Hunter's Moon (Chapter 11)
I handed the paper back to Will. "So what does this mean to us?"
"The legend is about a human-eating human that turns into a beast. We've got a werewolf-eating werewolf that turns into a human. Coincidence?"
"I don't think so," Jessie and I said at the same time.
Will glanced back and forth between us. "Me, neither."
"But what does it mean?" I repeated.
"I'll have to do more research." He grabbed a notepad, reached behind his ear for a pencil, then frowned when he encountered nothing but hair. Jessie scooped up one from the floor and handed it to him without comment.
They'd be cute, if I were into that sort of thing.
Will started thinking out loud and scribbling. "Last time they needed a werewolf army, formed between the two moons of a blue moon month."
I knew my lunar trivia. I couldn't be a werewolf hunter and not know it. Two full moons in one month caused a blue moon on the second course – both rare and magical according to many.
"The night of the blue moon," he continued. "Matchi-auwishuk totem, wolf clan, blood of the one who loves you."
"Charming," I said.
"Not so much," Jessie countered. "It was my blood they were after."
"And the wolf clan?"
Jessie jerked a thumb at Will. He didn't notice. He was still scribbling.
"One of these days you'll have to tell me all about that," I said.
"One of these days," she agreed in a voice that said very clearly, When hell freezes over. I couldn't say that I blamed her. I'd never told anyone, not even Edward, the entire truth about my own original werewolf encounter.
"This time we've got a werewolf-eating werewolf and…" Will frowned and stared into space. "What month is it, Jess?"
What month is it? Man, he'd drive me crazy. Pretty only goes so far.
"Early October," she answered.
"And the moon?"
"Full in eight days."
"So whatever is going on started around the harvest moon, and if they play according to their usual plan it'll finish up at the hunter's moon."
"The blood moon," I murmured.
He blinked, frowned, focused on my face. "Yes."
"I really hate the sound of that," Jessie said.
My family had died on the night of the blood moon, the hunter's moon. I ought to be making a pilgrimage to their graves, bringing flowers, remembering them. Instead I had a bad feeling I'd be miles away, fighting werewolves. What else was new?
Will still stared at me. I stared blandly back. I wasn't going to tell him why I knew about the blood moon, didn't plan on ever telling anyone why the full moon in October was the worst kind, at least for me.
"Wait," I said as a thought occurred to me. "Wolves were being killed here, but no one said anything about them being eaten."
"That's true," Jessie murmured. "But that doesn't mean they weren't."
She went to the table and shuffled through the mess, pulling out a file folder. The room went silent as she read through the report. She shook her head. "There were chunks out of some of the bodies, but nothing like we saw the other night."
"How do we know the wolves were killed by other wolves?"
"Mandenauer checked the bite radius."
Trust Edward to think of everything.
"According to the legend, a Weendigo grows with every meal," Will continued. "The larger he gets, the more flesh needed to satisfy his hunger."
"So we're looking for a giant?" I asked.
"I doubt that. The growth is most likely theoretical; the hunger is real."
"The Weendigo began with a snack, but now he needs a buffet?"
"Basically, yes." Will turned his attention back to his notes. "I have to see if there are any ceremonies that take place beneath the hunter's moon."
"Ojibwe ceremonies?" Jessie asked, then crossed the room to lay a hand on his shoulder.
Will reached up and twined their fingers together. They were always touching each other – both casually and much more than that. Their outright affection made me yearn for something I'd long ago forgotten.
What I felt for Damien was very different. I wanted him for no other reason than that he was hot and I was horny. Affection, love, forever were not words I could ever use again.
"Any kind of ceremony," Will answered. "Though I'll start with the Ojibwe, since that was where we struck pay dirt last time. And the whole Weendigo thing points in that direction, as does their location –
here, in the heart of Ojibwe country."
He turned toward the computer.
"What should I do?" I asked.
"Quit blasting them for one thing," Jessie snapped.
"Why do you think? I doubt our friend the Weendigo could have killed nine werewolves on his own. You helped him do… whatever it is he's doing."
Damn, she was right again. But I wasn't sure I could stop killing them, even if I should.
"I'll burn them immediately. My mistake."
Jessie gave an aggrieved sigh, as if she were dealing with a stubborn, wayward child. "Don't come whining to me if they take over the world."
"Don't worry. I won't."
Will ignored our squabbling and answered my question. "You two should be checking out any new people in town."
"How new?" I asked, thinking of Damien.
"Last few months."
"Couldn't this Weendigo have been here for years?"
Cadotte thought about that. "Could have been, I guess. I was thinking the werewolf came here for this reason, but maybe he or she is just here. The time is what's important, not the location."
"There's a blood moon every year," I pointed out.
Will flicked a glance first at me, then at Jessie. "Find out if anything similar has ever happened anywhere else at this time."
She nodded and dialed her cell phone. "Mandenauer?"
I leaned forward, trying to hear his voice. Foolish, but I missed him.
Once I'd refused to let Edward get close to me, fearing superstitiously for his life. But years had passed, he'd faced dangers I didn't even know about, and he was still kicking. So I'd allowed myself to care.
Jessie explained what Will had discovered. "Are there any other recorded instances of werewolf cannibals?" She listened. "OK, thanks."
"Well?" I asked.
"None. Werewolves have been killed, though rarely, but never eaten. Mandenauer's concerned. Strange behavior is always a bad thing."
"I'll question a few elders," Will said. "See what they know about Weendigos. Maybe I'll get an idea of where to start looking for… something."
"We'll check around," Jessie said.
"We?" I asked.
