"But the dead woman wasn’t with you at the bar at the casino."
"No," said T-Rex, now grave. "We never seen her at the Trifecta, or anywhere else, before we came in this house."
"Was anyone else inside when they got here?" Detective Ambroselli asked Eric directly.
"Yes," Eric said. "My daytime man, Mustapha Khan." I fidgeted at his side, and he cast me a quick glance.
Ambroselli blinked "What’s a daytime man?"
"It’s sort of like having another assistant," I said, leaping into the conversation. "Mustapha does the things that Eric can’t, things that require going out in the daylight. He goes to the post office; he picks up stuff from the printer; he goes to the dry cleaner; he gets supplies for this house; he gets the cars serviced and inspected."
"Do all vampires have a daytime man?"
"The lucky ones," Eric said with his most charming smile.
"Mr. de Castro, do you have a daytime man?" Ambroselli asked him.
"I do, and I hope he is hard at work in Nevada," Felipe said, radiating bonhomie.
"What about you, Mr. Compton?"
"I’ve been fortunate enough to have a kind neighbor who will help me out with daytime errands," Bill said. (That would be me.) "I’m hiring someone so I won’t tax her goodwill."
The detective turned to the patrol officer behind her and issued some commands that the vampires could surely hear, but I could not. However, I could read her mind, and I knew that she was telling the officer to also search for a man named Mustapha Khan who seemed to be missing, and that the victim’s name was probably Kym Rowe and he should check the missing-persons list to see if she was on it. A plainclothes guy-another detective, I guessed-came in and took Ambroselli out on the front porch.
While he whispered in her ear, I was sure all the vampires were trying hard to hear what he was telling her. But I could hear it in her brain. Pam touched my arm, and I turned to face her. She raised her eyebrows in a question. I nodded. I knew what they were talking about.
"I need to talk to all of you separately," Ambroselli said, turning back to us. "The crime-scene team needs to go through the house, so if you could come down to headquarters with me?"
Eric looked angry. "I don’t want people going through my house. Why would they?" he asked. "The woman died outside. I didn’t even know her."
"Well, you took her blood quick enough," Ambroselli said.
Valid point, I thought, tempted to smile for just a nanosecond.
"We won’t know where she died until we look at your house, sir," Ambroselli continued. "For all I know, you’re all covering up a crime that took place inside this very room." I had to repress an impulse to glance around in a guilty way.
"Eric, Sookie, and I were together from the time this Rowe woman left the bedroom until we came out here to talk to Felipe and his friends," Pam said.
"And we were all together until Eric and Pam and Sookie came out here from the bedroom," Horst said promptly, which was simply not true. Any of the Nevada vampires or their human pickups could have slipped outside and disposed of Kym.
At least Pam was telling the truth.
Then I remembered that I’d been shut in the bathroom. By myself. For at least ten minutes.
I’d assumed that Pam had remained outside the bathroom door; I’d assumed Eric had gone into the living room to tell Felipe and his crowd that it was time to get down to business. He would have suggested that the human guests go into the other bedroom while we had our discussion.
That’s what I’d assumed.
But I had no way to know for sure.
Down at the police station, we covered the same conversational ground, but this time on an individual basis. It was both boring and tense. When I’m dealing with the police, I’m always thinking what I could be guilty of. I always imagine there are laws I don’t know about, laws that I’ve broken. And of course, I’ve broken a few major laws that haunt me, some more than others.
After the individual interviews, conducted by several policemen, we were deposited back in our little groups and stowed separately around the big room. The Nevada vampires were finishing up talking to a detective several yards away, while I could see Cherie in a glass-walled cubicle with yet another interviewer. T-Rex and Viveca waited for her on a bench against the wall.
I was more than ready to leave this building. This late at night, even on a Saturday, the traffic on Texas Boulevard would be light. If I had my car, I could be home in an hour, maybe less. Unfortunately, the police had suggested we all pile into Felipe’s Suburban for the trip to the station. Since my car had been parked at the curb, it was temporarily part of the crime scene.
Simply for want of something else to do while she waited to hear from the crime-scene people, Cara Ambroselli was walking us through the evening one more time.
"Yes," an obviously bored Eric was saying. "My friend Bill Compton came in from Bon Temps. Since the other vampires who work for me were busy at the club, I asked Bill to help out at my house because I was having company, though I confess I wasn’t expecting quite so much of it. Bill was … tasked … with patrolling the front grounds. Though I live in a gated community, from time to time curiosity seekers try to make my acquaintance, especially during a party. So Bill was doing a circuit of the front yard and the area around it, every few minutes. Right, Bill?"
Bill nodded agreeably. He and Eric were such buddies. "That’s what I did," he said. "I surprised one old man who came down to the end of his driveway to get his newspaper, and I saw one woman out walking her dog. I talked to Sookie when she arrived."
It was my turn to do the smiling and nodding. We were all friends, here! And if I’d followed Bill’s advice, I thought, I would never have seen Eric sucking on Kym Rowe’s neck, and I would never have seen her dead body, and I would be sound asleep in bed. I looked at Bill thoughtfully. He raised his brows at me-What? I shook my head, a tiny motion.
"And you had asked this missing man, Mustapha, to help Mr. Compton keep intruders away. Though his employment is as your daytime man." Detective Ambroselli was talking to Eric.
"I think we’ve already covered that."
"Where do you think Mr. Khan is?"
"Last time I saw him, he was in the kitchen," I said, figuring it was my turn. "As I told you, we spoke when I came inside."
"What was he doing?"
"Nothing in particular. We didn’t talk long. I was …" I was in a hurry to see Eric, but he was busy with the dead woman. "I was anxious to apologize to our guests for being a bit late," I said. Mustapha had made me late on purpose-but what that purpose had been, I couldn’t fathom.