A New Kind Of Rule
Another early morning.
Being pissed about it would’ve been stupid though. It made sense that time. I’d been tossing and turning all night because of what happened. Every time I closed my eyes again and again, there was something else waiting to make me wish we moved in sooner.
I’d actually seen the pattern from Sookie’s dress on the ceiling more than a couple of times… and that was the least disturbing of it.
I had to check my phone to make sure that I hadn’t dreamed that I’d done a little research. It had been about 2:30 when I woke up. It was there.
Directions from Sookie’s house to the florist: 6 miles. 11 minutes. We made it in 8.
Directions from the police station to the florist: 9 miles. 17 minutes. Kenya made it in 15 after locking up the station because she didn’t have relief.
Directions from Corbett’s house to the florist: 4 miles. 7 minutes. It took Pam 29 minutes to cover half the distance as Kenya.
For all intents and purposes, Pam should’ve been at the florist before Smom left, before Tank Girl was assembled, before Sookie had been tasered the second time.
I wasn’t just going to ‘burn her’. I was going to take marshmallows.
Corbett was already sick of her… Even before Linda asked him if he found her in ‘the freezer section’ and before Keisha came back into play. Letting Sookie get hurt was the last straw… for both of us. Corbett even offered to keep her around for the entertainment value. Part of me thought it was cruel, the rest of me was grateful that there would be witnesses to her fall from grace.
I’d heard the rumors about how she’d made Special Agent In Charge. I ignored all of it so that I wouldn’t end up with a chip on my shoulder before I knew anything about her, but it took a whopping 2 months before I was sure the rumor mill had been right for once. But in New Orleans there were 6 of us. We didn’t spend any real amount of time with the frigid bitch. Eric and I paired off. Andre and Patrick were together in the field… Russell was our go to guy for anything computer based and Rasul was our point of contact for research, fact checking, surveillance and Farsi (of all things). He was pretty much as useless as they come and only got the Task Force gig because he was a liability in the field and no one wanted to work with him anymore. It’s easy to end up a pariah when you let 3 partners get shot.
Being at the Shreveport office changed things. Eric and I wouldn’t have a team as backup. She was the only one on the PTF with us. I sure as hell didn’t trust her to do more than paperwork.
I’d spent a fair amount of time thinking about it. Taking Sookie out of the scenario, removing my attachment to her… Pam was still fucked.
When I told Pam that Sookie ‘someone’ gave us a lead on where to find de Castro, she dragged her feet.
Granted, when I talked to her, she didn’t know that Sookie ‘someone’ was within arm’s reach of de Castro. Either way, the slippery son of a bitch was accessible, but she still dragged her feet.
When I told her that we, her fucking team would be waiting for her to move on de Castro, she dragged her feet.
In the amount of time she wasted, de Castro could’ve been in the wind with Sookie ‘someone’. One of her agents could’ve been injured or killed trying to apprehend the creep.
She was dead weight. Dead weight that needed to be cut loose before she actually did get someone killed.
It was 5:06 when I finally got up to go to the bathroom…I figured I’d end up with quiet, coffee and cigarettes until CMC got up.
…But the mattress on the floor was missing a kid.
Jack wasn’t in the bathroom… living room… kitchen…
I was starting to panic so I went to check Sookie’s room to see if he’d gone to check on her… That mattress was missing someone too.
I ended up going to the front porch to make sure all the cars were where they should’ve been…
Sookie was sitting on the swing and Jack was curled up under a blanket with her, snuggled into her side. The swelling on her face was worse, the bruising was darker, a new bruise had popped up on her throat…
She smiled at me while she ran her fingers through his hair. “Sorry we worried you.”
“I’m not allowed to start the day without a coronary apparently. What are y’all doing out here?”
“The cocktail of stuff they gave me in the hospital make me sick. The first couple of times I woke up Eric… so when it happened again, I used the hall bathroom and woke Jack up instead.”
“How’d you end up out here?”
“With the itching I wouldn’t be able to sleep and I didn’t want to mess up the new sofas if I opened up a cut… We were enjoying the cool air.” Poor thing.
“You sound much better than you did last night.”
“Funny how feeling your tongue helps with annunciation, huh… I can still call you ‘Ass’ if you want me too.”
I chuckled at her. Sense of humor: check. “I expect nothing less. You want me to take him so you can go back to bed?”
“We’re fine. I could use a cup of coffee though.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
Like there was ever a time when I needed to be asked to brew a pot.
She whimpered when I handed her cup to her… and flipped me off once she took a sip of it.
“You clearly forgot who you’re messing with. No hot liquids.” Watering her coffee down with ice was a great excuse to make the pot stronger than usual.
“It doesn’t mean I should lose hope.”
“Four cubes brought it down enough to still be warm.”
“You want it to swell back up so you can sound like a Kennedy again?”
“You want me to kick you in your…” She started giggling quietly. “No… I can’t pretend that wasn’t funny.”
“I thought so… How long have you gone without getting sick?”
“I guess it’s been about an hour now. Not queasy either. I think I’m just empty.”
“You wanna try some toast?” I could probably make toast without setting the house on fire.
“No… maybe in a bit… right now, I’m just glad to not be nauseated.”
“Been there. I found out the hard way that Morphine makes me sick… FYI: It’s really hard to get to the bathroom when you’re wearing a post-op traction brace.”
She giggled quietly. “Thanks for giving me that mental image.”
“So what are you up to today?”
“Once the boys leave for school, I’m heading into Shreveport to show off one of my new ‘fat boy’ ties… Thanks.”
She smiled halfway because one side of her face was too swollen to give. “What time? I need to get Eric up…”
“No. Let him sleep. He has a great excuse. As soon as the boys are out the door though, me and you need to sit down and type up your official statement. Me, you and Kenny are plenty so that Eric can just phone it in.”
“He wasn’t thinking, was he?”
“Oh, he was thinking… just… not the way he should’ve.”
She nodded and stayed quiet for a minute while I got comfortable on the steps and lit a cigarette…
Sookie said ‘good morning’ when the door opened again. I had to turn around and look because whoever it was didn’t answer right away.
“Damn. You weren’t kidding when you said it’s quiet out here, but it’s chilly… Sookie needs to go inside.”
“Dad… I’m fine.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You think your immune system’s gonna fight off all of those infection opportunities and a cold, during flu season? Get your ass in the house, girl.”
“I have a blanket…”
He shook his head. “Not for long…” He went over and picked up Jack (blanket and all) and started carrying him inside. God bless him… She wasn’t going to argue with him.
She watched him like she was just going to sit there and freeze to prove a point until I went over and offered to help her up. She snarled at my hand. “Grumpy old fart.”
She didn’t realize that she didn’t have to play along. I scooped her up, like I’d seen Eric carrying her because I knew it could be done without hurting her. “Maybe, but he’s a right grumpy old fart.”
“You too, huh?”
“Yep. Get over it.”
She tried to blow a raspberry at me, but couldn’t do it so we both ended up laughing while we waited for CMC to spread a small blanket out on the couch so she wouldn’t worry about bleeding on the new suede.
I don’t think Jack budged, let alone woke up, and Sookie laid over to curl up with him.
