Skin Trade Chapter 1

Well, the plot starts in a rather unexpected manner: Anita Blake is at work. She’s not actually working, but she is at her office. This hasn’t happened for YEARS – and the last time she did, she pissed off a grieving client and then had carpet-soaking sex with her child-man “sweetie.”

 
I’d worked my share of serial killer cases, but none of the killers had ever mailed me a human head. That was new.

Obviously if it hasn’t happened before, by definition it would be new.

So yes, Anita has gotten something in a box.

Normally, yes. But not on this occasion. It’s a head. A severed head in a box. Oh yeah, shit’s about to get real! This is gonna be friggin awesome!

… I’m going to be disappointed, aren’t I?

So Anita just sits there contemplating the severed head, and babbles blandly about absolutely nothing at all. A normal non-Anita person would probably be bouncing around the room screaming, or frantically dialing 911 over and over to tell the cops that HELLO OFFICER, SOMEONE SENT ME A HEAD!

But no, Anita’s too cool and hardcore to actually react to a severed head. And since she doesn’t care, the readers don’t really care either.

 
It sat on my desk, on top of the desk blotter, like hundreds of other packages that had been delivered to Animators Inc., where our motto was Where the Living Raise the Dead for a Killing.

… two floors below Dr. Dannon’s Diabolical Dentistry and down the hall from Michael’s Deli, in a square and boring building on a very straight street, adjoining another straight street….

It’s also a very funny motto somehow, since I think we all know how Anita Blake likes to “raise” the dead, or the undead.

Who sent this package? Well, it’s a vampire named Vittorio. In case you managed to block Incubus Dreams from your memory, Vittorio is an evil crazy vampire serial killer. Anita sort of chased after him when she wasn’t busy boffing sexually abused child-men, and rainmaking floods of intimate fluids all over her office.

Then he got away, and Anita, being the intrepid vampire-hunter that she is, decided, “Ehhh, who cares? He’s not in my city anymore, so I don’t care that he slaughtered a bunch of people. Ohhhh Micah, stuff me with your circus-freak penis!”

 
Either Vittorio was still there, or it would be another of his disappearing acts. Was he in Las Vegas, or had he mailed it from there and would be somewhere else by the time I gave the information to the police there?

So either he’s in Vegas… or he’s NOT in Vegas. Wow, that narrows down the options.

 
I could still hear our daytime secretary, Mary, being hysterical in the other room. Luckily we had no clients in the office.

After all, it’s so disgraceful to freak out when confronted with a severed head. It’s so… so GIIIIIIIRRRRLLY. I mean, obviously she’s a pathetic dishrag if she doesn’t have an infinite capacity for gore and violence like the Machoest Macho Man Anita.

Maybe I should have helped, but I was a U.S. Marshal, and business had to come first.

“Plus she might totally get girl cooties on me!”

Besides, who cares what happens to a woman? In Anita’s world, all heterosexual women are there to be beaten down into their proper place, so they won’t be competition for Anita getting all the penises in the world. Now if Mary were a long-haired effeminate bishie, Anita would say, “Screw Federal Marshal stuff! Come to my enormous boobies and weep away your angst, sexy boy! Oh, what a large wang you have!”

 
I had to call Vegas and tell them they might have a serial killer in town. Happy fucking Monday. I sat down at my desk, the phone in my hand, but didn’t dial it.

Of course not. That would involve doing something active and useful, and we all know that Anita Blake can’t do any of THAT.

 
I stared at the pictures of other people’s families on my desk.

Isn’t it great that a Marshal is on this case and taking care of official biz? Now she can save the day by staring at other people’s family photographs!

And why the hell are there other people’s photos on HER desk? Wait, she hasn’t been into that office since Incubus Dreams, so I assume that they probably use her office for storage, display, janitorial supplies, and possibly renting it out to passing businessmen.

 
Once the shared desk had been empty, just files mingling in the drawers,

  1. A sentence ago it was HER desk, and now it’s a shared desk. Make up your mind!
  2. And it’s not really empty if it’s full of files, is it?
  3. LEARN HOW TO WRITE.

 
She usually got her way on stuff like that. Manny wasn’t exactly henpecked, but he wasn’t exactly the voice of authority in his house either.

Translation: She’s an evil bitch who is not the infinitely desirable and magic-vaginaed Anita, who is the only one allowed to treat men like crap. And they better like it!

