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Authors: Laurell K. Hamilton

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BOOK: Cerulean Sins
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38

I
OPENED THE
Jeep and heard my cell phone ringing. I kept leaving it in the car, forgetting I had it. I slid onto the warm leather of the seats, fumbling for the phone from under the seat, even as I closed the door behind me. Yeah, it would have been cooler with the door open, but I didn't want my legs hanging out the open door while I lay across the seat. Not because bad guys were after me, just normal girl paranoia.

I finally dug the phone out on the fourth and last ring before it went over to message mode. “Yeah, it's me, what?” I sounded rude and out of breath, but at least I picked up.


Ma petite
?” Jean-Claude made the word almost a question as if he wasn't a hundred percent sure he'd gotten me.

With the gearshift digging into my side, and the overheated leather against my arm, I still felt better. Better to hear his voice, better to know he'd called me first. He couldn't be all that mad at me if he called first.

“It's me, Jean-Claude, I forgot the phone in the Jeep again, sorry.” I wanted to say other things, but I couldn't figure out how to get the right words out of my mouth. Part of the problem was I wasn't sure what the right words were.

“The police have taken Jason,” he said.

“What did you say?”

“The police have come and taken Jason away.” His voice was matter of fact, empty even. Which usually meant he was hiding a lot of emotions, none of which he wanted to share.

I moved over an inch so the gearshift wasn't stabbing me, and lay on the seats for a moment. The first hint of panic was fluttering around in my gut.
“Why did they take him?” My voice sounded almost as normal and matter of fact as Jean-Claude's.

“For questioning about a murder.” His empty, cultured voice said it, as if the M-word hadn't been there.

“What murder?” I asked, and my voice was getting emptier.

“Sergeant Zerbrowski said you'd figure it out. That bringing Jason to a crime scene was a bad idea. I was not aware you took anyone on your crime scene visits.”

“You make it sound like I'm visiting friends.”

“I meant no insult, but why was Jason with you?”

“I wasn't feeling well enough to drive, and the police didn't want to wait for me to feel better.”

“Why were you unwell enough not to drive?”

“Well, it seemed to be because Asher took a hell of a lot of blood. And I was having a bad reaction to having my mind rolled. It left me feeling a bit sick.”

“How sick?” he asked, and there was a note of something in his empty voice now, something I couldn't quite place.

“I fainted a couple of times, and threw up, okay? Now let's concentrate on the current crisis. Did they actually arrest Jason?”

“I could not get a good sense of that, but I think not. They did take him away in restraints, though.”

“That's standard with any known, or suspected, lycanthropes,” I said. I pushed myself up, so I could sit on the seat instead of lying across it. The front of a Jeep just wasn't made for lying across. “You do know that if they didn't arrest him then he's free to walk out of questioning at any time?”

“It is a pretty theory,
ma petite,
” now he sounded tired.

“It's the law,” I said.

“Perhaps for humans,” he said, voice mild.

I couldn't keep the indignation out of my voice. “The law applies to everyone, Jean-Claude, that's the way the system works.”

He gave a soft laugh, and for once it was just a laugh with nothing otherworldly about it. “You are not usually so naive,
ma petite
.”

“If the law doesn't apply evenly to everybody, then it doesn't work at all.”

“I will not argue this with you,
ma petite
.”

“If Zerbrowski picked him up, I know where they took Jason. I'm not that far from RPIT headquarters.”

“What are you going to do?” he asked, voice still holding the soft edge of his laughter.

“Get Jason out,” I said, buckling on my seat belt, and trying to pin the phone against my shoulder enough to start the Jeep.

“Do you think that is possible?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, and nearly dropped the phone, but I got the Jeep started. I seemed to be having a little trouble coordinating everything today.

“You sound so confident,
ma petite
.”

“I am confident.” I was, the fluttering feeling in my stomach wasn't. “I've got to go.”

“Good fortune,
ma petite,
I hope you rescue our wolf.”

“I'll do my best.”

“Of that, there is little doubt.
Je t'aime, ma petite
.”

“I love you, too.” We hung up, at least we'd ended with I love you. It was better than screaming at each other. I dropped the phone on the seat beside me and put the Jeep in gear.

