Authors: Jianne Carlo
Tags: #Paranormal Shape-shifter
THE CALL OF A SOUL
White Wolf 2
White Wolf 2: The Call of a Soul
Copyright © March 2012 by Jianne Carlo
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Editor: Maryam Salim
Cover Artist: Marci Gass
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This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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The Call of a Soul
would never have been written if not for my amazing editor, Maryam Salim, and would have been considerably poorer without her input. Maryam, you have my eternal thanks. It is an absolute pleasure to work with you.
Line editors have an unenviable job—to catch all the errors in a book, both factual and grammatical. I want to acknowledge the wonderful work of Lee Ann Schafer, the line editor for both
The Call of a Soul
. I can’t thank you enough for your diligence. Kudos.
Melanie White swabbed the almost healed two-inch cut on the kitten’s hind leg. Clooney—the nickname she’d given the stray, because the poor male cat needed a role model in the looks department—blinked and didn’t flinch or react, even though the alcohol must’ve stung.
Right then the door to the clinic swung open. Summer came and went faster than an eyeblink in Chabegawn, Michigan, and a fierce, icy gust blasted across the tiny waiting room. Melanie didn’t look up, as Doc Glancing had left not some ten minutes before to get two cups of gas station coffee. The sweet kind loaded with caramel and whipped cream that she craved but denied herself in a futile attempt to lose the stubborn seventeen pounds clinging to her hips and thighs. When the distinctive mouthwatering aroma didn’t tickle her nose a few seconds later, she lifted her head.
Mike Dorland—carrying a dripping, bloodied beast of unknown species—stood in front of the reception desk. There was no mistaking his distinctive profile, the profile that had star billing in her most lurid fantasies even after all these years. Melanie scooped Clooney to her chest and headed to the waiting room.
The animal wouldn’t make it. She didn’t even have to peek at the dying creature to make that assessment. Its soul had already begun the journey to the other side and had latched on to Melanie’s
in a bid for comfort. This aspect of being a spiritual healer tore her heart apart. But never could she deny any living being that last solace.
Before she could voice a greeting, Mike shifted to face her.
“Where’s Doc Glancing?” He barked the question.
Melanie flinched, swallowed, and pointed to the open examination room. “Put him on the table. Doctor Glancing stepped out. He should be back any minute.”
“What’s the matter with you? Do something.” Mike glared at her and strode in the direction of the gurney sitting in the middle of the room.
She needed to get out of his sight to do her duty as a maggishahwi. Melanie cradled the speckled kitten. “I’ll just put Clooney away and be right with you.”
Melanie hurried into the narrow hallway leading to the kennels. When she rounded the bend, she leaned against the wall and opened her senses.
A bear cub, his soul so new to the world; all Melanie absorbed was the image of his mother’s dying eyes filled with rage and agony. She couldn’t protect her son. He had watched her die. The cub’s acute pain, anguish, and confusion crashed through her in fainter and fainter waves, like a storm ebbing and then dying on a last, futile gust.
Clooney meowed when the cub’s spirit faded into nothingness. She closed her eyes and recited the ancient blessing passed from one maggishahwi to another, the prayer for his spirit to merge with the earth and multiply. Both mother and cub had been murdered today. Within moments of each other. Melanie willed back the tears and buried her face in the kitten’s soft fur. On autopilot, she kissed Clooney between the ears, tucked him into a temporary crate, and went through the staff entrance to the examination room.
Mike Dorland—from the decided right side of the tracks, a gifted athlete who’d parlayed a knack for the cards into a reputed multimillion dollar empire—had been her first and foremost crush. She’d been in love with him forever and doubted he even knew her first name, though he certainly knew her last name: White. After all, her father had indirectly killed his. The Joker from
couldn’t have arranged a more cruel fate, ending all her mistletoe hopes and sleigh-ride dreams of him becoming her Prince Charming. He looked about to combust, hands fisted, nostrils flaring, and those full lips, which had the female population of Mackinac County drooling, flattened into a grim line.
“The mother’s dead. There wasn’t enough of her left to bring in.”
“Where did you find him?” Only then did Melanie notice the stench emanating from the cub. It had been partially disemboweled, but even that wouldn’t cause such a vile, virulent stink. She held her breath.
“Him? How can you tell?” Those piercing silver eyes missed nothing. “You haven’t even glanced at the bear, much less checked the sex. Is it even possible to tell the gender of such a young cub?”
Melanie could’ve ignited on the spot and knew she’d colored all over. Staring at the steel table’s corner, she shrugged, sucked in her cheeks, and hunted for an answer.
