Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk?
I don’t know how and I’m not sure that I want to know how, but I was face down on the bed in Sookie’s guest room when I woke up.
I’d left a huge puddle of drool on the pillow too…
Six beers don’t do that to me… 4 nights without much sleep does though.
I sat up, looking for my phone and noticed that my stuff had been unpacked enough for my alarm clock to get plugged in.
My phone was charging from my laptop.
My shoes were tucked under the side of the bed.
Going to get fresh clothes so I could get a shower, I nearly tossed my suitcase across the room… I picked it up expecting it to still weigh 40ish pounds… It had been full… once.
Now everything was put away… She’d hung my shirts and pants, tucked the rest of my clothes into the dresser.
If we got back as scheduled, she didn’t sleep last night either. I’d bet a picture of Sookie sleeping was worth as much as proof of Bigfoot.
I wonder if she plugs into a wall socket to recharge.
After I took a quick shower, I checked my phone, expecting to find more bullshit from Ame… Nothing from her.
But I had an IM from the boys.
“We slept in so we get another day off. –J” He’d only sent it a few minutes ago. He was up in time…
Lazy bitch. For all intents and purposes, I have a partner-in-law who runs on naps and coffee so that she can take care of everyone in her path like a mom tornado and Ame can’t bother herself to roll out of bed by 7 to toast Pop Tarts for her own children.
I was just happy that we’d grabbed so much lunch stuff at the store.
“Enjoy the day off. Miss you guys.”
I knocked on the door. “Hey Eric.”
I braced myself as I opened the door.
At least it was a sheet, thank God… and a box full of broken down boxes by the desk… Damn. She’d unpacked everything
Jesus, he sleeps hard.
“Hey pretty boy! Wake up.”
He whined and flopped his arm over to the other side of the bed. If Sookie were there, she’d have a broken rib. “How long have you been up?”
“Just got up. I think your woman drugged me.”
He was so still, I thought he’d gone back to sleep for a second before he finally started moving and sat up.
When he grabbed his phone he found a note and started reading it.
I let him get through it, before I ragged on him. “Is it private?”
He shook his head and dragged his naked ass out of the bed to hand the note to me on his way to the bathroom…
“Didn’t have the <3 to wake you…
Breakfast is in the oven…
Lunch is in the fridge…
Text me if you need anything…
I’ll be home by 5.
There needs to be a Sookie action figure.
She’s my fucking hero.
I was reaching for a pot holder when I got a text… “10 days and a wake up, right? –J”
I smiled while I returned, “Yes, and if you guys help pack, we might get moved sooner.”
Before I had the chance to put my phone back into my pocket I got another one… “On it. –J”
Atta boy. At least they can pack their toys while they’re missing school…
I’d gotten distracted enough by the texting, that I remembered the pot holder a second too late.
I was watching the coffee pot gurgle while I ran my hand under cold water until Eric came in…
“What did you do?”
“Hot? The oven? Noooo.”
I laughed at the sarcastic asshole. “I guess there’s a reason she left the note for you instead of on the table.”
My prick partner shook his pretty head, taking the mystery pouches out of the oven. “Why don’t you sit down before you hurt yourself… Again.”
I grabbed the ash tray out of the dish drainer and sat down since Mr. Know-it-all was going to be my waitress. The smart ass gave me a cup of coffee, but moved the salt shaker away from me and pushed the sugar bowl over so I wouldn’t ‘get confused’.
I don’t punch him often enough.
I stared at the little foil football on my plate and wondered whether the boys were making themselves Eggos or Toaster Strudels.
Guilt. Just because I knew I was going to have 3 good meals a day for the next ‘10 days and a wake up’ while they were going to be on a Food Stamp diet.
I never should have left them.
My cigarette wasn’t doing its job.
I needed to flip to a different channel… “What’s the plan of the day?”
“We won’t know for sure until we hear from Pam… Victor Madden, for starters. We need to start calling the families about those photos. I know Pam was going to try getting in touch with Rio today about this guy’s priors.”