One emergency at a time. Save Jason, contact some people I knew to see if they knew anything about Heinrick, then prepare for the big banquet with Musette and company. Oh, and figure out how to keep the mess with Asher from driving a permanent wedge between Jean-Claude and me. Just another day in my life. This was one of those days when I thought that maybe a new life, a different life, wouldn't be so bad. But where the hell had I put the receipt, and could you return something that was over twenty years old? Where do you go to get a new life when your old one has you so puzzled you don't know how to fix it? Wish I knew.

39

N
O ONE STOPPED
me at the door. No one stopped me at the stairs. In fact, people kept saying, “Hi, Anita, how you doing?” I wasn't an official member of the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, but I'd worked with them all for so long that I was like the office furniture, something that was there, accepted, even expected.

It was Detective Jessica Arnet that finally said something to me that wasn't just, hi. “Where's that cutie you always have in tow?”

“Which one?” I asked.

She laughed at that, and blushed a little. It was the blush that got my attention. She always flirted with Nathaniel, but I'd never thought much about it, until I saw her blush.

“You do seem to have more than your share of cuties, but I meant the one with violet eyes.”

I'd have bet money that she knew exactly what Nathaniel's name was. “He stayed home today,” I said.

She laid the stack of folders down on a desk, not her own, and pushed back her hair from her face. There wasn't enough of her dark hair to push back. It looked like an old gesture from when she'd had longer hair. The short, barely below-ear-level cut really didn't flatter her face. But the face was still good, triangular, with delicate bones that framed her smile nicely. I'd never really noticed, but she was pretty.

Did Nathaniel ever want to date, just date? Not the dominance and submission stuff, but like dinner and a movie. Someday I'd have the
ardeur
under control and wouldn't need a
pomme de sang
, right? That had been the
plan. So Nathaniel should like—date. Shouldn't he? If I wasn't going to keep him, he should date.

I had a headache starting right between my eyes.

Detective Arnet almost touched my arm, but stopped in mid-gesture. “Are you alright?”

I forced a smile. “Looking for Zerbrowski.”

She told me what room he was in, because she didn't know she wasn't supposed to. Hell, I wasn't even sure she wasn't supposed to. Technically, this was part of the investigation that Dolph had wanted my input on, so I had a right to be there when they questioned suspects. In my head it all sounded logical, but a little desperate, as if I were trying way too hard to convince myself.

I went up on tiptoe outside the door, so I could look in the little window. Television will make you think that all police interrogation rooms have huge one-way mirrors that take up almost an entire wall. Very few departments have either the budget or the space for that kind of thing. Television uses it because it's more dramatic and makes camera work easier. It seemed to me that real life is dramatic enough without big windows, and there are no good camera angles, only pain. Or maybe I was just in a rotten mood.

I wanted a quick peek into the room to make a hundred percent sure I had the right place. Jason was at the little table, Zerbrowski was sitting across from him, but what got me flat-footed, was that Dolph was leaning against the far wall. Zerbrowski had said he was on leave for a couple of weeks. Had Zerbrowski lied to me? That didn't feel right. But what was Dolph doing here?

I gave one sharp knock on the door. I waited, steeling myself to be calm, or at least to look calm. Zerbrowski opened the door a crack. His eyes looked surprised behind his glasses.

“This isn't a good time,” he said. He tried to tell me with his eyes that Dolph was in the room.

“I know Dolph's here, Zerbrowski. I thought he was supposed to be on leave for a few weeks.”

Zerbrowski sighed, but his eyes were angry. Angry at me, I think, for not slinking off and making things worse. Making things worse was one of my specialties; Zerbrowski should have known that by now.

“Lieutenant Storr is here because he is still head of the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, and he brought this suspect to our attention.”

“Suspect? Why is Jason a suspect?”

“You don't want to do this in the hallway, Anita.”

“No, I don't, I want to come in the room, so we can all talk like civilized human beings. You're the one keeping me out in the hallway.”

He licked his lips, and almost turned and looked at Dolph, but fought the urge. “Come in,” he lowered his voice to a whisper, “but stay on this side of the room.”

I followed Zerbrowski inside and went where he motioned so that I ended up with the table between me and Dolph. It was almost as if Zerbrowski didn't trust what Dolph would do.

“You are not letting her sit in,” Dolph said.

Zerbrowski squared his shoulders and faced Dolph. “We asked her to help us on this crime scene, Dolph.”

