“What do you mean?” I asked.
She shrugged. “You have to understand, the vamps here are pretty disorganized and usually keep to small cliques. There’s turf spats every now and then, but with all the tourists there’s plenty to go around for everyone. But over the last few days the vamps I know have been acting kind of on edge, like they’re bracing themselves.”
“Any idea why?” I asked.
“Not a clue. Although I did hear one of them talking about some weird owl.”
Adam and I stilled and looked at each other. “Red eyes?” I asked.
Mac tilted her head. “Yeah. You know anything about that?”
“I might,” I evaded.
“Anyway, I guess this owl’s been hanging out around some of the vamps’ regular feeding grounds.”
“No one’s mentioned a new vamp in town?” Adam asked.
She shook her head. “If you tell who or what exactly you’re looking for, I could ask around.”
“Here’s the deal. I can’t tell you specifics. The less you’re directly involved, the safer you’ll be. Suffice it to say, though, the vamp we’re after is extremely dangerous.”
“Gotcha,” Mac said, her eyes meeting mine. Her expression indicated she respected the need to keep some cards close to my vest, too. “I’ll ask around. See if any of my contacts have anything to say.”
“We’d appreciate that.” I resisted my sudden urge to pump my fist in the air.
“Of course, in return for this favor, I’d ask one in return. To be called in at a future date.”
I looked at Adam. He nodded. “That sounds reasonable.”
Mac clapped her hands. “Well, now that that’s taken care of, why don’t we go grab some seats outside? The show’s starting in a few.”
* * *
Brooks wasn’t lying when he said the place would get crowded. I just hadn’t expected a bar owned by a werewolf to cater to mostly mortal clientele. The place reeked of dirt and Dixie beer. Not that I minded the beer. In fact, as we waited for the show to begin I helped myself to a few chugs.
Adam and I sat with Mac toward the back of the audience.
“So what kind of show is Brooks going to do exactly? Does he sing or something?”
Mac smiled. “He didn’t tell you?” When I shook my head, she laughed. “Let’s just say it falls into the ‘or something’ category.”
As if on cue, the lights dimmed and spotlights danced across the red curtain. Catcalls and hoots followed. I shrugged and took another sip of beer, feeling more relaxed. Adam and I still needed to discuss what to do next while we were waiting for Mac to come through with more info. But for the time being, I was content to sit back for a couple minutes and watch the show.
“Ladies and gents, welcome to Gender Bender night at Lagniappe’s,” the announcer called over the speaker. “Tonight we have a special treat for y’all. Everyone give a warm welcome to the Big Easy’s newest drag sensation— Miss Pussy Willow!”
As the audience went wild, Adam turned to me and mouthed, “Pussy Willow?”
I shrugged, mystified, and turned my attention back to the stage. The curtains parted and a vision appeared onstage with a flourish of pink feather boa and attitude. She wore a full-length purple sequined gown and six-inch stilettos. The cut-to-there slit revealed legs that would make a Rockette jealous. And to top it all off, a tiara twinkled from atop a Farrah Fawcett wig.
The female looked around the audience, searching for someone. When she saw Adam and me, she waggled her fingers and winked.
My mouth fell open and I hit Adam on the arm. “Oh, my gods, is that Brooks?”
He rubbed his arm and said, “No way.”
“Helloo, darlings!” Pussy Willow called. “Where y’at?”
While the audience ate up the banter, Mac leaned over. “Isn’t she great?”
Now that the initial shock had passed, I had to admit Brooks was looking pretty fierce. I nodded absently, my eyes riveted on Brooks/Pussy Willow vamping across the stage.
Mac leaned over and spoke into my ear. “Excuse me for a minute.”
I nodded absently, unable to pull my eyes from Brooks chatting up the audience. I felt a nudge at my elbow and looked up to see Adam staring pointedly at the front of the club. I followed his gaze and saw a redhead standing by the door. Her eyes scanned the dark place, obviously looking for someone. When she saw Mac, her expression brightened. Unlike Brooks, the new arrival wasn’t tucking anything but a pair of fangs.
While we watched, the vamp leaned in for a kiss, but Mac waylaid her with a shake of her head and a glance in our direction. The vamp frowned. Her eyes found mine and narrowed. I looked away instead of engaging in a stare off. The last thing I needed was to be recognized or seen as a threat to the local vamps.
Adam kept his eyes on the pair for me. “Mac’s taking her back to the office.”
Mac rushed the vampiress through the club, like she was worried about them being seen together. She closed the office door behind them.
“Think that’s her contact?” I said.
“I’d say it’s a safe—” Before he completed that thought, music blared through the club. The opening strains sounded familiar. But it wasn’t until Brooks lip-synched the opening lines to “I Touch Myself” that I spewed beer all over the floor.
I’d barely recovered when Brooks threaded the boa between her legs and gave her lower decks a good swabbing. She wadded the pink feathers into a ball and threw them. The boa hit Adam square in the chest before sliding into his lap. He stared down at the feathers the same way he might have if someone had thrown an actual boa constrictor at him.
“Pussy Willow’s got a crush on you,” I sang.
That earned me an epic glare.
He picked up the boa and took his time wrapping it around my neck. Crossed the ends and pulled it tight like an über-feminine garrote. He leaned in. His glare was gone. In its place, a mischievous glint shown in his eyes. “I wonder if there’s a matching muzzle.”
The crowd roared at something onstage and we both turned. The song was almost over, and the whole room tensed in anticipation of Pussy Willow’s grand finale. We weren’t disappointed. First, she spun in circles like a dreidel with her arms spread wide as she mouthed the refrain over and over. Just when the song reached its crescendo, Brooks dropped into a split that defied several laws of physiology and psychics.