Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard #2)(14)


by Melissa F. Olson

Jesse thought of his threat to Scarlett earlier that night. Would he really have gone through with knocking on this creature’s door? Suddenly he doubted it. As Benson stumbled away, Dashiell finally made it to Jesse.

“Detective Cruz,” Dashiell said cordially. “How nice to see you again.”

Jesse swallowed. He could have sworn he felt waves of power radiating off Dashiell, but that was probably his imagination. “Wish I could say the same,” he said, eyes on Dashiell’s loafers. He had been to enough Hollywood parties to recognize Prada. “But it does seem like there are more dead bodies when you’re around.”

There was a little surprise in Dashiell’s laugh. “Think of it as job security. Thank you for your call, Ms. Sherman.” Glory nodded again, keeping her eyes down.

“You suspect Olivia?” Dashiell asked Jesse, as though he were leading the detective toward the obvious answer.

“Yes,” Jesse said, fighting to keep an automatic “sir” out of his voice. However scary Dashiell was, Jesse still didn’t have to answer to him. At least, he hoped not. “Aside from the message, the victim’s first names were the same as Scarlett’s parents’. And the Jeep was flipped by hand.” He pointed to the dents. He was burning to look at Runa, to make sure she stayed back, but didn’t want to give her away, either. Surely Dashiell had heard her moving around the far side of the Jeep? Or were the traffic sounds enough to drown out any noise? He prayed that she wasn’t about to use the camera’s flash.

“I see,” Dashiell said thoughtfully. He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and began tapping the screen so quickly that Jesse half expected it to start smoking. He risked a glance over at Runa, now visible on the far side of the Jeep. She had been packing up her gear. She hoisted her camera bag onto her shoulder and glanced his way. She must have figured he was interviewing a witness, because she just mouthed, “Anything else?” He shook his head, fast and tight. She smiled and gave a little wave and a head tilt to say see you at the station.

As Runa stood, Jesse tried to think of something to say to mask the sound of her footsteps. “What happens now?” he blurted. “I mean, do we investigate the crime as usual, or what do you want me to do? I’m guessing I probably can’t just file a regular report, right?”

Dashiell looked up with a bemused expression, and Jesse dropped his eyes back down. “No,” Dashiell said mildly. He pocketed the phone. “It’s all arranged. This file is being closed as a simple car accident.” He turned back to Glory. “I assume you can file any additional paperwork? You’ll receive full cooperation with the medical examiner’s office.”

“Uh, yes, sir.”

“Wonderful.” He held out a business card. “My tow services will take care of the vehicle personally. They’ll be here within the hour.” Glory took the card. “Thank you, Ms. Sherman. If you would give me a moment with Detective Cruz?”

Without another word, the forensics specialist scurried toward her department-issued van, and Jesse risked a look at where Runa had been. The photographer was gone. “And Olivia?” Jesse prodded.

“Yes. Olivia. I’m afraid you’ve suffered quite a loss, Detective.”

“What?”

Dashiell stepped over to the car, examining the dents on the window. He placed one hand in either corner of the window and pulled outward, snapping the handprint out of the metal with a flick of his wrists. “Your grandmother in San Bernardino has just passed away,” he continued, and Jesse relaxed an inch. His last surviving grandparent had died in Mexico three years earlier. “You’ve been given a week of bereavement leave with full pay. A little generous for the department, I admit, but your supervisors were feeling quite sympathetic.”

“Oh,” Jesse said lamely. He felt suddenly like Dashiell was pitching baseballs at his chest, and Jesse was dropping every one.

“Use the week to find Olivia. Whether you destroy her personally or call me to destroy her is up to you, but I suggest you bring Scarlett Bernard along. She can help protect you, and she knows Olivia better than anyone.”

“I’m not just going to destroy her—” Jesse began.

There was a deep chuckle. “Please. You plan to, what, arrest her politely? Have Scarlett stand next to her while Olivia is tried, convicted, and imprisoned? Maybe they could share a cell.”

“I—I hadn’t really gotten that far,” Jesse sputtered.

Another white card appeared in Dashiell’s hand, which was suddenly extended toward Jesse. “My number. If you don’t have the stomach to kill her, just call.” He raised a bemused eyebrow. “You do know how to kill a vampire?”

Goddammit, Jesse thought. Cardinal vampire or not, why was he letting this guy fluster him? “Scarlett…explained it to me,” Jesse said finally.

“Wonderful. I’ll be expecting your call, either way. I will also be expecting you and Scarlett at the mansion tomorrow evening at six. We’re all going to discuss what has been happening.” Jesse understood that “we” meant the Old World leaders: Kirsten, Dashiell, and Will.

“I know Scarlett works for you, but I don’t,” Jesse said, trying to sound firm. “You can’t just summon me places.”

Dashiell just arched an eyebrow, and Jesse had to look away from his eyes as quickly as he could. “Can’t I?”

Jesse couldn’t think of a thing to say, so he just shoved the card in his jeans pocket. “Look, I’m on another case right now, anyway—”

Dashiell’s voice hardened. “The witch in Studio City, yes, I know. This comes first.”

Witch. Erin was a witch? But Jesse couldn’t follow that thought very far, because he was working to keep a grip on his temper. He reminded himself that without Scarlett here he was outclassed: Dashiell had just taken control of an LAPD-run murder scene with one text message. Disappearing a homicide detective would be child’s play. After a breath, Jesse said, “Why me? You must have tons of vampire…lackeys, who are more powerful than Olivia.”

“Yes.” Dashiell’s voice darkened. “But one of my lackeys has already been compromised. I believe you met Albert?”

“The guard?”

“Yes. He disappeared nearly a month ago, and the two of them have been seen together. I do not know if anyone else is working with Olivia, but given your feelings for our Ms. Bernard, I trust you’ll be motivated to catch her.”