Morning came too early for me, and I tried to roll over and go back to sleep. Jesse, however, threatened to deflate the air mattress with her switchblade, while I was still on it. In my head there was a little cartoon of me on the mattress as it flew around the room, the rush of air pushing it along. When it flew out the window and crashed to the ground, I decided it was maybe time to get up. Weird dreams of falling always scare me.
Breakfast was a short affair. We'd all gotten up late, with me finally rolling out of bed a little after ten. Tess and Cam had made french toast for everyone, and we each helped ourselves when we wanted. Showers, one at a time, took us until close to noon. By the time I was dressed and ready to go, Tess and Dayle were ready to leave, taking Jace with them.
"You be careful, babe. I don't want you coming home looking like someone used you as a midday snack."
She laughed at me. "I'll be fine, Trey. Tess and Dayle will take care of me, I'm sure."
"Of course we will." Tess stepped up beside us and put a hand on my shoulder. "We'll be back before you know it, Trey."
I nodded. "Just -- I don't see why you have to take her with anyway."
Jace sighed. "Babe, they need me to prove where we found the information, and how. The council members are going to want to be sure of what we're telling them."
"Okay." I hugged my girl and kissed her cheek. "Be careful. Promise?"
"I promise." She kissed me gently, then winked as she pulled away.
Tess patted my shoulder again and nodded at me. Dayle waved a hand as she was headed out the door. I waited until the door closed behind them, then went to the kitchen and dropped into a chair.
"We're sure they're not in any danger -- right, Cam?"
She smiled at me. "Yes, Trey. Dayle and Tess are going to talk to three council members that Kels thinks will side with us. I wanted Jace to go because she found the information, plus she has a logical mind. If anyone's going to get through to them, it'll be her."
"Well, that's true." I sighed. "Just don't want anything to happen to her."
Nix came into the kitchen, with hardly a limp. "Tess and Dayle gone?"
"Yeah, they just left. You and Jess almost ready?"
"Just about. She and Kruise are talking in the bedroom; they should be out soon."
"Is something up?" Cam looked concerned.
"No, I don't think so. I think Jess wanted to make sure Kruise was fully recovered after her nightmare last night."
I nodded. That made sense, seeing as how Jess was part of those nightmares.
"She told Tess it wasn't about vampires." Cam looked thoughtful. "Wonder what it was about."
Nix looked down, then glanced at me. I raised an eyebrow at her, wondering if Jesse had told her. She shrugged, but added just a little nod.
Cam shook herself. "Oh, well. I'm sure it's fine." She stood up, picking up her sunglasses and jacket. "You two ready?"
Since our teams from the day before had been split up to allow Tess and Dayle to tackle the council, it was just the five of us going to check out three different possibilities as to the location of Star.
"How do you want to do this, Nix?" We were all down in the garage standing between the SUV and Jesse's Mustang.
"Well, the locations are in different areas, two pretty far out from here and the third closer but in a different direction." Nix showed Cam a map with red circles and blue lines following different routes to each. "My suggestion is that we split, Jesse with me, and Kruise and Trey with you. You three take this one, then come back for this one near the park. Jesse and I will go to this one, and then meet you in the parking lot just off of here." She pointed at the spot and Cam nodded.
"Good. You and Jess have a cell phone?"
"Yeah, and Jess has the auto charger so it'll be plugged in. You've got Tess's?"
"Yeah, and Dayle has hers, so we can stay in touch if anything happens. You spot Star or Rita, you call, got it? No hero stuff."
Nix nodded. "No heroes. Good hunting, you guys. We'll see you at the park."
Kruise and I looked at each other.
"Aw, Kruise . . ."
"I got longer legs, Trey."
We waited for Cam to unlock the car with her remote, then climbed in. I watched her give Nix a hug before she turned and headed back toward us.
Jesse raised a hand in farewell, and Kruise answered. Then Jesse was climbing into the Mustang and starting the car. By the time Cam was behind the wheel, Jess and Nix were gone.
"You two ready?"
"As we'll ever be."
Cam glanced back at me. "You don't sound very excited, Trey."
"Oh, I am." I nodded. "Excited. Uh-huh. Yep."
She laughed and I heard Kruise chuckle. "What's the problem, Trey? You get sick in the back seat?"
"Only when that back seat is really damn close to where two dead bodies were yesterday."
That shut them both up. Kruise turned and looked at me. "We could try three in the front, I guess."
"No, that's okay. But, when we reach the park . . ."
"One of us is riding with Jesse and Nix. I don't care if they do wanna make out at stop lights."
They laughed again, and this time I joined them. I spent the next several minutes indulging in crass comments about noises from Jess and Nix's bedroom after Kruise and I went to bed.
It was better than silence.
