"Theo, why don't you fill Josie in about Billy's escape and subsequent death?" It was framed like a question, but in truth it was a command.
Joel drummed his fingers on the table and waited.
I didn't drum my fingers, but my nerves were hopping as much as possible and for me to still be sitting. The coffee was actually soothing me. Or maybe it was seeing the look on the other vampire's face. Theo had some explaining to do and it wasn't going to be pretty. Lines were being drawn, and I wasn't sure whose side I was on, if anyone's. Which made any way I twisted it to be a bad thing. A real bad thing.
"Sure, Master," dang that was said with emphasis and capital letters, "As you know, when Babette was brought in earlier today, we had taken both Billy and Oliver in the sweep. Ashley was in on the delivery of all three and wanted to make sure that it went okay," I remembered Ashley was the one that was in charge of keeping track of Babette. I saw a few of the vampires nodding in agreement. I guess they were aware of Babette's games.
"So when we got back to the house, old Bob Dupree over there," Theo indicated one of seat vampires with his chin, "was in charge of keeping the two humans on ice." The vampires at the table turned as one to regard the vampire in question. It was eerie how easily they moved with a single motion. It was then that I discovered there had been a reason for some vampires standing as two of them moved behind the vampire's chair and held Bob down.
Bob wasn't moving, just staring straight at Theo shaking his head slowly. He didn't seem to notice the hands on his shoulders anchoring him in place. Joel was watching me, not the vampires I suddenly noticed.
"You got it all wrong, Theo. Ashley was in charge of Babette and her human boy toys. You personally assigned her. Joel, you remember it's been Theo running Babette's surveillance for the past few weeks." Bob smiled with a peek of fangs, but not a trace of nervousness in his words.
It was then I saw the various weapons being causally pulled from beneath coats and from sheaths secreted on their frames. It was a really impressive array I thought. They well represented a variety of weaponry beyond the basics of knives and guns. The glint of finely honed steel and what looked like a small hatchet made my pulse jump. I kept still and let them argue.
"Oh, Bob, how soon you forget. I certainly had you in charge of Babette -- as you may recall, it was at your own request. Fred was kind enough to run his cell camera for me, so I have some video backing up the assignment. You want me to play it for Joel?" Theo nodded to Fred who held up a sophisticated cell phone that definitely had movie capabilities. I was impressed as was Joel. There were some real trust issues in this bunch, that was for sure. That Theo knew to tape Bob's request spoke volumes.
"Robert, that isn't necessary is it?" Joel asked calmly while I saw old Bob shift nervously in his seat. The fingers on the hands holding him in place were white, as Bob had tried to rise. I don't know if it was in order to formally protest or to try to escape.
"No, Master. I did watch the humans, but they weren't awake when I left." He stopped trying to move and smiled again, but even I could see the fear washing over him.
Theo looked smug as he asked, "Why don't you tell us why you left, Bob?"
"Come on, Theo, it wasn't like they were going anywhere. I had them completely under my control and they weren't going to wake for hours, so I slipped down to the kitchen for a bite." Here he looked at me and smiled.
It was a nasty smirk, and I knew he didn't mean a simple meal but something or someone more warm-blooded. Joel shook his head and obviously forbade Bob from sharing information about the kitchen and his dining experience. My mind wasn't reluctant to fill in the missing details and I shivered.
My coffee was nearly gone, but I definitely wasn't going to open my mouth and ask for another cup. Bob was getting comfortable and getting into the telling of his tale. The camaraderie of being part of the vampire family was somehow strengthening his purpose, and he gave me a wink. I stiffened.
"Fine, Bob, you got a snack. We get that. But Billy did go somewhere. How'd he get free?" Theo's tones were dry and he no longer was rolling in that scent of decadent sex. I really could do without the emotional roller coaster but didn't see a way to get free from the vampires. Especially with the cops looking for me to pin Billy's death on and no real alibi. Sorry officers, I was with the vampires -- just didn't seem to work.
Disregarding Theo's question, Bob tilted his head back and closed his eyes.
"Yes, she was so sweet and tasty." He sketched a fingertip across his lips as recalling the girl.
His eyes snaked open and again he was watching me for a reaction. This wasn't my show so I kept still. My stomach was fluttering, but I kept hold of a detached air -- which wasn't very hard; I was thinking about Billy. I was still numbed by it all. Listening to creatures I hadn't even known existed twenty-four hours ago calmly discussing how my husband escaped from them wasn't even real to me.
One of the vampires holding the leering vampire roughly cuffed him on the back of the head. "Knock that shit off, Bobby, and answer the man's questions."
Suddenly the all male review made sense. These were enforcer sorts of vampires. I wondered how Bob snuck under the radar. He wasn't exactly wussy looking or weak. If I'd run into him on my own I would have stiffened and moved away slowly. The predatory air hadn't been reduced by his capture, but actually enhanced. He wasn't breathing but watching me like I was on his meal ticket. And in turn Joel was watching me and saw my reaction to Bob's stare.
