"I need to move the Dumpsters to look at the body. I also need to move the body around to look for more bite marks, or whatever. Can I do that without screwing the crime scene up?"
He looked at me, and there was something in his face that said, clearly, he was not happy to have me here. He started to say something, glanced around at the other detectives, the uniforms, the crime-scene techs, and beyond that to the waiting ambulance, shook his head, and motioned me off to one side. I could feel people's gazes follow us as we moved away. All of the detectives there knew that Dolph had dragged me up a flight of stairs at a crime scene. When I said manhandled, I wasn't exaggerating. God knows what the stories said now, probably that he'd hit me, which he hadn't, but what he'd done had been bad enough. Bad enough I could have pressed charges and won.
He leaned over and spoke low. "I don't like you being here."
"You called me," I said. God, I did not want to fight with him tonight.
He nodded. "I called, but I need to know that you don't have a conflict of interest here."
I frowned up at him. "What do you mean? What conflict of interest?"
"If it's a vamp kill, then it was someone that belongs to your boyfriend."
"It's nice that you said if it's a vamp kill, but if you mean Jean-Claude, then it might not be his people at all."
"Oh, that's right, you got two vampire boyfriends now." His voice was ugly.
"You want to fight each other, or fight crime? Your choice," I said.
He made a visible effort to control himself. Hands in fists at his sides, eyes closed, deep breaths. He'd been forced to go through anger management training. I watched him use his newfound skills. Then he opened his eyes--cold cop eyes--and said, "You're defending the vamps already."
"I'm not saying it's not a vamp kill. All I said was that it might not be Jean-Claude's people. That's all."
"But you're defending your boyfriend and his people already. You haven't even looked at the vic completely, and already you say it can't be your lover boy."
I felt my eyes grow cold and said, "I'm not saying it couldn't have been Jean-Claude's vampires. I'm saying it's unlikely. Thanks to the Church of Eternal Life, St. Louis has a lot of bloodsuckers that don't owe allegiance to the Master of the City."
"The church's members are more straitlaced than right-wing Christians," he said.
I shrugged. "They do come off as sanctimonious, I'll grant you that. Most true believers do, but that's not why I say it was them, or strangers, instead of the vampires I know best."
"Why, then?" he asked.
My only excuse for telling the absolute truth is that I was pissed and tired of Dolph being mad at me. "Because if any of Jean-Claude's people did this, they're dead. Either he'll turn them in to the law himself, or have me do it, or they'll just be killed."
"You're admitting that your boyfriend is a murderer?"
I took in a deep breath and let it out slow. "You know, Dolph, this is getting old. Yeah, I'm f**king a vampire or two, get over it."
He looked away. "I don't know how."
"Then learn," I said. "But stop letting your personal shit rain all over the crime scene. We've wasted time arguing, when I could have been looking at the body. I want these people caught."
"People, plural?" he asked.
"I've only seen two bite marks, but they both have a slightly different pattern to them. The one on the chest is smaller, less space between the fangs. So, yeah, at least two, but I'm betting more."
"Why?" he asked.
"Because they bled her out. There's almost no blood anywhere. Two vamps couldn't drain an adult human being without leaving a mess. They'd need more mouths to hold that much blood."
"Maybe she was killed somewhere else."
I frowned at him. "It's October, she's outside wearing five-inch plastic stilettos, an inexpensive wool coat, and not much else." I motioned at the building behind us. "We're in the parking lot of a strip club. Hmm, let me see, five-inch plastic stilettos, na**d woman... could this be a clue that she worked here, stepped out for a smoke, or something?"
Dolph reached into his pocket and got out his ever-present notebook. "She's been identified as one Charlene Morresey, twenty-two, works as a stripper--worked, as a stripper. Yes, she did smoke, but she told one of the other girls she was going outside for a breath of fresh air."
"We know she probably didn't know the vamps."
"She came out to get some air, not to visit."
He nodded and made a note. "There's no sign of a struggle, yet. It's like she came out here for air and just walked over there with them. She wouldn't do that for strangers."
"If she was under mind control, she would."
"So one of our vamps is an old one." Dolph was still making notes.
"Not necessarily old, but powerful, and that usually means old." I thought about it. "Someone with good mind control powers--that I'm sure of--age," I shrugged, "I don't know, yet."
He was still writing in his notebook.
"Now, can I move the Dumpster and move the body around, or do you still need the techies to get back in there and do their thing first?"
"I had them wait for you," he said without looking up from his writing.
I looked at him, tried to learn something from his face, but he was all concentration and business. It was a step up that he'd had the techs wait for me. And that he'd called me at all. Before his time off, he'd tried to get me barred from crime scenes. It was a step up, so why was I still wondering if Dolph was capable of letting his personal life go long enough to solve this case? Because, once you've seen someone you trusted lose it completely, you never truly trust them again, not completely.
There was a matching set of bite marks on the other side of her neck. They were so close to the same size as the ones on the left-hand side, that I wondered if the same vamp had bitten twice. I didn't have my ruler with me. Hell, I didn't have most of my equipment with me. I'd been planning on a wedding tonight, not a crime scene.
I asked if anyone had something to measure bite radius. One of the techs offered to measure for me. Fine with me. She had a pair of calipers--I'd never used a pair of them before.
Measurements do not lie. It wasn't the same vamp. Nor was it the same vamp at each of her inner thighs or her wrists. Counting the bite mark on her chest, that made seven. Seven vampires. Enough to drain an adult human being dry and leave very little blood behind.
There was no obvious evidence of sexual assault, according to a CSU technician. Glad to hear it. I did not bother explaining that the bite alone can be orgasmic both for the vic and the killer. Not always, but often, especially if the vampire is good at fogging the mind. A vampire with enough juice can make someone enjoy being killed. Scary, but true.
After I'd seen every inch of the dead woman, when I knew that her pale flesh might dance through my dreams in their plastic shoes, Dolph wanted to talk.
"Talk to me," he said.
I knew what he wanted. "Seven vamps. One has to be good enough at mind control to have made the vic enjoy what was happening, or at least not mind it. Someone would have heard her screams otherwise."
"Have you walked into the club?" he asked.
"Music is loud, lots of people inside," he said.
"So they might not have heard her, even if she did scream?"
I sighed. "There's no sign of a struggle. They'll look at her nails, but there won't be any sign of a fight. The vic didn't even know what was happening, or at least not until it was way too late."
"You're sure of that?"
I thought for a second or two. "No, I'm not sure. It's my best educated guess, but maybe she's one of those people that doesn't fight back. Maybe once seven vampires surrounded her, she just gave up. I don't know. What kind of person was Charlene Morresey? Was she a fighter?"
"Don't know yet," Dolph said.
"If she was a fighter, then vampire mind tricks were used. If she wasn't, if she was real docile, then maybe not. Maybe we're looking for a bunch of young vamps." I shook my head. "But I'd say not. I'd say at least one, maybe more, were old, and good at doing at this."
"They hid the body," he said.
I finished the thought for him, "And then exposed it, so that someone would find it."