I do not own the West Wing or Anita Blake characters or worlds.
“Donna! I need the thing about the Asia Pacific summit. It’s in a yellow folder—” Josh broke off as Donna walked into his office, bereft of the folder. “Where’s the—”
“It’s under that memo from Toby, right there, but you have a meeting.”
Josh blinked. “Oh, right.” He stood up, and shrugged on his jacket. Donna followed him as he left his office. “What, are you coming for moral support?”
“What’s this meeting about? It was just listed as one o’clock, Gerald Mallory.”
“I know who Gerald Mallory is! But why are you meeting with the D.C. executioner?” Donna lowered her voice. “Is there a vampire in the White House?”
“No, there is not, and I think the Secret Service would be offended that you had to ask.”
“Because for some inexplicable reason, Mallory has the favour of the gods – by which I mean United States Senators. Do I have the briefing for this meeting?”
“Right here.” Donna handed it to Josh. “Didn’t he go after the vampire that killed the Senator’s daughter?”
“Yes, he did, and it was a thing that had to be done, but I don’t believe the ability to kill things should give someone a voice in the legislative process.”
“This is about that bill to federalise executioners.”
“Yes, it is about the bill that would turn an assortment of wackos, bounty hunters, thrill seekers and necromancers into federal marshals, without significant background checks or psychological evaluations.”
“So we’re against it?”
“The President isn’t entirely against the idea, but he doesn’t want to suddenly be responsible for the actions of two dozen heavily armed men. Who would, by the way, be allowed to own and use automatic weapons, flamethrowers, and grenades, thanks to the entirely deranged weapons exemption Mallory got attached to the bill.”
“Aren’t those things that might be necessary against, you know, preternatural creatures?”
“They’re also indiscriminate and difficult to use, which is why we want to bring executioners in through the current system and give them proper training and oversight.”
“The President’s going to veto?”
Josh shook his head. “We don’t need to, we’ve got the votes in the House. A lot of Congressmen think Mallory is certifiable, and shouldn’t be allowed a stake let alone phosphorus grenades.” Josh stopped outside the Mural room. “So I’m going to listen to his concerns, and file them in a container that may or may not resemble a garbage bin. You want to come? I could use a human shield.”
“I’ll pass.” Donna smiled, and walked off down the hall.
“Okay.” Josh stared after Donna for a moment, then went into the Mural Room.
A stocky man in a grey suit was conducting a whispered argument with a petite, dark-haired woman in a black pantsuit. The two of them stood as Josh closed the door. The man looked grim, the woman a little uncomfortable, but neither of them were nervous.
“Hi, I’m Josh Lyman,” Josh said, shaking hands with both of them in turn.
“Gerald Mallory,” the stocky man said. He gestured at the woman. “This is—”
“Anita Blake,” the woman said, interrupting Mallory smoothly. Josh blinked. He hadn’t known that Mallory was bringing another executioner to the meeting.
“Anita was in town,” Mallory said, eyeing her like he wasn’t sure whether he wanted her there. “And I thought she might have a valuable perspective.”
“Alright. Uh, welcome to the White House. Please, sit.” Josh waved at the couch, and the two executioners sat on opposite ends of the couch. “You have some concerns about the legislation.”
“Yes,” said Mallory. “There’s talk of a different bill.”
“Well, you’d have to talk to Congress about drafting legislation,” Josh said. “But the President has already made his position clear. He is grateful for the work that executioners do, but he won’t compromise the nature of the Marshals in order to create a stopgap measure. You guys need federal status, but you need it with training and oversight.”
“And girls,” Blake murmured.
“Not every executioner in the country is male, Mr. Lyman,” said Blake, her face still expressionless.
“Of course. My apologies.”
“If we could get back to the point,” growled Mallory. “Federal marshal training won’t be worth a damn to a executioner. We kill things that no one else can handle; that’s why the states created executioners in the first place.”
“The training can go both ways,” said Josh. “If the Marshal Service learns more about preternatural crime, then future marshals – future executioners – can be trained appropriately.”
“You think you can train anyone up to be an executioner?” Mallory snorted. “You have to be something special.”
“And the President understands that,” Josh said, leaning forward. “But don’t you think it’s better to have a way to train up future executioners, some kind of system--”
“We’re already doing that,” said Blake. “By apprenticeship.”
Mallory nodded. “It can’t be taught any other way.”
“And it has to seen,” Blake went on. “There’s no point teaching someone how to identify clawmark depth and radius from photos. Real scenes are always totally different.”
“It’s not just knowledge and combat skills,” said Mallory. “You have to believe that you’re stronger than the monsters, or they’ll tear you apart before you get a chance to stake ‘em.” There was a fire burning in Mallory’s eyes. Blake shifted her weight slightly, but didn’t disagree.
“What about the weapons exemptions?” said Josh, realising he wasn’t going to get anywhere on the topic of training. He flipped open his briefing paper. “Assault rifles, flechette shells, modified magazines, phosphorus grenades…even SWAT doesn’t use some of this stuff.”
“SWAT doesn’t fight the things that we do,” said Blake. “Humans don’t heal from their wounds and get back up. And magazine capacity can be an issue when it comes to the actual execution.”
“How many bullets do you need?” said Josh, feeling phantom pain flare in his gut. Blake tilted her head slightly, considering the question.
