If You Don’t Think Then You Shouldn’t Speak
My phone is going to get pitched through a window one of these days.
I grabbed for the damn thing and got a piece of paper in the bargain.
‘I did what I could with your party dress since you’re with Pam today.
Plates for y’all in the fridge. Just nuke them.
Coffee maker is set for 7:30.
My suit smelled better than it does when I get it back from the drycleaners. The creases were sharp and she’d ironed my tie too.
Damn, Eric has it good.
I would’ve pinched myself, but when I woke up I’d be next to Ame… and my bathroom would smell like dirty underwear and mildew…
Nope. No pinching. I’m fine…
Until… I remembered that Ame would be here today…
But she’d have the boys with her.
And the dirty bathroom would still be in New Orleans.
When I got to the hall bathroom, it smelled like bleach. She’d already cleaned it… Right down to the shower curtain. Damn.
When I was done, I realized that she’d buzzed through the house on some kind of vicious germ and dust seek and destroy mission…
I smelled pledge, bleach and windex. There were vacuum tracks on the living room rug, the dishwasher was still hot and the kitchen trash bag was even empty when I went to toss my spent cigarette pack.
As told, I grabbed a plate from the fridge and put it in the microwave. Then I ventured up the stairs. It didn’t sound like anyone was alive up there.
I’d noticed that the walls of the staircase were covered in picture frames, but never had the chance (or reason) to look at them…
At least 6 decades worth…
There were a couple of Sookie with pageant gowns and crowns… no surprise there.
Pictures of Jason in college baseball and football uniforms. UPenn… and then mucked up like a pig in rugby gear.
Gymnastics and ballet and piano recitals…
A picture of Sookie on stage, mouth open wide… looked like Phantom of the Opera… theater in college?
Graduations… high school and college… and a picture of a marine that couldn’t have been but 19. Dress blues, Corporal. Must’ve been the cousin’s husband.
Wedding pictures. Everything from black & white to bell bottoms to really recent… it was funny that none of the women wore white. Tara was in light green. There was another bride in pink, one in yellow… the only one close to wearing white was in something more of a glittery silver ball gown… At least it wasn’t as bizarre as the ‘dress your sister like a slut for Halloween’ tradition.
But it did make me wonder why Sookie would break the tradition to wear white… even though it’s her second marriage. Huh.
At the top of the stairs, I went to the wrong door first.
I found a music room… practically a studio. Zeppelin could rehearse in there.
No sense in even trying to figure out why Sookie would have a music room unless she lets students use the space…
I knocked on the only other door…
Then I knocked again, only louder. “Pam. Quarter of 8. You ready to go yet?”
Oh come on.
“PAM. Don’t make me flip your bed. Up. Dress. Now.”
I slapped on the door.
“You said early. You missed early. I gotta be up. You gotta be up. Don’t make me come in there.”
I opened the door and stepped in. Fuck… lacy… satin… nightmares… for a long time…
Her earbuds were still in…
I wasn’t taking one step closer to her. Not happening.
The dresser… her hair brush…
I grabbed it and threw it… and it plonked her on the ass.
She got up though.
She yanked her earbuds out and sat up, pulling the sheet up to her chin. Thank God.
“You didn’t hear me knock.”
“Because I wasssss… sleeeeeeping.” Waaahh.
“You do more of that than me. No crying. Get up.”
“You’re being shitty.”
“Your wakeup call is coming between me and caffeine, nicotine and protein. Sookie left omelets for us.”
I closed the door and started trying to figure out which one of three I wanted more.
As soon as I finished inhaling my football sized omelet and second cup of coffee, I rinsed my plate and put it in the dish washer. Then took cup o’java number three out to the front porch swing for my cigarette.
I was not going to be the fucktard to replace the smell of clean with the smell of Camels.
Nuh uh… not me.
I could have gone back to sleep. It was completely quiet. It was cool out. My gut was full of ham and cheese and asparagus (who’da thought?).
Half an hour later I went back in to look for Pam.
She wasn’t in the kitchen, but I felt like I was on the trail of Goldilocks… The bitch left her dishes (lipstick trace and all) on the table. She hadn’t bothered with sliding her chair in either.
And something told me that she hadn’t bothered to make her bed since she left the coffee pot empty and the burner on.
Let’s thank Sookie for saving us the drive and expense of a hotel room by burning down her grandmother’s house.
Sookie’d spent God knows how long cleaning… Sookie. Eric’s fiancé… that anal retentive wackadoo… My mom had a canary for a while and there was seed and down as proof… Tippy is big enough to rotisserie and free range… no proof. None. If Sookie kept her house clean enough for his high standards of sanitation, then fucking up her spotless kitchen would probably short a circuit or two.
Chair pushed in. Burner off. Pot washed. Filter dumped. Dishes rinsed and put in the dish washer (she’d left a lake of ranch dressing and a pile of asparagus and congealed hollandaise on the plate). Table wiped clean of the sugar spill and Hidden Valley splooge. I even had to put the dressing bottle back in the fridge… Really?
No wonder she looked so comfortable at a crime scene… her condo probably looked like one…
No wait. Satan has minions. At this very minute, there’s probably a very frightened waif in a harness wrapping her shoes in bubble wrap in exchange for a tic-tac dinner.
And I was halfway through a second cigarette when she finally graced me with her omnipresence.
She came out and put her hand on her hip like she’d been waiting for me… in tight jeans and a black turtleneck.
Oh… Come on!
“Why do I have to wear a suit?”
“Because I don’t have a wife that’ll press perfect creases into mine.”
“Neither do I.” Eric does though.
I started for my truck…
The GPS had us being 17 miles/31 minutes From Arlene Fowler’s address. Goody an hour alone with Pam.
Dear God, please keep her mouth shut. I’m not sure I can resist shooting her right in the…
“So why do you drive around in this heap of shit when your wife has a new van?” Thanks an assload, buddy.
“It was my mom’s. When she died, Ame got my Durango until she blew up the engine this summer.”
“Why didn’t you just sell it or donate it as a tax write-off?”
“Are we sentimental?”
“Why didn’t you…”
“I bought it for her. The POS she had shit the bed on her while I was deployed. When I called to check on her, she had to cut our call short so she could take a bus to her shift. She worked nights and I didn’t want her coming home at midnight in Dallas on the bus.”
“How’d you buy her a car from Iraq?”
“Chaplain sent me to the right guy for the paperwork and allotment. They gave me some extra time at the phones to set it up with the dealership. It took like 4 days, but it got done.” Happy now?
“You know your wife called me right?”
“She told me.”
“Why would she think you’re lying about where you are?”
“Because she’s insecure and thinks I cheat.”
She snorted. “Like you have time!”
“Tell me about it.”
“Want me to send her your hours log?”
“It wouldn’t help. She’d think that the time I spend with Eric working off the clock is bullshit.”
“No wonder you’re always so bright and sunny.” Fuck her. What’s her excuse? Bitch.
She stopped talking for a few minutes when I refused to keep playing her game, but it wasn’t long before she made me want to jab a screwdriver into my ear again.
“I’m starting to think your boyfriend was ignoring you for Sookie the other night. I have 5 bars of signal.”
“Don’t try to stir shit up.”
“Why? Are you already jealous of his little cupcake?”
“What did I just say? Knock it off.”
“It doesn’t bother you that he ignored your calls until you drove all the way here to find that he’d replaced you with a younger model?”
“No. Stop talking.”
“Ooooh. You are jealous.” For the love of God!
“I’m not jealous. You’re bored and trying to stir shit up. I didn’t have much for signal here either. And when it comes to Sookie, I’m too happy for him to be shitty. She waits on him hand and foot and is a genuinely sweet girl.”
“You aren’t being pissy because you want to fuck her are you?”
“Just because you’re married…” Knew where that was going…
“Not that. She’s my best friend’s woman. No fly zone. She has a dick as far as I’m concerned.”
“Aren’t you old fashioned?”
“Nope. Just have a fully operational moral compass.”
She kept trying to annoy me.
