A big statie, with shoulders wider than either of us was tall, said, "I've heard it called a lot of things, but deputy isn't one of 'em."


I turned on him, slowly, because I couldn't move fast, and the very slowness of the turn helped the menace. It's hard to be menacing to someone when you barely reach their waist, but I have had lots of practice.

Jason must have been afraid of what I'd say, because he said, "You're just jealous."

The big man shook his head in his Smokey the bear hat. "I like my women bigger."

"Funny," I said, "that's what your wife says."

It took him a minute to get it, then he unfolded those beefy arms and took a step towards us. "Why you . . ."

"Trooper Kennedy," a voice said from behind us, "don't you have some speeders to go catch?"

I turned to see Zerbrowski walking towards us. He was dressed in his usual--sloppy as hell, as if he'd slept in the brown suit, a yellow shirt with the collar on one side pointing up, and a tie at half-mast, already stained with something, even though he probably hadn't had breakfast. His wife, Katie, was always neat as a pin. I'd never figured out how she let him go out looking like that.

"I'm on my own time here, detective," Trooper Kennedy said.

"And this is my crime scene, trooper. I don't think we need you here."

"She says that she deputized him."

"She's a federal marshal, Kennedy, she can do that."

The big man looked perplexed. "I didn't mean anything by the comment, sir."

"I know you didn't, Kennedy, just as Marshall Blake here didn't mean anything by hers. Did you, Anita?"

"I don't know his wife, so no, just pulling your leg, Officer Kennedy, sorry about that."

Kennedy frowned, thinking harder than was good for him, I think. "No offense taken, and none meant, ma'am." He couldn't quite bring himself to call me officer, or marshal, which was fine with me. The federal status was so new that I didn't always look up when someone called marshal. I kept forgetting they meant me.

When the big trooper had wandered away to his car, Zerbrowski called over one of the other detectives on the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, affectionately know as RPIT. If you wanted to piss them off, call them RIP.

"See if you can clear out some of the personnel we don't need."

"You got it, Sarge," and the man went to talk with all the nice policemen from all the many jurisdictions.

"Sarge," I said, "I knew Dolph made lieutenant finally, I didn't hear your news."

He shrugged, running a hand through his already messy curls. Katie would make him go in for a haircut soon. "When they moved Dolph up, he needed a second whip, I got tapped."

"They throw you a party yet?"

He adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses. They didn't need adjusting. "Yeah."

If I'd been a man, I'd have let it go, but I was a girl, and girl's poke at things more than men. "I was invited to Dolph's party for making louie, but not yours?"

"I like Micah, Anita, but Dolph . . . didn't expect you to bring Micah. I don't think he could take seeing him at my shindig, too."

"He just can't handle the fact that my main squeeze is a shape-shifter."

Zerbrowski shrugged. "Katie gave me strict orders to invite you and Micah over for dinner the next time I saw you. So here it is, and when can you come over?"

There are points where you stop pushing. I didn't ask if Katie had really told Zerbrowski that, she probably had, but, whatever, he was trying to offer a social peace pipe, and I was going to take it.

"I'll ask Micah what our schedule looks like."

His eyes flicked to Jason, and he grinned. The grin reminded me so much of Jason's grin, that it made me wonder what Zerbrowski had been like in college, when Katie and he met. "Unless you've changed guys again?"

"No," I said, "Jason's just a friend."

"The friend speech," Jason clutched his heart with his free hand, the other still wrapped around mine, "it cuts so deep."

"Yeah, I've been trying to get into her pants for years. She just won't come across."

"Tell me about it," Jason said.

"Both of you, stop it, right now," I said.

They both laughed, and the laughs were so similar that it was kind of unnerving. "I know you have the right to make him a deputy, but I know what Mr. Schulyer here is, and where his primary residence is." Zerbrowski leaned in close enough to us that no one else would hear. "Dolph would kill me if I let him into the crime scene."

"You catch me if I pass out, and he can stay out here."

"Pass out," Zerbrowski said, "you're joking, right?"

"I wish I was." I had both hands on Jason's arm now, fighting the urge to totter on my high heels.

"Dolph said that you'd said you were sick. Did he know how sick?"

"He didn't seem to care, just wanted me to get my ass out here."

Zerbrowski frowned. "If he'd known you were this shaky, he wouldn't have insisted."

"Pretty to think so," I said. I could feel the blood draining from my face. I needed to sit down, soon, just for a few minutes.

"I would ask if it's the flu, but I see the bandage on your neck. What did it?"

"Vampire," I said.

"You want to report a crime?"

"It's been taken care of."

"You kill his ass?"

I looked at him through the dark lenses of the glasses. "I really need to sit down for a few minutes, Zerbrowski, and you know I wouldn't ask if I didn't need it."

He offered me his arm. "I'll escort you through, but Schulyer there can't come." He looked at Jason. "Sorry, man."

Jason shrugged. "It's okay, I'm really good at entertaining myself."

"Behave yourself," I said.

He grinned. "Don't I always?"

I would have stayed there and made sure he promised me how good he would be, but I had only about enough energy to walk into the house and sit down before my legs gave. I'd leave the police officers and emergency crews to Jason's mercy. He wouldn't do anything bad, just irritating.

I stumbled on the steps leading up to the small front porch. If Zerbrowski hadn't caught me, I'd have fallen.

"Jesus, Anita, you should be in bed."

"That's what I told Dolph."

He eased me through the door and found me a small straight-backed chair in the hallway. "I'll tell Dolph how sick you are and let the kid take you home."

"No," I said, though I did lay my forehead on my knees while the world steadied around me.

"Jesus, Anita, you're as stubborn as he is. Dolph won't take nofor an answer, so you drag your ass out of a sickbed to come down here. I give you an out, where I'll take the heat from Dolph, but nooo, you're going to show Dolph that you're just as stubborn and bullheaded as he is. You planning to faint in his arms? That'll really show him."

"Shut up, Zerbrowski."

"Fine, you sit there for a few minutes. I'll come back and check on you, and I'll escort you through the crime scene. But you're being stupid."

I spoke with my face still in my lap. "If Dolph were sick, he'd still be here."

"That doesn't prove you're right, Anita, that just proves you're bothstupid." With that he walked away, farther into the house. It was good that he left, because for the life of me, I couldn't have argued with him.

18

When Zerbrowski first led me into the room, I thought, there's a man levitating against that wall.He did look like he was floating. I knew that wasn't true, but for just a moment my eyes, my mind, tried to make that what I saw. Then I saw the dark lines where blood had dried on the body. It looked as if he'd been shot, a lot, and bled, but bullets wouldn't have kept him pinned to the wall.

Strangely, I wasn't faint, or nauseous, or anything. I felt light and distant, and more solid than I'd felt in hours. I kept walking towards the man on the wall. Zerbrowski's hand slipped away from mine, and I was steady on my high heels in the soft carpet.

I had to be almost underneath the body before my eyes could make sense of it, and even then, I was going to have to ask someone who was more tool-oriented if I was right.

It looked like someone had taken a nail gun, one of those industrial size nail guns, and nailed the man to the wall. His shoulders were about eight feet off the ground, so either they'd used a ladder, or they'd been close to seven feet tall.

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