I opened my mouth, closed it, and glanced down at the body. "We're wasting time with all this personal shit," I said. Okay, I also hadn't wanted to discuss my boyfriend situation with Zerbrowski, but we really did have a murderer to catch.
"True, but when this slows down, you fix this between you and Arnet."
"Me? Why me?"
"Because you're not wicked pissed at her," he said, and his face was as matter-of-fact as his words.
I wanted to argue with the logic, but as far as it went, it made sense. "I'll do what I can. What did Abrahams tell you?"
"Arnet saw the blood under the door. They called backup and entered. Searched the place and didn't find one Avery Seabrook. The bed was unmade, and the blood trail seems to start in the bed."
"Not in the bedroom, but the bed," I said.
"Do we have an ident on her?"
Funny, he didn't ask who "her" referred to. "Purse is beside the bed with her neatly folded clothes. Sally Cook, age twenty-four, 5'3", and I never believe the weight on a woman's driver's license."
"Yeah, women fudge the weight, but men will add an inch to their height."
He grinned at me. "Most of us just aren't smart enough to remember how tall we are."
I smiled at him and resisted the urge to punch him on the shoulder. He can have that effect on me, even at murder scenes.
"I noticed you were doing fingertip push-ups looking at the body. You messed up our blood pattern."
"I wasn't doing push-ups, and I touched as little as I could. But I know why she bled out, at least partly why."
"Talk," he said, he was starting to sound like Dolph. Not a bad a thing, just a little unnerving.
"She's got a partial bite mark on her very inner thigh. Looks like it punctured her femoral."
"Why did you say 'partial' bite mark? Either he bit her, or he didn't."
I shrugged. "He bit her, but it looks almost like he started, then either she jerked away, or he wasn't able to finish. For lack of a better analogy, it's like being bitten by a snake. If it's not poisonous, you're better off not jerking away. Vampire fangs are recurved not as much as most snake teeth, but still, if you pull away abruptly, you're going to tear yourself up worse than if you just let it chew on you and try to pry it off, sort of gently."
"It's instinct to pull away from something that's biting you, Anita."
"I'm not arguing that, Zerbrowski, I'm only saying that it's not a good idea. You will tear yourself up."
"So he bit her, and she pulled away, and that tore her femoral open. Are you saying he didn't mean to kill her?"
I shrugged. "I'm saying that you can bleed out from your femoral in about twenty minutes, maybe less. Most people don't understand that."
"Anita, don't do this to me."
"Do what?" I asked.
"I saved the best for last. She's got a little case in there with what sure as hell looks like a stripper outfit to me. All fringes and not much else. If she's a stripper, then we've got one of our vampires. But you're standing here telling me that he didn't mean to kill her. If that's true, then he isn't one of our guys. I'm in the process of getting you a warrant of execution for his ass. I'd hate to have you killing the wrong guy."
I shook my head. "He was responsible for her death, Zerbrowski. The way the law is written, he's dead either way. If he's part of our serial killer team, he's dead. If he accidentally nicked her femoral and either didn't know enough to call 911, or panicked, or maybe dawn caught him before he could finish. It doesn't matter which it was, by accident or by design. The law says it's murder when a vampire kills a human being using its bite. There is no charge of manslaughter, if you're a vampire."
Zerbrowski looked at me, and his eyes were very serious behind his wire rimmed glasses. "You think it was an accident, don't you?"
I shrugged again. "If he meant to rip her femoral open, I think the bite would be different, more vicious. I've seen a lot of vamp kills, Zerbrowski, a lot. This looks like a new vamp, a really new one, that doesn't know how to use its fangs yet. Someone who's two years dead shouldn't make mistakes like this."
"So he did it on purpose."
I sighed. "I'm beginning to wonder what kind of education the little vampires at the Church of Eternal Life are getting."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, that I thought their mentoring system was like most of the wereanimals that I know. You teach the rookies how to hunt, how to kill, clean, and efficiently."
"You confessing to something for your furry friends?" he asked, and he wasn't smiling enough for the comment, not for my peace of mind.
"Animals, Zerbrowski, animals. Jean-Claude hasn't brought over any new vamps since I've been hanging with him, but I've seen other vamps that were around two years dead, and they aren't rookies. They aren't experts, but this is a rookie mistake. Remember when Jack Benchely said that they'll give the vamps victims, but they make it clean and neat, and not fun?"
"What if feeding on the femoral, the inner thigh, is considered too taboo, too sexual for the church to teach its members?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know the theory that if we don't tell teenagers about sex that they won't think of it on their own."
"Yeah," he said and smiled and shook his head, "speaking as someone who was once a teenage boy, and who will one day have a two teenagers on my hands, it's a nice theory, but it doesn't work that way."
"Yeah, I know that, but what if the church is like the right-wingers? If you don't talk about it, or tell the new little vamps about the dirty stuff, they won't do it, or think of it on their own."
"Feeding from the inner thigh is too much like o**l s*x for the church," he said, and there was no teasing in his voice when he said it. He was working, thinking.
I nodded. "Exactly."
"But Avery, our newish vampire, did think of it, and did try it, but didn't know what he was doing."
"Yes, and because he'd had no information, he didn't know how dangerous it could be. It's like the kids who came up pregnant in junior high, because they used candy bar wrappers for condoms."
Zerbrowski looked at me. "You're joking."
"My hand to God, I am not making that up. The point is that if you don't educate the newly emerging vampire, just like the newly emerging teenager, you end up with them doing stupid shit. Dangerous things that get them or others, killed, or hurt. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to basic sex ed, or beginning blood donations for vampires. Ignorance will get you killed in both."
He looked down at the body. "She fits the physical profile of the first vic. If you ignore the difference in height, she's even blond, which fits all three vics."
"But this one's not a natural blond."
Zerbrowski frowned at me.
"I don't mean that, I mean her roots are showing. I didn't really check that closely, but it looks like she either shaved everything, or had very little body hair to begin with. A lot of strippers shave."
"Like your new boyfriend," he said, his voice was mild, but his eyes weren't.
I shook my head. "None of your damn business, Zerbrowski."
"You guys were getting pretty cozy on the dance floor, but then he's living with you now, isn't he?"
"Somebody talks too much."
"Hey, I'm a trained detective, I detected that you're shacking up with a stripper who's what, seven years younger than you?"
"As the detective in charge at the scene, shouldn't you be solving this murder?"
"I'm thinking. Teasing you always helps me think."
"Glad to hear I inspire you. What are you thinking about?"
"I'm thinking that I want to talk to Avery Seabrook before he gets executed. If he's part of the other murders, then I want the names of his friends. If he did this by accident, then I think we need to know that, too. If you're right, and the church isn't teaching basic vampire 101 safety to its members, then we've got hundreds of potential accidental deaths walking around out there tonight. That ain't good."
"Legally, we can't do anything to force the church to change its teaching methods. Separation of church and state, and all that."
He nodded. "I can't, and Federal Marshal Blake can't, but Anita Blake, sweetie to the Master of the City, might."