 
His daughters made me see what he might have seen all those years ago when Rosita, “little rose,” must have matched her name.

After all, she’s old and ugly and fat now, so obviously there’s no reason at all that ANYONE might like her. Her husband can’t possibly see anything in her NOW, because she’s not young and hot. Because that’s all women have going for them, after all. Is Manny hot anymore? He doesn’t need to be, because he’s a man.

Apparently now Anita not only hates women who are sexual competition for the bishies she wants, but women in general.

 
Their son, Tomas, was still a child, still in elementary school. Was he in third grade now, or fourth? I couldn’t remember.

After all, he’s not old enough to boink or be sexual competition, so who cares about him?

 
They were looking at each other like they saw something wonderful, all shiny and full of promise.

It’s called love, fidelity and trust. Anita wouldn’t know anything about that.

And after that she basically prattles for a long, long time about how Tammy and Larry’s baby has curly auburn hair and how it isn’t as red as her daddy’s but darker. And to add a creep factor, she starts comparing an innocent baby’s hair to her freaky little child-man-lover Nathaniel. Ew.

 
Should I bring a picture of Nathaniel and Micah and me in, to put on the desk?

Just put up some plaster casts of their genitalia. That’s the only part Anita cares about anyway.

 
But, of course, would I need more pictures? If I brought a picture of me with the two men, then did I need to bring a picture of me with my other sweeties? When you’re sort of living with, at last count, four men, and dating another five or six, who goes in the pictures?

Riiiiight, she’s only dating “five or six,” rather than the two dozen she was boinking at last count. I guess by “dating” she means boinking on a more than semi-frequent basis.

She should totally have all her assorted boytoys pose like a football team for a group picture, except presumably with a short, scowling big-breasted woman in the middle. And with no uniforms, just little tiny spandex shorts.

I felt nothing about the package on my desk. I wasn’t scared or disgusted. I felt nothing but a huge, vast emptiness inside me, almost like the silence that my head went to when I pulled the trigger on someone.

That’s our heroine – completely sociopathic, incapable of pity or horror, and deals with death by basically shutting down any pesky emotions in favor of a “huge vast emptiness.” I guess that huge vast emptiness is where her positive emotions and morals were supposed to go.

 
I stood up and looked at the head in its plastic wrap and thought, No pictures of my boyfriends, not at work.

So who cares about some poor dead guy whose head got chopped off, and all his loved ones? As long as her boytoys don’t have any bad guys after them. Her boytoys are also evidently the saddest bunch of losers on the planet, because apparently human baddies are able to kick their furry butts.

This pretty much sums up her entire attitude toward the world – people can be horribly killed by the bad guys, and Anita won’t really care. She only cares if you harm one of Her People, which would deprive her of sex and adulation.

Thankfully after thinking about her sex slaves and other people’s family pictures for the last few hours, Anita finally gets around to calling somebody on the phone.

 
It was a chance to make new friends, or piss off a whole new set of people; with me, it could go either way.

I’m going to make a wild guess and say the latter. Especially since Anita doesn’t actually HAVE any friends except friends with benefits, mainly because friends tell you when you’re wrong.

I didn’t do it on purpose, but I did have a tendency to rub people the wrong way.

Actually, she does do it on purpose. In the past, she’s deliberately gone out of her way to piss people off because… well, I guess it’s because they failed to fall down in abject worship.

 
Part of it was being a woman in a predominantly male field; part of it was simply my winning personality.

Ah, of course. So because she’s a woman in a predominantly male field, she magically makes people angry just by existing. It couldn’t be because she likes to mention that by the way, anyone who has a problem with her in any way is a vile sexist pig who hates women.

I like to compare Anita to Karrin Murphy of the Dresden Files series – Murphy is a true professional in a male-dominated field. She doesn’t whine, wangst or deliberately try to “show” people like a sulky teenager if she feels they’re underestimating her – she just does her job better than anyone else’s. As a result, she gets some respect.

I sat back down, so I couldn’t see inside the box. I’d already called my local police.

When was this? Was it when she was contemplating the vast number of pictures she’d need to document all her “sweeties”?

 
Whose head was it, and why did I get the prize?

Presumably that is because the world revolves around Anita, because she’s Just That Speshul. I mean, who else would get the head except the Center of the Supernatural Universe?

