Under witch moon moon sh.., p.19

Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series), page 19

 

Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series)
 


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  I shivered, worrying about Lynx. He shouldn't be messing with these people.

  Before checking out the other clinic in town, I called Mom. My nerves in the Tesuque canyon didn't seem so out of place when I heard what she had to say.

  "Two more," she gasped out as though she had been running from the werewolves herself. "It was a threesome." Dramatic pause.

  "Two women?" I guessed cautiously.

  "Can you believe it?" She gave a magnificent snort to show her disdain. "What are these girls thinking? Men are animal enough without this other garbage." She ranted and raved for several minutes about the dangers of men.

  When she stopped for air, I inserted, "Did the girls go together for protection?"

  Another snort. "Anyone willing to gutter with an animal, pah!"

  I took that to mean that mom's neighborhood had decided the girls had sunk to such a level that not only were they willing to date werewolves, they also might be interested in a threesome even without a werewolf. "Mom, where--"

  "It isn't safe for you to go out at night! You should be in bed where it is safe and warm. If you're worried, you come and stay here. Who are you dating that has you so worried?"

  "Dating? No one."

  "Oh, you can tell me." My mother giggled. "You know I can check with the neighbors, and if he is a wolf, I will find out." Though her voice was teasing, she wasn't joking. Her collection of neighbors could strip the mystery from a man faster than the FBI. They could find out stories about his ancestry that the guy didn't know himself.

  "Don't worry, Mom. I'll bring all my dates home for a check-up."

  "When? I can't wait that long. You come for dinner tomorrow night."

  "How about next week? Saturday or Sunday?"

  "Sunday," she said. "What do you want me to fix?"

  That was an easy one, and she already knew the answer. "Tamales. Fresh ones."

  She laughed. "I know! I have the eye."

  "Yeah, right." I never knew how much vision my mother really had. Guessing what I wanted for dinner wasn't magic. Tamales were my favorite dish, and I was far too lazy to fix them myself.

  My mom advised, "You bring a friend if you want. You need more friends."

  She was right about that. Even better would be friends I could find.

  I hung up and decided I wasn't done checking on Arturo. How did a vet fit in with the political schmoozing crowd? Vi might know, but telling her that the "charity" guy might also be pimping for werewolves was probably not a good idea.

  My sister was into schmoozing with rich crowds, but I hated to ask her for anything, including information. I had one or two rich old biddy customers who might help. Matilda had even more of that type of customer.

  Unfortunately, rich old ladies gossiped heavily and while that was good for getting information, it wasn't so great if word got around that a witch had come visiting with questions. My sister, on the other hand, wouldn't mention my visit to anyone. She might even take pains to hide it.

  I grinned. Perfect. I could irritate her and get information about the snob crowd all at the same time.

  I grabbed a couple of useful herbs as a peace offering. "Oh, you'll love these." It was all the rage to drink chamomile after a stressful day. She wouldn't accept an actual spell from me. Then again, she probably wouldn't use any herbs that came from me either.

  There was no point in calling Kasandra because she would make an excuse to either meet me elsewhere or not meet me at all. She guarded her mansion as though it were one of the million dollar homes rather than a quarter-million dollar home on the edge of a wealthier neighborhood.

  On the way there, I went south of town until I found the "clinic" where Arturo supposedly did his charity work. It was on a remote dirt road. I would have missed it except for the "Homes For Pets" sign.

  A note tacked to the inside of the glass door announced hours on Thursday from six to ten in the morning and then again from four to six in the evening. According to the small sign, Thursday was the only day to drop off stray animals or get a pet "fixed" for a small fee.

  There wasn't a soul in the dirt parking lot nor could I detect any animals. Surprisingly, the pager didn't go off, not even when I walked around to inspect the outdoor pens. The signal was completely absent. "So Zandy doesn't pick up dates here, at least not recently."

  Looking at the trash blowing against the fence, I could see where the place wouldn't impress too many females, especially rich spoiled ones.

  I wished again that I had something of Lynx's to see if he was hanging out around any of these places, but there was no use wasting time on the thought.

