They Must Be Collected At Once
I thought I’d gotten my point across… but I ended up reaching for my gun again when I was cuddled…
“Jason, I can shoot you from far enough away that no one will ever…”
I heard a gasp. “What did he do?”
Thank God… it was just Sookie. “Nothing. He was screwing around last night and tried to bunk with me.”
When I heard giggling, it wasn’t just hers. I rolled over to see Carm with her. “Dood mornin’.”
“Morning… Y’all aren’t coming to drag me out for a run, are you?”
“Nope. We’re too busy for that. Me and Eric are the only ones who’ve showered…”
“It’s 6 o’clock and he’s out of bed? What’d you use, dynamite?”
She shook her head and covered Carm’s ears, so I braced myself for too much information. She leaned over and whispered, “Tara called earlier. The news that I’m gonna be an aunt got us up.”
“No shit!…” Carm smiled as he said ‘heard that’. “She’d said something and Hadley mentioned last night that they weren’t having any luck.”
“There’s been a couple… ‘misses’ over the years, but I can’t help but have my hopes up.”
I started to laugh, realizing… “Jason said that you’ve got a steep appreciation for karmic balance…”
“Her reason for not being at that dinner… it probably happened while Sheila was packing.”
She started laughing and leaned over to kiss me. “Oh. My. God… That’s perfect!”
Carm started squirming. “Dis is just rude. My head feels stuashed.”
Sookie apologized and kissed his head before she got up and went to the closet. “Which one are you wearing?”
I growled at her.
“Not you too. I’ve already dealt with Eric’s Massengill moment. I’m gonna steam your wrinkles out, but only if you don’t take it out on me that you have to wear it.” Fine. I’ll take it out on Pam.
“Black. The tie’s in the pocket.”
She shook her head and reached in to grab my suit and the gray shirt and then grabbed a pile of sheets by the door. “Mr. Carmichael, your brother won’t be long. You’d better get your clothes together for your shower.”
He was off the bed before she was through the door. “You owe me $5.”
I started grinding the sleep out of my eyes. “A character from a Shakespeare play. He was greedy… Nowadays a Shylock is a guy that’ll bend your knees the wrong way for owing him money. How much did you make off of the Stackhouse’s gutter mouths last night?”
“$90. I tan’t wait for football night. We have $230 so far.”
I laughed at him and got up to grab my wallet. When I handed him his money, he looked like an evil mastermind putting it with the rest of his loot. The safe deposit boxes and cash register wasn’t much of a cute joke anymore… It was starting to get creepy.
While Carm got his stuff together, I checked my phone.
I had a text from Hadley. “I completely forgot to warn you. Don’t share the shmear with the little guys. It could put them in the ER. I’d die.”
Oh, I really needed to have some… if it comes with a warning…
I thanked her for the tip and moved on to my only other message…
From Lafayette at 3 am. “I just curled up with some fab reading. You’ve got a lock. We can file for your divorce a year from the day you flew out of NOLA with the boys. Save the tickets. I’ll bring papers for you to sign with me Sat. and file them on Mon.”
I replied to thank him, but if he had told me in person I might have kissed the fucker…
Jack had come back, Carm had gone for his shower and I was sitting on the bed checking the boys’ homework over because… maybe I was just being a jerk, but there was something questionable about their homework helpers…
Jack was writing a list of songs that he wanted me to download when Sookie called him.
With their homework looking fine, I looked at the list.
Stuff they’d played last night… I’d probably get another list after the next ‘practice’… and I was fine with that.
Jack was shouting for me on his way back. “Daddy! Sookie’s doing haircuts.”
“Haircuts?” It’d figure. At least she sucked at something… the boys said that throwing crayons at the wall looked better than her drawings.
He stuck his head in. “Yeah. The cutting of the hair.”
I was waiting for the bathroom and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Carm was singing in the shower. When he came out I told him to head for the kitchen to make his lunch while he waited for a trim.
I’d been worried that I’d end up taking a cold shower. Sookie, Eric, Jack, Carm… then me. Five showers is a lot for a hot water heater even if it’s set hot enough to melt glass.
I had just gotten the shampoo into my hair when the ice water hit my back… I fucking hate being right sometimes…
I was cowering from the cold spray at the back of the tub, lathering up and preparing myself to grab the shower head and suffer through rinsing with cold water when the water got warm again. Dick…
That’s the best Eric had?
That mother fucker gets a monthly newsletter from Mensa and his brilliant revenge was turning a knob on the hot water heater?
No. He wasn’t done. He was just having some fun… I’d have bet the boys were laughing their little asses off too…
I used the warm water to rinse and get out… just in time to play along. The water got cold again as I was stepping out, so I started yelling and cussing…
“You son of a… I’m going to kick your ass, Northman!”
The laughing I heard when I was done was $5 well spent…
I left the water running while I brushed my teeth and shaved at the sink, figuring he’d have as much fun as he could…
I was right.
When he fucked with the water for the third time, I yelled that he wasn’t funny and he’d remember the eggs fondly by the time I was done paying him back as I turned the water off.
Both boys were cackling their evil little asses off…
It was beautiful.
Jason and the boys started snickering when I walked into the kitchen. Carm was on Jason’s lap again.
“Since you think it’s so funny, I should do it to you too.”
Carm shrugged. “But you won’t. Dat’ll be $5.”
“Let Eric know about the bill.”
“You cussed.” He said the ‘C’…
“He made me.”
“You toulda said ‘keister’.” Another ‘c’… It made me want to keep him talking…
As cute as it was to me, I knew he hated it. I went over and dropped a 5 on the table. “I’m gonna start paying in penny rolls… What are y’all up to?”
