Chapter 4: Chasing Shadows
Tuesday, April 9th
Wolfgang scratched his pubic hair as he urinated into the toilet. It was early, he was sleepy, and his body wasn't quite ready for the waking world. He finished, shook himself clean, then padded back into the bedroom where Jed lay on his side facing away from him.
Wolfgang climbed in behind the broad, powerful man. Jed shifted a little, then made a groggy sound as his slim companion pressed his naked body up against him.
Wolfgang prickled with Jed's sensations and he rubbed his face against the bigger man's neck. The beast sparked into awareness and Wolfgang ground his now-erect cock against Jed's ass.
Aggression and desire flared along with the beast and Wolfgang internalized them as if they were his own emotions. An unconscious growl vibrated in Wolfgang's throat. He gently scraped his teeth along Jed's neck.
Jed's body moved against him. The man was still mostly asleep but the wolf ran on instinct, a pure desire governing it. The wolf was unburdened by self-perception and labels, and it was currently in command of Jed's body.
Wolfgang promptly lubed himself and rubbed Jed with his slick fingers. Now the man was awake. "What are you two doing?" Jed arched his neck, and Wolfgang put his now-slippery hand on Jed's throat.
Wolfgang grinned and continued to rub his shaft against Jed. "I'm just giving the beast what he wants." Wolfgang nibbled on Jed's ear, pulled his hips back a bit, and lined things up. "I can feel your need, Jed. I know it's what you want too."
Jed's throat moved under Wolfgang's palm as he swallowed. "That shit isn't fair." His tone was one of breathy desire.
Wolfgang noticed that Jed didn't try to deny it. He smiled and slowly increased pressure on Jed's body with his slick member, while he gently gripped Jed's neck. There was only a bit of conflict in Jed as Wolfgang entered him. Mostly, both Jed and the beast indulged in Wolfgang's aggression and the way the smaller man took command of the shared moment.
Jed groaned. "Fuck. You've turned me into a damn bottom." Wolfgang's cock slid until it gently tapped Jed's prostate and elicited a gasp from them both.
Wolfgang grinned. "We both know that's not true." He started to slowly move back and forth, and Wolfgang felt as Jed gripped himself and began to stroke. Since he was now connected to Jed's sensations as well as his own, Wolfgang would get off only if Jed did. His strange gift made him a perfect lover, and near-impossible to resist. "I'm sure you'll put me on my back again soon."
Jed didn't respond and continued to stroke. He was getting them both close, but Wolfgang wanted things to last longer. He pulled Jed's hand off of himself. "Wait. Slow down."
Jed groaned but he did as Wolfgang said. To reward him, his slim lover experimented with his thrusts, until he found the precise spot where he contacted Jed's prostate. Wolfgang grinned, and he began to move in mini-thrusts, his penis rapidly tapping that sensitive place, deep inside Jed.
"Oh. Oh, fuck." Jed moaned, the beast tinging his voice with lusty power. Jed gripped Wolfgang's hip. "Don't stop."
Wolfgang had no plans of stopping. Jed reached again for his leaking erection. "No." Wolfgang gripped his wrist. Jed was easily strong enough to free himself, but Wolfgang felt the decision in Jed's mind - this time, he would allow Wolfgang to do what he wished. Wolfgang panted. "I'll get us there."
He never stopped with the assault. Jed twitched, moaned and gasped as he allowed Wolfgang to pummel him. A slow, steady tingle built and built, and both men breathed faster as Wolfgang sped up.
An incomprehensible, groaning sound tore from Jed's throat as the beast lent its voice to his, and the men orgasmed in an explosion of physical release. Both lost the ability of coherent speech for a moment and Wolfgang unloaded inside Jed while his furry lover made a tremendous mess on the sheet beside him.
They burned in the moment together, then finished with a shudder. Jed and Wolfgang lay still, both breathing with effort. This time, the beast gave Wolfgang the impression of satisfaction, trust, and fondness as it luxuriated with Jed in a post-orgasmic daze. Wolfgang smiled and leaned forward, his lips to Jed's ear.
"I think your dog likes me."
