I DIALED 911. A womans voice said, Nine-one-one, what is the nature of your emergency?
Anita Blake, Federal Marshal. I gave my ID number, then said, Female, five-foot-three, long black hair, T-shirt, jeans. Two down. Officer-involved shooting. Partner wounded. Technically, Jason wasnt my partner, buTHE was mine, and theyd come faster for a wounded cop than a civilian. Id sort it out later, after we survived.
Shit, I dont know. I got up and looked out a window. There was nothing but trees. They drugged us and we woke up here. I dont know where here is, cant you trace me by the phone?
Is there a landline?
I looked around the room. I dont see one.
Try another room.
I dont want to leave him alone.
We need a location to send help, Marshal.
She was right, but I hated leaving him like that. I touched his hair, laid my cheek against his, and whispered, Dont die on me. I walked back down the hallway past the bodies and tried the first door. It was a bedroom. No phone. The second door I tried was a kitchen, and there was a phone on the wall. I see a phone, let me see if its working. I had to put my gun down to pick up the second phone. Ive got a dial tone.
Call us back on that line, and well be able to trace it to you.
Okay. I clicked the cell phone shut, and dialed 911 again. It was a different womans voice, and I told an even shorter version.
We have your location, Marshal, help is on the way.
Youre pretty isolated. Well try to get a chopper up, but theres no place close to you to land it.
Okay. Well wait.
I can stay on the line with you if you want, she said.
No, I need to try to stop the bleeding on my friend, and I need my hands for that. Thanks though. I hung up before she could say anything else. I clicked the safety on the gun and tucked it down the front of my belt. Id bring Jason in here. I wasnt sure how to stop the bleeding from so many wounds, but I knew keeping him warm was better.
Help was coming. We just had to hold on until they got here.
I knelt beside him. His hair was strangely clean, except where the side of his face had been on the blood. He looked like Jason again, instead of so much meat. I swallowed past something that tasted like tears. Id cry later when he was safe. No time now. I rolled him into my arms, and he felt like dead weight. The heart was going and the pulse was moving, but there is a difference in bodies. Even unconscious, a body doesnt roll like this. Just the way he felt in my arms scared the hell out of me. He rolled, and flopped, like he was already dead. His skin was too cold to the touch. I had to get the bleeding stopped. I had to.
It wasnt weight, but sheer awkwardness that made me put him in a firemans carry across my shoulders. Blood trickled down my body from him. Shit. I tried to think of other things. I was glad that of all the men in my life, it was one my size. There probably wasnt twenty pounds difference in our weight. I could carry him. Not forever, but down the hall. I carried him past the body of the vampire who had tortured him. My only regret in that moment was that I couldnt kill him again.
I laid Jason down on the bed. He lay so still, so horribly still. I folded the coverlet around him, hoping to keep him warmer, and then I went in search of a first-aid kit, something, anything. Id have traded my skills at killing for a little more first-aid training right then.
I knew what was in the bathroom, so I checked the kitchen first. There were towels, but no way to bind them in place. Maybe I could cut up a sheet to use as strips?
I got all the small towels and washrags that the kitchen had and carried them back to the bedroom. The only thing that showed above the coverlet was Jasons hair, so yellow, so vibrant, buTHE hadnt moved. I wanted him to move, so badly.
I put the rags down on the unused side of the bed and searched for sheets. They were in the closet. I had to go back to the kitchen to fetch a clean, sharp knife to cut the sheet up. I was glad the vampire hadnt used all the knives in the kitchen, because I didnt want to touch the bloody ones in the living room. It felt somehow like they were cursed. Not for real, but unclean, maybe.
I cut the sheet into strips, and then I had to uncover him and start looking at the wounds. They had bled into the coverlet, but no wound seemed worse than the others. It was like any one cut would have been fairly minor, maybe a few stitches. It was the culmination of all of them together that had nearly bled him to death.
I picked a wound in his arm that seemed to be bleeding more than the rest, pressed a rag against it, and started trying to tie it in place. His arm was so limp that I had to trap his lower arm between my knees to get the knot tight enough to put pressure. But not too tight. I couldnt remember, could lycanthropes suffer from getting their circulation cut off? I mean, if you could grow back a limb, then would too tight a bandage hurt you? I treated him like he was human, because I didnt know. It had never come up.
It was when I was tying a wound on his thigh that I saw the first burn marks. Tiny, roundish burn marks on his thigh. More of them on the hip, and finally most of them on the groin. How had I missed these? They were smaller, less obvious than the bloody wounds, I guess. I knew I was in shock. I knew that. Shock softens things. It helps you see things in pieces sometimes; a little horror here, a little more when your mind thinks you can handle it. Shock, if you dont go too far, helps you cope. I knew what had caused him to scream now. Burns didnt heal on a lycanthrope like everything else. Burns had to heal human-slow.
