What was he? White man, black man? Kid? Senior? What did he look like, Janice? Maybe he's already a patient. Hell, maybe he's from the loony ward!"
Janice walked forward. "He couldn't have been a gunshot wound ... there's not a speck of blood anywhere."
"Hey!" Jasper said suddenly. "Look."
The door to the supply room, always locked, was open. Drugs were kept in this particular room. And the blood they used for transfusions.
She looked at Jasper; he looked at her. They started forward together.
The supply room had been devastated. It looked as if a hurricane had gone through. Shelves had been broken, cabinets overturned, drawers emptied.
Drug vials lay everywhere.
"Janice," he answered softly, and he looked at her, his dark eyes wide. "There's not a drop of blood left in here!"
Soon after seven a.m., Lucian was seated at his table at the restaurant. His face was washed; his hair was neatly combed. His features betrayed weariness.
His eyes were wary.
Jade wasn't at Cafe du Monde, and Cathy had not come in to work.
He hadn't really expected either of them.
He had come here because of Daniel.
After the full light, weary and worn, he had spotted the young man leaving the morgue, and had followed him, knowing his association.
They liked the same restaurant.
He watched the young man. Time and again, Daniel dragged his fingers through his hair, then pressed his temples, then shook his head. He ordered coffee and eggs.
When the eggs came, he pushed them aside, stared at them, then covered them with his napkin.
As if giving them a decent burial.
Lucian's server came by. This morning it was a girl named Shelly. He asked about Cathy. No, she wasn't coming that morning. No, Shelly wasn't sure why.
Daniel noted the two of them talking. Lucian met Daniel's gaze. Daniel offered him a weak smile. "Hey, sorry, didn't mean to eavesdrop. Caught your accent. You're not from around here."
"No, not originally," Lucian agreed.
"British?" Daniel inquired.
"Scottish," Lucian said.
"Ah, well, there is a distinction there-ask any Scot or Englishman," Lucian said lightly. He never answered questions, especially about his background-no matter how innocuous.
Daniel sipped coffee, his hands shaking. "Scottish," he said, agreeing. He would have agreed to anything. He wanted company. Someone to talk to.
"You're from here?" Lucian asked politely.
He nodded. "Well, close enough. Metairie. Just up the road."
"It's a good town."
"I used to think so." Daniel hesitated a moment, then looked somewhat longingly at Lucian. "I had a rough night," he said.
He nodded, still looking hopeful. Lucian indicated the chair opposite him at his table. "Feel free to come tell me about it"
Daniel got up so quickly his chair toppled over. He reddened, picked it up, straightened it, grabbed his coffee cup, and moved over to join Lucian.
He offered his hand. "Daniel Thacker," he said, introducing himself.
"Lucian. DeVeau," he added after a moment. The name tasted strange on his lips. He hadn't used it in a long time.
"That's not Scottish," Daniel commented.
"French-Norman, rather. Around a thousand years ago, it seems, my family moved north. A great-great-I don't know how many greats-grandfather left Reims on a merchant ship, was attacked by Norsemen, and joined them in their pursuit of Celtic gains. He settled there."
"Cool," Daniel said, staring at him blankly.
Lucian grimaced inwardly. He seldom offered information about his surname. He had given Daniel more than he was actually ready to comprehend.
"Have I seen you before?" Daniel asked.
"Maybe, I come here sometimes."
"So do I. I feel like I know you. Wow, that sounds strange, doesn't it? I don't mean anything by it. I'm not trying ... I mean, I have a girlfriend. Well, not really anymore, she kind of broke it off, but what I mean is-"
"It's all right," Lucian said, lifting a hand, amused.
"I'm trying to be a writer. I think I'm pretty good. My friends think I'm pretty good. And they're writers themselves, successful ones." He ran his fingers through his hair again. He had the start of a wispy, pale blond beard on his cheeks. His clothes-jeans and a tailored cotton shirt-were neat and clean, but showing signs of a few wrinkles.
Lucian lifted his coffee cup. "Keep at it then. I'd like to write myself."