“Should we crash the club meeting today?” Might be nice to meet this ‘Andy’ guy before Carm starts.
“I want to, but Pam is worried that he might be watching the school for his next victim. Besides, we have the autopsy too.”
Oh. Yay. An autopsy.
The only thing that distracted me from the idea of my mind fuck day was the steam coming out of Eric’s breakfast pouch.
As soon as the smell hit me, I knew we’d need salsa. It smelled like a fajita… steak, eggs, cheese, veg…
I had to wait for Eric to paint salsa on his like he was restoring the Sistine Chapel before I could get to mine.
All it took was one bite… Not fair. “Fuck you!”
“It’s just not fair.”
“I know that. I actually feel guilty.”
“Don’t feel guilty… Just make sure you invite me over once in a while. There’s plenty of places to eat in New Orleans when the wife is on strike, but in Bon Temps I’m fucked… What did she leave us for lunch?”
I took another huge bite while he checked the fridge. “Some of the chicken salad leftovers from yesterday. Probably because she didn’t know if you have allergies. The bulk of it is seafood salad sandwiches. There’s a big bowl of pasta salad in there too.”
At least there was one up-side for me… “Your gonna get fat.”
“I’m taking you with me.” I thought about that for a second…
We quit talking. Fuck conversation. Fuck talking about dead women and nasty wives when all it would do is take away from how fucking good breakfast was. I was starting to regret grabbing a third fajita by the time either of us said anything other than ‘pass the salsa’ and the only reason was because Eric’s phone started…
‘…Hey, you’re a crazy bitch, but you fuck so good I’m on top of it, when I dream, I’m doing you all night, scratches all down my back to keep my ride on…’
“Are you serious?”
He laughed, digging it out. “She did it while I was sleeping…” Then he answered, “Alcide wants to move in for good. Breakfast is amazing…” Amazing isn’t the word I’d use. Godly, maybe. If I’d ever found breakfast fajitas like them at a restaurant, I might not care that Ame won’t cook.
“…Are you ignoring your students to call to me?… Uh, oh. What kind of ‘something’?… Oh, well… That’s fine. I’m sure… Madden?… That makes it easier than trying to track the asshole down. Thank you… How’d you do that?… Well then, you’re only 1 miracle away from sainthood… It sounds good, but could send the wrong message in catechism classes. We should work on it… We haven’t seen her yet… And Dangerous. I’ll talk to you later… Bye.”
I’d been ‘patient’ while they flirted long enough… “Madden. What about him?”
“The landscapers that are working your yard today… Sookie called Jason and made sure Madden’s working his crew.”
“Sweet. GPS is nice and all, but you’re right about not having to look for him. He could have been anywhere in 4 counties.”
“No shit. Now he’s 5 minutes away.”
“What was her other miracle? Or were you talking about the fajitas?”
“Isn’t it a burrito?”
“No. A burrito is bean based and veg free. A fajita is protein and veg.”
“If you say so. I’ve never been into southern cooking.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “This isn’t ‘southern’. This is tex-mex. Southern is typically fried meats with starchy sides.”
He snorted at me. “You can’t get a pan out of the oven without sustaining injury. What do you know?”
“I can’t sing without scaring away wildlife either, but I know the difference between Ozzy and Shania, Asshole.”
“Fine. Point taken… The second miracle is that you have helpers for painting.”
“Helpers? Like, what, does her dad have a company for that too?”
“Nope. Her school requires volunteer hours and high GPAs for the athletes. They’re allowed to skip out after lunch on Friday to do it.”
“Shit. That would have been fun to have a reason to skip on Friday instead of dodging the truancy officer. She have any idea how many?”
“She said she already had 8 sign up.”
“It’s only 9.”
“Yeah. She said there’ll be more. She’s pretty sure we’ll be done in plenty of time for us to go get Smom and Dad from the airport.”
“Well, damn! She does need to be canonized. I was thinking it would take days to get the house done.”
“Have you met her? She moves like a New York minute. We didn’t get to sleep until 5…”
“We were that late?”
