Take a Look Around

The Empire 
You don't return to the scene of the crime. That was one of the first rules of the criminal. Cassidy knew that law because they caught a god-awful number of perps returning to the scene of the crime. Gravel crunched beneath her boots as she rounded the edge of the Empire Casino, back to where this all started. Her breath puffed in the cold evening air, her flashlight cutting a swath through the frigid firebreak.

And yes, Cassidy felt like a criminal returning to the scene of her crime, even with her newly found understanding of what happened that night. It didn't take long to find bullet ricochet. Removing her glove, Cassidy ran a finger along the chipped masonry and her stomach twisted at the memory.

The police tape removed, the scene catalogued and relinquished to the casino; it was as if nothing happened. Cassidy turned, light shining back to where she stood that night, then panned to where the woman had disappeared. She paced closer, sweeping the beam across the gravel and patches of weeds. Nothing.

This was how she decided to spend her suspension. Cassidy sighed and turned on the spot, taking in the scene. "Still too many fucking questions." She mumbled with a shake of her head. Here in the alley again, the cold biting at her fingers and toes, Cassidy questioned what she expected to find. But maybe she just had to see it again.

 Dante had never been much of a gambler. He didn't exactly have a lot of money to offer to such a precarious cause, and honestly, he had never been good with cards. Or dice. Still, it was something to do, something outside of Cordova, where the curfew didn't seem to be so heavily enforced - if at all. The Empire definitely reeked of cat, though - leopard, specifically, and the certainty he had about seeing one behind the bar left him to wonder how many of them had settled around these parts.

 He had tired of the game quickly - rather, he had already spent up the money he had allotted himself for tonight's little adventure. With a hundred bucks down the drain, not including the expensive fucking drinks, he made his way out. It wasn't until he had passed through the doors that he realized he needed to relieve himself. And, of course, too stubborn to go back inside, the brick wall around the corner would just have to do.

 Except, when he got around the corner, there was some woman standing there, flashlight in hand. Dante paused a few feet from her, fingers on his already lowered zipper. His expression might have fallen if it weren't already stony and unfriendly. The zipper came back up with a soft sound. "Drop something?" he rumbled at her.

She drew in sharply at the question from the darkness, spinning on the sound. She pinned the mountain of a man in a shaky beam, her other hand going to something on her hip. Fuck, he was a big motherfucker and too close for comfort. How the hell he got so close without her noticing? Instinct told her to put a few extra feet between them and she stepped back.

Cassidy's heart pounded in her chest, adrenaline burning through her veins. It wasn't her, obviously, but her mind went there. Was he one of them? How the fuck would she know? How accurate were the movies? That's what she intended to find out.

"Not exactly." Came her terse explanation. She entered cop mode. "What are you doing here, sir?"

 Dante was expressionless, hands down at his sides, observing her. He had startled her, that much was obvious, judging by the way she had spun around with a spike in her heart rate, his dark eyes flickering to watch her hand fly to her hip. He had half a mind to put up his hands in a show of innocence, but he did not such thing. She should be wary of a man like him.

 Instead, he moved slowly, producing a cigarette from the pack in his coat pocket, then his lighter, flicking it open to bring tobacco and flame together. He clipped it shut and pocketed it again. She spoke, her words clipped, confident in spite of the blatant fear that vibrated off of her. Neither Dante nor his beast was convinced - scared human translated into prey to his animalistic instincts. The human knew better than to act upon such urges, though; this was not the right time or place, and perhaps lucky for her, the full moon was far away once more.

 He snorted a little at her, incredulously. What was her trip? "Gambling. Considering taking a piss, but with a lady present, that would be kind of rude, now wouldn't it?"

It was good he made no sudden moves. She was ready to empty a clip of the nastiest hollow points she could buy into his chest at the slightest provocation. Murdering some dude in the place she almost killed a man would look shady as fuck… this was why you didn't return to the scene.

The way he lit the cigarette and snapped his Zippo closed gave Morgan a good impression of the man she stood across from. This wasn't the first time he'd been down this path. His nonchalance was intimidating, but bit down on her own fear to prevent from doing something they'd both regret.

