Dark Moon (Chapter Five)
Especially when another gunshot sounded. The wolves howled again, their mournful serenade causing my skin to tingle.
I wanted to shout Nic's name. Instead, I tightened my fingers around his weapon and moved toward the trees.
I'd gone only a few steps when I heard someone coming. From the sound of the voice muttering a litany of curses, that someone was Nic.
"I take it you missed," I said in lieu of a greeting.
He glanced up, his expression curious. "I could have sworn I didn't. He fell – "
My ears perked at the pronoun. "He?"
"Hard to tell. He, or she, got up, then they were just gone." He snapped his fingers. "Your guess is as good as mine."
Mine was probably better. If Nic had shot someone, and they'd gotten up and disappeared at the speed of the wind, my bet was werewolf.
But if that was the case, why bother to run? Hell, why use a gun in the first place? I didn't want to stick around long enough to find out.
"Can't believe I didn't hit him," Nic murmured.
I considered returning Nic's gun, then decided something was better than nothing even if I had no silver bullets, and shoved the weapon into the pocket of my skirt.
"Not to me."
I didn't comment. Regardless of who had fired the shot, of who, or what, Nic had chased, he would be ill-equipped to catch them. He could be the best FBI agent in the business, but when faced with a traitorous J��ger-Sucher, a rogue agent, a werewolf, or something else, he'd be chasing shadows until they decided he was a nuisance. Then he'd just be dead.
What was I going to do with him?
"We need to get to a phone." Nic holstered his gun.
"There has to be one somewhere."
"Yeah. Sixty miles from here in the next town." I glanced at the thick trees, the steadily darkening sky, then I thought of the shadows, the silver, of Billy, and I shivered. "We should start walking."
Really, really fast.
"Walking?" Nic frowned as if he'd never done such a thing before.
"You have a better idea?" I spread my hands, indicating the parking lot where every car was on fire.
"Sooner or later someone will turn up. Won't they?"
"Sure. In two weeks, when we're due for supplies."
"No one else comes to this facility? No one will call and wonder why you aren't answering?"
Edward would. Then he'd hop the next flight west to discover what had happened. I didn't want him to.
Whoever had done this knew far too much about us. Hence the silver bullet. If they knew that, they knew Edward would show eventually, which might be just what they'd been after all along.
I needed to get in touch with my boss without being overheard. Failing that, I needed to get to him without being followed.
I slid a glance in Nic's direction. Either one was going to be tricky.
"I'm on my own," I said.
"There's not a single person in the vicinity? No groundskeeper? No friendly neighborhood hermits? What about those Montana militants we're always investigating?"
"Sorry. The isolation was a big selling point."
However, his comment did make me remember that we weren't completely without wheels.
"There's an outbuilding past the wolf enclosure." I gazed into the trees. "We keep an ATV there."
"How far can we go on that?"
"Farther and faster than we can make it on foot."
I wanted to put as much distance as I could between myself, the compound, any undead monsters, and that silver-bullet-shooting gun before dark. Even though I sensed the shooter was gone, I wasn't going to bet my life, or Nic's, on that feeling.
"You have any idea who might want to shoot you?" Nic asked, as he followed me through the woods.
"The list is endless."
I kept my voice dry. The better to seem sarcastic, even though I wasn't.
"Elise, this is serious."
"I got that when the building blew up."
How was I going to keep him from asking questions all the way to a telephone? How would I keep him, and me, alive until we got there? I didn't have a clue.
I'd reach town a lot easier on my own, but I couldn't leave Nic behind. He had no idea what we were facing.
Figuring the wolf enclosure, at least, should be free of a gun-wielding killer, I skirted the fence line. When one of my wolves slammed into the chain link, I let out a small shriek and slammed into Nic.
He tried to steady me, but I pulled away to move closer. The alpha male – Jose – stood on the other side of the barricade. He was frightened, and that wasn't like him.
"I need to set them free," I murmured.
"Are you nuts?"
Nic snagged my elbow, but I tugged myself loose and headed for the gate. "I can't leave them locked up with no one to take care of them."
"Wolves can take care of themselves."
Maybe. But they'd do better outside than in.
I punched in the code that would open the door. A minute later I watched as all six melted into the trees.
Heavy clouds obscured the three-quarter moon. Even though that should make it a lot harder to shoot me, the encroaching shadows made me nervous. The moon might be hidden, but it was still there, and so were the monsters.