  I got back in my car and drove to my sister's place. It was the beginning of rush hour as people tried to get home for the evening. Thankfully, when I left her place, I'd be going against the traffic.

  It took me an extra fifteen minutes to get there, but only a scant moment for Kas to answer the bell. I sailed in with, "Darling, whatever have you been up to?"

  "What are you doing here?" She peered back outside, checking her circle drive.

  "Don't worry, I parked my little car behind the oak tree. It barely shows."

  Kas shut the door, eyes very like mine, staring at me critically. I had worn Levi shorts, the real ones with hems and everything. My t-shirt was dark purple and nicely decorated with silver lizards that matched my silver earrings. My outfit was nothing compared to the spiffy pink linen pants, pink blouse and heels she was wearing.

  "They'll think the cleaning lady is here," she muttered.

  I started out teasing and light, but it backfired because I got angry. "Sally drives a nicer car than mine, Kas. And she's a lot nicer than I am too."

  "She probably makes more money than you also. How is Mom?"

  I raised my eyebrows. "Fine. I talked to her today. Aren't you keeping up?" I handed her the herbs I brought. "Some soothing chamomile tea. There's also nice purple lavender salts for your bath."

  "I know the bath salts from the teas." She took the package and shifted it from one hand to the other without looking back up at me. We both stood there in the tiled entryway listening to the air conditioner come on. After the heat of outside, it felt good.

  I sighed. "I came to ask you about a guy I met the other night."

  Her eyes went wide.

  I waved my hand. "No, I don't mean your personal opinion. I meant you might know him because he is likely to be in your circle, rather than mine."

  "Oh." She licked her lips and shifted the herbs again. Hesitantly, she took a step forward and then stopped. "Should I make some of this tea?"

  I shrugged, pretty certain my excellent teas and bath salts were going to go to waste. "Do you have a soda? It's kind of hot for tea."

  She smiled, letting out a breath of air in a puff. "Yeah. Sure. Or ice water. We just had a new filter installed in the house."

  I followed her dutifully to the kitchen. She set the package down carefully on the spotless tiled island. No plastics in my sister's house; she took two crystal goblets from her maple-wood cabinets and filled them with crushed ice. "The filter does the whole house, including the showers and the fridge. The fridge had to have an extra thing inserted on the back, but I tell you it's a world of difference. Gary loves it!"

  I forced a smile and took the glass, sipping in the approved manner. "Mm. Good and cold."

  "So who is the guy?"

  "His name is Arthur Gonzales. Or Arturo. I think he goes by both. He's a veterinarian."

  "Arthur…Art…Gonzales…?" She blinked, frowned and finally asked, "Should I know him? Where did you meet him?"

  "He's a vet, and I think he sits on a charity board, Homes for Pets. He was at a function I attended for a client the other night. I'm trying to figure out where he fits into the society scene."

  "What function?"

  "An art party this past Saturday. Some political thing, schmoozing up in the mountains, over by the forest where all the roads are sixty-seven with letters."

  She se
t her glass down hard enough that water sloshed over the side. "Saturday?" she squeaked. "Up in the mountains? You wouldn't be talking about Bethalane Manard would you?"

  I thought about it. "Yes, I think that was the name on the invitation."

  "Oh Lord. An art party, is that what you called it?" She rolled her eyes and hid behind her glass, sipping her water frantically. Her nails tapped anxiously against the counter top.

  "You know her?"

  "She's not your client, is she?" Kas almost, but not quite, spit her water out as she asked.

  "No."

  "Oh." She set her goblet down, more carefully this time. She leaned against the counter, folding her arms across her chest. "She's only the artist of the century, Adriel. Not to mention the patron to several other artists around here. How did you get invited to one of her soirees?" She scanned my outfit in dismay.

  "Don't worry. I wore a dress."

  "I should hope so, even if you didn't get someone to do a one-of-a-kind for you. Bethalane is very avant-garde, you know. She did those sculptures in the airport, the ones of the Indian mothers called "Madonna with Child" only with wolves and cougars in the background."

