Now We Shall Get On Better
I’ve taken the boys to all kinds of places. Aquariums, zoos, Six Flags, parades, football games… they’d never been as excited as they were just then.
From the second the plane touched down, baggage claim, in the car… they were getting close to needing little strait jackets.
It was like every mile that got put between them and their mother, the more excited they got and I couldn’t help but be pissed… staying in a strange town and starting a new school, not having a mom (even if it is just for what they thought was 2 weeks)… that reaction isn’t normal. If I didn’t have custody papers, I probably would have established an alibi so that I could go back to New Orleans and squeeze the life out of their jackal of a mother.
When we pulled onto the long driveway leading to their temporary home, all discussion was replaced by the unplugging and winding of cords and putting games into cases…
The Galaxy and the Bel Air were parked side by side out front, but the only light on was the flood light on the corner of the house that my truck triggered…
Naked time… another thing for the boys to tell their therapists about one day.
I was happy enough to throw a damn party when the door was locked… ‘needing’ to knock would give them time to cover the barbells and free weights.
I could’ve shit when Sookie and Eric answered the door together and dressed…
Sookie had just turned the lights to the foyer and porch on and Eric cringed at the sudden glare. Sookie smiled at the boys. “Hey guys! How was the flight?”
Eric asked why I knocked. Gee… could it be that I’m moving my kids in with nudists?
The boys were telling Sookie that we sat behind a woman with a bald spot and then started showing off their new sneakers.
She slapped their shoes to make them light up. “Well, the house is dark, so y’all can run up and down the hall orrrrrr… I can help y’all make dinner. What’s it gonna be?”
They both asked what we were having.
“Your daddy told me this morning that you guys like fish tacos… So I thought we’d have that and some nachos. Sound good?”
Carm grabbed her hand and started for the kitchen. “We love dose! We never made ‘em dough… We det ‘em at Mezzo.”
“Ooooh. I love Mezzo… I make my salsa just like them. The last time I was in New Orleans, I brought back a bag full of leftovers, but I ate it all driving back.”
The boys laughed at her and took turns using the chair she pulled to the sink to wash their hands while Sookie pulled out armfuls of ingredients and handed beers to Eric and me so we could enjoy the show…
She put a huge mixing bowl in front of Jack with a beer, a spice jar and a bag of flour and he looked at her like she was on crack.
She giggled at him and cracked the beer. “You empty the beer into the bowl and then you whisk in a little flour at a time until it’s as thick as scrambled eggs… then you add the cumin. Just a spoonful.”
“You’re feeding us beer?”
“The alcohol cooks out, just like it does at Mezzo. They even use Tecate. I asked.”
He shrugged and started pouring the beer so Sookie turned her attention to Carm and gave him a pair of scissors and a whisk…
She halved a pair of lemons and talked him through the sour cream, dill and cilantro and lemon to make the cream sauce…
They looked like they’d never been happier… And I couldn’t decide if I wanted to kill Ame or thank her for ‘walking away’.
Sookie supervised the boys while she cut and shredded and diced all the stuff for the boys to put on the nachos… and she even fired a few jalapenos for the ‘big kids’…
The boys ended up wearing half of what they handled… Carm had a trail of lemon juice down both arms and Jack had a full handprint of batter on his pants leg…
Sookie asked them while they were dumping black beans and cheese on the tray of chips if they needed any help.
Carm smiled at her, shaking his head. “Nope. We dot it. Dis is fun. Mommy doesn’t let us help in da titchen.” That would imply that Ame actually made something that didn’t need to have vents poked in the plastic film.
She grinned and tweaked his nose. “Neither did my mother. My daddy is the one who let me play in the kitchen with him.”
Carm gave her a surprised look. “Our Daddy tan’t took!”
“Then we should teach him… What should we have him make for dinner tomorrow night?”
Jack started laughing. “It should be easy.” Benedict Arnold! I stuck my tongue out at him.
“Ok then, how about homemade macaroni & cheese and… fried chicken?”
That’s… that’s not EASY! How the fuck does she think she’s going to teach me how to make the homemade version of shit I can barely manage… Eric started laughing so I kicked his leg. Prick…
“How about premade nuggets and Kraft? I can do that.”
She winked at me. “It’s easier than you think.”
“Uh… nice try.”
“As easy as making a pot of coffee once you know the steps.”
I started laughing at her. “You’re full of shit!” The boys started ooh-ing because I said the ‘brown’ word.
She pointed at me and joined in, like she didn’t cuss as much as I did. “You know, when I was younger, my Daddy never minded us cussing… my Aunt Linda, we call her Momma, she hated it. She had a cuss jar.”
Carm grinned at her. “What’s dat?” I growled at Sookie. ‘Dat’ was going to cost me a fortune.
“Whenever me or Jason or my cousins cussed at her house, we had to give her a dollar. We were so bad about swears that we bought her 3 new dresses with shoes to match one summer.”
Carm’s money-grubbing little eyes lit up. “You’ll pay us when you swear?”