Jason grinned and circled something on the newspaper he had spread out in front of them. “We’re just having some fun.”
“Is that the Wallstreet Journal?”
Carm nodded. “I’m day-trading.” Oh Jesus…
“You’re picking stocks?”
He nodded again. “Jason went to school with Donald Trump…”
“I went to the same school… he was long gone before I got there.”
“Yeah and I’m not buying stocks… we’re pretending. I’m buying Sony and Mattel because it’s shopping season.”
Jason smiled like a goon and nodded. “And after Christmas?”
“Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.”
“And why is that?”
“Because people get sick in the spring. Buy low, sell high.”
We both chuckled at him and Jason high 5ed him with a ‘damn right’. “He’ll be managing his own portfolio in no time… we’re gonna track his picks. I told him that for every buck he ‘makes’, I’d buy him a ticket for the school carnival in March.”
“So you won’t be alone in line at the dunk tank?” Poor Quinn.
He laughed. “With Bill gone, I get to focus.” God help Eric if those two ever split up.
I went to the door to the porch for a minute to give Eric a hard time and didn’t even wait for Carm’s cue before I paid for calling Eric a sack of shit…
I was leaning against the counter with a smoke while Jason and Carm put together a ‘watch list’ and Jack quietly sat with Jason’s iPod, adding to his list…
When Eric came in with his fresh trim he grabbed a potholder and shook it in front of my face before he opened the oven to pull out those precious little tinfoil footballs… even Jason’s eyes lit up…
Oh, sweet dilemma… Breakfast fajitas or killer shmear…. Both?
Jason slid out from under Carm and went to grab sour cream, salsa and a couple of spoons while Eric unwrapped a couple for the boys so they could cool off.
Jason didn’t wait… he dumped salsa and sour cream onto his and started pigging out without bothering with a plate.
Sookie called ‘next’ and Jason headed out to the porch… and grabbed Sookie’s phone on his way since it started going off.
Jason’s head tilted. “Why’s Doc Burley calling ya?”
I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if Eric hadn’t forgotten his poker face… he went sheet white and tensed up…
“Hello?…” I couldn’t see her from where I was but Eric started walking her way slowly. “I’m great, how are you?…” He was locked up tighter than I’d ever seen him. “…Yeah… Ok… Really?… Thanks… You too. Bye.”
My nosey ass, leaned on the counter as close to the back door as I could without being too obvious. Just close enough to overhear while I ‘innocently’ ate a fajita.
Eric asked, “Well?”
He growled. “Not funny.”
“Sure it is.”
“Sookie!” I almost laughed… he sounded like a whining kid. “…Really?”
“For real. We’re clear.” Shit… Fuck them and their code talking… I got nothing from it.
Thank God Jason didn’t mind being an asshole about it. “Can either one of you explain what the hell is going on? Sook, why’d Amy call you before 7 AM?”
“Me and Eric had an oops. She was calling to let me know that I’m not pregnant.” Ooooh damn… that would explain the multicar pile up on Eric’s face. He’s good enough with my kids that he shouldn’t do too much freaking out about it, but an ‘oops’ is still gonna freak a guy out…
I went back to minding my own damn business… and started toasting a bagel…
I ended up cutting the boys’ fajitas in half so they could pick them up and eating another one while I waited for the toaster.
The boys were laughing at me for finishing my second bagel (spicy enough to break a sweat… one hell of a peace offering) when Eric yelled for me. “Hey Alc! What was it that Amber called you again? Superman? Iron Man?”
Funny asshole. I went to the doorway. “Hulk. She called me HULK.”
“K. Thanks.” The prick giggled like a little girl with Hannah Montana tickets.
Sookie giggled too and nudged Jason’s shoulder. “She didn’t know y’all are friends, but she didn’t care that he’s married.” She ejected Jason from the chair and gave me a nod. I was next?
I was about to ask what crawled up the clown’s ass since he stomped off for his shower…
“Alc, I have a favor to ask.”
“Just one? I owe you about a hundred.” Maybe a million…
“I need to use you for your body.” Oh shit.
“This has something to do with Frannie, doesn’t it?”
“My brother and Frannie have been playing cat and mouse for so long it’s making me twitch…”
“Hold up. Not only did you suggest hooking me up with your ex, but Jason’s got a hard on for her?”
She giggled and started trimming. “Just to get you laid. They’re too retarded to admit they want to be with each other.”
“You were going to loan me your brother’s booty call.”
She huffed and growled a little. “Me and Frannie were just… I guess you could say we were fuck buddies… I broke up with her when I noticed the two of them starting to gravitate to each other. We weren’t ‘life partner’ serious. When I backed out, our relationship didn’t change other than the fact that we weren’t sleeping together anymore… Jason and Frannie have gotten into this rut… A ‘moronic miscommunication’ and even Daddy rags on Jason for not settling down with her. They’ve been ‘unexclusive’ the whole time. They’ve both dated but they keep going back to each other. They’ve never broken up, because they’re pretending it’s ‘casual’… I’ve tried everything. She doesn’t want to move here because she doesn’t want to seem like she expects anything. He won’t ask her to come here because he’s afraid she’d turn him down… They’re both such good actors that they think the other one is perfectly happy with things and they’re happy with what they can get because they’re idiots and think they’d scare off the other one.”
