I don’t think Eric intended to fall asleep anymore than I did… I was just hoping that I’d get to do as little as possible before he thought to be responsible.
When my eyes opened again, it was because I heard Eric groan like he was in pain. Since we’d crashed on the bed with Laf, I was wondering if Eric ended up being his next ‘Jared’. “You see the shit I deal with?”
Laf giggled, “Yeah. And I don’t know why I’m laughing. I feel sorry for ya!”
I sat up, shaking the cobwebs off and looking for the time on the cable box… 4… as far as naps go, I wasn’t going to complain about 5 hours even if I did spend it as the crown of a Laf sandwich. “What’s wrong?”
Laf shoved Eric’s phone into my hand. More show and tell. “Sookie’s an evil bitch. She’s teasing his ass from Shreveport!” The message said, ‘Normally I’m not clingy, but I was wondering if I had your attention yet.’ And when I scrolled down to look at the pic, nice teddy… but when I went to scroll back up, I hit the wrong button on the keypad…
“WHOA! Eric… the next message…” Sookie. Naked. I wasn’t safe even when she was 45 minutes away. Goddamn.
He fucking whined, like he’d just seen someone else’s girlfriend naked by accident. “Do I even want to know?”
“Dunno… You probably didn’t want me to see it though.” It actually occurred to me to be annoyed that I’d seen Sookie naked more than Hadley’s.
Laf barely got a look at the pic before Eric.
I had to laugh at him. Mother fucker has a girlfriend who didn’t have to be begged to send him nude pics and he had the balls to complain about it… while he drooled over it.
The timing was perfect too. That horny fucking ‘Crazy Bitch’ ringtone of hers made him jump and Laf started hissing out a laugh into my shoulder so Eric could answer Lady Godiva’s call.
He still swung his extra long pterodactyl arm around and whopped both of us in the chest. Prick. We’d already quieted down.
Laf leaned over and whispered, “It’s only fair. Sookie shouldn’t get all the fun of fucking with the boy.”
“No shit. He’s easy to get riled. Not taking advantage of it would be a waste.”
“Shit. Sookie can spin him up so fast…” I put my hand up to stop him when I heard Eric ask Sookie what was wrong.
“…We don’t have a… WHERE ARE YOU?” First of all, Eric doesn’t do a lot of yelling… Second… That mother fucker never panics. Never shows it. Ever.
“…HE’S THERE?” He reached over without looking and barely made contact with my shoulder. He didn’t realize he already had my attention.
“…WHERE ARE THE BOYS?” Fuck… What. The. Crispy. Fuck… I was staring at the phone like looking at it would give me a fucking clue.
“…SOOKIE, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW!!!”
He launched himself off the bed and was at the opening to the hall in three steps. I’d never seen him like… he looked like he was going to cry… and then kill something.
He barely stopped long enough to turn around and let me know what the fuck was going on. “Sookie’s found de Castro. Get your shit. Call Pam while you do.”
That would be a great reason to move, but I still didn’t know why the fuck he was worried about the boys, or freaking out. “Where am I telling her?”
“The florist by Tara’s.”
“Roger that.” I don’t even think he heard me. I dialed my phone and hit the speaker button so I could dig my box out from under the dresser.
Since it took 4 rings for the bitch to pick up, I’d already strapped on my Kevlar and made sure my magazines were full before she took the call.
“Can you tell me why the fuck I have to deal with your shit on a Sunday. It’s bad enough that I’m trapped in foolsball hell… Corbett…”
“Shut the fuck up and I’ll give you a goddamn reason, mouth. Sookie’s found de Castro. Is that a good enough reason to call you on a weekend?”
“What do you mean, she’s found him?”
“You know, some people find Jesus… Some people stumble on serial necrophiliacs while they’re out shopping.”
“What the hell? Maybe you two imbeciles should rub her…”
“Pam. He’s at the florist by Tara’s house. Get off your prissy ass and do something. We’ll be waiting for you.”
“I don’t know who you think you’re tal…”
“I’m going to feed you to the suits if we miss him because you’re wasting time. You wanna be a secretary?”
“I’m getting my stuff now. Don’t you talk to me like…” I hung up on her. I wasn’t going to forget something I needed because I’d hurt her only feeling and had to listen to her shit.
I could hear Eric through the walls. The edge in his voice wasn’t something I’d ever heard before. All kinds of busts, all kinds of victims, thousands of hours of interrogations…
That was Eric… scared.
When we were first partnered up, he’d never had to draw down on a human… I’d seen him hit all his firsts…
I’d never seen him scared.
When I got to the door of their room, he was half in the closet. “I don’t care if we miss him, as long as you’re safe.”
I cleared my throat so he’d know I was there. “Ready?”
He came out of the floor like a bullet without answering me, so I started down the hall. That’s when he said, “You’re acting like a retard. Get the fuck out of there.”
Oh. My. Fucking. Christ. In. Heaven. No wonder he was terrified. I was close to shitting my pants. My boys. “She’s still there? What the fuck!?”
“The boys are safe in the car with Smom and Marnie.” That didn’t make me feel much better.
“SHE’S ALONE WITH HIM!?” FUCK. Fuck infinity. Fuckfuckfuck.
He was still nodding when I made a bee line for my truck. I was having a hard time thinking straight. Eric told Laf to call for backup but other than that, all I could really wrap my head around was that we’d yet to find a woman who lived through being alone with de Castro.
I could only imagine what she meant to Eric. Sookie being an amazing girlfriend was one thing. I was happy for Eric that he found her, but that girl… Sookie was my fucking savior.
Dramatic as it might sound, I was in hell until she helped me claw my way out.
I know why Eric was scared. He was probably really in love with her. She was definitely not something any sane man would want to lose…
But I was scared too… Shitless… fuck me for being self centered, but I think she meant more to me than she did to Eric…
I owed her for too much… I could thank her for every smile on my kids’ faces… she’d turned my life upside down in the best way possible…
FUCK! Why couldn’t it be Ame!? That would solve everything. Sookie would be fine and the boys wouldn’t have to grow up with a crazy hateful bitch lurking around for holidays…
I had to cut myself off. If both of us were panicking then everything would go to shit in a blink.
I owed it to Sookie… And Eric wasn’t holding his shit together at all.
I had to bite my tongue when Eric held his phone out with the speaker on.
She didn’t sound like she had any idea how much trouble she was in. “Maybe to cover the top of the pond?”
“Nice. I get it. You’re using the flower talk as cover. Is this fun? You sound like this is fun for you.”
“Of course not.”
“Where is he?”
“My back still hurts from the last time.” She was speaking in code? How close was he?
“Is there more than one back room? Like work and storage? Can you tell?”
“Just the twice AND he drank every beer in the fridge.”
“Two doors to the back and the fridge is separate?”
“Sookie, please get out. He can’t have you.”
“I don…” When she interrupted herself with a scream, I could’ve thrown up. “You snuck up on me. That’s what I get for talking…”
When I heard her phone drop, I jumped and looked over… Eric’s knuckles were white…
I knew for a fact, since I’d been hung up on about a million times that there was a noise before someone hit that ‘end’ button on a cell phone… when the call disconnected there wasn’t anything…
Just the beep from Eric’s phone to rub his nose in the fact that Sookie was going to need a new phone.
“FUCK!!!!” His hand gripped his phone so tight that I thought he might need a new one too.
“Calm down. It won’t do her any good to be freaking out when we get there.”
“Yeah. Thanks for the pep talk! What would you be doing?”
“Try what I’m doing… Imagine it’s Ame.”
It took him a minute, but he actually laughed. “I can’t believe she’s being so stupid!” That was unanimous.
“Stop it. Walk me through it. What did she say?”
He growled. He wanted to crawl into that little hiding place in his thick fucking head and kill himself with worry. “She stopped at the florist. I. Don’t. Know. Why. It could’ve all been code.”
“What did she say on the phone?”
“To get flowers for the chorus teacher. Quinn hired her for the blow jobs and Sookie asked for the chorus room in return for bailing him out with the Anthem the other night at the game. The flowers were to rub Selah’s nose in it. Selah has delusions of grandeur.”
