Flirt Chapter 1

So Anita’s doing something she hardly ever does these days: work. Or at least pretending to work. I suspect if God himself wanted to hire her, she’d turn him down just so she won’t ever actually have to

  • A) do any productive work,
  • B) take orders from anyone,
  • C) pretend she has actual skills and
  • D) get off her oft-penetrated backside.

 
“I want you to raise my wife from the dead, Ms. Blake,” Tony Bennington said, in a voice that matched the expensive suit and the flash of the Rolex on his right wrist.

So… his voice sounds like a watch and a suit? Is there a distinctive “rich person” accent that all people get with large quantities of money?

 
It probably meant he was a lefty. Not that his handedness mattered, but you learn to notice primary hands when people try to kill you on a semiregular basis.

“Have I mentioned today how incredibly hardcore I am? I can’t take a shower without ninja assassins crawling in to kill me! I can’t buy toilet paper without aliens trying to abduct me! I’m constantly memorizing the handedness of centarian nuns, because they’re obviously trying to kill me!”

“My condolences,” I said automatically, because Bennington didn’t display any grief.

…. heaven forbid she say it because, y’know, it’s common courtesy. Of course, if he WERE to show grief, she’d be sneering about how he’s such a weakling.

 
so that if he was handsome in that gray-haired, I’m-over-fifty-but- keep-in-good-shape way, the lack of expression took all the fun out of it.

What fun? We know Anita doesn’t care about the handsomeness of anyone with grey hair or a physical age above twenty-five.

 
“Why do you want me to raise your wife from the dead, Mr. Bennington?”
“At the rates you charge, does it matter?” he asked.

Nah, not really. I’d probably wanna know about the legality and morality of it (ie no using dead wifie to rob a bank), but I imagine Anita just wants to prod and pry. And of course, she would never ever tolerate such prodding if she were asked about her oft-cited mommy.

 
I gave him the long blink and crossed my legs, smoothing the skirt over my thighs

This oft-repeated mannerism is bugging me as much as Robert Jordan’s infamous braid pull. Or Bella’s lip-biting.

 
An emotion filled his eyes then; anger.

Maybe because he’s trying to hire somebody, and she’s arguing with him about it? This is the equivalent of ordering a burger at a restaurant, and having the waiter demand that you provide a valid reason.

 
His voice held barely a hint of the emotion that turned his eyes a darker shade of gray. Maybe it was steely self-control after all. “It’s personal, and you don’t need to know it to raise her as a zombie.”

Which is also true. I mean, she doesn’t know or care about the reason, really. She doesn’t know these people or give a damn about them. Perhaps this is LKH’s attempt to make it seem like Anita is so moral and ethical, but it just makes her seem like a stubborn PAIN IN THE ASS.

“This is my job, Mr. Bennington, not yours. You don’t know what I need to raise a zombie.”

I assume that all those years out of “cooperate” America have made LKH forget how basic business practice works. Doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, any business is there to serve the customer in exchange for the customer’s money. As long as it isn’t illegal or immoral, there’s no reason not to perform your services in reply – and if you don’t just because you’re all pissy and whiny, they are gonna respond by taking their business elsewhere. And when you get a reputation for that, it doesn’t matter how good you are – you’ll go out of business.

Any actual business like Anita’s would probably have a questionnaire you’d have to fill out like religious info, method of death, psychic abilities, etc. Once the info was verified, then you could go ahead with it – the personal reasons don’t MATTER.

Does LKH think that, f’rinstance, when you go to a hardware store, they can refuse to sell you a sledgehammer unless you provide your personal reasons for buying it? Or will they just assume that unless you explain yourself, you’re obviously a serial killer?

Anyway, this guy informs Anita that he did all his research and there isn’t anything about his wife that could possibly cause trouble.

 
He nodded, once, manicured hands smoothing his tailored lapel. “Then you’ll do it?”
I shook my head. “Not without a reason.”

… right, because Anita Blake needs a REASON to do stuff. Again, I suppose this is LKH’s idea of Anita being morally upright or whatever, but she’s just acting like a jerk who’s dragging her feet for its own sake.

Oh wait, I forgot, Anita is such an awesome strong manly man that NOBODY tells her what to do, so if she hates someone (like she does everybody) she just automatically tells them to get stuffed.

He frowned at me, that flash of anger back in his eyes. “What kind of reason do you want?”
“One good enough to make me disturb the dead.”

