Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series), page 12
I feared Something Else enough that I stood myself up, muttered, "Help me Lord," and put one shaking leg over the ornate railing.
I wished I could use levitation. I did not want to damage the beautiful hand-crafted railing. Carefully, ever so slowly, I got my tip-toes on the inch or so of support on other side of the rail. I slid my hands down until they were at the bottom. My butt hanging in the air, I let one foot go and then the other, dangling with both hands wrapped tightly around a single square chunk of railing. The wooden floor wasn't so far away. Four feet, maybe five at most?
So long as I didn't land on my head, I'd live, right?
"Lodestone…" I couldn't help it. I muttered the ingredients for levitation, just for confidence.
I think Someone heard because I'd swear there were g-forces pushing me down. Like a lead statue, I fell.
"I'm going to die," I whimpered. Rolling off my bottom, which now hurt almost as much as my head, I crawled to the confessional. I slipped the letter out of my jeans and onto the chair where the priest would sit. Since confessionals were part of our routine, White Feather would at least look inside.
"I should have left it here in the first place. Maybe the Brother wouldn't have even seen it." I secured the letter under the stole that rested on the chair and hoped White Feather would find it. If not, it would disintegrate by morning--or if Something in the church interfered, maybe it would grow wings and start singing out my crime.
While I waited for dark, I called myself names. Originally I had intended to use a blending spell to sneak back outside, but I wasn't touching another spell on church grounds, at least not this church. The wooden pews did not make for comfortable bedding. I wasn't certain, but I think the bell tower had bats. That was better than mice in the walls or…whatever.
By ten o'clock I judged it dark enough outside that I could avoid being noticed. I was dizzy from what I thought was hunger and frustration. It wasn't until I got home and saw the matted blood on the top of my head that I realized I had left evidence of the worst kind. If anyone wanted revenge against me, my blood was all over the wig I hadn't even noticed had fallen off my head in the choir loft.
I hoped Someone would take offense at anyone collecting the wig for use in a spell. I hoped Someone would protect me until I could go back and retrieve it. Given what I had gone through, I had no idea how I was going to do so.
Lynx was a night creature. He rarely stopped by in the wee hours of dawn because it was the end of his day, not the beginning. When the coded knock worked its way into my sleeping brain, my head hurt so badly that I thought the knock must be part of a bad dream. When it repeated, I sat up and wondered if the vamp had figured out the coded knock.
I fumbled about, gathering what protection I could on such short notice. I was beyond bleary-eyed as I made it to the door.
Lynx was no more pleased than I to be on my doorstep at five a.m. "I have a message and a client," he growled.
"And I have a headache." If I tried to sit down, my butt would hurt too. I was pretty sure I owned a robe, but I hadn't been able to find it quickly. My sleep t-shirt was supposed to be for the gym. When Kas gave it to me she said, "You aren't ever going to need sexy clothing because witches don't get dates."
The thing was comfortable, and I loved it. The shorts I had thrown on weren't, but that was because a heavy silver dagger weighed down one pocket.
"This can't wait," Lynx said when I tried to shut the door. "It's Zandy. You might remember him from the thing with the Dolores chick. He says you owe him. He already knows who you are, did his own research."
I peered outside, trying without success to see anyone else in the gray light. "Zandy?" I repeated dumbly, starting to wake up and not liking it. Lynx did not normally bring customers to my doorstep. Part of Lynx's job was to set up meetings so that not just anyone found out where I lived.
"Look, the guy knows where you live, but he wanted me to put in a word for him."
Lynx wasn't smiling. I rubbed my eyes. I yanked on the tops of my shorts to keep them from sliding down under the weight of the dagger. "Now is not a good time."
"You got that right."
Angry. Lynx was angry. "Then why are you here?" I was awake now. Lynx angry and doing something against his will was not a good thing.
"I can set up the meet if you want, or he will show up here. Which do you want?"
"Wait a minute! I haven't even said I'd see the guy! Why should I?" True, I was quite curious. I might even get more information from this Zandy about the other three dead women. But Zandy was a killer--and I was a witness to that fact.
"I agreed to put in the word he wants to meet with you. He said you would help him."
"Help him? He wants to hire me?"
Lynx shrugged, his hands in his pockets. "I deliver the messages. You pay me. He only wanted me to put in a word for him. I did it."
Before he could leave, I grabbed him. "Did you get paid to deliver this little message? By him, I mean?"
Lynx gave me his flat eyes, refusing to answer the question. "You want I should take a message back?"
I let him go. "If he knows where I live…" My head throbbed. "It would be better to meet him at The Owl." I looked at the clock and groaned. I had just set a meet there for tonight with White Feather. It probably wasn't a good idea to lead a werewolf who was also guilty of murder to the same place. "Moonlight madness! Have him come here. Today, one o'clock. Tell him to mind his manners." I glanced at a wall calendar. It was nowhere near a full moon. His powers would be diminished, and he wouldn't be too edgy. I cursed again. I turned back to complain to Lynx, but he was already gone.
Maybe my sister was right. I needed a better job. Or at least better clientele.
