Home > Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard #2)(15)

Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard #2)(15)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Gloria “Glory” Sherman was one of the nighttime forensic pathology technicians and the only other human Jesse knew who was aware of the Old World. Generally, Glory was a lab rat, but budget cuts had forced more and more of the lab technicians to spend part of their time in the field. Which had worked out in his favor tonight, because she had placed the call to get him here.

“Sorry about that,” Jesse said. “What do we know?”

The night was fairly warm, but she hugged the clipboard against her body, shoulders clenched up to her ears with worry. The silver streaks in her short, ash-blonde hair seemed to stand out against the Jeep’s single remaining headlight. “Well, the physics guys will do a little calculating, but it looks like the car flipped off the embankment and landed upside down. Windows and one headlight were crushed. Then something”—she swallowed, and took a step closer, eyes darting—“flipped it back over sideways.” He followed her to the passenger side of the Jeep, where she pointed at two hand-sized dents at the bottom of the window, pinching closed the seam where the glass used to be. “The two driver’s-side wheels popped with the impact.”

Jesse glanced at Benson, a stocky black man in his midfifties with an unlit cigarette tucked behind one ear and an excited expression on his face, like he’d woken up to an early Christmas. He had torn Runa’s attention from the camera and was pointing at the marks on the victims’ wrists, gesturing wildly. “He knows about the bodies, I take it?” Jesse asked. “The lack of blood?”

Glory nodded. “He’s the one who told me. I…recognized the signs.” Glory had met Dashiell years earlier, when the master vampire had shown up to collect a newly turned vampire. Over the years he’d occasionally asked her to drop a beaker or lose a sample, always right after making polite inquiries about Glory’s two children. “Listen, Jesse, I did something—”

“Hey, guys.”

Jesse and Glory both jumped as the petite photographer appeared beside them. She had white-blonde hair tied in shoulder-length pigtails and three different cameras and bags strapped onto her slim shoulders. “Whoa,” Runa said, laughing a little at their shock. “Just wanted to see if you needed any other shots. Oh, hey, we haven’t actually met.” She held her hand out toward Glory, and Jesse remembered his manners.

“Oh, sorry. Glory Sherman, this is Runa Vore, the new night-shift photographer. Runa, this is Glory.” The two women shook hands, and Glory shot him an anxious look. Does she know? He shook his head imperceptibly.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Runa continued, “but I’ve got all the initial shots. Did you want anything from the surrounding area?”

“Uh, sure. Why don’t you do some perspective shots from the car to the witnesses’ house. And, um, whatever else you can think of. Go crazy.”

Runa gave him a funny look, but she turned back to the Jeep.

“Go crazy?” Glory said, the second Runa was out of earshot.

“Shut up.”

“That’s the girl you’re dating?” Glory’s eyebrows were raised to her hairline. “She’s pretty.”

“How did you—never mind. Stupid office grapevine.”

“Hey. We’re the cops. We’re nosy by nature. Do you think she overheard us?”

“I’ll find out later. What were you going to say?”

“Oh, right.” Glory straightened her back, drawing up to her full five foot one. “When I saw the car and the blood”—she tilted her head to the writing on the windshield—“I called you first, but then I…did something.”

“Spit it out, Glory.”

She sighed. “He gave me this number, for emergencies. I called it.”

“Who ga—”

But before he even finished the word, Jesse saw the black Bentley parked on the hill across from the crime scene; a blandly handsome fortyish man stepped out from the driver’s side and sauntered toward the Jeep. His suit was expensive and fit like it had come into existence only for him, but there was something not quite modern about it too. The closest uniformed cop jogged toward him, waving a hand, but the driver just smiled, touching the cop’s shoulder and looking straight into his eyes. Jesse watched as the driver spoke a few words and continued walking toward the Jeep, while the uniform stood slack and staring forward, like a marionette hung on a peg. The driver approached the little knot of witnesses and the other uniform, speaking to them in the same calm, reassuring manner. Jesse looked away, an icy thrill of fear spreading through his chest. This was Dashiell, the master vampire of Los Angeles, and he was pressing the minds of everyone on site. Jesse had never been near him without Scarlett around for protection. He felt a flare of irritation at Glory for calling the vampire, but at the same time he could hardly blame her—Dashiell had threatened her kids. He himself wouldn’t have done any different, under the circumstances.

“Look down,” he muttered to Glory. The vampire could probably hear him, but that was a risk Jesse had to take. “When he comes close, don’t look him directly in the eyes, understand?” She nodded, hugging her clipboard even tighter.

Jesse looked around for Runa, but the photographer was on the far side of the Jeep, shielded from Dashiell. He couldn’t call to her without exposing her position, so Jesse just prayed she’d stay put.

When he was done speaking to the witnesses, Dashiell continued toward Jesse, the smile still tacked onto his face. The couple turned at a ninety-degree angle and marched back toward their home in eerie synch. The uniformed cop who had been interviewing them strode to his partner, herding him toward the patrol car. By then Dashiell was in earshot, fifteen feet away by the Jeep. “Excuse me,” he said to Benson, who looked up, surprised. Jesse had to tear his eyes away from what Dashiell was doing. He clenched his fists, but there was nothing he could do to stop the vampire, short of emptying his clip into Dashiell’s chest. Even if Jesse did succeed in destroying the vampire heart with a gun, though, he would have been left with a lot of explaining to do.

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