"Are you encouraging me to encourage someone else to put undue pressure on an upstanding member of the community?"
"Would I do that?"
I nodded. "Yep."
"My head's sore," he said, "I give up. How the hell do we catch a vampire and hold him for questioning without getting anyone else killed?"
"He's only two years dead, Zerbrowski. He's not that big and bad."
He glanced down at the body. "Tell that to her."
He had a point.
"If this was an accident, then he might, just might, run to the church for sanctuary or absolution, or whatever."
"What if it wasn't an accident?"
"Then he's off joining up with his killer friends, and I have no idea where to start looking for him. We know his hunting ground is across the river in the clubs."
Zerbrowski nodded. "Sheriff Christopher, who you met, is putting all his men on alert. The Staties are helping out, trying to keep it low profile."
"You're not going to keep it out of the media much longer."
He shrugged. "I know."
"So if extra people are patrolling the clubs, then we can check out the other theory."
"The church," he said.
"I'll talk to Abrahams, let him know what's up. You go outside and make nice with Arnet."
"Do it, Anita, I don't have time to baby-sit any more feuds. You've got less than five minutes to fix this. I'd go outside and get started if I were you." He had that strange un-Zerbrowski-like tone to his voice again. Not hostile, but no room to debate. It was a voice that expected to be obeyed, and strangely, I did. At least I went outside. I had no idea how to fix things with Arnet. You can't fix something until you know what's broke. I couldn't believe she was that pissed about not being able to date Nathaniel, and if it wasn't that, I was clueless. Yet another interpersonal relationship that I had no clue about. Was it just me, or are people really this confusing?
A glance out the partially open door didn't show Arnet. There was a forest of uniformed officers, plain clothes, and the coroner's wagon complete with coroner waiting to take the body away. We were still waiting for the crime lab, CSU. It was rare for me to arrive on the scene this soon. I peeled off my bloody gloves at the door, but no one had set up a trash bag for debris. I ended up holding the gloves between two fingertips by a clean edge. Awkward, but I couldn't just drop them.
The newest detective on the RPIT payroll came around the door frame with an open, but empty trash bag in his gloved hands. His name was Smith and I'd met him once at a crime scene long ago when he was in uniform. It had actually been one of the very first times I'd met Nathaniel. Smith had been comfortable enough around the lycanthropes that I'd remembered it. Remembered it enough to tell Dolph. Apparently, Dolph had remembered it, too. Seeing Smith in plain clothes had been a reminder that Dolph didn't really think I was evil, and might even still value my opinion.
He smiled at me. "Looks like I'm just in time." He held the bag open so I could drop the gloves in.
I smiled back. "The nick of time."
Zerbrowski yelled, "Smith!"
Smith moved toward Zerbrowski with the bag still in his hands. He was the newest detective on the squad, and that meant he was their version of a grunt. It wasn't as bad as being a uniformed rookie, but it was still low man on the totem pole. I walked outside without waiting to see what Zerbrowski wanted Smith for. Not my problem. No, my problem was waiting outside.
I actually expected Arnet to be somewhere in the hallway with all the extra personnel, but she wasn't. I went down the stairs and out the glass doors of the little entryway. She had taken Zerbrowski literally, or maybe she really needed the air. The October night was soft, warmer than last night, but still cool enough to feel like autumn. The air tasted like it was time to go somewhere and pick apples.
Arnet was sitting on the curb. The halogen light was bright enough that her pantsuit still looked the same shade of brownish burgundy that it had in the apartment. I would have looked sickly in the color, but it brought out highlights in her short hair that you didn't see when she wore black or navy. She had her arms around her knees, not exactly clutching them, but obviously not happy even from a distance.
I took a deep breath, let it out, and kept walking toward her. I so didn't want to do this. I stopped short of her, and said, "Is this seat taken?"
She jumped and glanced back at me. She scrubbed at her face, trying to hide tears. "Oh, great," she said, "just great. You catch me crying. Now you must think I really am a loser."
She hadn't said I could sit down, but she hadn't said I couldn't either. I decided to take it, and sat down. Close enough to talk privately without being overheard, but not so close that I invaded her personal space more than I could help it. Sitting down on the curb, I was happy that I was wearing jeans, jogging shoes, and a T-shirt. They were perfect curb-sitting clothes.
"What's wrong, Arnet?" I asked.
"Okay, why are you mad at me?"
She glanced sort of sideways at me. "Why do you care?"
"Because we have to work together."
"You know, almost any other woman would have led into this conversation. Chatted a little."
"Zerbrowski said I had less than five minutes. I don't have time to chat."
"Why less than five minutes?"
"We're going on a road trip."
"Do you know where Avery Seabrook is?"
"No, but I thought of people to ask."
She looked away from me and shook her head. "And how did you come up with people to ask? Not through police work."
I frowned, but she couldn't see it. "What's that supposed to mean?"
She licked her lips, hesitated, then said, "I could work for years as a cop on this kind of crime, and I wouldn't have your insight into the monsters." She looked at me sideways again, but this time she held the look. "Do I have to f**k the monsters to be as good at this as you are?"
I gave her wide eyes. "Please tell me that you are not this pissed just because I'm dating Nathaniel and you don't get to."
"I saw you at the club last night."
There was a time in my life where I would have said, Guilty Pleasures, but the time when I would volunteer information was past. "What club?" I asked.
Her eyes were suddenly cop eyes, maybe a little more hostile than they needed to be, but cold and looking at me as if she could see into my head. It was part lie and part truth. She didn't know as much as that look seemed to say, but she probably knew more than I wanted her to.
"Don't play games, Anita."
Oh, goody we were going to have a fight on a first-name basis. "I'm not very good at games, Jessica, so I don't play them much."
Her hands gripped her knees tighter. I think to keep from gripping me. "Fine, Guilty Pleasures. I saw you at Guilty Pleasures last night."
My face showed nothing, because she'd given me plenty of time to brace for it. I just blinked at her and had a slight smile on my face. Pleasant, empty, on the outside. Inside I was thinking hard. How much had she seen at the club? How much did she remember? Had she been there for Primo's part of the show?
I almost said, I didn't see you, but stopped myself. I wasn't going to help her fill in any blanks. "So, you saw me at Guilty Pleasures. I'm dating the owner."
She looked away then, off toward the parked cars and beyond that a news van. The uniform that was still putting up yellow crime scene tape to help block off the parking area paused and looked at the van. Would someone warn Zerbrowski?
Arnet turned and yelled, "Marconi, go tell Zerbrowski we've got a news van."
Marconi said, "Shiiit," with real feeling to it, and went for the entryway.
Great, it was like all I had to do was think and someone else did it for me. Cool. I would try to use this power only for good.
She looked back at me. "How can you be dating him and Nathaniel at the same time?"
"Just lucky, I guess."
If looks could have hurt me, that one would have. "That's not an answer, that's an evasion."
I sighed. "Look, Jessica, I don't owe you an answer to that particular question. Who I date, and why, or how, is none of your business."
Her hazel eyes got dark, almost solid brown. I realized it was her eyes' version of going black with rage. "I thought I'd go down and see Nathaniel without you there. I thought maybe if you weren't there to interfere..." She looked away then, stared out at the parked cars and the gawkers being kept back by the uniforms. Stared at them as if she were really seeing them, which I doubted. It was just somewhere for her eyes to go, while she talked.