But his response made her groan. Unfortunate people found themselves on registries for less. Morgan was about to encourage him to head back indoors and find a fucking restroom, when she stopped herself. Suspension meant she didn't have to give a fuck. She lowered the light from the center of his chest, the other arm didn't move, however.

"Thanks for protecting my virtue." Her lip curled at the corner in the twilight. "So you make it big in there?"

 She seemed less than amused by his confession. Dante hit his cigarette, sucking smoke deeper into his lungs as with a sharp inhale as he lowered it from his lips. He squinted at her through the cloud that billowed out of his nose and mouth. He considered her flashlight, the hand at her hip, presumably resting on a gun.

 "Yeah. Big fuckin' loser," he scoffed, taking another drag of smoke. "What are you doing here? With a flashlight and a firearm? Kinda shady, don't you think?"

It wasn't shady. Far from it. "Mountainview PD." Technically true, and no need to mention her suspension or her off the books investigation. Morgan lowered her hand from her hip in a sign of good faith. May as well forge onward. "Maybe you can help in our investigation. There was a shooting outside the casino two nights ago. You hear anything about that?"

 Oh. Dante's eyebrows rose slightly in sudden understanding, masking his distaste. Quite the opposite of shady, but it made just as much sense. Still, a police officer was the last type of person he wanted to socialize with. He was already mentally preparing his departure, even as she removed her hand from her holster. There was no panic to his demeanor at all, though - as much as he'd rather not have to kill her, he was confident in himself if worse came to worse.

 Another drag off his cigarette. He shook his head at her as he exhaled. "Nah. I don't come around Red Rock very often," he confessed, flicking loose ash with his thumb. He tilted his head at her, curiosity keeping him from dipping out just yet. "Anything in particular I should be on the lookout for?"

The confidence returned as he slipped back into the police offer role. She understood that world and took solace in the order that accompanied the mind space. "Woman about 5'10", short hair, in her…" Morgan paused, unsure just how old the bitch was. All her research, and by research she meant books and movies, said vampires were essentially immortal and locked into the moment of death. Poor little Claudia. "Appears in her late twenties, early 30s." She corrected.

More accustomed speaking of them aloud now, Morgan only hesitated a heartbeat before continuing. It was as if the skeptical damn burst in her mind that kept the insanity at bay. "Suspected vampire; like the one on TV. She's dangerous."

 None of the descriptors really rang a bell - a tall gal with short hair in her prime. There were a thousand of them in Mountainside, he was sure. But at the mention of vampire, his eyes took on a dark gleam. Dangerous. If only she knew that the word "vampire" was the best adjective she could have given a man like him. Who cared what the bitch looked like? If he could smell her, he could killed her. He lifted his cigarette to his lips again. "I'll keep an eye out." Exhale. He began to turn away, then paused, glancing at the woman once more. "Just so you know - they're highly flammable." Life hack!

Morgan nodded at his offer to keep an eye out. Such offers were all too commonplace in her line of work and it meant less than nothing. She watched as he turned to leave, then returned her focus back to the alley and tried to remember where she was before the interruption. His words of wisdom, however, had her attention snap back to him.

Flung back to her research, fire was mentioned numerous times, but she never considered it the most popular way to dispatch a vampire. A stake to the heart, beheading, and sunlight seemed to be the go to. There was also something to the way he said it… Morgan swore he knew.

"Hey, what was that?" She couldn't keep the urgency from the question. "Flammable… you know that for a fact?" A hint of suspicion, but this was her first lead, and she wasn't about to let it walk away.

 Already having fished his keys from his pocket, Dante glanced at her through the smoke flowing up from the cigarette in the corner his mouth. "Yep," he said simply, leveling her with his gaze.

No doubt in her mind, he turned one of these undead fuckers to ash before. Was this their Van Helsing? Somehow, she doubted that, but it still intrigued her. She walked after him, heart racing with the potential offered by the information.