 
Was it a sign that he held a grudge about me killing so many of his vampires when they were slaughtering people in our town, or did it mean something else, something that would never, ever, occur to me to think?

How about “Nyah nyah nanyah nyah, I totally got away from the Big Bad Vampire Humper. Suck on this! You couldn’t catch a cold with a net! Kiss my undead ass!”

 
There are a lot of good profilers working on serials, but I think they miss one thing. You can’t really think like these people.

Hear that, profilers of the world? A housewife/porn-writer who knows nothing about real-life serial killers or profiling work says that you just aren’t up to snuff – a condescending pat on the head, and the assurance, “What good little profilers you are! Of course you’re just playing pretend, but it’s so cute of you to work on this stuff which only awesome people like Anita can understand. Go and play now.”

unless you are one, you can’t really understand what motivates them.

So since LKH’s alter ego is an amoral serial killer, is she saying that is one too?

 
And they are selfish creatures, caring only about their own pleasure, their own pathology.

It sounds like Anita yet again – she definitely cares only about her own pleasure and her own pathology.

 
Serial killers don’t help you catch other serial killers unless it helps their agenda.

Yup, that’s three for three now.

 
Of course, there were people who said that I was a serial killer.

She is. She’s murdered a lot of people outside the boundaries of the accepted justice system, so she’s a serial killer.

 
I still had the highest kill count of all the legal vampire executioners in the United States.

Given that the only death she now brings vampires is “the little death,” I find this hard to believe. Other vampire hunters who focus on their jobs could have easily caught up while she was busy spilling, orgasming and screaming to the stars.

I’d topped a hundred this year.

Riiiight, when every single day seems to be filled with vampire/were politics and endless orgies – she still somehow has the time to kill vampires too. LKH is trying way too hard to convince us that Anita still actually does her job, and that the readers should just accept that she does all her work offscreen. Sorry, doesn’t wash. You want people to believe she does her job? SHOW US.

It’s even more unbelievable that Anita would still be killing vampires now, because she’s basically established that she doesn’t care about human beings, but she considers weres and vampires to be people worth protecting. In short, the vampires are to Hamilton what elves are to Christopher Paolini – speshul sparkly superpowered people who are worthy of worship, unlike the grubby everyday mortals.

 
Did it really matter that I didn’t enjoy my kills? Did it really change anything that I took no sexual pleasure from it?

… this is one of those moments when you really can’t believe that the author actually wrote that. No, LKH, it DOESN’T matter whether you “enjoy” murdering somebody. You can kill for sexual pleasure, revenge, money, whatever reason – it will still be evil, still be murder, and still count as being a serial killer.

Just think of the ABC Murders – the murderer in that one was cold as ice and had a purely financial reason for killing, including people that he didn’t even know. He didn’t get off on it at all. He was STILL a serial killer, and nobody thought he got sexual pleasure from it. They just knew he was killing multiple people with a pattern.

Oh, and as for enjoying her kills and getting sexual pleasure from it, apparently Hamilton has forgotten the climax of The Harlequin – Anita has an oh-so-romantic moment with psycho serial killer Olaf when they carve out a vampire’s heart together. Isn’t that sweet?

 
Did it matter that in the beginning I’d thrown up?

Nope. And we don’t care either, by the way – just because she once puked doesn’t mean she isn’t an evil psycho now.

Did the fact that I’d had an order of execution for most of my kills make them better, less brutal? There were serial killers who had used only poison, which caused almost no pain; they’d been less brutal than me.

Given that her way of killing involves slowly sawing of a head with a machete instead of something more humane like a guillotine, I’d say that yes, she’s being unnecessarily brutal.

 
Lately, I’d begun to wonder exactly what set me apart from people like Vittorio. I’d begun to question if to my oh-so-legal victims it mattered what my motives were.

This will, of course, change nothing in Anita’s actual life – in her world, being brutal, psychotic and cruel basically equates to being “practical” and doing stuff to “protect my people.” And in Hamilton’s books, you can do whatever vile depraved things you want… as long as you wangst about it. That absolves you of all responsibility.

A woman answered the phone in Las Vegas, and I began the process of getting passed up the line to the person who might be able to tell me whose head I had in the box.

A whole chapter, and we’re only NOW getting connected to the actual cops rather than an alleged Marshal who sits there dribbling on herself for what seems like days. This is going to be slower and more painful than Winter’s Heart.

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