Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(12)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(12)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I got buzzed through the gate—yes, most of the things that would actually attack Dashiell could get past the gate easily, but maybe it had come with the house—and drove up to the circular parking area, while Cruz let out a whistle at the sight of the house. I had to admit, it was a view worth admiring. The house is pure Spanish elegance, with long, regal columns and flower boxes at every window. Beatrice loves geraniums and tends to favor the bloodred color for some reason. I parked the van on the imported Spanish tiles, next to three or four other cars. I frowned. Dashiell always has underlings around, but it seemed excessive even for him.

I turned in my seat to look at Cruz. “Look, I know this probably seems really...whatever...but you need to stay in the car, okay?” I said again, searching his face. “It’s important.”


“Because when you’re with me, you’re safe from all things Old World. But when you’re away from me, they can...do things.”

“Like what? Fly?” he asked, eyes big.

I couldn’t help but grin. “No, not that I’ve ever heard of. Or change into bats or mist, that’s all nonsense. They evolved like any other species; it’s just that they evolved ways of controlling their prey—like they can mess around with your head. Make you do things, or forget that they just fed on you. It’s hard for them to get humans to do anything truly against their nature, like going on a killing spree or falling permanently in love, but they can still do tons of damage.”

“You’re serious,” he said skeptically, but there was real fear in his voice. Finally.

“Yes. You should be fine if you stay here and keep quiet,” I said. I had my hand on the door handle, but he was still giving me that distrustful look. I refrained from smacking him. “Cruz, look at it this way: if you were a bloodthirsty creature of the night, don’t you think you would enjoy stumbling across a police officer to be your very own puppet?”


“Yeah, ‘oh.’ If for some reason you get confronted, be polite and submissive, and do not make eye contact under any circumstances. Just ask for me. Got it?”

“Got it,” he said, suddenly meek.

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and stepped outside the car, leaning back in to hand the keys to Cruz. “Lock the doors when I’m gone, and don’t open them for anyone, okay?”

He nodded soberly, and I closed the car door.

It’s my habit, when calling on vampires, to do an abbreviated version of “ding-dong-ditch.” I walked up to Dashiell’s front door, rang the bell, and then turned and dashed into the middle of the yard, moving so the door was well outside my radius. It was undignified as hell, but I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to give vampires the option of staying away from me if I can swing it. Better to look silly for a minute than to piss someone off by forcing them to age. Beatrice opened the front door, looked around, and spotted me in the shadows. “Scarlett,” she called pleasantly, smiling at me, “you may come closer. It is all right.”

Beatrice gave me a brief, light embrace and ushered me through the house into the courtyard, her stiletto heels clicking smartly on the marble tiles. She wore a tight, pale-yellow dress that set off her olive skin and waterfall of dark hair. I suddenly wished I’d dressed better. Next to Beatrice...Well, to be fair, most people would look scrubby next to Beatrice. She has this exotic-grace thing going on, vampire or not.

Dashiell’s mansion is shaped like a circle, with a surprisingly large outdoor area in the center the size of a baseball infield. Beatrice had it neatly tiled, with walls that were covered in long, climbing flowers and subtle lighting that was augmented by the classiest-looking tiki torches I had ever seen. There was a banquet-sized table in the center where Dash conducted most of his Old World business. I had a vague sense that Dash had plenty of legitimate business interests as well, but I didn’t really know anything about that. Nobody hires me for my business skills.

I paused by the courtyard door, looking at Dashiell for where to sit. He was parked in his usual spot at the head of the long oval table, down the courtyard to my left. When necessary, Dashiell will get close to me, but he prefers to keep his distance. I think it’s more about vulnerability than vanity—Dashiell is very old and very powerful, with plenty of enemies. I suspect that being reduced to human again makes him feel as if there’s a target on his back. Sure enough, Dash tilted his head to indicate that I was to sit down to my right, keeping him out of my range. I sat.

“Scarlett,” he called across the distance, “what is happening with the young policeman?”

I wondered, not for the first time, where Dashiell came from originally. His English is excellent, but the formal way he speaks reminds me of someone who started out with another language entirely. I always think he looks a little Italian, but Dashiell is French—of course, that could just be a name he picked. Someday, when he wasn’t irritated with me, I would ask.

Or not.

“He’s willing to cooperate,” I said in a normal voice. Vampire hearing is excellent, of course. Heightened strength and speed and all that. It had taken me a few tries to get used to this kind of conversation, but I mostly had it down. “He’s agreed to keep his mouth shut in exchange for me helping him with this case.”

“You?” Dashiell said with an indulgent little smile, as if I were a toddler who had just offered to drive his car. “What can you contribute to a police investigation?”

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