Crescent Moon (Chapter 41)
"Old man, you try my patience," Elise muttered.
Confusion swept over his face. "What did I do?"
"You can't shoot someone with a soul."
Her mouth moved as if she was counting to ten. I kind of thought she was. "We've been over this. Put the gun away."
"Never." But he did lower it. "What do you suggest? A mad werewolf, soul or no, is not something I plan to let run free."
"I'm with him," Adam said.
Elise stared at Henri as if he were a brand-new science experiment. "I wish I could cage him until I'm certain what we're up against"
Adam and I exchanged glances.
"I've got a cage," I said.
"I'd forgotten," Mandenauer murmured, and Elise shot him a glare.
"That's not something that should be forgotten."
"I'm ancient." He sniffed. "Sometimes I forget."
"One day you'll forget to shoot the bad guys, and then you'll be dead."
"Perhaps." He didn't appear concerned. "We must hurry and incarcerate Henri before the sun disappears."
A flurry of activity ensued, followed by a frantic trip to the mansion; then we practically dragged Henri through the swamp, and tossed him into the cage.
Not a minute too soon.
I turned the key on the padlock as he came awake with a howl of agony. His body bent; his clothes tore; hair sprouted from every pore. I'd seen him change from wolf to man; now I watched as he went from man to wolf. That had to hurt.
His too human eyes peered at us from behind the bars. When I'd seen them before they'd been full of hate and hunger. Now the hunger was there, but the hate was gone.
He paced back and forth, whining, pawing the ground, then throwing himself against the bars until he bled.
"Give him the serum, Elise," Mandenauer ordered.
She'd already pulled a vial from the pocket of her shorts and snapped gloves onto her hands once more. Another migraine she didn't need.
"What's de matter with him?"
"The hunger is maddening. On the night of the full moon I have to run as wolf. Without this," she held up the vial "I'd kill. I wouldn't be able to help myself. For him, the same thing must happen under the crescent moon." She shook her head. "One night a month is bad enough."
"Why is he whining?" I resisted the urge to cover my ears, the pathetic noise grating on my nerves like sandpaper.
"Killing sickens him," she whispered, "but he can't resist the desire."
Elise walked to the cage, and Henri slammed against it right in front of her.
"Be careful," I called.
"He can't hurt me. I'm a werewolf already."
In a lightning-fast movement, she reached inside and grabbed Henri's snout. Then she poured the contents of the vial down his throat. When she was through, he actually licked her hand before falling asleep.
"Does Damien still get furry every full moon?" I asked Elise.
"My touch cured him."
"But you can't cure yourself?"
Something flickered in her eyes, and she looked away. "Not yet"
"And Henri? What's his problem?"
"I'm not sure. I'd like to take him back to the lab and figure that out."
"No," Adam said flatly.
"I can fix him," Elise insisted. "I haven't spent much time in the lab since this." She lifted her palm. "Works better than any medicine. But not so long ago, I lived there. I'm sure I can discover what his secret is."
"You can't kill him. If he dies, I'm cursed."
"The curse might be lifted. His soul is restored."
"De only way to know is for him to die. I'm not willing to take that chance."
"He'll be safe with me. You should see the compound we built Impregnable this time."
"This time?" I asked.
"Last one went boom. But the werewolves survived the blast."
"That really sets my mind at ease," Adam muttered.
Cassandra, who hadn't said a word since we'd gotten here, moved closer to the cage. "I think I might know why your cure didn't work."
"I'm all ears," Elise said.
"Henri was made a loup-garou through voodoo, not by science or by being bitten." Cassandra stared at each of us in turn. "A voodoo curse can only be removed by voodoo."
My heart kicked against the wall of my chest. "You can fix him? Why didn't you say so?"
"Only the one who placed the curse can take it away."
My shoulders slumped. "She's gotta be long dead."
"Exactly." Cassandra's eyes met mine. "But the dead can rise."
Elise's eyebrows shot toward her silky blond hair. I was amazed that in her profession she could still be surprised.
"Zombies are dangerous," Mandenauer muttered. "And unpredictable."
"You've seen one?" Cassandra asked.
"You know someone who can raise a zombie?"
"I did." He sniffed.
