The last gun shot echoed into the night. My ears were full of that ringing silence that happens when you've fired that many shots from that close a range without ear protection. I was standing over the body, one foot on its shoulder, pinning it to the ground. I must have kicked him over onto his back sometime during the chest shots. I didn't remember doing it, but shooting into the ground was a hell of a lot safer than shooting out into the night. Not all the bullets would stop in his body, not when you were trying to punch a hole through the person.
The first sound that came back was the sound of my blood in my ears, the pulse of my own body. Then some sound made me turn. Malcolm had brought his flock to watch, or maybe they had come on their own, and he couldn't stop them, so he'd come with them. Whatever, they were there held back by the uniforms. The vampires and the few humans among them stood staring at me. There was a little girl in front, and for a second I thought, what the f**k are her parents thinking, then I realized she was a vamp. I had trouble concentrating, but she was old. Older than the woman holding her hand and pretending to be her mommy.
I popped the clip in my gun and checked how much ammo I had left. I couldn't remember how many shots I'd fired. I'd only brought two clips with me. Silly me. I needed to load up. I needed my Jeep, or home. I put the clip back in and slammed it home with my hand. Some of the vamps jumped at the small sound it made. Somehow with all of them standing there staring at me, I didn't want to put the gun up. I didn't think they'd really rush us, but it was definitely not a friendly crowd.
Zerbrowski came up to me. "Let's get you out of here," he said, and either he whispered, or my hearing wasn't all the way back. But I didn't argue. I let him take me to his car, and I let Smith and Marconi watch our backs.
I saw Avery in the crowd as we moved. He didn't look happy to see me anymore. Guess the honeymoon was over. Zerbrowski got me into the passenger seat. Movement caught my eye. It was Wicked and Truth. They were by the entrance to the church. They didn't look upset. Truth gave me a nod, and Wicked kissed the tip of one finger in my direction.
I buckled my seat belt, raised a hand in their direction.
"You made some new friends tonight," Zerbrowski said, as he put the car in gear and drove us slowly forward. We had to ease close to the waiting group of vampires. They watched us with blank, empty faces.
"Yeah, I make friends wherever I go."
He gave a small, dry laugh. "Jesus, Anita, did you have to blow a hole clean through his chest?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I did." My voice wasn't the least bit friendly.
"I'd stay away from the church for awhile, if I were you. They're going to remember what you did tonight."
I put my head back against the seat and closed my eyes. "Yeah, me, too."
"You alright with this?"
"No. Did Parker call back yet?"
"Yeah. I told him you were blowing a hole through a vampire's chest. He said you could call him back."
I opened my eyes and looked at him. "Is that really what you told him?"
He grinned at me. "Yeah."
I shook my head. "Give me your damn phone."
He handed it to me. "Just hit this button, it'll ring him back."
I hit the button, and the phone started to ring. I was numb. I felt nothing but a vague shockiness. Parker answered on the second ring, and I started to talk about business. About solving murders, and saving lives. I concentrated on the fact that we were trying to save lives, but my mind kept jumping around. It kept jumping over a vision of Jonah Cooper's eyes, and his question, how do you stay sane? The answer, the real answer, was, you don't.
An hour later, I was home. I had a date with Mobile Reserve for just after dawn. Captain Parker had told me to get some sleep, as if I sounded like I needed it. He'd even agreed to letting me go in with them. I was to their vampire raids what Haz-Mat was to their meth lab raids. An expert who could help them stay alive and not accidentally blow themselves to hell. Vampires wouldn't blow up like some of the chemicals used in methamphetamine labs, but lack of knowledge could make you just as dead. I would be their Johnny-on-the-spot expert, and no you don't want to know how much arguing I had to do to get both the invitation to go in with them and to keep the address until I met them at dawn.
I sat at my kitchen table sipping coffee and staring off into space. The coffee was sloshing against the sides of my cup, like it was trying to escape. That shouldn't be happening.
Micah was suddenly at my side. He put his hand on my coffee mug. "You're going to drop it."
I stared up at him and didn't know what he meant. It must have shown on my face, because he explained, "Your hands are shaking. I'm afraid you're going to drop the cup." He eased it out of my hands and set it on the table.
I stared at my hands, and he was right. They were shaking. Not a fine tremble, but a full-blown quaking, as if from the wrist down I was having a fit. I stared at my hands like they belonged to someone else.
Micah knelt in front of me, he put his hands on mine, held them tight between his. "Anita, what happened?"
It felt good for him to hold my hands. It helped the shaking to slow, but it didn't go away. What happened? What had happened? What made this one different? Everything, nothing. It took me two tries to talk. "I had to talk to him."
"The vampire I killed tonight." The trembling was quieting under the press of his hands. My voice didn't show the trembling at all, it was empty.
"Why did you have to talk to him?"
"Interrogation, had to interrogate him."
Micah touched my face, and it startled me, but it made me look at him. His eyes were very green in the dimness of the kitchen, with that yellow around his pupils more like light gathering around a single point. "Did you learn what you needed to know?"
I nodded, still staring at his eyes.
"And why couldn't you wait until dawn to kill him?"
I shook my head. "He was one of our serial killers. Couldn't risk him getting away and warning them."
"Then you had to kill him." He put his hand on the side of my face, and that made me look at him more, not just fascinate on his eyes. I saw him now, all of him, saw Micah. I'd known he was there, but it was as if I was only getting pieces of things. I looked at that face that was at once so familiar to me that I knew every curve and line, and yet, I was still surprised sometimes to look at him and realize that he was mine. That this was my sweetie. It still caught me off-guard sometimes, like a really good surprise. As if he was too good to be real, and I kept expecting him not to be there. Why should he be different?
He reached up to me, and I slid off the chair and into his arms. I wrapped myself around his waist, his chest, his shoulders. I hugged him as tight and close as I could with legs and arms, and he got to his feet with me still wrapped around him. We were the same height and weighed within fourteen pounds of each other. If he'd been human, he might not have been able to do it, but he wasn't human, and he stood up and began to walk through the darkened house. I knew where we were going, and I couldn't think of anything better than crawling under the covers and letting him hold me.
The phone rang. Micah kept walking. The machine caught it, and Ronnie's voice came on. "'Nita this is Ronnie. I need help." Micah froze, because it didn't sound like Ronnie.
I hopped down to the floor and was running for the phone while she was still slurring her words. "Ronnie, Ronnie, it's me. What's happened?"
"Anita, it's you."
"Ronnie, what's happened?" My pulse was thudding in my throat again. Adrenaline had chased the shock and the numbness away.
"I'm drunk," she said happily.
"I'm at a club across the river. I am watching men take their clothes off."
"Incubus Dreams," I said.
"That's it," and she slurred her S.
"Why are you at a strip club getting drunk?" I asked. The adrenaline was easing away.
"Louie won't live with me. He says marriage or nothin', and I said nuthin'."
"I am drunk, and the bartender says I need a ride. Can I have a ride?"
Micah was standing close enough that he'd caught some of it. "I'll go get her."
"Anita, why are men such bastards?"