Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 75

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"But I don't want to hear it out loud. I really don't want to talk calmly about someone, or something, eating parts of . . . her."

"You know the truth of hunting monsters, Bernardo. Why does saying it aloud bother you?" Olaf asked.

"Goddamn it, Otto!" He shouted that and then lowered his voice for the rest. "She was in my bed yesterday. I don't want to hear someone ripped her open and ate parts of her."

Olaf's voice was still calm, dispassionate, as he said, "You know that I don't understand why that matters to you, but if you tell me that it does, I will believe you."

"And I don't understand why it doesn't matter to you, but I know that it doesn't."

They looked at each other, both tall and handsome in their ways, though it had taken me a long time to see that Olaf was attractive. "It would have been better if I had fucked her instead of you, Bernardo. We would both have enjoyed this crime scene much more."

"Enjoyed it, no. Even if I hadn't slept with her, I wouldn't enjoy seeing someone I'd watched at the pool dead like this."

"I would have enjoyed it more."

The question in my head was so loud: Why? Why would you have enjoyed it more if you had fucked the dead girl instead of Bernardo? I wanted to ask, but I was almost certain that I would hate the answer. He and I were getting along better than we ever had. I didn't want to give him the opportunity to say something creepy and disturbing. If he said it, that was fine, that was on him, but I didn't want to chum for it.

Normally, if I didn't ask, the men we worked with wouldn't dream of asking, but Bernardo was shaken. It made him ask, because this time he wanted to know, or maybe he always wanted to know, and today he was upset enough to act on it.

"Why? Why would you have enjoyed this more if you slept with her?"

"Bernardo, don't ask him that," Edward said.

"No, Edward, Ted, I want to know. You tell me he's big and bad, and he is, but the rest is stories. He's never done any of that shit around me."

"You will not like his answers."

"Today I want answers, even if they're bad ones," Bernardo said.

Edward just nodded and made a small "go ahead" gesture at both of them. I just stood there like a witness to an accident.

Bernardo's hands were in loose fists at his sides as he turned to Olaf and repeated his question. "Why would you have enjoyed this more if you had fucked her instead of me?"

"Because then I could have been thinking about her body alive and underneath me while I looked at her dead." He said it so calmly, matter-of-factly.

"That is exactly why I had to walk away, Otto. Don't you get that? I was thinking about how it felt to put me inside her, and now all of that's gone, torn out of her by some maniac. It's a fucking nightmare."

Olaf stepped a little bit closer to the other man and studied his face; the way he was standing was not like he was getting ready to fight him, but as if he wanted to observe Bernardo. "I could have looked down at her dead body and thought about how her skin felt under my hands when she was warm. I would have remembered plunging myself between her legs, how tight it felt, how I had to force my way in, and wondered if the killer took enough of her internal meat so that if I fucked her like this would it be looser? Would it be like fucking an empty bag, or would she still be tight, tighter perhaps from the salt water? I have no interest in fucking the dead, but I would enjoy speculating, remembering her alive and screaming my name, and looking down at the empty thing she has become."

Bernardo made a sound low in his throat, body tensing. I knew he was going to take a swing at Olaf before his body moved. Edward and I both moved between them; he took Olaf and I took Bernardo, and we moved them back from each other.

Bernardo yelled at him, "You sick son of a bitch!" He tried to move forward again, and I put hands on his chest and just kept him from getting closer, not shoving him, but acting like a wall. It was just a touch to remind him not to do it.

"I told you that you wouldn't like the answer, Bernardo," Edward said. Olaf wasn't trying to close the distance; he was very still on the other side of Edward. Olaf was watching Bernardo, but not like he was afraid of a fight with him; no, he was observing him--that was the only word I had for this intense watching. I could feel the weight of it through the sunglasses.

"This must have really got your rocks off, then, seeing her like this," Bernardo said, voice breaking a little around the edges, as if he might cry. I know that if I get close to fighting someone and then I can't, sometimes it leads to tears. I'd never seen a man affected that way, but we're all human.

"I told you, if I had fucked her, then, yes, but without that memory, this body is neutral for me."

