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Authors: Adrienne & Scott Barbeau,Adrienne & Scott Barbeau

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction

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BOOK: Vampyres of Hollywood
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“There was another today.” I filled him in on Eva’s bloody death and the police investigation, headed up by King. As I spoke, I pressed the fingertips of my left hand on the window, then breathed on it. Four perfectly blank ovals appeared on the glass. To complete the set I pressed my thumb alongside them. “A detective wants my fingerprints for elimination purposes.”

Solgar rubbed the glass clean with a gossamer-thin silk handkerchief as he bobbed his head quickly. “I can take care of that.”

“His CSIs are working in my FX hut. I need the police off the lot as soon as possible. I have some potential investors coming in on Saturday.”

Solgar’s head bobbed again. “I can take care of that, too. We have friends on the force. I think the right words to the right people in the department will suffice.”

“There may be issues with Maral…and her previous problem,” I said.

“I will ensure there are no issues.”

“Thank you, Ernst.”

“Always a pleasure to be of assistance, Chatelaine.” He came and stood alongside me and we looked out across our city in silence. There are perhaps two hundred vampyres in the city and between us we know them all, maybe ten times that number in the United States, not counting the new-made Creations. Probably twenty vampyres in L.A. were born, not made, and Solgar and I are two of those. The numbers of the vampyre clans have been gradually falling since the end of the First World War; there has not been a vampyre birth in eighty years, and even the number of Creations is down. As Chatelaine, I grant permission for Creations in this city. I’d authorized less than half a dozen this past year, and one of those was mine. To lose three Creations in less than three weeks could only mean one thing….

“I believe there is a Hunter in town, Ernst.”

His face twisted in an ugly mask, jaw briefly unhinging, tongue curling and uncoiling, flickering in the air. Blood flooded under the skin of the open tip and its color changed from pink to purple-red as it engorged. Hunters were abominations, vermin to be destroyed.

“And I think he’s targeting me. Has anyone else lost a Creation recently?”

The Obour’s face reassembled itself. He patted his damp chin with the handkerchief. “Rudy lost one of his to a drowning accident in a pool in Palm Springs a couple of months ago, but drink was a contributing factor, and Tod Browning lost another to a skiing accident in Big Sur. One of his newly mades went headlong into a tree and impaled himself on his Magfire 12s.”

“Magfire 12s?”

“Slovakian skis. Very nice. Very fast. But it was an accident, I’m sure.”

“Anyone we know with aspirations to rule Hollywood?”

“Everyone wants to rule Hollywood, you know that, but I do not believe that anyone is prepared to challenge you just yet. There are some Strigae newly arrived from Italy, but they’re in New York and, from what I hear, may not survive there much longer. They’ve managed to irritate some of the Ch’Iang Shih.”

New York belongs to the Chinese clan. The Italian Strigae have never gotten over the fact that they’d lost the city twenty years earlier. The Ch’lang Shih would have them for breakfast. Literally.

“Here’s what I would like you to do for me, Ernst,” I said, turning to face him. “Get the police off my back, give me some breathing space. I’m going to conduct my own investigation.”

He bowed. “It will be done. But this detective you mentioned, Peter King, I know him by reputation. He got a commendation for bravery when he pulled a boy out of the river. I don’t think he’s the brightest, but he’s tenacious and has an excellent arrest and prosecution record. If we back him off, he might get suspicious. And the last thing you need is a suspicious cop on your case.”

“He’s no fool, I know that. I
want
him to investigate. If he’s as good as we think, he’ll soon come to the conclusion that I’m innocent, but, more important, he might also discover the identity of the killer. And lead me to him.”

“It’s a dangerous game you’re playing, Chatelaine. You know he might also discover your true self,” Solgar suggested.

“I’ll deal with that when the time comes. Police officers have accidents every day.”

“Aaah, the famed Dakhanavar streak of brutality.”

“There’s nothing brutal about protecting my clan. Call it a mother’s instincts.”

Chapter Twelve
 

 

VAN NUYS
5:00
P.M.

 

In the best tradition of inappropriate nicknames, John Trueblood is called Little John. He stands six foot eight. He claims he’s a pure-blooded Chumash and I’ve never argued with him about it. He played basketball at Folsom State. Not the college, the prison. He got out with a G.E.D. and a body covered in permanent ink. Started riding with the Ventura chapter of the Hell’s Angels, hitting the California tattoo conventions, and ended up on the extreme wrestling circuit fighting as Bloody Jack Baron, Kill Gore Trout, Doctor Savage, and Slippery Jim. He’s got a tat for each name. When Hyam the Horrible crushed his testicles with a misplaced kick to the groin he changed careers and opened a tattoo parlor on Ventura Boulevard, where he specializes in bikers and servicemen. There’s a sign on the window: “No Minors. No Women. No Musicians. No Exceptions.” I’ve never asked him why.

