It was a positive treat to see T-Rex come out of a door, apparently leaving the building. He glanced my way, kept moving, but did a double take.
"Sookie, right?" Under the harsh light, his dyed platinum hair looked garish but also cheerful, simply because he was such a vital person.
"Yeah," I said, shaking his hand. Pretty, vamp’s girl, from Bon Temps? He was having his own little stream of consciousness about me. "They call you in, too?"
"Yeah, I’m doing my civic duty," he said with a very small smile. "Cherie and Viv already came in."
I tried to smile in a carefree way. I didn’t think I was very successful. "I guess we all got to help them find out who killed that girl," I offered.
"We don’t have to enjoy it."
I was able to give him a genuine smile. "That’s very true. Did they wring a confession out of you?"
"I can’t keep secrets," he said. "That’s my biggest confession. Seriously, I’d’ve told them anything after we were here a couple hours the night it happened. T-Rex is not one for secrets."
T-Rex was one for talking about himself in the third person, apparently. But he was so vivid, so full of life, that to my surprise I found I liked him.
"I have to go tell them I’m here," I said apologetically, and took a step toward the window.
"Sure," he said. "Listen, give me a call if you ever want to come to a wrestling match. I get the feeling you ain’t been to many, if at all, and you might have a good time. I can get you a ringside seat!"
"That’s real nice of you," I said. "I don’t know how much time I’ll have, between my job and my boyfriend, but I do appreciate the offer."
"I never hung around with vampires before. That Felipe, he’s pretty damn funny, and Horst is okay." T-Rex hesitated. "On the other hand, your boyfriend is pretty damn scary."
"He is," I agreed. "But he didn’t murder Kym Rowe."
Our conversation ended when Detective Ambroselli called me to her desk.
Cara Ambroselli was a little dynamo. She asked me the same questions she’d asked me Saturday night, and I answered them the same way. She asked me a few new questions. "How long have you been dating Eric?" (He was no longer Mr. Northman, I noticed.) "Did you ever work in a strip club?" (That was an easy one.) "What about the men you live with?"
"What about them?"
"Doesn’t Claude Crane own a strip club?"
"Yeah," I said warily. "He does."
"Did Kym Rowe ever work there?"
I was taken aback. "I don’t know," I said. "I never thought about that. I guess she might have."
"You call Crane your cousin."
"Yeah, he is."
"We got no record of him being related to you."
It would be interesting to know what records they could possibly have about Claude, since he wasn’t human. "He comes from an illegitimate birth," I said. "It’s private family business."
No matter how many times she asked questions about Claude, I stuck to my guns. She eventually gave in to my determination, since there was really no way she could link Kym to Claude to me. At least, I hoped that was the case. This was something else I needed to talk to Claude about, when I had the chance.
I’d nodded to Mike Coughlin, who was sitting a few desks away. He’d been doing some paperwork, but now he was talking to a young man who sat with his back to me. It was the guy who’d watched the gate to Eric’s community on Saturday night.
Ambroselli had been called away by another police officer, one in uniform, so I felt free to listen. And there was nothing wrong with my hearing.
Evidently, Coughlin had asked-and I had a hard time remembering the name he’d had on his shirt-Vince, that was it. Coughlin had asked Vince why he’d been substituting for Dan Shelley the night of Eric’s party.
"Dan was sick," Vince said instantly. I could tell his mind was full of agitation, and I wondered what was so scary. "He asked me to sit in for him. Said it was easy work. I needed the money, so I said sure."
"Did Dan tell you what was wrong with him?" Mike Coughlin was persistent and thorough, if not brilliant.
"Sure, he said he’d had too much to drink. I’d keep that to myself, normally, but we’re talking about murder here, and I don’t want to get into trouble."
Coughlin gave Vince a level stare. "I’m betting it was you called us to the scene," he said. "Why didn’t you own up to it?"
"We’re not supposed to call the cops," Vince said. "Dan said the vamp tips him big to keep his mouth shut about his doings. The vamp, that is."
"He’s seen other girls in trouble?" There was an ominous undertone to Coughlin’s voice.
"No, no! Dan woulda called that in. No, the extra money was just to keep Dan quiet about the goings and the comings from the house. There are reporters and just plain snoopy people who’d pay to know who visits a vampire. This vampire, Eric whatever, he didn’t want his girlfriend to catch grief about staying over at his place."
I hadn’t known that.
"But when I stood up to stretch, I could see the front of his yard, and I saw the body lying there. I didn’t know who it was, but she wasn’t moving. That’s definitely the kind of thing I need to report to the police." Vince was practically glowing with virtue by the time he finished his account.
The detective was regarding Vince with open skepticism, and Vince’s glow of civic virtue diminished with every second of Coughlin’s stare. "Yeah, buddy," Coughlin said finally, "I find that real interesting, since you couldn’t possibly see the girl’s body from the guard shack. Unless you did that big stretch while you were hovering over the ground."
I tried to remember the lay of the land in the little gated community, while Vince goggled at the detective. Coughlin was right: Eric’s house was higher than the guard shack, and furthermore, the row of crepe myrtles by the walkway would prevent an easy sight line.
I sure wanted to hold Vince’s hand. It would make it so much easier to find out what was going on in his head. I sighed. There was simply no casual way to touch flesh with a virtual stranger. Cara Ambroselli returned, looking impatient.
The interview staggered on for thirty more minutes. I gradually understood that Ambroselli had assembled a lot of facts about each of the people present at the scene, but that all these facts might not add up to anything. She appeared to be homing in on the stripper part of Kym Rowe’s life, rather than the desperate-and-reckless part … or the part-Were part.
I had no idea how to make that add up to clues about why Kym Rowe had shown up at Eric’s house, or who’d paid her to do so. But to me, it seemed obvious that the girl had been bribed to do her best to seduce Eric. Who’d paid for this and what they hoped to gain … I was as far from discovering the guilty party as Ambroselli.