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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:20

"Yeah, Zerbrowski is a hoot, but his kids had a dance recital tonight. He's damn near a psychic null, so no reason for him to watch me use my mumbo-jumbo on the videos when he won't be able to sense anything."

"I've got a little girl, too," Brent said. "I like the idea of Zerbrowski with two of them."

"He's got a boy and a girl; both of them are in dance," I said.

Manning said, "I'm surprised you called your psychic gift mumbo-jumbo; most practitioners take offense at the term."

"I've been in the business working with police longer than most of the practitioners. I've had my abilities called a hell of a lot worse than mumbo-jumbo."

"It's true that Captain Storr was one of the first to see a use for psychics with nonstandard abilities."

"Yeah, we were sort of a pilot program."

"The great experiment, that's what one of the instructors at Quantico called Storr's use of you in investigations," Brent said.

I frowned at him. "Hmm, okay, yeah, I guess so. Who are we waiting on again?"

"Why, do you have to meet Jean-Claude later?"

"Not exactly, more an ongoing attempt to have a life and a career."

She gave me a tired smile. "I understand that. When my kids were teenagers I'd be away so long that they looked like strangers to me. When did you get to be four inches taller, that kind of thing."

"I can't imagine trying to do this with kids," I said.

"I was lucky, my husband worked from home part time and was Mr. Mom full time."

"My wife and I are still at that fighting-about-whose-career-comes-first point." Brent frowned. "I'm sorry, that was oversharing."

"Did you sleep at all last night?" Manning asked him.

"I don't . . . maybe two hours."

Manning turned to me. "He was working long distance with our tech crew trying to trace the origin of the videos. Some of the items in the room make them believe it's still being filmed here in the United States, if we could just figure out where."

"I think it's here, too, and I don't have anything but a gut feeling to go on," I said.

"Or maybe we all hope it's here, because that makes them easier to find," Manning said.

She smiled, but she looked tired, too.

"Why didn't you sleep?" I asked.

"Going over all the files we have on this, so I'd be fresh to look at the films with you today."

"I was out doing zombie stuff all night. I managed to grab a few hours this afternoon, but I guess we're all behind the sleep curve," I said.

There was a brief knock at the door. Manning said, "Come in."

A woman came through the door, smiling. She looked so young she could have been one of Cynric's classmates, except for the FBI suit skirt that no self-respecting teenager would have worn unless forced. She was wearing a round Peter Pan collar and a little chain with a heart on it; I hadn't seen either since college, and the blouse had been on a student teacher. Straight brown hair was fastened back behind her ears with a barrette. She wore no makeup except for light pink lip gloss and was still delicately pretty with a dusting of freckles across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Her eyes were big and pale brown like Bambi's. Maybe it was the eyes that made her look so young?

"This is Agent Teresa Gillingham, Marshal Blake," Manning said.

I got to my feet and held out a hand to Agent Gillingham's offered one. The moment we shook hands I knew she was another practitioner, which was politically-correct-speak for psychic. I didn't know what flavor she was, but whatever she was it tingled all the way up my arm.

She withdrew her hand with a little laugh. "Wow, they told me you were psychically hot, but that was something."

"Agent Gillingham," Manning said with reproach plain in her voice.

"I know we were supposed to hide what I was, so Marshal Blake would be more likely to use her gifts without hiding from the FBI psychic, but she knew I was another psychic the moment we shook hands, didn't you, Marshal?"

"Yeah, your energy's pretty obvious, too."

"What kind am I?" she asked.

"You're not even going to try to guess?"

She looked at me a little like Manning had; maybe it was FBI training? "You're no fun, not to even try."

"You're not the first agent to tell me that."

"About guessing their psychic ability?" she asked, frowning slightly.

"No, about not being any fun."

"Oh, I bet you're lots of fun away from work," she said, smiling and raising an eyebrow at me.

I was suddenly wondering if she was flirting with me. I wasn't very good at subtle, and maybe she was just being friendly.

"We're all more fun away from work," Brent said, and he definitely didn't mean anything by it, so I let it go. Maybe I was starting to look for people flirting with me, or expecting it; weird. There was a time in my life when I was pretty oblivious to all of it.

Agent Gillingham said, "Special Agent Kirkland is right behind me; he had to take a phone call."

I didn't even try to hide my unhappy about that bit of news. "That makes you unhappy; why?" Gillingham said.

"You don't have to be psychic to know that," I said.

"It was in my report," Manning said.

"I meant I wasn't trying to hide my feelings," I said.

"There's not hiding your feelings and then there's being obvious about it," Gillingham said. She looked hard at me and I felt a brush of something. She was probing me.

"Keep your powers to yourself, Agent."

She actually blushed a little.

"What do you mean, Blake?" Manning asked.

"Did Gillingham just try to peek?" Brent asked.

"Yeah, she tried to peek," I said.

"I didn't feel anything," Manning said.

"Me, either, which meant it was really subtle," Brent said, smiling and friendly, but there was something in his eyes that was thinking too hard. I realized that he was a little bit psychically gifted, at least enough to usually pick up active psychic probing, but he hadn't sensed what the other agent had done.

"It was," I said. I looked at Gillingham.

"I'm sorry, Marshal."

"Sorry for trying to sneak a peek inside when you know full well that's considered rude among practitioners, or just sorry you got caught?"

"Both," she said, and her lips smiled when she said it, but her eyes stayed serious and thoughtful.

"If instructors told you I was hot psychically, then you should know I'd sense it."

"They said you were powerful, but like a bull in a china shop."

"I smash things, is that it?"

"Sometimes, but it's more you are so powerful psychically that you just bull your way through everything, so subtle energies are lost to you because you give off so much of your own energy it makes you blind to other practitioners."

"Once, maybe, but not much gets by me anymore."

"You're even more powerful than I was told. Being around you is like standing next to power lines just humming through the air."

"Most psychics don't describe me that way."

"How do they describe you?" she asked.

She laughed, and I wasn't sure if it was humor or nerves. I might even have asked, but the door opened behind her, and it was my fellow marshal and unhappy coworker.

"Anita," he said. He closed the door behind him. He didn't shake hands with Gillingham, just nodded at her.

"I see you've met Agent Gillingham before," I said.

"Did she try to probe your thoughts yet?"

He looked at Gillingham. "I told you not to do it, didn't I?"

She looked embarrassed again. "I was very low-key about it. I thought her own power would hide it."

"You thought your little knock-knock would be lost in the loudness of her own energy, is that it?"