Chapter 35

Sculptures

Sunset cast a warm orange across the great Pyramid, while below, the Emperor enjoyed a cappuccino on a concrete bench and Bummer and Lazarus battled for the remains of a three-pound porterhouse.

"Men, would that I could let you, like Cincinnatus, retire like gentlemen soldiers to the country, but the City is still in need. The fiend is vanquished, but not the despair of my people. Our responsibility is legion."

A family of tourists passed the Emperor, hurrying to get to the cable-car stop at California Street before dark, and the Emperor tipped his cup in salute. The father, a balding fat man in an Alcatraz sweatshirt, took the Emperor's gesture as a request for spare change and said, "Why don't you get a job?"

The Emperor smiled. "Good sir, I have a job. I am Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico."

The tourist scrunched his face in disgust. "Look at you. Look at your clothes. You stink. You need a bath. You're nothing but a bum."

The Emperor looked down at the fraying cuffs of his dirty wool overcoat, his rib-worn gray corduroys, stained with splatters of vampire blood, the holes in his filthy sneakers. He raised an arm and took a sniff, then hung his head.

The tourists walked away.

Cavuto and Rivera sat in leather wingback chairs in front of the fireplace in Cavuto's Cow Hollow apartment. The fireplace was burning, the fire crackling and dancing as it fought off the damp chill of the bay. The room was furnished with rugged oak antiques, the bookshelves filled with detective novels, the walls hung with guns and posters from Bogart movies. Rivera drank cognac; Cavuto, Scotch. On the coffee table between them stood a three-foot-high bronze statue of a ballerina.

"So what do we do with it?" Cavuto asked. "It's probably stolen."

"Maybe not," Rivera said. "He might have bought it from Degas himself."

"The black kid says it's worth millions. You think he's right?"

Rivera lit a cigarette. "If it's authentic, yeah. So what do we do with it?"

"I've only got a couple of years before I retire. I've always wanted to own a rare-book shop."

Rivera smiled at the thought. "The wife wants to see Europe. I wouldn't mind having a little business of my own. Maybe learn to play golf."

"We could turn it in and just finish our time. They're going to move us out of homicide after this, you know that? We're too old for narcotics. Probably vice  -  night after night of screaming hookers."

Rivera sighed. "I'll miss homicide."

"Yeah, it was quiet."

"I've always wanted to learn about rare books," Rivera said.

"No golf," Cavuto said. "Golf is for pussies."

Tommy moved the futon so he could sit facing the two statues, then sat down to admire his handiwork. He'd worked all day in the foundry below, covering Jody and the vampire with the thin coat of conductive paint and putting them into the bronzing vats. The two biker sculptors had been more than happy to help, especialy when Tommy pulled a handful of cash out of the grocery bag that the Emperor had delivered.

The statues looked very lifelike. They should, they were still alive under the bronze coating, except for Zelda, who stood next to the two vampires. Tommy had put Jody in a leotard before he applied the paint. He'd dressed the vampire in a pair of his own jockey shorts. It was amazing how fast the vampire had healed after drinking Jody's blood. The worst part had been waiting  -  waiting outside the bedroom where Jody had carried the vampire, waiting for them to go out at sunrise, listening to the soft murmur of their voices. What had they been talking about?

Overall, the vampire looked pretty good. Almost all the damage to his body had healed by morning. Jody, even bronzed, looked beautiful. The finishing touch had been to drill ear holes through the thick bronze coating so he could talk to her.

"Jody, I know that you're probably really, really mad. I don't blame you. But I didn't have a choice. It's not forever, it's just until I can figure out what to do. I didn't want to lose you. I know you wanted to just go away and I think you would have, but he wouldn't have. He would never have let me live."

Tommy waited, as if he would get some response from the statue. He picked up the grocery bag of money from the floor and held it up.

"By the way, we're rich! Cool, huh? I'll never make fun of Lash for studying business again. In less than a day he fenced the art from the yacht and got us ten cents on the dollar. Our cut's over a hundred thousand. The guys flew to Vegas. We tried to give a share to the Emperor, but he would only take enough to buy a meal for Bummer and Lazarus. He said that money would distract him from his responsibilities. Great, huh?"

