I was both glad and angry to see Robert Brooks' car parked in front of my apartment when I pulled up. Glad, because he could help me decide what to do with Belinda's body. Angry, because if Robert was here it meant my landlord Roger had called him. Dang it, I told Roger I could handle it on my own.
As I parked the truck the door to my silo apartment swung open. Roger stood in the doorway: corpulent, bald, and pissed. I looked past him and sure enough, there was Robert.
Roger walked down the stairs and strode over to the truck with a grace that belied his distended belly. He crossed his arms, shifted the toothpick between his lips to one side, and glared at me.
“Git out of the truck,” he bellowed. The soggy toothpick waggled in agreement.
I stepped out in what I hoped was a dignified manner. “You said I could borrow the truck anytime, Roger.”
Roger's face turned a shade between fire engine red and apocalyptic purple. “For reliable transportation. For hauling things. Not for taking off in the dead of night, alone, to some god-forsaken spot in the middle of nowhere,” he retorted, growing louder with every word. “I promised yer folks I would look out for you, and that's what I'm gonna do – even if it means locking you in your apartment and standing guard at the door.”
It was a long speech for a normally laconic man. Roger wiped the sweat from his forehead with a faded red bandana he pulled from his back pocket. He shifted the toothpick around some more and muttered, “You don't know what's out there, in the night. Pray ta God you never do.”
“You haven't told him?” Robert asked, coming down the stairs.
“Told him what?” I asked. But I knew what he meant. My fingers reached up, unbidden, to the cross at my throat.
Roger caught the gesture. “You never where that sort of thing,” he said, pointing a pudgy finger at the cross. “Why've you got it on now?”
Robert drew closer and looked where Robert pointed. His mouth fell open and he took a step back. “How can you wear that? How is that even possible?”
“Why would it be impossible?” Roger asked. His eyes narrowed to slits and he looked from me to Robert and back again.
I didn't like where this was headed. Fortunately, I had an effective way to redirect the conversation. “There's a body in the truck bed,” I announced.
The two men looked over the side of the bed at the blue tarp wrapped form. Roger hurried to the back of the truck and lowered the tailgate while Robert vaulted into the bed.
“Is it anyone you know?” asked Robert.
“Belinda. We work – worked – at the same law firm.”
Robert peeled the tarp back from Belinda's head and stared at her bloodless face. He touched her chin, turning her head gently until he saw the two red marks at her throat.
“G—d--- vampires,” Roger cursed.
I stared. “What the hell do you know about?” I demanded.
“What do you know,” he shot back.
“We all know to much,” Robert said glumly. “Maryanne, you shouldn't have brought the body here.”
“I know her,” I said impressively. “I wasn't about to leave her body to the coyotes and vultures.”
“There's a disposal site -”
“For House Inceput victims! They didn't do this, Robert. This is the work of a vampire from a competing house.”
“You mean to tell me we're in the middle of another G—d--- vampire turf war?” Roger shouted. “I ain't having it! Not again!”
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