The building we pulled up to was one of those prefab condo houses. I hadn't been aware they really existed that much in New York, but Cam said they were appearing more and more.
We watched for several minutes in silence before anyone spoke.
"Okay, now that we're here, what do we do?"
Cam shrugged. "I'm not sure." She looked sheepishly at Kruise. "We didn't really discuss that part, did we? We all just agreed we'd go to each place looking for Star and, or, Rita."
"Well, I'm not seeing anything. Shall we head for the next one?"
Kruise looked back at me. "Chill, Trey." She opened up her door and Cam grabbed her arm.
"Kruise, where do you think you're going?"
"Relax, Cam. I'm just going to go up and ring the doorbell."
I leaned forward. "You're what?"
She sighed and looked back at me again. "Listen, she knows what you and Cam look like. She doesn't know what I look like. I'll ring the doorbell and ask if this is where a friend of mine lives, and when she says no, I'll come back to the car." She glanced at Cam. "She doesn't know what your car looks like, does she?"
"No, but --"
"But what if it's Star that answers? You're just thinking of Rita, but what if it's Star? She knows what you look like."
Kruise bit her lip. "Oh. Right. Forgot about that." She reached a hand up to her throat where there was a small bandage barely visible against her skin.
Cam shook her head. "No. I think we all three stay here. If someone comes out of the house, great. If not, then --"
I sat straight up. "Then nothing. Look."
The front door of the condo slammed behind the figure who'd just exited the building. Rita had dark glasses on, and a coat and hat, but even I could recognize her at that distance. She tossed her keys up and down in her hand while walking towards a car parked a few spaces in front of us.
"Damn. 'Bout time we got some luck." Kruise pulled her door all the way closed and got her seat belt back on. Cam waited until the green Honda had pulled away, then slowly followed.
The apartment Jesse and Nix were supposed to check out was on the fifth floor of a converted factory. It wasn't a great part of town, but they were both still surprised to see three police cars and an ambulance parked outside the building entrance.
As Jesse pulled into a parking space, the ambulance left the lot. It's spot was taken by the coroner's car.
"Wonder what's up."
"Yeah." Jesse lit a cigarette as they watched two body bags be carried out of the building. "Guess that answers that."
Nix sighed. "Guess it does."
They watched silently for a little while, till the coroner's car pulled away.
The area in front of the apartment house now held five police cars. There was also at least one crew and a mob of onlookers.
"We'll never get through that to find out if Star's anywhere around."
Jesse crushed out the last of her cigarette. "Got a buck that says the excitement was caused by Star."
"Why do you say that?"
"Think about it: we're at a place where we think a vampire might be staying -- a vampire that likes to kill. You tell me what I should think."
Nix nodded and sighed again. "Good point."
Jesse opened the door and Nix grabbed her arm. "Where do you think you're going?"
"To get some info. Sit tight; I'll be right back."
"No hero shit, Jesse. I mean it."
Jesse almost smiled at the scowl on Nix's face. "Don't worry. I won't even leave your sight. Just stay put, okay?" She gave a gentle slap to Nix's knee, then slipped out of the car, closing the door solidly behind her.
She pulled her sunglasses off and brushed a hand through her hair, wincing as she realized how unprofessional she looked in a borrowed T-shirt and jeans. But it was Sunday, after all, and Antony couldn't yell at her since she wasn't working.
One of the officers looked up as she approached. "Hey, you. What the hell are you doin' here?"
"Just passin' through, bud. What's up with you?"
Antony Veres slapped Jesse's shoulder. "Never expected to see you here. Look, I can't talk; official crime scene and all."
"Yeah, I kind of got that, what with the body bags and yellow tape." She offered the pack of smokes to him. "Got a friend who knows someone who lives here. We were passin' by, and saw the cars and stuff. When I saw you out here, I thought I'd just ask if you could tell me anything, maybe ease her mind, you know?"
Antony was busy slipping two cigarettes into his shirt pocket. "Thanks for the smokes, pal."
"Not a problem. Celia still think you quit?"
He grimaced. "Yeah. I'm tryin', but it ain't easy, you know?"
"Uh-huh." They shared a grin, then Jesse turned serious again. "So, anything you can tell me? You know it ain't goin' any further."
Antony gave a shrug. "Sixth floor, two different apartments, two dead bodies. One man, one woman, both had their throats slashed."
The policeman glanced cautiously around, then leaned in a little closer to her. "No, but this fucker is a sicko. He hung the girl upside down to let her bleed into this pan. Then he just dumped the blood."
"How do you know that?"
"We found the pan in the kitchen sink, empty."
"Uh-huh." Antony glanced down at the pad in his hand. "What floor is this friend of yours on?"
"Friend of a friend. Fifth."