“How did she let you know she found him without him knowing right away?”
“She told me that while she was shopping, she found a shark for my fish tank.” I’d couldn’t help but wonder if he explained that he had a shark for every serial killer we put away or if she figured that shit out on her own.
“That’s a smart fucking bitch… So we know he’s there. We know her phone is toast. We know that he was in the back room, and that Smom, Marnie and the boys are waiting in the car…”
“Unless one of them runs in to see what’s taking so long.”
“He probably locked up so they can’t get in. de Castro isn’t a fan of loose ends.” Meanwhile, I couldn’t figure out which one was better off to go looking for her… but it was better than thinking about how far into one of his rituals he was. “…Did I hear that right? Did I hear a taser?”
“If you didn’t we’re sharing a hallucination.”
“FUCK! She can fight… She’s fast as hell and she… You’ve seen her throw a punch… But… she can’t… She can’t defend herse…”
“She can’t defend herself when she’s unconscious. I know… He…” I almost couldn’t say it… “Eric, he likes to torment them… He’s not going to rush through anything…”
“Mother fucker! How the fuck is that supposed to calm me down!?”
“Because you know damn good and fucking well that little girl is a lot tougher than she looks. That mother fucker is in for one hell of a fight when she comes to and his sick ass is going to enjoy it too much to kill her right away. You saw the same fucking pictures I did. He’s going to be greedy enough to give us the time we need to get to her.”
He stopped going through his pockets to give me a dirty look. “How the fuck can you be so levelheaded!?”
“You let me know when it’s my turn to come un-fucking-glued, alright. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER or the contents of your head are going to be part of the clean up along with Sookie and de Castro. You aren’t doing her any favors.”
“Fuck you… You said it yourself! We saw the same pictures… You know what he could be doing to entertain himself RIGHT NOW!” I wanted to punch him. He seemed to be forgetting that Sookie’d already lived through a few nasty beatings and a rape. She’d be able to get through anything de Castro dished out right up to the bathtub… There were too many pictures of struggling women in his spank bank… there were too many things that pegged him as habitual… he wasn’t going to break his routine.
“I’m not taking my time to get to her, asshole! Put your game face on. Seriously. Right now, you’re a liability.”
I’ll give him credit. He leaned his head back and tried to take some deep breaths, but the poor bastard was too close to hyperventilating. But when he lifted his head again, he shook it. “I can’t. It’s not fucking working.”
“Alright. Who in her family taught her to speak in code?”
“Who the fuck cares!… FUCK!” There goes trying to distract him.
I fucking hated that I was worrying about Eric’s melt down instead of Sookie, but it was working…
Even if it was for nothing.
As soon as I got to the Florist’s parking lot, he managed to crack down.
Good for him… but I got new reasons to flip my lid…
I barely looked at Rotten, but it was enough to see the boys in the back seat. I couldn’t. I couldn’t look at them. If I looked at the boys, all I’d do is end up mindfucking myself into the same insanity Eric was only just dialing back… everything Sookie’d done for them, for us…
I stopped my truck so that I could avoid them. I could apologize later. I could explain why. I would just have to hope and pray I could give them an explanation with a happy ending.
I went straight to the ass of my truck… if de Castro tried to run, I needed my Barrett. She could stop the Bonneville… and cut him in half as a bonus.
Assembling her would be a great reason to not make eye contact with my boys.
Too close to fucking home.
Light a cigarette.
Extend the barrel.
I almost looked over when Eric yelled at Smom to leave.
Slide the bumper back.
Pull back springs and lock them in.
Remove locking pin.
Eric came around to meet me. “Pam give an ETA?”
Slide bolt forward. “She was grabbing and going before I was off the line… maybe 5 minutes behind. Call the station to confirm?”
Eric pulled out his phone and dialed.
Slide back bolt and insert upper receiver.
Lock pins in. Front and back.
Check magazines. Full. “Alc, Kenya may or may not be on her way as our only local help.” May or may not? Beautiful.
Lock magazines into housing.
Slide bolt to chamber a round.
Scope locked in.
I refused to think about how off her game Kenny would be since de Castro had killed her friend. She’d probably be just as useless as Eric. “She has brass ones and she has motivation. Having Kenya with us is better than Bud and Kevin both.” I was trying to convince both of us… God help us… I started reciting a Prayer to Saint Michael.
I gave two shits about what her recoil would do to my truck… I walked her around and put her on the hood. The roof would’ve been better, flatter with more visibility… but harder to get to and I didn’t want to waste time.
Even though the last one didn’t work, I lit another cigarette and started patting down my pockets to make sure I had everything… right down to the cuffs I had no intention of using.
Eric was doing better, but he was still… sometimes I wished the fucker smoked.
It would at least force him to breathe.
He jumped when his phone rang even though he wanted it to. “Fuck. I don’t know the number.”
“Answer it anyway, idiot. Sookie’s phone is DOA. It could be…”
“Hello?” At least he didn’t waste time thinking about telemarketers. “Sookie!?” He hit the speaker button and held it out.
“Sookie, where are you?” Talking to him instead of Saint Peter. I mumbled for him to settle down for all the good it would do.
“I think I’m behind the counter.”
“Do you think you can get out?” When she didn’t answer, he started pacing. “Sookie?” There was background noise though and he stopped so the gravel under his feet didn’t get in the way of figuring out what it was. “Sookie.”
Footsteps. Not the kind you hear from a graceful little girl in heels… heavy feet. Sookie didn’t sound that big when she was stomping.
More footsteps. Closer and closer… then Sookie… it sounded like she was screaming in reverse as she got pulled away… “no, no, no. where are you taking me?” When I heard the scuffle I closed my eyes and thanked God I was right about how much of a fighter she was… And that she was still thinking… she was trying to get him to say where he was going, which back room… still trying to give us something to think about instead of worry… I almost laughed that she was still handling us.
When I heard Sookie gasp again, I got chills… the sound of the taser wasn’t as loud as the last time because it was further away, but there was no doubt that’s what it was… The hard part was not puking when I heard her hit the floor… concrete by the sound of how her body slapped it going down.
We were running out of time… and if something permanent happened to Sookie, friendly fire was going to put Pam in the ground. Deep.
The line was still live though… she hadn’t hung up… the receiver was sitting on something. de Castro probably didn’t even realize that it was open… or worse; didn’t care.
He started laughing. Creepy like he was flirting with her at a bar even though she was out, and probably would be for a while.
“Você vai ser divertido…” Oh… Fuck me! Why? Why Couldn’t he just be creepy in English? Dozens of fucking languages for him to speak… why did he have to pick one I was functional enough in to translate? Why?
Not only did I have to listen to it…
I was going to have to repeat it all since Eric picked Eastern Bloc languages in college.
Shit sandwich. Extra shit on the side.
I sucked it up and I didn’t bother making Eric ask. “I think he said, ‘you’ll be fun’.” Fuck. I wanted to eat a bullet just for saying it.
And of course, he wasn’t done…“Suave…” I wasn’t going to say anything…
There was only one part of Sookie’s body that could be considered, “…Soft.” That sick fuck was touching her.
Latin root ‘fortis’… fortified? “…Strong, I think.”
That was the same in Spanish, “…Fresh”
The way he’d said it was just… disgusting. “…Perfect.”
“Poderá ser o meu favorito…” Oh God…
I lied. “…Not sure…” I was close to getting sick just thinking about it.
We’d been partners too long. He smelled the lie. “Say it. What the fuck did he say?”
“Favorite. I didn’t understand the rest of the words, just favorite. Maybe ‘you’ll be my…’?” That was it though… ‘you may be my favorite.’ If I had to see the look on Eric’s face, if I had told him that was it, for sure…
He was still staring at me. He knew. And when Sookie started whimpering as she came to, he got the distraction he needed. “Alc, Pam has 2 minutes.”
“Noted.” I was lucky he was giving her that long.