“No. We got back at 3…” Fuck. I’ll learn soon enough. “We spent about half an hour unloading the car and trying to get some big fat sweepy asshole into the house… Anyway, she’s already unpacked my clothes and put it all away.”
“Mine too… How’d you get me out?”
“Sookie talked you out and then tucked you in. You were grumbling and cussing about her biting a pillow so you could get some sleep.” Ooops…
I started laughing and got up slowly. I was so bloated, I might as well have washed up… I needed to move. Rinsing dishes was as good a reason as anything. “Have you ever seen her sleep? She unpacked my shit too.”
“Honestly, the first time I ever saw her sleep was yesterday in the car.”
“No shit? I was just joking about Ritalin, but damn… She tell you she drove me like cattle yesterday? Ran me 10 miles.”
He shook his head. “You ran with her? Yesterday? When did you have time for that?”
I shrugged. “She must’ve waited for you to collapse before she got up. The house smelled like a bakery by the time she woke me up at 5 trying to send me to the couch in the music room.”
“Under two hours. She nearly killed me.”
He laughed. “After no sleep…” My cell interrupted him.
Ame’s ringtone might have been cute once, but now it was too fitting…
Being nice… “Morning Babe, how’s the packing going?”
“Who’s packing? I don’t know what you told them, but the boys won’t give me a moment’s peace to get anything done.” Yeah, right. An hour ago she was still sleeping.
“I didn’t say much of anything. I told them that it had a big yard and that they’d have their own rooms and bathroom. That’s about it.” …And fucked up telling Jack to help pack to move things along. Shit!
“If they keep it up, I’m sending them to you so that I can get something done.”
“We could hire movers if you want.” Maybe she’d clean the house if strangers were going to be there.
“Oh! That’d be great! I’d love to have strangers going through our things! No. I don’t think so. If I can’t get them to settle down so that I can get some work done, they’re coming to stay with you. Then you can figure out what to do with them for once.” Seriously? Come on…
“I’ll tell you what, why don’t we plan on that anyway. I’ll register the kids for school this week and they can start Monday. I’m sure you’ll have an easier time of it without them underfoot. The house here will be done by Friday.”
“The landscapers are there now, unfucking the yard and the painting will get done on Friday. I just need you to tell me colors. I’ll borrow Sookie’s air mattress and we can camp out in the house until our stuff comes.”
“I suppose Sookie and Eric are helping you.” If she had any friends she might not be so surprised.
“Of course they are. I can come get them Sunday, if you want.”
“Why Sunday? Do you three have big plans this weekend? More partying? Dancing?” Oh, God forbid. I almost told her I was going to be throwing a MySpace party. That she’d understand.
“No. Eric’s parents are coming into town to meet their future daughter in law.”
Eric started shaking his head so hard he looked like he was having convulsions. He covered my phone and whispered, “Don’t worry about my folks’ visit. Go get them today. It’s fine.” Then he moved his hand so I couldn’t argue with him.
I stared at him. I didn’t know whether I should punch him or hug him… “You know what? Eric just said not to worry about his folks. Do you want to do it earlier? Today is going to be really busy for us, but the rest of the week will be a whole lot of settling in. I could come out to get them any time.”
“Can you come tomorrow? Then the only thing I’d have to pack with their ‘help’ is their clothes.” They’d probably do a better job than she would…
“I’ll call you back. I want to clear it with Pam. K?”
“Love you.” Just for fun… just because I wanted to see Eric’s reaction to her reply…
Yep. He looked constipated. Like he wanted to hit her.
When I hung up, I had to say something to keep from laughing at the look on his face. “Sookie is going to kill us! If I do go get them tomorrow, she’s going to have 5 houseguests, not counting Pam.”
He started futzing with his cell. “It seems that Pam is now Corbett’s houseguest, and did you miss the look on Sookie’s face last night when she heard that Jack thinks you’re a whore?” No. It was scary as hell.
“No, but… Your folks.”
“Smom will love having little kids around.”
“Your old man?”
