Crescent Moon - By Lori Handeland

Chapter 1
A life spent fulfilling a vow to a dead man is really no life at all, but I'd loved Simon Malone, and I'd promised.

I'm a zoologist by trade, a cryptozoologist by choice. If I'd followed my training, I'd be holed up in a zoo or worse, studying giraffes and pygmy goats.

Instead, I trace rumors of mythical animals and try to prove they exist. A frustrating exercise. There's a reason no one's captured a Bigfoot They don't want to be found, and they're a lot better at hiding than anyone on earth is at seeking. Or at least that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it

Most cryptozoologists attempt to find undiscovered species or evolutionary wonders - real animals, nothing paranormal about them - but not me. Nope. I'd made that vow.

Foolish, but when a woman loves a man the way that I loved Simon, she does foolish things, especially when he's dying in her arms.

So I follow every legend, every folk tale, every scrap of information, trying to uncover something mythical and prove it real. Though I've never believed in magic, my husband did, and the only thing I've ever believed in was him.

I was having very little luck with my quest until the night the phone rang at 3:00 A.M. Insomnia and a very empty checking account made me answer it despite the hour.


"Dr. Malone?" The voice was male, a bit shaky, old or perhaps ill.

"Not yet"

I needed to find a cryptid - translation: unknown animal - prove its existence, write a thesis. Then I could attach those lovely letters - Ph.D. - at the end of my name. But since the whole vow incident, I'd been too busy chasing lake monsters and Sasquatch clones to spend time finding a new breed of anything.

"Is this Diana Malone?"

"Yes. Who's this?"

"Frank Tallient"

The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't figure out why. "Have we met?"

"No. I got your number from Rick Canfield."

Swell. The last guy who'd said those immortal words, "You're fired."

Rick was a lawyer who'd gone on a fishing trip with a bunch of other lawyers near Lake of the Woods, Minnesota. In the middle of the night he'd seen something in the lake. Something slick and black and very, very big.

Being a lawyer, he was smart enough to know he shouldn't tell the others he'd lost his mind. Not yet.

Instead, he'd gone home, searched the Internet, and made some phone calls, trying to find someone to help him discover if what he'd seen had been real or imagined. He'd found me.

"Rick thought you'd be free to help me," Tallient continued.

I was free all right Unemployed. Again. A common occurrence in my life. I was very good at looking for things, not so good at actually finding them. However, I was one of the few cryptozoologists willing to travel on a whim for cash.

I wasn't associated with a university - not anymore. Not since Simon had gone over the edge, tarnishing both his reputation and my own.

I depended on the kindness of strangers - hell, let's be honest and just call them strange - to fund my expeditions. Until tonight, I'd been fresh out of both.

"Since you didn't locate Nessie - " Tallient began.

"Nessie's the Loch Ness Monster. I was searching for Woody."

Which was the name Rick had bestowed on the thing. ; People have no originality when naming lake beasts, always opting for some variation of the body of water they supposedly resided in.

Typically, the moment I'd arrived at Lake of the Woods with my cameras and recorders whatever Rick might have seen had gone poof. If it had ever been there in the first place.

In my expert opinion, an obscenely large muskie was responsible for the tales, not a supernatural lake monster, but I hadn't been able to prove that, either.

"I have a job for you," Tallient continued.

'I'm listening."

I had no choice. Though my parents were incredibly wealthy, they thought I was nuts and had stopped speaking to me the instant I married Simon.

After all, what could a handsome, brilliant, up-and-coming zoologist from Liverpool see in a not-very-pretty, far too sturdy grad student unless it was her parents' millions? He already had a green card. That Simon had told them exactly what they could do with their money had only made me love him more.

In truth, I fit into Simon's world better than I'd ever fit in my own. I stood five-foot-ten in my bare feet; on a good day I weighed a hundred and seventy. I liked the