Nathaniel touched my arm. "I need to talk to Jean-Claude about tonight's performance."
"I'll join you in the office in a minute."
Nathaniel started to say something, then seemed to think better of it and just went down the white hallway. I watched him go into the office that was just a few doors down. Then I turned back to Buzz. "Is it just not doing what he's told, or is there more?"
"He's started taking money to let in people we don't let in."
I raised eyebrows. "You don't let in any men?"
"Not a lot. It makes the women uncomfortable, and some of the dancers don't like it either. You're either comfortable shakin' your thing in front of other men, or you're not."
"I guess that makes sense, but you let some in."
"Couples, just like they do at most female strip clubs across the river."
"But Primo is letting in single men," I said.
"What did Jean-Claude tell you to do about it?"
"He told me to deal with it. That if I wasn't vampire enough to control Primo that maybe I didn't deserve my job. Jean-Claude is old, too, Anita. I think they're both setting me up for some kind of showdown, and Primo will hurt me, or kill me."
"You look like you can take care of yourself."
"If it's just strong-arm stuff, yeah, but Primo isn't a brute, Anita, he's dripping with power. I even agree with him that Jean-Claude isn't using him well. He's too powerful to be down here doing this, and he doesn't have the temperament for it."
"What do you mean?"
"He's more likely to start fights than stop them. He'll take money from men to get in, then he'll throw their asses out."
I shook my head. "You know, Buzz, this doesn't sound like a problem that Jean-Claude would let go this far."
"Not normally," he said, "but it's like Jean-Claude is waiting to see what we'll do before he steps in. I'd just as soon not be dead before he does it."
"Is it really that bad?"
"The women out there were okay, but we've had one dancer that was stalked. Another one had an irate husband go after him with a knife, because he was jealous that his wife was a member of the dancer's fan club."
"The dancers have fan clubs?"
"The headliners do."
"Nathaniel has a fan club?" I made it a question, because it seemed like it should be.
"Brandon has a fan club, yeah." He looked at me and laughed. "You didn't know."
"I don't really pay attention to the day-to-day business here."
He nodded. He was back to looking worried.
I'd never liked Buzz. I didn't exactly dislike him, but he wasn't my friend. But, if his version of what was going on with Primo was accurate he was in a bad spot. A spot that I didn't understand. Jean-Claude was a good business vampire, and this didn't sound like good business.
"I'll talk to Jean-Claude, Buzz. I'll find out what his thinking is about Primo."
Buzz sighed. "Well, I can't ask for more." He grinned, suddenly flashing those fangs again. "In fact, until now I thought you didn't like me."
It made me smile. "If you thought I didn't like you, then why pour your problems in my ear?"
"Who else do I have to go to?"
"Asher is Jean-Claude's second in command."
He shook his head. "I work here, problems stay here, all the businesses are run that way."
"I didn't know that," I said. It was probably a holdover from the days when each business was run by a different vamp. "So, because I visit all the businesses, I'm what, an ambassador?"
He gave that fang-flashing grin again. "Kind of."
"I'll try to find out what's going on, that's the best I can do. If Jean-Claude is really setting you up for a power struggle with Primo, I'll tell you."
He looked relieved. "I just need to know where I stand, ya know."
I nodded. "I know."
A black-shirted man came running through the door at the end of the hallway, accompanied by a sudden blast of music and noise. He was blond and looked like a college student, but he ran down the hallway like he was on springs. Lycanthrope of some kind.
He was talking before he got to us. "We got a problem out there. Primo let a bunch of guys in, they started heckling Byron. You said come get you the next time it got ugly. It's ugly."
Buzz was already moving down the hall, not exactly running. I hesitated for a second, then started trotting with them.
Buzz glanced at me. "You coming along?"
I sort of shrugged. "I'd feel funny just walking away."
"Our job is to tone things down a notch," he said. "Not make it worse."
"Are you saying you don't want me?"
"Hell no," the blond said. "The Executioner on our side. I'll take that."
"Who are you?" I asked, running to keep up with their fast walk.
"Clay," he said, offering his hand over the front of Buzz's body.
"Be sociable later," Buzz said. He hesitated at the door, as if he were gathering himself. There was suddenly a faint hum of energy coming off of Buzz. I'd never felt anything from him before. His gray eyes glowed--if gray could glow. "I am so tired of this shit," he said, and opened the door.
The music was still playing, a pulsing beat, but the man on stage wasn't dancing, because he wasn't the show anymore. The show was a small ocean of college students surrounding a man that towered above them. He was like a pale tower caught in the middle of their jeans and letter jackets. The tallest of them only came to his shoulder, but there were a lot of them, and almost all of them were wearing a jacket that indicated they did some kind of sport. Some of them looked almost as muscle-bound as the club security. Primo had picked a good bunch if he wanted to start trouble, and he so wanted to start trouble.
The other black-shirted security guards didn't seem to know what to do. Their divided loyalties showed in the fact that they hadn't waded in to help Primo. They were on the fringe of the gang of college guys, keeping them contained as best they could, but they weren't pulling them off the big vampire. If I hadn't known anything about Primo and what had gone on before, I'd have learned something just by watching the other men refuse to help him.
It wasn't Primo's size that was the problem. It was the waves of power that radiated off of him. Most vamp power, and even lycanthrope power, filled a room like water rising, until you drowned in it. Primo's power literally pulsed and flowed. Every time he smacked someone with his big open hand, the power spiked and tightened along my skin. His power seemed to feed off his own violence. But he was keeping his big hands open, just slapping them around, which was, of course, insulting the college students' manhood.
One of the biggest of the group jumped onto Primo, hanging on to his shoulder and arm. Primo grabbed him by the shoulder and peeled him off like he was nothing. He tossed him into the coat check booth and earned a scream from the holy item-check girl that worked there.
Primo's power was thick enough to walk on, but only for a second, then down it went. He couldn't sustain it.
"Enough," Buzz said, and he sounded unhappy to have to say it. He motioned, and that one motion ended the security guards' hesitation. The other black-shirts moved in and started helping the college guys move toward the door. They made some progress, but the guys didn't want to leave their buddies ass-deep in giant vampire. I couldn't really blame them.
Again, this was outside my skill set. I could have drawn badge and gun and stopped it, if I was willing to arrest, or kill Primo, but I didn't know how to tone it down. As Buzz had said, their job was not to make it worse, but to make it better. I didn't know how to do that. Not really.
Buzz was yelling, "Primo, Primo, stop fighting back. We need to get this out of the club."
Primo's answer to that was to pick up two college students by the throat, one in each hand, as if he meant to bang their heads together. But while his hands were busy, another enterprising young man, with short brown hair and shoulders nearly as wide as Buzz's, hit him in the face. He knew how to throw a punch. It rocked the vampire's head back, and blood blossomed at his mouth, like a crimson flower on all that white skin.
The music from the stage died abruptly, and into that sudden silence Primo screamed. A huge rage-filled battle cry. He dropped the two men in his hands like they were nothing and went for the man who'd hit him. I expected him to throw him around like he had the others, but he didn't. He picked him up by the front of his jacket until his feet dangled off the ground, and he was probably choking on his own collar. But instead of those big pale shoulders bunching to throw the man, Primo's hand went back, and this time he closed his fist. From that close up, with that kind of strength, he was going to snap the man's neck.