Little John has a secret vice, which is how we met. And it’s not what you think. He collects movie memorabilia, and he specializes in B movies. He’s one of my mother’s best customers; he even sends her Christmas cards.

They met at Rock & Shock in Worcester the year my mother decided to do the autograph convention circuit; that was the year she paid cash for her red Corvette, so I guess it was a good year. When she met him, Mom didn’t see a six-foot-eight tattooed behemoth with the sides of his head shaved and the hair in the center gelled into six-inch spikes; she saw a comrade in arms, a fanboy who knew
Creature from the Black Lagoon, Them!,
and
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
And he saw a mother figure with great merchandise. Their friendship was sealed when Little John put the fear of God into a Goth who was questioning the authenticity of a signed Dwight Frye as Renfield in a
Dracula
photo. Whatever John said did the trick; the guy bought Frye as Renfield and as Fritz in
Frankenstein,
too. Little John knows everything there is to know about horror.

I figured if anyone could tell me what the deal was with Ovsanna Moore, it would be Little John.

 

 

I don’t think I look like a cop. The gun isn’t obvious, nor is the badge, and I don’t wear rubber-soled shoes. But the moment I stepped into the darkened waiting room of Little John’s tattoo parlor, I heard the murmur pass to every guy in the place. There were four bikers in full regalia, two marines, a wrestler whose name I couldn’t remember, two blond-haired muscle-bound boys who screamed Aryan Brotherhood from whatever closet they were still in, and a trio of shaven-headed bodybuilders straight from Venice Beach who looked so much alike they might have been brothers but probably weren’t. The men were sitting on hard plastic chairs staring intently at a TV set bolted to the wall behind a mesh screen. The bodybuilders high-fived each other every time Magnum punched out a bad guy on some beach in Hawaii.

Miss See was behind the counter. She’s a tiny Asian woman of indeterminate heritage and equally indeterminate years who had managed Little John when he was wrestling. Word was she’d kept difficult wrestlers in line with a Taser. Her reputation alone was enough to keep the waiting room orderly. I once asked her if she knew any martial arts. “Of course,” she said. “I protect myself. I have black belt in Mossberg.” Then she pulled out a twelve-gauge pump-action Mossberg riot gun from under the desk.

“Detective King,” she said loudly, just in case anyone in the room hadn’t made me. The black unlit cigarette tucked in the corner of her lip didn’t move.

“I need five minutes with Little John.”

She glanced at the clock, then at the tiny TV monitor under the counter that allowed her to see into the back room where he worked. I leaned over to see what she was seeing. A skinny-shanked older man was climbing off the table; I wasn’t sure, but it looked like he’d just had Dale Earnhardt tattooed on his butt. “He just finish.”

“How have you been, Miss See?”

“You tell your mama stop sending my boy her catalogues. She getting lot of money out of him.”

“I didn’t know my mother produced catalogues.”

“Every month,” Miss See snapped. “And every month he buy.” She leaned forward, enveloping me in her cloying perfume that made me think of rotten eggs. “This month he buy Lil Dagover’s white nightgown, complete with certificate of authenticity.”

I nodded blankly. I had no idea who Lil Dagover was.

A huge hand caught the back of my neck and turned me around. “She starred in the original 1919 version of
Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari.
” Little John’s voice belonged to a pre-pubescent teenage boy, but there was no one sitting in that room who was going to make a joke of it. He was wearing his basic biker’s costume—scuffed motorcycle boots with the toes showing metal underneath, leather trousers, and a leather vest over a completely hairless chest. Maybe there was some truth in his Indian heritage after all, with his high forehead, ridged cheekbones, and razor-thin lips. His Mohawk wasn’t gelled this time, just pushed back off his forehead with a tribal head-band.

“How you doing, Little John?” I had to tip my head back to look in his face.

“Good. You tell your mama to keep sendin’ the catalogues.” He turned to the room where everyone had turned away from
Magnum
and was regarding us—well, me—suspiciously. “This here is Detective Peter King,” he announced in his little-boy voice. “A good cop and a good man. He’s the one pulled that kid out of the river a couple years ago. Now he’s in charge of the Cinema Slayer case. He’s a friend of mine.”

