Page 47

Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:54:07

I dug the earpiece for my phone out of one of the pockets and called Micah from the elevator. He answered on the second ring. 'Anita, vampire on this floor is dead. We're okay.'

'The morgue is not okay; I've got to help Ted contain it. I had to leave Nicky there to back him up.' As soon as I said it, I realized I was looking for absolution, someone as strong as I was to tell me that it had been okay to leave someone I loved who wasn't a cop down there with the other cops and the monsters.

'What made you willing to leave him down there with Ted?'

'Grenades and shit in Ted's car, Dev and I are fetching.' I transferred my badge from my hip to tuck it in a MOLLE strap on the front of my vest. We didn't have any uniforms or locals with us this time. I wanted witnesses to know we were the good guys.

'Because you know where the stuff is in Ted's car,' Micah said.

'Yeah,' I said, and the elevator doors opened.

Dev paused before he went through, checking to make sure it was clear; he gave a small nod and held the door for me, leaning against it with his gun already out. Most handguns wouldn't do much against zombies or rotting vamps, but Dev had never seen real combat like Nicky had, or I had, which meant he was more comfortable with handguns than long ones. I had my AR to my shoulder checking the hallway - left, right, and up. Vampires fly, or float, sometimes. The hospital ceiling was too low to really be a place to hide, but checking up was a habit that was good to have when you hunted vampires that could fly and shapeshifters that could climb.

'U.S. Marshals,' I said, for the startled nurses and doctors. 'Police.' I added that just in case. I yelled 'Police' again and kept Dev and me moving toward the outer doors. I ignored the questions, because they would slow us down too much and I didn't know what to say. Captain Jonas had said out loud that he didn't want to start a panic; if I told them what was in the basement and wandering the hallways, they might panic. They should panic and evacuate everyone they could, but I wasn't in charge, not like that.

Dev flashed them all his melt-in-your-socks smile. 'We'll be back, I promise.'

One of the scared nurses actually blushed at him. That was some good flirting.

'We're going outside,' I said to Micah, low voiced, over the headset.

'Be careful,' he said.

'I think it's safer outside, but I'll be careful,' I said, as I moved toward the outer doors with the AR snugged to my shoulder.

'I love you,' he said.

'I love you and Nathaniel. I didn't get to kiss Nicky good-bye.'

'You'll get another chance to kiss him,' Micah said, and that was it, he'd given me my absolution, my that's-okay-you-didn't-leave-your-lover-to-die pat on the ethical back.

'Thanks, gotta run. I love you.'

'I love you more,' he said.

He laughed, softly, and hung up.

Dev and I were outside now. I looked up at the night sky, electric-kissed with the pools of light from the hospital behind us and the light poles rearing over the cars. Nothing moved in the darkness above us. The parking lot stretched empty and so still you should have been able to hear city crickets if it hadn't been too cold for them.

'Can we run now?' Dev asked.

He took off like something elemental, so fast that his speed left me immobile for a heartbeat, and then I ran, too. I ran fast, going from a dead stop to making the parking lot a blur to my vision like some movie special effect. I moved and it wasn't just to be fast to save everyone and get the weapons, it was a release of tension to be able to move as fast as we could even for a few moments, to be able to RUN! I arrived at Edward's SUV to find Dev there catching his breath. My heart was in my throat, trying to creep over my tongue and into my mouth. I felt alive, full of blood and thunder; it was the kind of energy that made you want to leave the guns in the holsters and wade into a fight with your bare hands. I wouldn't do it, but I understood the urge.

Dev grinned at me, a fierce baring of teeth that still managed to be sexy and charming. I grinned back and unlocked the back of the SUV with my pulse thudding behind my own fierce smile.

Dev and I moved our gear out so I could get to where Edward kept his incendiaries. There was a reason he drove his SUV if the crime scene was close enough, or sometimes if it wasn't. He had several compartments in his truck where the really bad things were hidden. If someone broke in and stole stuff, they wouldn't get anything more dangerous than guns. Even if they stole the whole truck they'd likely never find the hidden shit unless they dismantled the truck piece by piece like at a chop shop, but even Edward couldn't plan for all eventualities. Besides, some of the hidden stuff was illegal. I hadn't known he had the European grenades. I'd read about them, seen videos of the effect, even photos of the victims. Some people in parts of Europe were using the grenades in my hands as a reason to give vampires and shapeshifters human rights, because the effects were too terrible to do to anyone, almost. No one cared about zombies, strangely. Not all dead are created equal.

Under other circumstances I might have hesitated to use something illegal while I was wearing my badge, but today ... the European grenades gave us a real chance. I grabbed all that were in the compartment, shoving them into pockets on my tactical pants and handing some to Dev to carry, too. The grenades would burn long enough to actually destroy the zombies, if we could cut them up first so that they didn't catch us, or the hospital, on fire. It was looking at Edward's extending magazines that gave me the idea. I grabbed his, and mine, and an extra cross-draw bag because Dev and I couldn't carry all of them in the pockets, or even the MOLLE straps on the vests. Usually it was overkill to travel with this many magazines for the ARs, but tonight it might just get the job done.

We shoved everything back in the truck. Dev shut the back. I hit the key lock and without asking each other we ran back to the hospital. The world blurred past as I tried to keep up with Dev. He was a foot taller and a lot of that was leg, oh, and the whole weretiger thing, too, but I wasn't far behind as we whooshed through the doors.

The nurse who had smiled at Dev looked even paler, eyes huge in her face. 'You're not human, are you?' she asked.

'Human's overrated,' Dev said with another sex-on-wheels smile as we went for the elevators.

My phone rang in my earpiece, 'Bad to the Bone,' which had been Edward's ring tone since Nathaniel put it on as a joke back when I didn't know how to change it. I hit the button and said, 'Yeah.'

'Bring all the extra mags you can,' he said, and I could hear shooting in the background magnified oddly over the headset.

'Already have them,' I said, as we stepped into the elevator.

'You had the same idea,' he said.

'We have enough ammo to cut them into pieces and then ...'

'Use the Euros to burn them in place,' he finished for me.

'Yeah,' he said, and then he laughed that deep, masculine sound that most men reserve for sex or moments more private with the lovers in their lives.

'I love the way you think, too,' I said.

He gave that date/sex laugh. I guess there was more than one reason that Donna thought I was his lover. Someone yelled, and a man screamed. Edward said, 'Gotta go,' in a voice so serious it was as if the laugh never existed.

I whispered, 'Edward,' to empty air.

'He all right?' Dev asked.

'I don't know. It sounds like the zombies are on top of them.'

Dev holstered his handgun and unhooked his AR from the back of his vest where the MOLLE straps kept it.

'A head or heart shot won't do anything but irritate a zombie. We're going to use the ammo to cut off the arms, legs, anything that makes them mobile, and then decapitate, or explode the entire head. When that's done we burn 'em.'

'You and Ted didn't discuss details; how do you know that's why he wanted the extra magazines?'

The elevator was slowing. I snugged my AR to my shoulder and said, 'I just know.' The doors opened, and a zombie fell into the elevator.