: Any Given Tuesday Author
: Mhalachai Email
: mhalachai at gmail.comProtagonists
: Dawn Summers, ZerbrowskiSpoilers
: Series Finale of BtVS, Cerulean Sins for AB.Disclaimer
: Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Laurell K. Hamilton owns all things Anita Blake. I am but borrowing the characters for a brief time and shall return them intact at the end.Summary
: Sequal to Hubris. An old Hellmouth denizin, in St. Louis on a forced vacation, is slashed by a wereleopard. Now Zerbrowski and Anita Blake need to find out who clawed up the Slayer's sister before the next full moon.Author's note
: Follows Hubris
. Please read that first to understand Zerbrowski. Don't worry, it's not that long. As in Hubris, the Hellmouth in Sunnydale closed a few years ago, just before the Addison v. Clark case. CS ended a few weeks ago. Dawn will be approximately twenty-one.
"Careful, Merlioni, you miss this shot and we're dead."
"I've been making these shots for longer than you've been out of short pants, Zerbrowski."
"Whatever, if you miss the target, I'm busting your ass back to traffic cop."
"Shut up and let me aim." Merlioni held his arm steady and sighted down his arm. His hand never wavered as he tensed.
A second later, the paper airplane flew out of his hand and across the squad room. Heads turned to watch as the folded memo floated effortlessly through the makeshift target, Zerbrowski's shoulder gun rig taped up between a chair and a filing cabinet.
Zerbrowski whooped and slapped Merlioni on the back. "That was brilliant!"
Merlioni sat back in his chair and fanned himself with his hand. "Hot, as always."
Half of the other team groaned. "Unfair advantage," Tammy Reynolds said. She cast a despairing look at her partner in the game. "Arnet, you said you were good at this."
The younger detective shrugged. "They set us up! Merlioni was going on about how his arm wasn't half as good as it used to be."
"Nevertheless, I do believe that counts as the best five out of seven," Zerbrowski interrupted. "Or do you ladies want to up the stakes and make it seven of nine?" He grinned, wide and insincere.
Reynolds bit her lip, glaring at Zerbrowski and Merlioni. "You win. This time," she added when Merlioni opened his mouth. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. "Come on, Jessica."
Jessica Arnet cast wide eyes at Zerbrowski, but he wasn't buying it. He'd had Anita Blake looking at him like that, all sunshine and innocence, straight out of a slaughter when she was covered in guts and gore. He wasn't in any danger of falling for Arnet's feminine wiles. Although he gave her points for trying.
Another twenty joined the first on the desk. Zerbrowski stood up and claimed his half of the prize. "Far be for me to gloat and run, but I'm going to see if the fair lieutenant has something for us to do besides creatively recycling memos on the taxpayer's dime."
He left the three detectives bickering behind him. Lt. Storr was in his office, back from his enforced vacation, but the door was shut. A wiser man would let the head of the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team sulk in peace, but no one had ever accused Zerbrowski of being too smart for his own good.
Zerbrowski knocked and waited. He was almost ready to knock again when Dolph's voice said, "Get in here." Zerbrowski opened the door and went in. He slid into the chair on the visitor's side of the desk, not waiting to be told.
Dolph looked up at his sergeant. Zerbrowski tried not to squirm under the examination. True, his hair hadn't been combed, his tie was on backwards and the top button on his shirt was undone, but at least the pants and the suit jacket matched today.
"I assume you're all done the paper work for the docks case?" Dolph flicked his eyes at the Venetian blinds covering the glass windows in his fishbowl office. Zerbrowski followed the line of sight. Merlioni and Arnet were still arguing over something, and he could see the entire thing quite clearly. Shit.
Zerbrowski fought to keep his face blank. "Yes, sir," he said blandly.
"Huh," Dolph grunted. "Perry is still wrapped up in his last witness, which is the only reason why I'm sending you on this. You and Det. Arnet have a new assignment." He pushed a folder across the immaculate desk.
Zerbrowski reached over and flipped it open. He scanned down the page, growing more incredulous with each passing line. "You're sending me and Arnet on a were-slashing case?" he asked.
"You got a problem with that?" Dolph said. There was some challenge in his face. Zerbrowski knew that Dolph knew Anita and one of her current squeezes, Micah Callahan, had been over to Zerbrowski's house for dinner a few weekends previous. It wasn't a secret, the whole squad knew. But Dolph was the only one who had problems with Micah.
Or, more accurately, problems with Anita.
"No, none," Zerbrowski said, trying to stay as calm as he could. "It's just that a slashing... it's really minor. You could sent a rookie to take the report."