Grumbling, I returned to my bedroom, but was unable to fall back to sleep. I needed to research werewolves to make sure I had enough protection to be able talk to this Zandy guy without getting killed. I needed to get my wig back because if the wrong person found it, I would be better off dead.
I rolled out of bed, whimpering. I showered. I slugged back medicinal tea. Zandy wouldn't show until after lunch. That gave me the morning to get my wig back.
I drove to the plaza and made my way to San Miguel. It didn't take me long to get inside and position myself on the same hard bench I had used the night before. The only problem was that my mission was impossible. Tourists came and went while I knelt and prayed for ideas.
Even dressed as a maintenance man I didn't think the Christian Brothers were going to let me drag a ladder inside the church. I couldn't use a spell for a disguise, and I certainly couldn't use levitation again.
The only good news was that no one paid any attention to the loft. It was inaccessible and therefore not interesting.
I rested my aching head on my arms. There was no way for me to get up there in broad daylight. The only person I knew who could get into the church at night was White Feather. I had come full circle. Had I met him last night as originally planned, I wouldn't be in this mess.
Feeling very sorry for myself, I drove home. Talking to my mother helped, but only marginally. I couldn't tell her about my problems, but I could catch up on the news. At least tonight when I saw White Feather, I wouldn't look stupid because I wasn't caught up on basic news.
Lunch did nothing to perk my spirits up. All I had in the house to eat was garlic. A deep search of the cupboards yielded some dried pasta and a can of tomato sauce. As spaghetti went, it was way below average, but I put in lots of garlic with the hope that it would at least give the werewolf pause if he tried to attack.
At a quarter ‘til one, I positioned myself behind the living room curtains. I listened for noise from the back door in case the werewolf tried any tricks.
At five after one, I moved a chair next to the window. By one thirty, I was almost asleep. Luckily the werewolf wasn't shy or quiet. He approached my front door as if he owned the place, hopping up the steps and knocking
Zandy looked a lot better than the first time I had seen him, but my first impression was correct. He was very young, somewhere between seventeen and twenty. His ratty blue jeans and tight shirt were stretched and torn as though he had shapeshifted with them on. He swaggered away from the door and leaned against one of the porch supports. His relaxed position didn't last long. He must have felt the silver I had pounded along the outside of the pole because he jerked away.
When I opened the door, he stared and blinked for a few seconds before announcing, "I need your help."
"You had my help," I replied. "The way I see it, we're even at best and maybe you owe me one."
He frowned. "I don't think we're even."
"Fine, then you owe me."
He shook his head vehemently. "No way, lady. You owe me!"
I stretched my lips across my teeth. It was as close as I could come to a smile. "Afraid not, tiger. Not only could I finger you for Dolores' murder, I also could have kept you at the scene of the crime until help arrived. You didn't have much fight in you as I recall."
"I didn't kill her on purpose! It was your fault! You sold her the shirt, and she hurt me with it!"
I shrugged. "Your life wasn't in immediate danger from the shirt, and no jury around is going to believe that your life was in such danger you had to kill her. I make products--like gun manufacturers make guns. Dolores purchased the product and misused it. That doesn't make it my fault she purchased it, nor does it make it my fault you killed her."
"She forced me to do it!" he snarled.
I remained calm, although I didn't like the depth of the growl. It sounded as though his vocal cords had changed to coyote. "She had a role in her own death. She played with fire and when it exploded, it cost her life. I don't deny that. But I merely sold a product. You killed her," I emphasized. "And I allowed you to leave." I crossed my arms. "I repeat. If anyone owes anyone, it is you owing me."
His throat worked. "I didn't kill them other bitches! You have to help me!"
"You may not have killed the other women, but I do not have to help you."
He eyed me for several moments, undecided. "Will you help me?"
"I have no reason to get involved."
"You're a witch," he said. "I could tell everyone."
I walked out onto the porch and took a seat in one of the metal chairs. It was laced with silver. The only other chair on my porch was not, but I didn't invite him to sit. I said, "Now that would be bound to hurt my feelings. You haven't a shred of proof and even if you did, do you really think anyone would care?"
That stumped him, but it didn't keep him quiet. "I could--"
When he didn't finish, I did it for him. "You could tell people that I made a shirt that burned your skin? Hmph. That would be rather incriminating for you, I would think."
He flung long tawny hair over his shoulder with a toss of his head. "No one knows I'm a," he stuttered to a halt again.
"I'm sure several people know. Dolores knew. I know. There's at least one policeman out there who knows. If Dolores knew, she could have easily told someone."
"She could have told them you're a witch too!"
I shrugged. "Perhaps. But it's how I make my living anyway. Being known as a witch isn't a huge deal. Most people assume I'm a con artist; others want to do business with me. Now your problem, that's a little different."
His eyes grew desperate. "Will you help me?"
"Why should I?"
"Because! Why shouldn't you?"
"How many of those women did you know? How many did you have sex with?"
He shook his head and worked his mouth opened and closed.
"Don't bother to deny it," I snapped. "You weren't in Dolores' room to have coffee. She wasn't likely the first full human you wanted to have sex with, and why should I believe you stopped there? Maybe you kill all your dates."
