The sheriff did something with his arm, and suddenly all the sirens cut off. The silence was suddenly loud, just the strobing of the lights to let people know something was wrong,
We were all scanning the parking lot and the surrounding area. There was a privacy fence behind the dumpsters. There were other buildings within a few yards. The parking lot was packed. The bad guy could be hiding behind any of the cars, or they could have fled when they heard the sirens. No way to be sure.
Nothing moved, except the trooper who blinked at us. He was alive, and I wanted him to stay that way. We had to move up. As if Sheriff Christopher had read my mind, he moved up. He kept low, which with his stomach and his height was impressive. A lot more limber than he looked.
I pointed my gun not at anything in particular, but in the directions I could cover that might potentially have someone hiding who wanted to shoot at the sheriff. A white plastic bag rolled near the Dumpster, pushed by the wind. Nothing else moved.
Sheriff Christopher gave the all clear. His men all stood up, broke cover, and converged on him. I was more cautious, scanning the area as I moved to join them, my gun pointed at the ground, but held two-handed, ready to go back up. There was a crowd starting at the door to the club. Until I stood up, I couldn't see the doors over the hood of my Jeep, but I was betting the crowd had been there all along. People have no sense. Or they knew something we didn't. Naw.
I heard, "Get the EMTs up here."
Patterson trotted off to let the medics know it was safe to come up. Sheriff Christopher glared up at me. "It was one of your vampire friends."
"Looks like a knife wound to me, how do you know it was a vampire?"
The trooper spoke in a voice that was strained low with pain and shock, "Bastards flew off with her. Flew up like f**king birds, straight up."
Okay. "Alright, vampires. Who did they take?"
"One of the dancers," the trooper said. "I was making a drive-through, like we're supposed to. Saw her come out, and saw them just come out of the shadows, one on either side of her. She started screaming. I got out, pulled my gun. But there was another one, I didn't see him. I don't know why, but it was like he just appeared behind me. He put the knife to my throat, told me to watch. Then the others just flew away with the girl. They f**king flew away." He closed his eyes and looked like he was struggling with the pain.
The EMTs were there, pushing us all back.
The trooper opened his eyes, and he looked at the sheriff. "He had the knife at my throat, why didn't he kill me? He switched the blade, drove it into my shoulder. Why? Why didn't he kill me?"
I answered, while the medics went to work on him. "He wanted you alive, so you could tell us what you saw."
"Why?" he asked, and he looked at me.
"It's a message."
I shook my head. "They want us to come and save her. They want to force us to move tonight, while they're strong, not wait until dawn when the advantage is ours."
Sheriff Christopher stood up and reached out for me, but seemed to think better of it, and just motioned for me to follow him. I followed him. "Last I knew we didn't know where these bastards are hiding. You sound like you know."
I blinked up at him and thought, What can I tell him that won't get us all in trouble? "I've got a date with Mobile Reserve for just after dawn, but if they've got a hostage, we can't wait until dawn." I dug my cell phone out of my jacket pocket and dialed Zerbrowski's cell. "Give me Captain Parker's number, Zerbrowski."
"The vamps took a stripper, alive. They even made sure we had a wounded but living state trooper to tell us about it."
"Jesus, Anita, it's a trap."
"Probably, but give me the number anyway."
He gave me the number, and I punched it in. Captain Parker came on the line with Sheriff Christopher watching me. I gave Parker the rundown.
"Is it a trap?" he asked.
"Maybe, or maybe they know we're coming, and they're just trying to rush us, so we will come in at night when they've got the upper hand. But yeah, it's probably a trap."
"I don't want to send my men in to die, Blake."
"I'm not wild about it either, but she was alive when they took her, and if we wait for dawn, she won't be. Of course, she may already be dead, I don't know."
"It's a trap, and the woman is bait," Parker said.
"I know," I said.
"You still demanding to go in with us?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world."
He gave a small dry chuckle. "You argued your way into this operation, I hope you don't regret that."
"I regret it now, but if you're really going in at night, then you're going to need me more than ever."
"Are you really that much better with vamps than we are?"
"Yes, Captain, yes I am."
"I hope you're as good as advertised, Marshal Blake."
"Better," I said.
"Then get over here, we're going to hit the target in less than thirty minutes, if you're late, we go without you." He hung up.
I cursed as I folded the phone shut. I started walking for my Jeep. "Where the hell are you going?"
"To take the bait," I said.
He frowned. "The stripper."
I nodded, and was still walking with him dogging me.
"Mobile Reserve is really taking you in with them."
"If you don't believe me, call Captain Parker yourself." I was at the door to the Jeep.
He caught the door edge before I could close it. "Isn't this a conflict of interest for you, shooting up your boyfriend's vampires?"
"These are bad guys, Sheriff, they don't belong to anybody." I shut the door, and he let me. I didn't exactly peel out, but close. I knew Parker, and I knew how Mobile Reserve operated, if I didn't make the time schedule, they would leave without me. The vampires wanted us to go in tonight. They knew we had the address. They knew we were planning on hitting them. They assumed that we meant to hit them after sunrise, and they were forcing our hand. They wanted us in there on their terms. That meant tonight. But why not run? If they knew we had their location, why not just vacate it? Why not just run, and find another daytime retreat? Why take a hostage and go to such elaborate lengths to make sure we knew about it? It was a trap, but even knowing that's what it was, we still had to go.
The dry erase board was covered with diagrams. Sergeants Hudson and Melbourne had done a recon of the area before the rest of us got set up in our nice, safe, block-away location. They'd covered the whiteboard with entries and exits, lights, windows, and all the minutiae that I would never have noticed, or rather I'd have seen it, but I wouldn't have been able to make use of it. I could have reported what I'd seen, but one of them would have had to interpret it for everybody else. I simply hadn't had the training. My way of doing it would have been to do a front entry and kill everything that moved. It wouldn't have occurred to me to get a diagram of the condo's interior, or have the landlord of the building there tell us what he knew of the woman who owned the apartment. They'd already evacuated the condos adjoining ours, and they had the nearest neighbor, again, give us information about the interior and the owner. It was useful to know that there was almost no furniture in the condo, because the owner, Jill Conroy, was waiting for a shipment that had been delayed twice. That she worked as a lawyer in a large downtown firm and had just made partner. Fascinating, but I didn't see that it was useful. They were still trying to find someone who would answer the phone at her job, to find out when she was last at work. No one at work at nearly two in the morning, f**king slackers. It was all interesting, but our victim was in there, alone with vampires who had murdered at least ten people in three states. I wanted to get her out, and I was having trouble concentrating on the trivia. It must have shown, because Sergeant Hudson said, "We boring you, Blake?"
I blinked up at him, from where I'd finally curled up on the street. I was tired and didn't see a reason not to sit down, some of the Mobile Reserve guys were kneeling. "A little," I said.
The two men closest to me, Killian of the white, buzz cut, and Jung, who was the only green-eyed Asian American I'd ever met, both moved away from me, as if they didn't want to be too close when the blood started to fly. I noticed that Melbourne stayed where he was next to Hudson, as if he expected the blood flow to be one-sided.