Dark Moon (Chapter Thirty-Three)
I remembered another time, another place, another message. Had the voice been Lydia's? I didn't think so. How many voices were there?
I glanced at Edward, but he was oblivious to any whispers on the wind. Which was probably the entire idea.
I opened my mouth to call out to him and the trees murmured: I'll tell you the truth about your mother.
My teeth closed with an audible snap. I knew the truth about my mother. Didn't I?
"What about Lydia?" I blurted.
"Sir?" I blinked. "She's a – "
"We shoot monsters, don't we?"
"You do not think she is a monster?"
I wasn't sure.
"Shouldn't we find out what she's done and how to undo it?" I asked. "If she's dead that could be tough."
"Do what I tell you, Elise. Or must I use that silver bullet I keep solely for you?"
Nic made an involuntary movement of denial, which Edward ignored. I kept my gaze on my boss.
My eyes narrowed; so did his. I was half-tempted to shift and chase him around the yard; too bad it was daytime. Too bad he'd kill me without so much as a bat of his nearly invisible blond eyelashes.
See? said the breeze through the leaves. He doesn't want you to know.
I glanced away. I might be an alpha wolf, but in the human world, Edward was king. Besides, with him hanging around, I'd never find out if what I'd been told about my mother was the truth. If Lydia could be trusted to tell the truth.
Probably not. Nevertheless, I found myself sympathizing with Eve in her garden. Ail that knowledge just waiting in a tree – all she had to do was listen to Satan.
The wind fluttered the ends of my hair, the silence so loud it pulsed with unanswered questions. When I looked back, both Edward and Nic were gone, so I chose a weapon, shut the trunk of the Cadillac, and headed in the direction of the voice – conveniently in the opposite direction of the others.
I had my orders. Despite my unease about killing Lydia, I'd killed people before. Just not with a gun.
Besides, who knew? Maybe eliminating Lydia would also eliminate the witchie wolves she'd raised and the coming Armageddon.
Two birds, one stone. I'd always loved that.
I followed the wind. Every time I hesitated the breeze murmured, drawing me farther and farther away from the cabin and closer and closer to –
Coming around a crop of low spruce bushes, I slid to a stop at the edge of the ravine. The scent of wolves washed over me, so strong I could distinguish it even in human form.
I paced back and forth until I found an opening big enough for a woman instead of a wolf, then inched through the brambles. Peeking over the rim as I'd done once before, I discovered nearly a dozen ghost wolves lolling on a grassy knoll.
The witchie wolves were werewolves, down to the human eyes. No longer shadows, they weren't solid either, since I could see the grass right through their hides.
"I've been waiting."
I spun toward Lydia's voice, half-expecting to find nothing but the rustle of a nonexistent breeze through the trees. But she stood a few feet away in a flowing skirt and peasant blouse of muted colors – violets beneath a spring rain, the sky just before a storm.
All of her bangles – wrists, ankles, feet – were in place. How had she snuck up on me? She must be able to appear as easily as she disappeared.
She held a gun in one hand, which looked suspiciously like the one I'd chosen from Edward's car.
Glancing at my holster, I saw she'd disarmed me as easily as she'd snuck up on me. Edward would have a stroke.
Lydia tossed my weapon into trees, then lowered two fingers into the valley between her breasts and withdrew the icon, strung on a leather strip around her neck. "Remember this?"
"You hand over the power; I'll tell you all about your mother. What do you say?"
I wasn't going to agree, especially since I had no idea how I could hand over anything. But if she was inclined to chat, I was inclined to ask questions.
"You made the talisman," I murmured. "Why?"
"To steal your magic." She rolled the icon around in her ringers. "But you're stronger than I imagined."
"How could that thing steal my power when lycan-thropy's caused by a virus?"
Her smile was secretive, smug, and I stifled the urge to beat every tidbit of information out of her. All in good time.
"Cora told me I could capture the essence of a werewolf, contain it in the icon and transfer the gift to myself."
"I never heard of such a thing."
If I had, I'd have bottled up my magic and given it away long ago.
"You've been barking up the wrong tree, pardon the pun, for a while now. Concentrating all your efforts on science: tonics, balms, cures. But there's more than one answer to every question."
"Is lycanthropy caused by a virus or isn't it?"
"Both. Mengele manufactured a virus through magic."
Which was interesting, but didn't really help me much with the cure.
"If you wanted to become a werewolf," I murmured, "all you had to do was ask one of your pals."
"As if I wanted to be insane, ruled by the moon and my rumbling, blood-seeking belly." Lydia grimaced.
"I want the power without the demon. That's what the old one promised."
"And then you killed her?"
"Well, I didn't need her anymore," she said matter-of-factly.
I had news for Lydia. She was already a stark raving lunatic, even without the demon.
"How was the talisman supposed to capture my power?"
"I don't know how, only that it would. Cora did some mumbo jumbo, told me to purify the talisman with the blood of a sacrifice, and when you changed the first time after touching the icon, your abilities would leave you and fill it." She scowled at the plastic wolf. "The bitch double-crossed me. Instead of stealing the magic, she made you stronger."
Bless the old woman I'd never met, had she given me the ability to defeat her own murderer? I had to think so, if I could only figure out how.
"So now I've got to kill you," Lydia continued.
"Whoa! What? Why?"
"Cora said sacrifice. I didn't realize she meant you. I should have."
Well, she was delusional. Who knows, maybe she was even right.
However, since I'd come to Fairhaven, I kind of liked my power. Even if I didn't, I certainly wasn't going to give it to her.
"If you didn't want me dead in Montana, then who blew up the compound? Who tried to shoot me with silver?"
Maybe if we kept talking, I'd stumble over something I could use.
"The idiot werewolves." She shook her head in disgust. "Sometimes I swear only morons are bitten. They really do need a leader."
She glanced at the forest as if searching for someone, then gave an impatient huff before turning back tome.
"I sold the information about your true nature before I figured out how I could use it to my advantage.
Some ambitious werewolf decided to make everyone happy by eliminating you."
"What the hell did I do?"
"Who knows when you might stumble onto a cure, and then their fun is over." She waved her hand. "But I discovered their plot, and I saved you."
"Saved me," I repeated stupidly.
"I knew you'd come outside to check on your wolves, so I upset them."
My eyes narrowed. I opened my mouth, then shut it again, deciding I didn't want to know what she'd done.
"You came out; the bomb went off – "
"Then someone took a shot at me."
"He'd have gotten you, too, but I bumped him." She winked. "He never saw me coming."
"Okay." This was all making a sick sort of sense. "Then – "
"The idiot got spooked by your FBI friend and took off. I heard you say you were going to the shed, so I killed the rabbit, planted the icon – "
"And the rest is history."
"Except the damn thing didn't work." She stared into the hokey jeweled eyes. "Yet."
Lydia pocketed the totem. "Once I figured out Cora had double-crossed me, I headed for Fairhaven so I could regroup before you got here."
"How did you know I'd come?"
"The compound's dust; someone's trying to kill you; traitor in the ranks; strange and bizarre occurrences in Fairhaven."
I started to see where Lydia was headed.
This had been a setup from the beginning.