Beth Eubanks sat on dirty sheets in small room with the curtains shut tight, staring at an infomercial on the TV for a herbal supplement guaranteed to cure every ailment known to medicine (pending FDA approval).
“I’m not . . . “ She shook her head. “I’m not . . .”
Sharpe held her handgun with both hands as we entered the room, but she kept it low, her hand on the trigger guard. Rachel leaned next to my shoulder. The key from the hotel manager swung on the door.
Beth blinked at the TV through bloodshot eyes. She wore jeans and a loose red sweatshirt. One hand was covered with bandages. Her feet were bare.
A bloody stake lay on the sheets next to her.
Sharpe stepped back. “All yours, Jurgen.”
Terrific. I glanced at Rachel. She slugged my shoulder. But gently.
“Beth?” I stepped forward. “I’m Tom. I’m a friend of your son. Brandon. Can we talk?”
She wiped a wrist across her nose. and looked at Sharpe. “Are you arresting me?”
Sharpe grimaced. “We’re just talking for now. I’m detective Sharpe. Can you tell us what happened?”
Instead of answering, Beth looked at Rachel. “Are you a friend of Brandon too?”
“Sort of. I work with Tom.” Rachel edged around me. “Brandon’s fine. We saw him this morning. He’s worried about you.”
“I’m sorry.” Her voice quavered.
“I don’t know how he got in.” Beth ran her hands over her face. “It’s not like Bill has the key or anything. He called me . . . he called me the night before. He said to be ready. I don’t—don’t usually listen to his messages, but this one was different. He didn’t sound drunk, just—evil.” She shuddered.
“So you were ready.” I nodded. “That’s good.”
“He just said to have a stake handy. I didn’t know what he meant, but I—I had some wooden picture frames I wasn’t using. so I made a couple of them.”
I wanted to sit down. But it seemed inappropriate to just plop down next to her on the bed. So I stuck my hands in my pockets. “What happened after that?”
“I don’t . . . remember.” She sighed. “That sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”
“No.” Rachel pulled the room’s lone chair over and sat down at her side. “Perfectly natural.”
“I don’t know how he got in. I don’t know how I . . . or leaving, or anything like that. I was just walking around on the street. It was late. I was thirsty, but I was too scared to get something to drink. Then this man—like the first one. He was following someone. So I—I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just so tired. And mad. So I—”
Sharpe cleared her throat.
Right. There’d been a witness. Marilyn. And enough of a body left to make a charge stick.
The CPD’s job was complicated now. Arresting vampires and bringing them to trial? The policy was to stake them on sight. Even Anemone had agreed to that: “If they’re stupid enough to get caught, they deserve what they get.”
But arresting citizens for killing vampires was . . . problematical at beast. The legal team was still working on it, last I’d heard.
So Sharpe didn’t want to hear a confession she’d have to report. Not right now.
“How did you get to this place?” I asked quickly.
“I got on a bus.” Beth shrugged. “I think I fell asleep. When I woke up, I saw this place. It was almost sunrise. So I got a room. I’ve been . . . sleeping for a while.” She rubbed her eyes. “What happens now?”
I looked at Sharpe.
She frowned, then motioned me over. Rachel stayed next to Beth.
“I have to take her in.” But she didn’t look happy about it. “Then talk to Hughes about what to charge her with. She might get a plea bargain or an insanity defense, but that’s not up to me.”
“But it’s pretty obvious that her ex-husband hired that vamp to try to kill her.”
“Conspiracy cases are hard enough to prove. But now we’re stuck with the second vamp. And there’s enough of a body left—and a witness—to make a charge stick. I’ve got to take her in, Jurgen. I’m still a cop.”
I nodded. Did the D.A.’s office know about the vampires? The city was trying to keep them out of the news media—and a former reporter I hated that—but it probably wasn’t the kind of secret they could keep up forever.
“There’s another problem.” I looked over my shoulder. Rachel was talking to Beth as quietly as Sharpe and I. “Anemone’s going to want her.”
Her shoulders stiffened. “We can’t give her up.”
“No.” I nodded immediately. “Self-defense is covered under the truce, but she might argue that the second killing doesn’t count.”
Sharpe’s lips curled in smile that was half a snarl. “That’s your job, Mr. Ambassador. Thank god it’s not mine.”
I sighed. “Yeah.”
Beth went peacefully with Sharpe. She looked as if she just wanted to sleep some more.
I called Brandon. I was treating him like a client, even though I wasn’t technically working for him. “Your mother is safe. The police have her—”
“The police? Oh god, what happens now?” He sounded as if he was going to hyperventilate.
“You can visit her. They’re working out the details.”
“Okay.” He took a deep breath. “Thanks.”
I waited until sundown to open a beer and call Anemone.
“We’ve got her.” I hoped that would be enough, but I didn’t expect it to be. “She’s in police custody.”
“What’s going to happen to her?”
It was the question I’d been dreading. “I don’t know. Do you really want her to go on trial and testify that she killed a vampire?”
“Two vampires. Maybe more.”
“One was clearly self-defense. Her ex-husband hired Anthony V to kill her. The other was about to attack a citizen.”
Her voice grew low. “Is this how it’s going to be? You’re going to make excuses for every one of my people who gets killed? This truce isn’t going to last long if that’s your plan.”
“Keeping vamps in line is your job. Humans are our problem.”
She laughed. “Okay. I’ll have to think about that. After I hunt.”
I groaned. “Don’t tell me that.” We had to tolerate a certain amount of bloodsucking, as long as no one got killed or seriously injured. But a certain amount of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was called for.
Anemone breathed deep. “Just remember, I expect justice. Or at least punishment. Otherwise the deal is meaningless.”
I sipped my beer. “I’ll see what I can do.”
My phone buzzed almost before I hung up. It was Hawkins—one of the cops on the vampire squad during the war that had gotten Dudovich killed. “Hi there. I’ve got—”
“She’s gone. She’s a vampire too.”
Wait—what? “What are you talking about?"
“Beth Eubanks. She got out.”