The break was long enough. The asshole went right back to talking to Sookie once she was awake. At least he switched to English.
“You are exciting… Imagine my surprise when you walked in…” Do what? No. Not better. Why the fuck would he be surprised to see her? He said it like he knew who she was…
“You are sweet, but you are… ioio… My friend was right about you…” What fucking friend?…
Eric looked confused. “Ioio?”
I had to choke back another lump. “It’s a yo-yo… a… a toy.”
His jaw locked down tight enough I thought he could break his teeth, but she distracted him again. “Let me go.” She started putting up a fight again.
“Oh… I will set you free soon…”
“Something tells me that my freedom will get lost in translation, asshole.” I heard a slap and a thump that could’ve been a punch and all I could do was cheer her on.
“Was that your husband on the phone?”
“You lie, but I can pretend you are Mrs. Northman so that I don’t have to wait for Ess.” Oh my god… recognizing her could have meant that he’d been at the football game or Dirges mixed into the crowd… anywhere in town really… BUT HER KNEW HER NAME! If I was ever going to throw up or shit my pants, it would’ve been right then… he knew who Eric was too. 11 days. He’d been keeping track of her over the last 11 days. FUCK!
“So what do you do to married women in your country?… Get OFF me.” Like thinking about how much he could know wasn’t bad enough, when Eric heard that de Castro was on her, I had to catch him.
There was a split second where he tried to fight me off, but I couldn’t be pissed about an elbow in my throat… He was being gentler than I would if it was me. The only problem was keeping my hand over his mouth so that de Castro wouldn’t overhear us… kill the line. It was all we had to go on at the time.
God only knows what we missed while I took him down and held him still until he backed off. I grabbed his phone from the ground where he dropped it and put it on his chest before I helped him up. No harm. No foul.
“Why do you fight our love?”
“It’s not love, it’s eye contact… That doesn’t belong to you!”
That was it. I knew she wasn’t fucking around anymore before he ever yelled. That was what she told Rasul when he grabbed her ass at Eric’s place. Right before she put him on the floor with gusto.
The phone was useless. We could’ve heard him a block away… and the way he went down (at least, I hoped it was him)… and then the sound of her high heels… fucking music to my ears.
I was worried that I’d have to take Eric down again soon. Just to calm him down enough that we could go in on our own. Fuck procedure and fuck Pam in her lazy ass. Period.
Even if there was just one body in it, the Bon Temps Sheriff Department cruiser was a sight for sore eyes.
Kenya, for the win.
Eric managed to stay put long enough for Kenny to get out of her car. It took him a minute to get his head back from the idea of having backup finally.
He spun around and looked at the front of the florist. “Fuck… She should… the building isn’t that big… she should… I…”
I barely grabbed his shoulders in time and pull him back. “Can I trust you to wait until we breach the back?”
“Let me go. You’re wasting time.”
“Promise you’ll wait or I’ll cuff you out here and go in on my own.”
He gritted his teeth and didn’t bother to open his mouth. “I promise. Go.”
Part of me was sure he was just telling me what I needed to hear… I couldn’t blame him if I was right…
The most important thing was that he just stood down until we could get to the back door.
Kenny gave me a nod, no questions asked, she just pointed to the west side of the building and in perfect form, she started sweeping through the narrow walkway between the florist and a wall of chain-link…
I took the east side and tried to ignore that Eric looked like he was just waiting for me to get around the corner before he kicked it in.
Somehow, maybe he was checking the front windows, but I found Kenny around the back and Eric still hadn’t jumped the gun. Yet…
Kenny whispered that there weren’t any doors or windows around the side she came… Same for me.
Waiting wasn’t an option.
I checked the knob, high hopes I guess, and it was locked. Of course it was.
Kenny whispered, “Shoot the dead bolt?” I wish.
I shook my head. Metal clad doors fuck with bullets… I squared myself up and leaned in… my foot connected just under the knob and the dry rotted frame was splintering everywhere before my foot was on the ground again. Overkill.
A split second later, we heard the front door crash in. Eric was out of patience.
I was almost through the door before I remembered to identify us. I couldn’t depend on Eric to think about it if I nearly forgot.
The room was about the size of a garage… the table next to the back door had flower arrangements and gift baskets on it with a stack of invoices on a clipboard…behind the door, a heap of empty 10 gallon buckets… one long wall was taken up with rows of shop sinks… the opposite was nothing but work benches… shelves, dozens, covered in spools of ribbon, stacks of cards, Styrofoam blocks, boxes of whatever oasis is, vases, bowls… but the tools…
I didn’t know they made so many kinds of pliers… scissors, clippers, knives big enough to be considered machetes…
But the middle of the room… The big wooden table in the middle of the room… it looked like a butcher’s block.
That table would’ve gotten to me if I didn’t know who had just been on it…
Little specks of blood scattered all over it… they were little… but it was still Sookie’s… Stop.
There was a much bigger smear… right on top at one end… her head… not much… probably from when she hit the ground when de Castro tasered her…
At the other end of the table… the taser. A Taser C2… in red…if he held it right, his victims would’ve lived to regret how much it could look like a cell phone.
Next to it… a knife and 4 shiny little black buttons… lined up perfectly, one centimeter apart and a centimeter away from the lip of the table… they were the buttons from Sookie’s dress. The one she wore when she took the boys to… No.
When I tried to get a closer look at the knife to see if there was any blood on it, I kicked something…
We were moving too fast for me to look at both… and a bloody knife was the last thing I needed to see if I wanted to stay objective.
I stooped to grab it, but kept moving. Fuck.
Kenny was passing the table on the other side. I whispered, “Ken. Found a guide rod.”
I barely noticed her eyebrows go up before she disappeared onto the floor and she came back up. “Beretta 92. Disassembled.”
Great. Sookie’s (hopefully Sookie’s) gun wasn’t a wild card. de Castro didn’t have his taser… but there was no fucking way in hell to guess if he’d grabbed any of the tools from the work benches…
The back room was cleared. No other way in or out…
When we got to the doorway that led into the shop there was no way to avoid stepping all over broken glass.
Probably a hundred green vases were smashed all over the concrete floor behind the counter.
Blood… Sookie’s blood… smeared… all the little streaks of blood started in one spot and got dragged over to disappear into the walk-in refrigerator. There was no way to detach myself. That was Sookie’s blood… It wasn’t a stranger. Not ‘victim # whatever’…
And I was still trying to keep a lid on my melt down when Eric came out of the other back room.
Kenny was the one to keep her shit together.
She squeezed past me to look it all over on her way to the walk in… the only place they could be. She pressed her ear to the door to listen and while she did, her lip pulled up like she was going to be sick.
I mouthed a ‘what?’.
She shook her head and whispered, “He’s with her.”
Eric’s jaw clenched again as he said ‘Open it.’ The three of us pulled our hammers all the way back and moved into position to block the only way out.
As soon as the door was open, I knew why Kenny looked at me the way she did. The heavy door to the walk in had been damming up the noise Sookie was making. As messed up as she was, she was still putting up a fight.
Sookie wasn’t saying anything coherent, just making noises you’d expect from a fight.
de Castro had her pinned to a makeshift table… he was on top of her…
I could’ve shot him. I could’ve gotten him. Right in the back of the head. Ended it then and there… if I had just managed to detach.
Her ankles were tied together with brown twine, wrists too… and as soon as he realized the door had been opened, he jumped down and took Sookie with him by grabbing a handful of her hair.
It all happened too fast and he had grabbed something when he chased after her. It turned out to be a pair of scissors that looked like a pair of K-bars. The fucking blades on those things were at least 9 inches long and he pushed the tips of them into her throat.
Other than the noise she made when he poked her neck with scissors, Sookie had gone quiet… Hell, she wasn’t even putting up a fight anymore… just kind of hanging there, limp. She didn’t even answer Eric when he tried to get her attention. And since de Castro was using Sookie as a human shield, I didn’t have a shot I could trust.
That sick fuck buried his face into the side off her neck and whispered to her, “The husband… the night in shining armor, as you say?”
