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Authors: Tamara Thorne

MOON FALL (31 page)

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"Here's to Gus." Frank Cutter said, raising his straight shot
of Wild Turkey.

''To Gus," said John and Caspar Parker in unison.

They drank; then Caspar poured another round and raised
his glass again. ''To Pete, a hell of a little guy."

"To Pete."

They drank again; then Caspar poured more liquor into their
glasses. John hoped there would be no more toasts: he just
didn't have the stomach for it. And it felt strange to be sitting
in Winesap's without Gus.
Be honest; it's depressing as hell.

''Anyone else corning?" he asked.

"I asked Winky Addams and Beano Franklin, but it doesn't
look like they're going to show," Cutter said.

"Joe didn't want to leave Helen home alone," Caspar said.
They were Pete's parents. "Johnny, I wanted to talk to you
about Pete a little bit."

"I'm sorry, Caspar, but I don't have anything new yet."

"No, no, son, I know that. And you've had more on your
mind. Trying to find a human killer takes precedence over an
animal attack." Caspar downed his third shot and poured himself
another. ''I want to tell you something about Pete's death."
He cleared his throat, then looked John in the eye. "He's not
the first."

John sat up in surprise. "He's not?"

"No. Way back in 1898, my uncle was killed by one of
those murdering bastards. My dad saw it, but he told everybody
it was a bear. We had a lot of griz around here back then."

"Why'd he say it was a bear, Caspar?" John asked.

"Simple. He knew everybody'd think he was nuts if he told
em what he really saw. He only told me on his deathbed, and
I never told anyone else until now. Not even Gus." He downed
another shot. "I didn't want to be thought of as a space cadet,
either, and I wouldn't have spoken up if Mark and Corey hadn't
seen it, since I wasn't too sure about it." He sat forward. "I've
seen a lot of strange things around here. Saw one of those white
ladies in the orchard not once, but three different times over
the years. Saw some other things I'm not sure I believe, either.
There was a house up on the hill where the Heights is now,
when I was a boy. Just a little cabin. A woman and her daughter
lived there. Pretty little things, both of 'em. But one night,
stones commenced to rain on the house. Everybody saw it.
They appeared out of the sky
like that." He snapped
his fingers. ''Went on for a couple months. Big ones, little
ones, river stones, lava rock. No one could ever explain it. Not
even Minerva."

"She must've been just a girl then," Cutter said. He was on
his fourth shot.

"Well, maybe she was and maybe she wasn't." Caspar
red a double. "She claims her m
a and her
a before her
and so on have always lived in the cottage, since about the
time Jeremiah Moonfall came to town. But no one never saw
a youngster around there. Just the old woman."

"What're you saying, Caspar?" the doctor asked. "That
Minerva's been living there for a couple hundred years?"

, that's too crazy, even for the likes of me. I'm just
saying there's something strange about Minerva, too
" With
liquor-glazed eyes, he stared at John. "Your boy likes her,
doesn't he? Pete said he did."

John nodded. "He likes her a lot. But Caspar, tell me what
your father said-"

"It's okay, Johnny, if young Mark likes her
She's a witchy
old woman, but she's not evil. She's got nothing to do with
those gargoyles; that's just rumor."

"What killed your uncle?" John asked, as Caspar paused to
pour another whiskey.

"Just told you, Johnny. A gargoyle got him."

"A gargoyle?" John stifled a chuckle.

"That's what I said. They roost at St. Gertrude's."

John and Cutter exchanged glances.

''I know what you're thinking," Caspar said to both of them.
"But it took a lot of good whiskey for me to get up the
nerve to tell you, and you're gonna listen. My daddy described
something a lot like what your son and Corey talked about,
only this one was a little different. It had a long tail whippin'
around behind it, and it had little fuzzy ears like a bear's. What
do you think's been screeching in the forest all these years?
Hawks don't sound like that; neither do owls. We had a few
bird nuts come through here looking to find themselves a new
species, but they never did. Never will. They couldn't find eggs,
nor nests, and you know why?" With a satisfied look, he glanced
back and forth between the two men.

''Why?" Cutter asked.

"Because they turn to stone in the daylight."

"Yeah," John said. "I hear that's what gargoyles do."

"Oh, they don't have to," Caspar said, his volume rising
with every word. ''That's just their way, most of the time. That
way, nobody can catch
em. All those stories about 'em carrying
off babies are based in fact, you know. My daddy told me they
got a few, back when people weren't quite so careful."

"Sheriff Lawson, allow me to extend my condolences."

John jerked his head around and found Richard Dashwood
staring sympathetically down at him. What was worse was that
Sara Hawthorne was with him. He stood up, glad he hadn't been
drinking. ''Dr. Dashwood, Ms. Hawthorne
This is a surprise."

"I heard about your grandfather," Sara said softly. "I'm so


"Who're you?" Caspar asked Dashwood. "I've seen you

"I don't think so
Perhaps you met my father." Dashwood
extended his hand, but Caspar was too drunk to bother with
such amenities. "I'm Richard Dashwood, St. Gertrude's physician.

This is Miss Hawthorne, one of our teachers."

Caspar paid no attention to Sara, but kept his eyes on Dashwood.
"I know you."

"Perhaps you've seen me at your Halloween Haunt. I
attended last year."

"That must be it," John said, sensing trouble brewing. He
smiled at Sara. "Out for a night on the town?"

She looked uncomfortable. ''Just one drink. I've been so
busy I haven't been able to get away."

"At least you've made a friend," John said.

"Something's wrong with my car, so Richard offered to
drive me."

