"I'm lost. What are you getting at?" Zerbrowski asked.
I smiled at him, but not like I was happy. "One of the vamps has to be a master, we figured that, but they also have to be able to cloud men's minds enough to pull something like this off."
"I thought all vamps could cloud men's minds."
I shook my head. "They can mesmerize one person with their gaze, and if they bite them, then they can blank their memory. If they're powerful enough, they can mesmerize with the eyes and blank most of the memory. But the vic will usually have this vague memory of eyes, or sometimes an animal with blazing eyes, or car headlights that were very bright. The mind tries to make mundane sense of what's happened."
"Okay, so one of the vamps zapped him with its gaze."
"No, Zerbrowski, I'm betting it wasn't eyes. I'm betting it was from a distance with no direct gaze. I'll talk to him, see what he remembers, but if he's bite-free and doesn't have some weird memory, then it was done from a nice safe distance, with no direct contact."
"So what?" he asked, and he sounded irritated and tired.
I didn't take it personally. "It means that one of the vamps is old, Zerbrowski. Old, and a master vampire. We're talking fairly major talent here. It's a limited list."
I shook my head. "Let's talk to the security guy and get him to strip down for us."
He looked at me over the rims of his glasses, before he pushed them back up his nose. "Did you just say what I think you just said?"
"We've got to check him for vamp bites. If he's clean, then we're looking for a major player, vampirically speaking. If he's got a bite, then not so major. Trust me, it'll make a difference in who we talk to."
"Is this Jean-Claude's people?" Zerbrowski asked.
"No," I said.
"How can you be sure?" he asked.
How could I be sure? I was tired enough that I let that be a question in my head, let me wonder what Jean-Claude would say. Would he guarantee that this couldn't have been his people? The thought was enough, he was suddenly in my head. Shit.
He was seeing what I was seeing, not good at a murder investigation when the vic had been done in by vamps. I started to shield, to kick him out, but I suddenly knew the answer to my question. "My blood oath will hold them from this, because it is against my express orders to bring us to the negative attention of the human police."
I thought, Liv broke your oath once, and he heard me. "I was not le sourdre de sang then. My oath is not so lightly shaken off now, ma petite."
I'd been quiet too long. Zerbrowski said, "You okay?"
"Just thinking," I said. I'd known about blood oaths, but I hadn't actually understood how important they were, or what they were supposed to mean. "Because all of Jean-Claude's people have to take a blood oath. It binds them mystically to the Master of the City. He's forbidden his vampires to do shit like this."
"You're saying the blood oath makes this impossible?"
"Not impossible, but harder. It depends on how strong the master is that they make the oath to."
"How strong is Jean-Claude?"
I thought about a way to explain it and finally settled for, "Strong enough that I'd bet good money this wasn't his people."
"But you wouldn't guarantee it."
"Guarantees are for major appliances, not for murder."
He grinned. "That's cute, I may just have to use that one sometime."
"Knock yourself out."
The grin faded round the edges. "I still don't really understand this whole blood oath thing. Maybe I'm just too tired for metaphysics, explain it to me again later."
"Let me simplify it."
"That'd be nice," he said.
"I just learned tonight from the vamps I questioned that Malcolm has abolished the blood oath for the church. It's too barbaric."
Jean-Claude was still in my head and heard what I said. I got a rush of fear from him, fear bordering on panic.
"Okay, and that means what exactly?" Zerbrowski asked.
I had to take a deep breath to talk around Jean-Claude's fear. His voice in my head said, "Are you certain of this, ma petite?"
I let my out loud voice for Zerbrowski answer Jean-Claude's question, too. "It means, Zerbrowski, that you have hundreds of vampires in this area that have nothing to keep them from doing shit like this, except their own consciences, and a morals clause they all sign."
Jean-Claude was cursing in my head in French, and though I caught a word here and there, most of it was too fast for me.
Zerbrowski smiled, and the smile broadened until it was a grin. "You're saying that the church trusts its members to be good little citizens, and your boyfriend isn't that trusting."
"I'll look at the new masters that have come to town at Jean-Claude's invitation, but my money is on the Church of Eternal Life."
"Dolph would say it's because you don't want it to be Jean-Claude's people."
"Yeah, he would, but I'll tell you this, Zerbrowski, the thought that all these new little vampires have only their human morals to make them be good, makes me almost agree with Dolph."
"Agree on what?"
"Kill them all."
Jean-Claude said, "Do not say this out loud to the police, ma petite. It may come to that, and you do not wish your friend to remember this conversation." He was right.
"Shit, Anita, some of your best friends are bloodsuckers."
"Yeah, but there are rules to being a vampire, and Malcolm is trying to treat them like they're just people with fangs. They aren't, Zerbrowski, they really aren't. Even if this turns out to be a bunch of rogues that somehow slipped through everyone's radar. Mine, Jean-Claude's, and Malcolm's, we are so going to have to talk to him about his new policy."
"Why I do I think when you said, we, just now, you weren't including me, or any of the cops?" He was looking at me, and the joking, lecherous comments were gone. I was seeing a very intelligent pair of cop eyes.
I sighed and took a step toward the ladder. I'd said too much, way too much. Jean-Claude's voice in my head, "You must say something to take the sting out of your words, ma petite."
Out loud, to Zerbrowski, I thought of something to say. "I'm tired Zerbrowski, please don't tell Dolph that I think all the vamps in the church should be done in. I don't mean it, not really."
"I won't tell anyone, especially not Dolph. He'd probably start with his new daughter-in-law, and wouldn't that be a shit."
I nodded. "But if we had hundreds of vamps go bad, all at once, I'm still who gets the call. I so don't want to ever have to try to take on that many of them. I'm good, but not that good."
"For a few hundred, even you'd need help," he said. He let out a long breath. "I can see where the thought would piss you off, and make you tired. Hell, it makes me tired, and nervous."
"I'll try to find out how long this no-blood-oath policy has been in effect," I said.
"And then what?"
I had my hands on the ladder. "I'll deal with it."
"Ma petite, you are being uncautious again."
I whispered, "Get out of my head."
"What does that mean, Anita? You're a federal marshal, you can't do the Lone Ranger shit anymore. You got a badge."
I leaned my forehead on the ladder, got mud on my face, and jerked back. I told him as much of the truth as I could. "We'll give Malcolm a choice, either he blood oaths everybody, or Jean-Claude does." Jean-Claude was suddenly louder than ever in my head. "Stop there, ma petite, I beg you, do not say it out loud."
What I didn't say out loud was that any vampire that didn't want to take the ceremony was probably dead. I had Jean-Claude's memory of it now, and I knew the blood oath was one of their most strenuously observed laws. I'd seen what could happen if the oath wasn't strong enough, what would happen if it wasn't there at all.
I was actually on the ladder, when Zerbrowski said, "And what if the vamps don't want to take the oath?"
I stayed frozen on the ladder for a second, then lied, "I'm not sure. I'm hoping that it's just Malcolm and not every church of their's across the country that's doing this. You're talking about something that's never been done before, Zerbrowski. As far as I know, no master vamp has ever just allowed vamps to breed like this without securing himself as their leader in more than just name. It's never been done before. Vamps aren't big on new ideas."