“When you say you’ve tried everything…”
“I’ve tried getting them ‘honesty drunk’ and all that did was inspire a fuckathon. I tried asking her to come stay with me after I left Bill, but she knew better than to think I needed a hand to hold. You saw what Jason was like last night when she came up. I only found out at y’alls bon voyage that she’d lost her phone, but he’d known all along because they were together when she lost it. He also knew she was in New Orleans because he’d been down to see her. Asshole… Anyway… in case you didn’t notice, he did NOT like hearing that Frannie made a move on you. They need a push. I think you’re the man for the job.”
Like I want to get in the middle of that shit… “Ok. Let me get this straight… You do my laundry, make my bed, tend to my kids, FEED me… us, and now groom me and the favor your asking me for is that I flirt and make out with your stripper ex-girlfriend?” She buffed the stray hairs off the back of my neck and nudged my shoulder. I stood up running my hands through my hair. I hadn’t realized how long it had gotten, but it felt good.
“Jack! Get your shaggy head out here… That’s the down and dirty of it.”
Jack was still chewing when he sat down. “When I’m done can I have another fajita?”
She snorted and gave me a look as the towel went over his shoulders. “Like father, like son. Yeah, knock yourself out. What am I doing? Just a trim, or do you want something new?”
“Just a trim. I like it off my ears and neck.”
She smiled at the back of his head and started his trim…
I ended up mind fucking myself for a few minutes… The last thing I wanted to do was piss anyone off…
“Isn’t it a slippery slope? I don’t want to piss him off.”
“It will probably light the fuse on his tampon… but you’ll have a handler. You won’t be going in without backup. I can handle the PR afterwards. Daddy will be clued in too.”
“No cerca de los chicos.”
“Claro que no.” Cute.
“Ok. I can do that. When do you plan on all this?”
She smiled at me like it was nothing… then again, with this handling group of bitches… “I’ll email her in a bit and see about when she can visit. Hopefully, I can get her up here after Smom & Dad leave but while you’re still staying here.”
“You think his imagination will get the best of him and do most of the work for us.”
Thank God… less pressure, possibly less lying too…
Sookie neatened up both boys in no time and I followed them back to the kitchen for coffee and smoke while they finished (continued) eating…
Watching them put it away like they were trying to gain weight made me realize what Sookie had noticed about me…
We had a list of our favorite 10 places that we’d hit for dinner whenever I was home for it. I’d always thought they would eat like little pigs because they really liked whatever they’d ordered…
I always let them order from the adult menu since they hadn’t wanted nuggets or burgers at sit-down places in years. Fast-food drive-thrus were why and being pissed about that is probably why I didn’t notice that the boys would eat ‘real food’ until they split just because they only got it 4 or 5 times each week…
My mom would shit…
If she knew… If she saw them eating like they had been since they got to Bon Temps… She’d make me bend over so she could put her hand print on the back of my head. She wouldn’t have told me to stay or leave Ame. She wouldn’t have butted in like that, but she’d have filled the freezers with casseroles and sauces and planned another visit before we’d be out of rations…
As it was, Jack always ate better when we’d go over for dinner at her house…
I was yanked out of my pity party when I went to refill my coffee…
I wasn’t being nosey that time. I honestly just overheard them… Eric mentioned that ‘they’d’ been taking care of each other for a long time and I assumed that he meant Sookie, Jason and Corbett…
What got my attention was how tense she sounded when she answered him. “I didn’t mean it. Not like that. She took it the wrong way.”
He asked, “What are you talking about?”
“Amelia. When I was showing her how to dance. She mentioned how close we all seem and asked about if my ‘mom’ was going to be at the bar. I made a nasty comment about never really having a ‘mom’ and not needing her. I said that we’d been taking care of each other for as long as I could remember. When Jack said it last night, I thought I was going to throw up.” Oh, hell no…
I didn’t care that I’d look like a snooping asshole. I went to the door. “Don’t.”
“Alcide…” She looked like she was about to cry… Jason and Frannie weren’t the only good actors… she never let on that she was freaking out, blaming herself.
“Seriously, Sookie. Don’t lose any sleep over it. The boys and I are fine. You heard it for yourself last night. We were worried that they’d end up with her. She would have left regardless. This way it wasn’t dragged out.”
“She might have given you a chance to get your feet under you though.”
“No. She would have commando’ed her way into the house and made it hers. And I would still have had to depend on you to help me figure shit out. And the kids would have suffered in the process.”
“I can still feel guilty.”
“Sure you can, but that would be retarded. If you hadn’t said what you did, she probably would have left me and taken the kids. Then spent a couple of years talking shit about me until they hated me before she eventually dumped them too.” And that’s the ‘good’ scenario that doesn’t include what kind of prick she’d find to pay her bills next… or what he’d have done to my boys.
She went quiet… fucking just like Eric… she was hell bent on blaming herself for the time being… even though the papers had been drawn up since before I’d ever heard of Bon Temps…
I let her ignore common sense for a minute while she went back to steaming suits like it was brain surgery… ignoring shit by doing chores… damn if they didn’t deserve each other…
I was watching, waiting for her to do something… But since I’d had the spicy bagels, my sinuses were clear… “Do I smell chili?”
Sookie started laughing and looked back at Eric. “You weren’t kidding.”
“No. I wasn’t kidding… all he’s thought about since he started staying here is food… Yes. Chili is in the crockpot. Fresh bread to go with it.” Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
She gave him a semi-serious look. “Did you mention what we’re having tomorrow?”
She smiled as she handed Eric’s suit to him and hung mine to get started. “Smom wants to try Cajun food.”
“You’re making gumbo?” Sweet baby Jesus… I’d died and gone to heaven.