Right up until we pulled into Arlene Fowler’s driveway when she asked me what my daughters’ names are.
She thought she should know them since she’d be meeting them today.
“Jackson and Carmichael.”
“Those are horrible names for girls.” She had to be fucking with me. Had to be.
I started sliding out of the truck, but when I turned around she hadn’t moved. “You coming?”
She shrugged, pulling out her phone again. “No. I’m not even sure why you dragged me along.”
Right between her fucking eyes.
A little girl answered my knock on the door. Cute little carrot top. Maybe 12 years old. “Hi there. I’m here to see Arlene Fowler.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Special Agent Alcide Herveaux with the FBI.”
She held her hand out. “Where’s your badge?” Smart.
I pulled it out and put it in her hand.
“You here about Antie Dette?” Fuck. Hate that. It’s easier when no one likes/knows the victim.
She slammed the door, keeping my badge. I could hear her yelling ‘mama’ through the walls.
A few minutes later, an adult redhead opened the door and held my badge out for me. Her eyes weren’t just red, they were practically glowing. She had already cried away most of her makeup and was wearing a simple black dress under an apron.
“I am so sorry about that…”
“Don’t be. She was smart to ask for it. You have no idea how many adults don’t ask and let me right into their house.”
She tilted her head and almost smiled before she stepped out of the way to welcome me in. “Well, come on back to the kitchen… Sookie told me you were coming.” Oh shit. As she led me through the house, I prayed that Sookie knew better than to say anything about the case.
“Yeah. She made up some little quiches for me to take to the remembrance and… she must’ve been by at like 6:30. I was up at 7… anyway, the note she left said that… it’s on the fridge.”
‘Hey Sparky, hope the quiches are what you had in mind. They’re underdone so they don’t dry out when you warm them, so don’t let the babies pick unless they toast them first.
Sugar, I know you’re leery of strangers right now, so I’m giving you a heads up. Someone is coming to see you about Maudette today. He’s a really good man. You can trust him.
Give the cooties a hug from me, then get an extra for you. XOXO, Cherry’
“Known Sookie a while?”
She giggled a little bit as she pulled a pan of mac & cheese from the oven. “Since high school; we used to cheer together. I used to date her brother-in-law Sam. How long you known her?”
“Not long. Her fiancé is my partner.”
“Ahh. They’re cute together. Nice change. Never liked Bill.”
“Come on. Sookie’d be cute with anybody.”
“Cept for when she’s covered in bruises… So what did you need to ask me about Dette?”
Bruises? Shit… I don’t know how after some of the shit I’ve seen, but some stuff still surprises me. What kind of prick beats a girl who comes back from being raped… Unless he’s trying to keep her down.
The kind of prick that moves in next door to the rape victim he used to use as a punching bag.
Completely aware of how distracted I suddenly was, I pulled out the digital recorder. I’d decided to bring it for Eric since he’s big on verbatim notes, but I would probably fuck the duck on taking notes at the moment.
It made me too happy that his anal nature started brainstorming last night about potential questions… so the four of us started a list while we were hip deep in all the other info… well, not so much Pam. She was really enthralled with her little anti-Twining campaign.
When I got back to my truck, Pam had dozed the fuck off… and didn’t budge when I got into my seat… So I slammed my door as hard as I could without breaking the window.
I nearly pissed myself that she jumped out of her skin.
“You think you’re funny?”
“Yup. Needed that.”
“What did she have?”
I laughed again. “If you wanted to know, you should’ve gone in.”
“Herveaux. What did she say?”
“You should try to stay awake until I explain it to Eric.”
“I’m not one of your kids. Don’t talk to me like…”
“An adult wouldn’t have needed someone to wake them up when there was work to do. An adult wouldn’t have left a mess in the kitchen for someone else to clean up. An adult wouldn’t have picked and nagged another passenger just because of a lack of something better to do and then taken a little nappy-poo. If you wanted to know what Arlene Fowler had to offer the case, you should have gotten your ass out of the car and gone in with me.”
“You’re being pissy about going in there alone?”
“Then something she said got to you.”
“Nope.” Not case related, anyway.
“Then what are you so grumpy about?”
I didn’t answer her. I’d already told her and wasn’t about to repeat myself. As much as she wasn’t my kid, damn if I’d put up with two wives.
I stopped to top off my gas tank and grab a carton of smokes on the way back while she ranted and interrogated me, completely unanswered.
When we pulled into the driveway there was a black BMW Z4 parked beside the house.
Good. Company equals witnesses. Killing Pam would be less tempting.
First stop. Kitchen.
The table was spread with muffins, bagels, pastries and fruit, and I smelled fresh coffee.
The continental breakfast fairy had been.
I opened the freezer to stow my carton only to see that in addition to the dozen or so new ice cream and popsicle options, there was already a carton in there.
Sookie bought cigarettes? I thought for a second that she might have grabbed them for her dad or brother, but Jason was puffing on Newports and Corbett was a Marlboro man…
If she were a closet smoker, she would be going ape shit every time I light up…
She bought cigarettes for me?
I’m going to report her to the non-smoker’s union as a sympathizer.
In the meantime, since the fridge and cabinets were just as stuffed to the seams with ‘kid snacks’, I slipped some cash into her wallet.
I wasn’t about to punish her for being so considerate. She’d been taken advantage of enough for a few lifetimes.
Once my suit had been rehung and replaced with jeans and a wife-beater (and I remembered to grab the recorder so that Pam couldn’t be sneaky), I figured I’d go grab my laptop and start making my notes until I could sit down with Eric about the interview.
Their bedroom door was open. Sookie’d already laid out breakfast. I shouldn’t have any reason to approach the room like I was sweeping a space for hostiles…
“Good morning…” Holy Mary, mother of…
Assuming is stupid. Period.
Black guy, towel… Sookie, standing in the middle of the room completely fucking naked!
The only damn thing she was wearing was her barbells and Eric was sitting on the side of the bed like his fiancé wasn’t nude with another guy in the room.
And by the way… that whole ‘might as well have a dick’ thing went right out the fucking window!
I 180ed as quick as I could, but I’d already seen everything. “I’d say I’m sorry, but you assholes need to figure out what doors are for!”
Their fault. Not mine.
They were all laughing like mad. Shy isn’t a word I’d use to describe Sookie between her panty-free costume and the toweled convo we’d had last night, but Damn!
Eric was barely covered with a sheet… so between the three of them, there was ONE towel.
“Lafayette, that’s Alcide. He’s Eric’s partner. Could you dig something out for me, please?”
“Partner? Are you willing to share this one. He’s pretty too.”
Sookie laughed, “Have at him,” and then the bathroom door closed.
The next thing I heard was Lafayette chanting my name and when I turned around, he was laying on the bed next to Eric and patting the mattress. My dickhead partner laughed so hard he rolled back and high 5ed his new bed buddy. If he only knew how twisted my morning had already been…
“Can I come get my laptop without being jumped?”
Lafayette wiggled his head. “I don’t know hooker. That all depends on the price of your stroll.” Another funny bitch… If I hadn’t been stuck with Pam’s company I probably would’ve been in the mood to laugh too though.
Porch swing, cigarettes, fresh cup of coffee (weak, but still good), laptop… and I even scooted the little table on the porch so that I could put my feet up…
The best part: complete silence.
Even during power outages in New Orleans, the neighbors or cars would break the peace.
The absolute calm reminded me of the only thing I miss about the desert.
There wasn’t anything more soothing than nothing.
The conversation with Arlene Fowler hadn’t yielded much of anything. Sookie had already relayed everything she’d been told which ended up being everything that Arlene knew as fact.
I listened to the recording of the 15 minute interview while my computer translated it all to text format…
Best $50 I ever spent. Eric made fun until I showed him how it worked…
It only took 5 minutes to separate my questions from Arlene’s answers and correct the few mistakes the program made.
I’d already saved and sent the transcript and the MP4 and was just finishing my smoke when that sexy Mach I came rumbling up the drive.
When Jason and Corbett climbed out they were already calling out good morning to me.