"What do you do?"
Lucian hesitated briefly, then met Daniel's eyes
"Ah. So you're independently wealthy. You have a castle back home?"
"I'll bet you have a title."
"Not much of one."
"A great estate, at the least, huh?"
"All that's changing these days, you know," Lucian said casually. "They've even done away with the House of Lords."
"Yeah, of course, well..."
Lucian leaned forward. "So what upset you so badly?"
"Oh! Oh, well, I ... uh ... I have odd jobs to make ends meet. I work at the morgue, and it's been interesting, and I've learned a lot, but Jesus! Last night ..."
"We had an accident victim. A kid. Went right through the front window of a car. Man ..."
"Ripped up, I take it?"
"To shreds. But the oddest thing, the most awful, was..."
Daniel looked down, breathing in.
"The most awful was ... ?"
"What about it?"
"It was"-he moistened his lips-"off ... but not completely. It was hanging by shreds of flesh and sinew and . . . there were smears of blood, but not pools of it, and the eyes, oh, God, the kid must have seen it coming, the eyes . . ."
Lucian was very still for a moment. "They're convinced he was the victim of an accident?" Daniel exhaled. "What else? What the hell else? They found the car in a tree. The kid was through the window, half wrapped around the tree. It happened not far from here. Near the Saint Louis Cemetery.
God, it was awful.
I've seen little kids, poor old people mugged and battered ... I've just never seen anything like this kid's eyes."
"You should go home and get some sleep."
"I'm not very tired," Daniel said, looking down into his coffee. "Or maybe I am tired. I just can't seem to shake this. I'm ..."
Daniel hesitated. "I'm tired. But I can't sleep."
"Yes, you can."
He looked up. "I-"
Daniel nodded. "Yeah, thanks. I'm going home now. I'm going to sleep." He stood, started to leave, then turned back awkwardly. "Nice to meet you. Thanks again. See you around." Lucian nodded.
Daniel left. Thoughtfully, Lucian stared after him.
Jade awoke to find herself on the couch, Rick at her side.
A sense of panic seized her. What had she said and done? Nothing, nothing-he had walked in; she had passed out. He had come in very late-or very early, depending on how you looked at it He hadn't been in her bed.
She had dreamed that he was.
No, not him.
Yes, it must have been! Who else would she allow into her dreams, and such a dream?
"You really are upset, huh? I don't blame you, of course," he said kindly, his blue eyes gentle as he smoothed hair from her face.
Upset? She was losing her mind!
"No offense, but you look like hell. And I feel like it."
She looked like hell? She believed him. And she believed that he felt like it as well. He was drawn and haggard. She had never seen Rick in such sad shape.
She reached out and stroked his cheek. "You must be exhausted. Bad night?"
"Terrible." He shook his head. "Even your buddy Daniel was turning green."
"I'm so sorry. It was a teenager?"
"A young man, a student. A transfer student with a bit of past history, but still ... young." He looked at her awkwardly. "Look, I, um... well, I've never been so thrilled in my life that anybody wanted to be with me, but ... I think I gotta go home. I'm really feeling lousy. I can't keep my eyes open. I want to thrill you to no end and make you see that the world will never be the same without me. But I'm not so sure I could accomplish that at this moment."
"I understand," she told him softly. "I'm ... uh ... not so sure I could thrill you to no end myself right now."
"You couldn't sleep. Nightmares, hm?" he asked kindly.
"Um, yes, dreams," she said.
That wasn't a lie. Was it?
"I asked for details from the crime scene in New York," he told her. "Gavin will be getting everything in today. When I wake up we can go to the station together and get the information he's received over the wires."
"Okay, thanks, Rick, you look ... drained. You know," she offered, "you could just get some sleep right here."
"I need to get home. I want clean clothes. I need clean clothes. After the morgue ..."
"I just can't begin to explain how exhausted I am. I'm sorry."
"No, no, it's okay, really okay," she said quickly. What had she been thinking? Her room looked as if she'd invited a dozen friends to an orgy.