“For the average vampire or shifter, something like twelve. Two three-round bursts to incapacitate, and then I close and fire another six into their heart. When I’m sure they’re not going to move, I’ll stake them and take their head.” Her face was composed, a professional discussing her job. “If they’re more poweful, an alpha or a master, I’ll keep firing until the heart is entirely gone. Then heart and head, burn the remains, and scatter the ashes.”
“And you need phosphorus grenades for that?” said Josh.
“Couldn’t hurt,” Mallory rumbled.
“Against groups, in confined spaces…” Blake spread her hands. “Most of the time, I serve multiple warrants at once, on creatures that are three times as strong and twice as fast as me. Modern weapons are the only advantage we have.” Mallory said something under his breath, and Blake snapped her head around to stare at him. “What was that, Gerald? I didn’t quite hear you?” The two executioners stared at each other for a long moment.
“You have to understand our concern about the use of these weapons,” Josh said, trying to keep the meeting moving. “Law enforcement officials using explosives…surely training in how to use them would help.”
“Remove pin and throw,” said Mallory. “There, done. We don’t need training. There’s nothing anyone who’s not an executioner could teach us.”
“There are issues of discrimination,” Josh said. Blake frowned, the first expression Josh had seen on her face.
“You’re saying that we could harm civilians?” she asked.
“Mr. Lyman, we’re not the police. We’re not SWAT. We’re executioners.” Blake paused, shared a look with Mallory, who grunted and shook his head. She turned back to Josh. “By the time we get there, any civilians in the area are dead.”
“Or worse,” said Mallory. “We can use what we like, and it’ll only kill what’s already dead.”
The door opened, loud in the momentary silence. Josh glanced to the side, and shot to his feet. Suddenly Blake was standing as well, having leapt to her feet too fast to see. Mallory stood up, frowning at Blake in an odd way.
“Mr. President,” said Josh.
“Afternoon, Josh,” the president said easily. “Mr. Mallory, Ms. Blake, thanks for giving us some of your time.”
“It was no problem, Mr. President. Sir.” Blake said quickly. She stopped, and blushed. Mallory’s puzzled stare turned incredulous, and then he stepped forward to shake hands with the President.
“It was no trouble, sir. We were just explaining some details about our work to Mr. Lyman, here.”
“I’ll bet he was enjoying that,” said the president. He met Josh’s eyes for a moment, and a knot of tension in Josh’s stomach unraveled. “Ms. Blake,” the President said, making the honorific sound totally natural, “I notice you wear a cross.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” said Blake, one hand reaching up to touch the silver cross at her throat.
“Oh, please, everyone. Sit.” The president took a seat beside Josh, opposite Blake. “Now, is the cross only for your work?”
“No, Mr. President. It wouldn’t work if that was all it was. I’m Episcopalian.”
“And you used to be Catholic,” said the President. Blake frowned slightly.
“Yes, Mr. President.”
“Well, I’m not sure I agreed with His Holiness about animators, but…” the president leaned forward, drawing Blake in closer. “You don’t think there’s something to the Church’s concern, over the raising of the dead?”
“No, Mr. President,” said Blake. “I don’t raise the dead, I raise a…an imitation. A zombie might look and talk like the person it was, but it doesn’t have a soul.”
The president raised his eyebrows. “How can you be so sure?”
Blake sat very still for a moment. “Mr. President, when I was young, my aunt died. The funeral was held in her house. I got in quite a lot of trouble, because I asked what was hovering in the middle of her living room. I’m an animator, Mr. President. I would know if I was raising the soul as well as the mind and body.”
The president nodded. “All right. Thank you, Ms. Blake, Mr. Mallory.” He stood, and everyone in the room followed suit. “Ms. Blake, are you in favour of Senator Ledgerton’s federalisation bill?”
“Yes, Mr. President. I am.”
“Because it will save lives, Mr. President.”
“Because of the weapons exemptions?”
“Not exactly, sir.” The president gestured for Blake to keep speaking. “The greatest obstacle to me doing my job right now is that I’m small, female, and a technical civilian. I waste hours at crime scenes, convincing local law enforcement that I know what I’m talking about, and that they should listen to me. Those hours can cost lives. With federal marshal status, Mr. President, I wouldn’t have to waste that time and lose those lives.”
“And do you trust your fellow executioners, to use their new federal status wisely?” the president asked. Blake leaned back in her chair.
“No, sir. Not entirely. My job…as an executioner, I take the least terrible choice. I’m not against the idea of a training program for preternatural marshals, but the only people who could teach are busy doing their jobs.”
“You’re saying federalisation is the better short-term option,” said Josh.
“Ms. Blake,” the president said, “I’m afraid I don’t have the luxury of taking the short-term option.” Blake shrugged.
“Then do both, sir. I don’t think a preternatural marshal program is a bad idea, but it will take years to create. And then longer, before any new marshals are ready.”
“Well.” The president stood, and so did everyone else. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Mallory. Ms. Blake. Good morning, Josh.” And he left the room.
“So,” said Josh, raising his eyebrows at Mallory watching Blake stare after the president. “What would a useful training program look like?”
Just me indulging my obsession with the mundanity of the extraordinary. Also I think Anita would totally be a Bartlet fangirl.