The room warmed considerably. I got a couple of nods from the beach boys and one of the bikers stuck out his hand.

Little John motioned me into the back room and shut the door. He flicked off the camera, probably annoying Miss See no end. The walls were covered with drawings, transfers, and photographs of tattoos, ranging from the simple to the extraordinary, from the intricate to the excruciating. He had a gallery of the work he’d done on clients over the years. Shoulders, backs, ankles, biceps—all decorated with ink. It took me a few seconds to realize I was looking at a smiley face needled on someone’s penis.

Little John bustled about, cleaning up after his last appointment, getting ready for the next. Every available inch of his skin was covered in tattoos, designs flowing into patterns, shapes morphing into letters, into animals, into creatures. Like that painting
Astral Circus
by Venosa. Some of it was crude and blotchy, but a lot was vivid and pristine. I briefly wondered what
his
penis looked like and then quickly shut that thought down.

“So I guess you’re not here for some ink.”

“Not this time. Looking for a little information—”

“Aw, Peter, I’m no stoolie—,” he began, face falling.

“On a movie star.”

He brightened up. “Well, that’s different. My specialty. Who?”

“Ovsanna Moore.”

Little John’s face morphed into mush—I swear he was in love. “The Scream Queen. Third-generation Hollywood royalty,” his high-pitched voice went higher. “I’ve got her grandmother’s gloves from
Birth of a Nation
. I’ve got a letter her mother sent to Senator McCarthy refusing to attend a hearing, and I’ve got Ovsanna’s costume from
Tell Me What You’ve Seen
.” He stopped suddenly. “Why are you asking?” Then the color actually drained from his face. “Don’t tell me…don’t tell me something’s happened to her?” This huge tattooed monster was on the verge of tears.

“She’s fine,” I said quickly. “Her name’s popped up in an investigation. I just wanted a little background.”

“Well, you won’t find anything nasty. She’s a sweetheart, does a lot of charity work, funds a couple of theatre scholarship programs. If you buy her signed photo online the money goes right to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang.” He went over to his battered metal filing cabinet and produced a photograph. It showed Little John standing beside—well, towering over—the diminutive Ovsanna Moore. It was signed in silver ink: “To Little John, my ‘biggest’ friend.” Her signature was an ornate loop.

“Very nice.” I handed it back to him. This wasn’t what I had come here to find. “Any scandal, any dark secrets, addictions, husbands, lovers?”

“Nah, not Ovsanna. She’s blameless. No scandal, no addictions, no husbands. I think she’s got some old boyfriends that she’s still friendly with, even after they split.”

My antenna went right up. No one—not even the Pope—is that blameless. “What’s the story with her assistant?”

“Ah, now there’s the secret! You discover that and the
National Enquirer
will give you a pension. No one knows. Maral McKenzie’s been with her for about ten years. There’s talk that they’re gay or bi, but no one knows anything for a fact and they never say a word. There’re some reporters who come right out and ask, too, but Ms. Moore just smiles and keeps her mouth shut. Part of the mystery.”

In my job mysteries usually turn out to be nothing more than dirty little secrets. “Hmm, pity. I thought there might be some angle there.”

The big man frowned. “Not your worst thought.”

“Gee, thanks.”

Little John went rooting through his cabinet again. “I’ve got something here…. You know about the guy her assistant killed, right? The one in the house on Mulholland: the Canyon Killings. It was just before she started working for Ovsanna. Girl woke up and found a guy standing over her with his pants around his ankles. She never gave him the chance to explain before she sliced him up real good.”

Little John had his back to me, so he didn’t see the look that must have crossed my face. I hadn’t worked that case, but I’d read the file. Just never connected that McKenzie with this one. Some detective I was.

I kept my voice level. “Yeah. Vaguely. She did it with a knife, didn’t she? Right in his gut.” I love it when some piece of a puzzle clicks into place.

“Twelve-inch-long Sabatier kitchen knife. For some reason she had it in the bedroom with her. At least that’s the story she gave you guys and you bought it.” He turned away from the filing cabinet, holding a police evidence bag with the knife still in it. “The police finally released it and guess who sold it to me?”

“Someone
sold
it to you? Who?”

Little John’s smile widened.

“Don’t tell me it was…oh,
please
don’t tell me—”

He told me. “Your mom.”

BOOK: Vampyres of Hollywood
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