I poured fresh coffees for all three of us and started a fresh pot. When I dropped Sookie’s off with her, she was watching an episode of House. If I’d stuck around, I would’ve ended up going back to sleep… I’d definitely keep it in mind if I had trouble sleeping again tonight though.
I ended up going to get a shower. I hadn’t done much more than sleep since my last one, but shit in general was too grating for me to sit still.
When I came out, House was paused and Sookie had dosed off snuggled up with Jack while CMC stood watch over her… He gave me a nod on my way through.
Smom was tooling around in the kitchen and gave me a big smile when she saw me. “Ooh, yay. Think you can help me out?”
I jokingly groaned. “You too, Smom?”
She giggled. “Not cooking. Finding stuff.”
“What are you looking for?”
“Sookie’s electric griddle. It would be easier if she just let me help her, but I can’t find a thing, dontcha know.”
I went over to the pantry and pulled it out for her. “What’s next?”
“Ahhhh. I think I got everything else I need… How are the boys? Did they sleep alright?”
“I think so. I didn’t notice if they were up. They must’ve worn themselves out worrying.”
“I wish that worked for me. Jim and I beat each other up all night. Tossing and turning… I don’t know how you do it… all the ugliness.”
“I do my share of tossing and turning.” Understatement.
She nodded and started puttering around again. “I know stuff like that happens… It’s so scary that it happened to Sookie… too close to home… I hate it. Just hate it. How are you doing?”
“Yah. You… you had just as much goin’ on yesterday as Eric and Sookie, kiddo. One of your friends was at his wits end, the other one was nearly killed and goodness knows what else coulda happened. How are you holdin’ up?”
“It was scary as hell, but I’m fine. Sookie’s a trooper. She’s been through a lot. I’m sure she’ll bounce back from this.” It was sweet as hell that she thought to ask.
After I poured a cup of coffee (and wished Sookie had bigger cups because I was spending as much time refilling as I was drinking) I grabbed the ashtray and sat down at the table.
When she was done setting up the griddle on the table and plugging it in, she bent over and kissed my cheek. “Well I just wanna thank you. I’ve never seen Eric so upset. I know you had to have a lot to do with keeping him focused so you two could be smart.”
I did what I usually did. The copout. I nodded. Even though it didn’t happen often, it always felt weird to be thanked for doing my job. I’d heard other people say ‘you’re welcome’ and it just sounded conceited. Like they would’ve stood by and done nothing… Being thanked for looking out for my friends was just off the weirdness charts.
Smom patted the back of my shoulder. “Can you watch the pancakes so I don’t let ‘em burn while I watch the sausage and bacon?”
“I think I can manage that.”
She smiled and started drawing… She used a soup spoon to make a row of 4 backwards Js and then a row of backwards Cs out of batter. I watched her use a measuring cup to go back over them all with more batter… When she flipped them the Js and Cs were just a little darker than the rest of the pancake. The next batch was As then Js then a batch with a couple of Ss and the rest were Ms… Monogrammed pancakes. She said that it was so she could keep track to make sure she made enough, but I thought she liked doing it because it was cute as hell. Since she was marking hers with little flowers, she giggled instead of argued and changed the subject… since Sookie was teaching me to cook, she told me that the ‘just add water’ pancake mix was the best way to make funnel cakes… And then told me that fried Oreos were just dipped in the batter and sunk in a fryer. I told her to hurry up with breakfast because she was making me hungry.
Smom was nearly done with breakfast when I heard laughing coming from the other side of the house.
The boys were awake and probably already up Sookie’s butt…
I went to check on things and Jack was leaving to go get his shower… Sookie was promising that Carm would keep an eye on her while he was gone and then they’d go put their lunches together when he was done.
She had Carm grab her keyboard and mouse for her and she sat back… Even when she was busted up, she still couldn’t just veg out. Part of me wanted to laugh, the other part was tempted to knock her out.
“What in the hell could you possibly be doing this early?”
“I’m posting to my Twitter and my Facebook so that my students don’t worry… I’m emailing my substitute the POD… and then I’m planning a vacation.”
“A vacation? Seriously. You need to sleep.”
She shot me a dirty look. “No. You need to sleep. I need a hot cup of coffee.”
“Not gonna happen on my watch… Where are you going then?”
“I haven’t decided yet… Things have been crazy and Eric joked about disappearing for a weekend. I figured that since you guys closed a case yesterday, this weekend would be as good as any.”
“What are the choices?”
“I’m thinking… either Nags Head or Miami… I need to look at water temp and waves.”
“You’re going surfing?” Did she want to be chum?
“I think so…”
CMC cut her off. “Salt water will help heal those cuts faster… and that boy of mine will do anything for a chance to surf.”
She smiled at him. “I’m thinking the quiet time will do him wonders too.”
I started shaking my head. “Unless he has to save you from a real shark. Then his head explodes.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Not this time of year. The water temp is low enough that they’ve migrated.”
“So you’re just going to handle him through a weekend vacay?”
“No… I won’t need to. He’ll relax on his own once he sees I’m ok. I still need to talk to him, but the only handling I need to do is get him to agree to go.”
Carm gave Sookie a worried look. “What happens if daddy has to work? You said you’d be our babysitter.”
“I doubt your daddy will get called since I won’t be here to cause trouble. If he does, then Had and Tara are my backup.”
“Yeah? What about moving?”
“As far as I know, your daddy hasn’t heard from any moving companies. I think we’re going to have to go down to New Orleans to pack your house up.” Fuck. I hadn’t even thought about that. I didn’t want people I knew to see how the house looked. I didn’t want people I knew to see what Amelia could’ve done to the house out of spite. Shit.
I groaned when I realized that it might be unavoidable. “I guess I need to call Ame then. I got sidetracked.”
She nodded. “You could just drive down and get everything that means anything to you and hire a cleaning crew to clear out the rest. It doesn’t cost much. That’s what I did when I left Bill.” Oh, thank God.
“That sounds like a winning plan.”
“I can keep an eye on the boys overnight. You can have a crew come get all the furniture you don’t want or need… box up what you want… easy peasy.”
“How long are you out of work?”
She shrugged. “The rest of the week. I was going to make the vacay with Eric a long weekend. Schedule it for sometime next week.” Done. That would be perfect. Rent a trailer, call a moving company, call a cleaning crew… I’d already given notice with the landlord. I’d already scheduled everything to be shut off. Box up the boys stuff, my clothes, the electronics and my weights. I wouldn’t need any help. The boys and I could go to Target and get the incidentals like kitchen stuff and whatnots… fuck… a plan… a solid plan. I could do that.
“Doable. Since we’re getting new furniture from Had, there won’t be much…”
“I’ll ask Momma if the box truck is available. It’s bigger than a trailer and smaller than a semi. You won’t have to worry about wearing out the 4-banger in your Trooper with your weights.”
“Don’t make fun of my truck. Ford snob.”
She grinned wide enough that it had to hurt. “I’m not… I’m making fun of the engine.”