She nodded. “I should learn to watch my mouth around kids.”
Jack snorted. “You’re a teacher though. You should…”
“I’m a high school teacher and a coach… my students cuss so much, I’ve gotten worse… So… I’m thinking… $5 per swear. Hell and damn don’t count because they’re in the bible.”
Carm giggled and leaned away from me. “So is ass.”
“Yeah, but we’ll know when someone is talking about a donkey or a keister.”
Jack laughed, “Keister?”
“Yeah, keister. You know… a butt. Bumm. Rump. Buns. Booty…” The boys started laughing too hard to sit still.
Eric added, “Can. Tail. Glutes.”
I almost didn’t want to, but I joined in. “Backside. Stern. Caboose. Behind.” I was leaving out arse, culo, turd cutter, shitter, humps, bumper, pooper…
Damn. Fuck says it all, but there’s more ways to say ‘ass’ than ‘hello’. I ended up laughing right along with the kids…
And I needed it.
Sookie hadn’t touched any of the food except to prep the individual ingredients. I watched my 8 year old stand in a chair at the fryer and fry each and every piece of fish on his own and then use a wire scoop to lift them all out…
He was proud as a fucking peacock the whole time… as he should have been. I’m pretty sure that I’d have done something wrong.
Hell, for that matter, Ame had never managed to make anything as elaborate and she’d supposedly been a stay at home mom for 4 years.
But the boys spanked it.
The kids weren’t the only ones who thought the tacos were better than what we could’ve gotten from Mezzo.
And like their victory over dinner wasn’t enough… Sookie had them put together cake and ice cream with hot fudge and whip cream… they ended up wearing some of that too.
Since Carm had managed to get fudge in his hair, he was volun-told to get the first bath. I went out to my truck to get the boys things and Sookie went back to the bathroom with the boys and a sharpie… When I got back, I stopped at the bathroom door to check on Carm and Sookie was drawing lines on the knobs… “I turned the hot water heater all the way up today. I’m just marking the right settings for them so they don’t burn themselves. You need to watch it too.”
I looked around… there were fresh towels and wash cloths on the counter and she’d even bought kid shampoo and body wash. “No. It looks like you thought of everything. Thanks.”
“K. Jack’s bringing me the hamper when he’s done with his bath. My old dresser is in the bottom of your closet for their stuff… I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.” Like she hadn’t already made them more comfortable than they were in their own house. The last time I saw them close to being so happy was when I took them on vacation early in the summer without Ame.
When I got to our room with the first armful of bags, Jack was sitting on the end of the bed with a remote control… Sookie had moved the big armoire from the living room…
“What’s an iso-booth?” God bless her…
“Some of the stuff me and Eric have to talk about and look at is gross or no one else should know about it… ‘Iso-booth’ is what Sookie calls it when she works in her room with her iPod on… so she can’t hear about it.”
He smiled at me and started grabbing clothes to help put them away. “Sookie said that’s why the ‘Herveaux suite’ got a TV. So we have an iso-booth. And she told me that she set up a movie file on her router so we can watch on our PSPs if we want. All kid stuff.”
I laughed even though I really just wanted to go hug her for thinking of so much.
Since Jack mentioned the living room make-over, I figured I’d take the long way out instead of going straight down the hall… curiosity and all.
Blue and green… one day, I’d get something on Sookie to rag on Eric about. The living room wasn’t going to be it. The blue wasn’t girly. I wouldn’t wear jeans that color, but it wasn’t bad… and the green matched all of the little jade knick-knacks that she’d put out… The biggest pisser… she’d finally put flowers out. There was a flowery painting and some tiles… but fuck if I could rib Eric about it. The room looked really nice… Sookie’d even pimped out the entertainment center with 55 inches of LCD sin and surround sound… the whole room could be covered in flowers and have tea and crumpets set out on the coffee table and the entertainment center would still make up for it.
And once the boys were bathed, they got to break in the new TV… Sookie helped them through the ‘Jack & Carm’ file on her router… Since Carm isn’t reading yet, every movie had box art and every file for shows had a picture of the cast to make it easier for him… As soon as the boys noticed that she’d downloaded all of the episodes of their favorite shows, they debated which marathon to start for a while before settling on Wizards of Waverly Place… Jack had a crush on Selena Gomez… and the Osmet girl from Hannah Montana and both of the girls on the Jonas Brothers show…
The boys were happy as pigs in shit when Sookie took my hand and towed me to the kitchen. She wanted an update. I was surprised that she ‘held it’ so long. She’d texted me while I was still at the school about how things were going and I was still trying to figure shit out. I couldn’t believe that she dropped it when all I told her was that things were weird.
The way the two of them were staring at me like they were waiting for me to do a trick was just creepy… but not only was I trying to figure out how to put things so that I wouldn’t end up pissed again, I was kind of having fun with making their nosey asses wait.
I know for a fact that Eric could have waited all night. I’d timed him before and he’d played the staring game with a suspect for more than two hours without budging, but poor Sookie couldn’t handle it. She twitched and fidgeted like she was strung out…
And then she snapped. “Alright… I’ve been scared for you all fucking day. Spill.”
