I nodded again, then thought to ask, "Is Rose's grave the newest one in this cemetery?"
Fox thought about it, then nodded. "Yes, why?"
I smiled at him and knew that it was a dreamy smile, as if I were listening to music he couldn't hear. "Just wanted to know what I was looking for, that's all."
"I can take you to the grave, Marshal. You don't need to look for it."
I wanted to look for it. I wanted to walk the cemetery a tombstone at a time and find it myself.
Micah answered for me. "That would be good, Fox. Lead the way."
I looked at him and fought to make it friendly. He gave me a look in return that was a warning. In the dark, with all the trees around, I doubted anyone else could have seen his expression as clearly as I did. But we both had better-than-normal night vision, though I doubted mine could compare to his kitty-cat eyes. Those eyes were bare for all to see now. Too dark for his black-lensed sunglasses, but you'd be surprised how many people wouldn't notice the strangeness of his eyes. Even in full light, a lot of people wouldn't see his eyes for what they were. People see what they want to see, unless forced to see the truth.
I looked full into his eyes and read the warning there, the worry. Was I really all right? the look asked.
The truth was yes and no. I felt great, but it was the kind of great that could go south fast and hard. One minute fine, the next moment the power could do something unfortunate.
I took a deep breath and tried to center and ground, the way I'd been taught, but that was a skill I'd learned from a psychic and witch. Her talents ran to prophecy and empathy so finely tuned it was almost telepathy. She didn't raise the dead. She didn't truly understand my talent.
Drawing myself into the center of my body was great--I felt steadier, more myself and less power-fuzzed--but the moment I tried to ground all that power into the earth, to bleed some of it off, it turned. Turned so that it didn't go deep but out and away. My power chased through the ground so that I sensed the graves, all the graves, like I was the center of a great wheel. The graves were the points along the spokes, and I knew them all. I didn't drop my shields that I hid behind to keep the dead from bothering me. The shields were just not there.
I'd known that my power was growing, but I hadn't truly understood what that might mean until right this second. I knew the dead in every grave here. I knew which still had a remnant of energy. What graves would have shivery spots if you walked over them, the last gasp of what had once been a ghost. Most of the graves were quiet, only bones and rags and dust. I'd been able to stand in a cemetery and do this for years. But what had changed was: one, I hadn't done it on purpose, and two, every grave I touched was a little more energetic for my power having breathed over it. That was new.
"Stop it, Blake." Franklin's voice was tight with anxiety.
I looked at him. "Stop what?" I asked, but my voice was lazy with power.
"Don't toy with him, Anita," Micah said.
"I'm missing something," Fox said.
I nodded. "Yeah, you are." I could have let Franklin's cat out of the bag, but I didn't. I knew what it felt like to be different and to want nothing, absolutely nothing, as much as simply to be normal. I'd given up on that a long time ago. It wasn't possible for me and never had been. Maybe it wouldn't be possible for Franklin either, but that wasn't my call. I did the only thing I could for him. I lied.
"When Franklin and I bumped into each other, he caught an edge of my power. It happens sometimes when my shields are down." That was a lie. It happened only if your abilities were similar to mine in some way, or you were so strongly psychic in some other way that you would sense any strong psychic gift used near you. Either Franklin had abilities with the dead like mediumship, being able to talk with the recently departed. Or he was powerful in some other way. Naw. If he'd been that gifted, he wouldn't have been able to hide it. I was betting that somewhere in his background was a family member who could talk to spirits. Someone he probably hated or was embarrassed about. You dislike most in others what you hate in yourself.
Fox said, "Is that right, Franklin? You bumped into the marshal."
Franklin nodded. "Yes." One word, no emotion to it, but the relief in his eyes was too raw. He turned away from Fox, from me, to hide those relieved eyes. He knew I knew, and he knew I'd lied for him. He owed me. I hoped he understood that.
Fox looked from one of us to the other, as if he suspected we were lying, or at least hiding something. He looked at Micah and got a shrug. Fox shook his head and said, "Fine." He looked at us a heartbeat longer, then shook his head, as if he'd decided to let it go. "We're going to be the last to arrive at graveside, Marshal Blake. I don't want to leave the federal judge and the lawyers waiting too long in the middle of a cemetery, so I'll lead the way. I think it will be faster that way."
I couldn't argue the faster part. "Then lead the way, Special Agent Fox."
He gave me one more hard look. It was a good look, as those kinds of looks go. But if he thought I was going to break down and fess up because of a hard look, he was wrong. I gave him a pleasant, even eager face, but nothing helpful.
He sighed and settled his shoulders, as if his shoulder holster chafed. He started off through the cemetery. Franklin fell into line behind him without a backward glance.
Micah and I followed them. Micah had us drop back enough to whisper, "You're having trouble controlling your power tonight, aren't you?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I am."
"Why?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I'm not sure."
"Then should you be raising the dead?"
"I think it will be one of the easier raisings I've ever done. There's so much power."
He grabbed my arm. "Do you even know that you're touching every tombstone as you walk by it?"
I stood there with his hand on my arm and stared at him. "I'm what?"
"You're caressing the tops of the tombstones like you'd stroke a hand through flowers in a field."
I looked at the worry in his face and knew that he wasn't lying, but... "Was I?"
"Yes," he said, and his grip on my arm was suddenly almost painful.
"You're hurting me," I said.
"Does it help?"
I frowned at him, then realized what he meant. The small pain had pushed back the power. I could think about something other than the dead. My first clear thought was fear. "I don't know what's wrong tonight. I really don't. I knew I was gaining abilities from the vampires, but I didn't think it would bleed over to the zombie stuff. I mean, that's my magic, not Jean-Claude's, not Richard's. Mine. Whatever happens metaphysically, it doesn't usually mess with my basic talent."
"Should you cancel tonight?" he asked.
I licked my lips, tasting the fresh lipstick I'd put on after we'd made love. I shook my head, moving into the circle of his arms. I hugged him. "If this is a new power level, then one night won't make a difference." I held him, breathing in the warm solidity of him.
"There's always a learning curve to new abilities, Anita," he whispered into my hair. "Even if that ability is only a stronger version of something else. Do we really want the learning curve to be on the FBI's dime?"
He had a point, a good one, but... "I'll be able to raise this zombie, Micah."
"But what else will you raise?" he asked.
I drew back enough to see his face. "How did you understand that?"
"Isn't that what you're afraid of? Not that you can't raise the dead, but that you'll raise more than you were paid for?"
I nodded. "Yeah." I shivered and drew away so I could rub my arms. "That's exactly it."
"The protective circle is usually to keep things out," he said. "Right?"
I nodded again.
"Tonight, I think maybe it will be to keep you in."
"So I don't spread over more of the graves," I said.
"Yes," he said.
"They should have chickens waiting for me to slaughter. I know Larry would have told them to bring the livestock."
Fox yelled, "Marshal, Callahan, are you coming?"
"We'll be there in a minute," Micah called. He leaned into me, hands on my arms. "Do you really think chicken blood will keep this contained?"
"Not their blood, but their lives, yes," I said.
"I'm not sure adding fresh death to your magic tonight is a good idea."