I blinked at him, not sure what to say, but I leaned back enough so that I wasn't pressing a gun into his chest. I knew what it was like to finally be seduced by the thing you hunted. Mine just happened to be a more traditional seduction. Okay, at least I was still among the living.
"What does he mean?" Smith asked.
Malcolm's rich voice filled the parish hall with its tables and punch bowl. Everything was all set out for cookies and punch, though the punch looked a little red for my tastes, a little thick. "Power, Officer, power and sex, that is what Jean-Claude offers."
"Be careful about the stones you throw, Malcolm, sometimes they get thrown back."
"Is that a threat?"
"No, just a friendly warning that only the pure of motive should cast stones."
"Ask your friend there. Ask him, was it sex with one of us that lured him. I have watched mortals come to this life for centuries for the sake of sex."
"First," I said, "he's not my friend. Second, it doesn't matter why, only that he did it." I'd touched Cooper while I searched him for weapons, and I'd gotten no flashes of information. No images. I hadn't acquired Malcolm's ability to see through touch, I'd only borrowed it. I wanted to borrow it again.
I guess I should at least pretend to try to do it the normal way. I turned to Cooper. "Where is your master? Where is he now?"
"Feeding, most likely."
"Where is the daytime lair?"
He shook his head, with something like a smile on his face. "I won't tell you anything, Anita Blake. I would no more betray my master than you would yours."
"But see, my master doesn't ask me to butcher helpless unarmed women, like yours does."
He shook his head again. "I will not betray him."
Now, technically the vampire had no more rights. I could have put a bullet in his brain now, legally. The warrant read that I could use the force I deemed necessary. No one talked about it much, but I knew, and the rest of us legal hunters knew, that some of us used that part of the warrant to justify torture. I didn't like torture, not on either side of the chains. Besides, Cooper had had a reputation for being tough. We didn't have the time for him to be tough. We needed to know where his master lived.
I walked over to Malcolm. He didn't look happy to see me that close to him. "What do you want, Ms. Blake? You have your villain, take him and go."
I lowered my voice so only we and the soon-to-be-dead Cooper would hear. "Try to read my mind by touch again."
"I did not..."
"If you deny it, I'll make sure that all those people that you've done negotiations with over the years know exactly how you outsmarted them. A shake of the hand, and you had them."
"I did not bespell anyone."
"No, but you read their minds, took knowledge from them, against their will. That's illegal."
"Is that a threat again, Ms. Blake?"
"Negotiation is simple with me, Malcolm. If you use your little clairvoyant powers on me now, it's our little secret. If you don't, then it won't be our little secret. See? Very simple."
"How can I trust you?"
"Maybe you can't, but what choice do you have?"
I felt his power then, like water filling the room. Once, I'd worried I'd drown in his power. Now, I knew I could swim in it, or simply ignore it. "Grandstanding won't win you any points with me."
"I will do this, but not because you forced me. I want these killings stopped, and if we harbored vipers among us, unbeknownst, then I want to know who they are. I will not have such things done in my church, or by my church members."
"Fine." I held my hand out to him. "Talk is cheap."
He frowned at me, but he gave me his hand, and the moment his fingers touched mine, I felt him riffle through my head. I felt him get a second image of the dead woman. A more complete image. I thrust my power outward like a defending blade. He was prepared this time. He simply drew his hand away and stepped back. "May it give you all the joy it has given me over the centuries."
It sounded like some kind of blessing turned curse, but I ignored it. Malcolm and I could squabble later. I had to use his gift while I still had it. I turned back to the vampire that was still cuffed to the chair.
He'd heard at least part of what Malcolm and I had said. His face was angry, defiant. "I won't talk."
"I won't ask you to."
"What's happening, Anita?" Zerbrowski asked.
"I'm going to find out what we want to know."
"How?" He looked positively suspicious.
It made me laugh. "God, Zerbrowski, what do you think I'm about to do?"
"I don't know."
That made the laughter fade, and the smile went with it. It's always hard to see your friends look at you like they don't trust you not to be monstrous. "I'm not going to do anything you haven't seen me do already tonight."
He widened eyes at me. "This guy doesn't like you, the other one did."
"It won't matter."
He made a small gesture as if to say, help yourself, but he looked like he'd believe it when he saw it. I guess I couldn't blame him. I reached out toward Cooper's face.
"Don't touch me."
"Would you rather I shoot you?"
He just glared at me.
"Then hold still." If I hadn't been afraid that he'd either try to hurt me with his hands or his teeth, I'd have touched him from behind, but he was a vampire, and you don't cuddle one if you aren't sure about your safety. I touched him from the side, so if he tried to bite me I'd feel it, and could move. I touched the side of his face. He was clean shaven, but he was also cold. He hadn't fed tonight.
I thought, Who is your master?
He fought me. He tried to think random thoughts. I got chaotic images. I saw the second stripper, the one from last night. I saw her alive and dancing on the stage. I saw a cloaked figure huddled by her stage.
"No!" he jerked his head away from me.
I pressed my hip against his arm and put a hand on either side of his head. His hair was soft, but not as soft as Avery's. Cooper's hair had the texture of someone who, if they let it grow out at all, it would have body and wave to it.
"Don't," he said, but it wasn't a shout this time. He tried to think of anything, everything. But somewhere in those confused images, I recognized a face. A woman's face. I remembered her at a banquet table. I remembered her at Belle's court. It wasn't my memory.
I thought, Jean-Claude. He whispered through me, and this time I got a sense that he was busy, or about to be. "Do you need me to come to you, ma petite? I can put this off."
I said it out loud, but for his ears, though more heard it. "Who is she?"
"Gwenyth, Vittorio's lovely Gwennie."
"Vittorio," I said, and I had a face with the name. He was darkly handsome, and I doubted he'd started life with an Italian name. He looked very dark, Arabic maybe. "Vittorio." I must have whispered it out loud, because Cooper screamed and stood up. He stood up still cuffed to the chair. He stood up, and the last thing I got from him was a very clear thought. I'll make them kill me.
I was the closest, but I'd had to put my gun up to do my little hand trick. I did the first thing I thought of, I hit him. I hit him as hard and fast as I could. I hit him the way I'd been trained for years in martial arts. You don't try to throw someone to the floor, you aim for three feet below the floor. My target wasn't his cheek, it was the other side of his face. When I was merely human, it was just a way to concentrate, to get the maximum punch out of your body. Now, suddenly, aiming to punch a hole through someone had a whole new meaning.
Blood spattered, and his cheek gave under my fist. I thought I heard his jaw break. The blow spun him around, and he fell onto his side, chair and all. He fell on the floor and didn't get back up.
"Jesus," one of the uniforms said, "Jesus, you broke his neck."
Had I? I stood there for a second with my right hand covered in blood, and I realized that my hand hurt. I'd cut myself on his teeth. "He's not dead," I said, and my voice was hoarse.
Everyone was staring at me, and not in a good way. More like I'd sprouted a second head, and it was a big, scary one. I looked at Malcolm. "Does this work while he's unconscious?"
Malcolm just nodded.
I knelt beside the fallen vampire. I touched his hair and tried not to look at what I'd done to his face. I hadn't literally punched a hole through him, but I'd split the skin away from his teeth, as if I'd used a dull blade. I closed my eyes, and thought, Daytime retreat, where is the daytime retreat?