“I didn't,” he said.

“Actually, yeah, you did,” I said.

Dolph opened his mouth, then closed it in a tight thin line. He hugged his arms so tight, it looked like it hurt, as if he didn't trust what his hands would do if they weren't wrapped around something. There was a look of such rage in his eyes. He usually had some of the best cop eyes I'd ever seen, empty, gave nothing away. Today his eyes gave everything away, but I didn't understand where the anger was coming from.

Jason was sitting at the end of the table, trying to seem as small and inoffensive as possible. Since he's not much taller than I am, he was doing a good job of it.

Zerbrowski shut the door and sat on the side of the table close to Dolph, leaving me the chair farther away.

I didn't sit. “Why did you pull Jason in?”

“He has defensive wounds on his body consistent with the crime.”

“You don't actually believe that Jason was involved in that,” I searched for a word, “
slaughter
, do you?”

“He's a werewolf and he's got defensive wounds,” Dolph said, “if he didn't rape our vic, then he raped somebody.”

“You're here to observe, Lieutenant,” Zerbrowski said, but his face said plainly that he would have rather been anywhere than sitting here, telling Dolph to mind his own business.

Dolph started to say something, then stopped himself by force of will alone. “Fine, fine, Sergeant, carry on.” Those last two words held more heat than a forest fire.

“Wait,” I said, “did you say rape?”

“We found semen at the first murder site,” Zerbrowski said.

“The crucifixion?” I asked.

“No,” Dolph said harshly, “the woman who was ripped apart.”

“Semen doesn't mean rape at a scene like that, just that he enjoyed himself. It's sick, but it doesn't necessarily mean true sexual contact. I saw the body, there wasn't enough left of her to know whether he touched her like
that, or not.” I had a thought, an awful thought. “Please tell me you don't mean the head.”

Zerbrowski shook his head, “No. Scattered over the scene.”

It was almost a relief. Almost. “So why did Dolph say rape?”

“There was a little more left of the second female vic,” Zerbrowski said.

I looked at him. “I don't remember being notified about a second attack.”

“You didn't need to know,” Dolph said. “You were right, I called you in on the first one, but I didn't make the same mistake twice.”

I ignored Dolph as best I could and looked at Zerbrowski. He mouthed, “Later.”

Fine, Zerbrowski would fill me in when we had some non-Dolph time. Fine, great. I couldn't do anything about the psycho shape-shifter we had running around town, not right that second, but I might be able to do something about the current disaster.

“What did Jason say when you asked where he got scratched up?”

“Said a man doesn't kiss and tell,” Zerbrowski said, “even I thought that one was lame.”

I looked at Jason. He shrugged, as if to say, what was I supposed to say. He knew me well enough to know I wouldn't want him talking out of school. He was right on that. I so didn't want Zerbrowski and Dolph to know. Hell, I didn't want anyone to know. But my embarrassment wasn't worth Jason getting locked up.

I sighed, and spoke the truth. “The scratches aren't defensive wounds.”

“He's cut up, Anita, and we got the Polaroid's to prove it,” Zerbrowski said. “Dolph noticed some scratches at the first scene. They're gone, but now he's got fresh wounds.”

“I cut him up.” My voice sounded bland, because I was fighting to sound bland.

Dolph gave a sound that was more snort than laugh. No words were needed to say he didn't believe me.

Zerbrowski said his out loud, “Shop it somewhere else, Anita, we're not buying.”

I raised the sleeves on my shirt and showed my own healing scratches. “When I was afraid I'd hurt him more, I scratched myself.”

Zerbrowski's eyes went wide. “Jesus, Blake, you always this rough?”

“You'll never find out Zerbrowski.”

“If that was a yes, then I'm okay with that.” He almost touched some of the deeper scratches on my arm, then stopped and almost touched the scratches on Jason's arms. “I hope the sex was good.”

Jason looked down at the tabletop, and did his best impression of an aw'shucks look. He managed to look coy and pleased with himself all at the same time.

“That's answer enough,” I said.

Jason flashed me a grin that made his baby blues sparkle. “Whatever you say, mistress.”

I gave him a very mean look, that didn't dim his enjoyment one bit.

Dolph pushed away from the wall to peer over the table at my arm. “I don't buy this, Anita. Maybe you scratched your own arms up on the way here to give him an alibi.”

