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This article or section contains spoilers for 2018 novel Serpentine.
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This article or section contains spoilers for 2020 novel Sucker Punch.
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In the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, federal marshals are generally in reference to the members of the preternatural branch of the U.S. Marshals Service. The United States Marshals Service (USMS) is a federal law-enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, and in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, the preternatural branch is created to specialize in lycanthrope and vampire crime.

Anita Blake and several other vampire executioners are grandfathered in as federal marshals when the preternatural branch is created.

Marshal status allows vampire executioners to operate across state lines, and affords them more freedom to perform their duty, although in return there is some more bureaucracy, and the laws keep changing on them. Marshals of the preternatural branch never have official partners, although they often work closely together with other law enforcement in their area, and when needed they can deputize capable civilians to help them on the job. They also get regular and thorough medical checks in case they manage to contract something scary on the job. As a downside, compared to bounty hunting the Marshal Service pays peanuts.

When they don't have a warrant of execution marshals of the preternatural branch have to play more within the regular marshal rules, although that still offers them significant freedom and legal protection in emergencies. Most marshals kill at least one vampire in their first month in the field, sometimes more, which is more violence than most regular cops deal out in their whole career. Marshals are also assigned to morgue executions, usually as the first thing before they are sent out to the field, but also later in their careers.

There is one area where the marshals don't have much leeway, which is in choosing a non-lethal resolution once a warrant of execution has been written. If the marshal refuses to complete the job, another marshal is called in and the first one is written up. After three refusals the marshal gets the choice between transferring to another branch or getting fired.[1]

Becoming a marshal[]

The original marshals of the preternatural branch are old-time vampire executioners like Anita, or bounty hunters like Ted Forrester, who get grandfathered in after qualifying on a shooting range if they have two or more years on the job. None of them are police officers, because cops are not allowed to be bounty hunters. Those who don't qualify, or have retired from active duty like Manny, continue as they were without a marshal status and a badge. By the time of Sucker Punch there are only eight old-time marshals left in the service, everyone else is retired, dead, or worse than dead.

Newer vampire executioners, like Larry Kirkland, who were not established yet at the time of original grandfathering, have much stricter entry requirements to becoming marshals, but are still largely trained to the job outside of any official channels, like Anita training Larry.

Third wave of marshals are people who have been regular police officers for at least two years and then trained for preternatural work in classrooms instead of in the field. Anita disapproves of this, because these marshals tend to lack the skillsets required for becoming effective legalized assassins for monsters. The training meets political needs rather than actual demands of the job, and the new marshals tend to be woefully unaware of how far the classroom theory is from the practice. A lot of them can't handle it, one way or another.

  • Winston Newman does better than most of these new marshals, because his first hunt in the field is with the Four Horsemen, the grandfathered marshals with the most kills under their belt. He gets to see how the job is supposed to be done, which is pretty different from how their bosses think it should work. Two years into the job he is of the opinion that the training is still nowhere near sufficient for the realities in the field, but the people up top don't trust the old-timers enough to ask them for help. They try to use newer marshals like Newman as mentors instead, and aren't happy when he declines saying that he isn't experienced enough and credits the Horsemen for his success.[2] They are presumably even less happy when he transfers out of the preternatural branch[3], no longer willing to deal with the realities of the job even if he is pretty good at it.

Working with SWAT[]

Initially there are no special requirements, but by the time of Sucker Punch the marshal needs to go through extra training closer to Special Operations Group (SOG) before they can be picked to accompany local SWAT on regular police warrants to known or suspected supernatural citizens. They are supposed to be protecting SWAT in case the supernatural citizen goes completely rogue and tries to kill them. This doesn't work great with the new classroom-trained marshals who still have the instincts of a police officer.[2]


Initially, lycanthropy is automatic means of dismissal for marshals of the preternatural branch, just as it is for other members of law enforcement. However, Anita becomes the first to be allowed to stay after testing positive, because she doesn't shift.

At the time of Hit List, a marshal who lost his badge after catching lycanthropy is involved in a court case worth millions over it, and wins the case by the epilogue. This allows Marshal Laila Karlton, who is infected by a werewolf during the Hit List, to become the first actual lycanthrope to keep her badge after she shifts for the first time. Marshal Otto Jefferies, who becomes a werelion shortly after Laila's attack, technically gets the same deal, although he disappears from the hospital before any decisions can be made. Anita thinks that even Marshal Service agrees that he is considered too dangerous to be left to his own devices, even if he is still in theory a marshal of good standing.

As of Kiss the Dead, Marshal Karlton is still riding a desk, but if she ever gets allowed back to the field it will open the door for other lycanthropes to apply as well.[4]

By the time of Dead Ice, there are still only two officers who have got to keep their badges after catching lycanthropy, both of them members of the preternatural branch.[5] It's unclear whether Otto Jefferies is counted as one of the two. He isn't mentioned in that context in Kiss the Dead, which might indicate that he isn't considered an active marshal anymore. It's possible that Anita is considered one of the two, although Anita doesn't shift.

By the time of Serpentine, Otto Jefferies is back on duty as a known werelion and "a marshal in good standing" as if he was never considered dangerous. He is easy enough to contact that Donna does so behind Ted Forrester's back.[6] This might indicate that Otto Jefferies was indeed one of the two officers referred to in Dead Ice, although it doesn't explain what might have happened after Hit List to make everyone but Anita and Ted Forrester stop worrying about him. It's possible that Anita was wrong about her assumptions at the end of Hit List, or Otto Jefferies has demonstrated good enough control over his lycanthropy since then that Marshal Service no longer worries about him. Marshal Karlton is also mentioned briefly, but not by name, and whether or not she is back to the field isn't addressed.[7]

Known marshals[]

Preternatural branch[]


Applied during transition phase:

Classroom trained:

  • Arlen Brice - St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Laila Karlton - unknown
  • Morgan - Atlanta, Georgia. (Deceased)
  • Winston Newman - unknown, then Hanuman, Michigan. (Until Sucker Punch)
  • Tilford - unknown

Unknown training:

  • Tony a.k.a. Wizard - Las Vegas, Nevada. (Deceased)

Other marshal branches[]

  • Finnegan - Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Raborn - Seattle, Washington.
  • Rita Clark - Seattle, Washington.
  • Winston Newman - Hanuman, Michigan. (After Sucker Punch)

Unknown marshal branch[]

  • Ben Carter - unknown

See also[]


  1. Sucker Punch, chapter 14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sucker Punch, chapter 31.
  3. Sucker Punch, chapter 79.
  4. Kiss the Dead, chapter 15.
  5. Dead Ice, chapter 06, spoken by Socrates: "The two officers who got to keep their badges after catching lycanthropy on the job are both part of the U.S. Marshals Preternatural Branch."
  6. Serpentine, chapter 37.
  7. Serpentine, chapter 08, Anita speaking to Micah, referencing Laila Karlton: "Socrates was really good with the marshal that got lycanthropy on the job with me. He talked to her family and everything."