It wasn't a wrong number. It was Lieutenant Rudolph Storr, head of the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team. He had opted to be on duty during the wedding so that other people could attend. He'd asked Tammy if she was inviting any nonhumans, and when she'd said she didn't like that term, but if he meant lycanthropes, the answer was yes, Dolph had suddenly decided he'd be on duty and not come to the wedding. He was having a personal problem with the monsters. His son was about to marry a vampire, and that vampire was trying to persuade Dolph's son to join her in eternal life. To say that Dolph was not taking it well was an understatement. He'd trashed an interrogation room, manhandled me, and damn near gotten himself brought up on charges. I'd arranged a dinner with Dolph, his wife, Lucille, their son, Darrin, and future daughter-in-law. I'd persuaded Darrin to put off the decision to join the undead. The wedding was still on, but it was a start. His son still being among the living had helped Dolph deal with his crisis of faith. Deal with it enough that he was talking to me again. Deal with it enough that he called me in on a case again.
His voice was brisk, almost normal, "Anita?"
"Yeah," I whispered, cupping the phone with my hand. It wasn't like every cop in the place, which was most of the guests, wasn't wondering who I was talking to, and why.
"Got a body for you to look at."
"Now?" I made it a question.
"The ceremony is over, right? I didn't call in the middle of it."
"It's over. I'm at the reception."
"Then I need you here."
"Where's here?" I asked.
He told me.
"I know the strip club area across the river, but I'm not familiar with the club name."
"You won't be able to miss it," he said, "it'll be the only club with its own police escort."
It took me a second to realize that he had made a joke. Dolph didn't make jokes at murder scenes, ever. I opened my mouth to remark on it, but the phone was dead in my hand. Dolph never had been much for good-byes.
Detective Arnet leaned in, and asked, "Was that Lieutenant Storr?"
"Yeah," I whispered, "murder scene, gotta run."
She opened her mouth, as if she was going to say something else, but I was already moving up the table. I was going to give my apologies to Larry and Tammy, then go look at a body. I was sorry to miss the rest of the reception and all, but I had a murder scene to go to. Not only would I get away from Arnet's questions, but I wouldn't have to dance with Micah, or Nathaniel, or anybody. The night was looking up. I felt a little guilty, but I was glad somebody was dead.
Staring down at the dead woman, it was impossible to be glad. Guilty, maybe, but not glad. Guilty that even for a second I'd found the idea of someone's death an escape from an uncomfortable social situation. I wasn't a child. Surely, to God, I could have handled Jessica Arnet and her questions without hiding behind a murder. The fact that I was more comfortable here staring down at a corpse than at the head table at a wedding said something about me and my life. I wasn't sure exactly what it said, or meant. Something I probably didn't want to look at too closely, though. But, wait, we had a body to look at, a crime to solve, all the sticky personal stuff could wait. Had to wait. Yeah, sure.
The body was a pale glimpse of flesh between two Dumpsters in the parking lot. There was something almost ghostlike about that shining bit of flesh, like, if I blinked, it would vanish into the October night. Maybe it was the time of year, or the wedding scene I'd just left, but there was something unnerving about the way she'd been left. They'd stuffed the body behind the Dumpsters to hide it, then the black wool coat she wore had been opened around her almost na**d body, so that you caught that gleam of pale flesh in the bright halogen lights of the parking lot. Why hide her, then do something to draw such attention to her? It made no sense. Of course, it may have made perfect sense to the people who killed her. Maybe.
I stood there, tugging my leather jacket around me. It wasn't that cold. Cold enough for the jacket, but not enough to put the lining in it. I had my hands plunged into the pockets, the zipper all the way up, my shoulders hunched. But leather couldn't help against the cold I was fighting. I stared at that pallid glimpse of death, and felt nothing. Nothing. Not pity. Not sickness. Nothing. Somehow that bothered me more than the woman being dead.
I made myself move forward. Made myself go see what there was to see and leave my worries about my moral decay for another time. Business, first.
I had to come to the far end of the right-hand Dumpster to see the spill of her yellow hair, like a bright exclamation point on the black pavement. Staring down at her, I could see how tiny she was. My size, or smaller. She lay on her back, the coat spread under her, still securely on her arms. But the cloth had been spread wide, folded under on the side nearest the parked cars, so that she could be seen by a customer walking out to his car. Her hair, too, had been pulled back, combed out. If she'd been taller, that, too, would have been visible from the parking lot--just a peek of bright yellow around the Dumpster. I looked down the line of her body and found the reason that someone had thought she was taller--clear plastic stilettos, at least five inches high. Lying down she lost the height. Her head had been pressed to the right, exposing bite marks on her long neck. Vampire bite marks.
On the mound of her small breast was another pair of bite marks, with two thin lines of blood trickling from them. There was no blood at the neck wound. I was going to have to move the Dumpsters to get back there. I was also going to have to move the body around to look for more bite marks, more signs of violence. There'd been a time when the police only called me in after all the other experts had finished with a scene, but that was a while ago. I had to make sure I didn't f**k up the scene. Which meant I needed to find the man in charge.
Lt. Rudolph Storr wasn't hard to spot. He's 6'8" and built like pro wrestlers used to be built before they all started looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dolph was in shape, but he didn't go for the weight lifting. He didn't have time. Too many crimes to solve. His black hair was cut so short it left his ears exposed and somehow stranded on the sides of his head. Which always meant he'd gotten a haircut, recently. He always had it cut shorter than he liked it, so it would be longer between haircuts. His tan trench coat was perfectly pressed. His shoes shined in the parking lot lights. He didn't care what he looked like, as long as he was neat and tidy. Dolph was all about the neat and tidy. I think it was one of the reasons that murder pissed him off, it was always so messy.
I nodded at the uniformed policeman whose only job seemed to be watching the body and making sure it didn't get messed with by anyone that wasn't allowed to touch it. He nodded back and went back to staring at the corpse. Something about how wide his eyes were made me wonder if this was his first vampire kill. Was he worried that the victim would rise and try to munch on him? I could have calmed his fears, because I knew this one would never rise. She'd been drained to death by a group of vamps. That won't make you one of them. In fact, the act is guaranteed to give the vamps their fun and not to make the vic one of them. I'd seen this once before. I hoped like hell it wasn't another master vampire gone rogue. The last one had purposely left vics where we could find them, in an attempt to get the new laws that gave vampires legal rights repealed. Mr. Oliver had believed that vampires were monsters, and if they were given legal rights, they'd spread too fast, eventually turning the entire human race into vampires. Then who would everybody feed off of? Yeah, it would take hundreds of years for vampirism to spread to that degree, but the really old vampires take the long view. They can afford to, they've got the time.
I knew it wasn't Mr. Oliver again, because I'd killed him. I'd crushed his heart, and no matter how many times Dracula might rise in old movies, Oliver was well and truly dead. I could guarantee it. Which meant we had a new group of nuts on our hands, and they could have an entirely new motive for killing. Hell, maybe it was personal. Vampires were legal citizens now, which meant they could have grudges just like humans.
But somehow it didn't feel personal. Don't ask me to explain it, but it didn't.
Dolph saw me coming toward him. He didn't smile, or say hi, because one, it was Dolph, and two, he wasn't completely happy with me. He wasn't happy with the monsters lately, which rubbed off on me because I was way too intimate with the monsters.
Still, convincing his son not to become a vampire had earned me brownie points. The fact that Dolph had just gotten off of a leave without pay, with an informal warning that if he didn't shape up, he'd be suspended, had also mellowed him out. Frankly, I'd take whatever I could get. Dolph and I were friends, or I'd thought we were. We were both a little unsure where we stood right now.