I flipped her off when Jack turned away, but… Sookie was allowed to make fun of my truck since she’d just solved the problem of moving without anyone seeing my house. Eric sure as hell wouldn’t want to leave her side and the boys wouldn’t want to go and risk running into Ame.
When Jack was done with his shower, he came out and ordered his brother to get his. Carm didn’t like Jack’s tone anymore than I did, so he ‘accidently’ stomped on his brother’s foot on his way to the bathroom.
Sookie checked her email for the hotel reservation confirmation and then let Jack help her up to go with him to the kitchen. The boy was hovering.
The first thing Jack did when they got to the kitchen was put a bottle of tea in front of Sookie… then he started pulling out the stuff to make his lunch.
Smom cooed and offered to make it for him because she missed packing school lunches, but he shook his head and told her that they liked making their own lunches without mentioning it was because their mother gave them food poisoning. He did take her up on her offer to cut a piece of cake for their desserts though… and she managed to talk him into letting her help make containers of fruit salad for them too.
She helped him clear away the lunch stuff to pull everyone’s plates out of the oven.
I nearly shit when I was the only one at the table to use syrup… They all stared at me like I was the odd duck for not using preserves. It was probably a taste of how Eric felt being surrounded by syrup users…
“I’m not a freak. Stop staring at me.”
CMC’s nose wrinkled up. “That stuff smells like piss.”
Smom swatted his leg. “You stop… Alc, he’s just being smug because he isn’t a minority for once. He always heard plenty of crap about using preserves onboard.”
“He’s still a minority. He’s just stumbled on a little cult. Eric already turned the boys.”
CMC chuckled. “He couldn’t turn you, huh?”
Jack, the little traitor, started laughing. “He hasn’t even tried it!”
Fucking rat. “You’re grounded.” Truth be told, I was surprised that he was smiling, let alone laughing considering how he’d been earlier. I’d let him make fun of me until he left for school to keep him going.
He kept laughing and slid his plate over to bump into mine. “Try it. It’s good.”
I growled at him. “I’ll try it if you tell me why you won’t eat mustard anymore.”
He started explaining like there was nothing to it. “Because one of Eric’s friends in high school got sick after eating three bottles on a bet. The kid got an infection in his mouth from it. I don’t want an infection in my mouth. Eric said his friend smelled like something died farting in his mouth for like a month.” Smom mumbled something about ‘poor Dave’.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “An infection?”
Sookie started giggling as she nodded. “A yeast infection… Thrush. Mustard is full of vinegar. If you eat too much, it’ll clear out the good bacteria in your mouth and ‘bad yeast’ has a party.”
“Is that why you don’t eat it too?”
“No. You don’t want to hear why I won’t go near yellow mustard while you’re eating.”
“That bad, huh?”
She puffed out her cheeks like she was going to be sick. “Yeah. And I think you owe Jack one taste test.”
I jokingly scowled at the boys because they were watching me like I was the best show on earth. One taste and I was pissed… I’d been making fun of Eric and his Tutti Fruity ass for years… It tasted like strawberry shortcake. I grabbed Jack’s plate and scooted mine over in trade while he ‘fought’ to get his back and laughed, “We told you it was good! Get your own!”
I gave him his plate back, but I stole a few bites of his and Carm’s just to get them laughing again.
The boys were putting their dishes in the sink when Sam and Tara came in… Sam balked, but he managed to straighten himself out enough to give Sookie a kiss on the cheek and fuss at her for scaring everyone… Poor Tara, she just wept. No noise, no words. Tears just fell from her eyes like someone turned on a spigot… And of course, it got Smom going again.
Sookie sent the boys to get their bookbags and reminded them to plug in their PSPs and she let Tara go on like that for a few minutes before she said anything.
“Are you almost done?”
Tara shook her head and whimpered, “Just another minute.”
Sookie reached behind her to the microwave and set the timer for two minutes. “That’s all you get.”
I watched. I know it was probably creepy because I wasn’t the only one, but so help me, I couldn’t not watch… When the timer went off, Tara cleared her throat and grabbed a paper towel on her way out of the kitchen, telling the boys to grab gym clothes because they were taking Sookie’s yoga shift for her.
I couldn’t help it. As soon as I kissed the kids goodbye and closed the door behind them, I asked. “What was that about?”
Sookie shrugged. “We’ve been together through a lot, me and Tara… We set a time limit on pity parties for each other. Since she’s had 5 miscarriages in 4 years, it’s kind of come in handy. She understands what it’s like to be force fed someone’s grief better than anyone.”
“Shit… I guess she would.”
“When she gets home tonight, Sam will have to nurse her through the real thing like Daddy always did on my end…” Sookie stood up slowly and started for the back of the house. “…Guess I’d better get to my statement, right?”
It hadn’t taken any time for Sookie to fix her statement. She’d typed most of it up one of the times she was awake from getting sick during the night. Once she hit the print button, I went back to get dressed and grab her statement from the printer.
I was on my way back to the front of the house when Hunter and Had came in. Both of them had their hands full of grocery bags.
Hunter gave me a funny look. “A suit? Sookie stoned enough to change the breakfast dress code?”
“I actually have to be a grown up today. I need to make a showing at the field office to give a rundown of what happened yesterday.”
“You look like you hate it…”
Had elbowed him. “He looks good.”
I laughed at her. “He’s right. I hate it.”
“It’s a good fit.”
“You’re just stalling, aren’t you?”
She closed her eyes and sighed. “Yeah.”
“You want to just slip back out? Try again later? She’s worse now than she was when JB saw her last night. The swelling and bruising got pretty bad. She sounds better though now that she can feel her mouth.”
She shook her head. “How long before she’s all healed up?”
“How long do you think you can avoid her?”
I shook my head. Sookie was going to need a month and maybe some plastic surgery to unfuck her face. “You might want to get it out of the way then.”
Hunter took her bags from her and walked into the kitchen and Had stood there waiting for his reaction. He pecked Smom’s cheek and ran down a list of all the sandwich fixings and fresh breads Linda had put together for lunch and mentioned that there was a ‘not for pussies’ tub of shmear and fresh bagels too…
It was like he was stalling too. When he finally turned around and spotted her, his mouth opened like he was going to say something, but it was just stuck like that… it made Had whimper.
She groaned when she forced herself to take the first step and I stayed a step behind her.
She looked like she was watching the floor until we were completely in the kitchen and she stopped dead in her tracks. Since I could only see the back of her head, Sookie’s face was all I had to go on.
She tried smiling. “No twin swap for a while, huh?”
Had just started shaking her head slowly. “I’m not laughing.”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Yes it is. How are you feeling?”
“I’m sore. I got the shit beat out of me. How would you feel?”
“Had. I hate the fuss. You know that. This shit’ll go away just like every other goddamn bruise we’ve ever had. Stop looking at me like that.”
“Neither of us…”
“Stop. Go to work. Tara cried enough for the whole family. You don’t need to get upset too.”
“This isn’t spilled milk, Sook…”
Sookie shot me a look and nodded to the door. She wanted Had out… I didn’t know if Had was upsetting her or if she just didn’t want Had to get more upset. It probably would’ve been better if the boys had still been at the house. Had could’ve faked it if they were around.