When she didn’t answer him, he poked the scissors into her neck… the trickle of blood connected with other trails and disappeared into the top of her dress.
Eric stayed high so I went to my knee and blocked the door. The only thing in my peripheral was the outline of Kenny’s gun over my shoulder.
de Castro wasn’t going anywhere.
The creep… He had to fucking know it was all over. He had to know that there was no way he was walking out of that building. It’s the only reason I could think of that he’d still be talking.
He looked at Eric while he licked the fresh blood from Sookie’s neck. “So sweet… She needs a bath though… I’ll give her one…” I had to swallow back the nauseating feeling I’d had when we found his nest like I was still in that goddamn house.
He was looking at Eric. Eric. He knew who Sookie was. He knew who she was and that she was engaged… And… he fucking knew which of us was which. Even though Eric and I got to Bon Temps for the first time on the same fucking night, he knew who the fuck Eric was… He couldn’t have been at the assembly at the school. He couldn’t have been at Dirges because all four of us have known what he looked like for more than a week now. With all of the traffic the house saw, someone would’ve noticed if he was lurking… He was getting information from someone… someone was feeding him… Fuck. The ‘friend’.
Bill hadn’t just been giving him IDs. That twisted fuck had actually made friends with a serial killer.
I could almost feel how much Eric wanted a clear shot. The longer that asshole taunted him, the less likely Eric was to wait for it and from where he was standing, all he had was a clear shot of Sookie’s head.
If I didn’t say something, I was going to end up just as bad off. “de Castro, we’re supposed to negotiate for the girl’s release.” He gave me a weird look. I don’t think he expected for us to know who he was. Not upset really, impressed. I was tempted to tell him that Sookie was how he was identified.
“Can I walk out and then mail her back to you?” Creepy fucker.
“Afraid that’s not how it works. You need to make a request that we can give you. She’s not part of any deal.” Ever.
“You lie. There is no negotiation.” He dug the scissors into Sookie’s neck a little deeper and she barely made any noise at all. It had to hurt. Had to. Jason wasn’t the only one with an impressive pain threshold.
“Giving her over might give you a head start.”
“I wasn’t finished with her.” Yeah he was. He just didn’t know it yet.
I adjusted, three inches to the left… but before I could pull my trigger back, there was a shot. Eric managed to get a clear shot on de Castro. Winged him. It wasn’t much, but it was enough that he moved Sookie to cover the side that was hit. Even though the fridge was plenty cold, the creep started sweating. It was the only sign that he gave up from having a round in his shoulder… and he was trying to cover that by rubbing into Sookie’s ass.
Sookie didn’t look like she was panicking. Fucking battered as hell, and maybe a little weak considering there was probably a pint of her blood everywhere but where it should be, but relatively calm…
I’d been trying to avoid looking at her face. I didn’t want to fucking lose what little bit of control I was barely holding onto…
But I couldn’t help it.
When I looked at her, she was already looking at me.
Other than scratches and cuts and the beginnings of one hell of a shiner, she looked like she was fine. She looked less worried than she had when we were running with Eric and his dad…
And she fucking winked at me…
She winked and when she did, her knee, covered in scrapes and bruises, started coming up from the floor and rotating away from me.
She was giving me a shot.
Her fucking dress was in the way and I thought about not risking the shot for all of two seconds before de Castro got himself together enough to try to push Eric’s buttons a little more.
“In my country, we shoot hostages.”
That was it for me. “We do that here too.”
Double action is a beautiful thing. The trigger pulls back so easy that it’s like the bullet needs to escape…
I was already pulling my hammer back again when de Castro dropped to the floor, shoving Sookie away from himself in the process. The mother fucker left himself uncovered while he panicked, pawing at his leg… the bonus was that his blood was pooling under him fast enough… we weren’t going to be needing cuffs.
The faster he breathed, the faster his heart beat… pumping his blood faster and faster…
While Eric cut Sookie’s wrists and ankles loose, I smiled at de Castro. Not because I was getting a sadistic joy out of watching him bleed out… it was because of Sookie’s appreciation of Karma. God only knows how many women flickered out watching him jerk off after he cut their throats…
I only looked away for a second or two, more like switching focus because I still had my gun on de Castro, but Eric was trying to get Sookie out while Kenny radioed out for EMTs.
Eric tried to pick her up, but she cringed away from him. There probably wasn’t a single inch of her body that wasn’t cut to ribbons.
She started pushing herself up from the floor and stopped after a few inches… She started opening her mouth and as she did, a mouthful of blood spilled out.
I still thought she was hemorrhaging when de Castro grunted something about ‘the blood of a good woman’…
Everything lost color. Everything except the bright red stream of blood coming from Sookie’s mouth…
I didn’t even look.
I don’t even remember pulling back the trigger…
All I knew as fact for a few seconds was that my gun sounded much louder in a fridge.
I watched the poor thing try to walk out on her own.
Covered in blood, looking like she’d been raked over a cheese grater, and still trying to walk because she had glass poking out of every part of the front half of her body.
I couldn’t help but wonder how bad her beatings from Bill were that the tiny thing could still be so tough and it pissed me off that the prick was in custody so that Eric and I couldn’t pay him a little visit and take Karma along.
When I finally looked back at de Castro, it was because Kenny squeezed past me again and crouched down to check for a pulse.
One in the head. One in the throat. One in the cheek. None of them had bled as much as Sookie’s neck since most of his blood was under him already.
I knew I hadn’t squeezed off 3 rounds…
It only took a second to get recall… I wasn’t the only one to fire… He’d lunged for his scissors… All three of us decided to end the situation at the same time.
Kenny’s chin wrinkled up. “The end.” She stayed there, staring at him and crying quietly until I realized I was still kneeling in broken glass and stood up.
As soon as my feet were under me, Kenny got up too and came over to put her arm around my back to rest her hand on my shoulder.
We just stood there.
She cried and stared down at the fucker who killed her friend.
Even though I spent God knows how long thinking about crime scene after crime scene, photo after photo, I started trying to plan how I was going to explain things to the boys.
Sookie was covered in cuts and would need IV antibiotics at least… I would be going back to the house alone.
As much as I needed a coach this time, Sookie wasn’t going to be able to help me through this one.
“My, my Herveaux… You certainly do get around. Here I thought you were hung up on the twins.” I hadn’t even noticed that Pam had finally decided to make an appearance… and she was half right as usual.
Kenny’s hand gripped my shoulder before she let go and turned to leave. She shoulder checked Pam like a pro hockey player and left her standing there while she waited for me just behind the counter.
“What the fuck happened here?”
“Maybe you should show up for shit instead of being fashionably late for everything.”
“I’m not interested in your little games, Herveaux…”
“Good. Then you won’t miss me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Since you’re God’s gift to the FBI, you should be able to figure it out. Get out of my way so I can go check on Sookie.”
She narrowed her eyes at me, but she did the smart thing for once and took a step to the side.
As soon as I got to Kenny, her arm went around my back again…
I think we stopped ourselves at the same time when we saw Sookie’s purse in the front of the store on the way out. Everything had been dumped out and scattered… and the crushed cell phone had landed right next to Sookie’s rosary… not far from another small puddle of blood.
When we got outside, Sookie was sitting on the hood of my truck… Her and Eric were digging glass out of her skin. She was picking it out of her hand and arm… He had lifted her leg up and was pulling pieces out of her shins…
It looked like it hurt him more than it hurt her and I could understand why. Adrenaline is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Just seeing her sitting up made everything a little easier to take.
Kenya let go of me to go to the back of her car and pull a first aid kit out of her trunk and jog over. She slapped on some latex gloves and went right to work dabbing antibiotic ointment over the punctures as Eric pulled glass out.
“He’s either dead or a great faker. How you doin’ Sookie?”
She looked like hell, but she tried to smile. Eric grumbled, “The fucker hit her hard enough to make her bite her tongue. That’s where all the blood came from.”
I winced. I knew how bad that shit hurt first hand. You NEVER forget your mouth guard again after a lesson like that. “I did that once. Tongues heal pretty quick. You’ll be putting us in our places again in no time… Did I crease you?”
