Cooper blushed and moved slightly from Lindsey's loose embrace. Then she did something so quickly I nearly missed it. Her fingers were nimble and she had a skill all right, beyond looking frail and pretty. She had his gun in her hand and she was glancing and sniffing it.
"You got to shoot someone today! Damn it, Nelson, why wasn't I with them?" I reassessed my first impulsive characterization of Lindsey. Obviously there was more to her than her I'd thought. That's what I got for being judgmental. I should have learned better by now.
Nelson laughed. It wasn't a full laugh but rueful and somewhat sad laugh.
"Yes, Lindsey, Cooper got to shoot somebody. But I know you will be happier not answering a bunch of cops' questions. And since we ducked out of their investigation more than likely our next encounter will be made with our lawyers behind us so we don't go to jail." Lindsey sulked a tad, still looking cute and fetching and then tapped Keith on his shoulder saying, "So what, you get to shoot someone too?"
Dryly, "As a matter of fact I did."
That was too much for her, Lindsey stomped off into what I assumed was the main bedroom and slammed the door. The door was surprisingly thick and made a hell of a thump. The men looked to Nelson.
Nelson looked over at me saying, "Sorry about that, Alanna, she's still upset we don't let her get out more. Her abilities are finely honed and she doesn't realize that how she looks doesn't make her very believable when she's asked pointed questions by cops."
Nice to know but still it wasn't something I was going argue with him about given they had all the weapons and knowledge of what was going on in this demented world. I guessed that they were all versed in being questioned by cops and had lawyers on speed dial.
Keith blushed and wandered over to the bar and poured himself a glass of water. I noticed that he didn't use any of Cooper's packages. Once he quenched his thirst he said, "Should I go calm her down?" He tilted his head towards the closed door.
"No, let her be. She's not going to be appeased with mere words. We'll have to take her with us in our next raid on a nest of vampires." Nelson wasn't kidding. He was serious about raiding vampires. The term of a nest of vampires was something new but I figured it made sense given the whole vampires in Hollywood stuff. I wasn't even going to ask if they could flip to bats and reveal my ignorance. But I knew from the packed kit I'd seen he did have toys and tools to kill.
Wrapping my brain around the whole idea that there were more vampires out in the world than I thought I asked, "Who was the vampire that survived in Las Vegas?"
Dead silence greeted my question. Everyone looked to Nelson for his response. He truly was their leader I noticed while waiting for his answer.
He softly chuckled and said, "That's the question now isn't it?"
Well, duh. I thought and tried to keep my inside voices deep inside. His crew looked at him and waited. Nelson still had that Brother Georgie vibe running and his followers were truly linked into that whole scene. I was less than respectful but it was to be expected, given I wasn't one of the guru's family.
My patience waned and I asked, "Who was the vampire in Las Vegas and is it the same vampire who runs the Hagen family?"
Nelson shook his head and said, "Nobody knows. We don't think it was the vampire from Las Vegas, but no one alive has seen either to compare."
That was certainly less than good news. Like vampires were a dime a dozen? Hell, for all I knew they were. Looking at the still closed door I asked, "Is she going to be okay?"
Admittedly, it was a distraction, but I wasn't ready to continue probing Nelson on the vampire. He wasn't ready to admit he knew anything but I was curious. Which vampire was the one from Vegas that I'd seen? Was it the Hagens' vampire master or someone else in the equation? Logically my brain did some leaps.
"She'll be fine." Cooper replied while pouring himself a soda. It was a welcome relief to see someone drinking a normal beverage in this group. I still wasn't so sure that they were mixing in vitamins and aspirin into Nelson's water. Wrapping my head around their being vampire killers or something -- I'd yet to see them kill any vampires but since I'd killed one I wasn't discounting the idea.
"What are you thinking, Alanna?" Nelson waved off Keith's fussing. Keith had launched himself up when Cooper had gone to the bar. He'd busied himself by pulling out some snacks from what I assumed was the overpriced bar. He placed the food out on the countertop and indicated to the crowd that it was served. Nelson shut down his fussing with his casual wave and he focused on me.
Laughing I shook my head, "No, it's stupid."
I heard myself and cringed inside. It was wrong to dismiss my own instincts but the level of male testosterone in the suite was nearly toxic and pushing me to doubt myself. I stiffened my spine and went for it.
"Fine, here goes." I gulped and launched my theory.
"The vampire I saw in Las Vegas is probably far above the one running the Hagen family. I think that he wants to take over the LA territory and will start by taking out the Hagens' vampire." I let my breath out and waited for their reaction.
Nobody said a word. The silence stretched and finally Cooper said, "Yep, that sounds right."
They all started talking at once with various observations from their past and mine. They knew far too much about my life it seemed. I kept from shuddering by sheer willpower alone. I felt like I'd been ignorant of so much for so long that I deserved the harm that fell my way. It wasn't truly my life anymore, but instead this glossy pseudo-magazine I didn't know. My world had reworked and twisted into an obscure comic book with cartoon characters laughing in the small dialogue boxes at my folly. It was madness.