I put my hand around her arm and pulled gently, but she jerked away from me… I grabbed her arm again, holding a little tighter, but still… I was surprised that she finally let me pull her back and take her out front.
“Alright, what’s got you going?”
She opened her mouth and ended up closing it again so that she could slam into me. It only took a second for me to feel tears soaking through my shirt.
“Had? She doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. C’mon. She’s going to be fine.”
She shook her head and tightened her grip on my shirt.
“Had, say something.”
“She doesn’t look like she should’ve made it.”
“She knows how lucky she is.”
“Where’s Eric? He should… he should… he’s the reason…”
“Shhhhh… You can’t blame him. Not for what happened to her.”
“Because…” I shouldn’t have told her. I wouldn’t have told anyone else…
“Alc… Why not?”
“This wasn’t because we were on the case… What happened to Sookie would’ve happened eventually anyway… Bill arranged it.”
She let go and stepped away from me. Her fists were balled up at her sides. “Bill!?”
“Shhhh. No one else can know. It’s part of an active case. Bill made the Vampire’s American documents as part of a trade. Bill arranged for Sookie to be one of the victims.”
She sniffled. “Why are you telling me then?”
“Because I’m scared not to.”
She coughed out a laugh and came back to hug me.
“Eric’s still asleep. She was too uncomfortable to rest and he was up with her most of the night… She wants to get some stuff done before he crawls up her ass about taking it easy…”
“She should take it easy though.”
“I know that. You know that… Try telling her… She isn’t doing anything that doesn’t include her laptop though. We’re all assholes right now.”
“What did you do?”
“I keep icing her coffee and CMC made her go inside instead of getting a chill. Smom took over her kitchen… The only ones not in the doghouse are the ones that are still sleeping.”
Her arms tightened around me. “Thank you… She’d hit us.”
“I think she’ll dream about hitting the rest of us… You alright?”
She shook her head. “I want to die. I hate seeing her like that.”
“She’ll get better. I get the bonus of making fun of her now.”
“What? Why would you make fun of that?”
“Not what she looks like… that she couldn’t handle you.”
“What makes you think she…?”
“She tried to piss you off so you wouldn’t be upset… she mentioned bruises you both got.”
She narrowed her eyes and whipped her head around to stare at the door like it had done something wrong. “Oh! You’d better make fun of her then.”
I started laughing so she slapped my back with both hands and started squirming, but I didn’t let her go. She was pissed that I’d distracted her… I’d handled her by proxy.
“You think that’s funny!?”
“You bet your ass I do… Handled.”
She slugged my side one last time before she couldn’t keep from laughing any more. “Thanks… you big tard.”
I let go of her and slapped her ass. “You’re welcome… No go unfuck your face and hair so you can get going. Hunter’s going to be late.”
She stretched up and gave me a quick kiss. “You aren’t going to tell anyone that you handled me, are you?”
“We can negotiate when we have more time… I’ll just call my lawyer…”
She lifted her knee and slid it up my thigh… My back was covered in goosebumps before her leg passed over the front of my pants. “You want me to kick your ass?”
“Definitely, but right now, you need to get going.”
“And ‘staying quiet’ doesn’t allow for you walking back into the house with a hard on.”
“Who says blondes are dumb?”
She giggled and stepped back. “Anyone who’s met Jason.”
With her makeup fixed so that she didn’t look melted and her hair straightened out so that it wasn’t obvious that I grabbed her head while she was ‘beating me up’, Had stopped in the kitchen and kissed Sookie’s cheek on her way out and apologized for freaking out.
Hunter and Had were on their way out just in time for Pam to stop by. I couldn’t believe she had the balls to show her face at Sookie’s house. Since I was changing into a mascara-free shirt, Hunter was the one to open the door for her. That obtuse twat actually thought we could ‘ride to the office together’.
Not only ‘no’, but ‘fuck no’.
I wouldn’t ‘ride share’ with Pam unless I was part of her funeral procession.
I gave Sookie and Smom a quick peck on my way out and pretended to need to talk to Hunter about something on my way out.
The bitch was more than a little obvious… She followed me outside…
I ended up leaning on Had’s window. “Give me a good reason to not shoot that bitch.”
She hummed while she pretended to think about it. “Sookie food is better than jail food.”
“That’s a good one. Give me more.”
Hunter offered, “No tits in jail.”
I laughed, “Not the kind you want to see anyway. Good point. Got anything else?”
Had shook her head. “I can’t… the way she’s looking at me right now, I kind of want you to draw down on the twat. I’ll back you up if you ‘drop your gun’. Accidental discharges happen all the time.”
“You’re a bad influence. I almost think I could get away with it…”
“You could… In fact… If you’re willing to get winged, we could get away with saying she started it.”
“Aww… Now where was that mental image when I was trying to get to sleep last night? Y’all go on. She’s not catching on to the fact that no one wants her around.”
Hunter grabbed the stick shift and put the car in neutral. “If you’re going to shoot her, I’m staying. I want to watch.”
“I’m not going to open fire. I’m going to run for my truck and tear out of here as fast as possible.”
Pam was annoying me on purpose.
Pam tailgated me all the way to Shreveport and even tried to call me a couple of times. I almost ignored it when Had called me to give me several, very important reasons to not shoot Pam once she’d dropped Hunter off at school… Specifically, how much more fun she was than any potential cell mate I could have.
Pam parked next to me in the parking garage.
Pam followed me like she was on a short leash through security checkpoints and check-in.
Pam squeezed into the elevator to stand behind me.
I couldn’t get rid of her.
As soon as the elevator doors slid open, I could smell fresh paint. The long hallway was white straight down to the window at the other end. Federal Building boring. Even The Pentagon had used the White Witch from Narnia as their interior designer.
There was a woman waiting next to the elevator doors and I thought she was just waiting for her ride until she held her hand out for a shake. “Special Agent Herveaux?”
I shook her hand and nodded. She was almost as tall as I was in her heels… and wider than a house. Not literally, but she was either about to give birth or she was smuggling Haitians in her maternity suit.
“I’m Special Agent Robin Malloy. Call me Robin. I’m the director’s assistant.”
“Alc. Nice to meet you.” I didn’t introduce Pam because I figured they’d met on Saturday, but Pam held her hand out…
Robin looked at it like the last thing she wanted to do was touch her, but eventually shook her hand and turned to walk with us. “The director is anxious to meet you. Will Special Agent Northman be along?”
“No. He stayed at home…”
“We heard about your personal involvement in the case. I’m sorry. How is everyone?” Fuck me. A human… With feelings. I actually believed that she was really concerned.
“All things considered, everyone is pretty good.”
“The director wants to know if Miss Stackhouse is feeling up for company. He mentioned that he would send flowers…”
I winced. “Yeah. Flowers would be a bad call… She’s pretty mobile. I doubt she’ll be up for company today though.”
She nodded. “I’ll let him know…” She led us down the long hallway to just about the halfway point to a set of doors. When I pulled open the door for Robin, I darted in right behind her and let Pam catch the door in her back. When she called me an asshole, it pissed her off that I didn’t react.
