We’re taught Lord Acton’s axiom: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believed that when I started these books, but I don’t believe it’s always true anymore. Power doesn’t always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals.
When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.
John F. Kennedy
My gun was digging into my back, so I shifted forward in my office chair. That was better; now it was just the comforting pressure of the inner-skirt holster, tucked away underneath my short royal blue suit jacket. I’d stopped wearing my shoulder holster except when I was on an active warrant as a U.S. Marshal. When I was working at Animators Inc. and seeing clients, the behind-the-back holster was less likely to flash and make them nervous. You’d think if someone was asking me to raise the dead for them that they’d have better nerves, but guns seemed to scare them a lot more than talking about zombies. It was different once the zombie was raised and they were looking at the walking dead; then suddenly the guns didn’t bother them nearly as much, but until that Halloweenesque moment I tried to keep the weapons out of sight. There was a knock on my office door and Mary, our daytime receptionist, opened it without my saying Come in, which she’d never done in the six years we’d been working together, so I wasn’t grumpy about the interruption. I just looked up from double-checking my client meetings to make sure there wouldn’t be any overlap issues and knew something was up, and knowing Mary it would be important. She was like that.
She’d finally let her hair go gray, but it was still in the same obviously artificial hairdo that it had always been. She’d let herself get a little plump as she neared sixty and had finally embraced glasses full time. The combination of it all had aged her about ten years, but she seemed happy with it, saying, ‘I’m a grandma; I’m okay with looking like one.’ The look on her face was sad and set in sympathetic lines. It was the face she used to deal with grieving families who wanted their loved ones raised from the dead. Having that face aimed at me sped my pulse and tightened my stomach.
I made myself take a deep breath and let it out slow as Mary closed the door behind her and started walking toward my desk. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.
‘I didn’t want to tell you over the phone with all the clients listening,’ she said.
‘Tell me what?’ I asked, and fought the urge not to raise my voice. She was about one more uninformative answer away from getting yelled at.
‘There’s a woman on line two; she says she’s your future mother-in-law. I told her you weren’t engaged to my knowledge, and she said that she didn’t know what to call herself since you were just living with her son.’
I was actually living with several men, but most of them didn’t have families to use words like son. ‘Name, Mary, what’s her name?’ My voice was rising a little.
‘Morgan, Beatrice Morgan.’
I frowned at her. ‘I’m not living with anyone named Morgan. I’ve never even dated anyone with that last name.’
‘I didn’t recognize it from your boyfriends, but she said that the father is hurt, maybe dying, and she thought he’d want to know about his dad before it was too late. The emotion is real, Anita. I’m sorry, maybe she’s crazy, but sometimes people don’t think clearly when their husband is hurt. I didn’t want to just write her off as crazy; I mean, I don’t know the last names of everyone you’re dating.’
I started to tell her to ignore the call, but looking into Mary’s face I couldn’t do it. I’d trusted her to screen callers for years. She had a good feel for distraught versus crazy. ‘She give a first name for her son?’
I shook my head. ‘I’ve never dated a Mike Morgan. I don’t know why she called here, but she’s got the wrong Anita Blake.’
Mary nodded, but her expression looked unhappy. ‘I’ll tell her that you don’t know a Mike Morgan.’
‘Do that. She’s either got the wrong Anita Blake, or she’s crazy.’