I laughed at the look on her face while I pulled together the fucked up events that was my day. “She acted weird the whole time I was there. Little shit like obsessing over their suitcases and backpacks and reminding me that Carm is allergic to pollen and that Jack needs a haircut.”
“And… Other than that, she didn’t talk to me, or the boys for that matter. She kept herself ‘busy’… The boys were playing their handhelds with their ear buds in on the way to the airport and I had a ‘special’ moment. I told her that I wanted a divorce and that I wanted custody of the boys.”
Her mouth dropped open and she looked like she was trying to not smile, but I could still see that she was close to cartwheels. “What did she do?”
She shook her head. “Nothing?”
“Nothing. When we got to the airport, I grabbed their suitcases and she said bye to the boys and cried a little… She handed me this and was in the car before I could say anything.” I plopped the folder of bullshit that I’d all but memorized during the flight on the table and she stared at it.
“What is it?”
“Separation papers. Bank stuff. Her credit cards… Custody papers. That’s why she wasn’t packing yesterday. She was meeting with a lawyer. There’s a letter in there. The fucking bitch put it in writing that she never wanted kids and that she needed a break. She didn’t know it was going to be ‘like this’. She feels like she’s been a single parent for years. She wasn’t cut out for this… Blah, blah, blah. She pulled a few grand out of savings to ‘start over’. She gave ME permission to divorce HER.”
She looked like she was going to be sick and if I hadn’t had the same feeling I might have been surprised. “Did she say why now?”
“The letter says I have you to thank. She said she had only stuck around as long as she did because she thought I’d ‘fuck it up’. But when she met everybody out here, she figured y’all would keep me from fucking up too bad.” I wasn’t going to come out and repeat the bullshit about Sookie raising the boys for me… if she wanted to read the letter, she could. But in the end, it was just another bullshit accusation courtesy of my soon-to-be ex-wife.
“Did she say how long her little break is going to last? If she’s planning on staying in contact?”
“She’s going back to Dallas until her ‘head is straight’. Said she was packing up the house and having everything sent here. She didn’t mention anything about the holidays, seeing or calling them. Nothing.”
Sookie stopped gaping at me to look at the folder like I’d shit on the table for a while and Mr. Internalize had shut down… Not a huge surprise considering his mother walked out on him. He was probably thinking about alibis just like I had. “So… What’s your plan now?”
I grinned at her even though I had no clue. After seeing how excited the boys were to be away from Ame, I couldn’t help but be ok with how things had turned out. “I haven’t come up with one yet. Tonight, I’m settling in the kids then having a beer. Maybe 10.”
She finally let herself smile. “How does it feel?”
“To get what you asked for?” Just thinking about writing out Lafayette’s retainer check made me hard.
“Other than having to explain it to the boys… FUCKING PHENOMINAL.”
She sprung out of her seat and went out to the back porch and she came back with a case of Sol and put it n the table in front of me. “Would you like a straw?” I took a second to love the shit out of Sookie. I like Mexican beer, always have… There hasn’t been a beer I like in my fridge in years unless I bought it.
“You bet your ass… So what’d I miss? Other than the new living room… It looks too nice to sit in, by the way… What’d you two do today?” I almost winced, realizing that I’d opened the gates on details I didn’t want to here.
I think she was giving me a break… She smiled at Eric and patted his arm. “Do you guys want the kitchen or the bedroom?”
He finally snapped out of his little mind fuck… reminding me why I didn’t ‘share’ with him more often. “Ummm. Here is fine.”
She kissed him, getting up to leave. “Ok then, I’ll be in our room. I have papers to read, shopping to do and travel plans to make. Try to keep it down though. I’m going to keep the door open so I can keep an ear on the boys for y’all.”
She kissed my cheek on her way out and we both told her ‘yes ma’am’.
I was handing a beer to Eric when the boys came to say goodnight and I probably had a clown grin again as they ran off.
“Yeah. We actually had enough down time to start making wedding plans today.”
“Oh really… What’s the plan?” It was ironic if nothing else that I was probably reading separation papers at about the same time they were discussing vows… not to mention how twisted it was that we were probably both as relieved.
“We want to do it in New York. Do all the Christmas tourist stuff. A family vacation. Otherwise, the wedding would look like Dirges… and then some if we do it here.”
“Makes sense. Where y’all doing it?” Maybe I’d get lucky and she’d make him wear a pink tux.
“Rockefeller Plaza… Drive by style… Show up. Get married. Go celebrate. We’re going to stay in her apartment there. So if you want to, you can do your Christmas shopping online and have it all shipped straight there.” Online shopping isn’t any damn fun, but I could shop and then ship everything… wait. Apartment?
“She has an apartment in New York City?”
“I have time.” Especially for why she’d have a place in New York… Unless it was the books I hadn’t had the chance to bitch at Eric’s sneaky ass about.
“You know how her mother set her up with Bill because he’s from ‘old money’?”
