The Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #2)(9)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

"Now this. It's the same beastie, whatever the hell it is. But we are miles from the nearest frigging cemetery. It isn't a ghoul, and maybe if I had called you in with the first or even the second case, this wouldn't have happened. But I figure I'm getting good at this supernatural crap. I've had some experience now, but it isn't enough. It isn't nearly enough." His big hands were crushing his notebook.

"That's the longest speech I've ever heard you make," I said.

He half laughed. "I need the name, Anita."

"Dominga Salvador. She's the voodoo priest for the entire Midwest. But if you send police down there she won't talk to you. None of them will."

"But they'll talk to you?"

"Yes," I said.

"Okay, but I better hear something from you by tomorrow."

"I don't know if I can set up a meeting that soon."

"Either you do it, or I do it," he said.

"Okay, okay, I'll do it, somehow."

"Thanks, Anita. At least now we have someplace to start."

"It might not be a zombie at all, Dolph. I'm just guessing."

"What else could it be?"

"Well, if there had been blood on the glass, I'd say maybe a lycanthrope."

"Oh, great, just what I need--a rampaging shapeshifter."

"But there was no blood on the glass."

"So probably some kind of undead," he said.

"Exactly."

"You talk to this Dominga Salvador and give me a report ASAP."

"Aye, aye, Sergeant."

He made a face at me and walked back inside the house. Better him than me. All I had to do was go home, change clothes, and prepare to raise the dead. At full dark tonight I had three clients lined up or would that be lying down?

Ellen Grisholm's therapist thought it would be therapeutic for Ellen to confront her child-molesting father. The trouble was the father had been dead for several months. So I was going to raise Mr. Grisholm from the dead and let his daughter tell him what a son of a bitch he was. The therapist said it would be cleansing. I guess if you have a doctorate, you're allowed to say things like that.

The other two raisings were more usual; a contested will, and a prosecution's star witness that had had the bad taste to have a heart attack before testifying in court. They still weren't sure if the testimony of a zombie was admissible in court, but they were desperate enough to try, and to pay for the privilege.

I stood there in the greenish-brown grass. Glad to see the family hadn't been addicted to sprinklers. A waste of water. Maybe they had even recycled their pop cans, newspapers. Maybe they had been decent earth-loving citizens. Maybe not.

One of the uniforms lifted the yellow Do-Not-Cross tape and let me out. I ignored all the staring people and got in my car. It was a late-model Nova. I could have afforded something better but why bother? It ran.

The steering wheel was too hot to touch. I turned on the air-conditioning and let the car cool down. What I had told Dolph about Dominga Salvador had been true. She wouldn't talk to the police, but that hadn't been the reason I tried to keep her name out of it.

If the police came knocking on Señora Dominga's door, she'd want to know who sent them. And she'd find out. The Señora was the most powerful vaudun priest I had ever met.

Raising a murderous zombie was just one of many things she could do, if she wanted to.

Frankly, there were things worse than zombies that could come crawling through your window some dark night. I knew as little about that side of the business as I could get away with. The Señora had invented most of it.

No, I did not want Dominga Salvador angry with me. So it looked like I was going to have to talk with her tomorrow. It was sort of like getting an appointment to see the godfather of voodoo. Or in this case the godmother. The trouble was this godmother was unhappy with me. Dominga had sent me invitations to her home. To her ceremonies. I had politely declined. I think my being a Christian disappointed her. So I had managed to avoid a face to face, until now.

I was going to ask the most powerful vaudun priest in the United States, maybe in all of North America, if she just happened to raise a zombie. And if that zombie just happened to be going around killing people, on her orders? Was I crazy? Maybe. It looked like tomorrow was going to be another busy day.

Chapter 4

The alarm screamed. I rolled over swatting at the buttons on top of the digital clock. Surely to God, I'd hit the snooze button soon. I finally had to prop myself up on one elbow and actually open my eyes. I turned off the alarm and stared at the glowing numbers. 6:00 A.M. Shit. I'd only gotten home at three.

Why had I set the alarm for six? I couldn't remember. I am not at my best after only three hours of sleep. I lay back down in the still warm nest of sheets. My eyes were fluttering shut when I remembered. Dominga Salvador.

She had agreed to meet me at 7:00 A.M. today. Talk about a breakfast meeting. I struggled out of the sheet, and just sat on the side of the bed for a minute. The apartment was absolutely still. The only sound was the hush-hush of the air-conditioning. Quiet as a funeral.

I got up then, thoughts of blood-coated teddy bears dancing in my head.

Fifteen minutes later I was dressed. I always showered after coming in from work no matter how late it was. I couldn't stand the thought of going to bed between nice clean sheets smeared with dried chicken blood. Sometimes it's goat blood, but more often chicken.

I had compromised on the outfit, caught between showing respect and not melting in the heat. It would have been easy if I hadn't planned to carry a gun with me. Call me paranoid, but I don't leave home without it.

The acid washed jeans, jogging socks, and Nikes were easy. An Uncle Mike's inter-pants holster complete with a Firestar 9mm completed the outfit. The Firestar was my backup piece to the Browning Hi-Power. The Browning was far too bulky to put down an inter-pants holster, but the Firestar fit nicely.

Now all I needed was a shirt that would hide the gun, but leave it accessible to grab and shoot. This was harder than it sounded. I finally settled on a short, almost middrift top that just barely fell over my waistband. I turned in front of the mirror.

The gun was invisible as long as I didn't forget and raise my arms too high. The top, unfortunately, was a pale, pale pink. What had possessed me to buy this top, I really didn't remember. Maybe it had been a gift? I hoped so. The thought that I had actually spent money on anything pink was more than I could bear.