  Not one to pay much attention to art, especially with it around me all the time, I started to say I hadn't heard of her, but the description rang a bell. "Didn't she sell postcards that were basically paintings of her work?"

  "And note cards, Christmas cards and photos. A couple of the sculptures were redone into miniature ceramic pueblo settings. I think the Madonna part was downplayed, and it was mostly an Indian village with the wolf next to the beautiful maiden. They are stunning."

  "Well, yeah, I guess that was the party."

  She stared at me, chewing her lip. "How in the world did you get invited? I'd have killed to go."

  "That's why I'm asking you about this guy. I'm hoping you already know some of these people, and maybe they know something about this Arthur Gonzales. I can't figure out what a veterinarian would be doing hanging around at a party like that."

  "Did you say he was into a charity?"

  I nodded. "Homes for Pets."

  "That could be it. Bethalane is into causes, although mostly it's art causes. If the guy has money, she might invite him anyway. Arthur…doesn't ring any bells. If you know his wife's name, I might know her."

  "No, only that he might go by Arturo sometimes."

  She stared at me blankly. "Well sure, but that only makes sense, right?"

  "Yeah." Lots of Hispanics gave their Anglo name when talking to an Anglo. "I don't know if he is married so I can't tell you about his wife. If she was there, I didn't notice."

  "Oh." She sipped her water again and looked out the kitchen window. "You know, Marcella might know him."

  "Who is Marcella?"

  "Marcella Castello. The lady I told you about with the cat."

  My forehead wrinkled. I thought hard, but I didn't remember a cat or a lady named Marcella. "Nope, never heard of her."

  "Remember I asked if you would adopt a kitten? She is constantly trying to find homes for kittens. She gets them spayed or neutered or whatever and then tries to find them homes."

  "Oh. After Christmas when you were trying to get Mom or me to adopt a pet?"

  She nodded. "Marcella wanted us to take one." She stuck her tongue out. "Can you imagine the mess? And I host Gary's friends from work all the time too. A cat of all things."

  "Doesn't she have dogs looking for homes too?" I teased.

  Kas sniffed. "She does, but I don't want one of those either. I cannot imagine."

  I couldn't either. Kas didn't have it in her to adopt a pet. "Can I call her? Ask her if this guy is a good vet or a good charity at any rate? Is she the type to have been invited to the party?"

  "Absolutely." She rubbed two fingers together. "I thought of her because I am pretty sure she was invited. I don't see her often, but she's into crafts and this and that, so she probably knows Bethalane. Personally, I mean." Her eyes goggled with the wonder of it.

  "Do you think I can call her?"

  "Lemme get her number." She clicked her little heels off to the study. I followed. "You might have to adopt a cat or a dog or some such," she warned.

  "Don't worry, I'll make up an excuse. I'll use your name."

  Kas looked pained, but in a pleased way. Then she bit her lip. "You, uh…"

  "No, I won't announce to her that I am a witch."

  Kas's face got red. "I wasn't going to say that."

  I took the phone number from her. "Thanks. Let me know if you hear anything about Gonzales, but don't go asking questions. I don't need any stray gossip."

  "Sure, sure." She followed me through the house to the front door. Something was different in the living room. I knew she would appreciate it if I noticed. Unfortunately, I couldn't decide if she had added a new Ethan Allen piece to her collection or maybe a new vase on top of the bookcase. I skipped trying to be gracious.

  My hand was on the doorknob to leave, when she stopped me. "Adriel?"

  "What?" I looked over my shoulder.

  "What was she like? Bethalane, I mean? Is she artsy? Or regal?"

  I opened my mouth, but no words came out. Without meaning to, I sucked in my lip like she had just done.

  She stared at me, and then her eyes closed. Air puffed out of her lungs, collapsing her shoulders in disappointment. "You didn't even meet her, did you?"

