Make Me Howl, page 12
“Is the gun in the truck?” Bella asked.
“Yes, but I’d better get extra darts.”
While Doc headed back to the clinic, Bella caught my arm. “Jazzy, that’s not a full moon.”
I lifted my gaze to the sky and my heart dropped to the ground. The moon was barely lopsided, as if someone had shaved a bit off one side.
“It’s a waxing moon.” Fear filled her face as she gripped my arm harder. “Oh, Jazzy. You know what that means.”
I knew. It meant we had a werewolf on our hands who’d been filled with uncontrolled anger before he’d been bitten, giving the Lycan contagion deeper control. He’d be affected all three days of the full moon. The night of waxing, the night of the full moon and the night of waning.
And unless he was caught, we’d have three nights of terror.
I had to force myself to breathe. I gripped Bella’s hand until we heard Doc coming, then we climbed into the truck. I sat by the door and rolled the window down a little. By the time he’d stowed the sedative and buckled his seatbelt, I had some control of the fear rocketing through me.
“You said it was a buffalo calf that was killed?” he asked as he started the engine and shifted into gear.
“Yes. I’m not sure I can get back there in a truck, though. I didn’t exactly stay on the roads.”
“Just do the best you can. I imagine the animals will help us.”
The scent of blood would frighten some of them, while many of the others would lust for a taste.
With a shrug, I nodded. What else could I do? As we started down the road, another vehicle pulled in behind us.
We drove in silence, except when I had to tell him which direction to go. It took longer than it had getting there on foot, but finally we reached the correct enclosure. I could tell by the sharp odor of blood. Entrails, lying exposed to the wind, scented the air as well.
“Veer to the right up ahead.” My voice seemed abnormally loud after the silence in the truck. I wondered what Bella was thinking. And Doc? Was he worried that one of “his” animals had done this? And would have to be put down? Or was he afraid that a wild wolf had happened into the park again?
Maybe the one that had treed Norman Briderson on Halloween?
We found the spot and stopped the truck just short of the gore. The vehicle following us pulled around to another side to add their lights to ours. With the brightness, it was almost like day. The blood had coagulated into a dark, thick syrup. The animal’s body parts, including its insides, were strewn as if a bomb had been placed inside. Its head, still intact, lay to one side, eyes staring at nothing.
Doc pulled out a camera and took several pictures while Bella jotted notes on a clipboard she removed from behind the seat. The men who’d come in the other truck waited, as I did, with nothing to do. From the look on their faces, this wasn’t the first time they’d seen this kind of problem.
Boredom settled in until my brain turned to cement. Why was this taking so long? I considered yanking Bella’s clipboard from her hands and writing, One animal shredded another. There was blood. Guts. One less buffalo. The end.
But knowing Bella, she’d start again at the very beginning, and write even more slowly, just to irritate me.
Bella walked over to Doc, murmured something I couldn’t hear then strolled around the circumference of the area and knelt next to the head. Doc followed, got on one knee next to her, and shot several pictures.
What could they be looking at? The buffalo’s head couldn’t look more normal if it had died of a heart attack—or maybe tedium—and been stuffed and hung on the wall. Even the place where the neck separated from the body was smooth. It wasn’t a jagged tear, but almost a razor cut. Or a very sharp claw.
Bella placed the clipboard behind the seat then patted Jazzy’s leg to wake her. How could she have fallen asleep practically in the middle of the devastation? It had been all Bella could do to keep from sobbing when she saw what had happened to the baby buffalo. The poor calf’s mother had to be wondering what had happened to her baby. Why her udder ached from being overfull.
Jazzy awoke slowly, her hair curling around her shoulders when she sat up and all but snuggled against Doc as he slid into the seat beside her.
“Sorry that took so long. I’ll bet you’re exhausted after cleaning those cages and your run.” He shot Bella a glance that sent a thread of guilt through her. “You won’t have to do that job again.”
“I am pretty tired.” Jazzy put that raspy just-made-love tone into her voice that men found so enticing.
Chase lowered his chin and gazed into her eyes as if they were the only two in the truck. “We’ll find something else for you to do next time.”
“I’m really interested in your research. That’s why I volunteered in the first place.”
Bella stifled a gasp at her sister’s audacious lie. The only thing Jazzy was interested in was destroying his research.
Chase started the truck and turned it toward the compound. “I could use some good help in the lab. Next time you’re here, I’ll put you to work.”
Jazzy tossed Bella a look of triumph, which Bella pointedly ignored by turning her face to the window for the remainder of their ride.
When they finally reached the parking area, they climbed out of the truck. Chase nodded his thanks to Bella then put his hand on Jazzy’s arm, sliding it to her hand. “Thank you for what you did today. Finding that buffalo as soon as you did potentially saved us a lot of trouble.”
“She’s a real asset around here, isn’t she, Doc?” Norman Briderson said, coming out of the darkness.
Chase frowned, anger kindling in his gaze. “Why are you still here, Norman? I thought you never worked overtime.”
“Well, once in a while, I don’t have a choice but to stay late. And this was one of those nights.” Norman laughed then gave Bella a look that filled her with nausea. “Did you all have some excitement that kept you late?”
