I put the reptile smell away and focused on getting to Music Macaw’s in the hopes of finding out more about Jennifer Malone’s mystery man.
The Oceanview Hotel was a bit swankier than its tourist trap name implied; the lobby was black leather and stainless steel and marble floors, a far cry from the bar and grill housed in its east wing.
Music Macaw’s interior looked like the aftermath of a Liberace and Jimmy Buffett slap fight. Stuffed parrots on the bright blue and yellow walls, mirrors on the ceiling, bright green vinyl chairs trimmed in sequins. Good taste didn’t go to die there. It was tortured slowly.
And yeah, there was a Jimmy Buffett song playing as I made my way to the bar, which was also trimmed in sequins. The place was devoid of patrons.
The bartender wore a loud Hawaiian shirt and a Panama hat. He slapped down a bright yellow cocktail napkin in front of me and said, “What can I get you, ma’am?”
“A Coke.” I took a seat on a stool covered in tiny dancing hula girls.
When he brought me the drink, I showed him my phone. I’d snapped a photo of Jennifer before we’d parted ways. I asked him if he recognized her.
He stared at the screen. “She’s been in a few times, yeah. I don’t know her name, though.”
I put up my phone. “That’s okay, I know it. She was in last month. A guy in here picked her up. They went up to his hotel room. You know anything about that?”
“No, why? Something happen to her?”
I sipped my soda before answering. “She fell in love, apparently. They exchanged phone numbers, but she lost his. And of course, he hasn’t called her.”
It beat the truth. The barkeeper nodded. “What’d the guy look like? We get a lot of companies that always book their people here. Maybe I know him.”
I gave my vague description. When I’d pressed her for the guy’s age as we walked out of the restaurant, she thought that he was maybe in his late twenties. Her age. My age. Another vague detail.
When I finished, the bartender shook his head. “That sounds like seventy percent of the customers.”
“I know.” I finished my Coke. “She said his name was Curt Connors. What he told her, anyway.”
The bartender grinned. “That sounds kinda fake.”
“I thought so too.”
“Maybe the dude’s a Spider-Man fan.”
I had been about to drop a five on the bar. I paused. “How’s that?”
“In the comic books–and the movies–Curt Connors is the name of the guy who becomes the Lizard, one of Spider-Man’s foes. He gets all green and scaly and walks on two legs, but looks like a giant lizard.”
After that fascinating, oh-so-not-helpful information, I decided to order a Cape Cod. I had no idea what to do next. I could try the front desk, see if someone would be willing to check their guest register for a Curt Connors, but the more I thought about that name, the more I thought it was fake. The guy had picked it over something a bit more obvious, like Bruce Wayne. And it wasn’t as if I had any pull with the front desk. I didn’t want anyone to know I was a sheriff’s deputy. I couldn’t flash my badge and claim it was for an official investigation.
I had half my drink down when he sat next to me. His voice was low, pleasant. Like a librarian. “What are you drinking?”
I turned. Pale white guy. Light brown hair that looked like it might be a wig. Forgettable face. A fade-into-the-background face. Bright green eyes.
Bright green eyes.
I took a deep breath. All I smelled was the laundry detergent–Tide–he used to wash his clothes. The man had no scent. That was impossible.
He repeated his question.
“Cape Cod,” I said, stunned by his lack of scent. Since becoming a werewolf, I’ve discovered that everything has a scent. Everything.
Except for the man seated next to me, the man ordering a Cape Cod from the bartender, the man who was touching the back of my left hand. I’ve slammed men face-first into walls for doing less, but I was unable to move at that moment. I was actually kind of enjoying his touch. And I was wrong. He did have a scent. He smelled like David Mercer.
The bartender brought the drink and left us alone. The guy who smelled like the one person in the world I cared the most for moved his hand to my thigh, just above the knee. His voice was still low, still pleasant. “How is Jennifer doing? Is she okay?”
I nodded. I felt like I was floating, not quite in my body.
“I’ll be seeing her soon. She has something of mine. I was hoping it would stay with her longer.”
I have no idea what you’re talking about, I thought, and I don’t care. Just stay here beside me–
Wait. No. That’s not right. Who is this guy? His smell’s wrong. No one smells like David except for David. It’s like fingerprints–
He kissed me. Gently. He broke the kiss and smiled at me. His teeth looked a little big. Jennifer hadn’t mentioned that.
I didn’t care, though. Horse teeth or no horse teeth, I wanted another kiss. I wanted him. I wanted to do stuff with him that would embarrass a porn star. I wanted to do that stuff twice.
I leaned in to kiss him, and got an entirely different scent.
House of reptiles in the heat of a Houston summer. Scales and vertical slit eyes and cold blood.