"So, what do you think?" Jed asked as Wolfgang pulled a soft, wool sweater over his head. Jed held up a hand to tick off what they knew. "So far we've found a murderer who only kills on the new moon, Larry who is missing a tooth, presumably that same tooth is somehow buried inside that tree limb." He jerked his thumb at the length of the redwood branch they had taken with them. Jed sat on the edge of the bed as Wolfgang finished getting dressed. "It all seems pretty weird to me."
Wolfgang joined Jed to put on his shoes. "Yeah." He pulled the leather foot gear on and tied them into place. "Larry is obviously wrapped up in this, somehow." He straightened and shook his head. "But on the new moon. Only on the new moon. That makes no sense."
Jed considered. "It also doesn't make sense that he'd sabotage his own crew." He grimaced. "He's gotta be losing money, right?"
Wolfgang agreed. "Yeah." He cocked his head and crossed the room to where the redwood branch leaned in the corner. "Have you ever seen anything like…" He picked it up, and Wolfgang's hand brushed the tooth. He gasped, then the slim man staggered, his eyes wide.
Jed stood up, alarmed. "Whoa. You all right?"
Wolfgang blinked and he looked down at the tooth. "Uh, how long are teeth supposed to live after they're out of the mouth?" He looked utterly dumbfounded. "Because this one is still alive." Wolfgang continued to stare in wonder at the half-exposed tooth. "Though it's not connected to Larry anymore."
Jed frowned. "It's still alive?" Wolfgang nodded. Jed scratched his head in confusion. "Well, who is it connected to now?"
Wolfgang appeared almost frightened, and he wet his lips as he examined their evidence. "I don't know. But it's someone who is unspeakably angry."
Jed had to leave to go to work at the coffee shop, though they made plans to meet up again in the afternoon when Jed was free. That left Wolfgang to his own devices for the day. He made himself some coffee and sat at the kitchen table while he booted up his laptop, sipping his beverage.
Soon he was online at the search screen and he considered. "Hrmm." Wolfgang typed. 'New Moon murders' went into the engine. He hit enter and the computer did its thing. Soon there were several choices, and he examined them.
None seemed promising. He snorted. "I guess that wasn't all that brilliant." He began to try another search when he cocked his head at one of the alternative search suggestions. 'Did you mean New Moon Ritual?'
Wolfgang shrugged. He was not immune to the rabbit hole of the internet, and he clicked the link.
It took him to a page done by a Humboldt County history buff named Vernon Rogers. He looked to be a local reporter, and his particular focus seemed to be native issues and news. The page Wolfgang had found was Vernon's own personal research and hobby. Wolfgang settled back and began to read the entry.
'In this ongoing deep dive into native culture, I discuss a new moon ritual of the Yurok tribe, native to Northern California. The Yurok believed the benevolent spirits of the forest, strongest during the new moon - could manifest if given an offering of some sort by the ritualist. It is said these spirits would commune with the practitioner, offering guidance, wisdom, and communion with nature itself. Though, elders warn against approaching these entities without an offering. As one elder put it, "the spirits will always take something - be it something offered, or should we forget an offering, something else."'
Wolfgang frowned. "A nature spirit that shows up on new moons?" He snorted and was about to close the page, certain it was too far-fetched. He hesitated. "Okay. I'm fucking a werewolf." Wolfgang sighed. "Maybe it's not so far-fetched after all." He took another slug of coffee and continued to read.
Jed worked the morning shift in the coffee shop. His regular two customers were there - the young guy with his nursing book and the older woman now with a text on the history of the middle ages. It was just after ten a.m. and he had worked through the crush of early customers with Kasey.
"Whew." Kasey shook his head. "I'm glad you were scheduled today, Jed."
Jed smiled and lifted the tip jar. It was crammed with bills and a thick layer of change on the bottom. "Yeah, me too."
Kasey laughed, shook his head, then disappeared into the back of the shop.
The next few hours passed in relative quiet. They did enough business to pay the bills, but not too much more than that. That suited Jed as it gave him time to think about the events in the forest.
His shift ended and Jed bid goodbye to Kasey with a wave. "See you tomorrow, Kasey." His boss smiled and waved.