“Might play in the yard with them. Might ask to see their vet records. It’s a tossup. Don’t worry about him. He knows you’re going to be here and Sookie mentioned your kids…”
His phone started vibrating and he got that clown grin again. Must be Sookie. “…I sent her: ‘Ame read Alc the riot act about the kids being underfoot so I suggested that he go get them. Hope you don’t mind.’ She replied with: ‘A daily flight leaves SRVPT at 7 then NO at 3. They’d be home for dinner. Good call. Miss you already.’ See. I told you so.”
“You know Ame doesn’t trust me. She just thinks I can’t cheat if I have the boys here. She wants them to babysit me.”
“Fuck her reasons. That’s not the point. Having them here will be fun. Now go get your scary asshole costume on. We have a dirt bag to interview.”
It was easier to find clothes now than it was at my own house. Sad.
I went ahead and called Pam.
She huffed, “What?” I heard a growl in the background. Corbett must be ordering Mexican Viagra…
“I need tomorrow off.”
“To run back to get the boys. The wife is having a hard time packing and cleaning and whatnot.”
“You’re technically on leave to move anyway. What’s your POD?”
“First up is to track down Madden and interview him. And we have the autopsy later.”
“If something comes up… Eric doesn’t mind flying solo?”
“He suggested it.”
“Fine then. As long as there isn’t anything pressing.”
“Ok. Thanks… We’ll call when we know something about Madden.”
She didn’t say good bye. She just hung up. She could write a book on etiquette.
I had an IM waiting when I was done with Pam: “We’re getting ready for school. Mommy says she has errands. -J” Oh, thank God. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to run to the school and pediatrician for their records. If I had asked, Ame would’ve given me a hard time.
“Did she tell you why?”
“I’m coming to get you tomorrow. We’re going to stay with Sookie and Eric until our house is done.”
“Really. Tell your mom that I already cleared it with Pam.”
“<8D Yay! –J & C” The party hat.
Once I was dressed, I headed for the door and caught it as I passed the mirror…
Now I was the one wearing the PT Barnum smile…
We opted for taking the Belle Air since it hadn’t run since Thursday…
I texted Ame to confirm that Pam gave the thumbs up and then I texted Sookie to thank her…
“Called Pam. She’s down with letting me furlough tomorrow.”
He snorted. “Like it would have any impact on her anyway.”
I grabbed my phone when I got a text and then another one before I could check the first.
Ame sent, “I’m busy running errands. I’ll call you tonight.”
I replied, “Okay. Just letting you know it’s confirmed. Talk to you later.”
My second text was from Sookie. “No problemo. I’m already lining things up. Let me know if you think of anything that’ll make them more comfy. CU@home.”
“Hey Eric, what does ‘lining things up’ mean?”
“In regards to?”
“Your old lady texted and said she was ‘lining things up’.”
“Who knows with her… She could be lining up an air strike out of Andrews to hit your house after you get here with the kids.”
I laughed. “Could she?”
I’ll text her the lat and long.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph… Alc, this yard looks like a drive through safari.”
“You should’ve seen it the other day. I can already see the difference.”
“You should tell them to stop working… really. That way I can call you and Ame Dr. Giggles and the Blair Witch. Oooh, crop circles. That could be fun too.”
He laughed. “Come on, you know that shit’s funny. What’s the inside like? Good shape?”
“Yeah. Two of the bedrooms share one of those bathrooms…”
“A ‘jack and jill’?”
“Yeah. And the master is really big… I’m just happy I’ll finally have a den. I need to ask Sookie where I can buy a leather couch.”
He snorted. “Good luck with that.”
I started getting out of the car. “I’m gonna get exactly what I want and if Ame bitches I’ll tell her I found it on CraigsList so I can’t return it… I’ll make a fake listing if I have to. I’m sick of moving a dozen pillows to sit down to watch a damn game.”
“I’ve got your back. I’d rather sit on my lumpy couch and watch football with Tippy’s noise than watch ball in your living room. The one time we did… That fucking room is so fem I got my period by halftime.”
