Jared's Wolf (Page 9)
Wyndham and his wife looked at each other. Jared was still trying to figure out why he hadn't loaded his gun and killed everyone. Except Moira. Probably except Moira—he still couldn't believe she'd gotten the drop on him so easily. He couldn't believe he was still thinking about the clothesline coiled neatly in the garage! 'Rope tricks', she'd said. Jesus.
The woman—Jeannie—had thrown him off-guard, that was why he was off his stride. She was about as adorable as Moira, and what a temper! She hung around werewolves all day—was married to one!—and hadn't been killed or mutilated or anything like that.
It was sure something to think about.
Then there was his pretty, purple-eyed Moira. She was hiding stuff from him, but he was seeing it less as duplicity and more as loyalty. There was nothing he admired more than loyalty . . . hell, loyalty to his family had brought him here. It was all pretty damned confusing. He hadn't counted on it becoming confusing. It had seemed pretty fucking black and white just a few days ago.
"Gerald probably did kill your sister—and I'm very sorry," Michael said.
"Really really sorry, Rococo," Jeannie added. "I don't know what I'd do if something horrible happened to Michael or Lara."
Sympathy from the dogs—well, the dog and his wife—he hadn't expected. He had to look away from the genuine kindness on their faces. Liking the dogs was not in the plan. No, sir.
"I only met the man twice . . . and the second time I killed him," Jeannie added candidly. Jared looked back in a hurry.
"Jeannie . . ."
"Michael, we've got to tell him." She took a big slug of her drink, and went on passionately, unaware of her milk mustache. "If I go to jail, I go to jail . . . but I don't think Jared's the type to rat out the killer of a killer."
"No, ma'am, I am not. Why don't you tell me what happened."
"Yes, why don't I? Okay. Gerald was this disgusting horrible werewolf—and no, that's not redundant, so don't say it. Although it's an opinion I had myself not too long ago," she added, giving her husband a formidable frown. "Anyway. This jerkoff was a wife beater, a puppy kicker, a daughter smacker. And he got the idea in his head that his wife was giving him too many girl babies . . . he really wanted a son.
Never mind biology and X chromosomes and that any idiot knows that sperm dictates the baby's sex . .
"Honey . . ."
"Right, right, I'm staying focused. I am. Anyway. He kills his wife—nice, huh? And my husband decided the guy's ass was grass, except Gerald's daughters—he had three—intervened on their dad's behalf.
Begged for his life. So Michael felt sorry for the girls and banished Gerald from the pack. So he went away and did whatever rogue werewolves do.
"Then, when I got pregnant and turned up here, Gerald snuck back to town and tried to kidnap me. He got onto the grounds during a full moon and hurt a lot of people, so I shot him. The end."
"And when was this?"
"Almost a year ago."
Jared shook his head. "That's not right. There have been six or seven murders since then. Same M.O.
I've been researching every murder that matched my sister's."
Moira turned to him, surprised. "A serial killer? I thought you were focused on your sister."
"I started out focused on one death. Then, when I started digging, I realized there was a lot more going on."
"All the murders happening during a full moon," Michael said.
"Yes. That's how I knew it was one of you . . ." Freaks? Monsters? Degenerate killers? ". . . people."
Michael let that pass. "And do the victims all look alike?"
Wyndham, Jared realized with growing excitement, knew something. "Yes. They're all between five foot two and five foot four. They've all got long dark hair parted on the left, and blue eyes. Very pale skin."
Jared watched Moira's eyes widen with understanding. "What is it, babe?"
"You've just described Gerald's late wife," she said, almost gasped. "That's exactly what she looked like!"
"But Gerald's dead," Jeannie protested. "Nobody's got any reason to kill women who look like his wife."
"Are you sure he's dead? I mean . . . he's a werewolf."
"Yeah, that's right." Jeannie replied, nodding. "A werewolf. Not a living god."
Michael coughed modestly. "Well . . ."
"Shut up, honey. Werewolves are perfectly mortal. I put multiple bullets in Gerald's head. He's deader than the dodo bird, trust me, Rocky."
"Well, his daughters aren't," Moira said quietly. "Maybe we should go have a talk with them. Don't they still live around here?" Then she froze. Everything within her locked for a long moment; shock had rendered her incapable of moving, even blinking.