I nodded. I also remembered that Corbett rubbed it in that he could buy and sell Bill’s ass when he fucked him up in the Dirges’ parking lot.
“What it boils down to… Compton money isn’t as ‘old’ as Stackhouse money, it was just the closest to it. Then… Bill’s father gave her everything just to spite his cock drip son.”
“So Sookie is… comfortable.” I almost laughed about it… she has enough money to roll around in and she owns one car and lives in a modest house… and still works… love it. Especially since I had to put most of our savings into the boys’ college funds to keep Ame from blowing it… And I really needed to stop comparing the two of them like they had anything in common other than plumbing.
“You could say that… Anyway, the plan is to spend the holiday in New York. Sookie wants to use the boys.”
“What does she want to use them for?”
“So that she doesn’t have to stand in line alone to get her picture taken with Macy’s Santa.”
I lost it. I couldn’t help but laugh. “That girl of yours is a trip… So what else did I miss?”
“Well, I woke up to a message from Russell. He traced the report on Rotten back to the Border’s hotspot by Mr. Bill’s office. Russell called it in and the girl at the counter could ID ‘Mr. Compton’ because he’s in there every morning like clockwork to get a latte and a muffin, which he used his debit card for. He decided to stop by a couple of hours later and nearly shit his pants when I told him that there was a warrant out for his arrest and his accounts had been frozen… he bolted to confirm it. Hopefully he did it from home, but since I never heard back from Russell, he probably found a new wifi to boost.”
I was laughing again. “Even if he didn’t fall into the trap, the look on his face must’ve been beautiful. You could’ve taken a picture or something. Damn. Anything else?”
“You’re lucky you missed Jason. He kissed me good morning.”
“That… Sookie warned me that he’s an odd mother fucker… I’m still curious about the waking up naked with Kevin thing.”
He started shaking his head. “Corbett had a party and they both got trashed and decided on a footrace. They don’t know where their clothes went, but they woke up spooning… with witnesses. There’s pictures and I need to see them. I finally asked when I was getting the files from the station… I think the only thing Kevin doesn’t have a sense of humor about is hunting. He went on for ten minutes when I joked that I would probably just take my Dessert Eagle.”
I snorted at him. “You probably should since you handle a rifle like a girl.”
“Don’t let Sookie hear you say that. Have you seen the way she handles her piece?”
“Yeah. Like she was drilled on assembly… So what did we learn about at the station? Anything?”
He got up, grabbing his keys from the wall and motioning for me to follow him…
He opened his trunk and pulled out a huge aerial photo. “I learned that Kenya should be bronzed… I spotted this on the wall in an office across from the break room. It was frustrating as hell to see how much cover there is… This big circle here is where Kenya thinks we should look first. It’s an old plantation on a dead end road. If she’s right, we need to move soon because it’s deserted and really popular for hunting because it has a working well. I’m guessing that since the fire chief owns it…”
“Corbett owns it?”
“Yeah. I stopped by to get the property records. He bought it back in the 90s and never did anything with it.”
“I guess we won’t have a problem getting permission to search the property if we can just convince Pam to let us go over the place.”
“Kenya and Pam are meeting us here in the morning so we can go over things… I’ve been getting emails since about 2. Only two of the families haven’t replied yet. The Fergussons forgot their cameras when they went out with Lindsay. The mom apologized that they’ve never been much for pictures.”
“But we have 9, right? Even with Geri’s and Maudette’s we’ve got enough circumstantial evidence to hold him if we find him.”
“He didn’t leave a single fingerprint in either apartment though. Fucking case’s foundation is pictures and eyewitnesses…”
“And that email that he sent to Maudette. I read it over and there’s a few tense confusions common to Portuguese. More circumstantial evidence, but I dare his lawyer to prove Maudette made friends with another Brazilian in Bon Temps.”
He nodded and put the picture back to close the trunk and I went back to check on the boys and grab the box of evidence from Burnham.
Sookie smiled at me. “Y’all done already?”
“Just getting the box to get started. Eric’s been filling me in. I missed a lot in one day.”
“You did? I wish I had gone with you… I only got anything done today because I was keeping busy… so I wouldn’t blow up your phone.”
“You didn’t miss much. I was barely with her. She’d packed the boys clothes in a lawn bag and didn’t bother with their medical or dental records… If I spent any time with her, I’d have snapped… more than I did.”
She tilted her head to the side. “What do you mean? What did you do?”
“When I finally got back to the house after all the errands and shopping and getting the boys from school, she was still in her PJs and refusing to take them to the airport because she was ‘too busy’… I took her laptop and smashed it.”
She laughed, “You didn’t!”
“You’re not going to bitch at me about losing my temper?”
“You didn’t lose your temper, sweetie… you know exactly where it was. Good for you.”
I snorted, “You’re biased.”
“Yup… Sue me. Who paid for it?”
“You should’ve put a bullet through her engine block too.”
I started laughing, “I threatened to. It’s the only reason she got off her ass to get a shower.”
“You threatened to?”
