"It tastes better," Eric said, and one of the uniforms spit on the ground.
"Did you decide you’d like a taste, Mr. Compton? Seeing as how she’d already been tapped?"
Bill looked mildly disgusted. "No, ma’am. That wouldn’t have been safe for the young lady."
"As it turns out, she wasn’t safe, anyway. And none of you knows her name, or how she got here? Why she came to this house? You didn’t call some kind of I need a drink hotline … like a vampire escort service?"
We all shook our heads simultaneously, saying no to all these questions at once. "I thought she came with my other guests, the ones from out of town," Eric said. "They brought some new friends they met at a bar."
"These guests are inside?"
"Yes," Eric said, and I thought, Oh, gosh, I hope Felipe got them out of the bedroom. But of course, the police would have to talk to them.
"Then let’s take this inside and meet these guests," Detective Ambroselli said. "Do you have any objection to us coming inside, Mr. Northman?"
"Not the least in the world," Eric said courteously.
So I traipsed back into the house with Bill, Eric, and Pam. The detective led the way as if the house were hers. Eric permitted it. By now the Las Vegas contingent would have cleaned up, I hoped, since they’d certainly heard what Ambroselli had said when Eric went to the door.
To my relief, the living room looked much more orderly. There were a few bottles of synthetic blood, but they were all positioned adjacent to a seated vampire. The big windows in the back were open and the air quality was much better. Even the ashtray was out of sight, and someone had positioned a large bowl over the worst gouge marks on the coffee table.
All the vamps and the humans, fully clothed, had assembled in the living room. They wore serious expressions.
Mustapha was not among them.
Where was he? Had he simply decided he didn’t want to talk to the police, so he’d departed? Or had someone entered through the French windows in the kitchen doors and done something terrible to the Blade wannabe?
Maybe Mustapha had heard something suspicious outside and had gone to investigate. Maybe the killer or killers had jumped him once he got outside, and that was why no one had heard anything. But Mustapha was so tough that I simply couldn’t imagine anyone ambushing him and getting away with it.
Though "Mustapha" might not fear anything, in actuality he was the former KeShawn Johnson, and he was an ex-con. I didn’t know why he’d been incarcerated, but I knew it was for something he’d been ashamed of. That was why he’d adopted a new name and a new profession after he’d served his term. The police wouldn’t know him as Mustapha Khan … but they’d know he was KeShawn Johnson as soon as they took his fingerprints, and he was scared of prison.
Oh, how I wished I could communicate all this to Eric.
I didn’t believe Mustapha had killed the woman on the lawn. On the other hand, I’d never been completely inside his head, since he was a Were. But I’d never heard senseless aggression or random violence, either. Rather, Mustapha’s top priority had always registered as control.
I believe most of us are capable of moments of rage, moments when our button’s been pressed to the point where we lash out to stop the pressure. But I was sure that Mustapha was used to much worse treatment than anything that girl could have handed out.
While I was worrying about Mustapha, Eric was introducing the remaining newcomers to Detective Ambroselli. "Felipe de Castro," he said, and Felipe nodded regally. "His assistant, Horst Friedman." To my surprise, Horst rose and shook her hand. Not a vampire thing, handshaking. Eric continued, "This is Felipe’s consort, Angie Weather-spoon." She was the third Nevada vampire, the redhead.
"Pleased to meetcha," Angie said, nodding.
The last time I’d seen her, Angie Weatherspoon had been dancing on the low table, enjoying Felipe’s regard. Now the redhead was wearing a gray pencil skirt, a sleeveless green button-up blouse with tiny ruffles on the deep V neckline, and three-inch heels. Her legs went on forever. She looked great.
When Eric turned to the humans for their introductions, he paused. Eric clearly didn’t know the hugely muscular man’s name, but before the moment could become awkward, the man extended a bulging arm and shook the detective’s hand very delicately. "I’m Thad Rexford," he said, and Ambroselli’s mouth dropped open.
The uniform who’d come in behind her said, "Oh, wow! T-Rex!" with sheer delight.
"Wow," Ambroselli echoed, forgetting her stern expression.
All the vampires looked blank, but another human present, a plump and perky twenty-year-old with a light brown mane of hair of which Kennedy Keyes would have approved, looked proud, as if being at the same party with him raised her status. "I’m Cherie Dodson," she said, in a voice that was surprisingly babyish. "This is my friend Viveca Bates. What’s going on out front, guys?" Cherie was the woman who’d been making out with T-Rex. Viveca, just as curvaceous but with slightly darker hair, had been the one giving Felipe the "donation."
Detective Ambroselli quickly recovered from the surprise of meeting a famous wrestler at a vampire’s house, and she was twice as pugnacious since she’d shown a moment of starstruck awe. "There’s a dead woman outside, Ms. Dodson. That’s what’s going on. You-all need to stay here to be ready for questioning. First off, did you ladies bring a third woman here with you?" The detective was clearly talking to the humans; that is, all the humans except me.
"These two lovely ladies were with me at the casino," T-Rex said.
"Which one?" Ambroselli was all about the details.
"The Trifecta. We met Felipe and Horst at the bar there, struck up a conversation over drinks. Felipe here kindly invited us to Mr. Northman’s beautiful home." The wrestler seemed completely at ease. "We was just out on the town, having some fun. We didn’t bring nobody else with us."
Cherie and Viveca shook their heads. "Just us," Viveca said, and gave Horst a coy sideways look.
"The victim came into the house, Mr. Northman says, but he doesn’t seem to know who she was." Cara Ambroselli’s flat tone made it clear what she thought of men who took blood from women they’d never met, while at the same time casting doubt on Eric’s assertion that he hadn’t known her. That was a lot to convey in one sentence, but she managed.
I was standing right behind her, and I was getting a good reading on her. Cara Ambroselli was both ambitious and tough-necessary attributes to get ahead in the law enforcement world, especially for a woman. She’d been a patrol officer, distinguished herself by her courage in rescuing a woman from a burning house, sustained a broken arm in the course of subduing a robbery suspect, kept her head low and her social life secret. Now that she was a detective, she wanted to shine.