"You look like a man who enjoys a whiskey." She raised an eyebrow in the gloom. "Let a girl buy you a drink?" This had all the hallmarks of a bad idea, but Morgan wasn't about to let this pass her by.

 Dante's expression remained neutral, eyes stony as he apprehended the woman and her offer. He didn't like dealing with cops. The only thing worse than a cop, however, was a vampire. A thoughtful grunt as he inhaled another cloud of smoke.

 "One drink," he said, voice gruff. He tossed his cigarette to the earth and pocketed his keys, angling his body towards her in waiting.

She nodded and walked past him, following the curve of the casino and heading towards the entrance. With her back to him now and leading the way, Morgan smirked to herself. Her attempts at research thus far were floundering. Watching vampire movies hoping to gleam some real insight was a waste of time.

The bar was easy enough to find. She took a seat and waited for him to join her, a video poker machine set at an angle between them. Morgan followed the flashing images before flagging down the barkeep.

She ordered a club soda and waved a hand towards her guest. It was a no brainer; all jacked, tattooed guys liked whiskey. Morgan entertained herself and imagined him ordering against her perception; maybe a fuzzy navel? Her smile lasted all but a moment and she waited for privacy.

Confident their conversation wouldn't travel beneath the din of the crowd and the noise from the casino floor, Morgan leant in conspiratorially. "Tell me what you know about them."

 Dante was keen on this, but as far as his pride was concerned, it was too late to back out now. It wasn't like he was trying to monopolize on vampire slaughter, anyway; the more people who had this information, the better, right?

 The mountain of a man followed the lady officer back inside, settling in the seat beside hers and ordering a double of Willett. It was a little on the pricy side, but it was damn good, and he wasn't about to exchange information for some cheap glass of Fireball. He angled himself slightly towards her, considering how much he could say without revealing his own supernatural existence.

 "Like I said, highly flammable. Mostly nocturnal in my experience - some can walk in the sun. Some have supernatural powers, like... telekinesis and shit," he fell quiet then, sitting up a little straighter as the bar keep returned. He picked up his glass almost immediately, taking a sip from it and humming contentedly.

His justification for sharing never entered Morgan's mind. The fact he was willing to share was all she shared about. She hadn't touched her drink. Even as she settled down and scooted closer, Morgan chided the thrum of anticipation that resonated within.

He ordered top shelf shit, not that Morgan expected different. She wasn't about to argue a forty-dollar shot if he was on the level. But she had no reason to trust anything he said. If only she could validate the information? The pessimistic part of her knew this intel would be validated in blood. It was the price demanded of her.

She paled at mention of the sun not killing them all. Daylight was supposed to be a respite from the creatures of the night. Fuck. Morgan clamped down on the fear that twisted her guts. No quarter given, no retreat.

"The fucking dude was right." She hissed at the confirmation. Morgan kept her voice low and stabbed a finger against the bar top. "I need actionable intel. Fire works… sunlight doesn't. What about a stake to the heart, or the cross? Beheading?" Someone won big at the slots and the racket made it difficult to think.

 Dante arched a brow at the woman, clueless as to what guy she was talking about, and generally unconcerned about it. She had questions for him to follow, and the man sipped at his drink again as he considered his answers. Vampires were as tough as Weres in a fight to draw blood - he remembered Trick's mangled form, considered what kind of damage he must have dealt to his opponent in turn. That they had both come away "alive" in spite of their injuries said something.

 "I doubt a stake to the heart would do much. It doesn't beat," he said with a shrug. "Dunno about crosses. Never tried." He was hardly religious enough to have tried that. He doubted it was useful. "Decapitation works," he said with a slight nod of his head, thinking about the man who's head he had ripped in half recently. Should he tell her they could turn into animals? Or would that put too much heat on shifters, too? Maybe it would confuse her. He opted not to tell her, in a few moments of consideration. For as cold as Dante was, he would hate to see cops going around killing more pets thinking they were all bloodsuckers.

