I looked around the spare suite and saw that it was more than enough room for me had I been booking my stay. The Bonaventure Hotel was beautiful and beyond belief plush after being in the desert on my own for so long. The suite was lovely and something I would never have been able to rationalize visiting even when I was racking in the money. I had been to various spots in the hotel over the years, either dining or meeting up with people in the course of my business. But as unbelievably well-appointed the entire place was and since I grew up catering around such luxurious surrounds I found such lavishness was always tempting but resistible.
I blamed my sparse upbringing. Once you'd grown up scratching for mere survival at some point exoticness grew beyond your comprehension. I continued into the room and found the boy. Even through the closed door, I could still hear Nelson spinning his words over the gathered cops and hotel staff as his bizarre character of Brother Georgie Elliott, a cult leader from Oregon. The charismatic persona was indeed noteworthy but false. He knew about vampires. His personal staff had also arrived to aid him and they didn't realize I'd wandered off. I knew that situation wouldn't last long, but was willing to find out what was up. The kid was the only one in the room that had even noticed me with all the guns and bodies around to be explained.
The boy-man who'd asked me to join him was seated on one of the sofas in the adjoining suite. He looked quite comfortable but probably didn't realize that his pants had crept up enough to reveal the rather colorful set of ink on his left calf. His right leg was crossed over his knee and I couldn't see another tattoo but assumed it was equally as illustrated. Either way, far too much of his persona was leaking through. I was already regretting my decision to visit with the low-level hotel staff member.
Then he spoke.
"Alanna Gilliam Hagen, I presume," his voice was soft and husky, as if he'd been smoking unfiltered cigarettes since he was ten or something. But he had the full name and a glint in his eye.
"Presume what you'd like." I wasn't giving anything up.
"Oh, I know who you are." His tones were now mocking.
He had a cute nameplate on his lapel and I said, "Oh and you are?" Even though Bobby was perfectly clear on his plastic plate. He was trying so hard to not be a Bobby with his pouting demeanor and skin ink.
"Bob," he smiled. His tongue piercing was glimpsed and I was compelled to say, "Oh wow, they like they screwed up your badge, Bobby?"
He looked down to his chest and obviously he'd forgotten the nametag and winced. I had to hand it to him he didn't wig but simply slipped off the offending label and put it into his pocket.
"Old tag. So, Alanna, how is it you found your way here?" I kept picturing a snake winding and twisting along a path. He really was reptilian and I tried to keep my face frozen and placid. It must have worked because he was still relaxed on the sofa. The back of my neck was prickling and I was waiting for him to strike.
"You know, a wrong turn here and mistaken turn there." I wasn't impressed but I wasn't willing to head back to the room and watch the male posturing over the corpses. At least Bobby was alive.
For now. Time was a vicious bitch and I doubted Bobby would withstand her tests. He was trying to look tough but failing. I got the idea he had made it his life's ambitions to collect secrets and torment small animals. He knew about things. It was obvious in his eyes and smirk.
He laughed. I thought he'd practiced in front of the mirror a tad too long because he literally tipped back his head and chuckled revealing all of his dental work and pierced tongue. It was then I saw that his piercing wasn't with a ball post like I'd thought but a skull. Happy, happy, he was a total whack job. Not much I could do but feign interest.
"Alanna, you need to come with me right now and I'll get you out of here before they find you." He wasn't laughing anymore but looking intensely into my eyes. A chill ran down my spine. That wasn't a pleasant glance in the least. He still was predatory but harmless by my standards. My standards had changed in the past few years. I would have run from Bobby five years ago. Now I just found him mildly amusing and entertaining.
"They? Bobby, you aren't telling me anything new." I wasn't as respectful as I'd have been normally but I was tired and had just shot some dead guy's arm. He hadn't been dead when I shot him but that still would be more paperwork than I was ready to fill out. People had been chasing after me for far too long for me to be even mildly interested in what Bobby was alluding to in his careful terms. He'd have to spell it out in capital letters for me to even notice at this point in my life.
"The vampires!" He actually hissed the word vampires.
"Yeah, and they are any worse than my ex-hubby and his family how?" He did know my last name so I figured he knew more than the average hotel employee.
His face paled.
"You aren't afraid of vampires?" He was stunned.
What, did he expect me to fall to the ground and kiss his feet for offering to help me?
"Why should I be?" I wasn't going there, but Bobby had his own agenda.
"You were married into a vampire minion's family. How could you not care?" Bobby snarled. His smoky voice was hitting an octave higher than before I noticed while I was still processing the words.
"A what?" His words finally caught up in my brain. The Hagens had more secrets than just murder and mayhem it seemed.
