Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(15)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

"Send word to Richard that I hired you. Call me back if it makes a difference. He may refuse to see either of us."

"You're paying a great deal of money, Ms. Blake, especially if I take the case. I assumed you and Mr. Zeeman were close in some way."

"It's a long story," I said. "We're sort of hating each other right now."

"A lot of money for someone you hate," he said.

"Don't you start, too," I said.

He laughed again. His laugh was more normal than his speech, almost a bray. Maybe he didn't practice his laugh for the courtroom. I knew he practiced that rich, rolling voice.

"I'll send the message, Ms. Blake. Hopefully, I'll be calling you back."

"Call me even if he says no. At least I'll know what to expect when I come down to the jail."

"You'll come down even if he refuses to see you?" Belisarius asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"I look forward to meeting you, Ms. Blake. You intrigue me."

"I bet you say that to all the girls."

"To very few, Ms. Blake." He hung up.

Jason came out of the bathroom as I hung up. He was wearing the suit. I'd never seen him in anything except T-shirts and jeans or leather and less. It was odd to see him standing there in a navy blue suit, white shirt, and a thin white tie with a tastefully small design running through it. When you looked close, the tie was silk and the print was tiny fleur de lis. I knew who had picked out the tie. The suit was a better cut than most off the rack, but Jean-Claude had ruined me for off the rack no matter how nice the fit.

He buttoned the first button on the jacket and smoothed his hands through his blond hair. "How do I look?"

I shook my head. "Like a person."

He grinned. "You sound surprised."

I smiled. "I've just never seen you look like a grown-up."

He fake pouted at me, lip pushed out. "You've seen me nearly na**d and I didn't look grown-up?"

I shook my head and smiled in spite of myself. I'd changed my clothes in the bedroom while he changed in the bathroom. I found a few dark spots of blood on the red blouse. As it dried, it would turn black and look even worse, which was why the blouse was soaking in the sink. Red shows blood no matter what people say.

The black jeans had escaped unstained as far as I could tell. A few spots of blood are hard to find on black. Black or navy blue hides blood best. I guess a really dark brown would work, but I don't own much brown, so I don't know for sure.

The fresh blouse was a pale, almost icy, lavender. It had been a gift from my stepmother, Judith. When I opened the box at Christmas and saw the pale blouse, I assumed she bought me yet another piece of clothing that would look better on her blond ice princess body than on my darker one. But the pure, clear color actually looked pretty spiffy. I'd even been gracious enough to tell Judith I was wearing it. I think it was the first gift in ten years that I hadn't exchanged. I was still 0 for 8 in the gift department for her. Oh, well.

Black dress pants with a belt wide enough for the Browning and wider than was fashionable, black flats, and I was ready. I'd added just a touch of makeup: eye shadow, mascara, a hint of blush, and lipstick. I tried not to think why I'd dressed up. It wasn't for the local cops. Jason and I were probably both overdressed for the locals. Of course, if we'd shown up in jeans and T-shirts, we'd have been underdressed. The only really good thing to wear to meet police is a uniform and a badge. Anything else and you are not in the club.

There was a law being discussed in Washington, D.C., right now that might give vampire executioners what amounted to federal marshal status. It was being pushed hard by Senator Brewster, whose daughter had gotten munched by a vampire. Of course, he was also pushing to revoke vampires' rights as legal citizens. Federal status for executioners, maybe. Revoking vamps' legal rights, I didn't think so. Some vampires would have to do something pretty gruesome to give the antivamp lobby that much push.

In March, vampire executioners had been officially licensed. It was a state license because murder was a state, not a federal, crime.

But I understood the need for federal status for vampire executioners. We didn't just kill, we hunted. But once we crossed out of our licensed area, we were on shaky ground. The court order was valid as long as the state we crossed into agreed to an extradition order. The extradition order was then used to validate the original order of execution. My preference was to get a second order of execution every time I crossed a state line. But that took time, and sometimes you'd lose the vamp to yet another jurisdiction and have to start all over again.

One enterprising vampire crossed seventeen states before he was finally caught and killed. The general run, if they run, is maybe two or three. Which is why most vampire executioners are licensed in more than one state. In our own way, we have territories, sort of like vampires. Within that territory, we kill. Outside of it, it's someone else's job. But there are only ten of us, and that's not a lot for a country with one of the largest vampire populations in the world. We aren't constantly busy. Most of us have day jobs. I mean, if the vampires had been bad enough to keep us hopping, then they'd never have made legal status. But the more vamps you get in an area, the higher your crime rate. Just like with humans.

Having to stop every time you left your licensed area made it harder to do our jobs. Having no real status as a police officer made it impossible to enter an investigation unless invited. Sometimes we weren't invited in until the body count was pretty damn high. My largest body count for a vampire was twenty-three. Twenty-three dead before we caught him. There had been higher body counts. Back in the fifties, Gerald Mallory, sort of the grandfather of the business, had slain a kiss of vampires that took out over a hundred. A kiss of vampires is like a gaggle of geese; it's the group name. Poetic, ain't it?

The phone rang. I picked it up and it was Belisarius. "He'll see us together. I'll try to have something to tell you by the time you get here." He hung up.

I took a big breath in through my nose and let it out in a rush through my mouth.

"What's wrong?" Jason asked.

"Nothing."

"You're nervous about seeing Richard," he said.

"Don't be so dammed smart."

He grinned. "Sorry."

"Like hell," I said. "Let's go."