I nodded… “I was so done… I… uh… I tossed my ring.”
She gasped, “Where?”
“Drainage grates at the airport.”
Before I was done bracing myself, she was on me… seriously on me. She had her arms around my neck and she was hugging me with her legs too. She weighed almost nothing… not much more than Jack.
“Nope. Right now I’m happy for you.”
“Having a little divorce party?”
She kissed my cheek before she set herself on the floor. “Can I start making that list now?”
“No. I don’t need any more damn woman drama.”
She scowled at me. “No strings booty calls?”
“What if I promise the list is lunatic free?”
“You couldn’t possibly be able to guarantee that.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “You’ve spoken for the only man for me.”
“You snooze, you lose… So I’ll make 2 lists. Fuck-ya-laters and pillow talkers… just in case.”
“Give me the damn box of evidence before you marry me off again, silly bitch.”
I wish I had just entertained the matchmaker.
The box was full of some of the most depraved and disgusting shit I’d ever seen…
Like it wasn’t bad enough that we knew from the forensic evidence what he’d done to them… pictures… taken with a camera that had a timer…
So he could set it up… and then play. The timer must have been set to take another picture every few seconds…
Most of them were pretty much the same thing, over and over and over… but since each folder held the images from each of the thumbs, cards and disks they were out of order…
Eric managed to pull the file on Lin’s murder when I pulled Hannah Summerland’s… The two that turned our stomachs the most…
Lin was 11… Hannah was 29, but she was 8 months pregnant when he took her… but not when we found her… The sick fucker didn’t bother to take pictures of what he did with the baby either…
Eric ripped through 4 beers just because of those two files and I managed to fill the ashtray.
When I heard Sookie stomping down that hall, it was like CPR… We’d have been there all night, up to our assholes in reasons to become heavily armed hermits if she hadn’t come in.
I looked at my watch and we’d spent almost 3 hours looking through it all… and it was quitting time.
We hustled to get the files back into the boxes so that Sookie wouldn’t have to see anything… not after the way the stalking photos locked her up.
She could tell though. She grabbed a bottle of tea from the fridge and started cleaning up the empties and cleaning out the ashtray…
“Judging by the look on your faces, you’ve been up to your assholes in ugly, so I won’t ask.”
Eric smiled, possibly that the view had changed. “What have you been up to?”
“Long or short version?”
I snorted at her, “Short.” Just in case the long version included planning a singles cruise for me or some shit.
“Lil a this. Lil a that.”
Eric kicked my foot, but she was smiling… she knew what I was talking about glossing over… Her little list.
She giggled and winked at me. “You asked for it…. I started grading papers and ended up having to call a student and give him fair warning that I know he’s selling papers and if I catch him again, I’ll call in my references on his college apps. I read 15 nominations and made a verdict on the scholarships. I got a fair amount of my Christmas shopping done. I talked to Bubba. He’s so laid back, he might as well be in a coma. Really sweet. He keeps calling me ‘Miss Sookie’ though. That’s one slice of the south I don’t think I’ll ever take a shine to… He’s officially our personal shopper and errand boy for the New York end of the holiday. The doorman will give him a tour of the apartment tomorrow so he can inventory things and measure… AND I arranged flights and cars for everyone.” She bowed… it was goofy enough to remind me that she’s related to Jason.
“Sounds good. What’s he measuring?”
“He going to inventory the beds and bedding, dishes and silverware to make sure we have enough for the crowd. He’s going to measure the balcony and windows so that we know how many lights and decorations to buy and I can’t remember how high the ceiling is, so he’s checking on that to make sure the tree he buys doesn’t look dwarfed in the room. He’s going to make sure the bathrooms are fully stocked too. He’s bonded and I did a background check on him while I was on the phone with him. The only thing he’s ever done was forget about a bounced check to his dentist. He made good on it the day the warrant was issued.”
Like I didn’t have enough questions… “Scholarships?”
“Yeah. I’m the trustee for the Stackhouse and the Compton Scholarships. The students write essays and can either tell me why they should get one or why someone else should. This year, I had 60 essays and narrowed it down to 15 kids. Most of them were about the same kids though.”
“How many go out each year?”
“However many I feel like. Last year I handed out 8. This year, unless something changes, 13. Quinn hates it because we award them on academics. He calls me an oliteist.”
“Olitist?” She had to be kidding.
She nodded. “Yes. And every time he says olitist instead of elitist I remind him why I broke up with his dumb ass.” Sweet Christ almighty… thank God he’s not teaching.
I couldn’t help it… “Did they not have helmet regs when he played?”
“More like carseat laws when he was a baby… What’s worse is that it’s natural. I’ve known him since high school and he never even played around with anything recreational like the rest of us. He didn’t want to mess up his ‘ride’.”
I started laughing. “It’s a shame y’all didn’t work out. You’d have had normal kids.”
Eric kicked me again, but Sookie knew I was joking… he needed to chill… Maybe if he got his head out of her ass a little, he’d realize that she knows how to take a joke.
I changed the subject. “How are we going to work things out tomorrow?”