“Cornbread with jalapeños, etoufee, jambalaya AND gumbo. If time allows, probably some fried okra and squash.” By the time my house was ready, she’d make up for 9 years of soupy Hamburger Helper and burned Rice O Roni…
“Your Dad taught you to cook all that?”
“Him and his mother. Gran was a great cook. So was Grampa, he learned in the Army…. And now, I’m going to teach you. You’d be surprised at how easy it is.”
Or I could be as big a let down in the kitchen as their mother and then the boys would want Hadley to decorate Sookie’s root cellar for them to live in. “If it’s so easy…”
“What? You know you’re full of shit. Not everyone is good in the kitchen.”
“All you need is basics.”
“Basics? I’m not buying it.”
She narrowed her eyes and came over to stand in front of me with her arms folded. “I can teach you the basics so that you can follow a recipe. You’re. Not. An. Idiot.”
“I can be. Ask Eric.” He nodded hard enough to look like he was convulsing.
Her dimples showed even though she was refusing to smile. “Are you telling me that I can’t teach you your way around a kitchen?”
“I’m telling you that I doubt I can make anything more complicated than hot dogs… which I have ruined before.” Those fuckers can detonate.
“In twenty minutes, I had your son doing something he thought was impossible.” 10, but who’s counting?
“Why? Are you suggesting that you don’t want to learn to cook for them?” That. Dirty. Fucking. Bitch!
“OH. MY. GOD! You said you didn’t do guilt!” Eric was laughing his ass off. Dick.
She giggled. “I wasn’t at the time, but I’ve got more where that came from. By the time I’m done with you, dinners over here won’t be a big deal because you’ll be able to do it all yourself. That’s a promise.”
“That was low.”
She sang, “But it’s working.”
“SO! Where’d you learn to lay it on so thick?”
She used a thick Irish brogue. “Vincent Corbett Stackhouse ‘twas the sole living bairn of Corbett and Rebecca Flannigan Stackhouse. I see and raise your Italian catholic guilt with the finest Ireland has to offer.”
“I have to play fair?”
“So I can’t PhotoShop Pam’s face into porn and send it to your phone?”
“NO! Never… Ever… And… Ewwwwww!”
“So a doctored Strap On Sally starring Pam and Jennifer is out?”
Eric finally got up to put his hand over her mouth. “Go. Get. Dressed. So she’ll stop. I’m gonna have nightmares.”
Him and me both.
I shuddered when I closed the bedroom door behind me.
Sookie had a mean streak.
…But she ended the conversation about cooking…
I was buttoning my shirt before I realized I was growling.
That time, I minded.
She’d already set the precedent that she could handle me ‘nicely’.
When I got to the living room, Jason pulled his lip up. “Damn. I was hoping you can tie a tie better than me… Wrong…”
“Sorry. Does that make me less sexy?”
“No. The suit does though. Jacket breaks too low for me to see your…”
Carm was standing next to him, waiting to levy.
Carm blew a raspberry at him and went to the foyer and came right back. “I can’t find my hoodie. I thought I hung it up last night.” A hard ‘C’ and a ‘th’…
“It’s on the dresser in our room.”
Jason’s eyes had gone wide. “You tried it!”
Carm blushed and nodded.
“Well, hot damn! It’s working!” He went over and gave him 5.
Carm was too shy to mention it, so Jason explained. “Singing, like in the shower. I was 9 before I had ‘C’s or ‘K’s. It wasn’t until we started playing around in the garage and singing that I got set right. Lazy tongue was all it was. I told him last night… Rene didn’t mean anything by it, but he thought ‘Taptain America’ was cute.”
I smiled at Carm, hoping he wouldn’t run off. “So, what did you sing in the shower?”
I could tell by the way he was looking at me that he wanted to hide. “When The Sun Goes Down.”
I wanted to cry again. It had to be this family… that they notice everything… “It really is working. I’m proud of you just for trying it though.”
He nodded. “Dresser?”
I could tell he wanted to run, but he forced himself to slow it down.
When he was gone, Jason held his arms out. “Come on. You know you wanna hug me. No one’ll know.”
Fuck it. I hugged (and thanked) the goofy bastard while Jack laughed at me.
“No problem. I hated it. I got freaked out whenever I got called in class and everything.”
“Same with him. His old school made an issue out of it… So, what are you so dressed up for?”
He snarled. “I call it a family obligation… Since I was majoring in finance, Grampa left the bank to me. Hate it. I only go in once every couple of weeks.”
Awwww. “When my grandfather died, I got his recliner. It smelled like Pall Malls… It’s probably what started me smoking, come to think of it.”
He snorted. “I don’t complain too much. Had, Tara, Sook and the twins have to manage the trust and the other businesses.” I was even more impressed with the family knowing that ‘Grampa’ had included Tara in his will… Then again, he was the guy that took Dermot in.
“Wow. Pimpin’ ain’t easy?”
“Amen… What the hell’s taking them so long?”
I raised an eyebrow at him, unwilling to say that they were probably grabbing a quickie in front of Jack.
He started laughing and pulled my shoulder… “This is gonna be fun. C’mon.”
I followed him down the hall and waited with my back to the wall next to the door… he might not be afraid of what he was going to see, but I was.
He winked at me and shoved the door open.
“JASON! You didn’t even knock!”
Eric started laughing. “See… THIS is the shit I was warning you about last night.”
Sookie growled. “What do you want Jason?”
“Help with my tie.”
“Are you kidding me!?”
“Naw. Dead serious. Get off him and get dressed so you can do my tie. Hurry up.” Oh my god… part of me wanted to know what the fuck he was looking at that he wasn’t having any reaction.