"Yes, we. Talk to customers in the bar. Make nice. Be friendly." She frowned. "Maybe I should do that."
Will laughed. "Right, Jess. You're not a people person."
Another thing we had in common.
"I can be a regular Miss Manners if I have to be," she protested.
Will and I snorted at the same time.
Jessie scowled. "Never mind. Find out who's new, who's not. Ask if there's been anything strange going on."
"Haven't you checked the missing persons reports?" I asked.
"There aren't any."
I gaped. "But… that's impossible."
She shrugged. "Town's full of transients. No one's going to report them missing."
True. But still…
"I'll drive you back to the bar," Jessie said. "You can ask around there. I'll take the shops in town."
"How come I have to take the bar? I barely drink."
"Even better. Alcohol kills brain cells, and you don't have a lot left to lose."
My eyes narrowed. "Oh, yeah, you're going to win them over with your sparkling wit and genial nature. I can see that already."
She almost laughed but caught herself. "Let's get this over with."
A half an hour later I stood outside the bar as the tail-lights of Jessie's squad car disappeared down Good Road. There were a few vehicles in the lot, but not many.
I checked my watch. Nearing four o'clock. Not exactly a hopping time in any tavern. I decided to go upstairs, take the shower I'd missed that morning, check my E-mail, do some paperwork.
My best bet for hearing anything interesting would be when the bar patrons were inebriated. Besides, I wanted to work a crowded room, not a table full of customers. The more people I could talk to at one time, the better.
I stepped inside, and I knew someone had been there. Damien? Or another?
Nothing was out of place. Not really – though I could have sworn I'd left my computer on the kitchen table at an angle and not anally lined up with the corner. However, since I was anal, I might have done that and not even noticed. Nevertheless, I pulled my gun and checked the apartment thoroughly, but whoever had been inside without me was gone.
I stared at my laptop. Even if someone had opened it, turned the thing on, played around, he wouldn't have found anything. I knew how to protect my files. I'd know that even before I'd taken J-S computer training.
Regardless, I powered up the machine, did a quick run-through of my data. Everything was there, and I could find no evidence that someone had been tiptoeing through classified information.
I left the computer on. I had work to do. But right now I was starving. When was the last time I'd eaten?
The coffee sloshed around in my stomach like acid. I opened the tiny refrigerator more out of habit than hope. I'd looked in there this morning, and it had been as empty as my social calendar.
So how had it gotten full?
I blinked at the food – fruits, vegetables, milk, lunch meat, juice. I straightened and opened the cabinet above the sink.
"Praise God, coffee," I murmured.
As well as cereal, bread, and cookies. Someone had been in here. The grocery fairy.
"I love the grocery fairy." I ripped open the bag of cookies.
Damien had brought me food. Who else knew I was here? Who else cared?
The nature of my life had never bothered me. I had no home; I existed alone. No one would miss me if I didn't come back from the woods one night. Well, maybe Edward would, but he'd lost agents before.
He'd get over it.
I'd lived through devastating loss. I didn't want anyone to feel the same heartbreak because of me. I wasn't going to quit doing what I was doing, so I was better off alone.
But after meeting Jessie and Will, watching them together, I missed Jimmy terribly. I'd loved him with all my foolish young heart. I still wasn't over him. Probably never would be. The life we'd planned to share was one I still dreamed of. When I wasn't having nightmares.
Beyond the lost dream, I'd enjoyed being with him, kissing him, touching him. I missed that closeness.
A sudden memory of Damien cupping my elbow on the porch returned, as did the tug of awareness. I hadn't had sex since Jimmy died. Obviously a bad choice considering my oversexed reactions of late, but the very thought of intimacy had nauseated me.
Until Damien Fitzgerald.
I stuffed my mouth with cookies, trying to satisfy one need with another. Didn't work, but at least I wasn't hungry anymore. For food.
To satisfy the nagging voice in my head, I ate an apple, drank a glass of milk. Though I could care less most days if I lived or died, to do my job I had to stay healthy. My body was a killing machine, and I kept it in the best condition I could manage. In addition to jogging, I did sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups at every opportunity. Needed to work on that upper body strength.
Around 9:00 p.m., after a round of calisthenics, followed by the filing of some long-overdue paperwork, I checked my E-mail. Everything was work related.
I took a shower and changed my clothes, opting for tight jeans and a low-cut hot pink tank. I even gelled my hair and put on lipstick. If I wanted information, I might have to practice a few feminine wiles. If I remembered any.
Too bad I owned only boots and sneakers. Guys liked high heels, which was why I'd thrown all mine out the day after I was released from the psych ward.
I'd thought I was celebrating my liberation. I'd only been hiding from the truth. The doctors might have certified me sane, but I was still broken down deep where I'd never let anyone see.
"Not bad," I told the reflection in the mirror.
The hot pink Lycra tank top could probably use a necklace to spruce it up, but I'd thrown all my jewelry into the trash with my shoes.
I stuffed some money, some matches, into my pocket. I no longer owned a purse, either. My jeans were too tight to hide a gun. Damn.
I changed from sneakers to boots and concealed my knife. I wasn't going anywhere without a weapon ever again.
"Show time!" I said.
Funny, I sounded as thrilled about it as I looked.
I stepped onto the porch. They were playing jazz again. I had no idea if the tune was old or new, not a clue as to the artist's name or the title of the song. I wondered if there was anything but jazz in that jukebox.
Last night I'd felt the music out of place, but now the bluesy wail of the brass fit perfectly with the coolness of the night, the shade of the moon, the aura of expectation that hung over the forest.
Eight days, Will had said. I shivered beneath the muted silver glow.
I didn't think it was going to be enough.