"Uh -- Rita, something or other. I can ask --"
Antony waved her off. "Rita Vegin, fifth floor. Yeah, she's clear. Left on vacation Friday morning and no one's seen her since. Her friend, on the other hand, was still here this morning."
"Yep. The super says Vegin gave her permission to use the apartment for the weekend. She was seen leaving the building very early in the a.m."
Jesse nodded. "When were these two killed, do you know?"
"Preliminary report from the coroner said 48 hours for the woman, about 12 for the guy." He looked up at her. "If you know this friend of a friend of -- whatever, you might wanna pass the word that we wanna talk to her."
"Know her name?"
"Uh, Stacy. That's all I got."
"Huh. 'Kay. I'll pass the word on. Don't know her personally, though."
Another man in uniform stepped out the door and called to Antony. He waved and glanced at Jesse. "Sorry, pal, gotta go. You take care, okay?"
"You, too. Give Celia my love."
"Will do. We'll have to do another of those cook outs at the park."
"Sounds great, just let me know when."
With a final wave, he disappeared into the building.
Nix let Jesse get the car door closed before asking her who the man was.
"Antony and I went to high school together. After we graduated, we lost touch, and I didn't know he was a cop until he showed up in court to testify on something. We got a chance to catch up, and him and his wife have me over for dinner every once in a while. He's a good guy."
"Great." Nix waited a moment more. "So, you wanna tell me what's going on? Or did you just suddenly want to play catch up with a friend?"
Jesse started the car. "Two dead bodies, sixth floor." She spent a moment tapping on the steering wheel, watching the activity outside the car. "Probably Star's work -- she's been here, left this morning they said. Rita's been gone since Friday, supposedly on vacation."
"Yeah." Putting the car into reverse, Jesse backed them out of the parking space. "Let's head for the park, meet up with the others. Maybe they found something."
"We can always hope." Nix put a hand to her face and winced. "Damn, Jess, if we're going to be driving around in your car, you've got to get tinted windows."
"Sun bothering you?"
"I feel like I'm being cooked."
Jesse smirked. "Well, we can't have that. After all, you taste just fine raw."
Nix's face turned red, and her mouth opened. She closed it without saying anything.
Cam pulled up to a curb across the street from where Rita had parked. The three of us watched for the vampire to get out of her car, but she didn't.
"What the hell is she doing?"
"Isn't it obvious, Kruise? She's waiting for something."
"No shit, Trey, but what?"
"She's probably waiting for Star." Cam sighed, tapping her hand against the steering wheel. "And there's no sign of Jesse and Nix."
"They'll be here, Cam, don't worry."
"Trey's right, Cam."
For several minutes we just watched Rita's Honda in silence. When the cell phone rang, we all jumped. Cam gave us a sheepish smile and answered it.
I watched in the mirror as Kruise fiddled with a button on her shirt.
"Two more bodies?"
I shuddered, and I must have whimpered or something, because Kruise turned toward me and raised an eyebrow.
"No, no sign of Star, but Rita's right here. We're at the park, across from her brownstone, and she's sitting in her car waiting for someone or something."
Kruise and I turned back to watching Rita, who surprised both of us by opening the door and getting out of the car.
"At least she was sitting in the car -- she just got out. Where are you?"
Rita didn't head for the building. Instead, she stepped off the sidewalk and I thought perhaps she'd catch a cab, but she just stood there watching traffic.
Suddenly I heard a gasp, and as I looked up, Kruise's face contorted in the mirror.
Cam glanced at her, then followed her line of site. "Holy shit, It's Star. Red car, at the light."
I leaned forward to get a look but couldn't see the face of the person well.
"Are you sure?"
"It's her, Trey." This time is was Kruise who answered me with a shudder.
"You're what?" Cam's voice didn't sound happy. "But -- well, yeah, but -- " She sighed. "Fine. But remember, no confrontations. Okay?"
Kruise cursed softly. "Let me guess, Jesse wants us to follow her?"
Cam shook her head. "Right. Good luck, Nix." She turned the phone off and looked at us. "We're staying here on Rita. Jess and Nix will follow Star."
"What?" Sitting up straight, Kruise turned to Cam. "Are you crazy? Those two will get in trouble, I just know it."
"Too late." Cam pointed.
We watched as the light changed and the red car moved forward. It slowly crossed the intersection, then approached Rita at a crawl.
"Is she picking her up, do you think?" Cam asked.
I had been wondering the same thing, but something was extended out the window and Rita took it. The car gathered speed, heading down the street to our right, going back the way we'd come.
Moments later, Jesse's Mustang sped past us, following Star.
"I hope they don't do anything stupid," I muttered.
Cam shrugged. "It's Nix and Jesse. What could happen?"
The three of us looked at each other and groaned.
End Part Twelve