When Branson, Missouri, is hit with a death wave? four unsolved murders?it doesn't take an expert to realize that all is not well. But luckily for the locals, Anita Blake is an expert in the kinds of preternatural goings-on that have everyone spooked. And she's got an ?in? with the creature that can make sense of the slayings??the sexy master vampire known as Jean-Claude.
About the Author
Hometown:St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Birth:February 19, 1963
Place of Birth:Heber Springs, Arkansas
Education:B.A., Marion College
Read an Excerpt
IT WAS ST. Patrick’s Day, and the only green I was wearing
was a button that read, “Pinch me and you’re dead
meat.” I’d started work last night with a green blouse on, but
I’d gotten blood all over it from a beheaded chicken. Larry
Kirkland, zombie-raiser in training, had dropped the decapitated
bird. It did the little headless chicken dance and
sprayed both of us with blood. I finally caught the damn
thing, but the blouse was ruined.
I had to run home and change. The only thing not ruined
was the charcoal grey suit jacket that had been in the car. I
put it back on over a black blouse, black skirt, dark hose,
and black pumps. Bert, my boss, didn’t like us wearing
black to work, but if I had to be at the office at seven o’clock
without any sleep at all, he would just have to live with it.
I huddled over my coffee mug, drinking it as black as I
could swallow it. It wasn’t helping much. I stared at a series
of 8-by-10 glossy blowups spread across my desktop. The
first picture was of a hill that had been scraped open, probably
by a bulldozer. A skeletal hand reached out of the raw
earth. The next photo showed that someone had tried to
carefully scrape away the dirt, showing the splintered coffin
and bones to one side of the coffin. A new body. The bulldozer
had been brought in again. It had plowed up the red
earth and found a boneyard. Bones studded the earth like
One skull spread its unhinged jaws in a silent scream. A
scraggle of pale hair still clung to the skull. The dark,
stained cloth wrapped around the corpse was the remnants
of a dress. I spotted at least three femurs next to the upper
half of a skull. Unless the corpse had had three legs, we were
looking at a real mess.
The pictures were well done in a gruesome sort of way.
The color made it easier to differentiate the corpses, but the
high gloss was a little much. It looked like morgue photos
done by a fashion photographer. There was probably an art
gallery in New York that would hang the damn things and
serve cheese and wine while people walked around saying,
“Powerful, don’t you think? Very powerful.”
They were powerful, and sad.
There was nothing but the photos. No explanation. Bert
had said to come to his office after I’d looked at them. He’d
explain everything. Yeah, I believed that. The Easter Bunny
is a friend of mine, too.
I gathered the pictures up, slipped them into the envelope,
picked my coffee mug up in the other hand, and went for the
There was no one at the desk. Craig had gone home.
Mary, our daytime secretary, didn’t get in until eight. There
was a two-hour space of time when the office was unmanned.
That Bert had called me into the office when we
were the only ones there bothered me a lot. Why the secrecy?
Bert’s office door was open. He sat behind his desk,
drinking coffee, shuffling some papers around. He glanced
up, smiled, and motioned me closer. The smile bothered me.
Bert was never pleasant unless he wanted something.
His thousand-dollar suit framed a white-on-white shirt
and tie. His grey eyes sparkled with good cheer. His eyes are
the color of dirty window glass, so sparkling is a real effort.
His snow-blond hair had been freshly buzzed. The crewcut
was so short I could see scalp.
“Have a seat, Anita.”
I tossed the envelope on his desk and sat down. “What are
you up to, Bert?”
His smile widened. He usually didn’t waste the smile on
anybody but clients. He certainly didn’t waste it on me.
“You looked at the pictures?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Could you raise them from the dead?”
I frowned at him and sipped my coffee. “How old are
“You couldn’t tell from the pictures?”
“In person I could tell you, but not just from pictures. Answer
“Around two hundred years.”
I just stared at him. “Most animators couldn’t raise a zombie
that old without a human sacrifice.”
“But you can,” he said.
“Yeah. I didn’t see any headstones in the pictures. Do we
have any names?”
I shook my head. He’d been the boss for five years,
started the company when it was just him and Manny, and
he didn’t know shit about raising the dead. “How can you
hang around a bunch of zombie-raisers for this many years
and know so little about what we do?”
The smile slipped a little, the glow beginning to fade from
his eyes. “Why do you need names?”
“You use names to call the zombie from the grave.”
“Without a name you can’t raise them?”
“Theoretically, no,” I said.
“But you can do it,” he said. I didn’t like how sure he was.
“Yeah, I can do it. John can probably do it, too.”
He shook his head. “They don’t want John.”
I finished the last of my coffee. “Who’s they?”
“Beadle, Beadle, Stirling, and Lowenstein.”
“A law firm,” I said.
“No more games, Bert. Just tell me what the hell’s going
“Beadle, Beadle, Stirling, and Lowenstein have some
clients building a very plush resort in the mountains near
Branson. A very exclusive resort. A place where the wealthy
country stars that don’t own a house in the area can go to get
away from the crowds. Millions of dollars are at stake.”
“What’s the old cemetery have to do with it?”
“The land they’re building on was in dispute between two
families. The courts decided the Kellys owned the land, and
they were paid a great deal of money. The Bouvier family
claimed it was their land and there was a family plot on it to
prove it. No one could find the cemetery.”
Ah. “They found it,” I said.
“They found an old cemetery, but not necessarily the
Bouvier family plot.”
“So they want to raise the dead and ask who they are?”
I shrugged. “I can raise a couple of the corpses in the
coffins. Ask who they are. What happens if their last name
“They have to buy the land a second time. They think
some of the corpses are Bouviers. That’s why they want all
the bodies raised.”
I raised my eyebrows. “You’re joking.”
He shook his head, looking pleased. “Can you do it?”
“I don’t know. Give me the pictures again.” I set my coffee
mug on his desk and took the pictures back. “Bert,
they’ve screwed this six ways to Sunday. It’s a mass grave,
thanks to the bulldozers. The bones are all mixed together.
I’ve only read about one case of anyone raising a zombie
from a mass grave. But they were calling a specific person.
They had a name.” I shook my head. “Without a name it
may not be possible.”
“Would you be willing to try?”
I spread the pictures over the desk, staring at them. The
top half of a skull had turned upside down like a bowl. Two
finger bones attached by something dry and desiccated that
must once had been human tissue lay next to it. Bones,
bones everywhere but not a name to speak.
Could I do it? I honestly didn’t know. Did I want to try?
Yeah. I did.
“I’d be willing to try.”
“Raising them a few every night is going to take weeks,
even if I can do it. With John’s help it would be quicker.”
“It will cost them millions to delay that long,” Bert said.
“There’s no other way to do it.”
What People are Saying About This
“Highly-charged, well-written, no holds-barred… jaw-dropping.”—Denver Post
“Breathtaking.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“What The Da Vinci Code did for the religious thriller, the Anita Blake series has done for the vampire novel.”—USA Today