Page 109

Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:26

"Meet with me, Maximiliano, and I will be so honest it'll blow you away."

"Oh, we're here," he said. The engine on the car turned off. I heard the door open on his car, and I think I heard him step on gravel. I know I heard someone trying to scream through a gag. It sounded like a woman. "You can both scream for me, Consuela. She was my fiancee once, but she left me. Now she's mine forever."

Connie was doing her best to scream through whatever was on her mouth, duct tape he'd said. Whatever she was seeing was scaring the hell out of her.

"I've got to go, Anita, my sister is being difficult, but before the sun comes up she'll be easy, because she'll do exactly what I tell her to do. Thanks to you I lost a lot of money, but Consuela will be perfect for a client who wanted his own slave. He doesn't even have to be here for the ceremony, he just needs to hold the bottle that contains her soul, like a magic ring for a genie."

My mouth was dry, but I said, "How did you get around the fact that murdered zombies attack their murderers?"

"The soul, Anita, the personality; people are so conflicted about violence. Pure zombies aren't conflicted at all, but add the soul back in and they're just as fucked up as the rest of us. I'm going to sell my sister to a very rich man as his slave forever. I don't know if I'll just kill my brother, or cripple him. Either way, my father will never forget me again."

"Maximiliano, don't do this, don't hurt them."

"Would you let me fuck you to save them, Anita?"

He laughed again, and I heard Connie making helpless noises through the gag. It sounded like he was dragging her over gravel and then weeds, or something. "I've got to go, Anita, I have people to kill, souls to steal. You know I haven't found a buyer for a teenage boy, but I'm betting that one that was completely obedient to the customer's every whim, well, the right person would pay handsomely for that, don't you think, Anita?"

"I'm not joking, Maximiliano. Let's hook up. Let's fuck, just like your mother wanted."

"Rumor says you killed the Senora, is that true, Anita?"

"Never believe the rumors," I said.

"Oh, I hope they are true, because if they are then I'll give you a chance to see which of us is more powerful."

"More powerful how? How do we prove that?"

"First, find me before I finish the ceremony and there's no sister left to save, though maybe I'll fuck her first, before I kill her; that would give you more time to find me."

I fought the urge to threaten him, and tried for calm. "This is your last chance to do what the Senora wanted you to do, Maximiliano."

"I saw the videos from Colorado, Anita. More than giving my mama powerful grandchildren, I want to see which of us is the better necromancer."

"Fine, let's go, let's do it, just tell me where you are."

"Think about what I want, Anita, and you'll know there are only a limited number of places I could have driven in this amount of time that will give us the arena to test ourselves."

"I don't know what you mean."

"If you don't figure it out, then I kill them, sell at least her, and leave town a very rich man. I'll set up shop in a country that is a little friendlier to me and doesn't have extradition with America."

"Maximiliano, tell me how you do it. How do you capture the soul?"

"Come and watch," and then he said something harsh in Spanish. "The boy has undone his bonds and found the trunk release. Stupid boy." The gunshot was so loud I was deaf in one ear for a minute.

"Fuck, what did you do?"

"He ran, what else could I do, Anita?"

Connie was screaming as loud and long as she could through the gag. He wasn't worried about the noise; fuck!

"If Tomas dies, you die. If you touch Connie, I will cut your dick off and gag you with it."

"Oh, sticks and stones, Anita, sticks and stones."

"Tell me where you are, you son of a bitch, and I'll prove to you that I never make an idle threat."

"Find me, and then we'll see who raises what." The phone went dead.

I screamed my rage loud and wordless. If he'd been in front of me in that moment I'd have killed him, cops or no cops.

I HAD TO call Manny and tell him about Connie and Tomas. I started with just them being hostages, without going into details. I figured him knowing he had a long-lost son with Dominga Salvador could wait until his kids were safe, or until I saw him in person. Some things you don't want to try to explain over the phone.

"I need you to talk to the phone company and waive your rights to the phone records, so we don't have to get a warrant for them to use Tomas's phone's GPS to locate him and Connie."

"We're still paying for Connie's phone, too. Does that help?"

