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Night Creature: Crescent Moon Chapter 22

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I awoke to sunshine and an empty bed, but I was.

I’d suspected Adam of being a vampire, a foolish thought in the bright light of day. However, in the bright light of day, he was also gone again.

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Perhaps the crucifix test was as worthless as the zombie-revealing powder. Although maybe the zombie-revealing powder worked just fine – on an actual zombie.

A thought tickled the edge of my mind. Adam had told me I should wear a silver fleur-de-lis chain. Two birds, one stone.

For a guy who was skeptical about vampires, werewolves, and zombies he had an awful lot of paranormal advice to give.

I threw on some clothes, didn’t bother with coffee, going directly to the books Cassandra had lent me. Maybe I’d been barking up the wrong tree after all. Pardon the horrible pun.

I flipped through one, found nothing. A second yielded the same result as the third. But the fourth –

“Bingo,” I whispered as the book fell open to an entire chapter on werewolves.

Why is everything always in the last place we look?

Werewolves and vampires are alike in that they are both created by the bite of one similarly afflicted. A vampire can take the form of a wolf, and a werewolf can take the form of a human. However, silver will not harm a vampire and a crucifix will not harm a werewolf.

“One stone,” I muttered, and kept reading.

If a werewolf is touched by silver, fire results.

I paused, remembering Cassandra’s knife and the smoke that had risen from Arianna Beasly’s arm. Had that knife been silver? I wouldn’t be surprised.

If shot with a silver bullet, a werewolf will burst into flames.

“I guess we had our vampires and our werewolves all mixed up.”

But someone didn’t.

Both the person who’d saved us last night and the dead man in the swamp who’d come to New Orleans carrying an automatic rifle and silver bullets.

Had Detective Sullivan ever discovered the identity of his strangled swamp victim? If Sullivan had, the information might lead me to the second silver bullet-shooting believer. I really wanted to talk to that person.

I pulled out my cell phone and saw several messages from Frank. I’d almost forgotten I was working for the man.

Detective Sullivan wasn’t at his desk, so I left a message, then dialed my boss.

“Diana?” He must have caller ED. “Did you capture it?”

“Uh, not yet.”

His sigh was both annoyed and disappointed. “I expected better of you.”

Now I was annoyed. Tin doing the best that I can.”

“Do better. I need that loup-garou.”

There was that word again.

“Why do you need it?”

“That’s what I’m paying you for. I hate to waste money.”

“What are you going to do with a werewolf if you get one?”

“Werewolf?” Both surprise and delight lightened his voice. “You told me there was no such thing. What have you seen to change your mind?”

I hesitated. There was something in the swamp – but was it the same something walking the streets of New Orleans?

“Diana? Tell me.”

Frank’s tension, his urgency, communicated itself over the miles. Not for the first time did I wonder if he were playing with a full deck. But since he was, as he’d so rudely pointed out, paying me, I told him what I knew.

“Disappearances, deaths, walking dead, silver bullets,” he mused. “How can you doubt what you’ve seen?”

“I haven’t seen a wolf.”

I didn’t tell him about my dream of the beast with Adam’s eyes or about Simon. My dreams were none of Frank’s business.

“You will,” he murmured. “Then make sure you capture the loup-garou alive.”

“I hadn’t planned on killing him. Her. It. A dead cryptid won’t help my reputation or Simon’s.”

“Of course.” Frank cleared his throat “Is there anything else you need?”

I’d planned to ask for a motion sensor camera, but considering the invisible nature of werewolves on film, such a request would no longer do me any good.

That werewolves couldn’t be photographed was an interesting factoid and could explain why there wasn’t much evidence on them. Cryptozoologists are often sent to investigate a photo, which leads to the real thing. But without that picture, no investigation.

My heart danced with excitement that I might be the first scientist to prove the existence of a werewolf.

“A cage,” I said. “And a tranquilizer gun. I’ll need the dosage of the darts based on the size of a large male timber wolf. About a hundred and twenty pounds.”

“That’s Alaskan size.”

Frank knew a lot about wolves. In the lower U.S. eighty pounds was considered big. But considering the tracks I’d seen, the feeling I had, what I was after was one damn big wolf.

“Just do it, Frank.”

“All right.”

“Also several portable tree stands. The kind deer hunters use. Black. Metal.”

I’d never gone deer hunting myself and neither had Simon, but we’d studied the best techniques. There aren’t too many animals on earth more easily spooked than a deer. Those who stalked them knew what they were doing, and they always had the best gadgets.

“Should I send everything to the Ruelle Mansion again?” Frank asked.

“That would be great.”

A momentary silence came over the line; then Frank blurted, “Have you seen him?”

I’d done a lot more than see Adam, but that wasn’t Frank’s business, either.

“Why?”

‘I did some asking around. You’d do best to stay out of his way if you can. He’s a dangerous man.”

“Dangerous how?”

“He was trained to kill in the army.”

‘Isn’t that what the army does?”

“Not like this. He’s some uberwarrior. I couldn’t even buy information on what it was that he did.”