Nelson clapped his hands together briskly and said, "Well, this isn't getting us anywhere new. Let's find Michael Stockwell and ask him what he knows about my wife's murder."
Everyone grew quiet out of respect for Katherine. My throat tightened and I clutched my fists. I felt my nails bite into my palms and wanted to punch walls or something. I was frustrated by everything and unable to do much of anything.
Just then my phone rang. I jumped. I had been shot at, blasted and hit a man's arm, had cops asking me questions and a stupid cell phone ring tone made me jump. How wrong was that?
Eyes watched me as I said, "Hello?"
There wasn't a sound as I held my phone to my face. I was frozen, knowing it was Michael's alleged captor. The mechanical voice wasn't as solid but it worked. The robotic voice was disturbing.
"My, my you've been very busy. I see you have some new friends. They aren't bulletproof, but have some talent. I guess we know that things aren't all they seem, now are they?" A dry chuckle and cough. The voice wasn't as healthy as I'd thought. And the cough led me to surmise he or she wasn't a vampire either. From what I knew vampires didn't get sick.
Nelson and his men were leaning in trying to hear the call. The mechanized voice was pretty loud and I held my cell phone a few inches from my ear so they could easily hear the conversation. My brain had finally snapped awake and I did a huge leap. I was getting good at those lately.
"Michael, did Paul shoot you?" I pushed out. It was a bold move but something in the rhythm of his voice made me sure of my guess. Desperate times deserved desperate measures.
Coughing and a rough laugh, then he no longer used the voice-scrambling device. "Got me. How'd ya figure it out?"
"I'm not stupid. So why do you want the keys from Randolph's cigar box?" Nobody said a word.
More coughing. I heard rough spitting. I took the next logical leap, "Lung shot, huh?" I then could also hear the wind raking into his lungs with each breath and figured that he wasn't doing well.
A gasp and dry chuckle, "Yeah. So what do you want?"
The tide had shifted and I grinned. The men all leaned even closer. We'd all pretty much entirely forgotten Lindsey's tantrum going on in the main bedroom. I shot a look over to the closed door and mentally shrugged. If they weren't going to go play her game, I certainly had no reason to let her join in the fun.
"You, Michael. I want you to come where I ask for a change. You've colored far outside the lines." I took a deep breath and jabbed, "Which Hagen got to you? Marge or Randa?"
His laughter was broken by phlegm filled coughs. He wasn't going to last long; he sounded even worse than the Hagen's next door neighbor, Lance had, which was saying something. I could see that the men wanted to rip the phone from my hand but knew better. It was my turn for a change.
"Damn, you are smarter than they knew. You already guessed, Marge, didn't you? All those stories you told me. You always knew Marge was stronger than the family gave her credit for -- Randolph abused her not the other way around. No matter what you think that you saw. She was his victim." Michael was struggling for air. I wondered how far away he was. We needed to reach him before he died. He was dying. I knew it.
"Oh, I just saw Marge recently. She wasn't exactly running out to say hi to me. Randa told me Randolph was dead. You lied to me. You manipulated me and tried to get me far enough way from my home to get me killed. Why should I even bother to listen to you? You killed my friend and tried to kill Paul. Your own partner. Not exactly reassuring are you?" I snarled.
The men were now actively pacing around me all but shaking with their inability to control my words. I smiled. It wasn't a nice smile. I'd learned it the night I staked a vampire. I knew without being told that Michael was part of that vampire network.
Michael rattled and coughed and spit some more. It wasn't pretty. But he was the one who'd called me. Nelson was nearly lip-to-lip as he leaned in close to hear me talk. I didn't push away because he had a vested interest. His wife was dead because of Michael's alliances. Lay down with dogs, you could get fleas. It seemed if you bedded with vampires you got dead friends and anemia.
"Marge isn't a vampire. She's just trying to keep her family alive!" Michael protested. It rang false but I wasn't going to play.
"At what cost?"
Silence was my answer.
The cell was silent and the room even more so. We waited to see what he'd say. It wasn't too long of a wait.
"Marge was molested!" Michael was fighting the battles that were long over in my memories. Marge hadn't been fighting off Randolph when I'd seen her but savoring throwing the whole event in my face. Life was too funny. Michael was as naïve as I'd been. Nothing I would say could alter that. She was good at swaying men. I didn't get it, but then I wasn't the fool for a change.
"So?" Was all I said.
The room was frozen. The silence had drawn Lindsey from her self-imposed exile. She had next to Keith whispering. I knew he was filling her in on what I was telling Michael. Her glance to me was sullen. I'd ruined her sulking by real life. Not much I could do to stop her hatred, but I could slow her down. I gestured to her with my head and Nelson got my meaning. Cooper went to her side and drew her back to the room she'd just fled. She tried to struggle, but he physically lifted her from the ground and hissed into her ear.
I didn't care I just wanted to find my tormenters. The door solidly shut with Lindsey on the other side. Cooper stood with his arms crossed facing the room holding her prisoner. I nodded my approval to Nelson and waited to hear Michael's reply.