I could hear Eric grunt, so I thought they might be getting up, but then… “You can’t shoot him.” I had to cover my mouth. She was reaching for her gun? She really didn’t like to be interrupted.
“Yeah! You can’t shoot me.”
Sookie sounded like she was trying to wrestle for it. “Why… the fuck… not?”
“They’re locked up.”
Jason slapped at me because I was having a hard time not losing it. “C’mon! He’s sexy and all, but put it away. Y’all already saved the planet… get off him. I need my dimple and Alc’s is so jacked up I’d start checking his shoelaces.”
Both of them yelled, “GET OUT!”
He closed the door and laughed. “Told ya that’d be fun.”
“You got some balls on you. They’re both armed… ‘Save the planet’ though?”
“Yeah, you know… Conserve water, shower with a friend. They had themselves a little dirty-bath this morning.” I didn’t need to know that.
“So you totally just walked in on your sister fucking…”
He grinned. “Naw… They were thinking about it though.”
No boundaries. None. The whole family… I swear.
I’d never seen it before, but I was quickly deciding that Aqua Teens- Hunger Force wasn’t something the boys needed to watch, like ever, when Eric and Sookie finally joined the realm of the clothed.
She made an angry bee-line for Jason and tied his tie for him… He had the sense to thank her before he took off at least.
She turned around to look at me and rolled her eyes on her way over. “You need longer ties.”
“Are you saying I have a fat neck?”
She grinned. “No… I’m saying that because you’re so tall, your tie stops high enough that it makes you look fat. They’re usually mixed in with the regulars. You just have to look for them.”
“Good to know. Anything else you want to pick on me about?”
She snorted at me. “I wasn’t picking… If I was picking, I’d have told you that ‘parade rest’ makes you look like secret service. Is that what you’re going for?” Oh no she didn’t! Those goons…
“Take your pockets out for a spin. Makes you look less menacing, as far as someone your size can… I take it the jeans and Ts were nixed by Pam?”
I nodded. That dirty bitch could wear whatever she wanted, but before she left last night she’d reminded us that we were ‘representing the bureau’.
She gave a sorry-for-you grin as she smoothed my tie and patted my chest. “Why don’t you take a change with you. I think I can handle her into letting you get comfy.”
Eric and I were down the hall Roadrunner style… Alc and Eric shaped clouds of dust left behind… meep-meep
She was laughing with her hands on her hips when I got back, jeans, T-shirt, boots and real socks instead of the glorified panty hose dress socks in hand. Eric was right behind me. “Y’all are just SAD! Didn’t you ever see an episode of X-Files before you applied… You brats just took the task force gig so you could avoid the dress code, didn’t you?”
Eric and I looked at each other, but we eventually nodded. She’d pegged us. The suits were higher on the ‘hate list’ for me than Pam was.
We ended up taking the Galaxie. Not that it took much convincing, but Sookie told Eric that he could drive it back to the house when we were done.
Eric hit a divot in the driveway just as Sookie turned to snap a pic of me with her phone, so she had to take another one… Then one of Eric. I had no idea what she was doing, but she looked like she was up to something… If she emailed porn to me with ME PhotoShopped into it, I’d wait to throw up until I could get to her.
We had just gotten to the school and the boys were already trying to get out of their seatbelts before the car stopped… I had to ignore how happy I was that they were actually excited to be at school so that I could fuss at them about jumping the gun.
Sookie yelled suddenly enough to startle us. “HA HA! You shall erect a golden statue of me and leave offerings at its feet!”
Eric beat me to asking why.
“I sent those pictures to Pam and said ‘Even though I think it’s sexy, my students will not respond well to the suits. Blue collar kids see suits and think lawyer. They won’t trust them.’ And she replied with ‘do you think you can get them to change?”
God bless her.
She’d just made up for handling me earlier… Hell, she’d gotten a few free passes too.
No… No, I don’t think I minded that my best friend was marrying a ‘manipulative bitch’ at all…
Sookie stopped us in front of the office and looked down at the boys. “Ok gentlemen, do y’all remember how to get to your classes from here?”
They both nodded.
“Are y’all gonna show your Daddy your classes?”
They nodded again and started pulling my arms back.
Sookie started laughing at them. “Hold on! He has to be able to find us… When you’re done, go up the stairs, all the way down the concourse. Last hall on the right then the last door on the left. F15.” The jet? I could remember that.
The boys hadn’t let up so I started moving. “Up. Right. Left. Eagle. Roger that. Did you do that on purpose?”
“Yes sir. Bon Temps Eagles.” I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell she knew jets too… Hunter’s dad was Marines. Terry was Navy, but in Nam… She could read a lot of Tom Clancy… Shit, for all knew, Corbett could’ve designed the damn thing… Or the Stackhouses own McDonnell Douglas.
When we got to the first hall on left, the boys yanked in different directions and then fought over where we’d go first. It wasn’t until a group of girls (10 year olds, maybe) walked by and waved at Jack, that he gave up and let Carm’s class be first.
“What was that?”
He growled without looking up at me. “5th graders.” God, help me.
“You don’t mind the high school chicks making eyes at you.”
“Those girls are just desperate. The ratio is way off in 5th grade. Only 3 boys out of 31.” I felt more gray hair come in.
“How do you know that?” I already knew the answer.
“Hunter. He said the 8th grade is almost all boys too and most of them have a crush on Sookie.”
“They’re the same height… I guess it makes sense.”
He laughed. “I’m telling her you said that.”
