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On the monitor Lucan saw a young woman and older man enter the club together and approach one of his bartenders. The odd couple both wore suits and showed his employee their identification. Bitterness rose in his throat. "You still intend to have Cyprien take the reins."
"My intentions are not your concern," Richard reminded him. "Cyprien, however, is. I have reason to believe that he and his people will be paying you a visit very soon."
Lucan would have replied, but the young woman had turned toward the camera. His fingers fumbled with the monitor controls for a moment until he could zoom in on her features.
"If Michael does appear on your doorstep," Richard was saying, "you will not kill him."
He sat down on the carpet and stared up at the monitors, following the young woman's progress through the club. "I told him to stay out of Florida."
"Whether you recognize his authority or not, Michael is now your liege lord."
She was the image of Frances. Oh, Lucan could see that she was not an exact match, for she did not possess the same length of hair or languid grace of movement. Frances had dressed like a princess of the realm; this girl's boxy garments and ugly shoes desperately wanted burning.
But her face? The very image of Frances, who had been buried two hundred years ago.
"I wish you to do something for me."
"Anything." Lucan tore his gaze from the monitors and forced himself to attend Richard.
"Michael will bring his sygkenis with him."
Richard referred to Dr. Alexandra Keller, the first human to make the change in many centuries. How Cyprien had managed it, Lucan knew not, but he had seen the woman with his own eyes. He had also lusted after her pretty little body and greatly feared the passion with which she burned.
Not that it mattered now. Not when he had Frances's living twin downstairs, ripe and ready for the taking. "What would you have me do, seigneur?"
"Contact me if you find yourself with unexpected guests. Do not allow Cyprien or his sygkenis to leave Florida until I arrive."
Lucan was confused; Richard had made the dangerous trip from Ireland only a year ago. "You are coming to America again? Why?"
The line clicked, and a dial tone answered him.
As soon as Sam met Harry at the department they drove down to the nightclub across from the bench where Lena Caprell's body had been left. According to the data Sam had pulled off the Internet, Infusion opened its doors at sunset and didn't close until dawn.
The sun had disappeared, but the usual breeze off the ocean had dwindled down to nothing, leaving the beachfront to bake a little longer in electric and neon lights and the exhaust fumes from bumper-to-bumper night traffic. Despite the ninety-degree heat and soup-thick humidity, a long line of patrons was waiting outside Infusion. Sam found an empty space halfway up the block, parked, and flipped down the visor to display the unit ID card. Harry was busy staring back at the club line.
"What is this place, like that Rocky Horror movie?" he asked, disbelief escalating his bushy eyebrows.
"You're stuck in the seventies, pal." Sam noted a couple passing by them; a young man who had tricked himself out to clone Marilyn Manson. His sulky companion, a Cuban girl, had affected more of a Daisy Fuentes-on-acid look. "This is beach goth." And not the kind of people or place she'd have expected a class act like Lena Caprell to frequent.
Harry grumbled all the way from the car to the front entrance of the nightclub, where a sign by the door indicated the cover was twenty bucks. The doorman, a muscular tank in a surprisingly nice tux, stood up as Sam and Harry cut the line.
"Turn it around." A meaty hand came up to make a stop sign. "You have to wait like the rest of them."
"But we have special invitations from the city." Sam flashed her shield, and the bouncer rolled his eyes before he jerked open the club's steel front door. "Thanks."
It took a moment for Sam's eyes to adjust to the near total darkness inside, and then she took in the basic layout. Infusion was cavernous for a beach club, lighting and sound equipment hanging from a flat black ceiling thirty feet above her head. There were plenty of tiny tables and stools crowded around a huge gray slate dance floor, and polished chrome-and-glass bars that stretched the length of three walls. Bunches of red, oval-shaped lights glittered from the shadows, giving the impression of hundreds of watchful, vicious eyes.
"Welcome to my nightmare," Harry muttered.
Like the bouncer, the bartenders also wore beautifully tailored tuxes, and had their hair slicked back from handsome, bored faces. The waitresses sported abbreviated black French-maid outfits, but without the usual mini white aprons and mob-caps. No, the decor was definitely red and black—heavy on the black.
Music started up unexpectedly, and Harry flinched as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came screeching out of the oversize speakers above their heads.
"See the office?" he shouted to be heard over Kurt Cobain.
Sam spotted a plain door off to one side. "Over there, I think," she yelled back.