Seriously nice family.
“Morning. Y’all are out early.”
Corbett snorted. “We were. But early was hours ago. It’s nearly 10… Don’t tell me she’s got you smoking outside.”
“Naw. She cleaned the place top to bottom. I didn’t want to stink the place up. Besides, I can’t get this much quiet in New Orleans.”
“Wife or neighbors?”
“Enjoy it while you have it… it’s all about to go away.”
They both started laughing. “20 teenage girls in spandex will be descending on the house like a biblical plague in about 15 minutes.”
Jason laughed. “Daddy, you say that like it’s a bad thing. Just iPod some Missy Eliot and you got yourself some soft core.”
Corbett gave him a disgusted look. “You’re just fucking wrong sometimes.”
“In the great state of Louisiana the legal age of consent is 17. More then half of them are juniors and seniors. And it ain’t like you’re touching one.”
“You need to get laid.”
He poked his lip out. “But you said that would be wrong.” Funny must be in the damn water around here.
“Not one of your sister’s girls, you fucking deviant! I meant someone old enough to know you need a leash… and a gag mask.”
“Only girl I can think of like that slept with my father.”
Before either of us knew it was coming, Corbett pitched his wad of keys at Jason and they hit him square in the chest. “Where the fuck were dingoes when I needed them?”
Jason laughed picking up the keys and shoving them in his pocket. Something about his reaction told me that he knew he deserved the hit.
As the Stackhouses made their way to the porch, Pam announced herself by using her bored and annoyed tone to call me ‘princess’ on her way out…
…Because she hadn’t pissed me off enough.
Jason grinned at her. “Hey! You the wife?”
I didn’t give her the chance to throw out anything nasty; I beat her to it. “Not with someone else’s dick… This is our boss lady, Pam. Pam this is Sookie’s dad and brother, Corbett and Jason.”
Jason waved while Corbett offered a handshake.
“You don’t look old enough to be Sookie’s father.” He really didn’t, but even if I was weird enough to mention it, I wouldn’t have licked my fucking lips. Ew.
“Nicotine and alcohol are preservatives.”
“They’ve done you well it seems.” Still holding his hand. Gag… Took the boys to the Dallas aquarium not too long ago and had the misfortune to walk up to see a couple of walruses mid-hump… less grossed out then.
Seeing Pam flirt is probably one of the most heinous events…
Two words: sexier sewage.
That’s all I’m saying.
I made a bee line for the back of the house and when I saw that none of them were out of the bathroom yet, I knocked on the door. “Company. Corbett and Jason are here. Pam is circling like someone dumped chum in the water.”
I heard laughing just before the door was flung open and Lafayette ran out of the bathroom like his damn hair was on fire yelling after ‘Daddy’.
Sookie kissed my cheek on her way by. “Sorry ‘bout earlier. I didn’t even think about the door since no one was here. D’you eat?”
“Yeah. It was great. Thanks. Didn’t even know I like asparagus.”
She smiled and patted my hip on her way out to the front.
Eric watched her walk out, shaking his head and when she was gone… “She just apologized for you walking in on her naked.”
“It’s already been an interesting day.”
“Nothing new, but I recorded it for you… Sookie must be snorting lines of Ritalin. Woke up at 7 to a miraculously fresh and pressed suit. A fresh pot of coffee and an omelet I’d shiv a guy for. Then it all fell to shit… I had to wake Pam up.”
“She bitch at you?”
“Not for waking her dead ass up. Just for the whole ride… I think my dick is broken for good now… Pam wears a thong.”
He slugged my shoulder. “Asshole! Like I needed to picture that.”
“Oh… like I wanted to see it! Then when after 22 minutes of blabbering and needling she asked what my daughters’ names are.”
“And then napped in the truck.”
He started shaking his head again. “Fuck. I knew I should have gone with you. I barely shook Arlene’s hand between games the other night.”
As we headed to the front, Sookie came out of ‘my’ room with an armful of sheets and kept moving… She kissed her dad and brother, still moving through the kitchen and was back in about a minute.
Lafayette was still practically raping Corbett and eventually took a turn with Jason before Sookie and her dad went outside for some kind of private chat…
Pam watched him leave like she was in heat. Even Eric noticed and asked her not to flirt with his father-in-law…
That’s when she mentioned that he wasn’t wearing his ring.
First instinct: bolt for the door and look to see if she’s full of shit. He’d been wearing it last night. It caught my eye when he was picking his chair up.
…I ignored the temptation to be a nosy asshole…
Until Eric and Lafayette dashed to the window…
They’d gone too far out into the yard to spot it; then the three of us stooges turned to Jason. “She’s right. He put it in her suitcase when he packed her shit.”
The three of us were lost. Stuck. Nothing to fucking say… The only thing I could think of, wouldn’t exactly have been polite to say in front of Jason… It was his mother.
Lafayette was the first to have a real reaction…
Now, Jason Stackhouse isn’t a big guy. 5’8” in shoes, maybe… Lafayette jumped through the air and glomped him like an anime babe and Jason barely budged… That’s a strong little mother fucker right there. I wondered how he didn’t get broken into pieces playing UPenn football… Damn!
“After y’all left last night, he didn’t say a word to her. He went to her room and packed her things. This morning, we ate a silent breakfast and we took her to the train station to go stay with her sister then stopped at the bank to start an allowance for her. He’s done. He warned her about it being the last straw. I tell you what, she’s lucky she didn’t scare you off.” He’d cut her loose? I guess when the guy tells you that you’re holding the ‘last straw’, he isn’t fucking around.
Pam pried. “How is he holding up? How will Sookie take it?”
Eric led the bunch of us into the kitchen while Jason laughed at Pam’s question. “He’s fine. They haven’t slept in the same room since we were in high school and Sookie will be fine. When we were kids, we used to ask Santa for a divorce. There’s nothing of the horse left to beat…”
Fuck. Like I needed to hear that… I’d already decided that Sheila and Ame might as well be the same fucking person… but separate rooms? That might… no.
“…Hey Lafayette, I’m dragging Daddy to the Dirges tonight.”
“NO YOU’RE NOT! What time?”
He was smiling like he was up to something (the same look Sookie gets), so I had to ask. “What is a dirge?”
“After dinner. Bout 8. Dirges In the Dark is a bar. Laf, you gotta make sure Sook comes. Daddy won’t play without her.”
“Oh you know I’m your bitch! I’ll put her in the trunk if I have to. You have her stuff right?”
Jason laughed at him. “I have some stuff, but she’d rather have hers. If we just tell her it’s for Daddy, you shouldn’t have to use cuffs or anything. Just don’t let her wear a skirt or she’ll use it as an excuse to not take the seat. I’ll have Tara and Sam come out too.”
I looked to Eric, hoping to get more from him, and got jackshit. He was too busy with his coffee. Pam ended up asking, “What seat? Play what?”
“Sookie hated singing in pageants so she taught herself to play guitar, hoping that Sheila would let her do that instead. Of course, the answer was no. Daddy didn’t want her effort to get wasted so he’d take her to the garage and would play, then I joined in, then Sam. Laf even joins in once in a blue moon. Any of y’all play anything?” The fucking Partridge family. That explains the music room though.
He got a negative from all three of us, but shaking my head was an understatement… Jack thought it was hilarious that I’m so musically retarded that I couldn’t play Chopsticks on the piano program he has… especially since Carm got it right after 2 tries and I’d been trying for an hour.
When Jason pulled Eric out to the back porch for their little conference, I took a seat at the table. If it weren’t for Lafayette being there, I’d have been pissed that I was left with Pam again.
“So Lafayette, what do you play?”
“Oh, I’m just an honorary Stackhouse… Just guitar. Sookie taught me while we’re back in school. You don’t play anything?”
Pam snorted. “Barrett 50 cal.”
Lafayette started laughing. “Sniper? Holy shit, son! Scared a’ you!”
“You know guns?”
“Not really… Had, their cousin… her husband was a Marine and Remy lost the battle to name Hunter. He had a hard on to name him Barrett… Had only squashed it because she didn’t want him called ‘Barry’.”
