He nodded. "That's been bothering me, too. If they had just closed her coat over her body, not messed with the hair, no one would have found her tonight."
"They'd have missed her in the club," I said, "or was she done for the night?"
"She wasn't done, and, yeah, they would have missed her."
I glanced back at the body. "But would they have found her?"
"Maybe," he said, "but not this quick."
"Yeah, she's still fresh, cool to the touch, but not long gone."
He checked his notes. "Less than two hours since she was on stage."
I looked around us, at the bright halogen lights. There was no good place to hide in this parking lot, except behind the Dumpsters. "Did they do her behind the Dumpsters?"
"Or a car," he said.
"Or van," I said.
"The serial killer's best friend," Dolph said.
I looked at him, trying to read behind those cop eyes. "Serial killer, what are you talking about? This is the first kill, to my knowledge."
He nodded. "Yeah." He started to turn away.
I caught his sleeve, lightly. I had to be careful how I touched him lately. He took so many things as aggression. "Cops do not use the phrase serial killer unless they have to. One, you don't want it to be true. Two, the reporters will get hold of it and report it like it's truth."
He looked down at me, and I let go of his sleeve. "There aren't any reporters here, Anita. It's just another dead stripper in Sauget."
"Then why say it?"
"Maybe I'm psychic."
"Dolph," I said.
He almost smiled. "I got a bad feeling, that's all. This is either their first kill, or the first kill we've found. It was awful damn neat for a first kill."
"Someone meant for us to find her, Dolph, and find her tonight."
"Yeah, but who? Was it the killer, or killers? Or was it someone else?"
"Like who?" I asked.
"Another customer that couldn't afford to let his wife know where he'd been."
"So he opens her coat, draws out her hair, tries to make her more visible?"
Dolph gave one small nod, down.
"I don't buy it. A normal person couldn't touch a dead body, not enough to open the coat, mess with the hair. Besides, that flash of pale flesh was done by someone who knew that it would be as visible as it is. A normal person might drag her out from behind the Dumpster, maybe, but they wouldn't mess with her, not like that."
"You keep saying, 'normal,' Anita; don't you know yet, there is no normal. There's just victims and predators." He looked away when he said the last, as if he didn't want me to see whatever was in his face.
I let him look away, let him keep that moment to himself. Because, Dolph and I were trying to rebuild a friendship, and sometimes you need your friends to pry, and sometimes you need them to leave you the f**k alone.
I didn't want to go back to the reception. First, I wasn't in the mood to be merry. Second, I still didn't know how to answer Arnet's questions. Third, Micah had made me promise I'd dance with him. I hated to dance. I didn't think I was good at it. In the privacy of our home, Micah, and Nathaniel, and hell, Jason, had told me I was wrong. That I actually danced very well. I did not believe them. I think it was a throwback to a rather horrible junior high school dance experience. Of course, it was junior high, is there any experience except horrible for those few years? In Hell, if you're really bad, you must be fourteen forever, and be trapped in school, and never get to go home.
So I walked into the reception, hoping I could say I was tired, and we could leave, but I knew better. Micah had dragged a promise out of me that I'd dance with him, and he'd gotten me to promise a dance for Nathaniel, as well. Damn it. I don't promise things often, because once I do, I keep my word. Double damn it.
The crowd had thinned out a lot. Murder scenes take so much time out of your night. But I knew that the boys would be there, because I had the car. Nathaniel was at the table where I'd left them, but it was Jason with him, not Micah. Jason and Nathaniel were leaning so close together that their heads nearly touched. Jason's short blond hair seemed very yellow against Nathaniel's dark auburn. Jason wore a blue dress shirt that I knew was only a shade or two bluer than his eyes. His suit was black, and I knew without seeing him standing that it was tailored to his body, and probably Italian in cut. Jean-Claude had paid for the suit, and he was fond of Italian-cut designer suits for his employees. When he wasn't dressing them like they were extras in a high-class p**n o movie, anyway. For a mainstream wedding, the suit worked. Jason also worked at Guilty Pleasures as a stripper, and Jean-Claude did own the club, but it wasn't that type of employment that let Jason rate designer clothes tailored to his body. Jason was Jean-Claude's pomme de sang. Jean-Claude did not think I treated Nathaniel with enough respect for his position as my pomme de sang. I had let Micah and Nathaniel go shopping with Jason for dress clothes, and I footed the bill for my two boys. It had been outrageous, but I couldn't let Jean-Claude be nicer to his kept man than I was to mine. Could I?
Technically, Micah wasn't a kept man, but the salary he drew from the Coalition for Better Understanding Between Lycanthrope and Human Communities didn't cover designer suits. I made enough money to pay for designer suits, so I did.
I had time to wonder what Jason and Nathaniel were up to, talking so close together, like conspirators. Then I felt, more than saw, Micah. He was across the room talking to a group of men, most of them cops. He shook his head, laughed, and started across the room, toward me. I didn't get much chance to see Micah from a distance. We were always so close to one another, physically. Now I was able to watch him walk toward me, able to admire how the suit clung to his body, how it flattered the broad shoulders, the slender waist, the tightness of his hips, the swell of his thighs. The suit fit him like a roomy glove. Watching him move toward me, I realized the suit was suddenly worth every penny.
The music stopped before he reached me, some song I didn't recognize. I had a moment of hope that we could just sit down and find out what the other two men were finding so fascinating. But it was a vain hope, because another song came on. A slow song. I still didn't want to dance, but as Micah got close enough to touch, I had to admit that an excuse to touch him in public was not a bad thing.
He smiled, and even with the sunglasses in place, I knew what his eyes would look like with that smile. "Ready?"
I sighed, and held out my arms. "As I'm ever going to be."
"Let's shed the leather jacket first."
I unzipped it, but said, "Let's keep it, I'm a little cold."
His hands slid around my waist. "Is it getting colder outside?"
I shook my head. "Not that kind of cold."
"Oh," he said, and he pulled back his hands, which had been sliding up my back underneath the leather jacket. He went back to my waist and slid his hands underneath the tux jacket, so that only the thin cloth of the dress shirt separated my skin from his.
I shuddered under that touch.
He leaned his mouth in close to my ear, before he'd finished the long, slow slide of his hands that would have pressed our bodies together. "I'll warm you up." His arms pressed me into the curve and swell of his body, but not so tight as to make me uncomfortable in public. Close, but not like we were glued together. But even this close, I could feel the swell of him under the cloth of his pants. The barest brush of touch, which let me know that there was more than one reason he didn't hold me as tight as he could. He was being polite. I wasn't a hundred percent sure whether this politeness was really Micah's idea, or if he'd picked up my discomfort. He was always very, very careful around me. In fact, he mirrored back so exactly what I wanted, what I needed, that it made me wonder if I knew him at all, or if all I saw was what he wanted me to see.
"You're frowning, what's wrong?" He was close enough that just turning his head in against my face allowed him to whisper.
What was I supposed to say? That I suspected him of lying to me, not about anything in particular, but about nearly everything. He was too perfect. Too perfectly what I needed him to be. That had to be an act, right? Nobody was perfectly what you needed them to be, everybody disappointed you in some way, right?
He whispered against my ear, "You're frowning harder. What's wrong?"