“Not excitement. A dead buffalo calf, killed by a wolf.”
Norman lifted a brow. “Maybe it’s the same one I located the night of the Halloween party.”
Bella almost laughed at Norman’s take on being treed by a wolf.
Chase didn’t answer for a moment. “From the damage done to the calf, I doubt it. This wolf was heavier and meaner than the one that had you hiding on top of your car.”
“Hey, I wasn’t hiding. I was—” Norman took a long breath. Giving himself time to think of an excuse for being on the automobile’s roof. “—getting out of its way. I didn’t want to hurt it.”
“Right.” Reaching into the truck, Chase picked up the camera and gun then turned to Bella. “Why don’t you let me take care of your notes so you can get your sister home? She’s had a long day.”
“All right. If you’re sure you don’t need me—”
“I’m just going to put these things away and head home myself. I’ll see you tomorrow. Late.”
Bella nodded then with a glance at Jazzy, headed for their car. It had been a long night, but had the likelihood of getting much longer. They had a lot to talk about.
Without even discussing it, Bella knew Jazzy would want her to drive. She had too much on her mind to pay attention to traffic. They were silent until they reached the highway. Deciding to dive in, Bella took a deep breath. “So…any idea who the neophyte is?”
Jazzy shook her head. “It would be nice if they were considerate enough to wear a pentagram on their palm, like in that stupid old movie, but unfortunately, it’s not that easy.”
“Sometimes the phyter doesn’t even know he is one, does he?” she asked, using the term their grandmother had coined years ago.
“No.” Jazzy sat quiet for so long, Bella wondered if she would continue. “And it would have to be here in the zoo for Doc to see.”
Bella didn’t follow the logic. “What difference does that make?”
“He already hates werewolves enough to dedicate his life to wiping
“Oh, Jazzy, I don’t think—”
“People don’t know the difference between a werewolf who was born with the gene and one who became one as the result of an attack. All they know is that a killer wolf is a killer wolf, and there’s no place for them in this world.”
“You don’t know Chase is like that.” Bella kept her gaze on the road, but reached out to touch Jazzy’s arm. Then it hit her. “You really care about him, don’t you?”
“No. I don’t care about him.” Jazzy shifted, crossed her legs then uncrossed them. “He’s… What I mean is, I’m not ever… Oh!” She grumbled the last words then turned to stare out the window, obviously finished with the conversation.
“You’re a Montague and he’s a Capulet?”
Jazzy shot Bella an amused look. “It’s more like he’s ice. And I’m fire. There’s no place where we can coexist. I’d either melt him or he’d put me out. Permanently.”
Bella understood her frustration. It was kind of like having a family that meant everything to you, and caring for a man who had a special disregard for one of them.
She struggled to push Spencer from her mind, but the harder she tried, the more she thought about him. Hazel eyes and a sardonic sense of humor had drawn her to him in the first place. Just the memory of him had her gripping the steering wheel hard enough to leave fingerprints. But it was his I’m-all-business demeanor that gave her lucid dreams at night, because she knew it was only a shell he wore to hide the man he truly was. A man who could set her ablaze with only a glance and burst into flame himself.
But his opinion of her sister had ruined any relationship they might have had. Because her family—her sister—meant everything to her. There was no way she could live without Jazzy in her life. And no way she’d ask her to spend time with a man who said the things he had about her.
Besides, she hadn’t seen him except once or twice by accident, since the ski resort. And those times had been awkward, at best. That he’d wanted her had been obvious to even the most casual eye. Even Norman had looked at Spencer, who was looking at her, and advised them to, Get a room.
Because of his magnetism, it had been impossible to tear herself away. But she’d had to do it. Succumbing would mean losing Jazzy. And she could never do that.
But not a day went by that she didn’t think of him. Wonder where he was and who he was doing, because a man like him wouldn’t go very long without another woman moving into his life.
After a ride that had taken forever, they finally reached the apartment complex. By the time she’d parked the car, she was so exhausted, she had to drag herself to their door. But there was more to do.
Inside, she secured the deadbolt, set the alarm and followed Jazzy to her bedroom.
“What now?” Jazzy asked, exhaustion evident in every line of her body.
“We’ve got to decide what to do about the…”
“The newly created monster?” Self-derision filled her voice. “He’ll have to be destroyed.”
“But first, he’ll have to be found.” Bella sat in the black wingback chair that complemented the comforter on Jazzy’s bed. “I don’t suppose you’ll be able to—”
“Not unless he fails to shower. Then I might smell the blood on him, but so could you. And so could…”
Bella waited, but Jazzy didn’t finish the sentence. Doc.
She finally continued. “But even the newest and most ignorant Lycan can still smell when he comes to himself. He might not know how he got that way, but he’ll know he has to clean up to go into public.”
“And after he’s showered, there’s nothing you can do?”
“Not until he turns again.” Jazzy sighed. “Looks like I’ll have to be at the park tomorrow night at moonrise.”