“Lemme guess… he called him Deer Hunter.”
He started nodding. “In every letter he wrote.”
“What d’you name yours, Heckler & Koch?”
“Remington and Colt.”
He laughed until Pam snarked, “Jackie and Carmen.” Bitch.
Lafayette gave me a confused look. “Sook told me you got boys.”
“I do. Jackson and Carmichael.”
Pam had been fucking with me… She was doing a shit job of pretending to be surprised. “You said they were girls.”
“No. When you asked what my daughters’ names are, I told you ‘Jackson and Carmichael’ because you were trying to egg me on. I was suffering the misguided belief that you’d catch the hint and turn your fucking filter on. I’m only now realizing that you have no talent for social cues and are quite probably suicidal. Since you can’t say the first word that isn’t antagonistic, my family is off limits to you. Knock it off.”
She stared at me. Her mouth (cum dumpster/cock socket) was cracked open and she had nothing. No shitty comeback. No nasty insults. Nothing. It was beautiful.
Lafayette broke up the stare down by asking me if I had pictures…
…And I was showing the ones I keep in my wallet to him when Sookie and Corbett came in.
Sookie came right over to look, adding to Lafayette’s cooing. “They are SO precious!”
Corbett shook his head. “You need to watch out. She’s gonna spoil the shit out of them.”
Sookie growled at him. “Shut up, Daddy.”
“I bet you’ve already been to the store…”
I started laughing at the ‘busted’ look on her face.
“…And… inventoried your markers and crayons… Got ‘em a ream of paper.”
She grabbed a muffin and threw it at him. He caught it and stuck his tongue out at her before he started eating it with one hand and pouring a cup of coffee with the other.
“…Bet you even playlisted all the kid friendly movies on your drive and set the DVR to record everything for their age groups.”
“That’s not spoiling them! It’s just making sure they aren’t bored.” And caring more than their own mother.
By the time Eric and Jason were done with their powwow, Pam had wedged her way into the conversation so that she could go back to flirting with Corbett.
Whatever Jason had to say to Eric put that same over-thinking, constipated look on his face as finding out Sookie’d been raped…
Lovely. Eric on lockdown, Pam with a cactus in her cunt and my wife planning a move…
I had to think of something to keep me from blowing my head off…
- Sleeping on clean sheets.
- Brushing my teeth at a clean sink.
- Knowing my kids are eating fresh food.
…And of course there was the fact that I was holding onto the fantasy that Amelia would save her lunacy for when we’re alone, maybe even be a little less of a pain in my ass because Octavia isn’t around.
Lafayette bounced out of his chair to hug onto Eric “I’m in the mood to dance! Will you take me dancing?!”
Eric faked a smile. “Sure, sweetheart. Anywhere you want. Just me and you, or can I bring Sookie?” Oh hell… he said ‘sweetheart’… proof positive that someone was dancing to the top of his shit-list.
“You can bring Sookie as long as you bring that pretty ass partner of yours too.” SHIT! Nothing sounded more fun than dancing and drinking… But Ame would wipe her ass with the idea because I’d have fun.
“I can’t go. The family will be here around lunchtime to go look at houses. They’re staying the night.”
Sookie nudged my shoulder and gave me a huge grin. “My cheerleading squad will be here in minutes. You’ll have a pool of girls I’d trust to stay here with the little guys. We should all go. When was the last time you and Amelia went out?” 2 years ago and it was a disaster.
“Amelia’s pretty particular about who she leaves the kids with. If you can convince her, I’m down.”
When we started hearing high pitched chatter coming from the front yard, Corbett and Jason left to ‘break the news’ to Tara and Sam so that Sookie and Lafayette could handle cheerleading practice.
There I was.
In the kitchen…
With Cactus Cunt and the Giant Emotional Masochist.
The only thing I could think of was suggesting we take our laptops out to the porch. I used smoking as an excuse, but the truth of the matter was that I was hoping Sookie would do the splits or something…
Dickhead needed to be distracted.
Eric and Pam listened to the interview, then proof-read the transcript… and that was it. After 15 minutes all we had left to do was research Victor Madden. But we needed Sookie to open up the payroll info for us so we could see if he was taking ‘vacation time’. Not that he’d need it since the Vampire was doing all of his taking and dumping at night, but corresponding vacation time would build the circumstantial case…
But there was nothing left to do.
Hurry up and wait.
Once the little bit of work we could do was out of the way, Eric locked in… Sookie wasn’t just doing splits. The way she flipped out of the tree last night should have been a hint, but I was still surprised to see her flipping and cartwheeling all over the yard like she belonged on a damn Wheaties box… her squad was following along, but I’m pretty sure that Eric didn’t notice anyone but her.
I was starting to think that Ame had decided to stay in New Orleans as a conscientious objector until I got a text from her. ‘We stopped for the boys to grab some snacks and get a bathroom break. Garman says we’re 2 hrs away.’
‘J I was starting to think you weren’t coming since you didn’t call earlier.’
‘I’m not even there yet and ur already ragging on me?’
‘didn’t mean it that way. I was just starting to wonder if you changed your mind.’
‘Oh. Ok. Boys r done. Hitting the rd. b there soon.’
…Not long after… At 11:30, Sookie set the cheerleaders loose to raid the kitchen and they all stampeded past where I was sitting on the steps. She went and sat on Eric’s lap for a bit, confirming that watching her had gotten him out of his shitty mood. He was feeling chatty.
The last thing I needed was dealing with his rag too.
I was about to ask Sookie which one of her cheerleaders I should start with asking, but when I turned around she was already heading into the house…
I felt a nudge on my leg, and turned around to see Sookie standing there with a great big smile and a girl with blue eyes so big that she looked like Sailor Moon with her pig tails. “Alcide, this is Taryn. She’s a straight ‘A’ student whose been babysitting since she was 12. She’s a lifeguard at the country club during the summer and is CPR certified. She is going to school next fall for Early Childhood Development because she wants to be an elementary teacher. She told her parents that she’d watch her kid brother tonight, but said she’d bring him along. He’s one of Tara’s students, so Jack will be able to make a friend. You think Amelia will approve?” Probably not. The only babysitters Ame has ever hired are fat brunettes because she thinks I’m less likely to fuck them.
I laughed at the potential shit-fit Ame would have to bottle up so that she wouldn’t embarrass herself… “She’s more qualified to tend to the kids than I am. I hope so…. You don’t think your folks will mind you bringing him along? Can you handle that many at once? Carmichael is four and a real handful right now.”
“My parents are charter members of the Sookie fan club and I tend to 6 pre-schoolers Wednesday night during AWANAs.”
‘Sookie fan club’? What the hell is that about? I had to chalk it up to the fact that everyone around here seems to know her somehow… “What’s your curfew?”
“Midnight, but mom and dad are going to Dirges tonight so they won’t mind if I stay until 3 so y’all can ‘last call’… Especially you being a friend of Sookie’s.”
“If you’re sure they won’t mind, then 7 o’clock ok?”
She nodded. “Devin will be really excited to be the first to meet Jack too… Carm’s my favorite age though… We’ll have fun.”
She turned around to leave… “Taryn… Don’t get your feelings hurt… Carm’s not too sure about new people. More than just shy.”
She nodded and bounced into the house…
And Sookie squatted down next to me. “You figure out which way you’re gonna go yet?” Only because I met her mother… the shitty accusations her mother threw around were like looking into a crystal ball at my own miserable future…
“I’m gonna go with sainthood.”
“I think you can pull it off.”
“Then why does it bother me?”
“Because the high road gets cold from time to time…” She leaned over and whispered, “…I think you’re punishing yourself for not being home more by letting her treat you like shit… Don’t you think that’s been going on long enough?”
All I could do was stare. I wasn’t doing that… was I? Even if I was, how would she… Shit… I probably was… And it was something I’d know by now if my wife would have gone to counseling years ago when I asked her… She refused to talk to anybody when shit got to the ‘misery threshold’ after Carm was born… I’d even offered to go as a couple.