"What do you mean 'neutral'?" Bernardo asked as if he couldn't help himself, or as if he was hoping he could manipulate it into a reason to fight.

"There is almost no blood, and the killer took all the parts he tore away, so there is no . . . jigsaw puzzle of pieces for me to touch, or reconstruct in my head. This kill is too neat for my tastes."

"So if the killer had torn her apart and made more of a mess, that would have excited you?" Bernardo asked, voice low, not calm, but low. I kept my hand pressed against his chest, not pushing on him, but keeping it there so I could feel when he moved. I would have seconds to decide how I wanted to stop him from hitting Olaf, or maybe I'd just step aside. If I hadn't thought Bernardo would get hurt, stepping aside would have sounded better. Before Olaf had become a werelion, I think I'd have just let it happen. I was trying not to think about what Olaf had said in the last few minutes. I was trying very hard not to think about it, and failing.

"Yes, it would have excited me more," Olaf said slowly, deliberately.

In that moment I realized that Olaf was watching Bernardo's pain. He was drinking in the emotional trauma of it, not feeding literally on it the way I could on anger and lust, but Olaf was enjoying Bernardo's pain. Fuck that.

"We're done," I said, stepping so I could see them both better. "Bernardo, you are done asking questions that none of us want the answer to. Olaf, Otto, you're done answering."

"You do not get to dictate to me, Anita. Not even you get to do that."

"Fine, but, Bernardo, he's enjoying watching your reaction to his answers. You're feeding the monster in him by showing your pain. If you want to keep doing that, fine by me, but that's what he's doing and you're helping him."

"I just want to hit him, to hit something."

"I understand that, but Bettina is dead and Denny isn't. We need to brainstorm and figure out anything we've learned that could help find her, because I do not want to be standing over her body in a few hours, or tomorrow, or at all. So if you can't function enough to help find this killer and hunt for Denny, then say so, and we'll work around you, but I need to know if you can do this or if you're too compromised."

He took off his sunglasses and rubbed his eyes, and then looked down at me from all that handsome height. The pain in his eyes was hard to look at it, but if he could feel it, I could at least not turn away from it.

"I don't know, Anita, and that's the truth, but I'll go along. If I get in the way, hurt the investigation, then you, or Ted here, take me out of the game, but until that happens I'll do my job."

I patted him on the arm and sm

iled, because he was being honest and brave and that deserved something.

I turned to Olaf then, looking past Edward to meet his eyes. He'd taken his own sunglasses off, so I was staring into the deepest eyes, like caves carved in his face with his dark eyes sitting at the bottom of them.

"You told me earlier that you wanted to try to date me for real, like a date date."

"I remember," he said.

"Did you understand that talking to Bernardo like this in front of me makes that even less likely than it was?"

"You know what I am, Anita. You've known the truth about me from the moment we met. I do not have to play games with you or lie to you. I can be myself. It is one of the things I value about our relationship."

"We don't have a--"

Edward interrupted. "Stop it, both of you. We are done with the impromptu therapy session. We are United States Marshals and we are going to do our job. More than finding the killer, I want to find Denny alive, and I will do anything it takes to save her from ending up like Bettina Gonzales."

"I couldn't have said it better myself, Forrester," Captain Tyburn said from the sidewalk just behind us. Detective Dalton was with him. "We have a lot to tell you, but none of it will help find your friend, so what I'm asking the Four Horsemen is, what would you do to find your friend if I gave you all the resources of my department?"

I licked my lips and said, "Would you be willing to think outside the box, outside of the resources of your department?"

"To not see another body like that, hell, Blake, I'd throw the fucking box away."

I smiled. "Then I have an idea."


MY IDEA WAS to use a wereanimal as a hypersmart, human-aware search-and-rescue "dog." Tyburn asked only two questions: Had I ever done it before, and could I guarantee the public safety?

"Twice before: Both times we got our bad guy and in one case saved a hostage."

"Did you fail to save the hostage the second time?"

"No, there was no hostage to save, just a serial killer to execute, and that was the first time I used a shapeshifter to track a suspect."

"Can you guarantee that your pet shapeshifter won't attack anyone except the suspect?"

Tags: Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Horror