She’s raised zombies for no real reason except filthy lucre in the past, yet somehow she needs a superspeshul reason NOW? Suddenly she cares SO deeply about disturbing the dead, despite making a living off it?

This is the most contrived start to a plot LKH has done yet, and she’s had some bad ones.

 
“I’m willing to pay your rather exorbitant fee, Ms. Blake; I would think that would inspire you.”

Try offering her some anime bishies. Have them walk through and offer to be her “food,” and she’ll do pretty much anything.

 
“Money isn’t everything, Mr. Bennington. Why do you want her raised from the dead? What do you hope to gain from it?”

If it’s personal, what does she care? Maybe he didn’t get to say goodbye properly and wants to now. Maybe he wants to remarry and wants her to know. Maybe she was buried with a valuable item and he’d like it back because the economy is in the proverbial apper-cray. Maybe he forgot something important and she knew it before she died. What does it MATTER?

 
“I don’t, either, but you keep not answering my original question; I thought maybe if I rephrased it you would.”

Which is a HILARIOUS comment coming from a blithering moron who needs everything verbally defined down to the last letter. And I find it amusing that someone who claims to “love” all her penii insists that someone with “personal” reasons for wanting a dead person raised must want to gain something, merely because he isn’t dissolving into tears in a perfect stranger’s office.

Anyway Anita keeps insisting for no real reason that she won’t raise the dead lady unless Bennington lays out all his personal feelings and thoughts on the table. Although since we’re talking about Anita here, she probably wouldn’t do it anyway because no reason is good enough for her to actually do WORK.

“Then I won’t raise your wife. There are other animators at Animators Inc. who will be happy to take your money, and they don’t charge my rates.”

And in a semi-realistic series, he’d immediately reply: “Fine, I might just do that. Since there isn’t anything that should complicate it, I don’t really need you. I will also inform all my disgustingly rich friends that they should take their biz elsewhere.”

How many books has it been since she actually raised anybody, or agreed to work for anybody? On the rare occasions she goes to the office, she either goes scuttling out immediately like a cockroach, or she spits in the face of a potential customer.

 
“Everyone says you are the best.”

In every day and every way. Heavenly light shines from her Magic Vagina, she is the bestest animator in the world, seraphs weep at her approach, and she manages to have people begging to have her work for them despite never doing any work and pissing on everybody who tries to hire her.

She’s not a Sue, okay?

“They say you are a true necromancer and have power over all types of undead.”
I kept my face blank, which I’d gotten better at over the years. He was right, but I didn’t think it was commonly known. “You’ll turn a girl’s head with talk like that.”

Uh, that’s a fact, not a compliment. What’s so head-turning about being told a fact about yourself, especially when it’s not exactly flattering?

 
“You have the highest number of executions of any member of the U.S. Marshals preternatural branch. Most of them were rogue vampires, but some of them were wereanimals.”

Has the readership figured out yet that Anita is the TUFFEST TUFF PERSON WOT IS TUFF?

That said, she hardly kills anybody (legally or otherwise) anymore, which seems like it would cause somebody to jump on the chance to surpass her. Or a bunch of somebodies. I mean, it’s not like becoming a vampire hunter is something any schmuck can do without training OH WAIT IT TOTALLY IS.

 Picture this: a crazy-eyed Anita feverishly trolling the web in the cold watches of the night, planting rumors on boards about how she’s executed more vamps/weres than anyone else. Heaven forbid she ever be #5 or #6.

 
“I suppose it has as little to do with my request as your reputation as a sort of female Casanova.”

LKH wishes Anita were half as interesting as Casanova; having sex with many partners does not make you like Casanova. Casanova associated with many of the powers and geniuses of his age, had affairs with both genders, wrote a vast autobiography that is regarded as a historical source, was an artist, was highly intelligent, escaped from the Inquisition’s prison and bounced around pretty much all of Europe.

LKH WISHES Anita were as cool as Casanova.

And this entire conversation has taken a pretty random turn – but of course everybody who is Ebil And Mean must note that Anita is shagging half of St. Louis.

 
“My love life really has nothing to do with my ability to raise the dead.”

Except for the kind of dead-raising she now does full-time.

“If you can truly control all manner of undead, then it might explain how you can slay vampires and still date them.”

In a sense, he’s right – she wants to control everything and everybody around her, and she wouldn’t “date” vampires if she couldn’t ultimately make them do what she wanted. Example: JC and Asher (allegedly) not knockin’ boots.