  Not only hadn't I met her, I hadn't even seen her. Well, I probably had, but I hadn't cared enough to know. "It was a very fancy place. She had a bunch of minstrels, very good ones. Her sound system was integrated through the whole house." I tried to think of other details that would interest my sister. Her eyes had opened hopefully, but I had reached the extent of my knowledge. "The party was very unique. The artwork was fabulous." And I couldn't name a single artist. In fact, I had destroyed the work of at least one artist, but I didn't mention that.

  Kas and I stared at each other across the entryway. It was like looking in a mirror, except we were in two different worlds.

  Chapter 30

  On the way home, I debated checking the nightclubs again for Zandy. It couldn't hurt. Well, it could, and it probably wasn't worth checking until after ten anyway. Even the thought made me yawn. I needed a nap before any nighttime activities.

  When I got home, there was a message from White Feather. It was terse. Mom hadn't exaggerated. "Both girls were sixteen," he ground out. "They took a pact of secrecy. Not a single other high school friend knew about the date. They were last seen getting into a car three blocks from the high school. Both were found dismembered in the car the next morning." He hung up.

  The next message was from him too. "Oh yeah. We found another body, but your werewolf friend must have changed tastes. It was a guy this time. Or maybe he got in the way by trying to stop a date. Ever think of the people trying to help here?"

  "Moonlight madness," I swore. I had a bad feeling that I had better find Zandy before White Feather did. Of course, even if I found him, I didn't know what to do with him. I wasn't sure I could talk Lynx out of his protection racket, never mind someone as involved as Zandy.

  The third call from White Feather was more polite. "Since I'm sure you're familiar with The Owl, perhaps we can meet there for dinner at six tonight instead of midnight at the church?"

  "Or not," I grumbled, looking at my watch. I doubted he would still be sitting there since it was now past seven o'clock.

  It was too late to call Marcella, too late to meet White Feather for dinner, and too early to go looking for Zandy. If White Feather could make it, I assumed we were still on for the church date.

  To bide my time, I settled for a relaxing bath with sprinkles of vanilla oil. Vanilla oil was like eating a batch of cookies without having to cook.

  By the time I got out, I was half asleep. "Just a little nap," I reminded myself as I fell into bed. "Small enough to give me energy."

  I should have set the alarm.

  The banging on
the door at half past midnight did the trick.

  Bouncing out of bed, I grabbed the garlic from the headboard. I reached under my extra pillow for the knife before I remembered I had moved the silver blade under the bed to keep from spearing myself accidentally.

  The knock came again. "Vampires don't knock." But it wasn't the code knock that Lynx used either. It sounded as though whoever was out there was hitting my door with a heavy stick.

  Maybe I shouldn't open the door. Vampires might take that as an invitation, right?

  I eased into the hallway, keeping low, not that I expected the vampire to come flying overhead, not with all the noise at the front door.

  Glancing to make sure the back door was still secure, I slipped through the living room to the front door. "Go away," I yelled during a pause.

  "Adriel or Merlin or whoever you are, I need some information."

  "White Feather?" I peered through a side window. He didn't have a stick. Apparently he had felt a need to get rid of some aggression by pounding on my door with his fist.

  "Who the hell else did you stand up for dinner that would bother to trace a phone number to this address?"

  "I got in late." I unlocked the bolt. "Besides," I said reasonably as I turned on the light and opened the door, "if a girl doesn't answer whether she is going to dinner or not, it's hardly a standup."

  "What about the church?"

  "That," I said with a glance at the clock, "I'm guilty of."

  I stepped back from the door to let him in. He started to speak. Then he blinked and stared. "You in the middle of spell or something?"

  I matched his gaze and looked down at my chest. Giant bulbs of garlic met my inspection. "Oh. No. I was asleep, and I thought you were the vampire."

  It took me a moment to realize that he didn't follow me in because I turned my back to unload the garlic, the knife, two blessed crucifixes, and a bunch of silver strands I had looped around one arm.

  "Vampire?" he parroted from the doorway.

  "Yeah, had the unfortunate experience of a visit the other night. Turns out he wanted my help finding someone looking for him." I turned around to find White Feather staring at my neck.

 
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