“When she gets here, act like you missed her.”
“I did miss her.” …The way she used to be… when we were dating and just married… otherwise, saying I missed Amelia was a blatant lie. I miss my boys.
Sookie got up and patted my back. “I know that jackass. You can’t just feel it. You need to show it.”
…Then she leaned into the house and yelled, “Muffins won’t win State and gossip is what school is for… Get your asses back in line, ladies and gents or your sim cards are mine!”
That got them… The herd moved past me faster than it had on the way in.
I was starting to second guess Taryn as a babysitter… That would be another excuse to accuse me of cheating… and God only knows how embarrassing it could get…
But I was distracted by some creep lurking around in the trees. He was inching closer and closer… I’d driven down the road in both directions, but there were only two houses on Hummingbird.
The neighbor… The ex… creepy fucking prick…
“Eric, what’s the EX look like?”
“5’8”. Dark hair and brown eyes. Lacoste, dockers, loafers. Yuppy douche. Why?” That’s him…
“He’s in the trees watching. At your 7… Wanna go scare him off?”
“No. If I do, I’ll shoot him.” Awww… shit. I shouldn’t have said anything. Eric went right back to churning and plotting.
“What’s up with you?”
“You know the bomb that mommy dropped last night?” Who could forget that shit?
“I talked to Jason. Bill flew back to school out of Nashville the next morning.” That was a cake taker… He raped Sookie and married her so that he could keep treating her like shit…
“No other evidence?”
“No. She never saw the guy.”
“He knocked her out first?”
He nodded, clenching and unclenching his jaw.
That would do it… No wonder Eric was festering like a canker.
I paced the kitchen for a few minutes… trying to decide what I would do… He liked picking on someone smaller than him. It only seemed fair…
I finally had some ‘eye for an eye’ inspiration… and the large bottle of Tobasco would be perfect…
On my way out through the back porch, I left my gun in the cabinet over the washer… After Arlene Fowler told me that Sookie’s ex had beaten on her, I was already willing to throw a punch or two… now that I knew he raped her too, I felt like shit for thinking Eric was being a turd earlier. All things considered, he was doing a pretty good job at holding his shit together.
I went into the tree line on the opposite side of the house and went deep enough into the woods that I could barely see the house as I made my way to the other side of the property…
When I got close enough to ‘Bill’ I watched him for a minute…
He was leaning against a tree with both hands in his pockets. He occasionally mumbled something under his breath, leaving me torn between wondering what he was saying and being pretty fucking sure that if I could make it out, I’d go back for my gun…
Right into his ear… “You like to watch little girls bounce?”
I expected him to jump out of his skin as a minimum… He didn’t disappoint. He staggered away from me, angry, confused, embarrassed… “Who are you?”
A hundred different answers came to mind… “Your date.”
When I blew a kiss to him, he bolted. Running through the woods away from Sookie’s property…
I wanted to laugh when he yelped, crashing into the dirt as I grabbed him around the waist and crashed on top of him.
It was priceless.
“Get off of me!”
“Shhh. I like my dates conscious… Don’t make this difficult.”
I shifted to pin him better and he tried to put up a fight, but my legs already had his…
“I don’t mind if you squirm, but I think it’d hurt more.”
He went so still that he even held his breath… just long enough for me to shift to push my hip (the bottle of tobasco) into his ass and unzip my fly…
I gave him a few seconds, letting his panic set in and just as I pulled my hand back to choke hold him into a little nap…
Not ‘oh shit’. I smelled shit. Realizing that I literally scared the shit out of this guy made it almost impossible to not laugh hard enough to piss my pants…
I backed off of him, mostly pissed that I would get to finish his ‘stay the fuck away from Sookie’ lesson and headed back to Sookie’s…
“Do I want to know?” Eric probably knew me too well.
“Gave him a taste of his own medicine.”
“What’d you do?”
“Tackled him from behind, put his face in the dirt, then told him that if he fought back it’d hurt more. He shit himself when he heard my pants unzip so I let him go.”
He started laughing. “Alc, if he hadn’t shit his pants, what would you have done?” Knocked him out and dumped enough tobasco down his ass crack that when he finally woke up, he’d think he’d been raped. That shit burns… a lot.
“You don’t need to know.”
He stared at me, I guess he was trying to decide if he agreed with me… but he finally decided on ‘culpable deniability’ so I went in to get rid of the my grass stains and sewage perfume before my family got there.
Back in the guest room, the bed had already been remade and there was a stack of my clothes folded sitting on the chair in the corner… Out of curiosity, I looked and the damn hospital corners were so tight that I couldn’t get my hand in them… At this point I was close to asking Sookie what she was on… So I could get some for Ame.
By the time I got a shower and redressed, I managed to smoke a cigarette before Ame’s van came inching down the driveway.
With all of the cars out front, I waved her around to park behind the house.
She looked like shit. She hadn’t even bothered to shower this morning before she left and the front floorboards were full of empty Full Throttle cans… a few fell into the yard as she got out. Unfortunately, the boys were asleep.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
“You probably knew before I did that Sookie is the Cheer Coach… She has breakfast on Saturdays with her squad and works them out.”
“Enjoying the view?”
I shrugged, bracing myself for a ‘beautiful’ day… With all of the energy drinks she’d had, she’d alienate the whole town before we find somewhere to rent. “Makes me wish I hadn’t made fun of the guy cheerleaders in high school… Looks like I missed out.”
She snorted. “Pervert.”
“Not really. I spent most of the time I was on the porch feeling sorry for those girls’ fathers… Really glad I have boys.”
“You’d be just as wrapped around a little girl’s finger as you are the boys.”
“Exactly… How was the drive?”
“Not bad. Traffic cleared up once I passed Baton Rouge. You know Shreveport is only 5 hours from Dallas?” She was actually thinking of perks to moving? Good sign.
“I knew it was much closer, but it’s nice to know it’s that close… Close enough for weekend visits.”
She actually smiled when she nodded.
Getting it out of the way… “Uh, Sookie’s family… they kinda have plans tonight. They want us to go out with them. Drinks and dancing.”
“How do you figure we’ll manage that?”
“Sookie found us a sitter and everything. One of her students.”
“Did you meet her?”
“Yeah. Sookie rattled off her resume. Tayrn’s been babysitting for 5 years, even supervises the preschoolers at church. Her parents are going out too so she’s bringing her little brother along. Devin would be in Jack’s class if we find a place in Bon Temps.”
“Already meeting the locals?”
“Tara and Sam are going to go as far as I know. Sookie’s dad and brother… I’m not sure how many people show up to this place, but the Stackhouses go up on stage. They’re kind of a band from what I gather.”
“Shit. Alc, I didn’t bring anything to go to a bar in.”
“Neither did I. Jeans and Ts will be fine.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “I guess way out here in the sticks it won’t matter. I’d be surprised if overalls aren’t part of the dress code.”
“Please try to be nice. The last thing I need is a feud between my wife and my partner’s.”
“I’ll try. I… I just don’t know about this. I’ve never lived out in the country like this. There isn’t much of anything for the last couple miles since I got through town.”
“Yeah. Tiny little place. With the traffic in New Orleans though, everything is still half an hour, 45 minutes away… and there’s a Super Wal-Mart just down the road. I passed it on the way to the interview this morning.”
“How’d that go?”
“It was just official. It was stuff we already knew, but she’s made a statement. Poor thing was freaked out that she’d met a killer as much as lost a friend.”
“So since you’re already working a case, how are we going to do a move? You’ll have to stay here won’t you?”
“I don’t know. How long do you think it’ll take for you to pack up the house?”
“Me? You’re not going to help?”
“If I have to stay here to work, I wouldn’t be able to help pack.”
“Don’t start, Ame. I wouldn’t leave you with it if I had the choice. Sookie is going down with Eric tomorrow to pack up his stuff and he’s getting movers to deal with the rest. We have too much stuff for it to be easy. We can’t help that.”
“He found somewhere to live already?”
