Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(17)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

"I'm Anita Blake, vampire executioner."

The cop moved just his eyes; his hands were hidden behind the desk. "We didn't call for an executioner."

"I'm not here on official business," I said. I stood in front of the desk. I started to put the license away, but he held his hand out for it, and I gave it to him.

He studied the license while he asked, "Why are you here?"

"I'm a friend of Richard Zeeman."

His grey eyes flicked up then. It wasn't a friendly look. He tossed the license back on top of the desk.

I picked it up. "Is there a problem, Officer ... " I read his nameplate, " ... Maiden?"

He shook his head. "No problem except that your friend is a damned ra**st. I never understand why the meanest son of a bitch in the world always seems to have a girlfriend."

"I'm not his girlfriend," I said. "I'm exactly what I said I was: his friend."

Maiden stood, and he looked every inch of his six-foot-plus frame. He wasn't just tall; he was bulky. He'd probably been a wrestler or a football player in high school. The muscle had started to melt into a general bulk, and he was carrying about twenty pounds around the waist that he didn't need, but I wasn't fooled. He was big and tough and used to it. The gun around his waist matched the rest of him. It was a chrome-plated Colt Python long barrel with heavy black custom grips. Good for hunting elephants, a little much for scaring drunks on a Saturday night.

"Who are you?" He pointed a thumb at Jason.

"Just a friend," Jason said. He smiled, trying to look harmless. He wasn't as good at looking harmless as I was, but he was close. Beside Officer Maiden we both looked sort of fragile.

"Her friend, or Zeeman's?"

Jason gave a big, good-humored smile. "I'm everyone's friend."

Maiden didn't smile. He just looked at Jason, giving him a cold, hard stare out of those dark grey eyes. Maiden didn't have any better luck staring Jason down than I did. Jason kept smiling. Maiden kept staring.

I finally touched Jason's arm ever so lightly. It was enough. He dropped his eyes, blinked, but the smile never faltered. But it was enough for Maiden to feel he'd won the staring contest.

Maiden lumbered out from behind the desk. He moved like he was aware that he was big, like in his own ears, the earth trembled as he moved. He was big, but he wasn't that big. Of course, I wasn't going to point it out to him.

A second man came out of a small door to the right of the desk. He was wearing a pale tan suit that fit him like an elegant glove. The white shirt was ribbed down the front, and he had one of those string ties with a hunk of gold at his throat. His eyes were large, black, and surprised when they saw me. His hair was cut very short, but stylish. The hand he extended for me to shake had a diamond pinkie ring and a college class ring on it.

"Could this vision of loveliness be the infamous Ms. Blake?"

I smiled before I could stop myself. "You must be Belisarius."

He nodded. "Call me Carl."

"I'm Anita, and this is Jason."

He shook hands with Jason, still smiling, still pleasant. He turned to Maiden. "May we go see my client now?"

"The two of you can go, but not him." Maiden jerked another thumb at Jason. "Sheriff said let the two of you in. No one said anything about anybody else."

Jason opened his mouth. I touched his arm. "That's fine."

"And the gun stays out here," he said. I didn't want to give up the gun, but it made me think better of Maiden that he'd spotted it.

"Sure," I said. I pulled the Browning out from under the jacket. I hit the slide and spilled the clip into my other hand. I jacked the gun open to show the chamber was empty and handed the whole shooting match to Maiden.

"Didn't trust me to unload it for you?"

"I figured the Browning might be too small for your hands. Requires fine motor skills."

"You giving me shit?" he said.

I nodded. "Yeah, I'm giving you shit."

He smiled then. He looked the Browning over before he put it in a desk drawer along with the clip. "Not a bad gun if you can't handle anything bigger." He locked the drawer -- another brownie point for Maiden.

"It's not size that counts, Maiden. It's performance."

His smile widened to a grin. "Your friend still has to wait out here."

"I said that was fine. I meant it."

Maiden nodded and led the way back through the door that Belisarius had come out of. There were two doors in the middle of the long, white hallway. One said, Ladies, the other, Men.

"I'd hoped you coming out of this door meant you were visiting Richard."

"I'm afraid not. Mr. Zeeman has not relented."

"Relented," Maiden said, "relented. Now, that's a nice lawyer word."

"Reading improves your vocabulary, Officer Maiden. You should try it sometime. Though I suppose you can get by with just looking at the pictures."

"Ooh, I'm cut to the quick on that one," Maiden said.

"If you cut us, do we not bleed?" Belisarius asked.

Maiden shocked the hell out of me by giving the next line: "If you tickle us, do we not laugh?"

Belisarius clapped softly. "Touche, Officer Maiden."

"Big and well read," I said. "I'm impressed."

He pulled a chain out of his pocket with keys on the end of it. "Don't tell the other cops. They'd think I was a sissy."

I looked up at him, all the way up at him. "It's not reading Shakespeare that makes you a sissy, Maiden. It's that damn gun. Only pansies carry that much hardware."

He unlocked the door at the end of the hallway. "Got to carry something big, Ms. Blake. Balances me out when I run."

That made me laugh. He opened the door and ushered us through. He locked the door behind us and went down a long white stretch of hallway with two closed doors on either side. "Wait here. I'll go make sure your boyfriend is ready to see you."

"He's not my boyfriend," I said. It was becoming automatic, like an involuntary reflex.

Maiden smiled and unlocked the door at the far end. He vanished through it. "You and Officer Maiden seem to have hit it off, Ms. Blake."

"Cops dish out a lot of shit. Trick is, don't take it personally, and dish back."