Since her dress was missing buttons, it wasn’t hard for her to pull the skirt back… she had a grazing burn right on the outside curve of her leg… and she didn’t pay any more attention to it than the cuts all over her. She grinned at me when she poked her fingers through the holes in the fabric. She was going to be fine. Scarred up a bit, but fine…
“I have a notebook in the truck if you want to start explaining what the fuck you were thinking.”
She nodded like it was no problem.
While I was grabbing the notebook, Kenny washed her hand with saline and pulled out a few more pieces of glass to make it easier for Sookie to write.
I leaned back against the truck next to her so I could watch over her shoulder. “Is this official or unofficial?”
She started writing fast enough that I was impressed. It looked like her bad wrist hadn’t been affected at all. She yanked the page out and handed it to me so she could keep going… “It had been eating @ me… How he found his victims… Their b-days, homes, wrk… I had a brain fart when Smom asked abt the flowers we wanted 4 the wedding & decided 2 stop by & order some flowers. I’d told Smom the Selah part as my excuse… just 2 see how much info they ask 4… I didn’t know he’d B there. I recognized him from his picture w/ Maudette & Arlene rt away… That’s when I called E…”
The next page: “…I was leaning into a display case, sniffing flowers when he came out of the back & snuck up on me. As soon as I turned arnd I knew I was in trouble… Before I could think of something 2 do, I was trying 2 pick myself up out of the floor & everything hurt… I dragged myself 2 the counter & called again… He found me & took me 2 the back room… He started tying my hands & then he started climbing on top of me… I squeezed his ribs with my legs & broke some & kicked him in his DICK when he rolled off of me… And I tried 2 get away…”
Then: “He threw the shelf full of vases on me while I was trying 2 get 2 the phone… it knocked me out & when I woke up, I was N the fridge. He was on top of me & his pants were open… I started fighting as much as I could & that’s when he put his elbow N2 my cheek… U guys came N rt aft…”
Six fucking minutes. SIX. Six minutes between when he yelled and when we opened the door to the fridge. Just six.
If our ‘lovely’ boss had bothered to come to the florist as/is instead of making sure her lipstick was fucking perfect, we’d have been able to move in. We’d have been in time to keep Sookie from getting cut up.
She handed me another page: “de Castro told me N the fridge… Him & Bill have been hanging out.”
When she started writing again, Eric stood up to read over her other shoulder. “When we get home, I can tap N2 their bank accts… I bet I could find times that they’ve gone 2 movies or stopped @ an ATM together… surveillance video…”
Yep. She’d be fine. She was still trying to help with the damn case.
I was shaking my head at her when Eric took the notebook and handed it me. “We’re going to the hospital. You’ve done more than enough.”
Kenny radioed Kevin to find out why the buses were taking so long only to find out that the parish’s was already working a car accident in the next town over and Bon Temps’s was on the way because they were dropping off another customer at the hospital in Bossier when they got our call. Lovely.
I wasn’t going to let Sookie sit and wait indefinitely. “Go.”
Eric was still half locked up. “The scene isn’t…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’ll wait it out here until I can give the techs the rundown and then I’m leaving to go fill everyone in. Kenny can take you.”
I nodded and Kenny jiggled her keys. “Yeah. Get her taken care of. Make sure you keep us filled in.”
Kenny’s squad car was still in sight when the ambulance finally arrived.
Lights and sirens… with Corbett behind the wheel.
When he saw me, I watched his face clamp down.
The truck barely stopped before he jumped out. “What the fuck!?” He looked just as scary when he was pissed as he did when he was worried.
“Calm down. Shit got really hairy. Sookie’s hurt, but she’s going to be alright…”
“Beat up pretty bad. Bit her tongue hard enough that she’s not talking yet, but she’s sitting up… doing better than she looks.”
“She was out with Smom, Marnie and my boys and stopped here. She found the Vampire by accident.”
“The vampi… What the… how… How bad is she?”
“He tasered her a couple of times. She got backhanded in her cheek for fighting back… the worst of it is that she was dragged through broken glass…”
“How the fuck did y’all get here in time? Where is she? Eric?”
“She called because she knew who he was. We called Pam and hauled ass… Kenny is taking Sookie to the hospital in the car because y’all were tied up. Eric’s with them.”
“Where’s the piece of shit?”
“In the fridge. He’s DOA so y’all don’t really need to be here now that Sookie’s on her way already.”
“Y’all killed him?”
I nodded. “He wasn’t going to let her go. No choice.”
“Which one of you?”
“All of us. We all fired at the same time. All three were kill shots.”
He stared at me for long enough I didn’t know if he had another question or if he wanted to hit me for being closest. Eventually he went over to the ambulance to radio that they were out of service and grab a pack of cigarettes.
I was getting my Barrett put to bed when Pam came back out and it wasn’t until then that it occurred to me that Corbett hadn’t asked where she was even though her car was out front.
The other EMT was listening to the Bears game on the radio in the ambulance and Corbett was smoking and kicking around the shards of glass that had been pulled out of Sookie.
Pam yelled from the Florist’s stoop, “Are you going to explain what happened yet?”
“Fuck you. You can find out when the suits do in the morning.”
“You aren’t funny. I’m going to write you up. I’m your immediate chain of command. You’re required to debrief me.”
“Make sure you put in your complaint that I threatened to stomp a mudhole in your ass if you said one more word to me.”
She opened her mouth and that was it. “A mudhole?… The trailer park in you really comes out when you’re upset. You realize that, right?”
All I saw was a tackle sled and I was about halfway between my truck and her when I realized that someone had my arms… Corbett was holding me back.
He managed to work his way around to get in front of me and start pushing me back… Pam didn’t have the fucking sense to try to get away. She was still standing with her arms folded like Corbett wasn’t the only reason she didn’t have whiplash and broken ribs. “You fucking cunt! He had his dick out and you think this is all a joke? You think I’m playing with you? Sookie could’ve been raped and killed in the amount of time it took for you to get here!”
“What’s your record look like?”
I was so fucking pissed that I wasn’t sure what language Corbett was using. “What?”
“Your record, son… what’s it look like? Will it hold up to attacking a superior?”
“It’s clean. I’ll risk it.”
When I tried to break left and get around him, I went down instead. I got hit. Hard. Right in the side of my head and I was seeing stars until Corbett’s face came into focus. “I know you take a lot of shit from her, but she wouldn’t just tattle. She’d press charges. You gotta get your head out of your ass so that you don’t risk your job, son…” I put my hands to my head and closed my eyes like it would help stop the ringing in my fucking ears. “How do you support your boys if you have assault charges following you everywhere you go?” Fuck me. I’d have fucked everything up…
“I couldn’t… You’re right.” I still wanted to crush her.
“I know I am…” He slapped my chest and put his hand out to help me up. “You alright? I’d rather knock the wind out of you, but you had your arms down so I couldn’t get to your diaphragm. Damn Linebacker habits, huh?”
I nodded and grabbed his hand. “Thanks… really.”
I barely had my feet under me before she opened her mouth again. “Awwwwww. Isn’t that sweet… Male bonding through physical violence… I could write a book on all the stupid shit I see you Neanderthals…”
Corbett started shaking his head. “I won’t stop him again.” He wouldn’t have to. He was right. She wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t going to let her come between me and my kids. I had no intentions of working with her anymore, so it was time I put my foot down in that department too.
“Maybe if he just did what I told him to do, there wouldn’t be such a problem.”
“Maybe if you knew when to shut your instigating ass vent there wouldn’t be either…” He nudged my shoulder towards my truck. “You made me drop my smoke. You owe me one.”
She stood there and watched us. Her arms crossed and she finally stormed back into the florist when we were about half way through our smoke break.
“You’re not telling her what happened in there so that she looks like a complete idiot when you debrief the director tomorrow?”
“Pretty much. She’s been dead weight for a long time. It’s time the suits hear about it. It’s a new Field Office, so I’m hoping what they say about ‘first impressions’ is true and they start keeping an eye on her.”