“Yeah, here. He’s moving in with Sookie.”
“They’re that serious? How long have they been together?”
“About a year. They’ve been quiet though. If I knew about Sookie, I wouldn’t have followed him up here. ”
“What’s she like?”
“Like Eric, only short and friendlier.”
“Eric’s plenty friendly.”
“Uh huh… She’s a hugger though. Makes Eric look like a bad case of crabs.”
She raised her eyebrow at me. “How friendly is she with you?” Here we go…
“Very, but not like you’re thinking. You’ll see. Seriously, don’t do that. Not here.”
She rolled her eyes at me… All I could do was pray that she would keep her craziness to herself…
I was unbuckling Carm when I felt a hand on my ass…
I knew damn good and well it wasn’t Ame. Even without Lafayette’s voice.
“Mmmmm. Why are all the asses this high and hard married?”
Not that I like being hit on by guys, I had to laugh. “Because life isn’t fair…” When I turned around, holding a very sleepy Carm, he was wearing a suit. “…Where are you off to?”
He snorted. “No matter how many times I send it out, no one pays attention to the memo that families aren’t allowed to fall apart on weekends. New boyfriend and welts on kids. Dad’s not a happy camper.” Commiserating.
“Amen. Same with us… It’s like they all wait for office hours to be over… Lafayette, this is Amelia…”
He took her hand to shake… “So you’re the reason I’m stag tonight… I forgive you, but reserve the right to be jealous of you for getting a ring on him.”
She actually laughed and said it was nice to meet him. If it had been a woman who said the same thing, her claws would be out.
He came closer to me and leaned over towards Carm. “Now, who is this handsome little man with the chocolate chip eyes?”
I was about to warn him that Carm is standoffish… but Carm smiled a little bit. “I’m Carm.”
“I’m Lafayette, but you can call me Laf. How old are you?”
“I heard you were too sick to be Donald Trump for Halloween. You like the Apprentice?”
He nodded. “Daddy DVDs them for me.”
“Trace Adkins was robbed.”
“Dats what I said!” And he said it while he was throwing a fistful of pretzels at the TV…
Lafayette smiled at him and held his hand out for a shake. Carm surprised the hell out of me by taking it and saying it was nice to meet him.
Lafayette waited for Jack to finally unbuckle himself. “And you are Jack!”
Jack smiled and hopped down. “Yes sir.”
Lafayette chuckled at him. “You don’t need to be so formal… I hear you like music.”
Jack nodded, shaking his hand.
“You came to the right house for that. Get your Daddy to search YouTube for the Stackhouses at Dirges for ya… Well, I gotta run. I’ll see y’all in a bit.”
He shook Ame’s hand again… then both the boys laughed their asses off when he kissed my cheek on the way by.
I dropped the bags on the back porch on our way into the house and Sookie barely gave me the chance to get their names out before she was hugging Ame.
I warned her.
The first words Ame had said to Sookie accused her of fucking me, but she was still getting a hug.
“How was the drive?”
“It wasn’t bad. The boys slept for the last couple of hours.”
“Peace and quiet is always good.”
“Yeah, they passed out because they got sick of ‘I don’t knows’. They were pumping me for info.”
Sookie finally let her go and stepped over to Carm and tickled the back of his neck. “Hey cutie. You still waking up?”
He nodded at her.
“You getting hungry? Me and Eric were just getting lunch together.”
He nodded again.
“Well then I’ll let you wake yourself up and eat before I bug you too much…” He told her ok before she squatted down to Jack and shook his hand.
“You’re pretty.” Damn flirt.
Sookie laughed. “Thank you, but I think you’re daddy is prettier.”
Jack scoffed at her. “He’s not pretty. He’s handsome.”
“And you look just like him. What does that make you?”
She laughed again, and I got a dirty look from Ame. “To say the least.”
“Do you have any kids?”
“No sir, I don’t.”
“So your house will be boring.”
I popped his shoulder. “Hey. Don’t be rude.” …But Sookie wasn’t fazed in the slightest…
“Never! I have a closet full of fun stuff for you and Carmichael to do. Plus I have a Wii and a PSP and any movie you can think of. What do you want to do first?” If I had known she had a PSP, I could have played that when my iPod died… nuts…
He tilted his head, like he was daring her to prove something. “Let’s see that closet.”
She was smiling when she took his hand and winked at Ame. “Yes, sir.”
As Sookie was taking Jack out, I noticed a weird look on Eric’s face. I guess we interrupted something… At least it wasn’t naked time.
He gave Ame a hug and she started with his interrogation… “I can’t believe you didn’t say anything, Eric. When did you meet her?”
“So, am I gonna like it here?”
“I hope so. I love it here. It’s quiet and the people are friendly. And Shreveport isn’t too far away when you want to go looking for rude and busy… Did Alc or Sookie mention that Sookie’s sister will be Jack’s teacher?”
“She said that she knew her! Really!”
“Sam, your real estate guy, is her husband. They’re good people… Sookie’s already made plans for you to meet half the town too.”
“I heard. Did you meet our babysitter?”
“Yeah. She seems like she’s got a good head on her shoulders.”
If I had told her the same damn thing, she’d have spun it into something dirty, but since it was Eric she nodded with a smile on her face…
All I could do was thank God that she was hiding her crazy like I’d hoped she would.
Sookie came back alone with a prideful grin on her face so I had to ask… “What’d he find?”
“A Rubbermaid full of Lincoln Logs.”
Jack called to Carm from the living room, “Carm, she’s got those toys you like from the school!”
Sookie laughed as Carm dismounted and ran out of the room.
“Jack told me to remind you not to put mustard on his sandwich.” Mother fucker. Eric was responsible for that shit. He took the kids to the concession stand at a football game and came back with ‘mustard haters’. I don’t know what he said, but the boys have been eating relish on their dogs since last fall and cringing every time I put mustard on something of mine. I had no problem blaming Eric for being a bad influence.
Since she was just as big of a food weirdo as Eric, Sookie had no sympathy. She laughed. “Alc, while I get lunch together, why don’t you give Ame the grand tour… Get everybody’s stuff put away.”
“You don’t want help with lunch?”
“Nope. Chowder’s in the crockpot, wings are about to go into the oven… Eric can help me throw out the sandwich fixins. We’re good.” When the hell did she start a damn chowder?
When I got to the guest room with the bags and Ame, she closed the door. Oh goody.
“She thinks you’re pretty?”
“It’s a joke. She told me that I’m pretty enough to get away with being an idiot once in a while.”
“Oh really? In reference to?”
“She found out I told you that she has a tight ass.”
“So she’s flirting with you?”
“If she is, I’m missing it. Every time I turn around, Eric’s tongue is in her mouth or his hands are on her ass… She’s just being nice because I’m her fiancé’s partner.”
“What’s with the Martha Stewart shit? The big lunch and toys for the kids…” Oh, fuck me…
“Ame, you’re just reading shit into her being friendly. She’s a teacher. She likes kids. She’s just nice.”
“No one’s that nice.”
“I would have thought so too. Give her a chance. Really.”
“Why do you care if I like her?”
“To be honest, I don’t give a shit if you like her, but I want you to not treat her like shit because of your irrational ideas that I’ll fuck anyone.”
“Why?” Goddamnit! Carm’s 4 and doesn’t ask questions like this!
“Because she’s had it rough and is still sweet enough to want to be your friend despite the fact that you accused her of cheating on her fiancé.”
“She told you about that?”
I nodded. “As soon as I got back from work. She thought you were joking… because no one could be a big enough bitch to seriously introduce themselves like that, right?”
She stared at me like she was actually embarrassed.
“…Now get your head out of your ass enough to not suspect her just for being kind to you.”
“What am I supposed to think?”
“That not everyone is as nasty and hateful as you.”
“I’m not that bad.” Yes she is.
“Then do yourself a favor and not alienate this woman. She knows everyone in town. If you act like a twat, you’ll have to get Octavia to move to the area so you’ll have any friends.”
“What do you mean ‘everyone’?”
