Moon Dance (Vampire for Hire #1)

Chapter 14

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27.

It was 6:30 p.m., and the kids were playing at a neighbor's house.

I was in my study going over my notes and reviewing the internet video feed of Kingsley's shooting. Despite myself I laughed as I watched Kingsley ducking and dodging the bullets. Although immortal, each shot must have hurt like hell, and, at the time, the bullets had done serious enough damage to render him almost useless.

I paused on the clearest image of the shooter, which was still pretty grainy. Unfortunately, due to the poor quality of the image, it was impossible to tell if the shooter had been Rick Horton. Whoever it had been was wearing a generic warm-up jacket and a red ball cap. Seemed obvious to me that the shooter was wearing a fake mustache, too, but I couldn't be sure. It just seemed too prominent, and in one frame it even stuck out at an odd angle, as if the glue had come undone. This, too, was noted in the police file.

I now knew Horton owned a .22, and a .22 was used in the crime. Where did that get me? Not much, but at least it was a start.

I felt uneasy, unrested, undead.

Shrugging my shoulders, which at this time of the day suddenly seemed twice as heavy, I absently rubbed�Dor sought�Dan ache in my neck that seemed always to move just beyond my fingertips. Like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands. Since my attack, since my change, my body ached in places and in ways I had never thought possible.

Maybe this is what it feels like to be dead.

I next found an article on the internet about the murder of Hewlett Jackson, Kingsley's one-time client who had taken nine shots to the face. And, not being a werewolf, he promptly died. Hewlett's body had been found in a parking lot, still inside his car, shot outside a seedy bar I was unfortunately familiar with. There had been no robbery, just a blatant killing.

Interestingly, no one yet had made a connection with Jackson's murder to Kingsley's attack.

Maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

Did werewolves bark?

I sat back in my chair and stared up at the painted ceiling. The cobwebs in one corner of the room were swaying gently, though I felt no breeze. I should probably clean those someday. The sun was due to set in a few minutes. Its lingering presence in the sky was the reason behind my current uneasiness and shortness of breath and general foul temperament.

I used to worship the sun. Now it was my enemy.

Or, like Superman, my kryptonite.

I drummed my short fingers on the desk. My nails were thick and somewhat pointed. The nails themselves were impossible to cut. They shaped themselves and seemed to hold steady at that length.

I wondered again if Horton had hired a killer.

But that didn't feel right. No hitman worth his salt would have made such a blatant and dangerous attempt in broad daylight. In front of video cameras. In front of a goddamn courthouse. No. The shooter was making a point; most important, the shooter had not cared about getting caught. I was sure of that. Oh, he cared just enough to wear some silly disguise, but I truly felt in my heart that the shooter had not expected to actually escape.

But the shooter had escaped.

There was a knock on my front door. I swung my feet around and stood. My legs were a little shaky. The shakiness was due to the lingering presence of the sun. I moved slowly through the house, to the front door.

And standing there in my doorway was Detective Sherbet of the Fullerton Police Department. He was holding a bag of donuts.

28.

We sat in the living room.

I was in my grandmother's rocking chair and he was on the sofa across from me. The sun was still minutes from setting, and I felt vulnerable. My mind was firing at a slower rate. My body was sluggish. In fact, I felt mortal. I forced myself to focus on the detective sitting before me.

Sherbet held out the bag of donuts. "Place on Orangethorpe makes them fresh this time everyday."

I glanced inside the open bag and my stomach turned. "You are perpetuating the stereotype of policemen and donuts," I said.

"Hell, I am the reason for that stereotype." He chuckled to himself. "Lord knows how many of these I've eaten. Can't be too bad for you. I'm sixty-seven and still going strong."

I looked away when he took a healthy bite into his donut.

"You don't look too well, Mrs. Moon. Is it too early in the day for you? I tried coming when the sun set, you know, with your skin condition and all. Now what sort of condition do you have?"

I told him.

"Yeah, right, that one," he said. "Well, I looked into it."

"Really?"

"Oh, I'm not trying to snoop on you, Mrs. Moon, I assure you. I just love learning new things. Always been that way."

I nodded; he was snooping on me.

He continued, "Anyway, apparently it's a very rare condition. Usually shows up first in children, not so much in adults…." He let his voice trail off.

"Well, I'm a late bloomer. Always been that way." I wasn't feeling too chatty. Warning bells were sounding in my head�Donly my head felt too dull to sort through them. "What can I do for you, detective?"

"Oh, just wondering how your case is coming along. Actually, our case is coming along." He chuckled again.

"Our case is moving along fine," I said.

"Any leads?"

"Not yet." I'm always hesitant to share any information to cops. At least, not until I'm ready. When I needed Sherbet, I'd come to him. Not the other way around.

