The Count took several fluid steps forward, serene and mysterious as always. "I merely wish to present my congratulations to the lady of the evening," he murmured.
He turned his odd eyes to Amethyst, bowed slightly, and presented her with the bouquet of white roses he had been carrying. She took them graciously, blushing.
Leon stepped in fast. "Hold on just a minute, Count!" he snapped, jabbing the gun into D's chest. "I don't know what you're up to, but there's no way in…"
"Detective!" protested the other, sounding highly affronted. "You're wrinkling my robe!" He hurried backwards, quickly smoothing the crimson fabric with his long hands.
Leon glared at him. D pouted.
"Oh, you're hopeless," grumbled Leon, relenting. He holstered the gun and lowered his voice. "Listen, this is the first night I've spent with a few hot gals! It would be really great if you stayed the hell out of it!"
D almost looked like he was trying not to laugh. "I assure you, detective, I am not here to sabotage your, er, conversation." He smirked. "Although, I must say, she's not exactly your type."
Leon felt his pulse throbbing in his temple. "Yeah, yeah, I know she's only eighteen," he began.
"Actually, I was referring to her status as a classical Artist, refined, sophisticated, cultured…"
"Yeah, okay, that's enough! There are other chicks here, you know!"
"Excuse me?" came the gentle voice from behind them.
Amethyst was standing patiently a few yards away, cradling the roses in her arms. The moonlight shone on her blue gown and made her purple eyes sparkle like gems.
She waited a few moments, and then came to them. "Your friend is quite the gentleman," she remarked to Leon, smiling.
"He is not my friend," he corrected irritably. That wasn't quite the truth, and he knew it. Whatever. He'd work out the details later.
The girl had already moved past him. "Thank you for the flowers," she said to the Count, dropping a small curtsy. "They're lovely."
"Madame," he acknowledged, taking her hand and kissing it.
"So, anyway," Orcot addressed her, trying to get back into conversation, "Where are you from?"
"Ah," she said distantly, sounding a little disappointed, "that is what everyone wants to know about me."
D's eyes gleamed.
Orcot's detective brain took over. "What do you mean?"
"My secret past, right? That's always what the reporters want to know about…"
"Huh? You don't remember?" said Orcot, confused.
Amethyst smiled, not the least bit concerned. "No," she answered, shaking her head. "I have some sort of amnesia. All my memories begin when I was eight years old. I was staying at a Catholic church. I lived with the nuns until I was 13… That's when Ella found me there and took me in."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know," he mumbled.
"Oh!" she laughed softly, her voice high and musical. "Don't think on it!" Amethyst was the diva of the evening, and she would remain poised no matter what. She turned to the quiet man standing beside them. "By the way, I don't believe we've been formally introduced. You are a Count?"
"Actually, Count D is…"
"His grandfather, who is traveling abroad right now," Leon finished instantly. Man, the guy was so predictable.
"But you may call me that," said D, smiling. He went on, a curious sense of urgency in his collected tone. "Miss Moon, although I'm sure we are honored by your visit, I would advise that you continue your tour as soon as possible. This city may not be the safest place for you."
"I do not understand," she told him, laughing gently.
Leon moved protectively towards Amethyst. Cryptic warnings? The only dangerous thing around was that darned petshop, and D wasn't in the habit of flat-out warning his customers.
"Shouldn't you be going, now?" he hinted firmly.
D looked at the moon calmly. "Yes, officer Orcot. Some of my nocturnal animals need to be fed."
"Animals?" questioned the girl.
The slender man turned away and said over his shoulder, "I am the current manager of a petshop in Chinatown. You are welcome to step in anytime. Goodnight."
And he left.
Orcot shook his head, bewildered. He'd never figure that guy out. "Creepy petshop owner," he said under his breath.