There were two more people waiting just inside at the reception area. I was almost snowblind from the contrast. All of the florescent lights in the overheads were off because lamps were being used and the walls were so dark red they might as well be brown… not the norm. Not for me anyway.
Robin cleared her throat and she looked like she was half way between annoyed and amused. “Special Agent Herveaux, Special Agent in charge Ravenscroft, this is Maxwell Lee.”
He shook our hands. “I’m in the public relations and media office. Special Agent In Charge Ravenscroft, I’ve been sent to find out if you have a picture you’d like for us to use for the press release regarding the apprehension of the Vampire?”
She started shaking her head, but since I was in the mood to fuck with her I whipped out my cell phone and pulled up the picture I took when Jason hugged her and called her ‘mom’. “How about this one?”
Lee snorted out a laugh that included spit. “No! That one’s great, but I think we’ll need to go to my office to take one that’s more professional. If you’ll follow me…”
Pam shot a dirty look in my direction before she followed him, but it was short lived. Before she was around the corner, someone spotted her. ‘Ravenscroft, right? Way to go.’ I watched her shake two more hands before the egotistical bitch was out of sight. Just what she needed. More validation for doing jackshit.
Robin was rolling her eyes when I turned around. “Alc, this is Special Agent Orin Malloy.” The guy was a little taller than me like Eric, but he was a bean pole… and so damn pale he was see-through.
I shook his hand told him it was nice to meet him.
“Just Orrie, formally with Organized Crime. I took a desk so that our hours are more regular with the new baby and all. Officially, I’m your POC. Anything you need. The director put me in place to be your bitch.” Organized crime would explain his ‘tan’. He probably spent most of his time in the back of a ‘maid service’ van doing surveillance, but I couldn’t figure out why we’d need a Point Of Contact when we had a SAIC.
I gave him a nod. “Good call. I missed a lot when mine were tiny.”
“Jackson and Carmichael, right? I’ve had your files since Wednesday so that I can line things up. You already have a preference to evidence team leaders?”
“Yeah. We’ve dealt with Gervaise. We prefer Bobby Burnham.”
He snorted. “Everyone does. I’ll make sure Gervaise is at the bottom of rotation for you so that you get the chance to prioritize the rest as you meet them… Since you don’t have an office here, I’ll need all of your contact information. I’ll be checking in with you every morning.”
“I can do that. We’ll be working out of Northman’s kitchen most of the time when we aren’t in the field.”
“You’re wife doesn’t let you have friends over?”
“Happily separated and Northman’s fiancé feeds us well. She has a crock pot and knows how to use it.”
“How is she?”
“She’s a willful bitch is how she is. She was refilling coffee and folding laundry like she wasn’t full of staples before 0800. She’ll probably run out of steam before lunch, but you can’t tell her anything.”
He rolled his eyes in Robin’s direction. “Sounds familiar. This one caught a bullet in her thigh last year. I came back from the pharmacy and she was organizing the shoes in the bottom of our closet.”
She snorted and started walking. “How long had I been talking about spring cleaning? It needed to be done. Come on Alc. The director is expecting you.” Robin might actually be one of the few women that Had and Sookie couldn’t scare off.
Robin didn’t bother knocking when she opened the door to the conference room.
There were a bunch of suits sitting around the table with laptops and an assistant taking minutes in the corner. Some of the suits looked familiar, like I’d seen them lurking around in NOLA, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of names to go with the faces.
One of the unfamiliar suits got up and made his way to me with his hand out. “The man of the hour! It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Special Agent Herveaux. Assistant Director Andrew Marshall, at your service. Just call me Drew though.” The guy was animated… like Jason + a suit, a British accent and 15 years.
“Nice to meet you. Just call me Alc…”
“I’d tell you their names, but I haven’t bothered remembering them myself. For the purpose of this meeting, I’ve been referring to them as Red Tie, Blue Tie, Tragic Tie, so on and so on…. How do you take your coffee?”
“With sugar.” Any minute the real AD would walk into the room. Seriously. I started looking for cameras.
“Right, right… Have a seat, won’t you. Robin, you’ll make sure that Miss Ravenscroft is notified of our coffee order and that we aren’t holding the meeting just so she can make an entrance in her designer imposer suit.”
He looked like he was thinking about it for a sec. “Noooo… Squeeze something into conversation that will reallllly get her going.”
“Her ex-husband’s shiny, new Canadian citizenship and how England wouldn’t let him hide from her there… Yes… That should do nicely…” Robin snickered on her way out and then ‘Drew’ waved to a seat on the empty side of the table. I was just sitting down when he held his arms away from his sides. “Ok. Quick. Who am I?” With everyone lined up on the long conference table, it looked like The Last Super in suits. The guy was a trip. God help us if he ever met Jason.
“If you haven’t learned their names yet, how do you know which one is Judas?”
He smiled and showed all his teeth. “She’ll be along with our coffee in a tick…” Oooooh. That was promising. He wasn’t just being funny when he was trying to piss her off. “So… Yes. We’ve just been wading through the ‘wealth’ of information regarding this case. When I say ‘wealth’, I do mean that we’re tripping over gaps in our communications with your team and require repelling gear to get over what we do have. We’re going to need your help getting through the crags…” I wanted to kill Pam. She didn’t even keep the suits informed of progress. “BUT first things first. How are Special Agent Northman and the missus?”
“They’re good. She’s got a hell of a family to help her through and his parents are in town right now. The house is crawling with help. The only thing they can’t do is stop Sookie from doing anything.”
“Ahhhh… Perhaps Ravenscroft can teach Miss Stackhouse to do nothing. No one does it more efficiently than she does, after all…” He sounded just about as bitter as I was. “Alright then… Blue Tie and Scary Tie down at the end are here with the annoying little tidbit that your psycho should’ve been in a Brazilian detention instead of enjoying an American Fleet Week since he’s such a raving lunatic, his command was afraid to reprimand him for violent behavior towards shipmates. Oh yes, and the Fort Lauderdale police need to work on their secretarial skills since we weren’t looking for a ships’ cook, we were looking for a frighteningly clever Cryptologist. CS, CT I don’t suppose it matters much, yes? That we were looking for an idiot who couldn’t get through proper training when all along we should’ve been looking for a genius with top secret clearance and more OCDs than clinically possible… MORONS!… Who was it that made the connection that he was in the military?” His rant was aimed at Blue Tie and Scary Tie. They looked everywhere but him and it was hard to not laugh until he slid a file across the table to me. I scanned the first few pages and started to wonder how the guy managed to blend at all.
“That would be Sookie.”
“How did she make that connection?”
“It was a sudden segue that came up on an unrelated topic. My kids were watching a movie while we ate lunch. One of them came into the kitchen for something and she asked how they liked the movie. He mentioned a fleet of ships… Sookie has military in the family and knew about Fleet Week. Because of researching the case with her students, she knew the timeframe that the first victim was in Florida. She put it all together pretty quickly.”
“Impressive. The only problem with such an astute woman is that you get away with nothing.”
I nodded. “Less than nothing.”
“Alright… why don’t we attack this chronologically… When did Miss Stackhouse start researching the case?”