John didn't like the way she looked at the physician, but he
knew he had no right to say so
You're jealous, you idiot

"Care to join us?" Cutter asked.

"No, thank you. We have a table."

He nodded at a dark alcove less than ten feet away. Plenty
close, John realized, to have eavesdropped on Caspar's loud
comments about the gargoyles. "Thanks for stopping by," he
aid, and turned his back on the pair.





I shouldn't be here. What am I doing?
Sara Hawthorne waited
while Richard made a show of pulling her chair out for her
after they left John's table.

"Another glass of chardonnay, Sara? It's an excellent vintage.
I'm frankly surprised to find something of this caliber in
an establishment like this." His nose wrinkled in distaste.
"Unlike the tavern," he added, topping off her glass without
waiting for a reply, ''this has an excellent bouquet."

And an interesting afterbirth.
Sara wondered how he'd react
if she'd joked aloud. Not well
she thought, her eyes drifting
to the back of John Lawson's bead. She hadn't realized he had
such broad shoulders until now.

The man's in mourning. Stop lusting after him.
She smiled
at Richard, and thought that maybe she was losing her mind.

Kelly had been locked up for a week, and she hadn't tried to
send her any more encouragement, not even a scrap of paper
with a note saying "Hi." She hadn't gone back to Minerva's,
either. Instead, she'd spent all her free time in Richard's company.
The man was a gourmet cook, and she'd gained several
pounds in the last week, judging by the way her clothes fit.

She didn't know what the physician's attraction was, but it
had put her in some sort of self-indulgent haze. Every time she
was with him-
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day since
their first lunch-
she came away not caring about anything
else. Tonight, she knew, they would probably make love for
the first time.

"To pleasure," Richard said, raising his glass.

She smiled mechanically and clinked glasses, then sipped
the wine. Was she in love? Was that why she was behaving so
out of character? She'd thought so, but now she wondered if
she was just rationalizing her behavior. The moment she'd
looked into John Lawson's eyes, she'd found herself, at least
for a brief instant.
He's the one you want to make love to, not

"Sara? What are you thinking?"

"Nothing," she said, avoiding his eyes. If she looked into
them, she would be captivated. It always happened that way.

He started talking about wine, and her thoughts drifted,
though she was careful to nod at the right moments. She hadn't
had another bad dream-
or other experience-
since the episode
in the woods. Instead, she'd had very pleasant dreams,
almost too pleasant. They were so intensely erotic that she
awakened repeatedly in the throes of orgasm, positive that a
phantom lover had just left her bed. It was almost enough to
make her believe in incubi.

What's wrong with me?
As Richard yammered on, she
watched John's back, saw the slump of his shoulders, the tilt
of his head. He was sad and he wasn't drinking. The old man
at his table was making up for that, still holding forth, but in
tones too soft to hear anymore. Earlier, before Richard insisted
they say hello, she'd been eavesdropping with fascination, even
though she could tell the old fellow was completely plastered.
Richard, on the other hand, had grown more and more irritated.
She was sure that was why he wanted to talk to them: to shut
the old man up.

At that moment, John stood up and took his coat off the
back of his chair. He was leaving. She had to talk to him.

"Excuse me a moment, Richard," she said softly. "I need
to visit the powder room."

''Of course."

"No, don't get up. I'll be right back."

John was just going out the door. She left the table and
glanced back. Richard wasn't watching. Quickly, she made her
way across the common room, and out the door into the chilly

''John," she called across the lot.

He turned, squinting against the tavern's lights. "Sara?"

"Wait!" She ran to him. "I need to talk to you."

''Go ahead." His tone was cool.

"Not now. I don't want Richard to get suspicious."

"Look, I don't want to be part of whatever mating dance it
is you're conducting."

Her first reaction was anger, but she quelled it, remembering
his stories about his wife's affair, realizing trusting women was
probably difficult for him. "It's not what you think.
know how to explain."

"It's pretty clear." He hesitated. "Look, I have no right to
speak to you this way. I certainly have no claim on you. I've
just had a hard day. A hard week."

She touched his arm and he didn't draw away. "I know.
sorry. Look, I don't know what's going on. That's what I need
to talk to you about."

"Sara," he said, pulling back, "I'm in no shape to hear
about your love life."

"I have no love life."

"Are you really that naive? Dashwood's laid claim on you.
If you don't have a love life now, I guarantee you will before
the night is over."

''No," she said, thinking more clearly than she had in a
week. "When I get back to the abbey, I'm going to have the
headache of the century."


"If I have a love life, you'll be part of it. Believe me, I have
no interest in that man. He's an egomaniac."

"Then why are you with him?"

don't know. Like I said, it's part of the reason I need
to talk to you. And it has nothing to do with sex. It has to do
with things that are going on at the abbey. Things I don't
understand. Please, believe me."

He studied her a long moment, then slowly put his hands
on her shoulders
''God help me, I believe you
" With that, he
pulled her against him and tilted her chin up gently with his

They brushed lips tentatively, once, twice, and the fire in her
belly stirred to white hot flames. She could smell his skin, a
mixture of clean aftershave and his own scent, whatever it was
that made him a unique person. It was intoxicating. Their lips
brushed again and she drew his lower lip between her own
lips, lightly touched it with her tongue, tasting him.

She heard herself moan as his tongue met hers and they
began to explore one another, his hands in her hair, hers feeling
the ridges of hard muscle in his back. She pressed herself
against him, feeling her heat, and his.

Finally, the kiss ended, both of them panting. His eyes were
bright. "Sara ... "

She smiled up at him. "I'll come see you tomorrow afternoon."

He nodded; then she turned and walked quickly back to the
tavern while she could still pull herself away.

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