Bite (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8.5)

by Laurell K. Hamilton



Laurell K. Hamilton

This short story occurs in the interval between BLUE MOON and OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY.

IT was five days before Christmas, a quarter ’til midnight. I should have been asnooze in my bed dreaming of sugarplums, whatever the hell they were, but I wasn’t. I was sitting across my desk sipping coffee and offering a box of Kleenexes to my client, Ms. Rhonda Mackenzie. She’d been crying for nearly the entire meeting, so that she’d wiped most of her careful eye makeup away, leaving her eyes pale and unfinished, younger, like what she must have looked like when she was in high school. The dark, perfect lipstick made the eyes look emptier, more vulnerable.

“I’m not usually like this, Ms. Blake. I am a very strong woman.” Her voice took on a tone that said she believed this, and it might even be true. She raised those naked brown eyes to me and there was fierceness in them that might have made a weaker person flinch. Even I, tough-as-nails vampire-hunter that I am, had trouble meeting the rage in those eyes.

“It’s alright, Ms. Mackenzie, you’re not the first client that’s cried. It’s hard when you’ve lost someone.”

She looked up startled. “I haven’t lost anyone, not yet.”

I sat my coffee cup back down without drinking from it and stared at her. “I’m an animator, Ms. Mackenzie. I raise the dead if the reason is good enough. I assumed this amount of grief was because you’d come to ask me to raise someone close to you.”

She shook her head, her deep brown curls in disarray around her face as if she’d been running her hands through what was once a perfect perm. “My daughter, Amy, is very much alive and I want her to stay that way.”

Now I was just plain confused. “I raise the dead and am a legal vampire executioner, Ms. Mackenzie. How do either of those jobs help you keep your daughter alive?”

“I want you to help me find her before she commits suicide.”

I just stared at her, my face professionally blank, but inwardly, I was cursing my boss. He and I had had discussions about exactly what my job description was, and suicidal daughters weren’t part of that description.

“Have you gone to the police?” I asked.

“They won’t do anything for twenty-four hours, but by then it will be too late.”

“I have a friend who is a private detective. This sounds much more up her alley than mine, Ms. Mackenzie.” I was already reaching for the phone. “I’ll call her at home for you.”

“No,” she said, “only you can help me.”

I sighed and clasped my hands across the clean top of my desk. Most of my work wasn’t indoor office work, so the desk didn’t really see much use. “You’re daughter is alive, Ms. Mackenzie, so you don’t need me to raise her. She’s not a rogue vampire, so you don’t need an executioner. How can I be of any help to you?”

She leaned forward; the Kleenex waded in her hands, her eyes fierce again. “If you don’t help me by morning she will be a vampire.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“She’s determined to become one of them tonight.”

“It takes three bites to become a vampire, Ms. Mackenzie, and they all have to be from the same vampire. You can’t become one in a single night, and you can’t become one if you’re just being casual with more than one.”

“She has two bites on her thighs. I accidentally walked in on her when she was getting out of the shower and I saw them.”

“Are you sure they were vampire bites?” I asked.

She nodded. “I made a scene. I grabbed her, wrestled with her so I could see them clearly. They are vampire bites, just like the pictures they passed around at the last PTA meeting so we could recognize it. You know one of those people lecturing on how to know if your kids are involved with the monsters.”

I nodded. I knew the kind of person she meant. Some of it was valuable information, some of it was just scare tactics, and some of it was racist, if that was the term. Prejudiced at least.

“How old is your daughter?”

“She’s seventeen.”

“That’s only a year away from being legal, Ms. Mackenzie. Once she turns eighteen, if she wants to become a vampire, you can’t stop her legally.”

“You say that so calmly. Do you approve?”

I took in a deep breath and let it out, slow. “I’d be willing to talk to your daughter, try to talk her out of it. But how do you know that tonight is the night? It has to be three bites within a very short space of time or the body fights off the infection, or whatever the hell it is.” Scientists were still arguing about exactly what made someone become a vampire. There were biological differences before and after, but there was also a certain level of mysticism involved, and science has always been bad at deciphering that kind of thing.

“The bites were fresh, Ms. Blake. I called the man who gave the lecture at our school and he said to come to you.”

“Who was he?”

“Jeremy Ruebens.”

I frowned now. “I didn’t know he’d gotten out of jail,” I said.

Her eyes went wide. “Jail?”

“He didn’t mention in his talk that he was jailed for conspiracy to commit murder—over a dozen counts, maybe hundreds. He was head of Humans First when they tried to wipe out all the vampires and some of the shape-shifters in St. Louis.”

“He talked about that,” she said. “He said he would never have condoned such violence and that it was done without his knowledge.”

I smiled and knew from the feel of it that it was unpleasant. “Jeremy Ruebens once sat in the chair you’re in now and told me that Humans First’s goal was to destroy every vampire in the United States.”

She just looked at me, and I let it go. She would believe what she wanted to believe, most people did.

“Ms. Mackenzie, whether you, or I, or Jeremy Ruebens, approve, or not, vampires are legal citizens with legal rights in this country. That’s just the way it is.”

“Amy is seventeen, if that thing brings her over underage it’s murder and I will prosecute him for murder. If he kills my Amy, I will see him dead.”

“You know for certain that it is a he?”

“The bites were very, very high up on her thigh.” She looked down at her lap. “Her inner thigh.”