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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:04

MICAH AND I stayed with Rafael long enough to see him safely with the doctor in the medical area we'd put in under the Circus. We had too many injuries that we didn't want to explain to a normal hospital, like Rafael's stab wound. Dr. Lillian had even found a painkiller that would work, briefly, on shapeshifters so he didn't have to feel every cut as she sliced away the damaged tissue and let the blood flow. Once it was just fresh wounds he'd be able to heal himself, maybe slower than normal because of what caused the damage, but he'd heal.

But before he let Doc Lillian give him the painkiller, he talked to Micah, Benito, and me. He set in motion that the healer who had done this would be taken, questioned, and eventually killed. That last part wasn't stated, but it was a given. You try to assassinate the king, you die; period. Regicide is just one of those crimes that has to carry maximum punishment to discourage anyone else.

Micah went back to see if there was still food for dinner. I went to get clothes, because even though most of the lycanthropes would have walked around nude if we'd let them, I just felt better with clothes on if it was normal, everyday stuff. Naked was for sleeping and sex. Nathaniel texted me that he'd saved me food. I'd stopped off at the locker room to free my guns, because now that I had belt loops and pants I could load up again. My good gun belt was tacky with the clear stuff that I'd washed off myself. I'd planned on cleaning the leather after my shower, but the next emergency had distracted me. I was debating on cleaning it before I went to dinner, which would mean I was unarmed but would give the leather time to dry out, when my phone rang.

I might have ignored it, but the ring tone was work, as in raising the dead, not catching bad guys. "I'm not working tonight, what's up?"

That made me pay more attention. He wouldn't have called without a good reason. "What's wrong?"

"I'm on duty tonight, so I'm watching the GPS on the zombies we have out."

"Zombie babysitting, better you than me."

"The zombie you raised tonight isn't at any of the addresses on the list of clients."

"The restaurant," he said.

"You mean the zombie is at Denny's restaurant?"

"That's where the ankle GPS says it is."

"Shit, they can't take him to a restaurant. It's illegal to have a zombie inside a place that does food service. Health services will close them down for an investigation if they find out."

"Of course you know. I'll call the client. Maybe they got the munchies and the zombie is sitting in the parking lot."

"Didn't they request hours to question this zombie for historical battles, or something?"

"Most of the ones that ask for that don't go out for munchies," he said.

"You're right. I'll call them, let you know what they say."

"Can't wait to hear this one," Manny said.

"Clients are weird," I said.

"Thanks, Manny, I'll call you back." I hung up and called Mr. MacDougal. What the hell were they doing at Denny's with my zombie?

MacDougal answered on the third ring. "Ms. Blake, what can we do for you?"

"The GPS on the zombie says you're not at any of your home addresses."

"No, we went out for food."

"And took the zombie with you; is it sitting in the car?"

"No, he's right here."

"Inside the restaurant."

"You're not allowed to bring zombies inside restaurants, Mr. MacDougal."

"It's a health ordinance, something about rotting corpses near food."

"But Thomas isn't like that."

"Yeah, I do good work. Why did you take him to a restaurant? If you're done questioning him, then I can put him back in his grave tonight."

"What? Who was hungry?"

"Thomas is a zombie, they don't get hungry."

"Well, he's done a very good imitation of it."

"He's enjoying his meal, quite a lot."

"Zombies don't eat," I said.

"Would you just like to speak to him directly?"

"Thomas, it's Ms. Blake calling to check up on us."

A man's voice, cultured, with a slight southern echo in it, said, "Miss Blake, I am told that I owe my adventure on this side of the veil to you."

My mouth was suddenly dry. I had to swallow before I could say, "Mr. Warrington, I hear you're enjoying your meal. What did you order?"

"A breakfast skillet, they call it."

"Yeah, they can be tasty." My voice sounded normal, but my pulse was fighting to speed up.

"I like this Coca-Cola very much."

"Me, too," I said. "Can you put Mr. MacDougal back on the phone, please?"

"And the phones, they are amazing. Whoever thought that I could be talking into this little box and you hear me miles away. It is a marvel."

"Yes, it is, just need to speak with Mr. MacDougal for a minute."

MacDougal came back on the line. "Isn't he wonderful?"

"Yeah, he is. Finish your meal, have coffee, dessert, let him get the full ride."

"Great, maybe you can take him to someplace a little higher end tomorrow."

"Denny's was all that was open this time of night, near my house."

"Totally understand. I'll see you soon."

"Good night, Ms. Blake. This experience has surpassed our wildest expectations."

"Customer satisfaction is always a priority," I said, and hung up. I called Manny back.

"What did the client say?"

"Anita, zombies don't get hungry, and they are incapable of eating. They don't have a working digestive system."

"It's one of the clients having you on, Anita. You couldn't have talked to the zombie. They answer questions, but not like that."

"I've had a few that could," I said.

"You didn't tell me that."

"We haven't been working together much the last few years," I said.

"Have you ever had a zombie that did this?"

"If you mean eat a real meal like a live human being, never, but I've seen zombies that got hungry."

"You never told me that either."

"I don't mean go-to-Denny's hungry, Manny, I mean flesh-eating zombies. You know some of the cases I've had. I didn't raise them, but I got to clean up the mess afterward."

"Do you think he's a flesh eater?"

"I think he's eating a skillet breakfast at Denny's and enjoying his adventure this side of the veil; his words, not mine."

"Hell, Anita, that's wrong, that's so wrong. He should not be that aware."

"I know that, I so know that, Manny."

"Pick me up on the way. I gotta see this zombie for myself."

"The office is on the way, see you in about twenty minutes. Maybe sooner if I hit the lights and sirens."

"This isn't police business, Anita; isn't that against the rules?"

"No one knows how a flesh-eating zombie starts out, Manny. Just in case it starts with wanting a nice meal at a sit-down restaurant, let's get there sooner rather than later."

"You really afraid the zombie will start rampaging through Denny's?"

"Yeah, I am," he said.

"See you in twenty, or sooner."

"Make it sooner," he said.

"Lights and sirens it is." I took the time to put all my weapons on and grab my vampire-hunting kit, because it had the really big guns and scary shit in it. I'd fought flesh-eating zombies before; they were as strong as a vampire but didn't feel pain, which made them a whole lot harder to stop. I prayed as I ran for the stairs, Please God, don't let him turn on them. Please, don't let him hurt anyone.