zee, she put down her cigarette and sniffed the murky air. "Where you been?" she asked.
"Home. Where else?"
"You smell funny."
How she could tell with cigarette smoke still swirling around her snowy white hair I have no idea. But Zee had always had the nose of a bloodhound. I wondered what she'd be able to smell if her senses hadn't been depleted by nicotine.
I lifted my arm and sniffed underneath. "No, I don't."
"Aftershave," she announced.
I blushed. I couldn't help it.
Strange, though. I hadn't smelled any aftershave on Cadotte. Only that scent that was his alone – earth, air, forest, man.
"What are you up to, girl?"
Since I rarely had reason to blush, my heated cheeks must stand out like the flash of a searchlight on the night of a new moon. Zee glared at me suspiciously.
"Nothing but my job, Zee."
She snorted and I had a hard time not joining her. If my job involved letting William Cadotte put his mouth all over me, the number of applicants for my position would be greater than ravaging mosquitoes on a muggy summer night.
I escaped from the front office before Zee pried more out of me. Not that I was easy – prior evidence to the contrary – but Zee was even more bullheaded than I was. She'd pick at me until I cracked or she got enough information to come to her own conclusion.
I wouldn't really mind if Zee knew. In fact, I'd like to talk to her about what in hell was wrong with me.
But Clyde was another story. Since his relationship with Zee was as close as or even closer than mine was, telling her would be the same as telling him. I'd lose my job, or at the least my involvement with this case. When Clyde had told me to stay away from Cadotte, he hadn't just been whistling Dixie.
Sighing, I slipped into the evidence room. I made my way to the shelf where I'd left the bag of junk that comprised the evidence from Karen Larson's accident. It wasn't there.
I didn't panic right away. Just figured I was on the wrong shelf. My mind wasn't exactly focused. I put the totem into my pocket and searched the room. There wasn't a lot there. My evidence certainly wasn't.
I began to feel uneasy. I remembered putting the bag on the second shelf, along with the signed note from Cadotte. I got down on my knees and crawled around. Nothing.
I needed to report this to Zee and then to Clyde. The evidence room wasn't Fort Knox, but it was secure enough for Miniwa. I'd had to use my key to get in here, and only officers had keys. If we took evidence out of the room for any reason, we made a notation in the evidence log.
The evidence log!
I smacked myself in the forehead and grabbed the book off the desk next to the door. Quickly I spun through the pages, expecting to see a familiar name scrawled in the margin next to my scribbled listing of Karen Larson's evidence.
Not only was there no name; there was no scribble. Hell, there wasn't even a page.
I opened the book as far as the spine would allow. I couldn't see a shred of paper. Either someone was very good at ripping pages out of books, or I was nuts and I'd never recorded anything at all.
I had to go with the first option, even though that made no sense. Who would want a bag of glass and plastic?
I patted my pocket, felt the hard ridge of the totem against my thigh. Had the culprit been looking for something else entirely?
Cadotte had said that whoever the totem belonged to would be wanting it back. Then why not just ask?
Unless the owner had good reason not to be recognized as such. And if it wasn't the owner, then what possible good could the totem do them?
I was more confused than ever. I couldn't prove I'd brought in the evidence. Couldn't prove the evidence had disappeared. Clyde was going to have my head when he found out.
He was already pissed at me for letting Cadotte keep the icon. But it was lucky I had or we'd have lost that, too.
One thing I knew, I wasn't leaving the totem here to disappear along with everything else. For now the stone was safe right where it was.