“Go ahead. Be a narc. She knows she’s short.”
When ‘Mr. Andy’ saw me walk in with the boys, he bolted right over to shake my hand with a big, retarded smile on his face. Considering he was the same height as I was, I could only imagine how ridiculous he’d look doing big steps/little steps down the hallways…
“Hey Carm, Jack! Long time, no see! Nice haircuts… I was wondering when I’d get to meet your dad… Andy. Well, Anderson Bellefluer, but either one can be a mouthful for my age group.”
“Alcide Herveaux, so I understand. Call me Alc.”
“Will do. Carm seemed to have fun yesterday. Did he have any complaints once he got home? Sometimes they’re too shy. They worry more about blending than anything when they transfer in.” A teacher that cares enough to ask? I was going to have a stroke.
“Oh, he had plenty of complaints, but it was all over the letter show-and-tell. It took Hunter to talk him down.”
“Yeah, what do we have to look forward to?”
He laughed. “Hunter… He would!”
“Carm rejected everything Sookie, Eric, and I had to suggest. Hunter started talking cash. That was it. Done… So, he’s getting along alright?”
“Not bad at all… Halleigh and I take our classes out for recess and to lunch together. He actually blended better with the Kindergarten class maturity-wise. And he’s really good about asking questions. Most kids this age will stay quiet when they need clarification.” No kidding.
“Yeah. Nothing new there. Does he have everything he needs? Sookie said something about kits, but…”
“He doesn’t need supplies… We do snack share though. Just send in a box of serving wrapped snacks every week. And you could always contribute to the prize box if you want.”
“Yeah. We have a demerit system. Every child has a pouch in that organizer over there. They start the week with 8 coins. We take one out when they misbehave. If they have any left on Friday, they get to pick something from the prize box. Little prizes like you’d get to fill goody bags for a birthday party. Bubbles, stickers, those bouncing balls, suckers… that kind of thing.” Nothing like the old school… Beautiful.
Jack griped, “I was robbed. I don’t have a prize box.”
Andy smiled at him. “Tara does popcorn and a movie for her students when you stay on green.”
His eyes lit up. “Oh!”
“Yeah. You’re not feeling so robbed anymore, are you? Anyway, I’ll let Carm show you around so you can get to Tara’s class. Nice meeting you.”
“Nice meeting you too.” He had no idea… He couldn’t. Carm’s last teacher was still mispronouncing Carmichael after two months… Car- Michael. She’d made it rhyme with nickel. I still didn’t understand why it was so hard… And Andy notices that he’d gotten a haircut… and Jack… An observant teacher was worth doing back-flips over.
After watching no less than 10 girls wave and make eyes at Jack on the way to his class, Tara was waiting at the door to her room.
“Hey there! This is a surprise. Are you auditing?” I’d technically partied with her, and hadn’t seen her in such a good mood. Her ‘news’ was showing.
I didn’t get the chance to ask before Jack barked out a ‘NO’. I didn’t even look; I just batted the back of his rude melon. “What’s auditing?”
She laughed, I’m guessing, at the pissy look he gets when I whop him. “Like in college. You don’t get any credit for it, parents are welcome to come by and sit in. Some folks stay all day, some for just an hour or two.”
“Outstanding. I might just do that.”
Jack groaned at me and went into the classroom and Tara waited until he was over at his locker before she laughed at him. “To be honest, all the kids hate it. If you want to, he won’t be any more damaged than the rest of them.”
“I probably won’t, but it won’t keep me from holding it over his head. How’d he do yesterday?”
“Oh, he fit right in. Devon paved the way for him. He didn’t have any of the annoying interview questions to answer… I heard y’all had a big night last night. Daddy called me on his way home.”
“Sorry you weren’t there. It was quite a show. Corbett, Jason and Eric almost killed him, federal agent witnesses be damned.”
“Bill. What are you talking about?”
“Wait. What?” I’m pretty sure I was just as confused as Tara.
“The reason y’all were invited over last night was because that student of Sookie’s, Rene, uncovered that Bill has been forging IDs. Eric had Homeland Security out to arrest him. We watched from the lawn. Your turn.”
She squealed ‘not yet’ as lunged at me for a hug. “He’s gone!”
Her feet were off the ground and her arms were around my neck tight enough that breathing was work. “20 to life. One of the IDs he did helped a girl get drunk and kill herself and a few others. Eric and I are doing an assembly to ask for the students to turn them over.”
Jack gave me a dirty look from inside his class while a couple other students stared. “Oh Lordie! I thought I was in a good mood before… I’m gonna kick Daddy next time I see him. He didn’t say anything about it!…”
When she finally put her feet down and stepped back, she was crying. She started wiping her tears and trying not to mess up her makeup. It was too late.
“…He’s been haunting this family for 15 years!”
“Sheila gone, now Bill… Y’all might start fighting with each other.”
She laughed, “Don’t bet on that.”
“Is it your turn now?”
She gave me an ‘oops’ face. “He told me about the boys and how well they did. He said it was like they were born to be Stackhouses. He says the same thing about Sam and me. Y’all are fitting right in.” Uhhh, wow. After seeing what he had last night, he called to tell her about ‘band time’ instead of being hung up on the ugly part of the evening… wow.
“I could’ve died, Tara, seriously. Jack was crushed when his music teacher fired him… You should’ve seen him.”
“I’ll probably even play with him… I was so worn out last night that I nearly fell asleep on the way home.”
“I hear that’s normal… under the circumstances. Congrats.”
Her eyes lit up but she put her finger to her lips to shush me. “I’m being superstitious.”