“No shit. This way, she can have her fem zone and I get a man cave.”
We spotted Jason on the roof at about the same time he spotted us and started climbing down to come over. Mother fucker moved like a ninja.
“Dallas is playing tonight.” He was practically whimpering.
“Just saying. We’ll probably end up slammed so we have to work.” That usually ends up being the case…
“We can always work with the game on.”
He snorted. “You think the teacher will let us watch TV while we do homework?”
“I’d bet the teacher helps us with homework so we can get done in time. How’d you find a football fan?”
I laughed at him. “Stop fucking around. I’ve seen her Facebook. She likes it enough to go to 3 Super Bowls. Lucky bitch saw Dallas take it last year. Why didn’t you go with her?”
I almost made fun of him for not locking her down in time to tag along. Then I remembered that we were up to our assholes with a case and ended up watching the game on TiVo.
When Jason got over to us, he shook my hand and told me they cleared most of the back and took care of the weeds growing up through the deck, so I went around to the back to take a look.
There must have been twenty guys hatcheting waist high purple weeds buzzing through the high grass with weed whackers the size of flying saucers…
If I had one, it would take 5 minutes to cut the whole yard back in New Orleans.
I watched for just a couple minutes and decided that as soon as the house is unpacked, before it got too cold, I was going to break in the yard with a cook out.
We hadn’t had one in years, not since we left Dallas.
The closest I’d ever been to country living was the suburbs… thinking about having the kids in a great school and coming home to play in a yard big enough for something other than an inflatable pool (and no room for anything else)… the idea of living in Bum Fuck was definitely growing on me.
I got back around to the front and found Jason standing alone and watching Eric approach a guy hacking at underbrush and tossing it back to the guy running the chipper.
He pulled out a pack of smokes and lit up, so I joined him. “Yeah. I was just telling… Oooh, he’s running…”
“You gonna go help?” Fuck that…
“Nope. Madden’s not armed. Eric can get poison ivy on his own. I’ll stay here and shoot the guy when he finally comes out… Boss-man always muck gutters?”
“When he’s making sure they’re still holding, he does. I didn’t notice in school because I played ball, but I can’t sit still. Damn degree’s a waste.”
“What did you end up with?”
“Economy, business management. You want me to sit in an office 8 hours a day, you’d have to shoot me and prop me up at a desk.”
“I’m noticing your sister has the same problem.”
“Shit. She’s way worse than me. I watched her once. Took notes. She went three days without ‘doing nothing’. If she was awake, she was doing two, three things at once. At one point I thought I caught her ‘idle’. Turns out she was planning the best way to get 4 things done at once.” It figures.
“Slip her some valium.”
I laughed. “No shit?”
“Tried valium; didn’t make a dent, just made her chatty. Tried pain killers; made her sick. Tried roofies, don’t ask; She beat my ass and complained that she laid in bed obsessing about switching the laundry over.”
“You drug your sister for fun?”
“She started it! Bitch slipped me Depo in high school… Gave me an ipecac milkshake once, puked until my damn ribs hurt… Made funnel cakes and mixed ex-lax into the sugar, Daddy like to beat her ass.”
“She gave her father X? Where the fuck did she get it?”
“Yeah. It was low dose, but it was enough.”
I started choking on the laugh, trying not to laugh at how ‘shitty’ that had to be.
“…Naw. Go ahead and laugh. It’d serve you right.” Oh no… wait…
“She wouldn’t. We get screened for drug use.”
He snorted. “She’d use over the counter shit… You get the ball and chain all settled on moving?”
“Settled enough. I’m going to get the boys tomorrow so she can pack.”
“Dumbass. You coulda just let her drive back on her own yesterday.”