"Shit yes, I know he has her phone, because I was talking on it." I turned to Sergeant Hudson, who wasn't much bigger than I was, with a neat dark mustache to match the hair hidden under his helmet. He was the smallest man on his unit now, but they all still acted as if he were about eight feet tall and would hurt them if they fucked up. Hudson and I weren't buddies, but we respected each other, and I'll take respect over being liked any day of the week. He let me train with his team once a month to keep me from screwing up too badly. That he let me near his men at all was the compliment. He talked to all his guys like that.

"Manny, the father, is paying for his daughter's phone; if he waives his rights we don't need a warrant for the GPS records."

"Great, did you hear that?" He spoke into a phone that he'd been using to try to get the GPS location for either of the kids' phones. They wanted to help, but legally we needed a warrant . . . but Manny could waive his rights since it was his account and not Connie's.

It took us holding the phones next to each other and Manny giving some account information, but it was done. Hudson listened to his end of the phone for a few seconds. "They'll call us back in ten minutes tops with the phone's location."

"Perfect," I said, "now just one more warrant in hand and we're good to go."

"Anita, what's happening?" Manny asked on my phone. I told him.

"While we wait for the GPS I need to ask your voodoo expertise."

"I can't think, Anita."

"How complicated would the spell be to capture a soul? I mean, how long would it take?"

"I only know the theory of the spell; I had left her long before she came up with that piece of evil."

"I know, but you know way more voodoo than I do, Manny. I need to know a time frame, and I need to know it now."

"What aren't you telling me, Anita?"

"Dominga's nephew Max is the bad guy. He's taken over where Dominga left off on the zombie slaves."

"Why did he take Connie and Tomas?"

"I think Tomas was incidental, wrong place, wrong time."

"Oh God, oh God, you think he's going to do that to Connie."

"He's threatening it."

"Why? Why after all this time?"

"How much time do we have to find her? I need you to think, Manny."

"My kids are missing."

"And the more information we have, the better the odds for bringing them back safe and sound."

"All right, all right, if he has to make a container to house the soul, it will take weeks."

"Assume he has a container."

"He'll have to draw symbols, verve, and if he's a true believer he'll have to persuade the loa to ride him, or to ride the victim."

"I don't think he's a true believer," I said.

"An hour, maybe. You say he had verve all over his altar area like Dominga did."

"He'll be careful to draw the verve then, because Dominga believed very much that the symbols helped call power and protect her. If he draws all the symbology, then at least an hour, maybe a little more. Does that help?"

"I'm on my way to the bridal shop now."

"Go to Rosita, stay with her."

"All right, but I may roll out before you get here if we have a target."

"Save my kids, Anita."

What else was there to say? We hung up.

THE GPS ON Connie's phone and Tomas's phone led us to the same cemetery. I expected that, but what I didn't expect was that GPS knew which crypt the phones were in. That didn't guarantee that they were still with their phones, but it was our best bet. If they weren't with their phones we had to search two acres of graveyard, including about twenty crypts, one at a time, like making entry on a block of apartments. So we assumed they were in the crypt with their phones; it gave us a place to start, and a plan. The "we" wasn't Zerbrowski and RPIT; it was our local SWAT. A lot of preternatural branch marshals had been forced on SWAT across the country for no-announce warrants, which all warrants of execution were, but a few of us had proven ourselves enough to be invited to train with them, and were allowed to go out with the team. Most of the marshals who had been invited to play with SWAT hadn't been able to keep the training up. It wasn't the weapons practice--that was the easy part--it was the physical prerequisites, and gym time, that most of them failed. Honestly, if I hadn't been more than human I might not have made all of them either.

"This will be my first assault on a crypt," Killian said, smiling and tense in the dark as we stood behind the Lenco Bear Cat. They could call it an armored rescue vehicle if they wanted to, but it always looked big, black, slightly sinister, and very military. It could take heavy rifle fire and protect the men inside it, or even hiding behind it.

"If this is your first crypt, you haven't been hanging around with me enough," I said.

"Yeah, Blake takes you to the best places," Hill said.