Jed only had to use the voice a few times during the day. Kasey was slowly growing more confident over time, as was the young nursing student. The student, in particular, Jed's wolf found tempting. The moon was still less than half-full, but as it filled, the beast grew in strength and influence over the body they shared. Jed had to focus to keep from dragging the young man into the bathroom and fucking his brains out over the sink.
So it was a relief to leave the proximity of such temptation. Jed walked down the street, past the Diver Bar and Grill. It was a beautiful day out, so the door to the place was open to let in the sun and fresh air. Jed moved past the doorway, and the smell of cooking beef made his feet slow. A tremendous urge to feel a slightly bloody steak between his teeth hooked him. He knew the beast needed an indulgence of some kind, and his pocket was fat with half of the tips earned that morning at the coffee shop.
'Fine. Steak it is.' Jed surrendered this little thing to his wolf, and he stepped inside the relative dimness of the eatery.
"Hello, sir." Franklin forced a smile as he approached, a menu in hand. Apparently, the young man hadn't forgotten their last encounter, and the beast could smell both anxiousness and attraction in his manner.
Jed silently cursed. 'You fucker.' Now he knew the real reason the wolf wanted him there. Jed forced a smile of his own. "Hello, Franklin." He worked hard to avoid use of the voice.
Franklin led him to his regular corner table. Jed sat, and he was thankful that the young, dark-haired man left him to look over the offerings on the menu. Jed fought to keep his eyes on the tabletop, but the wolf was strong, and it forced him to turn his head and watch the skinny server as he waited on another table across the restaurant.
Jed's head swam with the beast's desire. 'You fucking dick.' Jed blinked and tried to clear his thoughts. 'Stop it. You got us fucked into oblivion this morning, wasn't that enough?'
Apparently, it was not. Franklin approached, wet his lips and gave Jed a slightly more relaxed smile. "Sir, have you settled on what you'd like?"
Jed was deeply afraid of what the beast would do with their voice. He didn't trust himself to speak, so he pointed at the t-bone on the menu. Franklin appeared a little puzzled but leaned to look at Jed's choice. The young man's scent came to Jed, and he closed his eyes. He had to get it over with. "Rare, to go."
Franklin froze in place. Jed could feel him, still standing close. Jed steadfastly refused to open his eyes. Franklin cleared his throat. "Uh, all right, sir." That nervousness was back. "Would… do you want anything else?" There was a clear implication in that tone, hopeful and provocative. The boy was essentially offering himself on a platter to the wolf.
Franklin had no idea what he was getting into, and Jed reminded himself of that fact. It took every ounce of his willpower, but he slowly shook his head. He kept his eyes closed.
"Oh. Well, all right." Jed felt the disappointment from Franklin and the beast thrashed in Jed's mind. Franklin gathered the menu. "Your food will be right out, sir."
Jed nodded once, and he heard Franklin move away. He finally peeked out and sighed with relief to see that the young man was no longer in sight. "Fuck you," Jed grumbled under his breath. He knew there would be repercussions if he took Franklin. The boy was too malleable, too easy to dominate.
Jed was a natural-born leader in the world of wolves. His father told him that only a few had the gift of the voice and that it marked him as something special. If Jed didn't live with silver the way that he did, he would have been destined to fight for leadership of a pack. As it was, other wolves wanted nothing to do with both him and his father. Jed was fine with that. He had no desire to revel in the beast - which was an essential part of pack life, again, according to Jed's dad.
The natural tendency of Jed's beast was to accumulate a "pack" of its own. Franklin and the boy at the coffee shop were one thing, while Wolfgang was quite another. Jed felt a shift in the way the wolf perceived the slim private investigator. Instead of prey, or competition, the beast now treated Wolfgang as an equal, almost as a mate. That didn't mean the need to fuck and dominate others went away. In fact, that drive seemed stronger than ever, and Jed found himself swimming against the tide of the beast's desire. In the eye of his wolf, it was their natural place to screw whoever they liked. It was who Jed was born to be.
It wasn't long before Franklin delivered Jed's meal in a takeout container. Jed had already counted out the money for the meal plus a nice tip, and it sat in a haphazard stack on the corner of the table. He desperately needed to get out of the restaurant, and when his food arrived, Jed stood.