“What makes you so sure that they won’t just see it as her just not getting here as fast.”
“Because Pam was called at least 5 minutes before Kenny. Pam was 6 minutes behind her.”
“It should be the other way around by about 10 minutes.”
“And if you had waited for Pam, then Sookie would…”
“If she has a good reason then she can substantiate it, but he was already on top of Sookie when we got to her.”
He cleared his throat and leaned back. “Well then… burn her.”
It almost pissed me off that Bobby Burnham didn’t need his hand held.
Corbett threatened to burn Pam’s luggage since possession was 9/10ths of the law so that she’d stay outside and wouldn’t overhear the rundown I gave to Bobby and his crew… The Stackhouses must share a mysterious wingman gene along with everything else.
Using Corbett as my stall didn’t even work. I asked how the Fire Chief ended up driving an ambulance… it took him all of 15 seconds to tell me that he took Jason’s shifts while he was going to be gone before he radioed Kenny to find out which hospital Sookie was at and took off to go check on her.
I was really starting to freak out about how to handle explaining everything to the folks back at the house. I didn’t think for a second that JB or Laf would’ve taken off… plus the Northmans… plus whoever else might be waiting for news by then. The house could’ve looked like Corbett’s lawn had the day before. They’d all need to know what the fuck happened and I needed to explain to the boys with as few details as possible.
Even though I crawled up the driveway in neutral, it wasn’t nearly long enough… It felt like it took forever to get to the florist, but getting back to the house… back to where everyone was waiting for an explanation… a blink. Maybe less.
I parked as far away from the house as I could so that I wouldn’t set off the security light since the sun had just set… I was just hoping to buy myself some time…
And I stood there and stared at Sookie’s house, leaning against the spot smeared with Sookie’s blood and smoked God knows how many cigarettes while I tried to put together the story…
When I walked in, I could smell food cooking, but the house was freakishly quiet. Considering the cars out front, there were no less or at least 9 or 10 adults in the house.
Water running in the kitchen…
That was it. No talking or laughing. No music or movement.
When I walked into the kitchen, all eyes were on me. Along with the five people who I expected to find, Sam, Tara, Linda and Had were over… All of them waiting to hear that everything was peachy when it was and wasn’t at the same time. It could’ve gone much better. More/faster backup would’ve been ideal… I’d seen shit go much worse.
Even if they weren’t all blood related, they all had the same look on their faces and I had to cut them off before they could fire off the first round of questions. “Where are the boys?”
JB nodded his head to the back of the house. “Hunter’s with ‘em in y’alls room watching TV.” At least I’d have a few minutes before I had to talk to them.
“Alright… I still don’t have all the answers, but… When Sookie stopped for flowers, the Vampire was working there. She recognized him because she’s been helping us on the case that’s why she called us. He tasered her and dragged her to the back while she was on the phone with us. He knocked her around, but she fought back like a champ… She got away from him, but he ended up catching her and dragging her into the fridge. He was holed up in there with her when we found them. He was most of the way to raping her and she’s really banged up, but Eric took her to the hospital. She should be fine.” By the time I was done, 30 seconds, Smom, Linda, Had and Tara were all in tears.
Linda shook her head. “Should be?”
“When she tried to get away from him, she stopped her by knocking a shelf of vases over. He dragged her through the glass… She’s an infection waiting to happen… He hit her really hard a couple of times. I’d be surprised if her cheek isn’t fractured, she nearly bit off the side of her tongue, maybe a concussion… It’s all superficial, but it’s a lot of little things. The taser he used could’ve damaged her heart… But she was conscious. She wasn’t in shock. Wasn’t showing any signs of the head trauma. She sat on the hood of my truck and wrote out her account for us and her handwriting was still solid.”
Some of them stared at me, some zoned out on something else while they processed… you could hear a pin drop.
CMC was the first one to manage anything. He cleared his throat and rotated his coffee cup in his hand. “The vampire? Where is he? How does that work? Would he get bail or…”
“He’s on his way to Shreveport in a gift bag for the FBI’s coroner. You don’t get bail when you’re air conditioned.”
It took everyone a while to come back from that… I probably should’ve sugarcoated that a little, but air conditioned was the first thing that came to mind…
Sam was the one to ask what happened.
“When we found him, he used Sookie for cover by holding scissors to her throat. Eric winged him so that he’d drop the scissors, but it didn’t work. He just moved Sookie… He was provoking. Suggested that he mail Sookie back when he was done with her if we let him go. I had the better angle and dropped him by putting a bullet in his thigh… Kenny and I covered Eric while he tried to get Sookie out, but he tried to get to the scissors again. All three of us fired a round. We’ll know which one of us got him after the autopsy.”
Had choked out, “Suicide by cop?”
I nodded. “Seems like it. He was out of options. I used his real name. He probably already knew Bill got picked up so…”
JB finished, “So he figured Bill was talking.”
Since Tara was on Sam’s lap, he had Marnie pass him a napkin for her. Her voice was so shaky it was tragic. “So when you say he was ‘half way’ to raping her, what does that mean?”
“He had her pinned. Tied her wrists and ankles together. He was on top of her… We might’ve had another 30 seconds to stop it.”
“But you did. You did stop it, right? She didn’t just tell you to lie about it.”
“I wouldn’t. I’d tell you. He was close. That’s it.”
“Could you lie about it?”
“Yes, but… if I was going to lie about anything, I would’ve just left out how close he was. Really.”
Laf tried to speak, but stopped to clear the lump out of his throat. “So… the next step would be what?”
“I’ll be going to Shreveport in the morning to explain what went down. There’ll be a review. As soon as they compare all the notes, the case will be closed and the media will be notified after the families of the victims get the news.”
Marnie mumbled ‘holy shit and piss’ before she took her turn… that’s what it seemed like at least, like they were taking turns. “So Sookie was his last victim?”
I snorted at her. “Don’t let her hear you say that she’s a victim… but yeah, Sookie’s it.”
The second I got to my bedroom door, the same thing all over again. Eyes up and waiting to hear the story. Hunter had the excuse to not wait. He wasn’t old enough to have much of a filter or patience… “What happened?”
I took a guess… since he’d said ‘sans sous-vêtements’ a few days back (and with a decent accent), I told him in French that he was getting a different version than the boys were and that he could get filled in by everyone in the kitchen. He wanted to know if it was because his mother insisted on giving him bad news so he could brace himself. She would’ve too… I shook my head and told him that the devil was in the details so he headed out to get informed while Carm bitched that it wasn’t fair we were being sneaky.
Jack started in before I had the chance to lean against the dresser. “Where’s Sookie and Eric? Why did we leave? Why were y’all there with guns?”
“Sookie called us from inside the flower shop to come get her. The guy working in there was crazy. He beat her up.” That was easy… It’s what I should’ve told Pam.
“He beat her up? How bad?”
“Bad enough that Eric took her to the hospital.”
“When will she be home?”
“I don’t know. I’m still waiting to hear from Eric. If the hospital wants to keep her to watch how she does, I’ll take you guys to visit as soon as they think she’s up to it.”
Jack had his mouth open, but Carm butted in. “Why were you getting Tank Girl out? She’s not for shooting people.” Not technically. It doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t have enjoyed a run at cutting de Castro in half though.
“In case he tried to take her somewhere, I wanted to have her ready to stop his car.”
“What did he do?” That was the question I didn’t want to answer.
“Sookie’s got a lot of cuts and bruises. When you see her, you’re gonna have to be really gentle. Maybe even quiet because she could have a bad headache from hitting her head.”
Jack was practically snarling. “That didn’t answer the question.”
“I know. I shouldn’t answer it…”
“Was it that guy? That guy she punched for being a jerk?”
“No. It wasn’t. That guy is still in jail.”
“And the guy that beat Sookie up is going to jail too, right?”
“He…” Fuck. The little shit had radar for when he was getting snowed. “Boys… He’s never gonna see the light of day again. Don’t worry about that.”
They got quiet for a minute, so I was really hoping they bought it.