“The scratches aren't that fresh, Dolph.”

He started to grab my arm, but I stepped out of reach. “I don't want to be manhandled again, thanks anyway.”

He leaned across the table at me, and Jason began to ease his chair back, as if he didn't want to be in the middle.

“You're lying,” Dolph said. “A shape-shifter heals anything but silver and wounds from another monster, real quick. You taught me that, Anita. He should be healed by now, if you really were the one who hurt him.”

“Wouldn't that same logic dictate that if the scratches were from the female victim then they'd already have healed?”

“Not if they come from the second victim.” Dolph slapped that bit of information down as if it were a blow, and in a way it was.

I looked at Zerbrowski. “I can't debate the healed scratches thing if I don't know the time line. I need a time.”

He opened his mouth, but Dolph answered, “Why, so you can give the perfect alibi?”

“Gee, Zerbrowski, I don't see your hand up Dolph's ass, but it must be, because every time I ask you a question, the answer comes out his mouth.” I was leaning across the table now, too.

“His scratches are older than yours, Anita,” Dolph said, voice almost a growl of its own, “more healed. You'll never prove in court that they happened at the same time.”

“He's a shape-shifter. He heals faster. I taught you that. Remember?”

“Are you really admitting that you fucked him?” Dolph said.

I was too angry to flinch at his choice of words. “I prefer the term
made love
to fucked, but yeah, we did the nasty.”

“If that was true, the marks would have healed completely by now. If you're only human, like you keep telling me.”

The headache between my eyes felt like something was trying to stab its way out of my skull. I really wasn't in any mood for this. “What I am, or what I am not, is none of your damn business. But I'm telling you that I marked him up in the heat of passion. More than that, chances are good he was with me when the second murder took place. We can give you times, if you want.”

“Times would be good,” Zerbrowski had scooted his chair a little farther
down the table, but he hadn't deserted his post. He'd stayed closer to all that quivering rage than most people would have.

I had to think about it, but I managed to give him approximate times for the last two days. Truthfully, I wasn't much good on alibiing Jason for the first murder, but on the second, I was pretty sure I had him covered.

Zerbrowski was doing his best to give blank cop face while he wrote down what I said. The entire interview was being recorded, but Zerbrowski, like Dolph, liked to write things down. I hadn't really thought about it before, but Zerbrowski might have learned that habit from Dolph.

Dolph stayed standing near the table, looming over all of us, as I spoke. Zerbrowski asked small questions to nail the times as clearly as possible.

Jason stayed as quiet and still as he could through all of it. His hands clasped together on the table, head down, eyes taking small quick glances at all of us, without moving his head or body. He reminded me of a rabbit hiding in the long grass, hoping that if he just stayed quiet enough, still enough, that the dogs wouldn't find him. The analogy should have been laughable. I mean, he was a werewolf. But it wasn't funny, because it was accurate. Being a werewolf didn't protect you from the human laws, most of the time it hurt you. Sometimes it even got you killed. We weren't in that kind of danger, yet, but that could change.

A shape-shifter accused of murdering a human got a speedy trial and an execution. If a shape-shifter was declared rogue, one that was actively hunting humans, and the police couldn't capture it, then you could get a court order of execution, just like for a vampire. It worked almost the same way. A vampire that was suspected of murder but was still eluding capture and deemed a danger to the public could have an order of execution issued by a judge. Once you had the order of execution in hand you could kill it when you found it. Just insert shape-shifter for vampire into the formula and it worked the same way. There was no trial, no anything—just hunt it down and kill it. I'd done a few jobs like that. Not many, but a few.

There'd been a movement a few years ago to make a magic-using human subject to orders of execution, but too many human right's organizations had kicked a fit. As a magic-using human, I was happy. As someone who had executed people on orders of the court, I wasn't sure how I would have felt about hunting a human being down and killing them. I'd killed humans before when they threatened my life, or the lives of those I held dear. But self-defense, even proactive self-defense wasn't quite the same thing. A human witch or wizard got a trial, but if they were convicted of using magic for murder, it was an automatic death sentence. Ninety-nine percent of the time the witch or wizard was convicted. Jurors just didn't like the idea of people who could kill by magic walking around free. One of my goals in life was to stay the hell out of a courtroom.

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