"I didn't kill them!"
"Why should I believe you? Maybe it got out of hand. Maybe after Dolores you decided you liked the killing part."
"I never had sex with her. And I never killed anyone!" He dropped his eyes because we both knew better.
"Zandy, you can call it what you want, but you killed her. Self-defense, anger, surprise, it doesn't matter. She's dead. If you killed those other women, you're in even worse trouble."
I waved my hand. "But you keep putting yourself in a position to get into trouble. This thing you are--this animal--it's not a sex toy to turn women on so that you can play around."
"You don't know nothin' about it. You don't know nothin' about me!" A man might have clenched his fists. Zandy flexed his hands, an animal reaction expecting claws as weapons.
I stayed relaxed on the outside, but was ready to move if I had to. "Look Zandy, I imagine it's a lot of fun. The girls flock to you as something new and dangerous. Not to mention forbidden. But it will get you killed. You have to worry about angry fathers, angry boyfriends, and the law. And you better wake up and start worrying about who is killing them if it isn't you."
He made a noise in the back of his throat. Again it sounded too much like the growl of an animal. "I don't care who it is as long as the cops don't think it's me."
"But what if the killer isn't a werewolf? What if it's someone who kills the women because they had sex with a werewolf?"
His brain might have turned the thought over, but it stalled pretty quickly.
"That would make you the enemy, Zandy. That would mean the women were being killed because the killer has a thing against werewolves. Maybe he'll come after you next."
Zandy nodded. "That's why I need help. I got people after me. The cops. They think I did all those women."
I rolled my eyes. "You need more than help. You need to stop dating these women and stop playing this game."
He eyed me through the messy strands of hair that blew across his face. After a minute, he said, "I'm not the only werewolf that does this stuff, and I ain't the one that killed those other women. No one is gonna make me take the fall for them."
"But you're still in the game, still splitting the profits with Arturo. As long as you do that, you're adding to the evidence against you. As soon as they tie you to Dolores, you're in for the rest of them."
"Well, let them pick someone else to blame. How about they pin this on your buddy Lynx? He's not so innocent. He thinks he has a big master plan, but if Arturo finds out he's horning in on his territory, he'll have more problems than I do." Zandy let out a hard breath of air. "I bet you'd help him. Or is it all shifters you have something against?"
I snorted. "Don't pull the prejudice card, Zandy. I'm a witch. I hire out my services, I don't give them to bleeding hearts who have gotten themselves into trouble. You want me to lie to the police? That isn't for sale. You want someone to find the real killer? That isn't a job for a witch. You're right when you say you need help, but it isn't my help you need."
"Where am I supposed to get help?"
I shrugged. "You're going to have to turn yourself in on the Dolores thing. There's no other way."
He shook his head. "Whoever did those other women, they can fry for Dolores too."
"Maybe," I agreed. "Or maybe you'll fry for all of them."
"That's why I came here. To settle this."
"What is it you want me to do?" I asked again. "I only know what I saw. I can't undo that. Neither can you."
"You could fix this," he insisted, waving his arms. "Get rid of the evidence against me. Make it disappear!"
He wasn't trying to solve the problem, he was trying to hand it to someone else. "No, Zandy, I can't. Magic can hide things, but it doesn't make them go away. It doesn't change what they were."
He slammed his hand against the wooden support pole hard enough to rattle my porch. I was positive I saw claws. "Zandy, you have to control yourself," I warned.
He stomped off the porch, jumping across two steps. "You wait, bitch," he called over his shoulder. "All I need is enough money
"You can't keep trying to earn money the way you are, Zandy."
"So I freelance. Maybe your buddy Lynx is right. Maybe that's the best way, just offer private protection services. No one to know where you've been, no one to be a witness." He flipped his middle finger at me, broke into a trot and was soon out of sight.
I might have re-iterated that the problem was not a witness, it was the crime, but since he hadn't heard me the first time, I didn't bother.
"How did my life go to hell so fast?" I wondered. "One protection spell, and suddenly I'm up to my ears with appointments and none of them are making me any money."
Zandy must have threatened Lynx. Otherwise, Lynx wouldn't have agreed to help Zandy meet with me. But what had he threatened Lynx with?
"Lynx, you are a pain in the rear."
With my meeting already set with White Feather, I didn't have time to go looking for Lynx. One good piece of news though. I might be able to find Zandy again.
On the wooden support pole of my porch, several strands of tawny hair floated in the wind. I collected them carefully.
In the figments of my dreams, White Feather was a Viking, a wise Shaman, and one time he was an Italian mafia ghost. In reality, he was taller than I imagined. He must have hunched while in his monk getup. Halfway across the back room in the Owl, when he glanced my way, his eyes were in the shadows.
I walked closer.
When he turned fully from the bar and focused on me, hints of ocean green with flecks of sky blue watched me approach. He set his drink down to greet me.
I checked the only other table with occupants and nodded at Angel, who was tending the bar, before accepting the outstretched hand White Feather offered. His hair was beautiful. Women would kill for the black waves he had combed casually back. His nose was too strong for him to be absolutely handsome, his lips too stern.
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