"Locked up just because he's a werewolf," I said it. I wanted him to hear what he was saying, to disagree, to come to his senses, but he didn't.
"Yeah," he said. And he said it, on tape, evidenced, un-take-backable. It could and probably would be used against him. There was nothing I could do to help Dolph, but I knew in that moment that Jason wouldn't be going to a secured facility. Half of me was relieved, half of me was so scared for Dolph that I could taste metal on my tongue.
Zerbrowski went for the door, pushing Jason ahead of him. "We'll give you a few minutes alone, Lieutenant." He motioned at me with his head.
Dolph didn't try and stop us. He just knelt there, face shocked, as if he'd finally heard his words, finally realized what he might have done.
We all went out the door, and Zerbrowski closed it firmly behind us. Everyone in the squad room was looking at us. They tried not to be, but everyone had found something to do to keep them close at hand. I'd never seen so many detectives so eager to do paperwork at their desks, or even somebody else's, as long as the desk was close to the hallway.
Zerbrowski looked at the near wall of people and said, "Break it up people, we don't need a crowd."
They all looked at each other, as if asking should we move, should we listen to him? They would have moved without question for Dolph. But finally, they did move, drifting off in ones and twos to other parts of the big room. The ones who were at their own desks close to the action seemed to remember phone calls they needed to make.
Zerbrowski bent close to me, and spoke low, "Take Mr. Schuyler with you and go."
"What'll Dolph say?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I don't know, but I know that Schuyler here doesn't deserve to go to one of those facilities."
"Thanks, Sarge," Jason said, and he smiled.
Zerbrowski didn't smile back, but he did say, "You're a pain in the ass sometimes Schuyler, and you're a furball, but you aren't a monster."
They had one of those guy moments. Women would have hugged, but they were men, which meant that they didn't even share a handshake. "Thanks, Zerbrowski."
Zerbrowski gave a weak smile. "Good to know I'm making somebody happy today." He turned back to me. We looked at each other.
"What's going to happen to Dolph?" I asked.
He looked even more solemn, which considering he'd looked downright depressed before, said a lot. "I don't know."
Dolph had said enough on tape to lose him his job, if it got out. Hell, if the head of RPIT was this prejudiced it might bring all their cases under review, going back to the beginning.
"Make sure he takes the two weeks of personal time, Zerbrowski, keep him out of here."
"I know that," he said, "now."
I shook my head. "I'm sorry, of course you do."
"Just go for now, Anita, please, go."
I touched Zerbrowski's arm. "Don't go back in there without some backup, okay."
"Perry told me what Dolph did to you the other day. Don't worry, I'll be careful." He glanced back at the closed door. "Please, Anita, go before he comes out."
I wanted to say something. Something comforting, or helpful, but there wasn't anything. The only helpful thing I could do was leave. So we did.
Leaving felt cowardly. Staying would have been stupid. When it's a choice between being cowardly or stupid, I choose stupid every single time. Today I opted for the better part of valor. Besides, I wasn't sure that Dolph might come out of the room like some rampaging bull and try to attack Jason, or me. We might be able to hush it up in an interrogation room, but if he trashed the entire squad room, it would mean the end of his career. Right now, he maybe had shot his career in the foot. Even probably. But maybe and probably were better than certainly. I left Zerbrowski to pick up the pieces, because I didn't know how.
I was so much better at destroying things than fixing them.
Jason leaned his head back against the passenger seat of the Jeep. His eyes were closed, and he looked weary. There were hollows under his eyes even with them closed. Jason was fair-skinned, not pale. He didn't tan dark, but nicely golden. Today he looked vampire pale, and his skin gave the illusion that it was too thin, as if some great hand had been rubbing around his eyes and across his face, rubbing him down like you'd worry a pebble in your hand.
"You look like shit," I said.
He smiled, without opening his eyes. "You sweet-talker."
"No, I mean it, you look terrible. Are you going to be okay about tonight, the banquet, and everything?"
He opened his eyes enough to slide his gaze towards me. "Do I have a choice? Do any of us really have a choice?"
Put that way . . . "No, I guess not." My voice suddenly sounded tired, too.
He smiled again, his head still back against the seat, eyes almost closed. "If the Lieutenant hadn't popped a major gasket, would I be on my way to a secured facility, right now?"
I buckled myself into the driver's seat and started the Jeep.
"You didn't answer me," he said, voice low but insistent.
I put the Jeep in gear. "Maybe, I don't know. If Dolph hadn't been popping a major gasket, as you put it, then he'd never have even thought of putting you in a facility." I eased out of the parking area. "But he might have called you in for questioning. You are pretty scratched up, and you are a werewolf." I shrugged.
He stretched his arms up over his head, arching his body against the seat, stretching all the way to his toes. It was an oddly graceful gesture. The movement flashed the cuts on his arms, making his T-shirt sleeves ride up, and he added a writhing movement, like a shudder, or a wave that flowed from the tip of his fingers, down his arms, his chest, the arch of his neck, his waist, the ripeness of his hips, down the muscles of his thighs, to his calves, to his toes.
A loud honking and the screech of brakes brought me back to the road, and the fact that I was driving. I managed not to hit anyone, but it was close. I threaded my way through a forest of rude gestures and Jason's laughter.
"I feel better now," he said, laughter still thick in his voice.
I glanced at him, frowning. His blue eyes were sparkling, his face suddenly glowing with glee. I struggled, but finally had to smile back. Jason had always been able to do that to me, make me smile when I didn't want to.
"What is so damned funny?" I said, but there was an edge of laughter in my voice that I couldn't quite swallow.
"I was trying to flirt, and it worked. You've never reacted to my body before, not even when I was naked."
I concentrated on the road, really hard, while the blush burned my face.
He chortled. "You're blushing for me. Oh, God, yes!"
"Keep it up and you are going to piss me off." I turned onto Clark, and headed for the Circus.
"You don't get it, do you?" He looked at me, and I couldn't read the look on his face. Puzzlement, delight, and something else.
"Get what?" I asked.
"I'm not invisible on your guy-radar anymore."
"You notice men, Anita, but you'd never noticed me. I was beginning to feel like the court eunuch."
I gave him a quick frown before turning back to the road. I did not want to risk another near miss. I'd had my adrenaline rush for the day.
"Come on, you know what I mean."
I sighed. "Maybe."
"Maybe it's because you don't do casual sex, but it means more to you than just f**king, even with the ardeuron."
If I'd been standing I would have shuffled my feet. I had to settle for concentrating really hard on my driving. "If you've got a point to make, Jason, make it."
"Don't get all grumpy, Anita. My point is that even if we never touch each other again, I'm on your radar screen now. You see me. You really see me." He looked deeply content.
I was confused. When I'm confused I usually try and concentrate on work. "Do you think the lycanthrope that's raping and killing these women is local?"
"I know he's not," Jason said.
I looked at him, because he sounded so positive. "How can you be that sure?"
"It was a werewolf, it wasn't one of our pack. There are no werewolves in the St. Louis area that are not part of the Thronnos Rokke Clan."
"How do you know it was a werewolf? It could have been any of a dozen types of half-men predators."
"It smelled like wolf." He frowned at me. "Didn't you smell it in the house?"