Nelson flung the connecting door open breaking into our conversation finding me instantly with his gaze.
"There you are! Alanna, come back and join us. Thanks, Bobby, for keeping her company. Sebastian, please take Bobby out and reward him." Nelson didn't use his guru speak and Sebastian physically lifted Bobby off the sofa and out the other door. Bobby tried to drag his feet to no avail. The kid wasn't even touching the ground. Sebastian was obviously one of Nelson's boys and at over six feet of solid man wasn't easily dissuaded from his task.
I reluctantly joined the boys in the main suite's room and found that the hotel staff and cops had left the room. Looking at Nelson I asked with a jerk of my head to the nearly empty room, "How'd you do that?"
"Bribes?" He was grinning when he said it, but still, given the past I'd had with cops I was stunned. Hours were the usual time frames for cops taking reports, not minutes.
Arching an eyebrow, I waited for the true answer.
Sighing he said, "I redirected them and they are looking for more villains. Since the corpses are still there I know they'll be back but convinced them I needed some space."
Okay, I bought that, but was still waiting for the other shoe.
"Plus my boys here keep them placated." Now that made more sense.
The 'boys' were well over the age of consent and not a one of them under six feet and two hundred pounds. His followers weren't wimpy whining mommas boys but serious beefcake with attitudes. Not reverent religious types but chewing off limbs for fun sorts. How Nelson had convinced the Oregon folks that he was a cult leader of the masses with such obvious security men was beyond me but he had. Brother Georgie and his band of merry men were rugged and fierce and hopefully on my side.
Of the five men remaining in the room I looked at Nelson and arched an eyebrow inquiring, "Introductions?"
"Forgive my manners, Alanna. This is Sebastian's brother, David. Next to David is Harvey and Keith and finally Cooper." The men all nodded. I noticed not a one offered me a handshake. I guess being married to Randolph had tainted me. I was still wondering what the hell the kid Bobby had been babbling about with vampire minions.
"Okay, do I ask now or later about vampire minions?" I put it right in their faces. No sense in pretending I wasn't aware of the awkwardness between us. Nelson was the only one who hadn't changed any since I spoke. The other four shifted slightly and met each other's eyes ignoring my question. This was going to be fun. Hard-headed men who liked the mystique of being the strong and silent type being asked a direct question.
I also saw that nobody sat down, either. We were all standing apart from one another and I was noticeably a bit further than anyone else. Yeah, they were happy to see me back in the room with their leader. Nelson disregarded their apparent objection and walked towards the couches and sat down while facing the destroyed door. I could hear talking outside but nobody had returned to ask us questions.
Carefully I joined Nelson at his casual gesture towards the other couches and chairs in the room's sitting area. I took a chair next to Nelson, which also was facing the battered doorway. The men shifted around and only one sat down, I think it was David. The other three stood off to the side near the closet where the satchels filled with weapons were hidden. I was pretty sure that the 'boys' knew they were there also. Nelson didn't seem likely to have kept that secret from them.
Nobody had replied to my question about vampire minions. Cooper brought Nelson a glass of water and whispered something into his ear before handing over a cell phone I hadn't even heard ring. Nelson held his hand up to me in apology as he spoke into the phone. I forgave the rudeness as I watched Nelson's face grow ashy and pale. Abruptly he shut the phone and handed it back to Cooper. Shaking his head he said slowly, "I am sorry about that. It seems that Katherine won't be returning home. I have a connection in the coroner's office and they determined the body found with the police officer was hers."
His voice never wavered or broke as he reported his wife's death to me and his followers. I was heartsick hearing the news of my friend's murder, but he had to be even more horrified. He had only spoken with respect and love in his voice when he mentioned Katherine and now he lost her because she knew me.
Something of what I was thinking must have chased across my face because he shook his head briskly.
"No, Alanna, this is not your fault. We've been killing and stalking vampires and their families for decades. She knew what she was up against. I should have come with her to help you. I blame myself, not you." His voice was slow and even. He truly thought he was to blame.
Nelson picked up the glass of water Cooper had set before him when he'd given him the cell phone. He emptied the glass and Cooper immediately collected it and refilled it from the carafe on top of the bar area of the room. I saw Cooper empty a packet of something into the glass before giving it a brisk stir. The color remained the same. I wondered at the addition to the water, if it was even water. I made a mental note to not accept anything from the boys unless it was in a sealed bottle.
The men were now pacing and looking daggers at me. Nelson might not think I was to blame but they certainly did. Since any of them could probably snap my neck like a twig that wasn't a comfortable feeling.