“Ummm. You guys have your little breakfast meeting. Unless you want to dip out for a few minutes to take them, I’ll take the boys in. Then you can pick them up from me after 3. We’ll be at the stadium until 5ish. We can play it by ear.”
I nodded, but I realized I missed something… “Wait. How did you book flights and cars? Am I the last to know about New York? I hate missing shit!”
“I haven’t told anyone. You’re the first to know. You don’t have to have a head count when you book a corporate jet and car service. Eric and I will fly out on the 19th and his parents will leave San Diego early on the 22nd and the plane will pick everyone else up in the afternoon. You’ll all be at the apartment by dinner… Sweetie, you need to make the call on Marnie so we can make arrangements for her if you’re feeling charitable.” Ooooh… the sister… and even better, the ‘sister face’… I knew his mother had left him with his father because her husband didn’t want to raise another guy’s kid… but the sister didn’t get much press.
He actually growled at her.
She giggled at him. “Your call. I’m just putting it out there. It’s Christmas and she might not be your favorite person, but she is Smom’s daughter. Besides, we can put her in the servants’ quarters behind the kitchen with scratchy sheets on a lumpy mattress and we’ll have a couple of days to rig the toilet and faucet to run.”
“Promise? I’ll tell Smom to invite her then, but I’m warning you, whatever I buy her will be three sizes too small and have stripes. WIDE stripes.”
“I know of a web site that sells gag perfume in designer bottles. Raw sewage, bacon drippings, vomit… That would be a nicer way to fly your asshole flag. She can’t help being squat, plump and obtuse anymore than you can help being gorgeous and exceptional… Or you could kill her with kindness and do something SOOO sweet for her that she’d REALLY hate you… Find one of those 3D sonogram places and get her a gift certificate, or a pregnancy massage. But for the record… the bitch in me thinks a ‘shitty sister’ kit would be fun. Step ladder, gym membership and a thesaurus.”
He was just as surprised at her twatability as I was. “The bitch in you is pure evil.”
“Short bursts, remember. I’m saving all my energy for sex… What’s with the list of songs? Special requests? I would’ve thought you’d put some cun’tree on there.”
I looked at Eric. As much as it should damage my pride to have a history teacher doing our jobs, she might be the fresh set of eyes we needed… “We might as well… She knows the case as well as we do except for this and the photos. Pam already thought you were running off at the mouth anyway and was fine with it.”
He nodded. “The emails that got sniffed back here were song lyrics. He’s been taunting Pam directly.”
“L-M-N-O… P!” Fuck! She’s quick on the uptake.
He nodded again.
“So you only have until Februaryish to find him or she could be one of his victims?” And Pam’s birthday is the 18th.
“We think so. He’s been rubbing our noses in his rituals all this time and I want to think that there’s something more to the lyrics, but they seem too random.”
He looked at me like he wasn’t sure if he should give her a list of completely random song lyrics. If he didn’t, I would. She’s smarter than both of us together…
He finally handed it over to her and she sat down at the table to look it over…
By the time she started scribbling notes, I was pretty sure I’d gotten more gray hair…
I’d seen faster (and less intense) autopsies.
“I don’t think he’s taunting her as much as inviting her. I think the songs are kind of a map.”
I started laughing. It would figure. “Where to?”
“I know it’s going to sound funny, but the old Loudermilk Plantation would be the first place I’d look.”
The smile on Eric’s face told me it was the same plantation Kenya had given him the hard on for. “How’d you get that from the song list?”
“First of all, you’d never have caught it unless you’d ever been out there…”
Fucking beautiful! “How much do we owe you for THAT ego stroke?!”
She winked at me with a grin. “I’ll run a tab… K, the whole thing was settled by one guy. When he died, his will split it off to his oldest boy, he got the main farm, then his younger boy and son in law got the other two tracts…
…Going down the list…
…Light My Fire- probably a reference to the house on the tract that burned down a few years back.
…Come To My Window- The back side of the house has a two story stained glass window that was bought as a wedding present for the builder’s wife.
…Angel Of The Morning- A huge marble angel statue sits in the flowerbed in the circular driveway.
…Faithfully- Has a circus and clown reference. Lemuel’s wife loved her garden and mixed in with all of her roses and hydrangeas she put stone sculptures of circus animals. Elephants, dancing bears and horses. Stuff like that.
…Green Hell- the house has always had Green trim… even now.
…Play The Game- Not the lyric that fits… The man who built the house was Lemuel Loudermilk… Lemmy, Motorhead…
…The Britney Spears song is just as annoying. The son in law’s name was Bertrum Spears. B. Spears. He’s buried in the family cemetery out back.
…Rock you like a Hurricane- Loudermilk Minor was just a shell when it got flattened out by a tropical storm a few years ago.
…What It Takes- that one is veiled slightly, it’s a later lyric that I think fits… ‘I don’t wanna burn in paradise’. The family called the farm Paradise… Paradise Hills.”
