Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard #2)(15)


by Melissa F. Olson

“I’m also a cop, and Olivia is killing people,” Jesse pointed out, a little irritated. Had his feelings for Scarlett been that obvious?

“Well, there you have it,” Dashiell said, smiling congenially. Avoiding his eyes, Jesse stared at the vampire’s teeth. The canines weren’t exactly fang material, but was it his imagination, or were they extra pointy? “Either way, the job is yours.”

Dashiell gave a modest little bow and turned away. He was at the Bentley before Jesse could think of another thing to say.

He was still standing there like an idiot when Glory made it back, without her clipboard now. “Doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for negotiation, does he?” she said quietly.

“No, he doesn’t.” Jesse’s eyes fell on the Jeep again. “What’s going to happen to your evidence?” he asked.

She shrugged. “I’ll log it as usual, but this is an accident scene now.”

“Did you find much?”

“Not really. The usual LA litter, nothing that looked fresh. The ground’s too hard for footprints. There are fingerprints everywhere, but they won’t be processed now. Even if they were, unless this Olivia was arrested when she was alive, I don’t know that they’d do any good. Best case, they’d confirm that it was her.”

He sighed. “Anything that would give me a location? Anything at all?”

She frowned. “The only weird thing was a tiny bit of mud we found on the floor of the Jeep. It doesn’t look like it was on either of the Reeds’ shoes. But the Jeep was stolen from a rental lot, so who knows how well the rental company cleaned it.”

Jesse felt like he’d just taken a shot of adrenaline. “Wait, what made it weird?”

“Two things,” she replied. “First, there was a really distinctive smell to it. Like…a factory.” She shrugged.

“And second?”

“The color. Soil analysis isn’t my area of specialization, but I’ve never seen dirt that was so…gray.”

“Get it analyzed, okay?”

Glory squinted up at him, bemused. “Well, duh.”

Jesse banged on Scarlett’s door at ten on the dot, half expecting her to answer the door in her pajamas. He felt a little guilty for pushing her so hard at Erin’s, especially in light of Olivia’s attack. But Erin’s death—and the swiftness with which the Old World had made it disappear—ate away at him. He resolved to be a little nicer anyway.

To his surprise, though, the door was opened by Eli, wearing boxer shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. “Oh…hey…” Jesse said lamely. Of course Eli had spent the night. Jesse tried to ignore a stab of jealousy. You have a girlfriend, he told himself. It’s none of your business.

“Hey,” Eli said, yawning. “She’s in the shower.” He backed up, making room for Jesse to slip past him into the house. Guy was so damned tall. “Thanks for calling last night.”

“No problem.” There was an awkward pause. Jesse and Eli had met during the La Brea Park investigation—when Scarlett had been in the hospital, unable to protect herself, the two of them had taken shifts to stay with her. Jesse was pretty sure that Eli was in love with her. Hell, maybe Scarlett was in love with him too. It irritated Jesse that this thought bothered him so much.

“How is she doing?” he asked finally.

Eli shrugged, closing the door. “Oh, you know,” he said with a small smile. “It’d take a direct hit.”

“That’s kind of what I’m worried about.”

Before Eli could respond, Scarlett trotted down the stairs, her feet bare and her hair pulled into a wet bun. She wore jeans and a green T-shirt that had damp spots where her hair had dripped, and was pulling on a jacket. “I’m ready, I’m ready,” she said breathlessly.

“Shoes?” Jesse said, raising an eyebrow.

“They’re right—oh, no, they’re not.” She scrambled back upstairs. Jesse shook his head, amused.

“You really think Olivia will come after her?” Eli said quietly. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the stairs.

“Seems like it. But I never met Olivia.”

“I only saw her once or twice. She was…I don’t know. Regal. Commanding.”

“Nuts?”

“Well, yeah. But not so you’d notice right away.”

Scarlett came running down the stairs, socks and boots in her hand. “I thought you’d be dragging ass. What’s the rush?” Jesse asked.

“We’re meeting Kirsten,” she told him. “And you need to be on your best behavior.”

Chapter 7

We stepped out of Molly’s house into my favorite kind of LA weather: cool and sunny. Sometime during the night, the wind had blown off a layer of smog, so it was even clear outside. We walked down the block to Jesse’s parking spot, and I noticed one of Molly’s neighbors had recently gone with the ultimate tacky Christmas decoration: four inches of cotton laid down over the grass to serve as snow. The scene was complete with Styrofoam snowmen and a gaudily decorated Christmas tree. Molly would love it.

On the way to the restaurant, Jesse told me about being approached by Dashiell and the meeting at his house that night, and I filled him in on what Kirsten had told me about Erin’s and Denise’s deaths: the frantic calls to Kirsten, the fact that both witches predicted the future. “So Kirsten and I think the two deaths have to be connected,” I finished.

“It’s not two deaths anymore. Now it’s four,” Jesse said grimly.

“Wait. What?”

“I’m not sure, and I can’t prove it, but I think the Reed car accident is related to all this. Remember I told you about that weird dirt that forensics found at Erin’s? Well, I think I found the same kind of mud inside the car last night. My friend in forensics is analyzing it for me.”

“But the car thing was Olivia. We still think that was Olivia, right?”

“Yes.”

I thought that over. “So you think Olivia killed the witches too?”

He hesitated. I glanced over. “What?” I asked.

“Is it possible that Olivia has…special powers? Like, since she was a null who turned, maybe she can go out in the sun or something?”

“No,” I said. This was something I’d thought about a lot. “Other nulls feel…different. In my radius. Olivia used to feel like that, but that day that I saw her at the hospital, she just felt like your garden-variety baby vampire.”