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Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:54:19

Yancey and Sergeant Badger came over to me. Nicky moved up to join us. 'If we destroyed the vampire's body, would this all end?' Badger asked.

'That's not very definite,' Yancey said, with a smile that couldn't take the worry from his eyes.

'This vampire is doing things that are not possible, so the best you're going to get from me is, I think that will work, but we thought another marshal in another city destroyed his body once before and you see how that turned out.'

'Why didn't it work?' Yancey asked.

'Because this vamp can jump bodies to other vampires he's made and zombies he's raised. I admit the zombie thing is a new vampire trick, even for me.'

'So he jumped to a different body; why will destroying this body work any better?' Badger asked.

'Because this is his original body. We destroy that and no more jumping around, or we hold him in the body he's currently using long enough to destroy it and him with it; that could work, too.'

'Hatfield's group is close to where Little Henry drew the map to, so they could detour and destroy the body.'

I thought about sending Hatfield toward not just the Lover of Death, but Seamus; it seemed like a good way to get her killed.

'That's not a good face. What's wrong?' Yancey asked.

'Little Henry still sulking because you sent his map via smart phone, and he's not included?'

'But that's not the look on your face; you don't care if Henry sulks about this. What were you really thinking?' Yancey said.

'What are you, an expert on my facial expressions?'

He just looked at me, crooking one dark eyebrow over those brown-black eyes.

'He's figuring you pretty fast,' Lisandro said.

He just smiled at me. 'It's just the truth.'

'Fine. I don't want to get Hatfield and the men with her killed.'

'You won't be doing anything to them,' Badger said. 'You will be here helping save lives, while she tries to do the one thing that could end all this before it gets out of hand.'

'Besides, Blake, you've got to stop believing that only you can save the world and give the rest of us a chance,' Yancey said.

'Hatfield is competent,' Badger said. 'Text her any information you think she needs to remember and let her do her job. Right now, I want you to tell us everything you know about flesh-eating zombies.'

'If you want to know about zombies in general I've got lots to share, but flesh-eating zombies, honestly they are so rare that there isn't a lot of information.'

'Tell us what you have, Blake. It's more than anyone else has,' Badger said.

I nodded. 'Okay, I can tell you this: When it gets full dark they will be faster, stronger, and even harder to kill.'

They exchanged a look between them. Badger sighed and rubbed his hand over his close-cropped hair. 'What can kill them?'

'Fire. Blow them up into small enough bits and you can burn the pieces at your leisure.'

'What about the bomb squad?' Nicky asked.

We all looked at him.

'If you know how to defuse a bomb, you know how to make one,' he said.

'That's a good idea,' Badger said.

'Not fair,' Yancey said. 'You look big enough to bench-press a truck and you're smart.'

Nicky grinned at him. 'I'm not just another pretty face.'

That made us all smile, and we were going to need all the smiles we could get tonight, or maybe that was my pessimistic side talking. Wait, I didn't have an optimistic side, so it was just my naturally sunny disposition.

'Exterminators, too; they have to have one person at every company who's trained in extreme measures of pest control.'

'How extreme could it be?' Yancey asked.

'The last time I was up against a killer zombie, I had an exterminator team backing me up with a flamethrower, just in case, as I walked the cemetery looking for the original grave.'

'What would you have gained from finding the grave the zombie came out of?' Badger asked.

'A clue to who had raised it might have led us to where it was hiding during the day, or it might have told us why it had turned into a flesh eater. Most flesh-eating zombies are out for revenge of some kind; you give them their revenge and they often go back to being a normal shambling zombie.'

'Are these out for revenge?'

'Most violent zombies are murder victims. They rise out of the grave with revenge their prime motivator, and anything that gets between them and that revenge they will kill. Some of them resort to eating people who didn't harm them in life; again, no one knows why some killer zombies just strangle people to death, or beat them to death but never try to eat anyone.'

'Are these all murder victims?' Yancey asked.

I thought about that. 'Maybe; most of the ones we've been able to identify are all missing-person cases, so yeah, I guess they are, but the weird thing is they should all be trying to kill whoever killed them. Once they've killed their murderer they become harmless.'

'But they were killed by rotting vampires, right?' Nicky asked.

'Or other killer zombies, yeah,' I said.

'So what if you raise a zombie that was killed by another zombie? They can't kill their murderers, because they're already dead.'

'In a more normal zombie it could go one of two ways; either the death of their murderer would negate everything and they'd just not animate quite right, but they'd be peaceful, or they could be driven by revenge that they could never satisfy. Zombies that can't get revenge because their murderer has died sometimes do go on a killing spree until they get burned.'

'Are we saying that every zombie this rotting vampire raises is seeking revenge, but because he's dead to begin with they're slaughtering everything in their path?' Yancey asked, frowning as if he were trying to work it out in his head.

'I think you may have hit on it, but the difference is that these zombies seem to be under his control and murderous zombies are wild cards. They obey no one.'

'Would it be possible to raise a zombie as a sort of weapon?' Yancey asked.

Nicky and I said, 'Yes,' at the same time. We looked at each other. The night I met Nicky I'd saved myself - us - by turning the cemetery of zombies I'd raised against the bad guys. They'd made me raise the dead at gunpoint and threat of death to Micah, Nathaniel, and Jason and hadn't thought that giving me a cemetery of my own zombies tipped the odds in my favor.

I looked back at the other two men. 'It's pretty standard folklore that vaudun priests can raise a zombie and send it after their enemies.'

'Vaudun, you mean voodoo?' Badger asked.