"That means he killed the guy," Elise said. "Grandfather, sometimes it's better to keep them alive."
"Wait a second." I held up a hand. "He's your grandfather?"
That the head werewolf hunter had a granddaughter who was a werewolf was a little hard to digest.
"Yes," Elise confirmed. "Neither one of us is too happy about it."
I could imagine.
Adam turned to Cassandra. "Tell me about raising de woman who cursed my family. Could you do it?"
"Not me, no. I'd need to find a practitioner powerful enough to perform that kind of magic. I'm not even sure it's possible to raise someone who's been dead that long."
Adam's shoulders slumped. I moved closer and slipped my hand into his.
"Until then, let me try," Elise urged.
I understood why Adam didn't want to give anyone power over Henri. In relinquishing his grandpere, Adam relinquished control over his own and Luc's destiny. But we'd exhausted our options. Protecting Henri wasn't getting us anywhere. We needed the experts' help.
Adam must have thought the same thing, because he squeezed my hand and said, "OK."
The night passed; the sun rose; Henri became a man again. A very crazy man.
Elise was forced to sedate him to get him back to the compound in Montana. She'd been right. The knowledge of all he'd done had sent him over the edge. He did a lot of moaning and muttering. If I hadn't almost been one of his victims, I might have felt sorry for him. As it was, I was glad to see him go.
Cassandra decided to take a trip to Haiti, courtesy of the Jager-Sucher society.
"Mandenauer wants me to discover more about voodoo, zombies, and this goddess-of-the-moon question. I'm game."
She'd hired a local to run her store and take care of Lazarus when I refused to. Cassandra and I were friends, but I drew the line at snake-sitting.
"I think we've proved I'm not a moon goddess," I said.
"Maybe. Maybe not. It won't hurt to look into things a little more. You want Henri cured, don't you?"
"For all I care, Henri can burn in hell."
"He probably will. But if we can make certain Adam and Luc don't follow him there – "
"I'll do anything," I said.
"That's what I thought I made a few calls after you traveled to Ife and spoke to Erzulie."
"Do not tell me I'm a lost priestess of the voodoo nation. I'm a cryptozoologist from Boston. Period."
Cassandra's shoulders shifted, as if something were crawling down her neck. "I think I sent you to Ife."
"I performed the ceremony. The magic came from me." Cassandra appeared sheepish. "I might be more powerful than I thought"
"That's good news, isn't it?"
"Don't tell Mandenauer. He gets weird when people talk about power."
I couldn't imagine why.
"What's next for you?" Cassandra asked.
"I don't know."
She tilted her head. "Love, marriage, mommyhood. I see it in the cards."
"You don't read cards."
She put her hand over mine. "Your future is with them."
"I haven't seen Adam or Luc since Henri went away."
Three days ago. I'd hung around the mansion waiting. Pathetic but true. I'd have to get a job soon, considering Frank hadn't paid me. Since his butt was in jail, courtesy of me, I didn't mink he was going to.
Before Mandenauer had left he'd told Detective Sullivan there'd been one rabid wolf in the swamp and he had killed it. Case closed. I had no reason to hang around.
"Adam loves you," Cassandra said.
"I'm not so sure."
"He put his son in your protection. There's no greater love than that."
"Henri found a gris-gris under Luc's pillow."
"Really? I guess that's the love charm you were so worried about." She narrowed her gaze. "You want me to give you one to counteract the magic?"
"He burned it."
She peered into my face. "And you still love them both, don't you?"
I'd realized sometime over the past few nights I'd slept alone that I'd fallen for Adam before I'd even met Luc. The gris-gris was irrelevant, even if it weren't dust.
"Maybe you need to say good-bye to your first love before you move on to the last one."
At my confused expression, she continued. "Simon. You've never really put him to rest"
"And how do you suggest I do that? Another gris-gris?"
She smiled and squeezed my hand. "Only you can say good-bye to him, Diana."
I wasn't sure how I'd say good-bye to a dead man, but I certainly couldn't do it long-distance.
I packed my things and went to Chicago, where I'd buried Simon four years ago. The place no longer felt like home. I'm not sure it ever had.
The cemetery was peaceful, deserted. No one would see me talking to a headstone.