Oh, no, the government wouldn’t sell info on their top-secret soldiers; what was the world coming to?

“I’ll be fine,” I said.

“Stay away from him.”

I doubted that I could. It might be just sex, but it was great sex, and I wasn’t giving that up.

As Frank said good-bye, I considered the unknown man who bad died in the swamp – the one who’d been strangled with someone’s bare hands. Then I thought of Adam’s hands, and I wondered: Would he strangle me one night?

I shook off the question. What possible reason could Adam Ruelle have for killing me? What reason could he have for killing anyone?

The mystery man had possessed an illegal rifle with silver bullets. He’d obviously been hunting a werewolf. So why had he been killed by a man? A loup-garou had so many better weapons at its disposal than fingers.

I opened one of Cassandra’s books and then another. A few minutes later I found what I was looking for

A werewolf can only remain a wolf under the light of the moon. Once the sun breaks the horizon, a lycanthrope becomes human. The beast has no choice.

The information in the book gave me a scenario. Wolf becomes man under the morning sun, and he has nothing with which to defend himself except –

“Hands.”

Such thoughts made me uneasy. Because if it followed that the stranger had been murdered by someone capable of doing the deed with his bare hands, and the only someone around here of that nature was Adam, didn’t it follow that Adam might be a werewolf?

“Well, you thought he was a vampire, what the hell?”

I had a headache.

I decided to go to town, beg a shower, some coffee – or tea, ack – and any food that Cassandra had. Considering my previous ineptitude at making friends, I should feel uncomfortable inviting myself over. But I knew Cassandra would welcome me gladly, as I’d welcome her. Chasing zombies, being confronted by werewolves, and nearly dying in a cemetery made fast friends. Which was probably why I had so few.

I reached New Orleans in record time and practically ran into the voodoo shop. Lazarus slithered down the center aisle and stuck his tongue out at me.

“Hey!” I shouted. “You wanna corral the reptile?”

The snake hissed.

“Well, you are.”

“Insults will only get you in trouble.” Cassandra scooped up Lazarus and popped him back in the cage.

I’d expected her to have a spectacular black eye after Mrs. Beasly’s attack, but I could only discern a faint tinge of blue beneath an impressive makeup job. I suppose having a shiner would not be good for business.

“Why is being called a reptile an insult?” I asked.

“He thinks he’s a loa.”

“I know I’m not going to want to hear the answer, but what’s a loa?”

She turned from the cage with a soft smile. “You know that vodoun is a religion.”

“Vodoun?”

“That’s what practitioners prefer to call voodoo.”

“Oops.” I lifted one shoulder. “Sorry.”

“No biggie. The word means spirit or deity in the language of what’s now Nigeria. The gods of vodoun are called loas.”

I glanced uneasily at Lazarus. “He thinks he’s a god?”

“As much as he can think.”

Which I happened to believe wasn’t much, but he was her snake.

“What brings you here so bright and early?” Cassandra asked.

“Desperation.”

Her eyes went shrewd. “We’re dealing with vampires?”

I opened my mouth, shut it again. So much had happened since I’d left here the last time.

“I meant I was desperate for a shower.”

“Oh, sure. Help yourself.” She held up a hand as I moved toward the back of the shop. “First, tell me what you found.”

Since the reward was hot water and soap, I did.

“You think we were dealing with werewolves, not zombies or vampires?” she asked.

“Was that knife silver?”

“Of course.”

I tilted my head. Of course? “Aren’t those a little rare?”

“Not in my world,” she said. “I’ve learned it never hurts to pack the very best.”

Considering what happened at the cemetery, I had to agree.

“You think Ruelle’s one of them?” she asked.

“I can’t decide.”

“What do you know about his background?”

“I never told you what I learned from Mrs. Beasly?”

“Before she rose from the dead, then exploded?”

I gave Cassandra a long look.

“Stupid question. Go on.”

“The Ruelle women haven’t birthed a girl in over a hundred years.”

“OK. Big whoop.”

“Adam’s dad and his grandfather killed themselves.”

“That’s a bigger whoop.” She frowned. “I don’t like it”

“I doubt they liked it much, either.”

“The Ruelles could be the cursed family of legend. They’ve been in New Orleans for centuries. I bet they had slaves at one time.”

“If they’re werewolves, how can they kill themselves?”

“Yeah, how can they?”

“I mean, aren’t they immortal?”

“Immortal doesn’t mean what it used to.” I gave her another look, and she explained. “Vampires can be killed by sunlight, stake through the heart. Werewolves by silver. That’s not immortal. Not really.”

“I see your point.”

“How did the Ruelles die?”

“Blew their brains out”

“With silver?”

“They didn’t get that specific in the newspaper accounts.”

‘I suppose not. We might be able to get our hands on the autopsy reports.” She went silent for several seconds. “Mrs. Beasly told you this stuff and the next thing we know she’s climbing out of the family crypt drooling and snarling.”

“Pretty much.”

“I think we should talk to the Favreau family.”

“I think you’re right.”