Nic kept pace as I made my way double-time down the path. "Any idea who might have planted that bomb?" he asked.
The cardinal rule of Law Enforcement 101 must be to ask the same question a thousand different ways.
"No visitors but you."
I had a sudden flash. Nic had been outside for hours while I was in the basement. Had he been reading a book, or instructing an accomplice where to deliver a bomb?
Then again, why would he blow up J-S headquarters when he didn't even know what we were doing there? Unless he understood more than he was saying. Unless he was more than he appeared – like me.
I stopped and so did Nic. He tilted his head. "I swear I didn't torch the place."
"So swears every mad bomber."
His lips twitched, but when he spoke his voice held steady. "If I blew up the compound, then who shot at us?"
"Every damn day."
Nic moved closer, and his breath brushed my hair. "You never used to be so tense."
"I never used to be a lot of things."
His hand cupped my elbow, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. "Relax. I'm not going to hurt you."
His thumb slid across a long, black mark that shone starkly against the winter-white material of my favorite suit. Crap now, along with everything else I owned. With Nic touching me, even through the fabric, I couldn't work up the energy to care.
"When we finally have sex," he whispered, "it'll be on silk sheets, in a real bed, where I can show you what I've been fantasizing about for seven years."
The air smelled of heat, fire, of him. My body went tight and wet. If he touched me, I just might forget that we had places to go, monsters to avoid.
"We aren't going to have sex." I removed my arm from his grasp. " Ever."
"Right." He made a disgusted sound – but whether that was for me or himself, I had no idea – and turned his back. "You keep on believing that."
I wasn't sure what to say, what to do. One minute Nic seemed to hate me. The next, what I saw in his eyes was far from hate, though the expression wasn't love.
I'd seen love in his eyes before.
The only man I'd ever wanted was Nic. Now he was here, and I couldn't have him. If I did, I risked so much more than myself.
Without another word, I tromped down the trail. The scent of blood reached me long before I found the source.
A flayed rabbit lay in the middle of the path. My gaze wandered over the trees, but I saw no one, heard nothing.
Did they think the blood would make me foolish? If so, they had no idea whom they were dealing with, no clue what I had done so that something like this was little more than a prank – although I doubted the bunny had found it funny. Perhaps whoever was after us didn't know as much as they thought.
"What the hell?" Nic bent to study the blood and the fur.
"Never mind. Let's just get out of here."
He plucked something from the ground, then offered his hand, palm up, in my direction. I leaned closer and my breath caught.
A tiny wolf – a talisman, a totem, a charm. I'd seen one before, been studying it, too, trying to figure out how and why the thing was magic.
But the icon should have blown up along with the building. Even if it had been thrown this far into the woods, that particular talisman had been fashioned from black stone.
This one was white plastic, with sparkling blue eyes. The thing would have been tacky, if it wasn't so creepy. Even without the bloody kill nearby.
I blinked and looked into Nic's face. I must have been staring at the wolf for quite a while, because his expression was troubled. "Do you know what this is?"
"Like totem pole?"
"No. The Ojibwe clan system uses totems or dodi-ams. Tiny icons that hold spiritual power – the essence of a clan animal."
"You don't actually believe an icon can hold power? That an animal has an essence?"
"What I believe doesn't matter. They believe it."
And a lot more.
I considered Nic. "You don't put any store in power? Magic? The supernatural?"
His blue eyes met mine. "No."
It would be interesting to prove him wrong, but I didn't have the time.
"Do the Ojibwe live around here?" he asked.
I resisted the urge to sneer. Why would a stuffed-shirt FBI agent know which Indian tribes were common to the area, even though he should?
"In Montana there are Sioux, Crow, Blackfoot, to name a few. The Ojibwe live in Minnesota, Canada, and Wisconsin."
"Wisconsin?" His head went up. "Where Manden-auer is."
Since he wasn't asking a question, I didn't bother to answer.
"Strange," he murmured.
I had to agree. Discovering an Ojibwe icon in Montana, while Edward resided in the land from whence it came, was too much of a coincidence for comfort. However, I didn't know what it meant.
I took the talisman from Nic's palm, then glanced at the rabbit. More arrows than one were pointing me to the land of milk and cheese.
"Come on," I told Nic. "We're almost to the shed."
I pocketed the tiny white wolf and stepped over the dead brown bunny. As I did, I heard a muffled growl.
"Hungry?" Nic asked.
I glanced at the fur and blood. "No."
The muffled growl hadn't come from me but from the totem in my pocket.