“I’d have to ask her to be certain. She mentioned that Lin Danai was part of the research info that Rene Lanier presented to her.”
“Rene Lanier’s involvement spilled over into the vampire case as well?” I got the sudden urge to throw up. The idea that Pam was taking credit for that boy’s work…
“Actually, it was Lanier’s involvement in the Vampire case that inspired Northman to call him about the forged documents.”
He stared at me while a bunch of the suits started typing like mad or grumbled back and forth to each other. “Let’s… Hmmm… Alright then. Start at the beginning?”
“The beginning of the case or the beginning of actually making some headway?”
“The headway… Yes. Definitely the headway.”
“Russell Edgington, part of the New Orleans PTF, came to us Thursday, October 31st with news that the ISPs for the most recent lyric email to Ravenscroft was a match for other, more recent emails. We still aren’t sure why Edgington hadn’t already looked at the ISPs. My kids were sick at the time, so Northman drove to Bon Temps to talk to Corbett Stackhouse to find out who had access to his computers or if his wifi was unsecured or easily hacked. When he got there, he found out that most of the Stackhouse family had the flu so he decided to wait until morning to go talk to him. Sookie didn’t know anything other than he was in the area on a case. I followed him a few hours later since I couldn’t contact him by phone. I mentioned the ISP in front of Sookie and she offered because she does the payroll and has access to the Stackhouse Landscaping computer for their employee files. At that time, she had no knowledge that we were working on the Vampire case because Northman hadn’t disclosed anything. It was later that night that she got a call from Lanier that we found out about Serial Interrogative’s interest in the case. Lanier was calling to tell Miss Stackhouse that Maudette Pickens’s body had been found. After I accused my partner of disclosing information about an active case to a civilian because I had no knowledge of the club Miss Stackhouse sponsored, she explained the purpose of the club and specifically Lanier’s talent for noticing patterns. She turned her files over to us without being asked. As it turns out, she’d already been snubbed by our Director in New Orleans when she’d tried to contribute the club’s findings… Miss Stackhouse and Lanier had uncovered the additional patterns that we hadn’t noticed because there were so many as well as the lead that he’d been stalking them based on their birthdays.”
“This club’s purpose is what?”
“A combination of things really. As a high school teacher, Miss Stackhouse sees her share of the emo/goth type of kids. Their obsessions with death and the macabre inspired her to start the club as a more creative and healthy outlet since she took Psych classes in college like some people take pottery. They started looking into mostly active cases as a guessing game so that when the cases were solved, they could get some validation from what they’d been able to gather through various media sources. She found out quickly that Rene Lanier has one hell of a mind… The boy solved the Jessup case after the 6th victim. He went all over. This field office and Dallas’s turned him away. I compared his notes to mine and we could’ve had Jessup…”
I nodded, wondering why the fuck he was surprised since Pam claimed she’d already given him credit. “The kid is brilliant.”
“Alc, you understand… I need to see those notes.”
“I’ll email them to you when I get back to the house.”
“Yes, yes… please do. The daft prick who ignored that boy will be finding himself at the Anchorage field office… do continue.”
“As it turns out, Miss Stackhouse and our most recent victim shared a couple of common friends. One of them is Deputy Kenya Jones…”
“We received her statement via fax earlier this morning when I assured her that she wouldn’t be required. She’s just lovely.” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not, so I just kept going.
“…The other being Arlene Fowler. Miss Fowler told Sookie that they’d been out together when de Castro approached Miss Pickens with champagne and a strawberry in it. Sookie is how we had a face. Because of the photos, we knew exactly who we were looking for. Sookie compared the time cards to the times that the lyric emails were sent and looked at the keystroke log on the Stackhouse Landscaping computers to tell us that Victor Madden had paid a bill online at the same time. The next day was when she made the suggestion that we contact Fort Lauderdale about anyone who’d been reported missing during Fleet Week and we had a name. We took Sunday to move and on Monday jumped right back in. Northman and I spent a bulk of the day relocating Madden and his family because he was an unwilling accomplice and searching the apartments. On Tuesday, Northman contacted the families of the other victims to have them contribute any last photos of the victims including their birthdays and collecting the media and evidence files that were found at the Madden apartments…”
“Yes… how was it that you discovered that touch?” The better question would be why didn’t he know that already?
“When we interviewed Madden, he told us that he’d been threatened with a video of a girl being stung to death by wasps while tied to a tree. I looked it up, figuring I’d find a hoax video on youtube, but I found an article about the wasp attack. We’d already been to the apartment that Madden shared with his girlfriend, Holly Cleary. We used the public records address believing that he just hadn’t moved all of his things yet. De Castro wasn’t just using Madden to send emails. He’d stolen his identity to rent the apartment, establish utilities and purchase the Bonneville and he registered the Airstream trailer in Holly Cleary’s name. Sam Merlotte was contacted and he provided copies of the leases. Victor Madden was on the lease with Holly Cleary and de Castro’s face, but Madden’s identity was on the one for the second. He was setting Madden up as a fall guy, possibly all along.”
“This is what inspired your Idea to contact Mr. Lanier about the IDs.”
“Northman actually. He asked Deputy Jones if there was a known problem with that kind of thing in the area. She had knowledge of Miss Stackhouse’s club well before we did and already had respect for Mr. Lanier. We were meeting because of the clues pointing to the Loudermilk plantation anyway so Northman invited him to come over and share what he knew.”
“Yes, yes. The Loudermilk plantation… How did we arrive there?” It was bizarre that there were a dozen people in the room, but Marshall might as well have been the only one there. That mother fucker filled a room… and he knew it.
“While Northman was collecting evidence from the police station he noticed a large aerial view of the town… Deputy Jones suggested the area on a hunch because of how secluded it was and to be honest timing was a factor. It’s a popular hunting ground because even though it’s abandoned, it has a working well. Since hunting season was about to kick off, she wanted to get out there before the foot traffic scared off the Vampire… But… That night, we were working in Northman’s kitchen. Miss Stackhouse noticed the list of songs from the lyrics Ravenscroft had been getting. She mulled them over and without knowing about Deputy Jones’s suggestion, she came to the conclusion that the lyrics were pointing us to the Loudermilk plantation too.”
“How does she know the property?”
“Her father owns it. It belonged to her maternal grandparents. He hadn’t done anything with the property since they died.”
“And Corbett Stackhouse willingly gave you permission to search?”
I nodded. “Northman called and explained that we wanted to search it. Done. He had no qualms about cooperating.”
“Right, right… and the meeting where we discovered that Lanier already knew who our forger is.”
“Yeah. Northman called Jennifer Cater in. We could’ve pulled him in ourselves, but because of Northman being engaged to Compton’s ex-wife, we didn’t want to give Compton’s lawyers an out. Northman knew Cater would make sure that Lanier’s name didn’t get overlooked because we have a work history with her and knew she wouldn’t try to take credit.”
“The Laotian slave trafficking case from 2 years ago, yes?”
“You mean the Laotian slave trafficking case that Eric solved on a hunch while we were cleaning up the bodies of little girls who washed up from the Gulf? That’s the one.”
