"Do you know what they're saying you did to get this information, Marshal?"
Just the way he said it, I knew I didn't want to know, but I said, "No, what?"
"That you f**ked the suspect. Fucked him in front of other officers, and he told you everything, then you blew his brains out with a gun. De-fucking-capitated him, you shot him so many times."
I laughed again. "Jesus, I'd love to know who made that one up."
"You're saying it's a lie?"
"That I f**ked him, yeah, wishful thinking on someone's part, but I did vamp it out of him, as in vampire, not whore. And yeah, I did shoot him until his head wasn't there anymore, because I didn't have my vampire hunting kit with me. The handgun was all I had, so it's what I used."
I shook my head and felt that faint anger fade away. "This warrant is my damn party, Sergeant Hudson. I invited you to the dance, not the other way around. I would like you to try and remember that, when we're dealing with each other."
He looked at me, really looked at me. I don't think he'd seen me until that moment. I'd been some woman, some zombie queen slut, forced on him by the upper brass. I'd been a civilian with a badge, but I hadn't been real to him, not a person. Now he looked at me, and he saw me, and I watched that unreasoning anger fade.
"You really would go in there alone, wouldn't you?"
I sighed and shook my head. "I'm a vampire executioner, Sergeant, I'm usually alone, just me and the bad guys."
He gave a small smile, barely more than a flex of his mustache. "Not tonight, Marshal, tonight, you go in with us."
I smiled at him, it was a good smile, not flirting, though some men take it that way, just a good, open, honest, happy to have you smile. He smiled back, he couldn't seem to help it. "Good, great," I said, "but can we move it along? We're burning moonlight."
He gave me a look like he wasn't sure how to take me, then he laughed. The moment he laughed, all the other men relaxed, I could feel it, like a sort of psychic sigh of relief. "You are a pushy damn woman."
"Yes," I said, "yes, I am."
He gave a smaller laugh. "You'll follow orders once we're inside, yes?"
I sighed. "I'll try."
He shook his head.
"If I just say yes, it'll be a lie, but I will do my utmost to do what I'm told. I promise."
"That's the best I'm going to get, isn't it?"
I nodded. "Yep, unless you want me to lie to you."
"No, truth from a federal agent is downright refreshing."
"Well, then I am just going to be a breath of fresh air."
He looked at me, shook his head, and started back toward the dry erase board. "Now that I do believe Marshal, that I do believe." They went back to their briefing, and I went back to counting the minutes and wondering if there was going to be anything alive in the condo by the time we hit the door.
At my suggestion they put the sniper where he could see the windows, not at the front door. One, we didn't know what they looked like, so the sniper couldn't just drop the people coming out the front. There might be law-abiding vampire citizens in the building, so the sniper couldn't even just shoot vampires. If he could tell for dead certain they were vamps. Even I wouldn't want to say yes or no on the vamp question through a scope. I mean, what if you're wrong? High silver content, there would be no apology. But anyone that flew out of the windows of our condo, they would be bad guys, and the sniper could drop them with impunity. Green-light city.
The rest of us were huddled around the van. In the movies the van is sleek and roomy. In real life, it's narrow, cluttered, and looks like a cross between a plumber's van and the Good Humor truck, if it sold guns instead of ice cream. There wasn't room for us and the guns. Hell, as empty as it got, most of us wouldn't have fit. It was an equipment van, not a transport vehicle. I was still in the vest, even though I'd pointed out that nothing we were about to go up against would be shooting at us, and vests were useless for stabbing or tearing. I'd run into this before with both military and law enforcement. They just couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that the body armor, their best defense, didn't help against someone that could crush steel. It was like going up against Superman, and thinking Kevlar would keep you safe. Finally, Sergeant Melbourne said what few special tactical units will ever admit out loud, "We're using bullets. Bullets can ricochet, and we'd just feel better if we knew you were safe from friendly fire." The microphone was integral to the vest and attached to a little earpiece, like the Secret Service wear. They showed me the button for the mike in the center of the vest, near your gun when you were holding it. They made sure the mike worked, someone patted me on top of my helmet, and I was good to go. Or as good as it was going to get. Not going in would have been the good thing, but the vamps had kidnapped that option away from us.
