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Micah (Vampire Hunter 13) - Page 18


They'd use it for walking-around clothes until someone made them leave it, or until they'd so damaged it that the body no longer functioned well enough to be useful. I did not say this out loud. To my knowledge, no animator had volunteered this part of the reason for the protective circle. It would open too many legal problems when we were still striving to have animation be accepted as standard practice for court cases. The circle also helped raise power, and that was the main reason for it. The whole corpse-being-highjacked thing was so rare that I actually didn't know anyone who had ever had it happen to one of their zombies. It was one of those stories that always seems to happen to the friend of your uncle's cousin, who no one actually ever met. I wasn't going to help Salvia keep us here all night.

"Mr. Laban is right," the judge said. "There is nothing in the literature about zombies being taken over by alien energy." His voice held distaste, as if Salvia had actually proposed some sort of alien possession theory.

For all I knew, he had. I guess if the prosecution's star witness can be raised from the dead to testify, then the defense is allowed to look for unusual help, too. Aliens seemed a little far-fetched, but hey, I raise the dead for a living and slay vampires. I really couldn't throw stones.

"Marshal Blake, once you have your protective circle, how much more ritual will you need?" I think the judge was tired of the delays, too. Good--me getting impatient didn't help much. But the judge getting impatient--that could be very helpful.

I thought about it and was glad he'd phrased the question the way he had. How much ritual would I need? A very different question from, What comes next in animating the dead? Once the circle was up, I deviated so far from normal animating ritual that it was like comparing apples to watermelons.

"Not much more, your honor."

"Can you be more exact?" he asked.

"I'll call Emmett Rose from the grave. Once he's above ground, then I'll put blood on or in his mouth, and he'll be able to answer questions very soon after that."

"Did you say you put blood on the zombie's mouth?" Salvia again.

"Yes."

"You're going to have the zombie suck on the chicken?" This from one of the agents who had been waiting with the judge.

We all looked at him, and he had the grace to look embarrassed. "Sorry."

"Not suck on the chicken, no. But I'll spread the blood across the mouth."

"Mr. Rose was a good Christian. Isn't painting him up with chicken blood a violation of his religious freedom?" Salvia said.

The judge said, "As much as I appreciate your concern over Mr. Rose's religious freedom, Mr. Salvia, I have to point out that he isn't your client, and that the dead have no rights to violate."

Of course, I had to add my two cents' worth. I just couldn't help myself. "Besides, Mr. Salvia, are you implying that you can't be a good Christian if you sacrifice a few chickens and raise a few zombies?" The anger was creeping from my shoulders and into my voice. Micah started rubbing his hand up and down my arm, as if to remind me that he was there, and my temper was, too. But his touch did help make me think. I guess sometimes I needed an "assistant" for more than sex and blood. Sometimes I just needed a keeper.

I got a few startled looks. Salvia wasn't the only one who'd assumed I wasn't Christian. I don't know why it still hurts my feelings, but it does. The judge said, "You may answer Marshal Blake's question." I was definitely not the only one sick of Salvia's bitching.

"I didn't mean to imply anything about your own religious beliefs, Marshal Blake. I apologize for assuming that you weren't Christian."

"Don't worry about it, Salvia. Lots of people assume all sorts of shit about me."

Micah whispered, "Anita." One word, but enough.

I could have used the dead as an excuse, and it might even have been true, but the real reason was I've never held my temper well. I'm better sometimes, worse others, but it never takes long for me to get tired of ass**les.

Salvia was pissing me off, and the judge with his Please explain the unexplainable, Marshal Blake wasn't far behind in the pissing-me-off department.

"Sorry about that, your honor, but can we cut to the chase here?"

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"I'm not sure what you mean by cutting to the chase, Marshal Blake."

"Emmett Rose is the recently dead. I mean he hasn't hit one year dead. It's an easy job, your honor. A little blood, a little power, and voila, a zombie. He'll be able to answer questions. He'll be able to be cross-examined. He'll do everything you want him to be able to do. Having experienced Mr. Salvia's questioning technique, I think the cross-examination may last a long damned time. So in the interest of all of us not spending the entire bloody night in the cemetery, can I please get on with it?"

Franklin made a noise low in his throat. Fox was shaking his head. I knew I was f**king it up but I couldn't seem to stop. I wanted out of this cemetery.

I wanted away from the graves and their promise of power. I needed my circle of protection up now, not an hour from now. My head would stop echoing with half-heard whispers like words from a distant room. Or a radio station turned down low. I could almost hear the voices, almost hear the dead. I shouldn't have been able to do that. They weren't ghosts. The quiet dead are just that, quiet.

"I will remind you, Marshal, that this is still a court of law. I can hold you in contempt."

Micah turned me to him and drew me into a hug. His breath was warm against my face. "Anita, what's wrong?"

I felt movement at my back a moment before Fox asked quietly, "Are you all right, Blake?"

I leaned into Micah. His arms held me, tight and almost fierce, as if he would press me out the other side of his body. He whispered against my face, "What is wrong, Anita? What is it?"

I grabbed on to him and pressed as much of him against me as I could, so that we were plastered against each other, as close as we could get with clothes on. I buried my face against the side of his neck, drawing in the warm, sweet scent of his skin. Soap, the slight sweetness of his cologne, and underneath that the scent of his skin. The scent of Micah. And underneath that, that faint, neck-ruffling scent of leopard. The moment I smelled it, I felt better. That musky, almost-sharp scent of leopard helped chase back the almost-voices of the dead.

"Do you want me to hold you in contempt, Marshal Blake?" The judge's voice dragged me back from Micah's skin, pulled me away from falling into the warmth and life of him.

I barely turned my head to look at the judge, but it felt like some huge physical wrenching. The moment I couldn't bury my face in Micah's skin, the voices were back. The dead were trying to talk to me. They shouldn't have been doing that. Ghosts would sometimes do that if they couldn't find a medium to speak with, but once you were in a grave, you weren't supposed to be this lively.

I looked at the judge and tried to explain what was happening without giving Salvia more ammunition to delay things. "Your honor--" And I had to clear my throat to make my voice reach him only a few yards away. I tried again, pressing Micah's body against mine. Even with everything that was going wrong, I could feel his body beginning to respond to my nearness. We had that effect on each other. It didn't bring on the ardeur or distract me. Feeling his body respond helped me think, helped me feel alive.

"Your honor, I need my protective circle up sooner rather than later."

"Why?"

"This is another tactic to rush these proceedings," Salvia said.

"As you're trying to delay them?" Laban said. Never good when the lawyers start sniping at each other.

"Enough," the judge said, and then he looked at me. "Marshal Blake, why is it so important that you get your protective circle up?"

"The dead feel my power, your honor. They are, even now, trying to..." I sought a word that wouldn't be too much. If I said, talk, they might ask what the dead were saying, and it wasn't like that.

Micah answered for me. "The circle isn't to protect the zombie, your honor. In this case it's to protect Anita, Marshal Blake. She let her psychic shields down when we entered the cemetery, and she's being overwhelmed by the dead."

Fox said, "Shit," as if he understood more about that whole shielding thing than most people did.

"Was that wise, Marshal Blake, to let down your protection so early?"

I answered, "This is a very old cemetery, your honor. Since I replaced Marshal Kirkland at the last minute, I didn't realize how old. There is a remote chance in a place this old that there might be problems that would affect the raising. It's standard practice to drop shields and let my power search the cemetery when I'm this unfamiliar with the area." What I was saying was half-true. I was not going to admit that my shields had been ripped away by my own growing abilities.

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