“Everyone… Half the businesses in town have her family names on them. Stackhouse Ford Lincoln Mercury, Stackhouse Credit Union, Hale Shopping Center, Stackhouse Landscaping, Merlotte Realty… And that’s just what’s come up. Most of the town’s paychecks are signed by her father. If you’re shitty to anyone, then Bon Temps in its entirety will light their torches and run you off like Frankenstein’s monster.”
“I’d get black listed?
I nodded and opened the bedroom door. “So dial back the crazy enough that you don’t fuck yourself out of a life.”
She stared at me for a minute, wide eyed suddenly deciding to ‘behave’ just before Sookie called ‘soup’s on’.
Sookie smiled at Ame. “Hey! You get the lay of the land?”
“I think so. What’s upstairs?”
“Music room and another guest room. Pam’s using that one… I set some soup and wings out for the boys to cool. If you want to make their sammies, I’ll go start a movie for them.”
Ame nodded, but glared at me over her shoulder as she got started. I was pretty sure she was wondering if sandwiches were a purposeful dig… I hid behind the refrigerator door while I grabbed drink boxes and laughed at her paranoia.
On her way back into the kitchen, Sookie yelled up the stairs that Pam wasn’t getting curbside service and came in to grab the boys’ trays. “You sure about them eating in there?”
“Alc, you’ve met my brother. Picture Jason at 8 years old. If he didn’t ruin the room, your boys’ll be fine.”
“What movie are they watching?”
“Swiss Family Robinson. Said they’ve never seen it. Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves… Go ahead and dig in. I’ll be right back.”
…By the time she came back, Ame had given me a handful of nasty looks.
All I could think about was if Sookie had been right about me ‘punishing’ myself. She was probably about as right as she had been about everything else.
If nothing else, Sookie had been dead on about every other person she’d described…
- Her mother is a bitch…
- Her father and brother are friendly enough to get along with anyone…
- Kevin = Shaggy minus Scooby snacks…
- Dearborn thinks he’s in Mayberry…
- And every damn shot she’d called about me… from my mood to Ame not being able to find a way around her own kitchen.
Ame started in with more questions pretty much as soon as we were all sitting down…
When she asked Sookie what Dirges is like, Sookie gave her more than a rundown… Even though she decided to ask as soon as Sookie took a bite of her lunch, Ame got more than the Zagats guide could have given her.
“It’s a dump. One of my Dad’s buddies came home from Vietnam and bought a big piece of property and opened a crop dusting business and it went under in a few years. It was just him and a plane so he was too small to compete. So he was stuck with this hangar out in the middle of BFE so Terry started having the occasional party or poker night in it until Daddy suggested that he turn it into a bar. They built a stage at one end and a bar at the other and he’s open on Friday and Saturday only. The end where the stage is has those big doors, so when there’s live music Terry opens them so the high school kids can enjoy it too. He put a gate up so they don’t cross it and cause ABC trouble and even put a window in the side so that he can serve them sodas. It’s not much, but it’s packed on weekends anyway. And it’s worse when there’s a band. The lawn will be slammed tonight at the very least. I could hear the kids cells start going off while we were running drills… They think I’m too old to hear their mosquito ring tones. Anyway, Terry named it Dirges In the Dark after Daddy’s favorite song since they’re partners.”
I felt like an idiot. The way she’d said the name of the bar, I felt like I should know what song she was talking about, but when I looked around the table (especially at Eric because he had the same taste in music as Sookie) none of us had any clue… even when she said ‘American Pie’… All I could remember is the chorus until Sookie cleared her throat and started singing… “And, while Lenin read a book on Marx the quartet practiced in the park, and we sang dirges in the dark the day the music died…”
Sookie’s voice was really beautiful.
I found myself hoping that Jack hadn’t heard her. He might harass her about a private show.
I couldn’t help but ask, “And you play guitar AND drums?”
Sookie nodded. “I play base, violin and piano too. I prefer guitar, but Jason has a voice to kill for and can’t sing lead and drum at the same time. So we switch off. Daddy usually plays bass and sings backup but if I’m going behind the set, he’s singing for me tonight.”
Pam’s train of thought was in the damn gutter, going right to Corbett’s musical talents and Sookie humored her until Ame asked about dress code. I might have kicked her under the table if she mentioned overalls, but Sookie promised to help her find something to wear.
Not sure about that… there’s more than a couple sizes between them.
Sookie was explaining that she had ended up being the cheer coach when the last one threw out her back right before championships when Jack wandered into the room.
“I need a rag. Carm’s juice box fell over and dribbled.”
Sookie waved for Ame stay put and got up herself. “How are you liking the movie kiddo?”
“It’s awesome! A fleet of ships just showed up!”
Sookie smiled at him when she handed the damp rag to him, and started staring at nothing like she was working something over.
Eric asked, “Sookie? Something wrong?”
She just mumbled. “A fleet of ships…”
“What about it?”
“Guys, Geri Anderson… Late June, right?”
Oh shit, the case… yeah… “June 29th. She was 20.”
“Her birthday was June 9th.”
Eric shook his head. “What does that have to do with Geri?”
“Fleet week is in early June. You know damn good and well that sailors get rolled and go missing, even UA all the time, especially foreign ones. One of the news reports said that Geri had just gotten back from ‘vacation’. I bet he saw her celebrating and couldn’t resist. I bet his command listed him as missing with the Ft. Lauderdale PD and NCIS. Getting a name and command would narrow down your search for previous victims too.”
That brilliant fucking bitch! Eric and I both knew damn good and well what the fuck Fleet Week is. His dad had probably been to a dozen of them…
Neither of us assholes had even considered it.
Eric blew through the room like a fucking tornado to get back to the computers and Pam got up, glaring at me.
“Let’s get to work, Herveaux.”
I rolled my eyes, starting to stand up…
Not necessarily pissed at Sookie for her potentially PBF… Platinum Brain Fart, just the timing. But Sookie winked in Ame’s direction.
“I’m so sorry, Special Agent In Charge, Special Agent Herveaux is unavailable.”
Pam’s head tilted. “Excuse me.”
“I’ll be happy to take a message. It seems that Mr. Herveaux is on house-hunting leave with his family.”
Pam snorted at her. “That’s really cute, but…”
Sookie’s tone went chilly. Fucking ice. “You’ll know when I’m being cute, Pam. Alc put his time in this morning. You have calls to make. Eric’s your Agent 99 for now… unless you need help dialing your own phone.”
Oooooh, Pam was pissed. I might have seen smoke come out of her ears while she was staring Sookie down. “Sookie.”
She matched Pam’s stare. “Pam… last night while you were counting sheep and Eric was getting laid, Alc was still working. I’m sure you can handle making the call to the Fort Laudie locals… Do you really want to posture with me?” Fuck me and my surprise… Ame and Pam both had their mouths hanging open.
“You realize that you are practically hampering…”
Sookie let a loud ‘ha’ slip out before she got a leash around how full of crap she knew Pam was. “Sweetness, hampering would have been keeping my mouth shut so that I could have Eric to myself until Monday morning… In the meantime, save some damn face and get to work. Alc has family obligations. Are we done or do you really want to see whose is bigger?”
Pam snorted at her and stomped away grinding her teeth.
As soon as I heard the door to the bedroom close behind her, I lost it. I put my hand out and slapped her five. “Thank you. She’s going to be a bigger pain in my ass than usual now, but thanks just the same!”
“There’s a simple solution. Don’t let her. She’s not really an Alpha. Just good at putting on the show.”
I snorted at her. “You said your dad told it like it is…”
She smirked. “I also told you I’m a Daddy’s girl.”
Ame elbowed me. “You should have told Pam to kiss your ass a long…”
Sookie cut her off. “He couldn’t. There’s this little thing called insubordination. If Alc told her the same thing I just did, he’d get written up. She could have pushed the issue and ordered him to man a phone line, but right now she isn’t pissed at him. Pam is pissed at the twat who just challenged her authority when it comes to a subordinate and if I’m right about Fleet Week, she’ll forgive me because the lead will make her look good.”
