Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series), page 18
I used the remaining herbs in a lotion. It was a desperate attempt because it was very difficult to get enough magic into a lotion to effectively bounce a spell away.
While I was spelling, I got out Lynx's old protection packet. Taking something from the old one and weaving it into a new one would make the new one stronger. I put some of my best work into the new pack. He was a shifter, so I couldn't use silver, but I did mix in threads of yucca fiber, new cotton, and dried corn silk. Inside with the herbs, I nested a tiny blue turquoise carving.
I hesitated then, but given the current dangers, I couldn't afford to leave out protection against witches. It was hard for a witch to protect against her own. I couldn't use an arrowhead because it would interfere with my own magic in setting the protection spells, so I chose a round malachite pebble in the image of the sun to protect him from evil spells.
The gift might help when it came time for me to make my apology. If he let me, I would weave in a snippet of his hair to tie it all together.
Feeling more relaxed, I set it aside and looked at the clock. It was getting late in the day, but I couldn't put off visiting Vi. I gathered up an extra strand of beads and put the jar of lotion in the old ratty backpack I had found in the back of my closet. Harold couldn't wear the beads, not in public, but it wouldn't hurt Vi to wear them. The lotion wasn't likely to do much more than help with dry skin unless I made it a lot stronger.
I put it back on the table and drove over without bothering to call.
Vi answered right away when I knocked.
"He's home safe and sound?" I asked politely of Harold.
"He's home." Vi sounded breathless, like she had been running. She had on white shorts, a white silk tank and thin sandals. Her fingernails would have looked better if she hadn't bitten them to the quick.
"Did your husband mention he lost his checkbook?" As usual, I had to encourage her to let me in. I stepped into the cool tiled entrance, forcing her backwards.
As she backed into the living area, I went into a shortened explanation of what had been about to happen when I took Harold's checkbook.
"Oh my God. I wish you had called. I thought she had taken it! All he remembered was that he talked to her. When we couldn't find his checkbook, I canceled everything!"
"Good? But I didn't need to if you rescued it!"
"Did you hear what else I said? He had been about to write a check for ten big ones. You would have had to cancel everything anyway. You need to reopen all bank accounts in your name, and not allow Harold to carry anything but some cash."
"I can't do that!"
"Yes, you can. It may be damned inconvenient, and it may not stop her anyway, but there is no point in making it easy. If she goes for his money, at least he won't have checks or credit cards for her to tap. I think it was another attack on his self-esteem to prove she is boss, but she didn't get the money, so she is likely to try again."
Vi put both hands to her head and pulled hard on her hair. Strands came out in her fingers. I noticed for the first time that on the right side of her forehead she had a small bald spot.
"She wanted that money to get to me! Harold wouldn't have even remembered writing the check. I'd have made a fool of myself trying to track the money down thinking it was fraud, and all along he would have willingly signed it."
"You could be right. I'm almost certain that the check was to a charity." The plan was sheer genius really, cruel and well thought out. "You would have looked pretty petty trying to get it back."
"I hate her," Vi snarled. "I will kill that woman with my bare hands if I ever see her again."
I knew how she felt, but I was willing to bet that in any kind of fight Vi would lose. "Listen, Vi, you're out of your league here. She probably planned to do this in front of you to make it more personal. What could you have done?"
"I'd have ripped that check up in her face. I don't care if it was for charity!"
I sighed. "Maybe you would have. Maybe not. The point is, she could have done it, but she didn't. You must keep Harold from public functions. I don't care if it means his entire career, Vi. I won't do that kind of job again. She's too powerful, and doing the kind of thing I do in a public forum is beyond stupid."
"Who was the charity?" she demanded.
"HF…I think it was HFP Gonzales, something like that. Why?"
"I'm taking them off my list for good." She went over to a cabinet and extracted a phone book. She leafed through it. "H…F…Home for Pets?" She ripped the page out and handed it to me.
The ad looked legitimate, although it appeared to be a veterinarian service rather than a charity. "There's more than one office," I noted. "There are a couple of phone numbers concerning strays. I'm guessing that's the charity part. It could be the right place."
"What does Homes for Pets do for her? I guarantee you she didn't force Harold to write that check out of the goodness of her heart. She's using me to pay someone off!"
I had to agree that Sheila didn't seem to be the charitable type. "You could be right."
"As long as she needs money for her projects, Harold and I are in danger." Vi clenched her fists. "Find out who they are. Find out if there is something we can use to get money back from this charity if she steals it again. There has to be a way because she's going to keep coming back for more until we're both dead."
"Okay, okay," I agreed to calm her down. I pulled the extra set of glass beads out of my backpack. "In the meantime, maybe you should have a little bit of protection for yourself." I didn't like the idea of giving her something that was from the same batch as my own protection, but she deserved something. "These beads might block a quickly done spell and cause it to bounce."
Her eyes took in the beads, both the ones in my hair and in my hands. "I don't know which is stupider. Paying you for magic or letting her take the money by writing checks. It's all the same, isn't it?"
