Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 57

I had a moment to think what kind of help he would have been, and part of me was sorry he'd missed it, but the sane part of me was glad. Peter might be charged with assaulting Dixie, but if Olaf had helped him out, I was pretty sure assault would be the least of our worries. Though honestly I'd never seen him injure a woman who wasn't a villain. Edward had seen Olaf's handiwork once, and what he'd done to the woman had haunted Edward. But it had been done in another country by Olaf, not by Otto Jeffries, who was Olaf's Clark Kent. Otto Jeffries was a marshal in good standing. Hell, Jeffries wasn't even on Interpol's radar. It was a clean identity and I probably didn't want to know how the military, or a government or two, had given Olaf a clean identity after some of the shit he'd done. Of course, there might be people on the planet who thought the same thing about Edward and Ted Forrester, but Edward was my best friend and Olaf wanted me to be his serial-killer girlfriend, or that had been his couple goal last time we talked.

"But you did wait for everyone to go to the hospital?"

"I thought we should talk alone first," he said, and his face was serious, no leering. I wasn't sure if that was reassuring or not.

"So you found out which room I was going to and came up the other side so that I wouldn't hear you following us."

"Yes," he said, face still serious.

"You work fast."

He bowed his head, acknowledging the compliment, though honestly it wasn't exactly meant as one. If I hadn't been working hard at not teasing him and making things worse, I'd have told him what fine stalker skills he had, but I knew better. I would behave myself if he would, until the point came when one of us did something to piss off the other one. Because there would come a moment when it all went to hell. I just didn't want to be alone with him when it happened, or maybe I did. I guess it depended on if I was going to kill him or if he was trying to kill me at the time. For the first I didn't want witnesses; for the second I'd want help.

"You are still the only woman I have ever known that is comfortable with silence."

I realized that he thought I was waiting in companionable silence with him while Becca changed clothes. I just never knew what to say to Olaf that wouldn't piss him off. "I try not to talk unless I have something to say."

"It is an admirable quality in both men and women."

Once he would have just said women. "Agreed," I said, and then thought to ask, "Do you know how Peter got hurt, or do I need to fill you in on the details?"

"The desk clerk said that he attacked a woman and she stabbed in defense of her virtue." He said it with no affect, empty face, empty voice, nothing, as if he wasn't in there somehow. I realized that his energy was the same now as it had been before he caught lycanthropy. I should have been able to feel his inner beast or some extra energy, but there was nothing. He was shielding hard and tight and perfect. Most lycanthropes never mastered shielding to that degree. He hadn't been a shapeshifter that long, only two years, give or take. It was impressive, but I wasn't sure if remarking on it would upset him, so I talked about something that upset me.

"He didn't attack anyone. He removed her from an area and did his best not to hurt her. She didn't feel the same way about not hurting him."

"Why did he remove the woman by force?"

I really didn't want to go into details, but Olaf was the only other person besides Donna whom Edward and I had lied to about our relationship. To Donna it had been because she wouldn't believe the truth; to Olaf it was because having me as Edward's girlfriend meant he'd respect Edward's threat more than just mine. Edward had marked me as his, as territory, and put up No Trespassing signs for Olaf by a look here, a hand hold there, a hug, a snuggle. Some of it had been done in front of other police officers, which hadn't helped either of our reputations, but Edward had thought it was worth it to keep Olaf at arm's length. I'd agreed and now I got to tell the truth, sort of.

He looked angry by the time I'd finished, and the barest hint of warm energy breathed through the hallway. God, his control of his energy was amazing. If I hadn't known what he was now, he could have passed for human even to me. Of course, he was shielding and I wasn't trying to call his inner beast, but it was still impressive.

"Why would this other woman want to tell the child?"

"Her own husband cheats a lot and frequently, apparently. She stayed with him out of duty, but she doesn't want Donna to make the same mistake. "

"You are Edward's only weakness. He will not fall again."

"I can sort of see why Dixie, the woman in question, wouldn't believe that, though."

"Her husband is without honor."

"Apparently."

"Is she trained with a blade?" he asked.

"Not to my knowledge."

"Then how did she stab him with a pen and hit an artery? That takes more skill than most trained soldiers have."

"I think she got lucky, or Peter got unlucky."

"No one is that lucky."

"She was grabbing for things to defend herself with and apparently someone had left a fountain pen lying around."

"A fountain pen is rare."

"Like I said, lucky and unlucky. Then a piece broke off in Peter's leg and you know the rest."

"If Peter does not survive, neither will the woman."

"You know, normally I'd see that as a creepy comment, but I sort of agree with you."

"You would help me do this?"

"No, I know Dixie as a person. I couldn't help you do the sort of things you enjoy to her."

"Why does knowing her make a difference?" he asked, and it was a good sign that he asked the question rather than just be puzzled. I appreciated that he trusted me to ask it and that he would trust my answer.

"Doesn't knowing someone make it harder for you to hurt them?"

"Not really."

We looked at each other. "Do you have any ability to feel real empathy?"

"I don't believe so, but since I know only what I feel, I cannot be certain that what I feel is not empathy. Now answer my question. Why does it bother you more if you know someone?"

I tried to think how to explain it to him. "Dixie is a pain, and she may be crazy, as in pathological, about the whole cheating thing, but I know she has kids. I know her husband's been a bastard to her. I know that he did carpool for their son and Peter to martial arts class for years. I don't like Dixie, but she's real to me, a real person with thoughts and feelings and a life of her own. I would have more trouble hurting her or taking away her life b

ecause I know she has a life. Does that make any sense to you?"

"I understood everything you said, but I see knowing someone's details very differently than you do."

"How so?" I asked, because he'd never been willing to talk this much about himself before and I was sort of interested in spite of myself. Though if Becca didn't come out soon, I was going to be going in after her. I mean, she wasn't even a teenager yet. What the heck was she doing in there that was taking this much time?

"The more I know about someone, the more I can torture their mind as well as their body. It is often the personal details that give me what I need to break someone for gaining information."

"You mean like for an interrogation?"

"That is one use, yes."

I debated whether I wanted to ask any more. So far the discussion had been mostly academic. It was interesting without being disturbing, which was a nice change for Olaf and me.

"Sometimes strangers are more satisfying, if all I want is the blood and the pain, but sometimes a long hunt is even better. I know their facial expressions and how their body moves, so I can see their pain and fear even more than on a stranger's face."

"And there you go," I said.

"What?" he asked, and he looked genuinely puzzled.

"We were having a nice discussion, sharing insights, and then you have to go all Hannibal Lecter on me and overshare."

"You know what I am, Anita. You've known from the beginning. I never pretended with you, never hid what I was. I think that was the difference."

"You never hid because Edward told me what you were before we met."

"I'm not sure I would have pretended even if he hadn't told you. I was so angry that he brought a woman to work with us on that case. What could a woman do that he, Bernardo, and I could not?"

"I remember," I said.

He smiled then and shook his head, as if remembering, too. It was weird seeing him so . . . human. And I wasn't talking about the werelion part. Olaf had been inhuman through his hatred of women and what that rage led him to enjoy doing to them. Standing here in the hallway was the closest to a normal conversation we'd ever had.

"I wanted you from the moment I saw you," he said.


Tags: Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Horror
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