He finished the donut and licked his fingers; he fished around in the bag�Dwhich must have gotten his fingers sticky all over again�Dand removed a cinnamon cake. He seemed pleased with his selection and promptly took a healthy bite.

I was sucking air carefully. My lungs felt somehow smaller. I was having a hell of a hard time getting a decent breath.

His eyes flicked over at me. "You okay, Mrs. Moon?"

"Yes; it's just a little bright for me."

"Your shades are down. We are practically sitting in the dark."

I motioned toward the weak sunlight peaking through a crack in the curtains. "Any sunlight at all can be harmful."

"You have a sensitive condition."

"Very."

"There was a murder in Fullerton a week ago," he said, biting into the cinnamon donut. He wasn't looking at me. "Kid was drained of his blood, or at least most of it. The thing is, the medical examiner doesn't know where the blood went."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean the kid was lying there on the sidewalk, shot to death, and there wasn't an ounce of blood around him�Dor even in him, for that matter." This time he didn't chuckle.

"Maybe he, you know, bled elsewhere."

"Maybe." Sherbet took another sizable bite. Cinnamon drifted down, glittering in the angled sunlight coming in through the blinds. "No one knows who shot him. No one heard anything. So I keep at it. You know, just doing my job. I find out that the victim is a known banger, has a long rap sheet, name of Gilberto. I talk to Gilberto's friends, discover they had a party the night of his murder. But that's all I get from them. I figure the victim must have been shot after their little party." He paused. "And then we find this."

The detective licked his fingers and reached inside his Members Only jacket and pulled out a photograph of a hand gun. "Kids found it in the bushes a few streets down the road. We test the gun, discover it's the same gun that did the banger. We also lift some prints from it. Turns out the prints belong to Gilberto's uncle. Guy's name is Elias. So I shake down Elias the other night, and he says he shot the gun in self-defense."

Detective Sherbet peered inside the donut bag carefully. The room was still and quiet. Sherbet's face was half-hidden in shadows. The bag crinkled as his hand groped for the next donut. "So I push Elias some more, really come down on him. Believe it or not, I can be a real hardass if I want to be."

Actually, I believed it.

He continued. "And he tells me the whole story. I follow up on the story with the others who were there that night. The story checks out." He paused and studied me carefully. The whites of his eyes shone brightly in the dark. "The story goes like this. They were partying. A woman shows up. Jogging, believe it or not, in the dead of night. Anyway, I get a teenage punk to admit that they were going to gang rape her. But things go wrong, horribly wrong."

I said nothing.

"Turns out they cornered a tigress." He chuckled softly and went to town on a chocolate old-fashioned. He worked his way along the outer rim of the donut. "She showed them hell. A real G.I. Jane."

I almost laughed. I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but it sounded funny.

He continued. "She apparently picks this Gilberto scumbag up by the throat. A two hundred and fifty pound man. Picks him up with one hand. And that's when the story gets a little fuzzy. At some point around that time a gun goes off, and Gilberto takes a bullet in the chest. The others flee like the scattering rats they are. One of them, hiding in the bushes, watches the woman carry off Gilberto's corpse into the dead of night."

We were silent. I could almost hear his tired digestive system going to work on the donuts.

"Hell of a campfire story, if you ask me," he said. He wadded up the paper bag. "What do you think about all of that?"

"Hard to believe."

He chuckled. "Exactly. Group of guys out having fun, drunk and fist-fighting and things turn ugly and a gun goes off, and one of them turns up dead. Happens all the time. Sometimes the group will even put their heads together and come up with a wild story."

He held the wadded-up donut bag in both hands. He rested his chin on top of his hands and stared at me. "But I have never heard of a story more wild than this."

I continued saying nothing.

"You ever jog alone at night, Mrs. Moon?"

"Yes."

We sat quietly. "Now, as far as I can tell, this girl committed no crime. She was acting in self-defense, and I can guarantee you she taught these boys a lesson. I've never seen a group of men so fucking spooked in my life. Still, I would kind of like to know what she did with that body. I mean it went missing for a few hours, then reappeared later that morning. Minus a lot of blood. You have any thoughts on that, Mrs. Moon?"

"No, I'm sorry."

He stood up and gave me his card. "Well, thanks for chatting with an old man. I expect to see more of you."

"Lucky you."

He stepped over to the front door. "Oh, and Mrs. Moon…were you jogging that night?"

"Which night was that?"

He told me.

"Yes," I said.

"And you didn't see anything?"

"Nothing that would help you, detective."

"Great, thank you."

He shook my hand, holding it carefully in both of his. His hands were so very warm. He nodded once and then left my home.

So very warm….

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