Skin Trade Chapter 3

Having spent the entire previous chapter sitting there yapping with various random people and having my-imaginary-penis-is-waaaaayyy-bigger-than-yours and I-can-be-more-misogynistic-than-yoooooou contests, Anita finally does something. Yes, the vampire hunter lives up to her name and starts the action, the bloodshed, the fighting, the intrigue….

Oh, who am I kidding? She just spends the whole chapter talking… again.

IN THE MOVIES, you always see the hero just getting on a plane and going off to fight the bad guys; in reality, you’ve got to pack first. Clothes I could probably have bought in Vegas, but the weapons . . . those I needed.

Remember kids! Packing clothes is totally unnecessary and nobody with a single ounce of testosterone would ever do it! But heaven forbid you go for a pee without an Uzi tucked in your cavernous cleavage!

And God forbid we timeskip the boring stuff like packing clothes.

 
Home, for the moment, was underneath the Circus of the Damned.

Thus excising yet another faint hint of normalcy in Anita’s life. She used to have a fair amount of it – a regular house, a job, a boss, errands, etc. Now she has boytoys to go shopping for anything she requires, dresses like a Hot Topic prostitute who doesn’t know how sizing works, a job she never goes to because she might have to cater to someone else (and she doesn’t have to take any cases unless she likes the client… which is never), and she’s ditched the house so she can live in Vampireville.

 
Besides, it was also one of the most defensible places in all of St. Louis.

Riiiight, because going down a dead-end hole in the ground is a really great place to be chased. The Circus is prime siege material, especially since it has vampires with a limited food supply… which if you think about it, would make an AWESOME plot, thus assuring that it will never happen.

 
When your vampie sweetie is also the Master of the City, you have to worry about defense.

She’s been boffing Jean Claude for what, ten books now? And he’s still only at the “sweetie” level? No wonder he’s getting frustrated, especially since he has to keep hearing that sickly-sweet yet utterly vague word.

 
Not humans anymore, but other vampires wanting to take a bite of your action. Okay, once it had been a group of rogue shapeshifters, but the problem was the same.

Please, I would totally kill to see some humans with heavy artillery waiting outside the Circus and wasting anyone who came out. But of course in the LKHverse, Humans Suck.

Monsters outside the law were as dangerous as humans outside it, but with more skills.

This is honestly one of the attitudes I hate most in urban fantasy – vampires, fae and weres become the author’s personal Sue Species, or an Our Elves/Vampires/Weres Are Different, to quote tvtropes. We’re supposed to believe that they’re utterly superior to us in every way: impossibly fast, strong, have better subcultures than us (usually really rotten ones), are more knowledgeable about the Real World than us, have a wide array of superspeshul Super Powers that allow them to fly/possess minds/enthrall/orgasm their victims/etc, are less prejudiced than us, are more moral than us, and generally make us look like a pitiful little lumps of flesh who are lucky to be able to tie our shoes without dropping dead. And yet somehow we’re Mean Oppressors as well, because of course a Sue Species must be persecuted somehow by the ignorant fools who can’t appreciate their awesomeness.

That’s honestly where the LKHverse falls flat on its face compared to series like the Dresden Files. Sure most humans have no powers in that universe, but some do – aside from the wizards, there are humans like Marcone and Murphy, who not only can fight the supernatural but sometimes win (Murphy and chainsaw vs. the plant fae). They can even hold their own as members of the Accords.

 
My cell phone rang as I was digging out my keys for the back door. The music had changed again; now it was “Wild Boys” by Duran Duran.

What else? After all, every other part of Anita except for the cell itself is mired in the eighties. I’m shocked her cell isn’t one of those giant blocky things you see in old sitcoms that look like you could radio Mars.

 
Nathaniel found it amusing that I couldn’t figure out how to program my own ring tone, so he changed it periodically without warning.

And despite supposedly being only nineteen – meaning he would have had to have been born in 1990 – he listens to eighties music, with no mention of anything more recent. Yo, LKH, at least have him program something from THIS DECADE.

(Mine is “Dies Irae,” if anyone cares. It’s pretty epic when it rings)

 
Apparently, this was my default ring tone now. Boys.

And this is the guy she’s regularly having sex with, whom she’s referring to like a precocious five-year-old. Is anyone else creeped out yet?

Then she gets a call from Edward, the super-assassin who (when we last saw him) was trying to pimp his future stepson to Anita for some sexual healing, and helping Anita procure more cannon fodder for her all-devouring Lovecraftian naughty bits.

 
Edward was an assassin who specialized in killing monsters because humans had become too easy.

Hasn’t she said this like, fifty times already?

 
As Ted Forrester he was a U.S. Marshal and fellow vampire executioner. By any name he was one of the most efficient killers I’d ever met.

