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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:25

I'd ask Manny when I got back home. He'd know. I couldn't use anything he gave me in court, but the information might help me figure out if having the verve downstairs so close to the same arrangement as Dominga's was part of how this awful spell was done. Did that mean they had to kill the girls in that room and capture their souls right there? If it did, then the guys in custody were lying, because you'd notice if living girls went downstairs, but zombies came back up. Or was everything below so he could make the bottles that captured the soul? If that was true, then the other men and one woman we had in custody might honestly not have realized they were part of a murder conspiracy. I just didn't know enough, and the FBI expert wasn't sure enough to testify in court, so unless we could prove they knew, they actually hadn't broken any laws. We might have to let them go. I didn't want to do that. Hell, he wasn't even sure you had to capture the soul at the instant of death. But did we really believe that they'd just waited for the right type of natural death to occur so they'd get a nice-looking corpse? No, but we couldn't prove they hadn't done just that. Damn it!

"Why don't any of the files on Dominga Salvador show the verve like we have here?" Gillingham asked.

"I told you, she had to literally whitewash everything and destroy her creations when she realized she was going to be raided by the cops."

"So we only have your word for it looking identical to this."

"Yeah, as your boss keeps pointing out."

"I'm sorry for that. Jarvis is usually really excited about meeting new psychic talents."

"I think he likes meeting new bright and shiny straight-out-of-the-academy talent, because you're still willing to drink the FBI-flavored Kool-Aid. I'm a little past waving the company flag and saying, go, team."

"I think I've been insulted," she said, but smiled to take the sting out of it.

"It's not your fault that Jarvis recruited you for his pet program when you were young and impressionable. I remember being a rookie and thinking I could save the world."

"You don't believe you can save the world anymore, Anita?"

"No, Teresa, I don't. Some nights just saving myself takes everything I got."

The door opened and Very Special Agent Jarvis walked through. He was tall, athletically thin, with dark hair cut short and neatly, with eyes that seemed to see everything and approve of maybe half of it; the rest he distrusted completely. I fell into the half of the world he distrusted.

"When are you going home, Marshal Blake?"

"When I feel that I've got no more to contribute here, Special Agent Jarvis."

His face made that little moue like he'd tasted something sour. "I think you've given us all the information that you have to offer."

"Doesn't it bother you that he's still out there?"

"Then why do you keep trying to give me the bum's rush, when I'm probably the best you have at dealing with the undead, which is his specialty?"

"I have one of the most powerful touch clairvoyants to come down the pike in a decade, all she has to do is find something he's touched."

"Touched often," I said.

He nodded. "I grant you that."

"He took everything, Jarvis. Beck can't find any common item that belonged to our missing man," Gillingham said.

"I can't believe we don't even have a name," I said.

"Sir, he's just sir," Gillingham said.

"It's like he treated them all as if he were their dominant and they were all submissive to him. He was on a serious power trip."

"No one will argue with that," Jarvis said.

"Wait, did you say your clairvoyant is trying to find common items to touch?"

"What about the zombies he made?"

"We tried that, but she got the impressions from the bodies themselves. Their lives, not his."

"Beck was hysterical for hours after that," Gillingham added.

"No need to overshare, Agent," Jarvis said.

"Damn it, we can't lose him like this."

"They say he took one zombie with him, the most lifelike. He only let her do two films with actors, and he never took her soul out and let her rot. She was special to him, they all agree on that," Gillingham said.

"Do we have the videos of her?" I asked.

"Yes, they weren't put out online, but they have them."

"Do we have a still frame for a picture?" I asked.

"If she was special to him, maybe he knew her when she was alive?"

"We do know our job, Marshal."

"Sorry, I'm just brainstorming."

"Well, we don't really need your brainstorming, we're pretty good at it ourselves here at the FBI."

"Why don't you like me, Jarvis?"

He looked startled. "I don't dislike you, Blake."

"I didn't ask that, I asked why don't you like me?"

"I heard you were direct."

"Yeah, now are you going to answer the question?"

"You are uncontrollable. Your powers seem to have grown exponentially and no one knows what the limit of that power is, or if you have limits to your necromancy. You have your uses for helping the common good and keeping the peace, but your gift has been misused for centuries. Necromancers always seem to be creating armies of the undead and trying to conquer countries."

"Actually, everyone says that, but I can't find a single historical account of it really happening; can you?"

He was caught off guard for a moment, but he recovered his surety and his prejudice rapidly. "I don't have to debate with you, Marshal. You can go home and leave things in our capable hands."

"You mean in the hands of people you can control, with talents that don't scare you."

"The man we're chasing, this Sir, is a

necromancer like you. Will you argue that he's not evil?"

"He's evil, but he's not necessarily a necromancer. He could just be a powerful voodoo practitioner. I hesitate to call him a priest, because that implies followers and I think he's solitary."

"His powers are still over the dead and he has abused them."

"I don't abuse my powers."

"You raise historical figures for academics to question. You raise families' lost ones so they can cry at the grave and ask forgiveness. You raise people from the dead over disputed wills and grand jury testimony. You disturb the dead for money, Marshal Blake; I think that is an abuse of power."

"So you think the touch clairvoyants working in the major museums worldwide to help with antiquities are abusing their power?"

"No, that is a good career path for the talent."

"So it's just the ability to work with the dead that you don't like."

"I have yet to meet anyone who deals in your brand of psychic gifts who isn't mad, or a charlatan that can barely call a shambling corpse from the grave."

"If they can call the dead they're not a charlatan, they just aren't powerful," I said.

"Be that as it may, I haven't found the more powerful animators to be cooperative in the way that makes a team player."

I laughed. "Well, we are a solitary bunch, I'll grant you that, but part of that is that people don't like you when you can raise the dead. They're afraid of you, and after a while you just want to be left alone rather than having people making the sign against evil behind your back, or to your face."

"You're saying I'm prejudiced?"

"Perhaps, but what you did in Colorado just months ago . . . Blake, you did raise an army of the undead. You raised every corpse in the ground in the Boulder area, and found some dead hikers we didn't even know how to find. They dropped dead in their tracks when you made the magic go away at the end. The local PD closed three missing person cases that way."

"I'm glad I could give the family closure," I said.

"We've managed to keep it quiet that it was all you, but people put pictures of the shambling dead, hundreds of them, up on YouTube. The government told everyone that was part of the disease that was rotting people, but you know and I know it was you, all you."

"Actually it wasn't all me, it was another ancient vampire who had talent with the dead."