'Same religion, different words. I usually say vaudun, because people are less likely to think all movie monsters. You say voodoo and people get very set ideas in their head. It's a perfectly fine religion and most believers are law-abiding citizens.'

'Does that mean that zombies see vampires, like the rotting vampires, as already dead?' Yancey asked.

I shrugged. 'I guess so, or they'd go after their murderers.'

'Or maybe they haven't found their murderers yet,' Nicky said.

'What do you mean?' I asked.

'If we gave them the two vampires you guys have in custody, and they were able to kill them, would the ones that those two killed go back to being ordinary zombies?'

'I don't know,' I said.

'You said that if a killer zombie can't find his murderer and have his revenge, he can start killing and eating anything that gets in his way, right?'

'Then shouldn't giving the vampires over to the zombies quiet some of them?'

'It might, but we'd be giving two legal citizens over to be torn limb from limb. Vampires are a lot harder to kill than humans usually, which means the vamps would stay alive a lot longer during the process.'

He nodded. 'Makes sense.'

'That would be a really bad way to die, Nicky.'

'Yeah.' He said it as if to say, So what?

'If we were just going to execute the vamps anyway, and it would save dozens of lives ...' Yancey let his words trail off.

Badger looked at him. 'You could do that, give someone over to the thing we saw today?'

He shrugged. 'It's a thought; we're just brainstorming and gathering information, right?'

'They're rotting vampires,' Nicky said. 'If you can't teach them how to look human, the woman seemed to want to die.'

'They should have two forms; one should be totally human and as attractive as they were in life,' I said.

Dev and Lisandro came over to us. 'What has you guys all serious face?' Dev asked, smiling.

'We're debating on whether giving the two vampires in custody over to the zombies of their murder victims would make the zombies stop killing other people,' I said.

Dev's eyes widened and he went pale.

'Who came up with the idea?' Lisandro asked.

'You are a sick motherfucker,' Lisandro said.

'Yes, yes, I am,' Nicky said, totally unbothered by the comment.

Lisandro laughed, as if he couldn't quite believe it, but he did.

'You're not going to actually do it, are you?' Dev asked.

'They are citizens with rights, so no,' I said.

'Not if Anita thinks the vampires in custody committed some of the murders without being controlled by their master,' Nicky said.

'They'd still be legal citizens,' I said.

'But they'd be executed anyway; what does it matter whether you stake them during the day or feed them to the people they killed?'

'It does have an interesting sense of irony,' Yancey said.

'They're either people, with all that means, or they're not,' Dev said. 'You can't make them legal and fight for the law that gave them a second chance at life and then turn around and lie so that they lose that second chance.'

'That's directed at me, I take it,' I said.

'Yes, because it's your warrant and you are the expert on vampires. If you decide that they killed people without being forced to do it, then they're dead,' Dev said. He didn't sound happy, but he was right.

'And the marshal who holds the warrants has complete discretion on how the executions are to be carried out,' Nicky said.

'Is that true?' Yancey said.

'So you could do anything to them as long as they die eventually?' Yancey asked.

I nodded again. Olaf, alias Marshal Otto Jeffries, was known to torture his vamps before killing them; of course, torture was his hobby, but the badge and warrant gave him a legal outlet for his passion. It did make one wonder about the job, when a serial killer found it a good outlet.

'You look like you're remembering something bad,' he said.

I shook my head. 'I try to be humane when I kill, so let's table the idea until we get desperate.'

'We won't get that desperate,' Dev said, looking at me, very seriously.

'If he's as powerful a necromancer as I think he is, he could raise dozens of zombies.'

'What about the zombies in the morgue?' Nicky asked.

'What about them?' I asked.

'Were they all murder victims?'

'What would it mean if they weren't all murder victims?' Yancey asked.

'That every zombie this guy raises turns into a killer.'

'He's ordering them to kill,' Nicky said.

I nodded. 'Yeah, he has to be.'

'Well, this just gets better and better,' Yancey said.

'Don't most zombies need a ritual to raise them from the grave?' Badger asked.

'Does this necromancer need a ritual, and if he does, could we use that to find him?'

'I don't know for certain, but if he does, then yeah, potentially I could trace it back to him.'

'How would that work?'

'You know that old saying, about more than one way to skin a cat?'

'There's more than one way to raise a zombie, and more than one way to catch a necromancer.'

'You have an idea,' Nicky said.

'Maybe is better than nothing, so let's hear it,' Badger said.

I told them my maybe.

'You're setting yourself up as bait; as your bodyguard I vote no,' Lisandro said.

'She's not bait,' Nicky said.

'She's going to do the metaphysical version of standing in the middle of a fight and yelling, Come and get me! That's bait,' Lisandro said.

'He's going to think she's bait, that's the point,' Nicky said.

'It's not bait, it's a challenge. Anita is betting that she's the biggest, baddest necromancer,' Dev said. He was very serious as he studied my face.

'Don't mean to be a wet blanket,' Yancey said, 'but what if you're wrong? What if he's the biggest and baddest?'

'He won't be,' Nicky said.

I wasn't quite as confident as Nicky, but I was confident that if I raised my own mini-army of zombies, the Lover of Death wouldn't be able to resist coming around to check out the competition. It would distract him from the fact that Hatfield and her team of SWAT were hunting his original body. It might keep him from inhabiting it once darkness fell, and killing all of them. If she could destroy his original body, and I could trap him in whatever body he was inhabiting at the moment here in town and destroy that one, we could kill him, and we had to kill him, because we had to stop him, and dead is the stoppest stop of all.