I looked back at Fox. "If you could hold the jackets for Micah?"
Fox took them from him without a word. A very cooperative man, especially for FBI. They tended to argue, or at least question more. Micah took off his own suit jacket and laid it on top of the growing pile in Fox's arms.
Micah's shirt had French cuffs, which meant he had to undo a cuff link before he could roll up his left sleeve. He put the cuff link in his pant's pocket.
"What are you doing, Marshal Blake?" the judge asked.
"I'm going to use Mr. Callahan's blood to walk the circle."
"Use his blood?" This was from Beck, the court reporter, and her voice was several octaves higher than when she'd said hello.
The judge looked at her as if she'd done something unforgivable. She apologized to him, but her fingers never stopped typing on her little machine. I think she'd actually taken down her own surprised comment.
I wondered if the dirty look from the judge got recorded, or if only out-loud sounds counted.
"My understanding is that if you were going to use the chicken, you would behead it," the judge said in his deep courtroom voice.
"I assume you aren't going to behead Mr. Callahan." He made it sort of light, almost joking, but I think that his prejudice was showing. I mean, if you'll raise the dead, what other evil are you capable of? Maybe even human sacrifice?
I didn't take it personally. He'd been polite about it; maybe I was just being overly sensitive. "I'll make a small cut on his arm, smear the blade with the blood, and walk the circle. I may have him walk beside me, so I can renew the blood from the wound as we move around the circle, but that's all."
The judge smiled. "I thought we should be clear, Marshal."
"Clear is good, your honor." I left it at that. The nights when I would have gotten insulted because people hinted that all animators did human sacrifice were past. People were afraid of what I did. It made them believe the worst. The price of doing business was that people thought you did awful, immoral things.
I'd cut other people before, used their blood to help me or combine with mine, but I'd never held their hand while I did it. I stood on Micah's left side and interlaced the fingers of our left hands together so that our palms touched. I stretched his arm out and laid the blade's edge against the smooth, untouched skin of his arm.
The underside of my left arm looked like Dr. Frankenstein had been at me. Micah's was smooth and perfect, untouched. I didn't want to change that.
"I'll heal," he said softly. "It's not silver."
He was right, but... I simply did not want to hurt him.
"Is there a problem, Marshal?" the judge asked.
"No," I said, "no problem."
"Then can we move things along? It's not getting any warmer out here."
I turned to look at him. He was huddled in his long coat. I glanced down at my own bare arms, not even a goose bump in sight. I gazed up at Micah, in his shirtsleeves. Being a shapeshifter, he wasn't really a good judge of how cold it was, or how warm. I took a moment to glance at everybody. Most of them were buttoned up, some with hands in pockets like the judge. There were only three people who had their coats open, and, even as I watched, Fox began to shrug out of his own trench coat. The other two people were Salvia and Franklin. Franklin I'd expected, but not Salvia. If he was that sensitive, it could explain his fear. Nothing like a little psychic ability to make you not want to be around a major ritual. I might raise the dead on a regular basis, but magically it's a big deal to breathe life into the dead. Even temporarily.
"Marshal Blake," the judge said, "I'll ask one more time. Is there a problem?"
I settled my gaze back on him. "You want to open a vein for me, Judge?"
He looked startled. "No, no, I do not."
"Then don't rush me when I've got someone else's arm under my blade."
Fox and Franklin both made noises. Fox seemed to be turning a laugh into a cough. Franklin was shaking his head, but not like he was unhappy with me.
The court reporter's fingers never faltered. She recorded his impatience and my angry answer. She, apparently, was going to record everything. I wondered if she'd tried to record the cough and the inarticulate noise from the agents. I should probably watch what I said, but I doubted I would. I mean, I could try, but watching what I said was usually a losing battle. Maybe I'd feel more polite after the power circle went up. Maybe.
Micah touched my face with his free hand, made me look at him. He gave me that peaceful smile. "Just do it, Anita."
I laid the blade edge against that smooth skin and whispered, "If it were done when 'tis done, 'twere well it were done quickly..."
He said, "Are you quoting Macbeth?"
"Yes." And I cut him.
The blood looked black in the moonlight. Micah was utterly silent as his blood eased from the cut, and I moved the blade so that it could catch the heavy drip of his blood. So calm. Calm about this as he was calm about nearly everything, as if nothing could move him from the the center of himself. As I learned more of what his life had been like, I knew that this still-water calm had been hard won. My calmness was the calmness of metal, but he was water. He was the still forest pool. Throw a stone in, and once the ripples fade, it's as it was. Throw a stone at metal and it leaves a dent.
There were nights when I felt like I was covered in dings and dents. Holding Micah's hand, with his blood welling onto the cool gleam of my blade, I could feel the echo of that watery calm.
The autumn night was suddenly scented with the sweet, metallic perfume of fresh blood. Once that smell had meant work: raising the dead or a crime scene. But thanks to my ties to Jean-Claude and Richard and the wereleopards, the scent of blood meant oh-so-much more.
Then I looked up from the blood and met Micah's eyes, those pale leopard eyes, and realized that I didn't need to look all the way to St. Louis for why the blood smelled good.
His pulse began to beat against my palm like a second heartbeat. That heartbeat pushed the blood out of him faster than it should have, as if my power, or our power, called it. The cut wasn't that deep, but the blood poured over our hands in a hot wash.
"Oh, my God!" The only female voice, so that was the court reporter. Men cursed, and someone else was making sounds like he might lose his dinner. If this bothered them, then they'd never make it through the zombie part.
I let go of Micah's hand, and the moment I did, the blood flow slowed. Slowed to what it should have been. Something about our combined energies had made it flow faster, hotter. He watched me back away from him with the dripping machete. I started walking the circle, dripping his blood along the way, with my gaze still tied to his. There were no dead whispering in my head now. The night was too alive for that. I walked the circle suddenly painfully aware of how much I'd been missing in that nightscape. I could feel the wind against my skin in a way that I hadn't a second ago. There were so many scents, it was like being blind, and suddenly being given sight. Smell was something we humans didn't really use at all, not like this.
I knew there was something small and furry in the tree over the grave. Before I'd smelled only that dry autumnal scent of leaves. Now I could smell different leaves, different scents of the individual trees. I didn't know what each scent was, but I could suddenly pick out dozens of different trees, bushes. Even the ground underfoot was a wealth of scent. This wasn't even a good night for scent, too cool, but we could hunt. We could--
"Anita," Micah said, his voice abrupt and startling.
It made me stumble and brought me back to myself. It was almost like waking from a dream. It had only been recently that everyone realized that some of my new abilities, though they came through vampire marks, made me more like a lycanthrope than a vamp. A new lycanthrope that didn't always have the control you might want in public.
I was almost back to Micah. I'd nearly walked the complete circle, as if my body had gone on without me while my mind tried to cope with a thousand different kinds of sensory input. Moments like this gave me an entirely new sympathy with dogs that were nose-deaf. It wasn't that the ears didn't work but that the nose was working so much more that nothing mattered but the scent. The scent you were tracking.
What was it, where was it, could we catch it, could we eat it?
"Anita?" Micah made it a question, as if he knew what I'd been sensing. Of course, it was his sense of smell I'd been borrowing. He did know.