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

In the movies you can always see everyone's face on SWAT, but in reality the helmets and gear hide nearly everything. I knew Killian was blond and pale Irish, and that Hill was dark and middle-of-America-not-from-anywhere ethnic, but all I could tell suited up in the spring dark was that Killian was a few inches taller than me, and Hill was much taller. Most of the men standing in the dark with us were taller than average, and then you had Saville, who even towered over these guys. He was darkly African American, but again I only knew that because I knew him. We were all generic in our SWAT gear, except for height and size.

"Will the ram work on a crypt door?" Saville asked. If we'd been doing a normal entry he'd have been using the ram to bust in the door.

"I'm not sure," I said.

Hermes said, "We brought stuff that will help us knock louder if we need to." He was tall, dark, and I guess handsome under all the gear. His wife thought so. I knew that from the time she made a point of meeting me, after I helped save his life but broke his leg in the process.

"We have about five minutes to figure out which dynamic entry we're making," Montague--Monty--said.

Another thing they get wrong in most movies is how much time you wait before you rush in. And you don't really "rush" in; you go in with a plan. Our plan was up on the tallest hill they could find with Sergeant Hudson and Sutton, their sniper. They were going to use the tech on Sutton's gear to see what they thought of the door. There were maps of the cemetery, but not specifics of the crypts and what their doors were constructed of; the way we got to "knock" and enter depended on the kind of door. It might be better to use small explosives on the lock than to blow the door open, because the stone construction of the crypt meant we couldn't see inside with infrared, so we didn't know where the hostages were standing. It would suck to blow a hole in Manny's kids because they were on top of the door we blew. We were waiting for more intel, as in intelligence, so we could go in smart. Slow is steady. Steady is smooth. Smooth is fast. Fast is deadly. I knew it was true, but if I hadn't had the rest of the team to keep me steady, I might have rushed in, because it was Connie and Tomas. I'd known them since Connie was Tomas's age and he was a toddler. I didn't want to go back to Manny with anything other than a win on this one.

"If Blake were the size of Saville the ram would work," Monty said. He was the same size and build as Hermes, so only Hermes's slightly broader shoulders let you know who was who, unless you saw the nameplate, or knew how they carried their gear. I knew, because I'd been training with them at least once a month for a year. They'd seen what my more than human speed and strength could do on the tests they had to pass to keep their place on the team.

"I've known a few guys Saville's size that are even faster and stronger than I am."

"Lycanthropes?" Hermes asked.

"I'd like to see what one of your guys would do on the obstacle course," he said.

"And the weight room," Saville said.

I grinned. "You'd need specialty bars in the weight room for them to max out."

"You mean like the bars made for power lifters, so they don't bend the steel?" Jung asked.

"Something like that."

Jung was still the only green-eyed Asian American that I'd ever met, but now I knew that he was a Korean/Chinese/Dutch American whose grandparents had met during the Korean War, and his mother had married a Chinese American man whose family had been in the country generations longer.

The radios in our ears came to life, and it was Hudson. "Crypt door just opened, but one of the hostages is tied up in it."

I touched my mic. "Say again."

"Strung up in the doorway," Hudson said.

"Shit," I whispered, but it carried over the earpieces.

"We need a new entry plan," Hill said.

"Sutton and I will regroup."

"Can't kick, ram, or explode a hostage to get inside," Jung said.

"Which hostage?" I asked.

My stomach tightened at the thought of Connie strung up in the doorway of the crypt like an animal for slaughter. "Any sign of other hostages?" I asked.

"Negative," Hudson said.

Sutton said, "Sorry, Blake."

"Don't be sorry yet, Sutton. We get them out, no sorry needed."

"We'll get them out," Killian said.

"Cheerful is good," Hermes said, "but we have to get past the door to get them out."

"We have to get through one hostage to get inside," Saville said.

"We don't go through Connie," I said.

"Hostage, just hostage. Names cloud the issue, you know that," Monty said.

I wanted to protest, but . . . "Fine, we don't go through the hostage like she's a fucking door."

"We do what works best to save the most lives," Hill said.

I shook my head. "Not good enough."

"It's all we got, Blake," Saville said.

"Define 'go through the hostage,'" I said, and glared at Saville.

"You're too close to this," Hill said.

"Don't let your emotions compromise the rest of us," Monty said.

I nodded. "I won't get you guys hurt trying to save them."

"It's our job to risk ourselves to save the hostages," Jung said.

"Monty knows what I mean."

"We need an idea for entry," Hill said.

"I need to see it," I said.

"The door, Connie, I mean the hostage."

"Seeing it won't make it easier," Saville said.

"I need to see how she's tied up in the doorway, Saville." I hit the button on my throat mic. "Sutton, is it just her hands tied, or hands and feet?"

"Wrists tied over her head to something inside the room."

"Is she in the doorway, or just inside the door?"

"Inside, but she still blocks the entrance."

"I need to see," I said, and pushed away from the side of the truck.

Several of them pushed away to stand around me. It was Hill who said, "You wait for Hudson and Sutton to regroup."

"I am, I just want Sutton and his high-tech gadgets to help me s

"We can't see through solid stone, not even with infrared," Jung said.

"Connie, the hostage, is five-nine, but she's slender like her dad. Her body may block us from rushing through the entrance, but we should be able to see around her with infrared and night vision."

Hill asked on his radio, "Sarge, could you see into the crypt?"

"Not from the top of the hill."

"Find Sutton and me someplace low, so we can look past the hostage's legs."

"What have you got in mind?" Hermes asked.

"Let Sutton and me see into the room, place the hostages. You guys find cover that allows you to get close enough."

"Close enough for what?"

"You got mad at me for saying we go through the hostage," Saville said.

"I didn't get mad, I got scared for her, but me afraid doesn't help."

"And so just like that you're not afraid anymore?" he asked.

"Hostage needs me to think more than she needs me to feel, right now." The hard, cold pit of my stomach didn't believe me, but my head was trying, and that was all I could do.

I heard Sutton and Hudson before they stepped into view. I watched the other guys and no one looked toward the small sounds of them moving in the grass, a pants leg brushing something taller and more dried than the spring grass, their boots swooshing through. If Nicky or any of the other lycanthropes had been with me, they'd have heard it even sooner than I had, but for once our prey wasn't someone who had super-hearing, or sense of smell, or vision, or anything. He could raise the dead and capture souls. Neither of those would help him see, smell, or hear us moving around in the dark.

The two of them looked at us, and Hudson said, "Tell me."

I told him. It wasn't a great plan. It wasn't a perfect plan. But sometimes you don't need perfect, just good enough. Good enough for everyone to survive. Well, everyone but Maximiliano. Him, he could die; it would save me having to execute him later.

SUTTON AND I managed to find a place out among the graves as directly in line with the doorway as possible and still keep hidden. Being on the ground meant we had to be closer to the target than if we'd been up on the hill. Higher up almost always gave you a better unobstructed view, but this once we were hoping lower down was better. We snugged down on top of one of the graves with its tombstone at our feet, and another taller one of a different grave to one side of Sutton and his M24. We'd had trouble finding a space between the graves where Sutton could stretch out flat on his stomach. He was so damn tall, and just a very big guy; he almost didn't fit between the older graves. I had no trouble finding room to lie flat on the cool ground, with its early-season grass and wildflowers here and there. Sutton used the edge of the gravestone to steady his rifle so he could see past the figure hanging in the doorway. I tried very hard to think of it as just a hostage, but seeing the tall, slender woman hanging by her wrists in the doorway, her dark hair spilling down her back while she struggled and pulled at the ropes, hurt me in ways I had no words for.