Apparently LKH either thinks that all US Marshals are sociopathic killers (and thus justifies her characters’ actions), or she thinks it’s sooooo cool and totally like a license to kill. Seriously, he can’t just be an assassin who targets vampires and weres – he also has to be LEGIT and HIRED BY THE US GOV. Because obviously the serial killers are better than the common sheep, and must be treated with according glory.

Somehow Edward has apparently heard about Anita’s postal delivery, and he actually delivers the most genuinely creepy line of the whole book:

 
“Tell me you were going to call and have me meet you in Vegas. Tell me you weren’t going to hunt this one without inviting me to come play.”

Now THAT is scary and creepy-sounding, not “grunt grunt, I have phosphorus grenades, guns and a pretend penis! I’m scary! Be scared!”

Once upon a time, not that long ago, if anyone died, especially spectacularly, Edward was a good bet for it.

PLEASE! Abuse more commas! We’re begging you! Flog them and disperse them at random!

“I’m a U.S. Marshal, too, remember?”

I don’t think we could forget. Not even with extensive therapy, medication, and repeated blows to the skull.

LKH then reinforces both the superspeshulness and the outsiderness of both Anita and Edward (sociopathic killerz rool!) by having Edward say: “They killed one of our own, Anita. Cops take that hard.” In one sentence he’d said our own and then talked about the police like he wasn’t one. 

That’s two sentences. Idiot.

 
Edward was like me; we had a badge, but sometimes we didn’t quite fit.

Maybe that’s because he’s an assassin and she’s a thug with delusions of grandeur who deliberately pisses on everyone she meets. Seriously, LKH is trying to tell us that they’re like such outsiders from the NORMAL doughnut-eating coffee-drinking parking-ticket-writing cops, boohoo. But she sounds like a sulky teenager who is whining about not sitting at the coolest kids’ table – waaaaaa we don’t FIT IN!

So then, Anita starts getting all aggressive and macho-macho-tough with Eddie boy, demanding to know how he found out about this sort of thing. And apparently the Las Vegas cops are telling every such person in the western U.S. – you’d think they’d get around to telling, oh, the FBI or something. Naaaaah, they don’t need the FBI when they have Anita there! She’s way tuffer than all of THEIR agents.

[Edit: my mother also says that when she reads the above sentence, it sounds like Edward and Anita are trying to wedge themselves into the badges but are too fat to. She’s right]

 
Once he’d been like a mysterious guru to me. All-knowing, all-seeing, and better at everything than I was.

Yeah, back when he was cool. Now he’s boring and building up to being another boytoy.

“Even ghouls that cache food almost never take the head. They prefer meatier bits.”
“You’ve seen ghoul food caches?” he asked.
“Once,” I said.

Lest anyone forget: ANITA IS THE TUFFEST PERSON EVER AND TOTALLY HAS SEEN THE NASTIEST STUFF IN EXISTENCE!

 
“That you are one of the only people who run into weirder shit than I do sometimes.”

… and by saying that, he turns his monster-killer life from mysterious to boring.

Apparently to eat up space, Anita and Edward draw out the conversation via Anita dropping hint after hint about how teehee she totally knows why they took the head, and Edward demanding to know if he has to ask. Of course you do, dummy. Anita won’t do ANYTHING efficiently!

 
“We’re just lucky it came in on the only morning that I do client meetings all day. God knows what Bert, my business manager, would have done with it if I hadn’t been there to make him wait for forensics.”

What, he would have peed on it unless the Queen of Dead Dark Things was there to keep him from contaminating the evidence? He would have held it out the window and yelled at pedestrians, “HEY, LOOKIT THIS!”? They would have played “headball” in the office?

I’m also not sure why her boss would have seen it if she wasn’t there. I’m sure this is part of LKH’s clumsy attempt to assure us that Bert, being human, is a creep and a loser. But I doubt he’s in the habit of opening other people’s mail while they’re away, especially since that also happens to be a federal offense.

 
“You really think it was coincidence that the package got there on the only morning that you’d be in?” Edward said.

Probably not, since I can count the number of times she’s been in her office in the last several books without resorting to my toes.

 
“You think Vittorio’s been monitoring me. That he knows my schedule.”

Well, it’s not like her schedule is very hard to follow. Not only does she not really have much of a life, she’s supposedly the Angelina Jolie of the south, so all he needs to do is pick up a tabloid to follow her daily exploits.
“Anita Blake: She had sex in Jean-Claude’s office!”
“Anita Blake: Is she cheating on her harem with a weremeercat?” 
“Anita Blake: Is the Master of the City sick of being treated like her puppy dog?”

