I don't know what he would have said, but I felt Sheriff Christopher coming up behind me, even before I saw the look of satisfaction on the deputy's face. His look said clearly that the sheriff would sort me out, and he'd enjoy a ringside seat.
Patterson said, "He won't tell me where he works, Sheriff. Says he's not a stripper. Says he just came to watch a little fag wag."
I made a small sound in my throat. "I'm going to say this just one more time. We got a call from my friend Veronica Simms that the bartender at this club told her she was too drunk to drive and she needed a ride home. Micah came along so that he could help me with her."
"And what about the other one?" Patterson asked. "He says he's a stripper at Guilty Pleasures."
"Nathaniel came along to keep us company," I said.
Sheriff Christopher gave me a flat cop look. It was a real look. He might be a prejudiced, woman-hating, good ol' boy, but he was a cop, too. Underneath all the crap was someone who could be good at the job, when his personal agenda wasn't getting in the way. It made me feel better, that look, but of course, his personal agenda was raining all over us.
"Why'd you need two friends," and he stressed the friends, "to help pick up one drunk girlfriend?"
"Nathaniel had just gotten off work, and we hadn't gotten to talk, so he came along, so we could visit."
Sheriff Christopher frowned at me. "You said you were home."
"I thought this one was your boyfriend." He pointed at Micah.
"So what's that one?" he asked, pointing a thumb in Nathaniel's direction. Nathaniel was talking to the last deputy. He seemed to be having an easier time of it than Micah or me, maybe his deputy was smarter, or just less prejudiced.
"My boyfriend," I said.
"They're both your boyfriends?"
I took in air, let it out slow. "Yes."
"Well, my, my," he said.
I said a small prayer that Zerbrowski would get here soon. "We've got another victim, Sheriff, or don't you care?"
"Yeah, that's another thing," he said, and he put those hard cop eyes on me. If he thought it was going to make me flinch, he was wrong, but it was still a good look. "You just accidentally found our serial killer's next vic."
"Yes," I said.
"Believe what you want, Sheriff. I've told you and your people the absolute truth. I could make stuff up, if it would make you happier."
He looked past me to Micah. "I like to see a man's eyes when I talk to him, take off the glasses."
Shit. Micah looked at me, and I looked at him. I shrugged. "Patterson has never actually asked what Micah does for a living. He's been too busy trying to get Micah to admit that he's a stripper, or a homosexual, to worry much about the facts."
"Fine, I'm askin' what do you do for a living, Mr. Callahan?"
"I am the coordinator for the Coalition for Better Understanding between Lycanthrope and Human Communities."
"You're the what?" Patterson said.
"Shut up, Patterson," Christopher said. "So you're one of the bleeding heart liberals that think the animals deserve equal rights."
"Something like that, Sheriff."
Christopher was giving Micah all his attention suddenly. "Take off the glasses, Mr. Coordinator."
Micah took off the glasses.
Patterson backed up, and his hand actually touched his gun butt. Not good. The sheriff just stared into Micah's kitty-cat eyes and shook his head. "Bestiality and coffin-bait, that is pretty damn low for a white woman."
And the "white woman" comment took care of any worries I might have had about what other prejudices the sheriff happened to be carrying around. He was an equal opportunity bigot. He hated everybody that wasn't male and white and straight. What a terribly stark and empty worldview.
"My mother was Hispanic, from Mexico, does that help?"
"Half spic," he said.
I smiled, and it went all the way to my eyes. "Perfect," I said, "just perfect."
"You look awfully happy for someone who's about to have a really bad night."
"And how is this night supposed to get any worse, Sheriff?"
"You knew the body would be here, because your boyfriend and his people did it. That's how you found it."
"And why did I bring my boyfriends, and how did I arrange for my friend to be here getting drunk?"
"You were going to move the body, hide it. That's why you needed this many people. There's something about this one that will lead to your fag vampire friends."
I wondered how Jean-Claude and Asher would like being referred to as my fag vampire friends. Better not to know. I shook my head. "How many lawsuits do you have against your department?"
"None," he said.
I laughed, but it wasn't a happy laugh. "I find that hard to believe."
"I get the job done, and that's all people care about."
It wasn't my business, but I had to wonder how many of his arrests were people not white, not straight, not like him. I would have bet almost any amount of money, most of his arrests fell into those categories. I hoped I was wrong, but I doubted I was.
"You know the line that if all you have is a hammer, all your problems begin to look like nails?"
He frowned at me, not sure where I was going. "Yeah, I like Mr. Ayoob's writings."
"Yeah, so do I, but my point is this. If all you're looking at is the monsters, then that's all you're going to see."
He frowned harder. "I don't follow."
Why was I even trying? "You're so busy hating me and everyone with me, that you've done almost no real police work, or don't you care about this one? Is that it, sheriff? Is this just some little fag stripper that got himself killed, so it's not as important as the white women earlier?"
Something flinched through his eyes, if I hadn't been staring right at him, I'd have missed it. "You must really hate this club."
His eyes were cool and unreadable when he said, "My experience has been that what goes around, comes around, Marshal. You engage in high-risk behavior, and it catches up with you, and payback's a bitch."
I shook my head. "No one so blind as those that will not see."
"What?" he said.
"Nothing, Sheriff, just wasting my breath."
The radios on the black and whites crackled to life, and what we heard was enough to stop the squabbling. "Officer down, officer down."
Location was just down the road at the first strip bar that the vampires hit. Ambitious bastards. I yelled to Micah and Nathaniel, "Take Ronnie's car and go home." I was already opening the Jeep's driver's side door.
"Anita..." Micah started.
"I love you," I said, and I slid behind the wheel. I backed up and had to wait for one of the other police cars to get out of my way. Nathaniel was still leaning against the car where the deputy had questioned him. I hit the button for my driver's side window. I blew him a kiss. He smiled and blew one back. Then I was in line between two of the black and whites, and we were gone. Officer down, was it the vampires? Or had some drunk gotten lucky? No way to know until we got there. The only bright spot was that I wouldn't be alone with just the sheriff and his men for long. Police would come from all over for this one. Officers that wouldn't normally have any business or jurisdiction here would be driving up within minutes.
The ambulance was behind us, with its lights and sirens going. They could have been simply following the police's lead, but I took it for a good sign. EMTs only do the full cherry, when they know there's someone hurt but still alive. I said a quick prayer and concentrated on driving. The sheriff was a bigoted ass**le, but he knew the roads, and I didn't. Here's hoping I didn't end up in a ditch.
We were the first officers on the scene, because we'd been less than ten minutes away. The sound of sirens wailed off into the night. More help coming. There was an Illinois State Trooper car standing in the parking lot with one door open, and the officer slumped, sitting by the door. His face was just a white blur, one arm looked injured, and his gun was clasped awkwardly in his other hand. There was blood on the shoulder of his uniform.
The black and whites hit their doors, and they took cover behind the doors, or the engine block while they looked around. No one just ran straight at the injured trooper. We all took cover, we all had our weapons out, we all assessed the situation before we ran in. You never know about bad guys, sometimes they use bait. I hugged the front of my Jeep with my back, gun out, pointed skyward. I had the engine block at my back, so no matter what the bad guys were using I was okay, as long as I was on the right side of the Jeep. There were so many things to think about, and no time to think deep, you had to let training and experience do some of the thinking for you.