"You were right, Simon. There's more in this world than anyone could imagine."
I sat on the grave and ran my hand over the grass. "I had to break my vow, and I'm sorry. I couldn't clear your name. I'd only hurt more people. I figured you'd understand."
Absently I pulled out the gris-gris that contained the fire iris petal. A little truth wouldn't be so bad. Where was Simon now? Had he truly come to me in the swamp? Was there any way of getting him back? Did I want to?
When I touched the sack, the tie fell off, and when I peered inside, I discovered the petal had disintegrated into dust The wind swirled the particles away.
I guess some truths are better left unknown.
"I still miss you," I said. "I probably always will, but I have to say good-bye."
The breeze, warm despite the autumn chill off Lake Michigan, stirred my hair. I wanted to smell Simon's aftershave, hear his voice, feel his love, know that he'd heard me. I closed my eyes and wished for him, but he was as gone as the wind.
When I opened my eyes, Adam was there. Talk about magic.
"You scared me to death, cher. I thought you'd left for good."
How had he found me?
"Cassandra," I said as I got to my feet.
He shrugged, then indicated Simon's grave with a tilt of his head. "You were saying good-bye."
"I can't live in the past anymore."
Hope lit my heart and probably my face, because he held up his hand. "There's something I have to tell you. Luc and Sadie did a love spell."
He started. "You do?"
"I was going to destroy it, but Luc can't find de gris-gris."
"Henri burned it. One of his insane little mind games."
"But… I still feel de same way."
"Crazy mad in love with you."
"Ditto," I said. "And your little boy, too."
Adam gave me a rare smile. "I never thought I'd love anyone but my son."
"I never thought I'd love again."
"I guess we were both wrong." He tugged on my hair. "What you think about fixing up de mansion?"
"I thought you hated the place."
"Kind of grew on me. Lots of good memories there now."
My face heated at some of them.
"I can't promise a certain future."
I lowered my gaze to Simon's headstone. "Who can?"
After several moments of silence, Adam said, "Mandenauer offered us jobs."
He nodded. "We'd be perfect."
"What would we have to do?"
"Same thing we've been doing."
I wiggled my brows. "He's going to pay us for that?"
Adam snorted. "He wants you to chase down rumors of paranormal beasts. He wants me to kill werewolves."
I frowned. "That sounds dangerous."
"I've been doing it for years, cher"
"What about Luc? We can't both traipse off, tra-la-la."
His lips curved. "You're thinkin' like a mother already."
I was. When had that happened?
"You sure you want a ready-made family?" he asked.
"I'm sure I want you and Luc."
"There'll be no more children."
"I'll be lucky if I can handle the one we have."
"You'll do fine," he said. "The boy was crazy about you from day one. That's why he did de love spell. Couldn't bear to lose you. I have to say I understand why, but he's still grounded."
I stifled a laugh at the notion of being grounded for performing a voodoo love spell. My life certainly had taken a turn for the strange.
"I figure if we take Mandenauer's offer we can take turns bein' away from home."
"Home," I murmured. "That sounds nice."
Adam reached into his pocket For an instant I thought he'd brought another belly chain. I still wore the one he'd given me. I planned never to take it off.
"Partners?" he asked, and held out his hand.
In his palm lay a circlet of interlinked silver fleurs-de-lis with a moonstone center. The ring was so beautiful, I ached to put it on. But not yet
"When you say partners…?'
"I'll understand if you don't want to marry me. Who knows when I might change under de crescent moon?"
"I'd still love you, even then."
He just shook his head.
"The only way I'll do this is if we're married," I insisted. "I adopt Luc. I'll protect him if you can't Once that's settled, we take the jobs, help save the world. Together, we'll face whatever comes."
He hesitated so long, I feared he'd take back the offer and the ring. At last he slipped the silver circlet onto my finger, sealing the deal without saying a word.
But there was one thing that still bugged me.
"Did you really believe everything that was between us was the result of magic?"
"I still believe that."
My startled gaze flicked to his. "What?"
Reaching out, he touched my cheek. "Don't it feel like magic to you, cher?"
I couldn't speak, could only nod, as he took my hand, then led me away from my past and into a bright new future.