They found the door locked, and a shouted inquiry at one of the bartenders nearby revealed that the owner had not yet arrived.
"I don't know when Mr. Hell will be in," the young man bellowed at Sam.
She frowned. "Mr. Hell?"
"L," the bartender repeated, emphasizing it. "L for Lucan."
"Christ, he only has one name?" When the bartender nodded, Harry made a disgusted sound and jerked his head toward the entrance. "Sam, this shit is gonna blow out my eardrums. I'll go canvass the line."
She nodded and caught the arm of a passing waitress, showing her and the bartender Lena's photo. "Either of you recognize this woman?"
The bartender shook his head and went to deliver two screwdrivers to a couple of middle-aged women at the end of the bar.
"Sorry, no," the waitress said before she hurried off with a tray heavily loaded with murky-looking mai tais.
That was the same answer Sam got from everyone, although she thought a couple of the employees recognized the photo and were lying to her. After an hour of coming up empty, she was ready to leave. The pounding music and clouds of cigarette smoke had given her a brutal headache, and if Lena Caprell had ever come to Infusion, the owner didn't want it known. They'd have to find out why.
"Sam." Harry appeared and watched the gyrating bodies on the dance floor for a moment. "No luck outside. You?"
"Manager still hasn't shown up. I think we'd better…" A huddle in one corner caught her eye. "We got a deal going down over there."
Harry squinted. "Yeah. Take two o'clock; I'll come up from nine."
The five men and women grouped together in the corner stood shoulder-to-shoulder, half-hidden between a square column and one wall of the club. Sam strolled up, peered over one shoulder, and saw a woman in the center. Ten hands were doing various intimate things to the woman's body.
"Hey." Sam prodded a back. "Time for a cigarette."
"I don't smoke." The thirty-something man glanced over his shoulder and bared some fake plastic fangs. "Would you care to join us?"
"You talking up my date?" Harry asked as he came up on the man's other side. He peered at the guy's mouth with mocking astonishment. "Halloween was over a long time ago, buddy."
One thing Sam hadn't been seeing was any sign of drunkenness or drug use, two favorite activities at the downtown beach clubs.
"Let me talk to her." She pushed two sets of shoulders apart and stepped into the huddle. "You okay here, lady?"
The woman's hair was a tangle, and her button-up dress was open to the waist, but nothing was hanging out. Her eyes focused on Sam after a couple of seconds.
"I'm fine." She leaned back against one of the men, who cupped her breasts. "So fine."
Everyone smiled at Sam and Harry. Everyone wore plastic fangs.
Swingers playing oversexed vampires. It took all kinds. "Look," Sam said, "why don't you folks find a nice hotel?"
"Is there a problem here, Officer?"
Sam swiveled and nearly slammed into a broad chest. She looked up into ghost-gray eyes. "Who are you?"
The man took her hand in his, the touch of the black velvet gloves he wore shocking her. "I'm Lucan, the owner of the club. You wanted to speak to me."
What kind of man wears velvet? In July? Sam tugged her hand from his. "Detective Brown, Fort Lauderdale Homicide. My partner, Detective Quinn. We need to ask you a couple of questions, Mr. Lucan."
"It's simply Lucan." His thin lips curled into something between a sneer and a smile. "Shall we go to my office?" His pale eyes briefly flashed up at the speakers. "It's the only place you'll hear my answers."
Sam heard Harry wheeze and saw more people lighting up cigarettes around them. She leaned close to him. "Let me handle this; you go outside before you have an attack."
Harry scowled but trudged off.
Lucan waited until she looked at him, turned, and walked through the crowd to the office. Sam followed, studying him from behind. He didn't match the description of the suspect; he was too big. She figured him to be at least six-four and two-twenty. He wore his silver-blond hair like a lion's mane, which should have come off stupid but didn't. Even the silly velvet gloves didn't seem prissy, but he had huge hands.
How would it feel… Sam shoved aside the mental image of black velvet on her breasts. Quit thinking with your crotch.
The interior of Lucan's office matched the club in style, decor, and darkness. He removed his jacket, turned on a small desk lamp, and offered Sam a drink, which she refused. She inspected him up close as he poured some wine for himself. The full-sleeved white poet's shirt and plain black trousers were retro nineteenth century, but it was a goth club; he probably considered it a uniform. He wasn't Cuban, not with the corn-silk hair and spooky eyes. His voice sounded British, but only vaguely.