So our supertuff Sue gets all creeped out and wants to go hide in the Circus… but that doesn’t stop her from continuing to yap over the phone about nothing much. For some reason LKH makes a point of mentioning two guards and describing their outfits, which pretty much means we’re never going to see them again.

For that matter, what the hell is the point of having normal HUMAN GUARDS in a vampire citadel… attacked by vampires? If the vampires are supposed to be oh so awesome in every way, wouldn’t that be like having a pair of wobbly baby kittens guarding your house in a high-crime area? Keep out, or the kittens will mew at you! Maybe they’ll take a nap! If you’re really unlucky, they’ll try to nurse from your buttons!

Back to the narrative: Anita is spacing out on the phone because she’s too busy contemplating the guards’ wardrobes, which are (natch) black. Why can’t vampires and their lackeys ever dress in bright cheerful colors, especially since their lives are all night and darkness and pointlesss angst?

And for whatever reason, Anita is wandering around some stone steps in sky-high hooker heels, despite her protestations of being so manly she squirts testosterone. But of course, like everything sexy in her life, it’s totally not her fault and some outside force is MAKING her dress sexily.

She also apparently blames someone else for the fact that it’s hard to walk in stone steps in hooker heels:

 
Hell, they seemed carved for something that didn’t walk quite like a human being at all. Something bigger than a person, with different legs maybe.

And pray, what ARE they carved for? Vampires don’t magically grow four feet and develop backward knees when they are turned (although it WOULD be cool). This place is only used by vampires. Do they have a special “alien visitors” entrance that Anita randomly wandered into?

 
“Vittorio wouldn’t have come back to St. Louis,” I said.
“Probably not, but you know better than most vampire hunters that the vampires have other resources.”

So if she’s so super-knowledgeable, why is he having to tell her? You know, aside from blatant infodumping, and the fact that Anita is clearly as bright as a broken lightbulb.

“Hell, Anita, he could have humans with just a couple of bites. You know that once a vampire uses its gaze on someone and does the whole bite thing, they’ll do anything for their master.”

Again, why is it that the poor wittle vampires are supposedly heing oppressed by US, despite super strength, super speed, mind powers, and being able to enslave someone with a nip and some eye contact? I’m really starting to think that the prejudice against poor wittle vampires seems justified, because if they weren’t kept down to the intellectual level of the heroine, they would rule the world in a week.

And again…

“So, yeah, I think you’ve been spied on. I’d tell you not to come, Anita, but I know you won’t listen.”

Because doing something stupid when you’re told not to is a sign of how tough and strong and take-charge you are.

Anyway, Edward tells her that she should stay home and have her bishies bring her bonbons and footrubs. He thinks she should let people who deal with a problem by actually shooting a gun instead of posing with one. Allegedly this is because “You’re like me now; you’ve got people you love, and you don’t want to leave them. I’m just reminding you, like you remind me, that you really do have a choice. You can sit this one out.”

Personally, I think he just dreads the idea of going into all this mayhem with a stumbling nitwitted albatross like dear Anita. At least she isn’t talking about going in with dozens of red-shirted men so she can drop everything and have public orgies. (“Wow, this floor show at Caesar’s Palace is…. really realistic…”)

 
“Yeah, and the rest of the cops who already think I’m a girl, and that I’m sleeping with vampires, and that I’m sleeping around with other cops, they wouldn’t think less of me?”

  1. If Anita were half as cool and tough and self-sufficient as LKH clearly thinks she is, she wouldn’t actually care about what other people think. She’d just do her thing and not really care. However, like a whiny teenager she considers what other people think of her to be of deep importance, because she whines about it so much.
  2. And the cops don’t “think” she’s a girl and that she’s sleeping with vampires. They KNOW she’s a girl and that she’s sleeping with vampires. Yo, Lovecraftian maw – you’re a woman and unless you bother to get surgery, you always will be.
  3. And why the hell can’t LKH use proper punctuation?

“Don’t get yourself killed because of pride, Anita. That’s a guy reason to die. You’re a girl; think like a girl for once.”

Apparently the misogynistic contempt for women is spreading like a virus. Because obviously all men are dumb enough to die for pride, and women are too weak and pathetic to. The genders are uniform! COMPLY! COMPLY!

Having further displayed that he’s actually a pod alien who has possessed Edward’s body, The Newest Woman-Hater then points out that Vittorio is trying to lure Whorenita out of Jean-Claude’s protection and that it’s obviously a trap. He pretends that Anita is smart enough to realize this, and that he wants her to stay home because of this because Vittorio (wasn’t he an Anne Rice character?) is obviously stalking her. Too bad him stalking her makes no logical sense at this point… or ever…

I still say that he doesn’t want Anita standing around waving her imaginary penis, whining “I didn’t KNOOOOOWWWWWW…” and ogling all the hot men around. That would get old fast.