"Here you are, sir." Franklin handed the waxed cardboard container to Jed. When he did, Franklin let a feather-light touch travel along Jed's finger in a move that Jed was sure was not an accident. A subvocal groan vibrated in Jed's chest.
He couldn't help himself, Jed brought his gaze up from the box in his hands, and he looked Franklin square in the eyes. The young fellow stared back at him, and he swallowed in nervousness.
"Thanks." Every opportunity, the beast now pushed intention and power into Jed's voice. Franklin began to sweat.
Jed barely managed, but he turned away and strode quickly out of the restaurant. Out in the sunshine he gasped in relief. He had won the battle of wills.
'Fuck, it's not even the half moon. Fuck.' The beast felt stronger than it had been in years. Jed shook his head and frowned at the way his cock was uncomfortably turgid in his jeans. There were people about so he couldn't adjust things. He still attracted a few glances from appreciative women and envious men. Jed was not a small guy, and at the moment he showed.
He grumbled to himself, angry at the wolf, put his head down, and walked the few blocks to his apartment.
It was a peaceful moment in the forest, with dappled sunlight filtering through the foliage high above. The loggers were on a break, their machines quiet. That meant the natural sounds and sights of the redwoods once again appeared.
About seventy feet away from their camp, a massive fallen redwood, studded with moss, ferns, and grass, slowly decomposed back into the earth. An early riser of a raccoon tottered along on top of the trunk, up before the dusk and most of her kin.
She foraged for herself and her two kits. They were ravenous little babies. They had just started eating solid food in addition to nursing for their nutrition, and she was always on the search for them.
Something smelled good near the bottom of the decaying tree. She looked down from her vantage point. It wasn't berries, or a grub, or anything she would typically eat. Instead, she smelled meat, fruit, and there was a white thing there as well that gave off a delicious scent that she had never experienced.
She eagerly climbed down to plop beside the little bounty of gifts. She smelled the liquid inside a strange, hollow stone beside the food, but it reeked of something, and she avoided it. She scampered over beside the white substance, her paws stretching for it.
A sudden knowledge that the food didn't belong to her slammed into the raccoon's mind. She squeaked and ran as fast as her legs would carry her. She was so frightened that she ran straight through the camp of two-legs, drawing excited shouts from the creatures as she dashed past them. She didn't care, she had to get away.
It was some time before she finally calmed enough to stop her flight. She blinked, the reason for her fear forgotten. With a shake of her little body, she resumed foraging. Those babies were not going to feed themselves.
Wolfgang was annoyed that his best lead was what he could only describe as an eccentric newspaper reporter for one of the local rags. Regardless, that was the current situation. It was early in the evening and Wolfgang called Vernon Rogers, the author of the article he had found online. The fellow agreed to meet Wolfgang at a cider bar in Eureka after he finished work that same day.
Wolfgang pulled up to the address. It was one of many businesses nestled in the block building. He entered the warmly lit place.
The inside was decked out in wood tables free-standing in the room, along with black metal chairs. Wooden booths were against the edges, while a glossy bar dominated the eastern wall, with multiple taps and fridges filled with various bottles of cider. Wolfgang looked around, immediately liking the cozy, functional space.
It was a Tuesday night, so it wasn't precisely hopping inside. There was the male thirty-something tattooed bartender, a couple of college-age girls at the bar, and an older fellow seated at the corner booth.
Wolfgang instinctively knew the graying man sipping on a cider in the booth was Vernon. He stepped to the bar. "Hey." He slid a five across the slick wooden surface. "Sixteen ounces of…" He considered the menu above the bartender's head. "Ah, let's try the sour cherry cider."
The bartender nodded, took the money, and expertly poured the cider. Soon Wolfgang had the cold glass of dark red liquid, and he took a sip as he turned with the beverage. It was chilled, barely effervescent, crisp and sweet, with a slightly sour undertone of cherry. Wolfgang frowned and looked at the drink in his hand. It was remarkably complex and he simply hadn't expected that from a local cidery.