I smiled at her, understanding why she would be. “About what?”
I stayed in the hall and chatted with Tara while she greeted students until the ‘warning bell’ rang.
I was halfway down the concourse when a tiny voice got my attention. “Uhhh, Mr. Herveaux?”
When I turned around, it took me a minute to place her face. Tiny little blonde with big brown eyes… One of Hunter’s girls. “Yeah?”
“I’m Hannah… You picked Hunter up the other night.”
“Right… What’s up?”
She shifted and fidgeted. “Well, I uh… ummmm…” She was about to rattle apart.
“You’re going to be late for class… What’s up?”
“Well thanks, I guess. I’m only 15 and my dad would’ve skinned me alive if he knew a boy was there… Hunter too if he knew he was a junior.” And there’s another age-lie related problem. Hadley probably wouldn’t freak out as much if Hunter was dating someone his own age… maybe.
I smiled, thinking I might have been scaring her. “The secret’s safe with me… But y’all should know better. There’s a reason why parents worry.”
“My folks are just real strict is all. Anything fun is a bad thing.”
“Hannah, keeping tabs on you and what you’re doing isn’t being strict… It’s keeping you safe. You know I’m a cop, right?”
She nodded. “Taryn told me.”
“Do you know how long it’s been since I told a parent that their little girl had been murdered?”
She turned sheet white and shook her head.
“August 18th. She was 16 years old and her parents didn’t know why her last sighting was at an ATM on the other side of town as where she was supposed to be. Just a tip, if you feel like you have to hide it from your parents, go home instead.”
“What happened to her?”
I shook my head. “You don’t want to know.”
“Then why’d you cover for Hunter?”
“I didn’t. I served him up to his mother for breaking curfew and scaring the crap out of her. I just didn’t tell her that Hunter was ignoring her calls for y’all.”
“She was really worried, huh? God… I feel like I should tell her I’m sorry.” Goooood girl…
“That would be a bad idea, but you’re in the right frame of mind. Go on and get to class. I’ll see you later.”
Sookie saw me coming down the hall when the 9 o’clock bell rang.
“Am I still late?”
“Yeah. And if it happens again, you’ll be visiting Quinn.”
She laughed and closed the door behind us.
I noticed right away how many bodies were squeezed into the room, but it only took a second for me to notice that my partner was already out of his suit and happily sitting behind Sookie’s desk.
He jerked his head over his shoulder to a door… It was like Let’s Make A Deal and I’d won… My jeans and boots were waiting. I’d spent a minute thinking that he might hide them to be funny… Or dump something on them… Or wipe his ass… I actually checked for that…
The students were all chatting up a storm when I came out of the little bathroom feeling human again and Sookie was sitting on the arm of Eric’s chair so I took a seat next to them.
While Sookie explained to Eric why she had 2 classes worth of students in one period, I looked around…
‘Fashion’ had gone to shit since I went to school…
The guys still dressed the same, give or take. Jeans. T-shirts. Sneakers or boots…
Girls: The tighter the better had been the style… they wore their clothes as tight as they possibly could and I’m pretty sure that had something to do with why hair was so big then too… the bangs. HUGE, fist-sized walls, waves or wads of bangs that supported a can-a-day habit of Aqua-Net… Jean jackets… Keds with layered socks…
Nowadays it was scary… tighter had made way for smaller. For all the girls in the class, there was barely a whole outfit between them… Keds were a memory and high heels were the majority over anything close to modest or comfortable… I can’t remember the last time I’d seen so many bra straps in one place and if it was summer, I might be able to understand all the tank tops… but it was November for fuck sake… I was dying to see the dress code…
Dated…. And remembering the ‘good old days’…
Most importantly… Still glad to have boys.
I switched channels to check out the posters all over the walls… ALL OVER… Sam Houston, Louis and Clark with Sacagawea, Leif Erikson (I think), Douglas MacArthur, Archduke Ferdinand, Poncho Villa, The Black Sox, Fidel Castro, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela… Pretty much every influential politician, explorer, peacekeeper or military leader I could think of…
One thing really stood out… The giant reproduction of the Last Supper on the wall behind the desk… In a history classroom…
It made me a lot more curious about the ‘Constitutional Theology’ class Hunter was taking.
I’d managed to let Sookie know that Tara had been told about Bill’s arrest just in time for the morning announcements to be read… and the pledge of allegiance…
Sookie didn’t get to start teaching until after she nearly beat up the teacher in the next room over for ‘picking on’ one of her athletes. She bitched him up one side and down the other. It was hilarious and the bathroom rigging she pulled afterwards made me really glad Eric excluded her from our little war…
Mr. Norris had implied that her rack was the only reason her students liked her…
Granted, she looked unbelievable in the dress she was wearing (and to be honest anything I’d seen her in) but a 22 inch waist and D cups don’t inspire note taking…
As soon as she turned to the board and told everyone that she was going to be racing to play catch up after Gollum’s ‘bullshit’ the notebooks and laptops came out and they were all locked in.
For the record… I fucking hated history with every fiber of my being.
It didn’t matter which teacher I had. It didn’t matter if it was high school or college lecture or online or CLEP courses… It all blew.
I got straight Cs across the board. From middle school on up except for one B… I’d broken my leg and my mom had actually earned it because all of my work was brought to the house.
I even hated the History Channel because it bored the shit out of me.
Somehow I caught myself interested… somehow, Catherine the Great wasn’t coma inducing.