 
Jean-Claude, one of the vampires in question, was a little iffy on who wore the pants in our relationship sometimes because of my powers

I think it’s pretty obvious who wears the pants in their relationship. She gets to call the shots, regulate his love life and power base, pisses off other Masters, makes alliances without his input, and makes all decisions without him getting to disagree.

JC, on the other hand, is completely pussywhipped and does what she wants because otherwise she’ll dump and/or refuse to have sex with him. And we all know her vagina is worth losing everything over.

just as I was iffy on how much of our relationship was my idea because of his vampire powers over me. We had a sort of metaphysical detente.

Whoa whoa whoa. When was this?

Last I heard she was whining because her boytoys were exerting too much Relationship Influence on her, and it freaked her out. Now suddenly her big problem is that Jean-Claude has “power” over her?

And according to merriam-webster, “detente” is described as being the relaxation of strained relations or tensions. I’m not sure when the last time their relations were strained, except that he’s understandably pissed that she does random stuff in ST without asking him, and collects men like trendy trading cards.

 
“Jean-Claude and I were in the papers recently, so that didn’t take much research.”
“One of St. Louis’s hottest couples, I believe was the article.”

I can only assume that there aren’t a lot of hot famous couples in St. Louis, because an effeminate poet-shirt wearing man (owner of sleazy clubs) dragging a sullen whining woman in casual wear around isn’t my idea of “hottest.” Or do they mean “most tabloid-worthy”?

 
I tried not to squirm with embarrassment, and managed it. “Jean-Claude is pretty enough that anyone on his arm looks hot.”

Yeah yeah yeah, we get it. Like all Sues, Anita is supposed to be uberhawt and megasexy while being humbly unaware of it. Except she looks down on all attractive women, claims that men want her sexy ass over skinny ones, and has been told thousands of times that she’s the most desirable creature ever.

 
“That much modesty doesn’t become a woman,” Bennington said.
I blinked at him, frowning. “Sorry, I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“I mean that women are-”
“No, I mean, why are you comparing my manly macho self to a WOMAN?”

 
He studied my face, then said, “You really don’t, do you?”
“I just said that.” I felt like I had missed something, and didn’t like it.

…. well, I honestly cannot add anything to this conversation that would make Anita look any dumber than LKH has already made her. Except by having her actually drool on herself and try to eat her blotter.

I think LKH is trying desperately to make her a speshul snowflake who doesn’t buy into all the girly bullshit. But she only makes Anita look like a clod. Again.

“I am sorry for your pain, but you’re not winning me over.”

“To win me over, you’d need to be someone I would want to have sex with. Since you aren’t, I have no empathy or understanding for you at all. Get lost.”

 
“I need to know if your reputation is real, or just talk, like so many of the tall tales about you.”

It’s definitely “just talk.” Once it was the real deal, but how many years have gone by since we saw her successfully raise a zombie or execute a vampire?

 
“I’ve earned my reputation, but if you really did your research on me then you also know that I don’t raise zombies for kicks, or thrill seekers, or tormented relatives unless they have a plan.”

…. wait, two minutes ago people just had to have a reason that passed Her Majesty’s approval, and now they need a PLAN?

You’re just making things up now. If he said he had a reason, and a PLAN, then you’d say you need a unicorn foal as part of the payment.

I doubt LKH realizes how it makes her sound that “grieving relatives” is lumped together with “for kicks” and “thrill-seekers.” It’s pretty obvious that Anita doesn’t feel a shred of compassion for this guy, or she’d say something like, “I don’t want to raise a zombie for ANYBODY, no matter who they are or what they offer, unless etc etc etc.” Or she’d explain that she’s encountered some weirdos in the past and has to be careful, or whatever.

But then this is all apparently a transparent set up for Bannington to be driven to do Something Nasty, so… apparently Anita can just act like a jerk. For no reason.

 
“I understood the question, Ms. Blake; you don’t have to say it slowly.”

I’m sure she can’t help it. I imagine she hears everything that is said to her in slow motion – after all, this is the woman whose most frequently used protests in conversation are “I didn’t knoooooow,” “I felt like I was missing something,” and “I couldn’t help it.”

 
He glared at me, that anger darkening his eyes to a nice storm- cloud gray. His hands made fists on the chair arms, and a muscle in his jaw flexed as he ground his teeth in frustration. Iron self-control it was.

More than she has. In his place, she’d probably be waving around her gun and shrilly shouting all her silly titles.