“If you’re wrong?”
“Then she’ll pretend to forgive me because she wants to take my Daddy out for a test drive.”
I was still laughing, shaking off shock, realizing that Sookie is a handling machine when her cell started ringing.
She raised an eyebrow at her caller ID.
“Hey Mr. Man! How are you feeling?… I wasn’t planning on it. Blame Jas… I’m not… Hey! Settle down. Daddy has the right to some celebrating… No. I will not… You don’t need to be out in the cold… No. You need to get better. You don’t need to worry about Dirges. You need to worry about the Braves… You conceited little shit! You’re not God’s gift to football… Tell that to Jimmy Johnson… Uh huh, and your coach isn’t a fraction… Suck it up. I’m not going head to head with your mom, kid!… Fine.” She started laughing as she set her phone down.
“…Sorry about that. My cousin’s boy is pissed that his mom won’t let him go to Dirges tonight. He came down with the flu on Tuesday.”
She nodded. “Yeah. Our rival is the Minden Braves. Grudge match on Friday. He’s first string and has the ego to go with it.”
“So he called you thinking you’d go to bat for him?”
“No. He called me first, hoping I’d give him an ambiguous enough answer that he could sick his mom on me because I’m the one that usually talks her out of worrying. I’ll bet you that he’s on the phone with Jas right now.”
“Didn’t used to be. Not until she got her husband back from the corps in a box.” She said it with a little cattiness, but the look she gave me was the same one she had when she hissed about Ame’s issues. She meant it as a dig… a reminder to my ‘lovely’ wife that she could have it worse… handling machine.
Playing along… “How’d it happen?”
“Basic math. 1 HumV + 1 RPG = 21 guns and a flag.”
“Hadley was the only one at the funeral to hold it together.”
Ame finally jumped into the conversation to ask how she managed.
Sookie grinned at her. “Because they talked 3 days before it happened. The last thing they said to each other was ‘love you’. She was friends with the wife of one of the guys riding with Remy… The last thing she said to her husband was hateful. They’d been fighting… I couldn’t imagine that guilt.”
I watched the goosebumps form on Ame’s arms. She stopped chewing her food.
Sookie raised her eyebrows at her. “I know, right? That poor woman. Hadley said that all she kept saying was that it was her fault. He was distracted because of her. She was probably right though. Their unit got extended and the last thing her husband heard was an accusation that he must not want to come home.” Hitting home much? Shit!
All Ame managed was ‘damn’.
Sookie snorted at her before her phone rang again. When she saw the caller ID this time, she giggled. “Hey Had! That boy is cranky when he’s sick… I knew he would… I know… He’s already sniffing another tree. Eric’s boss… Soon enough… Just because you’re older, smarter and prettier doesn’t mean you get to boss me around… Amen… Yeah, love you too…”
She laughed setting the phone down. “She called me because she heard Hunter venting to Jas. He’s striking out all over the place.”
Ignoring ‘older, smarter, prettier’… “Bossing you around?” Unimaginable after the way she just put her foot down with Satan’s Bride…
“Yeah. She was fussing about not meeting Eric yet… and pissed that she’d feel too guilty to leave Hunter to go to Dirges with us.” Fuck. Older, smarter, prettier and a decent mother. Can’t. Meet. Her.
Amelia excused herself to go to the bathroom as soon as Sookie started cleaning up the lunch mess. Big surprise.
I helped, putting the food away while Sookie loaded the dishwasher. I would have been too embarrassed if Ame got back to the kitchen and sat down instead of helping finish the job…
The house still smelled too clean to smoke in, so I started for the porch and Sookie followed me.
“Can I get one of those?”
“Nope.” Her hand was out.
Confused shitless, I gave her one anyway and she sat down next to me, lighting ‘her’ cigarette.
“Can you explain to me why Carm smelled his sandwich while Jack asked me who made them?” Oh shit.
“They’re a little gun shy. They got sick from bad lunchmeat last week.”
“I told you. She won’t get any help. I’m about to hire a maid.”
She scowled at me. “You shouldn’t fucking have to.”
“I gotta ask… How do you ‘know’ she cheated? Is it like Eric ‘knows’ you are?”
“No. She’s a slob. Evidence.”
She winced, sucking air past her teeth. “And why didn’t you pack her shit then?”
“Because of the boys. With my hours… All the shit I see, deal with… Even tucking them in helps get rid of it.”
“That and working out.”
I snorted at her. “It’s better than punching walls.”
She nodded. “What’s her reason for not getting any kind of therapy?”
“She says she’s ‘fine’. Says that I’m the only reason she loses it.”
She snorted and stretched to tap ashes over the railing even though the only drag she’d taken was to light up… “Great.”
“I told her the other night I was sick of it and about to replace her with a nanny. She threatened to take off with the kids.”
She shook her head and sat quiet for a minute. “I’ll take care of Eric if you want. He’s going to feel like shit when he finds out.”
“I should do it.”
“Yeah. But you haven’t yet. Worried that he won’t believe you any more than Amelia does?”
“As a teacher, I’m required to report abuse.”
“No more than I am.”
“There’s your ace.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “It’s your turn. She’s designated those boys as your ball and chain.”
I couldn’t disagree with her… no matter how I tried to twist it, Sookie was right.
“It won’t get better, Alc… What do you think worse looks like? Those boys licked their soup bowls and sucked the meat from those wings… their sandwiches didn’t get touched.”
“You’re good for guilt.”
“I’m not selling guilt, pal. If you love your boys enough to get treated like shit, then you need to love them enough to put your foot down.”
“This because of your mom?”
She snorted and gave me a high eyebrow. “Funny how you jumped to Sheila.”
“Ohhhhh… fuck you!” Way to make a fucking point!
She laughed. “Blinders aren’t my thing… Look, if y’all are going to be close-by, then I can try the passive therapy/good influence approach, but she’s still going to need a neutral third party. If I’m the one telling her you’re not an asshole constantly, she’ll just keep thinking we’re fucking. I get the feeling that the only reason Octavia has been around so long is because she hates you so much that Amelia doesn’t consider her a threat.” She was right about that. I wouldn’t fuck Octavia with Pam’s cock.
“You’re probably right.”
“Speaking of right…” She started to get up, slapping my knee. “…I wonder if my epiphany needs cleaning up.”
She pitched her unsmoked cigarette into the ashtray as a bright red convertible coupe (top down) made its way up the driveway. Sam and Tara…
“Sookie, how’d you end up driving a Neon?”
She giggled. “It’s just a rental. I’m getting mine back in a little bit. Galaxy.”
Not surprised, at all.
After hand shaking and hugging hellos on the porch, we went inside to find Ame.
She was coming into the living room as we were.
Sookie took over the introductions… “Hey, Ame. This is my sister Tara Merlotte, Goddess of the 3rd grade… and her husband Sam, crown prince of real estate.”
Ame stopped dead in her tracks… she started staring. I couldn’t tell if Ame was locked up about the black/white couple or the black/white siblings… Either way, I was embarrassed as hell…
Thank God Tara seemed to have a sense of humor about it.
She shook Ame’s hand. “The Stackhouses were just too vanilla, so they added some chocolate to the party.”
Sam even threw out a distraction… “I have four houses to show y’all in Bon Temps and if you don’t like them I have 3 more a little closer to Shreveport. Y’all ready to head out?”
I nodded and went to the back to check in…
“Hey, we’re about to head out? How right was Sookie?”
Pam didn’t even turn around. “If you wanted to know so bad, you should have come back earlier.” Badly. Cactus cunt.
Eric shook his head. “Dead on. Filipe DeCastro. AWOL Portuguese sailor. Got him stalking Geri Anderson while she was on vacay.”
“Son of a bitch… Do you need help…?”
“No. Get out of here.”
“Yep. I’m almost done downloading the family’s pics so I can go hang out with the boys. Go on. We’ve got this and there will be plenty more for us to do on Monday. We’ll need to get in touch with the other families about their pictures.”
Platinum Brain Fart.