“Won’t that be dangerous for you? Chase said this wolf was bigger, heavier than you when you treed Norman. He might turn on you and—”
“We’ll have to hope that my experience will outweigh his anger.” She sniffed then gave Bella a lopsided smile. “Or that he’ll get hit by a car and save us all a lot of trouble.”
Bella shook her head at Jazzy’s macabre sense of humor. Even after being with her every day of their lives, she’d never be able to understand her entire life. And she was as close to a werewolf as one could be without going animal herself.
Early the next day, I canceled my appointments. No way I could spend hours with four rich women, helping them choose holiday wardrobes, then be sharp enough that night to track a phyter. I needed to be prepared.
How do you prepare for a wolf hunt? the tiny voice in the back of my mind demanded.
“I don’t know.” Yanking off my clothes, I threw them on the floor. Then I walked over them on my way to the shower. I needed to be well rested, but the nervous energy in me was going to make it hard to sleep. I needed a hot shower and something warm to drink.
After that, I’d do whatever was necessary.
When I was out of the shower, I dried my hair and dug in my drawer until I found my most comfortable pajamas—which were my only pajamas since I normally slept nude. Wrapping myself in a soft robe made of t-shirt material, I padded to the kitchen for a cup of instant cocoa.
But Bella awaited me with a steaming pot of the real thing. “I thought you might like some of this.”
“What’s up, sis?” I asked, slipping into one of the kitchen chairs while she poured a mug of chocolate love, topped it with whipped cream and set it in front of me. “Afraid that neophyte’s going to take a hunk out of me tomorrow night?”
“Of course not,” she answered. After pouring herself a cup, she sat in the chair across from me and held the mug between her hands as if trying to warm them. “I just wish this weren’t happening. And that you didn’t have to…”
She couldn’t finish the sentence, but I knew what she meant. She wished I didn’t have to hunt down one of my own kind.
“Now you see how important Chase’s research is.”
Her words hit me like a slap in the face. “This isn’t a werewolf born because of a gene, Bella. It’s an aberration. A monstrous creation that should never have happened.”
“But where did he come from?” Her tone was gentle, but her meaning wasn’t.
“Probably the result of another creature just like him.”
“There had to be a starting point. A true Lycan who lost control and attacked a man in anger. And left him alive.”
I wanted to rage at her, but what she said was true. Somewhere out there was a true werewolf who’d done this thing to the world. Grudgingly, I nodded.
She lifted her eyebrows. “And if there’s one who would do that, there could be more.”
I glared at her for a long time, but she didn’t take back the comment. Didn’t leave the table, as I knew she wanted to do. She just waited for me to answer.
I finally nodded. But only once.
“And if Chase gets rid of that gene, then it can’t happen again—once the last generation of werewolves are gone.”
I hated it when my sister made sense. She sipped her cocoa.
“That’s wiping out an entire people because one or two of them might cause a problem. They tried that with the American Indians, remember?”
In her surprise at my comparison, she set her mug down with a thump. Hot chocolate splashed on the table.
“They even tried to kill off the buffalo in order to wipe out the Indians’ food supply. And they gave them blankets infected with small pox. All because they wanted the Indians’ lands, and the Indians fought back.”
“But these werewolves aren’t fighting back. They just kill anything they can.”
“Dammit! It’s wrong to wipe out any
Bella went to the sink for a sponge to clean up her spill, then carried her cup back and dumped the contents. “I’m not sure what to think, Jazzy. But I am sure about one thing. We have to take care of this specific problem tomorrow night, and he’ll be even stronger than he was tonight. If we don’t stop him then, by the next night, he might be unstoppable.” She came around the table to give me a hug.
“On that, big sister, we agree.” I finished my drink, then went to my room and crawled into bed, immediately dropping into a deep sleep. But my slumber didn’t last long. Dark dreams that made no sense kept waking me. After a very long night, I dreamed of a pack of salivating dogs, hunting down an injured wolf. I was the wolf.
I was trapped in a box canyon with no place to go. The dogs individually kept snapping, trying to get at me. Then three rushed at once, knocking me onto my back. And just as one went for my throat, I awoke.
It was daylight, and I was exhausted. I got up and went to the bathroom, and just as I wandered back, a tap came on my bedroom door.
“Jazzy? Are you up?” The door opened and Bella leaned in. “I thought I heard you moving around. I fixed breakfast, if you want some.”
I didn’t try to hide the grin tugging at my mouth. Bella rarely apologized verbally, but breakfast was a great way to show it. “Sounds good. What are we having?”
“Waffles and ham.”
I pretended to consider for a moment. “All right. I’ll be right there.”
I found my robe where it had fallen on the floor and put it on. Then I tossed my comforter up over the pillows and headed for the kitchen.
I tried to keep my mind off the coming evening by paying bills, reading or watching television, but I couldn’t concentrate. Heaviness weighed my belly. Dread? I wasn’t sure.
Bella called the zoo and told them she’d be in, but she’d be later than she’d expected.
I had my computer on my lap, filtering through emails, when the doorbell rang that afternoon. My heart jumped as Doc flashed to my mind, but as if she could read my thoughts, Bella shook her head. “That’s for me.” She put down the book she’d been reading, grabbed her wallet and went to the door.