“Do we have a motive for why Compton was producing false IDs? We couldn’t be lucky enough that he’s just greedy, could we?”
“Of course not… He knows how close and involved Miss Stackhouse is with her students. At the moment, we’re working on the theory that he did it in the hopes that they’d hurt themselves… In an effort to hurt her. He’s what they call ‘jilted’. Once Compton was picked up, we started collecting IDs…”
“I’m curious. How do you obtain HUNDREDS of forged identification cards from teenagers without a warrant?”
“We asked them.”
“You’re having a piss!”
“I’m not. Eric and I went to Bon Temps School Thursday morning. The principal called an assembly and Northman explained that we needed them and weren’t interested in busting their chops for having fake IDs. We had more than 40 by the end of the assembly and leads on other students at different schools in the area that had them… It exploded. Before we left the school, one student had contacted a cousin who works at a bar in Shreveport and collected several. Another student had spread the word at cheer camp and knew of students out of state that had them. When we got to the school to pick up my kids, Miss Stackhouse had more that had been surrendered later. Dozens were brought to us at the football game on Friday. Northman’s mailbox was full of them Saturday morning. Miss Stackhouse made an announcement on Saturday night to the underage crowd at Dirges and we got more than a hundred from the thousand or so kids there. It was all word of mouth.”
“I’m thanking Twitter.”
“Infernal site… I can’t get my daughter to communicate any other way.”
I snorted at him. “How old?”
“I know a guy who could probably crash it for a weekend for you.”
“Tempting. I might take you up on that if I get past the fears that she’d hurt herself in her grief… So… I think we’ve covered the major breakthroughs to the case, yes? How much do you know about the events leading up to Miss Stackhouse’s confrontation with de Castro?”
“All of it. Miss Stackhouse left the house Sunday morning with Northman’s mother and sister and my two kids. Their plan was to go to church and go to Shreveport to do some shopping for the wedding. On a hunch, Sookie stopped at the florist because she’d been trying to think of how de Castro had come by all of the information he’d based his patterns on. Specifically the birthdays… If all of his victims had been over 16, then it would’ve been reasonable to assume that Compton was using his hacked access to the DMV mainframe to find potential victims, but since some were so young, that wasn’t exactly possible. Sookie had the idea to check into how much information a florist asks for… It fit. Girls get flowers on their birthday all the time. In fact there was a batch of arrangements at the florist ready to go. Most of them were for birthdays. He had a perfect cover. Someone would call and order flowers for a girl, include a happy birthday message, their home address and work or school… “
“Some faked polite conversation with the bubbly girl excited to get flowers when he delivered them would give him the party plans, yes… I do hate a smart criminal.”
“Tell me about it… Miss Stackhouse recognized him and called Northman. He kept her on the phone while we got ready. I called Ravenscroft. On our way out of the house, Northman had a family friend call the station to dispatch our backup. The call with Miss Stackhouse ended when we were about halfway there. It was an abrupt disconnection after she spoke to de Castro and mentioned that he snuck up on her. When we arrived at the florist, we waited for backup after sending our family home since they’d been waiting in the car. I assembled my Barrett in case he tried to run. We weren’t waiting for long before Northman’s phone rang again. Miss Stackhouse had gotten to the florist’s phone after being tasered. When he caught her the line was left open so Northman was stuck listening to what the guy was saying to his fiancé… de Castro had mentioned that his ‘friend’ had been right about her. He talked to her while she was unconscious. Soft, strong, fresh, prefect… Told her she’d be his favorite. He mentioned Northman while he was talking to her. He knew about them. When she regained consciousness, he continued to talk to her and we found out later that he’d climbed on top of her. In an effort to get away she got her thighs around his ribs and when he fell back, she punched him in the groin and started to run. He caught up to her to knock a stack of metal shop shelves over on top of her that held several of the standard green vases you usually see arrangements in. The line was open the whole time. The last thing we heard before Deputy Jones arrived was the shelves being knocked over…”
“And where was your esteemed colleague, SAIC Ravenscroft while you were listening to Northman’s fiancé get brutalized and mauled by a deranged serial rapist?” The question I’d been waiting for.
“We don’t know.” Oh, and the whispering and typing started all over again.
“You… don’t… know?”
“Yeah, see… She was the closest to the florist of any of us. She was called before we ever left Northman’s house. We didn’t expect Deputy Jones’s assistance at all because Bon Temps has very limited resources. We were waiting for Ravenscroft and we were about to try to take the building by ourselves when Deputy Jones arrived.”
“According to Deputy Jones’s statement, Miss Stackhouse’s handgun was disassembled when you breached the back room.”
I nodded as I pulled Sookie’s statement out of my pocket and pushed it across the table. “According to Sookie he had it pushed into her neck behind her ear. There’s a bruise. He put it down when he started removing the buttons from her dress. He took the magazine out, but to be safe, when she tried to get away she grabbed it and broke it down and kept the guide rod. He tried to reassemble the gun but dropped it when she broke his ribs…”
“Three. She broke three of his ribs.”
“I believe it. I’ve seen her work out.” I took out the map I’d printed out, drawn the routes we’d all taken to get to the florist and written out the miles and times that Google maps gave and slid it over to him.
He opened it, looked it over and then passed it to ‘Shite Tie’. “That’s too sexy to be official. Put it in something professional and bring it back to me.” The guy took off like he was being chased.
I continued, “Like I said… We don’t know where she was or what she was doing. As far as I know she offered no apology or excuse to anyone either.”
“Why would she? So the scene in the cooler, yes. What did we find?”
“We found de Castro on top of her on a makeshift table. His pants were pushed down, she was bleeding from everywhere. It was hard to tell where one laceration started and stopped… He jumped from the table when the door opened and grabbed a handful of Sookie’s hair to yank her with him to use her for cover. After a brief exchange it was obvious that he had no intention of letting her go and he had a pair of scissors to her throat. Northman fired the first shot into de Castro’s arm in an effort to get de Castro to release Miss Stackhouse. When he re-positioned her instead, Miss Stackhouse caught my attention and started shifting her legs slowly. Northman was standing and I was on my knee. He only had head-shots he wasn’t willing to risk…”
“For obvious reasons.”
“Right… She knew he wouldn’t take that chance so when she rotated her legs to the side, I fired my first shot and he went down because I got his thigh. He released Miss Stackhouse, but continued to talk. When he reached for the scissors he had dropped, all three of us fired on him…”
“Northman gets the prize for that. The ballistics report got back to us only a moment before you arrived. His bullet was the period at the end of de Castro’s sentence… Your bullet was retrieved from his cheek bone and Deputy Jones’s bullet was lodged in his spine having entered just to the right of his Adam’s apple… How did an accomplished marksman such as yourself miss the money shot?” Asshole.
“I wasn’t looking.”
“Where were your attentions at the time?”
“The bucket of blood coming out of Sookie’s mouth while she tried to get herself off the cooler floor because she was too riddled with shattered glass to be helped. I was worried that she had internal injuries at the time.”
“You really weren’t looking when you fired that shot?”
“No and Deputy Jones was radioing for a medical transport when she fired.”