I found more of the little burns all over the front of his body. The back of his body was untouched because hed been tied on his back. To bind the wounds on his chest, I had to lift him, and he was still just dead weight. I should have seen the wounds beginning to heal by now. They looked the same. I knew in reason that hed healed from the first moment Id seen him. I knew that the shift to wolf form had helped him heal, because he wasnt bleeding as badly as that carpetbuTHE wasnt healing as fast as I was used to seeing lycanthropes heal. I didnt know if Jason was simply a slow healer, or if there had been that much damage, or if the vampires had done something to the wounds to make them worse.
When Id bound all the wounds I could figure out how to bind, I lay down beside Jason, with me propped up on the pillows, and rolled him against my body. I held him against me, and I prayed, prayed with that energy that true tragedy gives you. The loudest prayers must be when you hold someone you love and feel him go cold.
I knew warmth was important to healing lycanthropes. Cold was bad, that much I knew. My body heat was all I could think of. I got the gun out of my belt and laid it on the pillow beside me. Id done everything I could think of; now we waited for help to arrive. Waited and prayed.
Jason didnt feel like Jason in my arms. The washrags and sheet strips were rough and ruined the smooth feel of his body. My clothes were drying to my skin sticky with his blood. I should have taken them off before I lay down, so that Jason could be closer to my skin, but it had seemed to take so much effort to get him against me. I lay there, too tired, too shocky to move.
Why? Why had they tortured him? Why had they taken us? I remembered the man yelling, Wheres Lorna? We didnt know anyone named Lorna, or I didnt. Who the hell was she? I was betting that this had nothing to do with Jason, and everything to do with the Summerlands. Had Jason taken another beating for Keith Summerland? Was it that simple, or was something else going on that I didnt know anything about? In that moment, holding Jason, feeling his blood drying my clothes to my skin, I was willing to believe there were lots of things I didnt know.
I heard the door open. The outside door, because I heard the screen hit. Whoever it was, hesitated in the hallway. Theyd seen the body. If it was the rescue crew theyd have called out.
I picked up the gun. The safety was already off, a round already chambered. Id done that before I laid the gun down beside me. If anyone came through that door before the EMTs, they would not be my friend.
I sighted at the doorway and let out my breath. I let my body go quiet, and the gun was the focus of all that quiet. If Jason had moved in that moment Id probably have screamed.
A mans voice called from down the hallway. I hear your heartbeats. I smell his blood. I see my men are dead, so I assume you have at least one of their guns. Mr. Summerland, I didnt think you had it in you to be this dangerous.
I didnt say anything. If I was quiet enough, he might come closer for a look. If he came close enough Id shoot him.
Mr. Summerland, why dont you answer me? If you would simply tell us where Lorna is, then we would let you go. We have no wish to harm the son of a governor.
He was lying.
Mr. Summerland, he said again, are you in there? Why dont you answer me?
I could smell dawn on the air. Not here yet, but close. I wanted to know if this was a vampire, but if I used my necromancy to sense him, hed know what I was. I think they had thought I was just another of Keith Summerlands women. Its why they had left me in the bathroom, with no guard. Its why this one was assuming that Keith Summerland had gotten away somehow and killed the two vampires. This guy was assuming that because I was a woman I wasnt dangerous. Was it time to let the last man standing know that hed made a mistake?
Mr. Summerland? His voice sounded a little closer. Did I wait for him to maybe get close enough for a shot, or did I try to get some answers?
Dawn was so close. If he was a vampire hed been running out of moonlight, literally. If he was human it didnt matter. I decided to try for information.
Why would you think Lorna would be with him?
Oh, the girl. He sounded genuinely surprised.
Yeah, I said, the girl.
Do you know where Lorna is? he asked, and there was a hopeful lilt to his voice.
After what you did to my boyfriend and me, I dont think I want to answer any of your questions.
We were harsh, and I am sorry for that. Genuinely sorry.
Liar, I said.
What is your name? he asked.
You first, I said.
They call me George.
I want to know your name, not what they call you.
He laughed then, and he was good. It was a nice laugh, as if he werent standing in a hallway staring at the dead bodies of men hed hired to kidnap and torture us. Of course, maybe he was just a charming sociopath. In that case the laugh was real. When you have no empathy for anyone else, other people dead or hurt dont mean anything to you.
Edmond, my name is Edmond. What is your name?
I decided to try lying. Katerine. It was my middle name.
Now whos lying? he said, and he made it sound playful.
Fine. Anita, my names Anita.
Anita, now that is a lovely name.
What happens if you dont find Lorna? I asked.
He was quiet for a second or two, then said, Her husband will not be pleased.
So, you find her and youre going to force her to go back to him?
He is her husband and her master.
Master, that was an interesting choice of words. Was Lorna the wife of the Master of the City Peterson had told me about? He your master, too, Edmond?
He trusted me with this errand.
Yes, then, I said.
You do not speak like one of Keith Summerlands bimbos.
Is Lorna a bimbo?
I would never call my masters wife such a thing.
Then why did she think she could leave her master and husband and go off with Keith? Doesnt sound very bright.