I stood up, smoothing my skirt down in back, out of habit.

That’s twice now.

 
I’d been polite because I knew how much money he’d paid just to talk to me, and since I was going to refuse I wanted him to feel he’d gotten something for his money, but I’d had enough.

Note that she’s already decided that she’s gonna refuse him. Not that she’ll refuse him UNLESS he spits out the reason – she’s just decided to refuse him no matter what. Presumably this is because LKH will never have her Sue actually hire herself out, lest someone give her orders.

 
“I need you because there isn’t much left of her body. Most animators need a nearly intact body to do the job; I don’t have an intact body to work with.” He wouldn’t look at me as he said it, and there was a flinching around his mouth, a tension to those eyes he was hiding from me. Here was the pain.

Which explains quite a bit, and actually seems like a set-up for a potentially intriguing subplot – especially since Anita hasn’t struggled to do… ANYTHING in a very long time. Having her break a sweat trying to resurrect a zombie that rests in pieces would be a humanizing moment.

So I’m betting we’re not gonna get it.

“It was an explosion. Our vacation home had a gas leak. She’d gone up ahead of me. I was going to join her the next day, but that night . . .” His fists tightened, mottling the skin, and that muscle in his jaw bulged as if he were trying to bite through something hard and bitter. “I loved my wife, Ms. Blake.”

One paragraph, and LKH has succeeded in making the “villain” about fifty times more sympathetic than our alleged heroine.

 
He sounded like the words choked him. His dark gray eyes gleamed when he raised them back to me. He held onto his unshed tears the way he held onto everything else: tightly.

Well, this is a slightly promising sign: Anita was totally and absolutely wrong about this guy’s emotions. It turns out that apparently, after spending half the series with weepy drippy sentimental men-in-the-purely-anatomical-sense, she just doesn’t know what a guy with self-control looks like.

“I believe you, and I really am sorry for your loss, but I need to know what you think you’ll get out of raising her like this.”

Uhhhh… emotional closure?

 
I made my voice soft as I told him the truth, “Because eventually she’ll start to rot, and you don’t want that to be your last visual of your wife.”

Once again, LKH doesn’t seem to know how business works. It would make sense to offer this as a WARNING so the guy would know the nitty-gritty… but NOT a reason to outright refuse him. It’s like becoming a prostitute and then informing clients that you aren’t going to have sex with them because it wouldn’t be an emotionally fulfilling experience.

Also, I’m getting very sick of Anita telling people what they don’t want. She doesn’t know. Remember when she beat up a grieving mother, declaring that she didn’t want this to be the last image of her son? FUCK YOU, Anita.

“If I could raise her from the dead for real for you, maybe I would. I won’t debate the whole religious/philosophical problem with you, but the truth is that even I can’t do what you want.”

So apparently the only reason someone would want to be around their dead loved ones is if they got them for keepsies? Not because, say, the person had died suddenly and horribly – which is what happened here – and the living person just wanted to impart a last loving message?

You know, for someone who claims to still be traumatized by the loss of her dead mother, LKH/Anita doesn’t really grasp how this works.

 
“I raise zombies, Mr. Bennington, and that is not the same thing as resurrection of the dead. I’m good, maybe the best there is in the business, but I’m not that good, no one is.”

  1. TRANSLATION: At some point one of Anita’s boytoys will be killed, and she’ll resurrect him from the dead.
  2. Because after all, there is no lack of ability that Anita can’t fill.
  3. So even though her job is raising the dead… she won’t actually do it because she just ASSUMES all grieving relatives want full-blown permanent resurrection.
  4. And LKH can’t understand why readers say that Anita never works.

 
Anyway when the guy asks if it’s too late for his wife to become a vampire, Anita lectures him on the bleeding-obvious stuff about how you can’t be a vampire if you A) didn’t get bitten and B) get blown into tiny charred pieces.

It was a good question, an intelligent question, but I didn’t have a good answer to give back to him. “I’m honestly not sure. I know that most animators need a nearly complete body to raise from the dead, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an article on whether death by fire impedes the process.”

I swear, does Anita know any-freaking-thing? Her response to virtually everything is “No” or “I don’t knooooowwwww.” She’s supposed to be an expert among experts, yet she’s virtually incapable of actually providing any information that the Interwebs cannot also provide.

