Kiss the DeadBy: Laurell K. Hamilton
Anita Blake Vampire Hunter 21
ON TV, INTERROGATION rooms are roomy and have big windows so that you can watch everything. In reality, the rooms are pretty small, and there are almost never big picture windows; that’s why real police footage is grainy and black-and-white, rather than Technicolor gorgeous. The interrogation room was painted pale beige, or maybe it was taupe, I’d always been a little fuzzy on the difference between them. Either way it was a bland color described by real estate agents as a warm neutral; they lied. It was a cold, impersonal color. The small table was all shiny metal, and so was the chair. The idea was that the prisoners couldn’t scratch their names, or messages, in the metal like they could have in wood, but whoever thought that had never seen what a vampire, or a wereanimal, could do to metal. There were plenty of scratches in the shiny tabletop, most done with just fingernails, superhuman strength, and the boredom of hours of sitting.
The vampire sitting at the small table wasn’t trying to carve his initials on anything. He was crying, so hard that his thin shoulders shook. He’d slicked his black hair back from his face in a widow’s peak that I was betting was a haircut and no more natural than the ink-black color.
He was mumbling in a tear-choked voice, “You hate me because I’m a vampire.”
I spread my hands flat on the cool metal table. My jacket’s jewel-tone blue sleeves looked too bright against the naked metal, or maybe it was the crimson nail polish. That had been for my date the night before; it looked out of place while I was U.S. Marshal Anita Blake. I counted to ten, to keep from yelling at our suspect again. That was what had started the crying; I’d scared him. Jesus, some people don’t have enough balls to be undead.
“I don’t hate you, Mr. Wilcox,” I said in a smooth, even friendly voice. I had to deal with clients every day at Animators Inc.; I had a customer voice. “Some of my best friends are vampires and shapeshifters.”
“You hunt and kill us,” he said, but he raised his eyes enough to gaze at me between his fingers. His tears were tinged pink with someone else’s blood. His putting his hands over his eyes had smeared the tears around so that his face was trailed and marked with the drying pink tears. It didn’t match the perfectly arched black eyebrows, or the eyebrow ring that sat dull blue metal above his left eye. He’d probably done it to bring out the blue in his eyes, but at best they were a watery, pale blue that didn’t work with the dyed black hair, and the dark blue of the eyebrow piercing just seemed to emphasize that his eyes were too pale, and matched the pink traces of blood way better than the artificial additions. I was betting he started life as a white-blond, or maybe pale, nondescript brown.
“I’m a legal vampire executioner, Mr. Wilcox, but you have to break the law to bring me to your door.”
Those pale eyes blinked at me. “You can look me in the eyes.”
I smiled, and tried to shove it all the way up into my own dark brown eyes, but was pretty sure I failed. “Mr. Wilcox, Barney, you haven’t been dead two years yet. Do you really think your weak-ass vampire mind tricks will work on me?”
“He said people would be afraid of me,” and this was almost a whisper.
“Who said?” I asked. I leaned forward just a little, keeping my hands still, trying to be pleasant, and not spook him.
He muttered, “Benjamin.”
“Benjamin who?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Just Benjamin. The old vampires only have one name.”
I nodded. Old vampires had one name, like Madonna, or Beyoncé, but what most people didn’t know was that they fought duels to see who got to use the name. A powerful vampire could demand that another lesser vampire give up the use of a name he’d had for centuries, or fight for the right to keep it. I didn’t say that part out loud, because most people, even us vampire experts, didn’t know it. It was an old custom that was dying out as the modern vampires kept their last names, and duels were illegal now that vampires weren’t. Dueling was looked on the same under the law regardless of whether the participants were alive or undead. I would have bet a lot of money that this Benjamin wasn’t old enough to know the history behind vampires having only one name.
“Where can I find Benjamin?”
“I thought you were so powerful that no vampire could resist you.” There was a flare of sullen anger in his pale blue eyes. There was temper in there, under the tears.
“I would need a connection with him, someone who was metaphysically joined with him in some way, so I could follow the psychic connection. Someone like you.” I let the hint of threat ride into that last part.