He looks too much like her long-lost love. She does not see his faults, only his face, like a ghost of things lost and forgotten.
She had the hots for Jedediah Summerland?
Who are you, girl?
Jedediah was killed by vampires; are you saying that Lorna saw Keith and decided to try to relive old times?
You are taking this all very in stride, girl. Anita, you said your name was?
You smell of blood, and sorrow, but you are calm. What is your last name?
Dawn pressed like a weight against the window and its heavy drapes. He wasnt panicked enough for a vampire above ground. Human, then, but I was betting human servant. Not just a human that hung with the vamps, but a true servant like I was to Jean-Claude. He said he could smell blood and sorrow, and if he was a longtime servanTHE might have gained the ability.
You answer my question, Ill answer yours.
Yes, shes trying to relive her lost affair with Jedediah. He was misled by his own power, buTHE was a compelling man. The boy is nothing to compare to his ancestor, but the resemblance is almost enough to make one speak of reincarnation.
Genetics, Edmond, nothing but genetics.
I have answered your question, now you answer mine. What is your last name?
Blake, I said.
The quiet was strangely loud, as if I could feel him thinking furiously. Anita Blake, he said, finally.
Yes, I said.
Anita Blake, human servant to Jean-Claude, Master of the City of St. Louis?
Among other things, yes.
We did not know. I swear to you we did not know. We were told the room belonged to Keith, and Lorna was with him. We would never have harmed the human servant of another Master of the City.
Yeah, vampire law frowns on that.
I swear to you that I would never have sent these two to harm you. When I saw you, and realized you were not Lorna. I was told that these two were professional. I was misinformed. I mean, what sort of vampire mistakes a human for another vampire?
A bad one, I said.
Why were you with Keith Summerland?
Did he tell you his name was Jason Schuyler?
Yes, but you only have to look at him to know he is one of the Summerland twins.
They were always getting mistaken for each other in school, I said. I was calm; my voice had almost no inflection. Part shock and part certainty. I was going to kill Edmond, because killing him would most likely kill his master, and I wanted his master dead. Revenge, yes, but also, Edmond couldnt let me walk out of here. Id tell Jean-Claude, and he knew I would. If Edmond was to hide his mistake from his master, he had to kill us.
What are you saying?
Dont master vampires keep track of the names of the pommes de sang of other masters of the cities?
Not really, they are food.
Were Belle Mortes bloodline; I guess we treat our food better. Jason really isnt Keith Summerland. He really is my boyfriend. He really is Jean-Claudes pomme de sang. Do you know what vampire protocol is about harming someones pomme de sang, Edmond?
You can always get more food.
Do-you-know-what-vampire-protocol-is-on-the-harming-of-another-masters- pomme-de-sang? My voice wasnt neutral now. I was beginning to rediscover my anger. If Edmond really meant to flee and leave us alive, hed have started to leave then, buTHE was closer to us when he spoke next.
It is within the masters right to either demand a new pomme de sang from the offending master, or challenge the master to a duel.
I dont think wed like the kind of pomme de sang your master would choose, Edmond.
Jean-Claude would challenge my master to a duel?
Something like that, I said.
The pomme de sang is not dead. Let me call for help, get him to a hospital.
Ive already called, I said. They should be here soon.
You called for help?
Before you came.
I dont mean you any harm, Anita Blake.
Then why arent you running away, Edmond? Ive told you the police are coming, but youre still standing there. Why dont you run?
What will you do if you trace my master back to his city?
What do you think Ill do?
You are not just Jean-Claudes human servant; you are also a vampire executioner. Would you try to get a warrant against my master?
I dont know who your master is, Edmond.
Do not treat me as if I am stupid. There are not that many Masters of the City.
How many are married to a Lorna, you mean? How many have human servants named Edmond? I guess it does have to be a short list, I said.
I heard him chamber a round into his gun. Its funny, but once you know the sound of a slide going back, you never mistake it for anything else. I aimed my gun at the doorway, raising my knee up a little to help steady me, because my other arm was still touching Jason.
I saw his gun come around the doorjamb. I think he expected me to wait to see more of him, but Id used this gun, this ammo, and it was an old house. I shot through the wall, behind his hand. He made a satisfying sound, a pain sound, and then he shot into the room without seeing first. I fired two more shots that went wide before he staggered into the doorway. I had a glimpse of a tall, pale man, with short brown hair, and a nice tan suit, and a shirt that was blossoming red, before I shot him in the head. He tried to raise his gun as he fell, and actually squeezed off a shot that went into the foot of the bed. I crawled out of the covers and fired twice more into his body. I walked to him, the gun aimed at him, held two-handed. I kicked his gun away from his limp hand, and then I put two more bullets into his head, until bits of skull and brain exploded onto the floor.
My ears were still ringing when I heard shouting, distant, tinny. Marshal Blake, Marshal Blake!
I yelled, probably louder than I needed to, In here. Were in here! The cavalry had arrived.