Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 73

Bernardo's voice came low, next to my face: "You can't stand to look at her either?"

I opened my eyes and had to be careful how I turned or I'd have touched his face with mine, he was leaning so close. I fought not to move back, because he obviously was trying to whisper so that Edward and Olaf, standing on the other side of the tarp, the other side of the body, couldn't hear us.

"I'm praying," I said.

"It's too late to pray for her," he said, and his dark brown eyes were full of something between terror and sorrow. I wanted to move back from the intensity of the emotion, but if he could feel it, I could stand next to it.

"Not for Denny it isn't," I said.

He stared at me from inches away, face stricken; that was the only word I had for it. "I wish I had your faith," he said, and then turned and walked away from the body of his one-afternoon stand. He walked until he found a fence post to lean a hand on, as if he needed the support.

Lin, who had stayed near us, as if he didn't trust us not to touch, take, or otherwise contaminate his crime scene, said, "Captain Tyburn is en route, but he asked me to ask you what you see." Lin pulled out an iPad mini to take notes.

"You don't want us to wait for Tyburn?" I asked.

"He says get you started. I'll make sure he knows what you said." He lifted the notebook up a little, pen still poised.

I looked across the body at Edward and Olaf. Edward and I made eye contact; his face moved so that even behind the dark sunglasses I knew he'd raised eyebrows at me in that "go ahead" gesture.

"Okay, I'm hoping she died before the major damage happened," I said.

"I think we all are," Edward said.

"She would have been dead before he was finished," Olaf said, "but she could have been alive when he began to . . . harvest them." His voice was even, unemotional, which was almost a first for him at this kind of crime scene, at least in my experience. Because his voice wasn't creepy I let myself look at his face. His eyes were hidden behind wraparound black sunglasses, but what I could see of his face with its edge of black mustache and beard seemed normal enough, as in normal normal, not Olaf normal around a messy murder scene. I looked for the excitement, the near sexual buzz that he usually seemed to feel, but he looked cold and clinical; almost . . . bored, or let down, like he was disappointed somehow.

"What?" he asked, and I realized that I'd been staring at him.

I shook my head. "Nothing. Sorry, I'm having more trouble than I expected because I saw her alive just a day ago."

"That makes it harder for most of us," Edward said, and he looked past me toward Bernardo. It made me glance back. Tall, dark, and handsome was throwing up at the edge of the parking lot.

"Do you really think the killer harvested the organs?" Lin asked.

"No," Olaf said, "it is the wrong word, but I do not yet have a better one." He squatted down beside the body, balancing easily on the balls of his feet. He took his sunglasses off so he could look at the wounds without the color being changed. He was right; the sunglasses hid things, or could.

"You okay if I check on Bernardo?" Edward asked.

I glanced at Olaf, who seemed to be studying the body in a thoroughly professional way for a change. I nodded. "I think so."

"Yell if you need me," he said and walked wide around the body, moving toward Bernardo, who was now on all fours. Lucky he'd put all that long hair back in a ponytail before we got to the crime scene.

"Does Marshal Forrester always worry about you this much at a crime scene?" Lin asked.

"No," I said, "but he's not usually having to take care of Marshal Spotted-Horse either."

"I heard that Spotted-Horse was the girl's boyfriend. Is that true?"

"Boyfriend is too strong a word, I think."

"Were they lovers?" Lin asked.

Olaf said, "Captain Tyburn knows that answer. If he wants to share it with you, he will."

Olaf was right--we shouldn't share information with anyone about the personal stuff. We were in a weird position as part of the investigation and potential suspects. I appreciated Olaf making the save and reminding me that we shouldn't get chatty about anything but the murder scene.

"There are no tool marks that I recognize," Olaf said.

That made me squat down on my side of the body and balance on the balls of my feet; we had plastic booties over our shoes, but the rest of us could still pick up evidence or otherwise contaminate the scene. I was missing the overalls I wore at home, but I hadn't packed for a murder; I'd packed for a wedding. I stared down at the body and wasn't sure there was going to be a wedding. Where was Denny? I pushed the thought away as hard as I could and tried to concentrate on business. If I did my job as if I hadn't known the body lying here, then maybe I could help solve this crime and then we could find Denny. My continuing to freak out because she was missing didn't help her a damn bit. It was an emotional indulgence that neither I nor Denny could afford.

"What do you mean by no tool marks you recognize?" Lin asked.

"I mean that whatever was used on the body wasn't a cutting tool that I am familiar with, and until this moment I thoug

ht I knew them all."

I forced myself to take off my sunglasses and look at the gaping cavity that had once been most of the important interior bits of a person. I had to let my eyes adjust to the insane brightness of the sunlight so close to the ocean, but they adjusted like they were designed to and then the bloody parts were too bright, the color contrasts like some garish special effect. I'd been right about seeing some of her spine; it glistened in the sunlight like a pale jewel set in bloody metal. Fuck. I tried to look at it as just meat, just something that was cut. How was it cut up? What did they use? Could I tell?

I rested my wrists on my knees and leaned closer to the opening, trying to see if Olaf was right. Were there no tool marks? Had this really all been done without a blade? It took me a second to realize that the eerie cleanness of the cavity had made me think it was all that neat and tidy, but it wasn't. The edges of the skin were ragged. It looked more like the skin had been torn at, not cut, or not neatly cut. Had it been claws? Or had someone tried to neaten things with the unknown cutting tool?

I leaned in so close my nose was almost touching the body. I didn't see the neatness of a blade or any kind of claw marks I'd ever seen before. I'd held my breath automatically but realized if I was going to get that close, I might need a mask to go with my gloves and booties. I leaned back up to just squatting beside the body and took a deep breath. A second later I realized it was a bad idea, because this close, there'd be a smell. I waited to be nauseated, or at least bothered, but strangely there was no bad odor. There should have been, because with this much damage her bowels should have been perforated, so the outhouse smell should have been there, but it wasn't. Weird. I mean, I wasn't complaining, but everyone's shit stinks. Bettina's wouldn't be different, and the moment I thought her name, I couldn't have my face that close to the body. I was suddenly warm and it had nothing to do with the heat. I stood up a little fast, had a moment of my vision swimming. I took a few slow, deep breaths and got myself under control. I hadn't thrown up on a body in years; I wasn't going to start now. I'd done it once at one of my first bad crime scenes, and the police back home hadn't let me forget it for years.

I swallowed hard and looked off into the distance, not just so I wasn't looking at the body, but so I could fixate on something else like that stop sign. I stared at the sign as if I'd memorize the feel of it with my eyeballs. It was sort of the same theory as being seasick and staring out at the horizon.


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