He smiled at me. “Remind me to never piss you off… Especially since the bullet you put in his thigh destroyed his femoral artery… Carry on.”
“Deputy Jones checked for vitals and you already know he was dead.”
“You’ve forgotten to mention Ravenscroft’s arrival.”
“No. I haven’t.”
“De Castro was dead. The altercation was over before Ravenscroft arrived on scene?”
“Yes. Northman had Miss Stackhouse outside waiting for EMTs before Ravenscroft arrived.”
“When did she finally make her showing?”
“Deputy Jones and I were still in the walk-in. I’d say it was about 5 minutes after de Castro was confirmed dead.”
“That’s very interesting… Oh look… Pam’s back… everyone start laughing. When she opens the door, stop and stare at her, ready… go.”
There was no way to not laugh. The hard part was stopping when she came in. I wasn’t the only one. Even Scary Tie had a hard time.
She looked like a cat at a dog fight while she passed out coffees. Not only was she the only female in the room, but the laughing had made her paranoid as all hell.
When she was done, she plopped her skinny ass into the seat next to mine. “Gentlemen… How can I be of service today?” Crawl back in to your crypt.
Drew rolled his eyes. “If your legs weren’t so sickeningly thin, I’d suggest you make use of the table…”
“That’s sexual harassment.”
“No dear. Sexual harassment would have been if I suggested that WE make use of the table, but I won’t be making that mistake again… What I actually said was nothing more than a demonstration of my refusal to show professional courtesies to someone who couldn’t identify professionalism or courtesy if it were going down on her. If you have nothing else to say on the matter, start reviewing your version of yesterday’s events for these blokes while Alc and I find a barista who won’t spit in our cups.”
I wasn’t going to argue about staying in the room with Pam, so I started getting up. She clenched her teeth and whispered, “You son of a bitch. What did you say?”
“I didn’t need to say much of anything. I think they already have your number.”
When we walked into Drew’s office, Robin was waiting next to his desk with a pair of coffee cups. “Did pretending to be catty about my boyfriend’s ex buy enough time?”
He chuckled and took a cup from her. “Oh, my little poppet, I love it when you pretend to be mine. It’s only a matter of time.”
“Orrie had to run off and do his laughing privately when I told her that she wasn’t going to get you back because what we have is ‘real’.” She blew a kiss to him.
He sat down in one of his ‘guest’ chairs instead of behind his desk. “Why must you speak of him during foreplay. It’s beneath us, Robin.”
She laughed at him. “Anything else?”
“No, no. Other than needing to bathe from being in Pam’s presence, we’re outstanding, Love. Thank you. Go pretend to rest even if it is just to make me feel better.”
“You got it. Don’t expect to see my feet up or anything though.”
She stopped at the window to open the privacy blinds before she left.
Drew crossed his legs and leaned back. “Unofficially… Pam went tits up, didn’t she?”
I had to think about it for a minute. There was a reason that I didn’t like the rumor mill and it wasn’t because I didn’t like gossip… It was because I hated the gutless assholes who didn’t just come out and say something and stayed anonymous instead. “Yeah. Yeah she did.”
“How long has she been so useless?”
“Most of the time I’ve spent on the PTF. She’s had a few brief moments of usefulness, but she gets in the way more often than not.”
“And you’re only now saying something.”
“I’m only now in a position where I need to think of her as inept backup. She was barely as much as a handler in New Orleans.”
“Because you and Northman ran the show?”
“No. It was more like when we were handed a case, we were off and running. We didn’t need our hands held.”
“You’re very humble for someone with a record like yours.”
“I don’t know about that, but I can tell you that I don’t want to work with her anymore. I almost killed her yesterday.”
He snorted. “Why didn’t you?”
“Corbett Stackhouse stopped me.”
“What happened then?”
“She ribbed me about not debriefing her so that she could claim how she and ‘her team’ saved the day when she had nothing to do with it. She threatened to write me up and I told her to fuck off. She suggested I came from a trailer park and I lost it. Corbett Stackhouse had to punch me in the head to keep me from getting to her… I need to point out that Sookie Stackhouse isn’t just ‘my partner’s fiancé’. She is a very dear friend of mine. I owe that little girl a lot and by that point, I knew that Pam’s inaction caused most of Sookie’s injuries. If she’d arrived in a timely manner we could’ve prevented that from happening to the girl that solved the case for us. Pam failed Sookie Stackhouse.”
“How is it that you owe her? Pure curiosity of course, you don’t have to oblige.”
“No it’s fine. My soon to be ex-wife is an antisocial bitch who hasn’t lifted a finger to take care of our kids in years… Sookie has done everything imaginable to help my kids cope with the breakup and help me get my feet under me to take care of them on my own. She’s like a mix of mom and kid sister to me.”
I snorted at him. “Go ahead. Make fun…”
“I wasn’t. I didn’t think there were people like that anymore.” Because they were all in Bon Temps.
“There was almost one less as of yesterday thanks to Pam and whatever she was doing to fuck off.”
“That’s what they’re figuring out now… Northman, how did he do yesterday?”
“Honestly, he was shaken as hell. Scared the shit out of him. He knows how close he was to losing her.”
“How bad was he on the scene?”
“I had to take him down once. It was while the line was open and we could hear de Castro talking to Sookie, you know, while we could’ve been moving in if we had backup. He’s never lost it before at all. This was too personal. Sookie had to handle him so that he’d go get a shower and wash her blood off of himself when they finally got home.”
“Do you think he could benefit from his director sending him to our shrink?”
I shook my head. “No, Sookie’s all the mental health he needs. And if something had happened to her, it wouldn’t do any good.”
“Is he that delirious over her?”
“Absolutely, but it’s not unfounded. She’s great. She treats him like a God. She’s really good for him. And… those two assholes, they complement their freaking quirks.”
“He hasn’t been married before.”
“Nope. He’s just a kid, but he’s been picky.”
“My sense of justice can’t take anymore. I’ve seen pictures. Nothing that beautiful is allowed to be sane and compassionate. It’s not fair that he finds a good woman on his first run.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Did he not get the memo that he’s required by law to marry a spiteful cow first?”
I laughed at him. “I guess not. Don’t worry though. My wife is crazy enough to cover Sookie’s shortcomings.”
“Bloody hell. Mine too. This is what we get for overachieving.”
He was quiet again for a minute and took a couple sips of coffee. “Yes. It’s official. I want to be Northman when I grow up… Anyway… here’s how this’ll go… the meeting will be adjourned in a moment. Pam is to come directly here and I’m going to spend a while annoying her with repetitive and redundant questions with Robin as my lovely witness. I’ll give you enough time to discuss contact info and particulars with Orrie. He’ll come let me know when you’re out of the building. Depending on her attitude, I might occupy her for most of the day.”
“Good. If she’s here, she won’t be bothering Sookie.”
“Bothering Sookie how?”
“She came to the house this morning and was more than a little pissed that I wasn’t cooperating.”
He sang, “Insubordination.”
“It was fun too.”
“Oh… I’m sure.”
I stood up to leave and shook his hand again. “You planning on sharing about why you have it in for Pam?”
He smiled from ear to ear. “I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises.”