He dropped the money and sighed.

"Those two cops believed you. They're going to leave us alone. They reported that the killer was on board the yacht when it went up. Lash gave the gate guard some money to back up their story. I couldn't believe they were going along with it. I think the big cop kind of likes me.

"I'm going to write a book about this. I came here to find adventure and being with you sure has been that. And I don't want to give it up. I know we're not the same. And we shouldn't feel lonely when we have each other. I love you. I'm going to figure I something out. I've got to sleep now. It's been days."

He got up and went to Jody. "I'm sorry," he said. He kissed the cold bronze lips and was turning to go into the bedroom when the phone rang.

"It's probably the Animals calling from some casino," he said as he picked up the phone.

"Hello."

"Uh, hi," a man's voice said. "Could I speak to Jody, please?"

Tommy pulled the phone away and looked at it, then put it to his ear and said, "Jody's... well... she's deceased."

"I know. Can I speak to her?"

"You sick fuck."

"Is this C. Thomas Flood? The guy from the paper?"

Who was this guy? "Look, buddy, that was a mistake. They got the guy who did those murders."

"Look, my name is Steve. I can't tell you my last name. Not until I'm sure it's safe. I'm a med student at Berkeley. I spoke to Jody the other night. We were supposed to meet the other night at Enrico's, but she never showed up. I'm kind of glad, I met a nice girl who works at the Safeway with you. Anyway, when I saw Jody's name in the paper I took a chance and looked up the number."

"If you saw the paper, you know what happened to Jody," Tommy said. "This isn't very funny."

The line was silent for a moment, then Steve said, "Do you know what she is?"

Tommy was shocked. "Do you?"

"So you do know?"

"She is, I mean was, my girlfriend."

"Look, I'm not trying to blackmail you or anything. I don't want to turn you in. I talked to Jody about reversing her condition. Well, I think I've found a way to do it."

"You're kidding."

"No. Tell her. I'll call you back tomorrow night. I know she's not up during the day."

"Wait," Tommy said. "Are you serious about this? I mean, you can make her human again?"

"I think so. It will probably take a few months. But I've been able to do it with cloned cells in the lab."

Tommy covered the mouthpiece and turned to the statue of Jody. "There's a guy here that says he can help you. We can be..."

Vapor was streaming out of the ear holes in the brass and swirling into a cloud in the middle of the room. Tommy dropped the phone and backed away from the cloud. He could hear Steve's voice calling for him on the phone.

Tommy backed against the counter in the kitchen. "Jody, is that you?"

The cloud was pulsating, sending out tendrils, or were they limbs? It was as if it was condensing into a solid shape.

Jody thought, Oh Tommy, you can't believe what I learned last night. You're going to have the adventure of your life, lover. And it's going to be such a long life. The things you'll see  -  I can't wait to show them to you.

She became solid, stood before him, naked, smiling.

Tommy held the phone to his chest. "You're pissed, aren't you?"

"I was never going to leave you, Tommy. I love you."

"But what about him?" Tommy pointed to the bronzed vampire.

"I had to make him think that I was going to go with him so I could find out what I needed to know. I've learned a lot, Tommy. I'm going to teach you." She started moving toward him.

"He taught you the mist thing, huh?"

"That, and how a vampire is made."

"No kidding. That could come in handy."

"And soon," she said. She looked back at the old vampire. "The bronzing was a pretty good trick. I didn't exactly know what I was going to do with him after I found out what I needed to know. Maybe later we can figure out a way to let him out and still be safe."

"So, you're not mad? You're really not leaving?"

"No. I thought I would have to leave, but I never wanted to. You and I are going to be together for a very long time."

Tommy smiled. "Great, this guy on the phone says..."

"Hang up, Tommy. And come here."

"But he says... he can change you back."

"Hang up." She took the phone from him and set it down on the counter, then moved into his arms and kissed him.

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