Morgan frowned and masked her relief that the stake through the heart was out the question. Of the various ways to dispatch a vampire, driving a sharpened bit of doweling through the ribcage wasn't high on the list. The method still needed validation; know they enemy. But the stake was up there with decapitation if Morgan was honest. Hacking through some vampire's spinal column with a machete was work and doubtful they'll cooperate and sit still for her.

But she took something else away from the conversation. "No heartbeat…" She nodded; no pulse. Good test before torching some unfortunate goth out on the town. She sipped at the straw of her club soda as he became pensive.

"Holy water?" She followed up, discarding a lot of the more esoteric lore she scrounged; the not being able to cross moving water, the OCD. Those were unlikely to be useful or true. Just like the stake to the heart, apparently. While mentioned in a good deal of her research, a lot of things stopped moving when you hammered a big enough object through their chest and internal organs.

 Dante watched the woman carefully, though not too intensely, letting his gaze wander off now and then to a passing patron or barkeep. The scent of leopard was just as strong in here as it had been an hour or two ago. She didn't need to know that. He lifted his drink to his lips again, leaving it roughly a third of the way full when he put it down. "Dunno," he said genuinely, shrugging his shoulders. "Wouldn't hurt to try."

She smirked at his reply. "Damn straight." Though she needed a backup if it all went to shit. Fire didn't sound viable after dousing them with water. Her smirked curled at the corners and she laughed darkly. It would be her fucking luck.

"And what about silver?" A thought scratched at the back of her mind throughout this conversation, something she was unwilling to fully realize. Every question boiled down to killing or maiming the undead. This wasn't, or shouldn't have been, the thought process of a police officer. But the law as she understood it said you couldn't kill something that was already dead. She shrugged away her conscious. No harm, no foul.

 Silver. Dante kept a good poker face, glancing down at the dark gleam of liquor in his glass. He wasn't sure if it was effective - the time he'd used it on a vampire, he had dealt some serious damage, but... was it the silver, or was it the way he had used it? Either way, that touched a little too close to Were weakness. It wasn't a card he wanted to hand her. "Not sure. I don't think so," he grunted. It was about time for him to finish this drink and get the hell out.

"Shit…" she mumbled into her club soda and took a sip. Sitting up, she fished a sliver cross about an inch in length from beneath her shirt. "Wasted sixty bucks on this then." She gave a smirk then let it fall from between her fingers. They covered the basics, everything her research said the vampire was vulnerable to. Morgan stretched, trying to think if she was missing anything.

The whole home soil thing sounded stupid and she didn't see how that helped. And the turning into bats or wolves was too far-fetched to entertain. And of course they couldn't just fly… Superstition fed into the myths and muddled the waters. Fact was, vampire information went back hundreds if thousands of years and discerning truth from myth was difficult.

This needed to move into the field and things were gonna get fucking messy.

 Dante's eyes flicked down to the crucifix she produced from her shirt, but his expression remained neutral. How ironic it was that neither of them realized that such an artifact could protect her from both major supernatural species. Dante did, however, gather that the cross was silver - it was a particular pain he was accustomed to thanks to his own piercings, but he wasn't about to go out of his way to touch that thing.

 In a single motion, the man downed what remained of his drink and put the empty glass down on the bar. He looked to the woman, with whom he had never even exchanged names. Fine with him. "Time's up." He rose from his seat, pulling a few ones out of his pocket to leave as a tip for the barkeep. "Good luck."

Morgan smirked into her club soda at the offered luck. She'd take whatever she could get her fucking hands on, even if it meant relying on luck or superstition. But she felt a flit of panic realizing that her time was up and her only source of reliable(?) information was about to disappear.

"Hey." She leant over the bar and snatched a ballpoint pen and a napkin. Morgan scrawled her digits on the napkin and pushed it in his direction. "Here. If anything else comes to mind."

 He paused, distracted from leaving for the second time tonight thanks to this woman calling to him. He watched her scribble something on a napkin - a phone number, he would realize soon. He picked up the napkin and folded it up after a quick look, tucking it into the breast pocket of his jacket. "Will do." Maybe. If he really felt like getting in cahoots with a cop, she would be the first to know.

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