“It’s getting late and y’all have school…”
Carm cut me off. “We wanna wait!”
They both nodded.
“Tomorrow’s a school day…” They opened up to argue, so I held my hands up. “Hang on. Damn. I was going to say… if y’all chill out in here and accidentally rack out, I promise to wake you up when we hear something. K?”
They rolled their eyes and nodded.
“So did y’all have fun shopping and going to church?”
Jack shrugged. “Church was more fun than shopping. Sookie sang. We spent most of the time at the mall in something called ‘house wares’. Borrrrringgggg. Smom acted like we were at Toys R Us or something.”
Had was laughing quietly before she got to the doorway to lean on the frame. “Babies and weddings boys. Even the best of us act like that. We can’t resist.”
Jack snorted at her. “Babies are ok… I get weddings… but sheets and towels? C’mon.”
“Oooh, speaking of towels… Alc, I stopped the dishwasher so you can get a shower. And if you feel like eating, I’ll put a plate together for you.”
“Ok. Thanks.” I think I managed to stutter.
She nodded. “I was actually sent back to tell the boys that dessert’s getting handed out as we speak.”
The boys looked at one another. When Jack said ‘pie’, Carm said ‘cake’ and then they both bolted and almost knocked Had over. At least she thought it was cute.
Had came over without even really looking at me before she wrapped her arms around my back.
She didn’t say anything. I couldn’t see her face, but if I had to guess I wouldn’t think she was crying again. Even if it was the longest hug I’d ever given, it was just a hug.
“Had. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen enough to not be too worried about her. She’s tough. She’ll be ok.”
“I know.” It was hushed, but she definitely wasn’t crying.
“Then what’s up?”
She lifted her face and gave me kiss. “You just looked like you could use a hug.”
No matter how hard I tried, the last 24 hours wouldn’t wash away. It was probably the longest shower I’d taken since I was a teenager.
Usually it was wet, wash, shampoo, rinse, out.
There was no telling how much water I wasted while I ‘square-rooted’ shit to death instead of cleaned up…
Even if I hadn’t almost added my guardian angel to our box of victims and nearly kicked Pam’s ass, I still would’ve been screwed. I thought about the fact that I’d gotten a ‘good morning’ kiss and then a hug after a bad day more times than I should’ve considering the rest of the disgusting brain soup that was getting stirred up.
The look on Eric’s face when he yelled for Sookie to get out.. The skin-crawling feeling I got from having to translate that pervert’s twisted monologue…. The butcher’s block… The green glass mixed with the red of Sookie’s blood… Watching Eric pull shard after shard out of Sookie.
I was pretty sure it was the shittiest ‘day at the office’ I’d ever had…
But I was in a better mood than I would’ve been a week ago after a light day.
When I came out of the bathroom, the house seemed more normal. Normal for that house anyway.
Smom headed me off before I got to my room and handed a shopping bag to me. Sookie found some ‘extra long’ ties. Marnie passed us with a loaded laundry basket to put some things away.
The boys had a movie going on the TV and had their PSPs linked together, playing the new games they bought. They were already in their PJs and started fighting about who would push pause first so they could go brush their teeth since the bathroom was free.
Hunter, JB, Laf and CMC were in the living room ridiculing the Redskins.
Sam and Tara started saying their goodbyes when I got to the kitchen. Tara and Had fought about who would use which excuse so they could both check on Sookie in the morning. Linda decided that Tara would get the boys and take them to school and Hadley would come by to get Hunter’s ‘accidently’ forgotten gym bag.
Had and Linda moved like a samurai strike team to set my place with silverware, ice cold beer, a mountain of pork chops and mashed potatoes and another plate with pie and cake. Snickerdoodle cake. I didn’t even have to ask who’s recipe it was.
My beer mysteriously refilled itself. My dinner plate vanished as soon as I took my last bite. A cup of coffee with Bailey’s snuck up on me while my Boston cream pie and Snickerdoodle cake just about put me into a sugar coma. And then, like it wasn’t enough that Hadley had a fresh pack of Camels and an ashtray waiting, she started rubbing my shoulders.
The shoulder rub might’ve been just a cover so that Had could use me for my cigarette, but it still nearly put me to sleep.
Sure it was nervous energy that they were all running on and they were all distracting themselves from worrying to death once they had some answers, but… things were starting to normalize in Stackhouseville.
Without anything left to say or do, everyone ended up settling in to watch the Redskins get their asses handed to them. For a Dallas fan, it was the only thing better than watching the Cowboys win.
I dozed off for a while, but I woke up to my leg vibrating… then there was chirping, chiming, squawking and in Lafayette’s case, I’m Bringing Sexy Back…
Eric had spammed an update: “The taser didn’t affect her heart. She needed a lot of stitches, including 8 in her tongue. She’s sleeping off the sedation & waiting for test results. Be home late. DO NOT MENTION THIS TO JAS OR FRAN. Sookie’ll kill you.”
It was nearly 10:30 and I didn’t have to get up to know the boys were sleeping. Even from the living room I could hear their snoring over CMC’s. When I tried to make good on my promise to wake them up with news, Carm didn’t budge and Jack went right back to sleep, mumbling that he wanted to be up when she got home.
When I got back to the living room, Hunter was pulling Linda off of the couch so that they could go home. He had to be the sensible one. Had and Linda wanted to stay until Sookie got home. Hunter told them that Sookie would need her rest and Eric would be a wreck… and that they would need to set up the guest room for JB. Damn if it didn’t work. On their way out, Linda and Smom arranged a cooking schedule so that Sookie didn’t try to do too much. Smom and Marnie got the breakfast shift. Linda would take care of lunch and then come straight from work to help with dinner…
JB and I saw headlights coming up the driveway at the same time.
I felt like an asshole about it, but I went to my bedroom and stopped at the door to say ‘Sookie’s home’. I’d been quiet. I didn’t want them to wake up, but I didn’t want them to be upset with me for not trying either. Not that I really tried. They still sat up like the bed electrocuted them.
Everyone else ended up bum rushing the porch, but I held the boys back so Sookie could have some air. I didn’t know if Eric was carrying her because she needed it or he did, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.
She looked worse.
The bruise on her cheek had gone from blue to dark purple and the gash in the middle of it was inflamed… the scrubs she’d worn home covered a lot since they were too big, but the dozens of little cuts on her arms, chest and neck were all swollen and some of the cuts under her clothes had opened up again. Her hair was a matted mess. There was dried blood here and there and she reeked of surgical wash. It made me want to shoot de Castro all over again.
Smom was so weepy, all she could do was sob ‘just ignore me’ and apologize. It was actually really sweet that CMC stood next to her and rubbed her shoulders to try and calm her down. The ‘asshole’ was just as worried about her as he was about Sookie.
Sookie was quiet, but I’d figured she would be because of her tongue… But she was groggy too. Her eyes were barely open and her arm kind of flopped when she pointed to the club chair so that Eric would set her down.
He sat down on the ottoman in front of her… he was being clingy.
Not that the boys really cared.
They acted like he wasn’t there and formed a wall right in front of Sookie to look her over. Jack looked gut-punched as he studied her hands and Carm acted like he wanted to climb onto her lap to get a better look at her face.
She jumped a little when Carm started talking from out of nowhere. “Dey won’t tell us what happened.”
She grinned more to the left, so I figured they gave her some Novocain when they stitched her tongue up. “I got very lucky.” That’s not what she said, just what it translated to. She sounded like Buckwheat lost at beer pong.
Jack wasn’t buying it though. “Lucky doesn’t look like that!”
“This is exactly what ‘lucky’ looks like, you little butt. Are you arguing with me?”
“If you aren’t going to tell us, that’s fine, but don’t lie to us. Not you.”
She felt good enough to give me a dirty look when I told him to take it easy on her. She gave him a kiss and ran her fingers through his bedhead to try to calm the little jerk down. “This is lucky. I did something stupid and was even dumb enough to ignore Eric when he told me how stupid I was being. It was so stupid that Eric and your Daddy had to come save me and if it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t have come home.” I was almost sure that JB and Laf wanted a translator, but since Carm had his speech issues, I was doing alright.
