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Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:54:18

Two things kept us in the parking lot long enough for Lisandro and Dev to arrive and throw their gear in the back of our SUV: Little Henry's request to borrow a gun, and my explaining what had happened with Seamus. The gun would have normally been not only no, but hell no, but they all knew him. They knew his skills in the field and at the shooting range. He'd actually been in the military with Machet and Wilson, two of our SWAT guys. Machete and Willy, respectively - most SWAT units were big on nicknames. Some were name-based like these two, but others were just call signs, like Sergeant Brock was Badger, and Yancey, who had come to see me in the hospital, was Swan. He pulled off enough of his gear so I could glimpse the nearly black hair with its hint of curl, and the smiling brown eyes. He didn't look remotely swanlike.

'So you've had another shapeshifter deputy marshal go rogue?' he asked, studying my face as if he wanted me to say no.

'This master vampire's animal to call seems to be hyena. It gives him a step up on mind-fucking them.'

'Any of you other guys werehyena?' he asked.

Dev raised his hand, 'Tiger.'

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Lisandro said, 'Rat.'

Badger, whose skin was smooth and nearly as dark as the black gear he was wearing, said, 'So if you guys get bitten you're not going to try to kill us?'

'You're safe from us,' Dev said, smiling.

'Okay, Little Henry rides with us and draws us a detailed plan of the layout while we drive. We'll have an entrance plan by the time we get there.'

'Sergeant, not to put too fine a point on it, but the vampire rolled Little Henry, too. Being human doesn't keep you safe from a vampire.'

He touched the cross pinned to his vest. 'My faith will keep me safe.'

'Yeah, mine, too, but if a human servant or zombie that he controls rips it off you, we'll need a backup plan.'

'Vampires are your side of things, so you got to have a plan that will protect us from the vampire by the time we get there,' he said.

I looked at him a minute to see if he was kidding, then realized he wasn't. Here was a man who would expect your best, period. 'Then let's saddle up, we're burning daylight,' I said.

He and Yancey grinned at me and then each other. 'Another John Wayne fan- See, Badger, I told you I liked her.'

Badger nodded, still grinning. 'Let's mount up, we are burning daylight.'

Nicky drove, I rode shotgun, and Lisandro and Dev had the middle seat. We followed SWAT and Little Henry onto the main road, and away we went.

We were at the edge of town, about to head into the mountains, when a woman ran across the road in front of SWAT's Tahoe. Their brake lights flashed red, and Nicky had to slam on his brakes to keep from rear-ending them.

A zombie ran across the road in front of both cars, in the direction that the woman had run.

'Is that what I think it is?' Lisandro asked.

'It's not dark yet,' Nicky said.

Dev said, 'Here we go again.'

'Shit,' I said, and reached for my door handle.