I shook my head. "You're a scientist. Not all scientists are the same. I'm quite sure that not all scientists even believe in witches."
"I am a researcher, not a scientist. This was something I didn't understand. All the signs pointed to something--hypnotism, mysticism--something that was not natural. I didn't have to believe in it to start studying it."
"The chemical reactions on the brain aren't magical," I said. "Coercion drugs or chemicals that stimulate passion are all just chemicals."
Her eyes flashed angrily. "But only witches seem to know how to target the brain like Harold is being targeted."
"Scientists too," I said. "Sheila is as much scientist as witch. She mixes potions and tests their effects. If you stop thinking of witches as all the same, it will be easier."
"Whatever. I studied it and needed help. I'm glad I didn't end up with a complete crackpot." She stomped towards the kitchen, her sandals slapping the tiles like a brittle warning of a woman about to crack.
I waited, not certain where she went or why. When she returned, she handed me cash. "Everything else has been canceled. I'm sure your kind are quite used to cash transactions."
She hadn't asked how much the beads cost. Although I had told her I would accept triple for the party, five thousand was still overboard. "The beads don't cost quite this much."
"It would have cost me ten had you not been there." Her voice hiccuped. "I know you're in this for the money. Maybe the next time you're around when Harold is in trouble, you'll rescue him instead of calling me to get him out of trouble. Consider it an advance for the next time." Tears streamed down her face. If she hadn't been so pathetic, I would have been insulted and angry.
"That isn't what happened, and you know it." I took my fee from the money she had handed me and left the rest on the chair. "Keep getting him help, and spend as much time in protected areas as you can. You need to find him another job and get him away from here."
She didn't answer. Turning away, she put her knuckles between her teeth to keep the sobs inside.
There was nothing I could do about that.
Sometimes being a witch was very, very hard.
I was running low on herbs, I needed to get my wig back, and it would be a good idea to pick up some easier work to pay the bills. To do job number two and most of number three, I had to find Lynx. From the unmoving cactus pots on my porch, it was apparent that he wasn't interested.
I had tracked Lynx in the canyon, but I wasn't sure that it could be repeated because the aura I had used was weak.
Heading to my bedroom, it didn't take long to find the tuning fork I had used to find him. The fork was still in the bottom of the plastic bag Lynx had made out of my rain poncho. The tie to Lynx wasn't strong because it was nothing but sweat and aura.
Even if the fork worked, using it again would probably be unethical. Lynx wasn't in danger--none that wasn't of his own choice.
I shook my head and left the tuning fork in the pile.
My best hope was to track Zandy. I didn't want to do that, but I might be able to get a message to Lynx through him. The only other alternative was to go back to Tino's groupie nightclubs. That wasn't going to happen.
I used the hair Zandy had left behind and linked it to a pager. It would vibrate if I happened near a "scent." The second hair went to a newly carved tuning fork. Once the pager alerted me, I could use the tuning fork to get me closer.
Heading to the plaza, I made the rounds. Sure enough, White Feather had left the signal for a meet.
I smiled. I wouldn't mind seeing him again. Taking his padlock, I replaced it with mine so that the meet would be at San Miguel where I already had an overdue date with a wig. The padlock also included my telephone number this time. We knew too much about one another to keep playing the subterfuge game.
Next stop was the ski slopes high above Santa Fe. I took the Winsor trail at the top and wandered through the forest in search of aspen bark and a few other items. The forest here was not entirely friendly to me; the earth vibes spoke of snow and ice even though it was far from winter. The winds scoured the landscape, a stronger power that often threatened rather than soothed. There were patches where I felt more comfortable, where the magic eased to a softer pace, but like all magic, it drifted and moved, flowing to and from various crannies.
The magic did call to me, and I yearned to able to hike to the meadows for sweet grasses, but there wasn't enough time today.
I drove back down the mountain, feeling better about my accomplishments than I had in days. Fresh mountain air had more magic than any herb packs I could make.
My next stop was out on Old Bishops Road towards Tesuque where I could gather most of the lower elevation herbs that I needed. The trail was south of Tesuque at the very edge of civilization. Houses with tall wooden fences backed to the first part of the trail, closing it in like a tunnel.
Interestingly, as I walked from the dirt road onto the trail, the pager gave a faint buzz. I pulled the tuning fork out of my backpack, but it barely quivered. The signal wasn't strong enough to tell which direction was freshest, but unless Zandy could jump the six-foot high, tightly lashed juniper fences on either side, he had to have gone along the trail recently.
I walked quickly. The fences and high brush not only trapped Zandy's aura, they trapped the smell of burro and horse droppings.
It wasn't hard to believe that Zandy had been out in the mountains; he had probably traveled as a coyote. It was careless of him to take coyote form so close to the city, but carelessness fit his profile.
I hiked past the property fences into the forest. Piñon and juniper studded the hillside. Along the river, there was a short wire fence put up by the forest service to protect the river environment. It may or may not have helped, but it did keep witches from collecting the pure spring water and moss until further up river.
I walked past the occasional dog droppings and the fencing. The faint traces of Zandy disappeared as the area opened up.