They stared at her. I thought they were going to call bullshit because they still didn’t have the answer they wanted. “One of the predators did this?” It turned out that Jack was thinking, putting two and two together.
She nodded. “Yeah. And I knew he was one of them and didn’t leave… will you guys keep me company while Eric gets a shower? He doesn’t want to leave me alone, but it’s been a long day and we all need some rest.” Rest, sure… but Eric was still caked with her blood. He’d washed his hands up to his elbows, but the rest of his arms were covered in streaks and rubs… he looked like he could’ve been the one to work her over.
They nodded and when they turned around to look at Eric, they both gave him a look that said, ‘you’ve been relieved’.
He shook his head. “I’ll wait until you’re settled in.”
She shook her head. “The boys will keep their eyes on me. Get cleaned up so you can eat before we turn in.” Even if the boys weren’t so far up her nose that she couldn’t stand up if she wanted to, Smom and Marnie were poised to strike if Sookie tried to scratch her own ass.
He growled and made the boys promise to not let her out of her chair on his way to the back.
As soon as he was out of site, Sookie put her hands on the arms of the chair like she was going to get up.
Carm bitched, “I’ll tell.”
She giggled and told him ‘easy Hoss’. She was just getting herself situated.
“You wanna eat?”
“I shouldn’t. Last time I had general anesthesia, I got sick.”
She nodded. “And cold.”
Without warning, those two shot out of the room in different directions. Jack went to the hall closet to bring back a fleece blanket and Carm came back with a bottle of tea. The little turd shoved it at me so I could open it for her. Then he ran back for a napkin because she dribbled.
After a few minutes, The Staring Game was starting to wear her nerves. The way she talked was really affected and everyone was struggling to understand her. “Oh GOD! Would y’all knock it off!? I’m gonna be fine. This is because of the Novocain..!” The next thing she said was ‘duss ass ass’ and then she stopped herself to laugh and then said it again. It had seemed like I was the only one who was getting most of what she said, but even I was lost on ‘duss ass ass’.
Her outburst didn’t do anything but make us think she was having a reaction to something they gave her at the hospital.
She calmed herself down and reached into Laf’s pocket. While she typed, her hands were moving a little slow for her, but she wasn’t fumbling around or anything.
When Sookie turned the phone around for Jack, he threw his head back and cackled like he was getting tickled. “ASS ASS!” I almost told him to watch his mouth. “…ASK ALC! ASS ASS!”
Ok. That was funny. While everyone laughed, maybe just because they were relieved she didn’t have Tourettes, Corbett kissed her cheek and told everyone he’d see us tomorrow on his way to the door.
He stopped just shy and mimed to the boys to watch her.
“I saw that, Daddy.”
He snorted. “Good. Since you know I have paid informants, maybe you’ll take it easy.”
Marnie disappeared into the kitchen and Laf wandered to the back. For the adults, all it took was Sookie poking fun at herself… the kids went right back to looking at her like she was broken though. She scooted to the side so that Jack could share the chair with her and I winced when she pulled Carm onto her lap. Smom was her target since she’d handled everyone else into not gaping. “So, what did I miss?”
“Oh… not much… we did a whole bunch of worrying. Linda heard about things on your dad’s scanner so she grabbed Hadley and Hunter and came to wait for news. We made dinner together. When Alc got back and told us what was going on, we finally stopped wringing our hands and did some busy work… You’re one tough cookie.”
Sookie giggled. “No way around that in this family. We play rough. We don’t know what gentle is.” Says the girl slowly running her fingers through the boys’ hair. She almost had them asleep again.
Smom noticed how calm the boys were too so she lowered her voice. “So, if anesthesia makes you sick, why didn’t they keep you for observation?”
“Something about having a nurse in the house with me and my doctor is only three miles away… and Daddy and Eric don’t like being told no.”
I snorted. “Oh, like you don’t have a ‘no’ allergy?”
She giggled again. “I wasn’t armed.”
Eric came back into the room looking a little better… I was still sure that one day he’d give himself an impacted colon. “Don’t put it like that. We didn’t threaten anyone.” He wouldn’t have had to actually voice a threat. At his size, all he had to do was cross his arms and scowl.
She raised an eyebrow at him while Marnie was giving him a plate and a drink. God bless her, she was not the same ‘bitch’ she’d been when she first got to Bon Temps.
Eric kissed her cheek to thank her… it actually made her smile… And as Eric was sitting down to eat, Laf and JB headed out. Laf had work in the morning. JB just wanted to get over to Had’s place and let them know that Sookie was up to handling and laughing. It didn’t take a genius to know that Had and Linda were going to be waiting up for him.
Eric was nearly inhaling his dinner. I’d been hungry enough when I got back, 5 hours ago. Marnie jumped at the chance to bring him a second plate and beer… She came back with a nipped coffee and a slab of Snickerdoodle cake as big as my head.
And while he ate, Sookie managed to put the boys out. Like little lights.
Eric took a few minutes to make sure everyone knew what Sookie wasn’t allowed to do so she hissed and flipped him off with both hands when he got to the ‘no hot liquids’ part of the instructions. He deserved it since he was sipping some coffee at the time.
The boys never budged.
Trying to get Carm off of Sookie’s lap without hurting her scared the shit out of me. If it happened she didn’t let on. Jack was easier since he was next to her instead of on her, but he nearly gave me a heart attack. When I went to lift him he flailed in his sleep and got her leg right where I knew there was a deep cut. She looked down at it and we watched blood weep through her pants. Then the goofy bitch asked me if I wanted to get in a free shot because apparently she was still numb.
I heard Eric and Sookie saying goodnight to everyone else while I tucked in the boys.
I was barely between my own sheets when I got a text. I knew it was Had before I looked at it. “JB says she looks really bad.”
I replied by telling her to call me and turned my ringer off so that it wouldn’t wake up the boys.
She didn’t bother with ‘hello’. “He used the words ‘hard to take’. How bad, Alc?”
“Pretty fucking bad. She’s kind of a connect-the-dots of bruises and stitches.”
“Why didn’t you warn any of us?”
“I wasn’t exactly worried about what she looked like. I’m sorry.”
“Hundreds of stitches though…”
“She’s going to be fine.” Every time I said that out loud, I felt a little better… it was easier to believe.
“You know how we are though…”
“Had, I really wasn’t thinking about what she looked like. It’s not like I was avoiding the topic.”
“Oh really? What were you thinking about then?”
“Do you really want to know or are you just trying to bully me into feeling guiltier than I do already?”
“No. I really want to know.”
“I was thinking about the crate full of pictures we have of the 13 women he abducted, defiled, mutilated, molested, tortured, slashed, drained, raped, posed and sodomized… and how Sookie wasn’t going to end up like them. Had… in comparison, she was lucky. She knows it. It’s alright. She’s going to be alright.”
She was too quiet for too long.
She cleared her throat. “Oh my God. We almost lost her.” She was crying again.
“I know. Are you going to be alright?”
“Yeah… I guess. Can I tell Momma and JB? You know, what you said about what he did to the others.”
“Just let them know not to repeat it for now since it’s still an open case.”
“K… I still have to see her.”
“I know that too.”
“I’m going to freak out, aren’t I?”
“No. When you come by, it’ll be early enough that the boys will still be here. You’ll do your best to stay cool because they’re worried enough.”
“From your lips to God’s ears… I guess I’ll let you get some rest.”
“Are you going to manage getting any sleep?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine. Momma’s baking bread. As soon as the smell hits me, I’ll be a goner.”
“I would be too. I’ll see you in the morning.”
She didn’t seem to want to hang up any more than I did. Knowing that I needed to be semicoherent in the morning when I dealt with the business end of buying de Castro’s toe tag was the only reason I didn’t just stay on the phone with Had until one of our batteries died.
I felt like an asshole for thinking about it, but Hadley had been the best part of my day and it felt good, really fucking good to end the day talking to her… Like it started.