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Jason (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 23) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:58:26

"Enlighten us," she said, and there was something in the way she said it that I didn't like. It was just an undercurrent, but if I had to bet, I think something I'd said, or done, while we watched the films had made her suspicious of me. I wondered, if it hadn't been a male voice ordering the zombie around, if they'd have looked at me as a suspect from the beginning. I hoped not, but a lot of people still saw my psychic ability as evil. Hell, the Catholic Church had excommunicated us all unless we gave up raising the dead, because only Jesus was allowed to do that. Biblical scholars had poin

ted out that four of his disciples had done it, too, but the Pope, at the time, had found comparing zombie-raising pagans to the disciples of Jesus Christ less than amusing.

"Her soul, her personality, whatever you want to call it, seems to be in the body, except you can't raise a zombie from the grave if the soul is still in residence," I said.

"So how do you explain it?" she asked.

"She was just a walking corpse in the first film. Her eyes were empty, she was an it, but between that and the first sex tape that changed."

"How?" Manning asked.

"You've got witches and psychics on the payroll at the FBI now. You even have at least one animator. What'd they come up with?"

Brent added, "They all saw what you see, that she was in there somehow, but no one had a clue how it was accomplished."

"Do you know how it was done?" Manning asked.

I nodded. "I've seen it done once."

"Give us a name and we may have our guy," Brent said, all eager for a clue.

"It was a woman, and she's dead." I added, "I believe she's dead."

"Give us a name, we're good at finding people," Manning said.

"Dominga Salvador. She was the most powerful vaudun priestess in the midwest."

"She went missing just after she challenged you."

I raised eyebrows at Manning. "Challenged me? You mean sent killer zombies into my apartment to murder me? If that's your definition of challenge, then okay."

"Some of the local law enforcement officers thought you'd killed her in self-defense."

"The local leos didn't trust me as much before I had a badge."

"I trusted you," Zerbrowski said.

I smiled at him. "You liked me. I don't know if you trusted me."

He grinned and seemed to think about it. "I can't remember for sure, but I know that long before you got your own badge you proved anything you needed to prove to me."

"Aw, shucks, Zerbrowski, you're going to make a girl blush."

He grinned wider and offered me his fist. I bumped it gently.

"Nice distraction there, Sergeant," Manning said.

"I don't know what you mean, agent," he said.

Her lips curled down in a face that said, clearly, she knew that he knew exactly what he'd done. "It's going to take more than that to distract me."

"And that's the truth," Brent said. His partner gave him an unfriendly look and he held his hands out empty, as if to say, didn't mean any harm.

"Why do you think Dominga Salvador is dead?" Manning asked.

"Because I'm alive, and once a person like the senora wants you dead, she doesn't give up."

"How do you think she died?"

I tried to appear nonchalant and was glad that I did a better blank-cop face than I had years ago when I'd known Dominga Salvador, because I was about to tell a very big lie to the FBI. "I have no idea." I could feel my pulse speed in my throat, if I'd been on a Polygraph, I'd have failed.

Manning studied my face like she'd memorize the number of eyelashes I had. I stayed blank and slightly smiling, and felt my eyes dead and empty as last year's New Year's resolutions. I wanted to look away from her so badly it almost hurt, but I didn't. I knew exactly how Dominga Salvador had died, because I had killed her.