She was right… we’d have never found the place on our own… but we probably would have walked around noticing shit after we combed the property… but Pam wouldn’t have authorized it if Sookie hadn’t put the lyrics together.
“Ok. What’s with the last one? I Used To Love Her?”
“She’s buried right in my back yard… Lem’s wife’s head stone… It’s a 10 foot tall pink marble obelisk with ‘My Darling Pamela’ carved into the base.” Uh, creepy much?
She waited, but I didn’t have anything intelligent to offer, so I kept my yapper shut. As big of a pain in my ass as Pam is, I’d like to see her transferred… not dead. And that list… that list just confirmed that she’s a target…
She gave Eric a kiss, but it didn’t get rid of the ‘oh shit’ written all over his face… “I’m gonna get out of your hair so you can work. Don’t stay up playing too late, boys. 6 am comes early.”
Sookie was gone and Eric was still staring at the list… I shoved his leg to try to get his attention. “You’re not used to it, are you?”
“Not being the smartest person in the fucking room.”
“Fuck you… I’m getting used to it.”
“You should try to work on that face. You look like she shit in your lap.”
It’s usually safe to say that nothing good is going on when a phone rings or there’s unexpected company at 20 to midnight…
That time wasn’t an exception. Eric and I both got up to answer the door and it was Hadley… and she looked like shit… like someone died.
Eric invited her in, “What’s wrong?”
She started crying all over again. “Hunter’s curfew is 10 on school nights. I keep getting his voicemail and when I went to the friend’s house he said he’d be at, he wasn’t there. Never was. I was hoping that Sookie might be able to call a couple of her students and find out if any of them know who might have been…” That little prick…
I pulled my phone out and dialed Taryn… She’d said her folks were out of town this week…
The first thing I heard was a shitload of giggling. “Uh…Mr… Herveaux?” I heard Hunter groan about what time it was before he asked her for the phone.
“Did she call or is she there?”
“How are you doing?”
“Fucking beautiful. Is she pissed?” If he wanted to be pissed at his mother for worrying, he was about to lose an ally.
“Well, yes I am.”
“Great. What am I doing?”
“Shit. She’s standing right there isn’t she?”
“His mother’s search led her here. Can I come get him?”
“Uh… yeah… I’ll be ready. I’ll text you the address in a minute.”
“I’ll be right there.”
I had my keys and jacket and was on my way out the door, when Hadley stepped in front of me wearing the ‘angry Stackhouse’ face… and I couldn’t blame her.
“Where is he!?” I had no time at all to come up with something…
“I woke them up. They fell asleep watching a movie. I’m going to go get him so that by the time we get back, you look angry instead of scared.”
“I don’t need your help!” No, but her son did… otherwise he was going to give his mother a heart attack.
“I never said you did, but that’s a good start on looking angry. Now dial it back before you wake my kids.”
The only thing keeping me from feeling bad for her at the moment was knowing that if anyone could calm her nerves, Eric could.
The only good alibi I could think of was Jason…
He managed to groan and sound worried at the same time when he answered.
“Hey Jason, nothing’s wrong, but Hunter needs a favor.”
“Shit. What’s he done?”
“He’s 2 hours past curfew at a girls house instead of where he said he’d be. Hadley came to the house because he isn’t answering his phone…”
“You reluctant to punching that boy in his dick?” Tempting…
“I only met him once. I’ll lay on the guilt as best I can, I’ll leave the dick punching to you since you’re his alibi…”
“Thanks. That boy’s worse than I ever was… Then again, Had doesn’t make it easy on him though… He may not be 17 yet, but he sure as shit isn’t 9 anymore either… But she scares easy nowadays.”
“So what’s the story.”
“I stayed vague. You fell asleep watching a movie.”
“Uh… Ok… Nolan’s house is close by… He was walking there when I was leaving work. We grabbed a pizza… watched Casino Royale, but didn’t make it through Quantum of Solace. She’s too smart to let vague slide for long.”
“I figured that too.”
“What guilt card you planning on playing?”
“All of them.”
“Hallelujah… How far from getting him are you?”
“ETA 4 minutes.”
“I’ll call her in ten to make it seem like I called as soon as he was out.”
When I pulled up to Taryn’s house (two streets over from Tara and Sam’s) Hunter was watching at the front window.
He stood in the door and kissed 3… no, 4 fucking girls (including my babysitter) goodbye before he tried to leave… I had to keep myself from laughing when they started pulling on him to get ‘Hunt’ back into the house.
I smiled and waved at them from the truck so they wouldn’t think I’m a complete dick…
Hunter barely closed the door before I was pulling out of the driveway.
“Take your shirt off and sit on it and start rubbing your eyes. You’re alibi is that you were on your way to Nolan’s when you ran into Jason. You grabbed pizza and watched Casino Royale, but passed out during Quantum of Solace.”
The little shit had the balls to smile at me. “Wow. You’re thorough. Thanks.”
“Don’t be so fucking conceited. The lie’s a lot less cruel than the reality of your mother’s only child not giving a shit that she’s scared to death.”