That said, Bob wasn't the same as the others around the table. It took me a minute or two to figure out what was different about him, other than the two oversized vampire shoulder pads. He was large, sporting some blue-black ink from his days as a carnival worker or gang member I figured, but he wasn't as scary. Yeah, in the grand scale of vampires I'd met to date, Bob wasn't as toxic feeling to me.
Not to say I'd go down a dark alley with him anytime soon. From his track record it didn't seem humans survived very long in his company. I knew from the glint in his eye and the way he taunted me that he'd probably killed his tasty treat from the kitchen.
The other vampire pressing him down slapped him across the face and said, "You still aren't answering the questions, Bob."
Bob licked the blood off and smiled, "Sure, was just getting there."
"How'd he get free? You forget to lock the door on the way out?" Theo was still standing at my back and his questions were hissed out softly over my head. I felt a wave of desire run over me, and knew he was pushing again. That pissed me off nearly as much as knowing that I had to have the answer to the questions. Hell, I needed the answers.
Rolling his eyes up to the vampire who'd just smacked him Bob said, "Archie, why don't you tell them who'd been in charge of locking up the humans?"
"Fuck you, Bob, you left after me. Nice try." Archie looked like he'd swallowed pins and needles. He growled to Joel, "Bob's lying."
Theo nodded, and two other vampires standing pulled Archie from Bob's shoulder -- Archie struggled for a second then stepped back. Another vampire rolled right into the empty space at Bob's shoulder. In the ballet of movements Bob failed to bolt. His grin was confident and he added, "Hell I am, Archie. You were the one who lost Babette last month. I think maybe you went and played with the humans. Maybe Greta and Tammy took you. Joel, they are tight with Archie, you know."
A rumble went around the room. I saw a few nods of heads and excitement barely leashed from the spectators. Bob met eyes of a few of the seated vampires and smiled. Just like that he was relaxed and unworried.
Behind Bob I saw a subtle shifting of bodies and a glint again of something sharp and nasty.
Archie pleaded, "I wasn't in there with Billy and Oliver alone, ever. Bob's full of shit. He told me to go check on the travel arrangements and he'd meet me in the kitchen in a half hour. He was by himself."
Joel didn't say a word. He jerked his head, and the vampire who'd been seated to the right of Bob was yanked out of the chair and Archie was unceremoniously dropped into the still-warm seat. Bob nodded to Joel like that meant something significant.
Bob laughed, "Besides, Joel, like he'd follow my orders? I don't think so."
Theo cleared his throat.
"Bob, so Archie forgot to lock the door and went to meet you in the kitchen for a snack?"
"On your honor as a vampire?"
He looked indignant at the question, but was quick to smile viperously at me. His fangs were flashed and he was getting excited. He breathed in deeply and said in a booming voice, "Of course!"
"And Archie, on your honor you went before Bob?" Theo asked, but Archie looked to Joel when he answered.
"Yes, Sire." He was terrified and nowhere near as cocky as Bob. I didn't see sweat but was pretty sure Archie was sweating the outcome of Joel's decree. Joel nodded slowly and cleared his throat softly. I thought it a tad theatric, since they didn't need to breathe but it snapped everyone to attention.
"Now I ask you, Robert Dupree, as your Master and on your sworn life's blood to me and mine, are you telling the whole truth?" Joel cut through the tension with his formal question to Bob. Archie paled and tried to keep still. I could feel his foot vibrating on the floorboards. The vampires surrounding them took a step back and a dark haired vampire stepped up with a long silver sword. He raised it to his shoulder and got a decisive nod from Joel. And then the sword struck downward and around with a fluid motion. A head rolled cunningly to the side as if planned in advance then it was rolling and stopping directly in the middle of the table. I was amazed to see it was Bob's. I guess they didn't buy his lies anymore.
The blood was misting the room, and I felt coated by the blood drifting on the wind in the very air that I sucked into my lungs like dust. The other vampires uniformly had a glazed look on their faces. Well, except Archie who was looking extremely traumatized. He had his head bowed slightly and his foot finally stopped jittering. I shuddered as more than one of the assembled vampires turned and were looking at me with extreme interest. Joel was waiting for me to react. I could feel the tension in his gaze. He wasn't going to be rewarded because I was dead inside. The spray was just another inconvenience. I was done trying to figure out the vampires.
"Josie, what's on your mind?" He flicked his fingers at the mess and caught the eyes of the two vampires still standing behind the collapsed beheaded vampire.
"I need another shower." An alien sensation rolled over me as one of them tried to probe my thoughts. I wished them lots of luck with that since I wasn't exactly thinking much of anything.
With that I got up and walked out. I was sick of watching bodies being carted around in front of me like unclaimed luggage. Theo was hot on my tail and talking, "Want me to scrub your back?"
"I don't think so." I hit the stairs and took them two at a time. He couldn't pass me without knocking me over the rail. From the heat behind me I think he was considering it.
When I hit the bedroom I spun and said, "Stay."
Slamming the door in his stunned face I felt victorious. Small pleasures, but I'd take them where I could. I stripped out of the blood-spattered clothes and dumped them on the floor. I really was going to have to rethink my wardrobe if I intended on staying around vampires much longer.