"Which shit?" he asked.
"All of it."
He smiled. "Come on, marshal, let's go get those gloves."
I shook my head, but I led the way through the dining room towards the kitchen. I could see the box of gloves sitting beside an open, nearly full trash bag. There'd been a lot of personnel through here to fill up one of those large bags. So where was everyone, and where was Dolph?
Dolph found us in the kitchen while I was helping Jason with the gloves. There's an art to putting them on, and it was Jason's first time, so he was like a small child with his first set of gloves, too few fingers and too many holes.
Dolph came in through the dining room the same way we'd come, though he almost filled the doorway, whereas Jason and I had walked through together with plenty of room to spare. Dolph is built like a pro-wrestler, wide, and he's six eight. I'm sort of used to him by now, but Jason did what most people do. He looked up, and up. Other than that, he behaved himself, which for Jason was a minor miracle.
"What's he doing here?" Dolph asked.
"You said if I wasn't well enough to drive I could bring a civvie driver. Jason's my driver."
He shook his head, his dark hair so freshly cut that his ears looked pale and stranded. "Don't you have any human friends left?" he asked.
I concentrated on helping Jason into the gloves and counted to ten. "Yeah, but most of them are cops, and they don't like playing chauffer."
"He doesn't need gloves, Anita, because he is not staying."
"We had to park too far back for me to walk without someone to catch me if I needed it. I can't send him back through that pack of reporters."
"Yeah, you can," Dolph said.
I finally got the last finger in place. Jason stood there flexing his hands inside the gloves. "How come it feels wet and powdery all at the same time?"
"I don't know, but it always does," I said.
"He is out of here, Anita, do you hear me?"
"If he sits on the front stoop, they're going to have pictures of him. What if someone recognizes him? Do you really want the headlines to read werewolves attack suburbia?" I slipped into my own pair of gloves with practiced ease.
"Gosh," Jason said, "that was nifty, you made that look easy."
"Anita!" It was almost a yell.
We both looked up at Dolph. "You don't have to shout, Dolph, I can hear you just fine."
"Then why is he still standing here?"
"I can't send him back to the car. He can't sit out front. Where would you like him to be while I check out the crime scene?"
He balled his big hands into even bigger fists. "I--want-him-out-of-here." Every word was squeezed out through gritted teeth. "I don't care where he f**king goes."
I ignored the anger, because it didn't get me anywhere to pay attention to it. He was in a bad mood, it was a bad scene, and Dolph wasn't too fond of the monsters lately.
Merlioni came into the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway between kitchen and dining room, as if he'd picked up on the tension. "What's going on?"
Dolph pointed a finger at Jason. "He is out of here."
Merlioni glanced at me.
"You do not f**king look at her, you look at me!" The anger was hot in his voice. He wasn't yelling, but he didn't really need to.
Merlioni walked around Dolph, carefully, and reached out to take Jason's arm. I stopped him with one gloved hand on his hand.
Merlioni glanced back at Dolph, then moved a little farther down the kitchen, out of the line of fire, I think.
"Is there a backyard?" I asked.
"Why?" Dolph asked, his voice gone low and growling, not with the edge of any beast, but with anger.
"Merlioni can take him out back. He'll be out of the house and still safe from the reporters."
"No," Dolph said, "he's out of here. Gone, completely gone."
My headache was coming back, a flutter of pain behind one eye, but it had the promise of great things to come. "Dolph, I do not feel well enough for this shit."
"Your shit with anyone not lily-human," I said, and I sounded tired, not angry.
I looked up at him. "What did you say?"
"Get out, take your pet werewolf and go home."
He gave me that look that had been making grown policemen cringe for years. I was too tired and too disgusted with it all to flinch.
"I told you I was too sick to drive when you woke me up. You agreed I could bring a driver, even a civilian. You didn't say he had to be human. Now after dragging my ass down here, you're going to send me home without having seen the crime scene?"
"Yes," Dolph said, that one word almost choking in its brevity.
"No," I said, "you're not."
"This is my murder, Anita, and I say who stays and who goes."
I was finally beginning to get angry. You can only cut even your friends so much slack. I stepped in front of Jason, closer to Dolph. "I'm not here on your sufferance, Dolph. I'm a federal marshal now, and I have the right to investigate any preternatural crime that I see fit."
"Are you refusing my direct order?" his voice was very quiet now. Not heated--empty--and that should have scared me more, but I wasn't scared of Dolph. I never had been.
"If I think your direct orders are jeopardizing this investigation, then, yes I am."
He took one step towards me. He loomed over me, but I was used to that, a lot of people loomed over me. "Never question my professionalism again, Anita, never."
"When you act like a professional, I won't."
His hands were clenching and unclenching at his sides. "You want to see why I don't want him at this scene? You want to see it?"
"Yeah," I said, "I want to see it."
He grabbed me by the upper arm. I don't know if Dolph had ever touched me before. It caught me off guard, and it wasn't until he'd half-marched, half-dragged me across the kitchen to the dining room door that I unfroze. I looked behind me and shook my head at Jason. He probably didn't like it, but he settled back against the cabinets. I caught a glimpse of Merlioni's shocked face before we were into the dining room.
He dragged me to the stairs, and when I stumbled, he didn't give me time to get to my feet, but literally dragged me up the stairs.
The door opened behind us, and I heard a man say, "Lieutenant!" I thought I recognized the voice, but I wasn't sure, and there wasn't time to look, I was too busy trying not to get rug burns from the stairs.
I couldn't get my feet under me long enough to stand in the heels. The headache burst full-blown behind my eye, and the world was a trembling thing.
I found my voice, "Dolph, Dolph, damn it!"
He opened a door and jerked me to my feet. I staggered while the world ran in streamers of dark color. He held me with one of his big hands on each of my arms, only his grip kept me on my feet.
My vision cleared in pieces, as if the scene were some sort of video puzzle. There was a bed against the far wall. I glimpsed white pillows against a lavender wall, then a woman's head, and some of her shoulders. It didn't look real, as if someone had propped a fake head against the pillows. From about collar bones down, there was only a red ruin. I don't mean a body. I mean it was as if the bed had been dipped in dark fluid. The blood wasn't red, it was black. A trick of the light, or the fact that it wasn't just blood.
The smell hit me then--meat. Everything smelled like hamburger. I saw the pile of bedclothes, black, and red, and sodden, soaked in gore. Gore, not just blood, gore. I looked back at the woman's head, I didn't want to, but I couldn't help it. I looked, and I finally could see. It was all that was left of her, all that was left of an adult woman. It was as if she'd exploded with her head on the pillows, and her body . . . everywhere.
I felt the scream building in my throat, and knew I couldn't do it. I had to be stronger than this, better than this. I swallowed the scream, and my stomach tried to come up my throat. I swallowed that, too, and tried to think.
"What do you think?" Dolph said, and he pushed me, trapped between his big hands, towards the bed. "Pretty enough for you? Because one of your friends did this." He pressed me too close to the bed, and my legs squeezed against the gore-soaked bed clothes. The blood was cool to the touch, and it helped keep my beast from curling up my body. What good was blood if it wasn't hot and fresh?