Then again, I’d NEVER had a teacher that would talk about the subject du jour like they knew them… Sookie wasn’t talking about some woman in a history book… she was gossiping about a ‘homeschooled army brat with a train wreck of a mother’…
Locker room gossip… seriously. Kids can remember every rumor they hear about a classmate… but facts slip by them.
Her students would remember who modernized Russia just because of how Sookie explained it.
…They even groaned when the bell rang because she’d made it fun.
I couldn’t say I blamed them. I was pretty locked in myself.
Another batch of under-clothed girls refilled the room between classes… These were worse… more curves, less fabric. They were older.
God bless boys.
The room was nearly at capacity when Hunter came in, Taryn and Michelle under his arms and smiling like a peacock when Taryn used his lap as her scratching post, I mean seat.
I had to wonder what issues she had… Charming or not, Hunter was still just another guy. And he was so hung up on her (for the moment) that he was only being as much of a pimp as she let him be…
“Hey! How appropriate is it that you two are here for this class.”
“Which class is this?”
“Constitutional Theology… Hey Miss Stackhouse! Am I firing up a laptop?”
She called back from the hall on her way in. “Yeah thanks, Mr. Savoy.” She nudged my knee out of the way to pull open a drawer full of laptops and hand one to Hunter. “There’s a paper due tomorrow. The laptop is so they can upload them from a thumb drive if they can’t email…”
She looked stoned, focusing on a poster of Billy the Kid so Eric asked, “Sookie, what is it?”
She whispered. “He’s burned.”
“HE… his patsy, his apartment, his nest… his ID.”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“You find any tech?”
“Just memory devices.”
“He either has one hell of a cell phone or a laptop… You think he’s going to quit now? Now that he’s burned?”
I shook my head and almost heard her gears grinding. “No… move on.”
She looked evil when she smiled. “He’ll need a new ID before he moves on.”
“He can’t contact Bill though.”
“What are the odds that he knows that? Bill was caught on the same day as his nest getting tossed. He was probably a little preoccupied. Bill was using a separate email and meeting his customers in a neutral place right?”
Eric and I shared a look before he blurted, “We might be able to set up a meet with him.” Neither of us had thought of it with everything that happened yesterday.
She giggled and clapped her hand over his mouth….
Then all of a sudden, she remembered that she had students in the room. “Hey guys… anyone who needs to upload a final draft is free to. We have an assembly starting in twenty minutes, give or take… Y’all go hit the bathrooms, automat, secret smoking and make out spots… whatever. Meet me, front row center in the auditorium by 10:30… K? Take your things; third period will be starting when the assembly is over.”
Seriously. Sookie and Rene needed to be locked in a room with Redbull IVs and cold cases… after they solve all of the open ones…
Twenty fucking minutes.
I was still leaving a voicemail to let Cater know that ‘we’ were going to be monitoring ‘oldenuff’s email account when Sookie hacked her way into it. Eric was still pacing and explaining to Pam that once again she was being informed of Sookie’s genius while she was sucking Corbett off instead of working…
Ok, he just told her that Sookie suggested that we could intercept an email from de Castro, but I’d have at least hinted that she was collecting cobwebs.
I don’t know how, but I wanted to learn how she did it. Somehow she opened a screen, typed some greater than, less than, semi colon, html bullshit and her printer fired up behind us. Without opening any of the emails, they were all printing directly from the server…
She peaked at a couple and I left it to Eric to be a prick and stop her. She could read every one of them for all I cared. Badge or not, she was more of an agent than our ‘boss’ had been on this case.
We had 3 minutes to spare when Eric got the confirmation for email alerts on his cell and we walked out of the classroom while the printer spit out 470 nails for Bill Compton’s coffin.
When we got back to the classroom we had 41 IDs in our hot little hands.
We were happy campers. 41 forged IDs, nearly 500 emails and chili waiting for us back at the house… My ass was happy enough to dance a fucking jig.
The printer had stopped so I went straight over to collect our goodies, but it needed paper… I was refilling the tray when Eric started answering questions from the gallery…
Not only was Washington High School in Clarice on our list after what some of the students had told us at the assembly, but Minden was going to be too.
Plus we had some more IDs coming to us from word of mouth since everyone seemed to be texting their fingerprints away.
Plus Sookie had some cheer coaches from an out of state cheer retreat to contact about haranguing her squad to pony up…
That was the cherry. On top of all the other shit, mail fraud was a federal case…
Doo dah, doooo dah…
Eric ended up giving the students a list of ways to ‘run into’ us and drop off locations…
Then… like it could get any better, Hannah told us that her cousin was a bouncer with a stack of IDs he’d taken off of clubbers.
I was seriously considering looking into transferring to Fraud after a while. Shreveport had a fraud division.
I could do that.
When Eric’s phone started ringing, I figured it was Pam looking for an update, you know, because driving the 6 miles from Corbett’s place to actually take part in the investigation would be an imposition…
It wasn’t Pam though.
I was collecting our mountain of emails and the damn suits when I saw Sookie hugging Eric like someone died.
A bunch of the students said they’d see me tomorrow when I waved on my way out… but I was preoccupied with why Eric looked halfway between puking and twisting the head off of something.
“What’s going on? What was that?”
Eric’s eyes rolled and he groaned. “You know that sister I never fucking talk about?”
“Yeah, is she ok?”
He clenched his jaw. “She’s somewhere between the Shreveport Airport and Bon Temps.”
“She’s coming to visit you? I thought you hate each other.”
“I’d be happier to hear about Sheila visiting.”
I almost laughed, but when Sookie looked up from his side, her face told me he was serious.
She couldn’t be that bad…