Anyway, Anita finally tires of screwing around with the guy’s feelings, so she shows him the door. Poor Bennington asks if JC can give her enough backups Powahz to overcome the problem. I suspect the answer is yes, but there’s no way Anita/LKH would waste such a thing on a rich bitch who was probably blonde, tall and slender.

 
I was a lot more than just Jean-Claude’s girlfriend. I was his human servant, but we tried to keep that out of the media.

I doubt it would work. I mean, about half St. Louis’ population knows it, and it only takes one person’s information to have a tabloid working overtime on the story. Plus, y’know, people can do the math.

The police that I worked with as a U.S. Marshal already mistrusted me because I was having sex with a vampire; if they were certain of our mystical connection they’d like it even less.

And who can blame them? Let’s replace “vampire” with “mafioso” – who in their right mind would expect the cops to be happy about a federal marshal (which LKH clearly thinks involves a license to kill) swanning in and taking over their crime scenes, when they aren’t off boinking the Godfather?

Anyway the poor guy keeps asking if she could bring his wifie back as a zombie that doesn’t know it’s dead, and Anita just blows him off by saying that wifie would probably end as a self-aware mind in a dead body.

 
I never liked being touched by strangers.

Unlike the rest of the world, who like having strangers randomly paw them. Anita’s unique that way!

And it’s odd of her to mention that, since some books ago a total stranger came into her shower and raped her. He’s now her designated soulmate.

 
He let go of my hand then, and stepped back. His eyes were lost rather than angry. “But a few days to say good-bye, a few days to be with her, might be worth it.”

Is it LKH’s intention for us to completely sympathize with this poor man while reviling Anita for deciding to blow him off for no good reason? I suspect it’s because he’s rich… despite the fact that Anita herself is also rich.

I almost asked if by “be with her,” he meant sex, but I did not want to know.

As usual, Anita can’t imagine anyone wanting to be in the presence of their dead loved ones except to boink them. Then again, you can guess how fast an impotent member (hee!) of her harem would get dropped if he failed to fill her Lovecraftian maw.

 
I didn’t need to know because I wasn’t raising this zombie.

Again, note how she’s determined not to do it even if Bennington agreed to all her terms. He’s already caved into her first big demand by spilling his proverbial guts and explaining the reason, but Anita’s decided that nobody could possibly want to briefly reunite with their dead wife except to have sex with her. So basically she’s got a big list of impossible demands and preconceived ideas to make sure that nobody ever gets to hire her.

Ain’t she awesome? I mean, she’s so SAINTLY.

Anyway, Anita prattles about how other animators have had people sex their zombie spouses, so most of them demand that zombie wifie/hubby goes back in the grave the same night. Of course, she doesn’t TELL Bennington this, so he can’t agree to this latest demand – it’s like refusing a cushy job to someone because they aren’t wearing a green bowtie, but neglecting to mention that being a problem.

And what’s more, apparently it’s never occurred to them to have supervised visits. I mean, how hard would it be to retreat fifty feet and allow Bennington and wifie to talk for awhile in privacy, then put her back in the grave? But of course Anita has already decided that she won’t work for Bennington no matter what, so she doesn’t even mention the possibility of giving him, say, six hours of supervised time with wifie.

 
There were a couple of animators in the United States who could do it, but they would probably refuse on the same grounds I had. The creep factor was entirely too high.

…. because of course everyone else immediately thinks “sex” when someone talks about briefly meeting their dead spouse again. After all, according to LKH, the world is entirely filled with perverts except for Anita and her harem.

Or, y’know, maybe those OTHER animators would reserve judgement rather than automatically refusing, give Bennington the take-it-or-leave-it conditions, and agree to work for him if he met them. Like actual businesspeople.

 
Normally, that would have meant I got to close the door and be done with him, but I got a glimpse of someone who made me smile in spite of my client’s grief.

That Anita, she’s like a sexy Mother Theresa. She’s just casually crushed the soul, heart and hopes of an ordinary man who just wants a brief reunion with the wife who was suddenly and horribly ripped from his life….

… and then she goes all googoo eyes in front of him because her boytoys waltzed in. Clearly she has great empathy and kindness.

But then I’d learned a long time ago that if I bled for every broken heart in my office, I’d have bled to death from other people’s wounds long ago.

Because clearly you’re a bleeding heart wuss if you show the slightest bit of compassion for the poor dude. Of course, Anita’s “tuffness” is entirely made up of LKH concocting various oh-so-deep phrases that sound tough, but merely end up sounding like justifications for her psychotic Sue.

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