"Dude...you need a new couch."
Dominador stretched for the thirty-seventh time that morning, followed by a big yawn. "Barely got any decent sleep last night, man."
"You're only here for eight weeks," Daos reminded him. "You don't need your own apartment, and you don't want to rack up motel bills."
"Fine. I'm getting an air mattress later."
Daos shrugged, as he slowly walked around the tiny office. "Works for me."
"And while I'm at it, I'll buy your apartment a personality. Place looks like a damn monastery, bro!"
"I just moved in, Dominador. Like, literally just a few days before you."
"Yeah, but you couldn't have pre-ordered some rugs, some lamps, maybe a bed for the guest room?"
Trish Flores walked in on the bickering partners and stopped, folding hers arms smugly across her chest. "Well, well, well. What have we here?"
"Flores," Daos greeted. "Latina, right?"
"Aren't we all these days?" she blinked. "I knew you'd come looking for me eventually. What do you want?"
"You've been following the murders from this past week, correct?" Daos asked mildly.
"Right," Trish nodded. "On Wednesday morning, 19-year-old Gloria Garza was found dead on Catalan Street, just outside of Club Piel Desnuda where she worked nights. On Saturday morning, Miguel Trevino was found dead on a bench at Galicia Park. And then yesterday morning, Celestino Ferrera."
"And they were all students at Soleado Valle High?" Dominador asked.
"No," Trish shook her head. "Gloria dropped out when she was seventeen. And while Celestino is the second high school student death this year, Gloria is the third stripper death this fall."
Daos raised an eyebrow. "Club Piel Desnuda has a history of deaths?"
"Stretching all the way back to summer of 2009," Trish nodded.
"You're not from this town, are you, Trish?" Daos asked suddenly.
"No," she shook her head. "How'd you figure?"
"You're actually disturbed by what's going," Dominador noted, catching up. "These people seem...accustomed to finding dead bodies everywhere."
"Tell me about it," Trish snorted. "Friggin' Dani Reyes is totally religious about it. During our interview she actually said to me that anyone who 'knew the rules' stayed out of harm's way."
Daos's brow furrowed. "The rules?"
"Being good," Trish rolled her eyes. "Being godly. Eating your veggies, saying your prayers, keeping your knees together, minding your P's and Q's - she really believes that's the secret to staying alive in this town."
Daos paused, mulling it over. "Maybe she's right."
Dominador was flummoxed. "Come again?"
"I'm assuming the vics all had certain things in common?" Daos inquired. "Drug use, binge drinking, theft, promiscuity - seven deadly sins and all that?"
Trish flashed them both an incredulous look. "You gotta be kidding me. I hate to agree with my boss on this, but insane frequency aside, death here really is like death anywhere else: drugs, sex, money, and lies."
Daos wasn't swayed. "I assume you checked up on that girl...Juliana? The one who found her ex in her locker?"
"Yeah...?" Trish blinked, not following.
"What did you find out?"
"Nothing," she shrugged. "Girl's on the honor roll. Tested clean for drugs and STDs, never been pregnant, never been in trouble with the law --"
"A good girl," Daos raised his eyebrow. "A good girl who briefly dates a bad boy, whom she then finds stuffed in her locker."
"Like a warning," Dominador raised an eyebrow.
Trish's eyes were now like saucers. "You have got to be kidding me."
"What's so special about 2009?" Daos demanded suddenly.
Trish was even more confused. "What?"
"You said the deaths at the strip club started in 2009," Daos reminded her. "What happened in 2009?"
Trish sighed, rubbing her temples as she tried to remember her conversation with Dani. "Uh...that's when the high school went from being Catholic to secular. Priest was busted for living up to a certain stereotype, killed himself two weeks after graduation, school was sold to the city, and then revamped."
"But not burned," Daos nodded, heading for the door.
Trish raised an eyebrow. "Huh?"
Fortunately, Dominador was right behind, seemingly caught up. "The high school was revamped," he called to Trish over his shoulder, "but it didn't burn."
Once they were in Daos's black SUV, blasting the AC, the partners turned to each other.
"What's next, boss?" Dominador asked.
"Seems we have a new variable at play," Daos sighed. "We need to know more about the club."
"Good luck with that," Dominador snorted. "Strippers and bouncers aren't exactly known for getting chatty with cops."
"Good thing we're new in town," Daos smirked.
His partner remained unimpressed. "Yeeeeeah...even so, we roll up in there not drinking any drinks or buying any titty dances, asking a bunch of questions instead, and folks will know right away we are cops. The owner will then suddenly announce the joint closing due to a roach infestation which never seemed to bother him before, and by the time business is back to being usual, everyone will either conveniently not know anything or have miraculously synchronized all their stories." Dominador sat back in his seat, sighing loudly. "Downside of being cops."
For the first time, he heard Daos chuckle. He turned to watch the senior detective in disbelief.
"I said something funny?" Dominador blinked, when Daos continued to chuckle.
"Ona...didn't the academy teach you anything about working undercover?"
"Undercover?" The junior detective seemed lost. "Undercover as what?"
"Well, we need to know what's going on backstage, so being bouncers won't work," Daos said wryly. "And the bartenders' gotta stay behind the bar, so that just leaves...."
Dominador's eyes grew wide. "No."
Daos shrugged. "It's the best way, Ona."
"No, I mean I get it, and I'm down, but...you? You're willing to pose as a stripper, Mr. Earl Grey?"
"Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Ona." Daos shrugged, sitting back in his seat and shifting the car into drive. "Fate of this town may very well rest on our success." He gave a confident nod. "Let's go shopping."
Next: D and the Grey