“They didn’t pack but one night’s worth…”
We were interrupted when one of the workers came running up to Jason. The poor guy was terrified, rattling on in Spanish (with an Oaxaca accent) asking if we were with INS…
Jason patted him on the shoulder and told him (with a perfect Puerto Rican accent) that if we were INS we weren’t really bright since ‘Vic’ has a ‘Bama Born & Bred’ tattoo on his arm…
I laughed as the guy ran back to a group of other workers yelling that everything was okay and Eric was on his way back with Madden… Eric had his arms twisted up in ‘angry pretzel’ style…
I followed Eric around to the deck where he shoved Madden back to sit on the steps…
Eric growled his rights to him and let the guy start hyperventilating before he said anything.
“Why’d you run?”
“I… I… I… was scared.” Who wouldn’t be? Eric’s ‘game face’ was scarier than mine.
“This guy… He threatened my girlfriend.”
“What did he want?”
“He wanted me to send creepy emails for him.”
“And how did he convince you?”
I actually started feeling bad for the guy when he started shaking like he was freezing.
“Mr. Madden, I can always lock you up until you feel like sharing.”
They guy started crying. “He showed me a video on his phone. He said it was of the girlfriend of the last guy who told him no.”
“What was on the video?”
“It was a girl in a bathing suit tied to a tree. He sprayed her down with something and then tossed a wasp’s nest at her. She screamed and cried and it was horrible. Then she went limp. Then he started showing me pictures of my Holly. At work and picking up her kid from school. Is he who I think he is?” Uh, yeah…
“How did he contact you?”
“The first time, was in person. He cornered me in Lowe’s out in Minden when I was shopping with Holly and Cody. He gave me a phone number to call him on once I made my decision, but it never worked again. After that, he left notes in my mailbox. I haven’t seen him since.”
“How many emails have you sent?”
“7?… 8. I have the notes at home.”
“When was the first time?”
“May. It was Cody’s birthday and we were shopping for a swing set. He came up behind me singing Happy Birthday.”
“What made you start sending them from work?”
“When I found out that Mr. Stackhouse would let us use the computer, I thought it would be easier. I don’t even have an email account of my own. A new email was always on the note he’d leave. I’m no good with computers. I have a hard time with ATMs.”
“That’s why the first few came from libraries?”
Madden nodded and Eric gave me a ‘did I miss anything’ look… Even if he did, the guy would be in custody. We could hit him with leftover questions all we wanted.
“He… he’ll know… he’ll know that someone was here talking to me. He has someone watching me. He knows stuff like what I had for lunch or what stories I read to Cody at bedtime. You gotta let me go so I can get them somewhere safe.”
Fuck… we’re gonna have to deal with Marshalls…
“What now?” Fuck me for trying to be civil…
“Nice talking to you too. We found Madden. He confirmed that he’s sending the emails, but he’s being forced. Our guy threatened his girlfriend and kid.”
She huffed into the phone. “Any leads?”
“None yet. He needs to be in protective custody. He’s says he’s being watched.”
“Fuck. Now I have to deal with Marshalls.”
“Yeah. Us too.”
“Alright. I’ll have them pick up the witness at the sheriff’s office and bring them to me at the field office. Anything else?”
“Nope. We’ll keep you posted.”
“Get to work then.” …and then she hung up.
Damn… is ‘bye’ too much to ask?
As per the usual, the guy might as well have smelled like fear all the way back to his apartment. I left him there with Eric to pack what they might need and I ended up going to get the girlfriend and kid…
I walked into the fried chicken joint and cringed… The smell of old grease was so thick I felt like I’d been Kentucky fried. That place must’ve been one of the Health Department places Sookie mentioned.
I waited in line behind a skinny old man who took his time deciding on slaw or beans as his side item before he finally took his number and got out of the way.
The girl behind the counter hadn’t broken her smile while she waited for Methuselah and greeted me, “Welcome to Fry Basket. How can I help you today?”
“I’m looking for Holly Cleary.”
Smile gone. “I’m Holly.”
I handed her my badge. “I’m special agent Alcide Herveaux with the FBI. Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“Cody?… Oh my god! Victor?”
“They’re fine. Some privacy?”
She nodded, lifting the counter gate to let me back and asking her manager to cover for her and to use his office.
