Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(14)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

He raised his hands upward. "Just an observation."

"Hey, folks." A man stepped out of one of the cabins. He was tall, thin, with shoulder-length grey hair and a darker mustache. The hair and the lines in his face said he was over fifty.

The body that showed from the T-shirt and jeans looked lean and younger.

He'd frozen in the doorway, hands on the wooden edges of the doorjamb. "Easy there, little lady."

I pointed the gun at him, because under that calm exterior there was enough power to raise goose bumps on my skin, and he wasn't even trying.

"This is Verne," Jamil said. "He owns the cabins."

I lowered the gun to the ground. "He the local Ulfric, or do they have something scarier hiding in the woods?"

Verne laughed and started walking towards us. He moved in an almost clumsy roll like his arms and legs were too long for his body, but it was deceptive. He was playing human for me. I wasn't fooled.

"You spotted me pretty damn quick there, little lady."

I put the Browning up because to keep it out would be rude. I was here as his guest in more than one way. Besides, I had to trust someone enough to put the gun up. I couldn't keep it na**d in my hand the entire trip. I still had the na**d blade, complete with blood. It needed to be cleaned before I could sheathe it. I'd gummed up a couple of smaller sheaths from not cleaning them well enough.

"Nice to meet you, Verne, but don't call me little lady." I started to wipe the blood on the edge of the black jacket. Black's good for that.

"Don't you ever give an inch?" Jamil asked.

I glanced at him. There was blood all over his nice white clothes. "No," I said. I motioned him over to me.

He frowned. "What?"

"I want to use your shirt to wipe the blood off the blade."

He just stared at me.

"Come on, Jamil. The shirt is already ruined."

Jamil pulled the shirt over his head in one smooth motion. He threw the shirt at me, and I caught it one-handed. I started cleaning the blade with the unstained part of the shirt.

Verne laughed. He had one of those deep, rolling chuckles that matched his gravelly voice. "No wonder Richard's been having such a hard time finding a replacement for you. You are a solid, cast-iron, ball-busting bitch."

I looked at his smiling face. I think it was a compliment. Besides, truth was truth. I wasn't down here to win Miss Congeniality. I was down here to rescue Richard and to stay alive. Bitch was just about the right speed for that.

5

The outside of the cabins were white and looked sort of cheap. The interiors weren't honeymoon cabins, but they were amazingly roomy. There was a queen-size bed in the one I was given. There was a desk against one wall with a reading lamp. There was an extra chair in front of a picture window. The chair was blue plush and comfortable. It sat on a small throw rug that looked homemade and was woven in shades of blue. The woods were hardwood and polished to a honeyed gleam. The bed's comforter was royal blue. There was a bedside table, complete with a lamp and a phone. The walls were pale blue. There was even a painting over the bed. It was a reproduction of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Frankly, any of Van Gogh's work done after he started going seriously nuts creeps me out. But it was a good choice for a blue room. For all I knew, the other cabins had matadors done on velvet, but this was okay.

The bathroom was standard white with a small window high over the bathtub. The bathroom looked like standard motel issue except for a blue bowl of potpourri that smelled like musk and gardenia.

Verne had informed me that this was the largest cabin left. I needed the floor space. Two coffins take up a lot of room. I wasn't sure I wanted to have Asher and Damian in my room permanently, but I didn't have time to argue. I wanted to go see Richard as soon as possible. We could always argue about who got the vamps as bunk mates after I saw Richard.

I made three phone calls before we went to the jail. The first was to the number that Daniel had given me, to let him know we were in town. No one answered. The second call was to Catherine to let her know I'd arrived safely. I got her machine. The third call was to the lawyer that Catherine had recommended, Carl Belisarius. A woman with a very good phone voice answered. When she found out who I was, she was sort of excited, which puzzled me. She forwarded me to Belisarius's cell phone. Something was up, which was probably bad.

A deep, rich, male voice answered, "Belisarius here."

"Anita Blake. I assume that Catherine Maison-Gillette told you who I am."

"Just a moment, Ms. Blake." He pushed a button and there was silence. I was on hold. When he came back on the phone, I could hear wind and traffic. He'd stepped outside.

"I am very glad to hear from you, Ms. Blake. What the f**k is going on?"

"Excuse me?" I said, tone less than friendly.

"He won't see me. Catherine gave me the impression that he needed a lawyer. I traveled to this godless piece of real estate, and he won't see me. He says he didn't hire me."

"Shit," I said softly. "I'm sorry, Mr. Belisarius." I had a thought. "Did you tell him that I hired you on his behalf?"

"Will that make a difference?"

"Truthfully, I don't know. Either it'll help, or he'll tell you to go to hell."

"He's already done that. I am not cheap, Ms. Blake. Even if he refuses my services, someone has to pay for the day."

"Don't worry, Mr. Belisarius. I'll take care of it."

"Do you have that kind of money?"

"How much are we talking about?" I asked.

He mentioned a fee. I did my best not to whistle in his ear. I counted slowly to five and said, calmly, "You'll get your money."

"You have that kind of money? I took Catherine's word for a lot of things on this. Forgive me if I'm starting to be suspicious."

"No, I understand. Richard's giving you a hard time, so you're giving me one."

He gave a rough laugh. "All right, Ms. Blake, all right. I'll try not to pass the buck, but I want some assurances. Can you pay my fee?"

"I raise the dead for a living, Mr. Belisarius. It's a rare talent. I can pay your fee." And I could, but it sort of hurt to do it. I wasn't raised poor, but I was raised to appreciate the value of a buck, and Belisarius was a little outside of outrageous.