The man in the booth had noticed Wolfgang's reaction and grinned at him. "Good, huh?" He nodded at his own glass which held half a measure of an amber-colored cider. "It's always a tough choice between the honey crisp or the sour cherry for me."
Wolfgang nodded. "It is good." He shifted his drink to his left hand and extended his right. "Wolfgang. Are you Vernon?"
The man stood. "I am." He shook and Wolfgang immediately flooded with eagerness, curiosity, and the achy joints of a man in his sixties. Wolfgang smiled and was all too happy to release Vernon's hand. Vernon seemed used to his aching body, and he settled across from Wolfgang as he sat. "So, you're interested in the Yurok legend of the new moon spirit?"
Wolfgang nodded and took another sip of his cider. "Yes." He pulled out his phone. "Do you mind if I record us?"
Vernon seemed elated. "Not at all!" He grinned and his green eyes glittered with his excitement. "I'm so happy someone is interested!"
Wolfgang found his excitement charming, and he smiled. "Well, that's great." He began recording on the device. "So, tell me about these new moon spirits. What are they, what do they want, and how does a person go about 'communing' with one?"
Vernon nodded, happy to talk about his passion. "The Yurok are a very spiritual people and the new moon spirits are just one of the entities they communed with." He seemed to catch himself, and he flushed red. "Err. I mean, if you believe that sort of thing."
Wolfgang cocked his head. "Do you?" He took a drink of his cider.
Vernon grimaced. "Well, I know I'm not supposed to." He sighed. "But, I've seen things in my life that make me realize I don't know everything there is to know about the world." He wet his lips, then finally nodded. "Yes. I believe they exist, and that the Yurok communicated with them."
"Okay. So, what are they?"
Vernon took a breath. "As far as I can figure out, they're an embodiment of the forest itself. A manifestation of it." He struggled to better describe the legend. "They're stewards of their own little slice of the natural world."
Wolfgang frowned. "Hmmm. So, you've heard of the murders happening in the forest…"
Vernon looked horrified. "Oh, no!" He shook his head. "No, these spirits have only been described as peaceful. The only harm the elders said they had ever committed was on foolish petitioners who didn't bring an offering of some sort for them."
Wolfgang focused on that statement. "What sort of harm?"
Vernon looked uncomfortable. "Well, the communion always costs something. Always. And if there's no offering, then sometimes a spirit would take, ah, other things from a person." He leaned forward, his hand on his cider, and eyes serious. "One legend says that a medicine man who offered too little lost the tip of his tongue." Vernon made a cutting motion in front of his mouth. "That the spirit took it! Others lost all their hair or even a finger." He looked very severe as he spoke. "Needless to say, something like that only happened once in a generation, if then. The rest of the tribe learned from the mistakes of their members, and always brought a significant offering of some kind to the communion."
Wolfgang frowned. "So, could a spirit take a tooth?"
Vernon shrugged. "Sure. If it communed with someone who didn't bring enough of an offering, yeah. Just pluck it out when the spirit left the body."
Wolfgang considered. "Okay, so, what did these spirits look like?" He idly wiped the condensation off the glass on the table. "Were they all ghostly, or…"
"Oh no." Vernon interrupted. "No, they take on their surroundings. There are legends of shamans coated in wood, earth, and rock." Vernon nodded. "They are very 'real' when they come to the petitioner."
Wolfgang supped from his glass and let his mind turn over the information. "Just a few more questions." He leaned forward. "You said these spirits are peaceful, right?" Vernon nodded. "And, they're also tied to the land?" Another nod. "Okay. We already know that they get pissy if you don't give them enough of an offering."
By this time, Vernon looked a bit nervous, but he nodded again. "I don't know if 'pissy' is the right word, but, yes."
Wolfgang smiled. "So, what is to stop one from getting angry if a group of people is cutting down the very thing that creates it - the forest?"
Vernon bit his lip and laughed uncomfortably. "Do -" He shook his head as if he didn't want to believe it. "Do you really think a new moon spirit is murdering loggers?"
Wolfgang sat back in his seat, his eyes staring at the cider before him. He did his best to keep his voice devoid of inflection and raised his blue gaze to Vernon's face. "No. No, of course not."
Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
And thank you for reading!
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