I hadn’t had a good view of Wesley Lambert’s body when he was on the floor in that condo, and because of the vomit, I hadn’t been inclined to study it, either. And then there was all that decontamination and emergency-room stuff afterward that I didn’t even think to ask any questions about the scene or Lambert, either.
If he had a tattoo like Rusty Abbott’s, and he’d been hanging around looking for Trevor and saying he’d “send him a message,” then it was likely that Lambert was the guy who shot the cork at Trevor that night.
There was still that little matter of all that cash in Trevor’s apartment.
And then there was Charlotte. She’d gone underground for some reason.
This wasn’t over yet.
Marva Luss was sashaying around the dressing room in front of me, but she was only partially put together, too. She had a pair of nylons on and started to pull up a pair of Speedos that were about three sizes too small. I turned away. I couldn’t watch. I didn’t want to know what was going on there.
An unfamiliar queen was layering foundation on her face. It was thick, as brown as chocolate. She caught me staring and grinned.
“You don’t need this much makeup, do you?”
I never wore foundation. My skin was as pasty as a white cotton sheet, except where I had my ink, of course. I wore only mascara, a little blush, and occasionally some lip gloss. I couldn’t imagine caking it on like these guys-girls?-did.
She leaned over and held out her hand. “Just call me Chitty,” she said.
I took her hand. She had a grip like a vise. I coughed out a short laugh. “Chitty?” I asked.
“Chitty Chitty Gang Bang.”
I pulled my hand away. This was getting a bit too surreal for me. I needed to go out and wait for the tow, like Jeff had said.
I stood, gave Stephan an air kiss, and started out.
I turned to see Stephan looking at me through the mirror.
“When you find her, tell Charlotte Trevor thought the world of her.”
I nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I will.”
Kyle was pirouetting across the stage. He flipped his hand up at me.
“I’m sure we will,” I said.
The tow truck beat me to the parking lot. The tow guy already had the car up on the flatbed, ready to take it away. He frowned at me, a clipboard in his hand.
Great. Jeff Coleman was going to get everyone to call me by my last name.
“I’m dropping you off.” He indicated that I should climb up into the cab, so I did.
“So how do you know Jeff?” I asked, trying to make small talk and ignoring his stare.
“Did Jeff do your ink?” he asked.
“No. Had it done in Jersey.” Except for Napoleon on my calf, but he couldn’t see that because of my jeans, and I wasn’t going to volunteer information if I didn’t have to.
“Nice,” he said, turning back to the road.
We rode in silence through the city streets until he pulled up in front of Murder Ink.
“Here you go.”
I’d hoped Jeff would have him drop me at the Venetian, but no such luck. I thanked the guy and got out of the truck. He took off before I could get to the door, the gold car glimmering as the sun hit it.
Jeff Coleman was nowhere to be seen. His mother, Sylvia, was inking a girl’s hand. I got closer and saw it was a skull. Peering into the girl’s face, I figured she was eighteen at most. She might regret that skull in a couple of years. Or maybe even next week. I might have tried to talk her out of it. If I knew Sylvia, she’d talked her into it.
“Hello, dear,” Sylvia said without looking up, her machine whirring seamlessly as she drew.
I didn’t know exactly how old Sylvia Coleman was, but I guessed she was in her seventies, maybe even early eighties. She’d run the shop for years and then turned it over to Jeff when she “retired,” although it seemed her retirement just meant she came to the shop for half a day instead of a full day. Sylvia wasn’t the golfing type. Or even the traveling type. She was an old-school tattooist, having learned the trade from her husband, who had died of pancreatic cancer about ten years ago. Sylvia had tattoos all over her body, except for her face, and I knew this because the day I showed up for my Napoleon ink, she stripped to her birthday suit and gave me the grand tour.
Most people might have been a little freaked-out by that, but each tattoo has a story, and she told those stories so well that I forgot she was naked underneath that ink.
“While you’re here, you might as well pick something out,” Sylvia said, waving the machine toward the flash on the wall. “Jeff says you might be here a while.”
He did, did he?
I pulled up a chair. “Thanks anyway, Sylvia, but I don’t know how long I’ll be here.” I watched her outline the skull, then looked back at the girl’s face. One tear was crawling down her cheek; her mouth was set in a grim line.
It hurt. It hurt like a thousand bee stings. But for most, the hurt evaporated when the endorphins kicked in. Not for this girl.
She was regretting this already, but she wasn’t going to admit it.
And it was too late now. If she told Sylvia to stop, she’d have half a skull on her hand. Might as well go for the whole shebang.
A voice from behind me made me jump.
“It’s about time you showed up.”