Dolph nodded. "I could." He paused. "Did you see the name?"
"Of the victim?" Zerbrowski flipped the pages of the initial uniform's report. A slashing in the university district, witnesses said it looked like a leopard or a panther, huge. The female victim was in hospital now, under the name of...
"Son of a fucking bitch," Zerbrowski cursed when he read the name. "Is she related to..."
Something akin to amusement crossed Dolph's face. "Don't know yet. But you see how this could create a bit of a problem?"
Arnet drove to the hospital. Zerbrowski struggled with his shoulder holster, mangled from the impromptu game. "Tammy was kind of upset," Arnet said once they passed the freeway.
Zerbrowski spared a second from his wrestling match to look at Arnet. She was staring straight ahead, her face illuminated by the passing streetlights and the low-beams from other cars. Zerbrowski snorted.
"No, she was very upset." Even that was an understatement. Tammy wanted to go to the hospital with Zerbrowski. She had more experience dealing with female victims than Arnet did. Zerbrowski firmly told her to sit down and enjoy the break. He hadn't wanted to get into a shouting match with her about their boss's blatant under-use of her since the witch-detective had announced her pregnancy. Zerbrowski finally figured out what was wrong with the holster, and undid a wayward hitch. "Finally!"
Arnet ignored him undoing his belt to get the shoulder holster into place. "So tell me what we know about our victim."
"No way. I'm the sergeant, you
tell me what we know about the victim," Zerbrowski ordered. He let out a deep sigh as he settled back in his seat. Another nice thing of having Arnet drive was that her car was clean as a bell, unlike his pigsty on wheels.
"Fine." Arnet paused to gather her thoughts. Zerbrowski would never tell her this, but her clear-headedness was a real asset to a police detective. "The victim, female, Caucasian, twenty-one. Has a place in the university district. Went for a late-night walk to an all-night restaurant. On her way, she walked past an empty side street. Something pounced on her and slashed at her. She screamed. Witnesses thought they saw a giant panther or leopard. It bolted and no one saw were it went." Arnet paused in her narrative to negotiate a turn. "An ambulance was called and the victim was transported to University Hospital, where she was stitched up and remains for observation. The uniforms who were called in reported that the victim was quite belligerent about the whole thing, although accepting of assistance."
"Three gold stars," Zerbrowski said. "However, that leaves us with unanswered questions. What are they?"
Arnet looked uncertain. "Where did the panther go?" she said, hesitantly.
When nothing else was forthcoming, Zerbrowski settled himself back and leaned his head against the seat. "Less where did it go, than what was it. You don't have wild animals appearing in the middle of St. Louis without any other sightings, unless it wasn't a wild animal at all."
"A werepanther?" Arnet said, certainty coming back into her voice.
"Or a wereleopard," Zerbrowski said. He kept his voice even. He wasn't sure St. Louis played host to any werepanthers, but he did know of a bunch of wereleopards. It always came back to Anita Blake, didn't it? he asked himself. "Next question. It's the dark of the moon. Why is a shape shifter wandering the city streets now?"
Arnet was silent. "Have there been any other slashing in the neighbourhood?" she asked.
Zerbrowski silently applauded her question. "I don't know, off the top of my head, but we'll look it up back at the station." He yawned as Arnet pulled into an empty spot in the hospital parking lot. "Showtime."
It had only taken five minutes of argument at the nurses' station to get access to the victim's room. The nurse, a dark-haired willowy young woman, had fixed them with a firm glare and told the detectives to stay here while she went to see if the patient was sleeping.
"Yikes," Zerbrowski said as the nurse retreated. The corner of Arnet's mouth twitched.
"Sir?" Arnet asked, "Why are we here?"
"Uh, I'm going to go with the slashing," Zerbrowski said.
Arnet shook her head. "No. Why us? Why not leave it in the hands of the uniforms who started the whole thing?"
Zerbrowski sighed and stepped closer to the detective. "It's possible, a thin chance, that the victim may be someone who's related... Let's just say this could get political."
Arnet looked puzzled, but luckily for Zerbrowski, the nurse came back and announced that the patient was ready to see them.
Taking point, Zerbrowski knocked very politely on the door, then turned the handle at the sullen, "Come in."
Zerbrowski went through the door first. When he saw the young woman sitting up in the bed, his heart sank. There, glaring at him like there was no tomorrow, sat Dawn Summers, the very image of California State vampire executioner and Slayer Buffy Summers.
It was going to be a very long night.