A mini wind tunnel blew in a flurry of dried leaves, a stunned dragonfly, and a half-torn paper napkin over the welcome mat. It had rained earlier in the day, and the metallic smell of water evaporating from asphalt preceded Doc G.’s entrance. He strode in their direction carrying a cardboard tray loaded with two covered coffee cups, and gripping a white paper bag at his side.
you?” Doc Glancing’s engaging voice mirrored his personality: optimistic to the core, convinced he could make a difference in the world, and a sucker for babies of any kind and every female on the planet.
“I bought you one of those jelly doughnuts.” Season Glancing, known to the eight thousand five hundred and forty-nine citizens of Chabegawn as Doc G., shuffled his way inside.
“Mike. Didn’t know you were in town.” Doc G. flashed Mike a wide smile and then frowned when his gaze lit upon the gurney.
“Came in yesterday. I brought you a patient.”
“He found another cub.” Melanie took the tray from Doc G. and set it on the counter across from the table.
Doc G. had already forgotten the two of them. Absently he dropped the bag on the counter, did a quick change of coats, and gave the dead cub a thorough once-over.
Melanie gritted her teeth and tried to concentrate on Doc G.’s movements, but Mike’s presence had her discombobulated. She linked her hands behind her back so he wouldn’t notice her trembling fingers.
When Doc G. removed his gloves and dropped them in the trash, Melanie pulled a wax sheet from the roll attached to the overhead supply cabinet and covered what was left of the cub. “I’ll wheel him into the autopsy room.”
Doc G. grimaced and shook his head. “Same condition as the others.”
“What the—” Mike jammed large, thick fingers onto hips leaner than Melanie’s by half, or so it seemed. He narrowed his eyes and stared right at her. Watched pots did boil, because Mike “the Machine” Dorland, famed for his ability to show no emotion even when betting the highest stakes, looked about to hiss and bubble over. “There’ve been others like him? Didn’t you think to mention that?”
“You didn’t give me a chance.” She might be from the rusted-out wrong side of the tracks, but that didn’t give him the right to raise his voice to her. “I’ll get him prepped, Doc G.”
She ducked her chin, gave Mike her back, and wheeled the table into the hallway. One of the cub’s small paws peeked out from under the sheet, the black claws somehow an obscene contrast to the stark whiteness of the coarse paper. Smoothing a finger over the hard nail, she bowed and recited the prayer for an easy journey to the spirit world.
The three rituals completed, accepting the last call, the blessing, and the prayer, she set about the practical tasks at hand, grateful that the activities required concentration. It didn’t take long to move the remains to a body bag and zip it closed. She opened the clinic’s small morgue, located adjacent to the autopsy room, and rolled the gurney inside. Working quickly because the morgue was refrigerated and freezing, she put the body bag into one of the drawer units, returned the gurney, and then headed to the back room that served as a lunch and storage area. Melanie removed the gloves she’d donned earlier, toed the garbage open, and tossed them in. The lid clanked shut, and a deep, sudden exhaustion weighted her bones.
Would Dodge Pincer, the county sheriff, even bother to investigate?
Melanie shuddered. She couldn’t stand Dodge Pincer. She knew it was irrational. The whole town loved the sheriff. He had restored the peace and tranquility of small-town living to Chabegawn after the terrible, unsolved murder of the town’s biggest employer that had happened during his predecessor’s watch. Pincer’s good looks and charm had endeared him to everyone. Even Susie, her sister, liked him. But she associated sheriffs with bail money and Papa being drunk, even though Pincer hadn’t been the sheriff involved, and they hadn’t lived in Chabegawn during that time.
“I apologize. I was totally out of line.”
Her heartbeat went into overdrive. Melanie clutched her chest. Anger came to the rescue. She spun around. “Apology
accepted. You were plain mean and nasty. Just because you’re worth a fortune doesn’t give you the right to treat people like that.”
“I only ever apologize once, Melanie. And I never say anything I don’t mean.” Mike folded his arms and raised an eyebrow.
He knew her first name? Doc G. must’ve told him. She fought the fluttery belly quivers that always assailed her in his presence. Jutted the jaw Mama said was too square for any female. “Fine. Apology accepted. Now if you don’t mind, I have work to do.”
“Doc G.’s closing up. He says he’ll do the autopsy tomorrow. I’ll be here for it.”
Nooo. What in heck is wrong with Doc G.?
Melanie gritted her teeth.
Why did Mike want to see the autopsy?
“Do you want to wash up?” Mike angled his head toward the sink to the right. “I’ll drop you home. Doc got a call from Jim Balden. He thinks his mare’s dropping the foal tonight.”
So not what she needed. Or wanted. Mike Dorland driving her to the reservation and seeing the broken-down three-bedroom shack the White family occupied. Poor and proud and shunned, even by the rest of the tribe. Melanie straightened her shoulders. Tough titties. She was what she was and wasn’t nothin’ nohow going to change that.