"How can you endure this?" I asked.
"If you'd slept the day away like a normal pomme de sangor human servant, you wouldn't be sick at all."
"Forgive me for having a day job."
"Also if Asher had taken enough for just a feeding, then you might be a bit sick," he negotiated a turn, "but I think that whatever Asher did to you along with taking blood made it worse." He paused. "Truthfully, you shouldn't be this sick, at all."
We crested the rise, and the soft hills stretched out for miles, shades of green with a hint of gold here and there.
"At least I'm not nauseous anymore when I look at the trees."
"That's good, but I mean it, Anita. After you'd slept, and then gotten up and around, you should have been fine." He took the next curve carefully, a lot slower than he'd taken the first one.
"So what went wrong?" I asked.
He shrugged, and slowed even further, trying to see the address on a cluster of mailboxes.
"Dolph said the crime scene was on the main road. You won't miss it, Jason."
"How can you be sure?"
He flashed me another grin, his own blue eyes hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. "I do trust you."
"What went wrong?" I asked again.
"What were you doing when dawn broke?" he asked, speeding back up and taking the next curve a little faster than I would have liked.
"The ardeur,Asher was feeding, and . . ." I hesitated only for a second, "having sex."
"With both of them at once," he said, voice mock serious, "I am so disappointed in you, Anita."
"That I wasn't invited."
"You are so lucky you're driving right now."
He grinned, but didn't turn away from the road this time. "Why do you think I said it while I was driving?" He slowed. "I see what you meant about not missing it."
I turned my attention from Jason's face to the road. Police cars, marked and unmarked, were everywhere. Two emergency vehicles were parked on the edge of the road, which effectively blocked traffic. If we'd been planning to drive farther on, we'd have had to find another way around. But lucky us, we were stopping here.
Jason pulled the Jeep over, driving into the grass in a vain attempt to leave some space for anyone else that might be coming behind us.
A uniformed officer started walking towards us before Jason had turned off the engine. I got my badge out of my suit jacket pocket. I, Anita Blake, vampire executioner, was technically a federal marshal. All vampire hunters that were currently state licensed in the United States had been grandfathered in to federal status, if they could qualify on a shooting range. I'd qualified, and now I was a fed. They were still arguing in Washington, D.C., about whether they'd be able to give us anything more than the pittance that each state pays us per kill, which is not enough so you could afford to do it as a day job. But then, luckily the vampires haven't gotten so out of hand that any state needed a vampire hunter full time.
I wasn't getting any more money, so why had I wanted the badge? Because it meant I could chase the vampires, or other supernatural bad guys, across state lines, different law enforcement jurisdictions, and not have to ask anyone's permission. I also wouldn't be up on murder charges if I killed a vamp on the wrong side of a state line where I wasn't licensed.
But for me, more than most vampire hunters, there was an extra benefit to having a badge of my very own. I no longer had to rely on policemen friends to get me into crime scenes.
I didn't know the uniformed officer that was about to knock on our Jeep window, but it didn't matter. He couldn't keep me out of the crime scene. I was a federal marshal--I could stick my nose into any preternaturally related crime I wanted to. A real federal marshal could have intruded into any investigation, and technically my badge didn't specify that I was relegated to preternatural crime, but I know my limitations. I know monsters, and monster-related crime. A regular cop I am not. What I'm good at, I'm very good at, but what I don't know shit about, I don't know shit about. Take me away from the monsters and I wasn't sure how much use I'd be.
I was out of the Jeep and flashing my badge before the uniform got to us. He sized me up the way men will do from shoes to face--in that order. Any man who starts at my feet and then goes up has lost pretty much any chance he has to impress me.
I read his name tag, "Officer Jenkins, I'm Anita Blake. Lieutenant Storr is expecting me."
"Storr isn't here," he said, arms crossed over his chest.
Great, he didn't recognize my name--so much for being a celebrity--and he was going to play 'don't want the feds pissing in my pond!'
Jason had gotten out on his side of the Jeep. Maybe I looked a little disreputable in my slightly wrinkled suit, with a run in my hose that went from toe to thigh, but Jason didn't look like a fed, or a cop. He was dressed in blue jeans that had faded through enough washings to be comfortable, a blue T-shirt that almost matched his eyes, still hidden behind the mirrored shades, and white jogging shoes. It had turned out to be one of those unusually warm fall days we get sometimes. Too warm for his leather jacket, so he hadn't bothered with anything else. The white gauze and tape on his forearms were very noticeable.
He leaned on the hood of the Jeep, smiling pleasantly and looking so not like a federal anything.
Officer Jenkins's eyes flicked to Jason, then back to me. "We didn't call the feds in."
Standing there in my three-inch heels on the slightly uneven road was making me feel light-headed again. I did not have the patience, or the strength, to debate.
"Officer Jenkins, I am a federal marshal, do you know what that means?"
"Nope," he said, making the word longer than it was.
"It means that I don't need your permission to enter this crime scene. I don't need anybody's permission. So it doesn't matter if the lieutenant is here or not. I told you who alerted me to this crime out of courtesy, but if you don't want to be courteous, officer, then we don't have to be."
I turned and looked at Jason. Normally, I would have left him at the car, but I wasn't a hundred percent sure I could make it up the rest of the hill without falling over. I genuinely didn't feel well enough to be here. But here I was, and I was going to see this crime scene.
I motioned Jason to me. He came around the Jeep, his smile fading around the edges. Maybe I looked as pale as I felt.
"He's not a fed," Jenkins said.
I'd had enough of Jenkins. If I'd been feeling better I would have bullied our way through, but . . . there were other ways to bully.
I waited until Jason was there to steady me, then I moved my hair to one side showing the white gauze and tape on my own neck. I pulled on one side of the tape until it peeled down, and I could flash the bite at Jenkins. It wasn't a neat puncture wound. Asher had gotten carried away, because the edges of the wounds were torn.
"Shiiit," Jenkins said.
I let Jason tape the wound back up, while I talked to the other man. "I have had a hard night, Officer Jenkins, and I have the authority to go into any preternaturally related crime scene that I see fit to enter."
The tape was smoothed back into place, and Jason was standing very close to my left arm, as if he knew how unsteady I was feeling. Jenkins didn't seem to notice.
"It isn't a vampire attack," Jenkins said.
"Am I not speaking English here, Jenkins? Did I say it had anything to do with vampires?"
"No, sir, I mean . . . no."
"Then either escort us to the crime scene, officer, or step aside and we'll find our own way."
Flashing the vampire bite had thrown him, but he still didn't want a fed messing with his crime. Probably his boss wouldn't like it, but that wasn't my problem. I had a federal badge. In theory, I had the right to the crime scene. In actuality, if the local police barred my way there wasn't much I could do. I could go get a court order and force the issue, but that would take time, and I didn't have that kind of time. Dolph was already pissed at me. I didn't want to keep him waiting that long.
Jenkins finally stepped aside. We started walking up the hill. I had to take Jason's arm about halfway up. My goal in life for that moment was not to fall down, throw up, or faint, while Jenkins was still puzzling over whether he'd done the right thing letting us get past him.
My badge on its little cord around my neck got us past most of the cops. The few that questioned us recognized my name, or had worked with me before. Always good to be known. They questioned Jason's presence. I finally told them that I'd deputized him.