I hiked over a mile, taking my time, gathering moss, piñon seeds and juniper berries.
Finding the traces of Zandy made me wonder. Had he been out here because he lived nearby or for some other reason? There were packs of werewolves who hunted out in the mountains for good old running fun, but what if werewolves were out here for other reasons? The body Lynx had told me about wasn't near Tesuque, but who was to say there wasn't another one, newer or older?
Hiking alone wasn't new to me, but worrying about packs of werewolves was. The undergrowth was thick near the water. The hillsides were covered with trees. A nice big ponderosa could hide a threatening stranger, man or wolf. A felled piñon would make the perfect spot to conceal a dead body.
I sniffed lightly and then deeper, but there was nothing other than pine needles and normal decay. My imagination didn't force me to run back, but I did listen carefully. Mexican jays mocked me, dodging close and calling out warnings to their feathered friends.
It was impossible to watch for anyone while walking back through the fenced area. The stream noises covered even my own footsteps. The fences were tight, high and constant.
Against a wild animal, I would lose in any kind of race through the narrow trail. If I had to, I could levitate over the fence. Then, if I didn't kill myself by hitting one of the trees, I could hope there was nothing dangerous waiting on the other side.
Halfway back, the pager buzzed again. I checked the tuning fork, but it was mostly an excuse to look behind me again.
There was no one. The fork vibrated slightly, like the pager. Even those faint traces stopped as soon as the trail widened to the dirt road.
Breathing heavily, I got back in my car. I drove up to the main part of Tesuque, stopping once in a while to try the tuning fork. It was doubtful I was going to find Zandy this way. He had either not come this way recently or he had been in a car, leaving no aura.
I took Tesuque Village Road back to highway eighty-four to head home. I was almost to the turnoff when I spotted a billboard for "Homes for Pets--Adoptions, Services, Care."
"Aha!" Mr. Eyebrow's likeness was right on the front, although someone had trimmed the caterpillars and dyed them black to match his hair for the ad. The sign had "HFP" in the bottom corner. I hadn't planned on doing that particular bit of reconnaissance today, but since I spotted the sign, I followed the directions to a parking lot a quarter of a mile ahead.
May as well make sure the charity was a charity. I'm not sure what else Vi thought I might find. Sheila could still get money any time she wanted as long as Harold had access to any.
The clinic was a typical adobe building with a small penned area in the back. There were no outdoor cages that I could see. The place looked a lot better cared for than, say, a county humane society.
The minute I got out, the pager went off.
Even more interesting, when I reached back inside the car for my backpack, the witching fork nearly jumped out. "Zandy? Here?"
Zandy sure as hell wasn't the charitable type. He must live in the area. This place wasn't very far from the trail where I'd picked up his scent, but a vet's office? "What kind of pet does a werewolf keep?"
I drifted through the lot to the door. Gold letters stared back at me from the glass pane. I stopped with my hand on the door, frozen.
The big embossed letters answered a lot of questions in a hurry. "Arturo Gonzales, DVM," glinted off the window.
I stared at the name. I hadn't made the connection at the party because I had no reason to associate the Spanish and English, although many Hispanics switched their name from English to Spanish depending on who they were talking to. I hadn't thought of Arturo-the-werewolf-pimp in the party setting even when I saw Dr. Arthur Gonzales on the check. If it hadn't been for Zandy's aura when I got out of the car, I might have believed the name was a coi
With a hard swallow, I backed away without going in.
As I got in my car, my heart beat faster than the witching fork had twitched.
It seemed to take forever to get home and find my phone book. Then, at first, I couldn't find any connection to Homes for Pets and Dr. Gonzales because the doctor's name wasn't listed in any of the "Home for Pets" ads. I finally found it under veterinarians, just as it had been on the door.
"Arturo Gonzales DVM" didn't have a separate ad in the book. He had to be the famous Arturo, the one setting up dates for werewolves. Why else would Zandy's scent have been near there? And what in the world was a vet doing hiring out werewolves? Had he treated a werewolf at one time or another and branched out into the "dating" business? Or was he a werewolf himself?
With his eyebrows, I could believe it, but lots of facial hair wasn't exactly proof. Even if he was a werewolf, why was Sheila getting Harold to give Arturo money?
I checked the internet. The good doctor Gonzales was associated with the HFP charity in several articles. There were four charity locations listed; one on either side of Santa Fe, one in Albuquerque and one in White Rock. Hmm. Another possible tie to Sheila. Were they neighbors?
More searching found a likely address for Dr. Gonzales on Brownell Highland, off Bishop's Lodge. The north Santa Fe location made sense if he worked out of Tesuque frequently. There were multi-million dollar homes on the west side so he could keep his eyes on his rich neighbors in case they were interested in dating werewolves. Not that he could market the service in the open. Maybe he identified rich teenagers, and then had Zandy or some other werewolf approach them.
That still didn't answer the question of who was killing the women. If Arturo was interested in keeping his dating service open, why didn't he keep the berserk werewolf out of the business?
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