 
“In St. Louis, if Jean-Claude is still down for the day, you’re in charge.”

Because that’s not Mafiaesque at all.


“Anita’s gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse… and it involves the no-pants dance.”

“We’ve been working really hard at making me more human servant and Jean-Claude more master.”

At least for the PR department, because there’s no way Anita would be anything but a boss. She doesn’t even have a boss in her job, because obviously no Tuff Strong Manly-Man would ever take orders from ANYBODY.

 
“Yeah, so hard that you’ve moved into the Circus with him. The other marshals don’t think much of you shacking up with the master of your city.”
“Prejudiced bastards.”

Yeah, it’s so evil and prejudiced to be opposed to some honorary marshal (she was GIVEN it, she didn’t EARN it) openly living with a vampire master who has a lot of extralegal power, supahpowahz, and belongs to a parasitic species that could enthrall and enslave the entire human species (if they weren’t as dumb as Anita). At the very least, it maximizes the compromising influence on Anita’s loyalties… not that she’s loyal to anyone other than herself, but I think that is how they’d see it.

But of course, in her universe if you don’t just love and worship vampires (and Anita), you must be an evil prejudiced moron.

 
“I also heard that Jean-Claude and your boyfriends have come out of the closet. I take it that the idea that Jean-Claude is fucking you and your boyfriends was to explain why he was letting you fucking other men.”
“We told the vampire community that, not the marshals. How do they know all this?”

Note that she doesn’t deny that she’s claiming her BOYFRIENDS (note plural) have come out of the closet. Does this mean that she’s admitting that after many books of yaoi man-longing and sexually suggestive cuddling, she’s admitting that all her boytoys are mostly gay? (Except of course that even gay men are enthralled by Anita because she’s so sexy)

Also, weren’t they claiming that he was just shagging Asher, not all of her boytoys?

And this is a pretty stupid claim, really. She’s supposed to be the human SERVANT, not the equal in all things who gets to demand stuff. If a master wanted to boink anything that moves, why would he decide, “Hey, in the interest of being fair, I’ll have my loyal servant get to boink everything else as well!” It still undermines the whole idea of a vampire MASTER and human SERVANT.

There’s a brief token mention of Obsidian Butterfly and how she’s a vampire that claims to be an Aztec goddess, apparently because in LKH’s mind this is a sexier version of the book of that name. Stay tuned for more on that.

 
“I don’t like the tone in your voice, Edward. Promise me if you ever get a warrant of execution against her or any of her vampires that you’ll let me come help.”

“WAAAAAAA you’re gonna kill people without meeeeeeee I wannacomeIwannacomeIwannacome PLEEEEEEEEASE TAKE MEEEEEEE I’ll hold my breath until I die and then you’ll be SORRY…”

Anyway, they bicker briefly but since Edward is an assassin he is considered morally superior to Shaw. So he doesn’t get verbally roasted and vilified over the phone.

 
“Do you really think Vittorio planned me to have to fly to Vegas before Jean-Claude could be awake to argue with me, or make me take guards?”
“I don’t know, but if he did plan it this way, then he’s afraid of your guards. He’s afraid of you with Jean-Claude. He’s afraid of you with all your shapeshifter friends. But he’s not as afraid of you on your own.”

Great. So basically the villain in this one is a weakling of major proportions who could have his butt kicked around the block with superb ease if only she brought her vampire lapdog and all her guards and sex toys, and the main character now KNOWS that fact.

And no, you can’t PLAN a person’s arrival time, because that is dependent on too many factors. What if the package had arrived early, but the secretary forgot to give it to her until the end of the work day? Or what if the mail was late? JC would be up by the time she could finish yapping and go to the Circus.

So instead of doing THAT, she’s gonna painstakingly contrive to leave them all behind, because she’s a blithering idiot. Even though she knows that if she just waited nine hours she could easily go into the situation and be assured of winning. Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen – the only way she can be in enough danger for suspense is if the author has her deliberately doing things she knows are boneheaded… and doing it for no real reason.

And you know what’s even worse? Even though she leaves immediately, she then spends several hours dicking around and doesn’t get around to hunting him until much later.

I hung up and went through the door into Jean-Claude’s living room.

I now want to rip out big handfuls of hair. So this entire chapter has been a phone call while Anita wanders aimlessly from the parking lot to the basement. I am SO glad that this oh-so-manly and grimy noirish series focuses on action and horror rather than, oh, two whole chapters of pointless yapping that could have been summed up in a page.

In fact, the whole story so far has been “woman talks on phone.” Ah, the action-packed manly manliness. Up next: woman buys shoes and woman eats ice cream.

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