The most interesting bit of information I found out was given up only by the first vamp I talked to and by Clarke, who was so scared he'd have given up his mother. There had been three other church members here earlier in the evening, and they were also part of the crowd that liked to frequent the stripper bars. But none of them were members of the Sapphire Room VIP club. I had their names and an address for the most newly dead of them. Maybe they'd had something to do with the murder, or maybe they just gotten bored and went home early. It wasn't a crime to leave a place.
Zerbrowski had actually called in state troopers to back us up, as we escorted the vampires to their cars. None of them was powerful enough, or old enough to be able to fly home. When we'd gotten the last of the undead safely off in their minivans and compact cars, Zerbrowski took me to one side and said, "Did I hear you right? The vamp church makes their members sign a morals clause?"
I nodded. "Other vamps call them nightshirt Mormons."
He grinned. "Nightshirt Mormons, really."
"Oh, I will have to remember that one, that's good." He looked behind us at the waiting ambulance, fire truck, and all the personnel. "Now that you've helped save the vamps, how about looking at the actual crime scene?"
"Thought you'd never ask."
He grinned, and it almost pushed the tiredness out of his eyes. "I get to go first down the ladder," he said.
I frowned at him. "What ladder?"
"Our murder scene and body dump are in a hole left by some overzealous construction workers. According to the club manager, they broke ground, but didn't have all their permits in line, so it's just a big hole. That's why we need the firemen to help us get the body up out of the hole when you're done with it."
"You are not going ahead of me down the ladder, Zerbrowski."
"What are you wearing under that little bitty skirt?"
"None of your damn business, and if you don't let me go first down the ladder, I'll tell your wife on you."
He laughed, and a few people looked our way. They were colder than we were, and just as tired. I don't think they saw anything to laugh about. "Katie knows I'm a lech."
I shook my head. "How messy is it down in the hole?"
"Let's see, it's rained, it's frozen, it's thawed, and it's rained some more."
"Shit," I said.
"Where are those overalls you used to wear to all the crime scenes?"
"It's against company policy to wear crime scene gear to a zombie raising now." What I didn't say out loud was that I'd forgotten and worn overalls that had blood on them to a zombie raising. The client's wife had fainted. Was it my fault that she had a fragile constitution? It wasn't Bert who said no more, it was a majority vote at Animator's Inc. So I actually had to pay attention to the rule. "I didn't plan on climbing into holes and looking at bodies tonight."
The grin faded from his face. "Me neither, let's get this done. I want to go home and hug my wife and kids before they go off to school and work."
I didn't point out that it was 6:30 in the morning, and his chances of making it home in time to see Katie and his kids before they rushed off to their days were slim to none. Everybody needs a little hope, who am I to take it away?
The woman in the hole was beyond hope, or fear, or whatever had happened to her. Her face looked empty, the way the dead always do. You get an occasional one that looks scared, but it's just happenstance. The way their face muscles worked at the moment of death. But mostly, the dead look empty, like something essential is missing, something beyond just no breath, no heartbeat. I'd seen enough eyes do that last glaze, to say that something more precious than breath goes with death. Or maybe I was just tired and didn't want to be standing ankle-deep in mud, staring down at a woman that was probably younger than I was, and now always would be. I get more morbid the closer to dawn it gets, if I haven't been to bed.
There were a lot of similarities to the first body. This one was lying on her back, just like the last one. They'd both been strippers. They were both killed just outside the clubs that they worked in. This one was a blonde, and white, which was the same as the first one. There were a set of bite marks on either side of the neck, and one in the bend of her left arm, right wrist, and chest. To see if she had thigh bites I was going to have to kneel in the mud, and I didn't want to. Simple as that, I didn't want to. I promised myself I would never again be caught out, anywhere, without a pair of coveralls, and mud boots. I'd had to borrow gloves from Zerbrowski. I'd been thinking about my date, not about my job when I packed the Jeep earlier. Stupid me.
I stood up and debated on whether I could get away without crawling around in the mud and looking at all the bites. "She's taller, by almost a foot than the last one. Blond hair but very short, the last one had long hair. Other than that, it looks damn similar."
"The bite radiuses are the same."
"Who took the measurements?" I asked.
He told me, and the name meant nothing to me. I was across the river, and I didn't actually do a lot of crime scenes here. I killed vamps for Illinois, but I didn't do much actual investigative work. I couldn't let someone else do it, not if I didn't know them. If even one bite radius was off, it would mean a change of players in our vampire group. We needed to know if we were looking for five, or six, or more.
I sighed and fetched my little tape measure out of the jacket pocket. That I'd started keeping in the glove compartment with the baby wipes. I measured the easy-to-get-to bites first and had Zerbrowski take notes. Then I planted my knee carefully in the mud, between her knees. The mud was cold. I spread her legs and found the inner thigh bites. I measured everything I could find. The bite radiuses matched, or ballparked. I was using a different instrument to do the measuring, which I shouldn't have done. I shouldn't have let the CSU technician let me use something I wouldn't have with me next time. What you measured with could make a difference in the field. The field was not a laboratory.
I got up from the ground carefully, my goal was still not to slide on my ass in the mud. High-heeled boots were not the best thing to wear to guarantee that. So I was careful. "The Sapphire has security people walking their lot. At least one security guy at any given time. It's the weekend, there should have been two. Did they see or hear anything?"
"One of them saw the girl come out with her coat on. She was headed home, done for the night. He saw her go toward her car"--he riffled back through his notebook--"then, she wasn't there."
I looked at him. "What did you say?"
"He said, she was walking toward her car, he waved at her, then something attracted his attention to the other side of the lot. He's a little vague on what attracted his attention, but he swears he only glanced away, then when he looked back, she was gone."
"Yeah, why do you have that look on your face, like that means something?"
"Did he check her car right away?"
He nodded. "Yes, and when he didn't find her at the car, he went back into the club to see if she'd gone back inside. When he couldn't find her inside, he got the other security guy, and they started searching the area. They found her."
"How long does he think he looked away for?"
"He says a few seconds."
"Has anyone checked with anyone else inside, who might have seen her leave? I'd like to know what time she left the building, and how long he was really staring off in the other direction."
"Let's just get out of the hole and find someone who saw her leave and actually looked at a clock."
He was riffling through his notebook again. The lights that they had directed down into the pit illuminated everything, in fact made it all a little stark, and pitiless, as if she needed to be covered up and not stared at anymore. Maudlin, I was getting positively maudlin.
"Actually, one of the ladies inside, a customer, had liked the blonde a lot, she and her husband. So she noticed the time when she left."
"And how does it tally with the security guy's statement?"
He checked the times back and forth. "Ten minutes."
"Ten minutes is an awfully long time to stare at something he isn't even sure he saw."
"You think he lied?"
I shook my head. "No, I think he told what he thinks is the truth."