"Moira . . . Moira!" Jared shook her arm lightly. "What is it? What's the matter?"
She gulped. Looked at Jared, then at Michael. "Geraldine," she said hoarsely. "Geraldine killed Jared's sister. Geraldine killed them all."
Uproar. But Jared said nothing. Just kept his gaze on Moira while she continued. "Remember, Michael?
She was here early this week. Passing through town, she said. She's a loner, a drifter . . . Geraldine—"
"Geraldine, named for her father," Michael said with deadly quiet. "Geraldine, the eldest. The son Gerald wanted more than he wanted anything. How long did he pour poison in her ears, I wonder? How long has she been killing her mother over and over again, to appease her father, himself a year in his grave? If we can track her movements . . . match them to the deaths . . ."
"Oh, she can't!" Jeannie protested. "You guys are wrong. And it's not me being humanly naive, it's not.
You're wrong, is all . . . it's not Geraldine. She was in this house. She played with my daughter, for God's sake. She's the sweetest thing, even nicer than Moira."
Moira, who knew herself to be far from nice, just shook her head numbly. And Michael, who'd seen Moira tear apart two armed men once upon a time, simply said, "Gerald did not kill those women.
Geraldine did. And you know it, Jeannie . . . just give it a minute."
"No," she said stubbornly, but a species of frightened doubt drifted across her face. "She didn't do this.
I've had her in my home, and she didn't do this thing."
"That may be true, ma'am," Jared said politely, but he was standing up, "but appearances can be deceiving. As everyone in this room probably knows. I'm going to go check it out. Bye."
"Not by yourself, you're not," Moira said, and was on her feet and after him in an instant.
"Indeed," Michael said. He was on his feet.
Jared spun. "No way. This isn't yours."
Michael and Jared were now chest to chest, and Moira saw with dismay that her leader's shoulders were up and he was leaning far forward, almost looming over Jared, although the men were close in height. The classic stance of a werewolf defending his territory. "You're wrong about that, Jared. In fact, the plain truth is, this isn't yours. "
"Tell that to my sister. Where were you when one of your damned out-of-control dogs was ripping my sister in two?"
Michael's eyes—a weird gold color—went even more yellow. His mouth thinned and turned down in a sorrowful bow. "Exactly. That's why this—this ungodly mess is mine. For your sister. For all the other sisters. I was asleep at the switch. Now I have to fix it."
"Um, hello?" Jeannie tapped Michael on the shoulder. "Any reason you both can't go? I mean, don't get me wrong, all this chest-beating and me-boss batcrap is enthralling, really, but don't we have a murderer to catch?"
Michael unhunched. Jared turned to look at Mrs. Wyndham, who stared back with raised eyebrows.
"She's right," he said after a long moment. Moira sighed with relief.
"She often is," Michael said fondly. "What a pity it appears to go straight to her head."
"What a pity you're going to bed with a fractured skull, pal." But Jeannie smiled as she said it, and the tension in the room ratcheted down several notches.
Who would go and who would stay turned out to be a moot point as Geraldine had a job. "Which I s'pose we should have thought of," Jeannie commented.
Interestingly, Geraldine was a cemetery caretaker. According to her supervisor, the job was seasonal and Geraldine attended to it when she was in town. "Sure I gave her the job," he replied to Michael's questions. "Felt sorry for her. Nasty business with her dad, eh?"
By necessity, Geraldine's hours were flexible. As she could be at work or at home, the two couples split up. Michael declined to let the rest of the family in on the problem, preferring instead to leave Lara in the pack's protection.
"If we can't handle this ourselves," he explained, "we deserve to get eaten. And if we do get eaten, I want to know Lara's safe."
"Yuck-o," was Jeannie's only comment.
Based on what the cemetery supervisor had said, the group felt sure Geraldine was most likely to be at work, so Michael and Jeannie took that address. On that issue, Michael would not budge.
"Arrogant asshole," Jared growled, jerking the car into reverse and squealing down the cemetery entrance—backward.
"Pushes people around all damn day."
"Wife seems nice, though. In a scary kind of way."
"She's beyond marvelous."
He grunted. "How come you didn't mention it?" He brought the car around. Tires squealed. Gravel flew.
Moira, nigh-invulnerable werewolf, tightened her seatbelt. "What?"