The woman they'd taken was Dawn Morgan, twenty-two, and had only worked at the club about three weeks. They had a picture of her up on their Web site and we'd all seen it. It was a publicity shot for a stripper bar, so we tried to look at her face. Brown hair, about shoulder length, and enough makeup that it was hard to really see her face. She was all blue eyes and red pouting lips. I didn't ask if the men had a harder time looking at her face than I did. She was covered by hands and a few well-placed pieces of cloth, but the illusion was that more skin was showing than really was. Distracting, and meant to be. I'm sure if Ms. Morgan had been told she'd be kidnapped by murderous vampires, she'd have left us a nice, less glamorous face shot. But you just don't plan for these kinds of things. We memorized the face of the hostage so we wouldn't accidentally shoot her during the action. Yeah, that would be bad.
I think that if I hadn't had my own dangerous toys to play with they would have taken me in unarmed. Most of the tactical team seemed to think I was a civilian and treated me that way. They weren't rude, just didn't like the idea of me having a loaded gun at their backs. I guess I couldn't blame them. I hadn't had their training. They'd never seen me use a gun. They'd never seen me do this kind of work. They seemed to consider me almost more dangerous than the vampires.
My biggest problem with the vest was that it made it impossible for me to carry the Browning and the Firestar in their current holsters and have any hope of drawing them. Officer Derry had thrown me a thigh holster with velcro straps. "It'll hold the Browning and an extra clip." Derry looked as Irish as his name, except for his coloring, which was dark.
I had to take the vest off to thread the upper part of the thigh holster through my belt, then the other straps went around my leg. The thigh holster wasn't bad actually, though I wouldn't have wanted to try it unless I had pants on to protect my thighs. My thighs rub together when I walk, thank you very much. But with jeans it wasn't bad. It was a different draw though, not just the angle, or where the gun was, but the actual hand movement was different. I wouldn't be as quick, because I'd have to think about it. Of course, for tonight's work, the handguns were secondary.
I had a new Mossberg 590A1 Bantam. Thirteen-inch length-of-pull, lighter weight overall. It meant more recoil, but, once you adjusted for it, it was the shotgun of my dreams. No more heavy barrel out there hanging while you tried to aim, leaving me feeling top heavy. I had a sawed-off that had started life as an Ithica 37, but now was just used for in-close vampire blasting. The Ithica had a strap fitted for it, so that it fitted across my body sort of like an awkward purse. To keep it from moving around until I wanted it for in-fighting, Edward, my friend and the only person I'd ever seen use a flamethrower, had helped me rig velcro to the thigh holster on my left thigh. That thigh holster was mine, but it was for extra ammo, not for holding guns. The velcro strap fit over the Ithica's shortened barrel, so that it was held tight against my leg, but not at an angle where if something went terribly wrong I'd shoot my kneecap off. One quick, hard pull, and the sawed-off would be in my hands, and it would be time to be very, very close with the vamps. The Mossberg had an Urban Ops sling from U.S. Tactical Supply. It had become my preferred sling for the bigger guns. Unfortunately, you couldn't carry two guns on two different Urban slings, because the sling was designed for switching hands, ease of movement. Which meant the gun would move around more. Edward, who was truly the assassin Hudson had accused me of being, wasn't as fond of the Urban sling as I was, but then he didn't do as much close in undercover work with the monsters. Most of the time he went in like a one-man demolition team. The sling also worked better if you had a heavier jacket over the sling to keep it from sliding off your shoulder. If I'd had broader shoulders, it would have stayed put better, and since most of the people who test this stuff are male, and thus have broader shoulders, I couldn't really complain much. It was still a sweet piece of equipment.