“Aww, shit… I didn’t figure you for the preacher type… Go ahead. Lay it on me.” I was close to doing the dick punching…
“Why don’t you tell me where I should start, know it all.”
“Eh, take your pick… it’s a school night… she should know where I was… I’m too young to be…”
I started laughing at him… “Oh! That’s fucking fabulous! You’re a straight A retard… Why don’t we start with my list, stud… I’m sure your mom will get to yours… For starters, are you aware that that hickey could get any one of your girlfriends put on a sex offender registry for the rest of their lives? Not knowing that you’re jail bait isn’t an excuse if someone decides to push the issue. Like a dad who isn’t too happy about how low his 17 year old daughter was chewing on you.”
“No way. Bullshit.”
“Look it up… Can I finish?”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, by all means.” Even closer to punching him in his shit.
“Do you need me to tell you what kind of selfish shit doesn’t answer his cell when he knows the person who’s calling is more scared than anything… or do you want to know how long your father was in a box before she found out that she’s a widow? Car accidents take a few hours after we find a body before we can even look for a trail of bread crumbs… Marines sit in a box for a few days before the paperwork gets through to the stateside chaplains. How’s that?”
The cocky look was gone… He was staring at me like I hit him. 32 years of the finest guilt trips my Italian Catholic mom could lay on me hadn’t been a loss… Thanks Mom. I might make it through the boys’ teens yet.
“Keep rubbing your eyes. Not too hard. She’ll think you were crying… just the corners, like you’re trying to get the sleep out.”
He went back to rubbing. “So what, I guess you were perfect?”
“Hell no, I wasn’t perfect. Back in the age of dinosaurs, I didn’t have a cell phone… my mother wore a rut in the carpet of our living room and gave herself arthritis wringing her hands with worry… You don’t have that excuse. You want to be treated like a fucking man, you answer that fucking call. Suck it up. Let her be fucking mad instead of terrified… The only reason you’re getting an alibi right now is because I left Eric to handle her.”
“Eric? Not Sookie?”
“Sookie went to bed before she got there. She’s in good hands. Eric’s a people person with a psych degree.”
“How bad was she?”
“She looked like hell. Splotchy, snotty, hoarse… and as soon as she found out that you were okay and she didn’t have a funeral to plan, she was pissed and she’s allowed to be….” I got a text from Jason just before we pulled into the driveway. “…Jason’s called and apologized for being ‘involved’. He told me to tell you that if you pull this shit again, he’s telling Corbett. You only get ‘one’. That goes for me too, and I’m not keeping this from Sookie.”
He huffed… “Mom’s going to flip her shit in front of God and everybody.”
“No she won’t. You’ll get your new asshole in private.”
“You don’t know my mom.”
“I don’t have to…”
Hadley was on a rampage when we walked in. She wasn’t yelling or carrying on, but she charged into the foyer like someone four times her size.
Scary… impressive, but scary.
I stepped between her and Hunter. She’d been smoking?
“Save the reaming for the car ride. If you wake up my kids, I’ll blow up your phone until they’re back to sleep.” The last thing the boys needed was to wake up to a fight here.
She took a deep breath and backed away. “Ok. Thank you.”
Great, like I needed her to thank me for lying to her. Guilt train.
“Are you such a jerk that you can’t say you’re welcome?” That’s better…
“No, but I’m a big enough jerk to point out that he was bored because you didn’t let him stay over with the bad influences you let take care of the problem that came from your original paranoia, princess. Goodnight.”
She acted like she was going to return fire… and I got my hopes up… but didn’t. She just stood in front of me and she looked just about as guilty as I felt for lying…
“I have work to do. Is there something else I can do for you?”
She fidgeted for a minute… “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Fuck… I wanted to slam my head into the table. “Ok. Goodnight.”
As soon as the door closed behind them I ended up explaining everything to Eric… He only half meant it when he called me a bad influence on Hunter… especially since I was only trying to give the oblivious horn-dog a wake up call…
I polished off another beer and by the time we were done talking about Jr. Pimp’s shenanigans, we decided that sleep was mandatory…
Even if Eric slept in (again), I’d been up since 4…
I’d thought to take my shoes off beforehand and carry them with me into our room, but by the time I got there it didn’t seem like much of anything was going to wake them up… they were both sprawled out at opposite ends of the queen sized mattress… if they were older, I’d say they were snoring. Loud.
My head had just hit the pillow when I got a text. I figured it was Ame texting something shitty that she’d forgot to put in the letter… Like a letter could have more crazy and hate…
The number was local…
“What kind of jerk pisses off a woman who’s scared shitless?” Great. Hadley.
“The kind of jerk that learned jack shit from the relieved hugs he got from his scared shitless mother. Sorry.” I figured that’d be the end of it until she saw me again to drive her knee into my nuts.
“Hunter said that you bitched at him for making me worry.”
“Yeah. Same reason.”
“You know I have every right to be pissed at you for butting in, right?”
“Thank You.” Seriously?
“Don’t handle me again.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t.”
“LOL. Liar. Welcome to the family. Nite.”