“If they’re alright…”
“I’m here to pick you up and go collect your son. Victor is at your apartment grabbing some things.”
“What’s happened? I want to talk to Victor.”
I nodded pulling out my phone. The usual drill. Speaker… “Eric, the girlfriend wants to talk to Madden.”
Eric hit his speaker button, telling Madden that Holly wanted to speak to him.
“Sweetie? Are you alright?”
He sounded strangled, like he was still crying. “I’m fine. Don’t waste any damn time asking questions. Go with him and get Cody. I’ll explain later.”
“Are we in danger?”
“Yes. Go get Cody.”
She started sobbing and of course there weren’t any tissues… “What did you do?”
“I thought everything was fine. I was wrong. Go get Cody.”
She nodded, and grabbed one of the purses from the hook on the wall. “Ok. Leaving now.”
She didn’t say anything to her co-workers or her boss as we walked out. She went directly to her car…
“Miss Cleary, does Cody need a car seat?”
“Yeah. He’s only 6. He still needs a booster.”
“You’ll need to bring it with us, but your car will be taken care of by the Marshalls.”
She gasped, “Marshalls?”
Instead of explaining why the Marshalls would be involved… “Yeah, they’ll take care of your car. They’ll impound it indefinitely until things are sorted out.”
She caught another crying jag. More of the usual. She woke up expecting her day to go just like normal and now she’s being taken off by a stranger after being told that her and her son are in danger. It was the 3rd time I’d done exactly this… this year.
She dropped the booster in the back seat and slid in behind it. She started digging into her purse, looking for tissues that weren’t there.
Mr. Organized actually kept some under the seat… along with plenty of other shit that had turned out to be useful.
I handed them back to her. “Bon Temps School?”
“Thanks. Yeah. You know how to get there?”
“Yeah. Driven by it a few times.”
“Can you tell me anything about what’s going on?”
“I’m sure Victor will fill you in.”
“Someone the FBI is looking into targeted your family and threatened to harm you and your son to get Victor to help him.”
“Oh God! He didn’t hurt anybody did he?”
“Not that we know of, but now that the FBI knows that Victor was an unwilling accomplice, your family could be in danger.”
“So Victor isn’t in trouble, we just need to, what? Hide out for a while?”
“We hope so.” As opposed to hiding out until they need new names.
I watched her nod in the rearview and she got quiet. This time was easier than the last couple of times. This time, a family was being hustled away because their danger was coming from ‘outside’… I was sick to death of hiding people from their own family.
As we walked through the front doors and into a huge commons area, I saw just what I was afraid of.
There was no getting around her; she seemed to spot me the second I saw her and started over with a smile.
She kissed my cheek on her way to hug Holly Cleary. “Hey! Long time, no see! How ya been?”
Holly choked up again. “Oh, you know. Things. I’m just here to pick up Cody.”
Sookie gave me a look and took her hand, walking with us. “Well then, let’s go get him. I’ll sign him out for ya so you don’t have to listen to Sophie go on about her fish tank. She’s breeding her Red Devils and she’s got… pictures.”
Holly choked out a laugh. “Thanks for that.”
“No prob, sweetie…” As we walked through the halls, Sookie asked if Cody had fun at the baseball clinic because she was already planning the next one, just trying to distract her.
When we reached the first grade classroom, Holly looked up at me. “What do I tell the teacher?”
“An ‘out of town emergency’ is usually the best.”
She nodded. “It’d have to be Victor’s family. Miss Pratt knows I don’t have any kin.”
I felt even sorrier for her, so all I did was nod.
As soon as Holly went in and interrupted the class to talk to the teacher, Sookie leaned against the wall across from me.
“I didn’t know they were together.”
“How do you know her?”
“She had Cody when she was 16. Dropped out. I met her when I taught a GED prep class. She’s a sweet girl… Victor owned up to the emails?”
“Yeah… DeCastro threatened the girlfriend and kid to get him to send the emails.”
“Poor guy. Eric sitting on him?”
“Yeah. Why aren’t you in class?”
“This period is sophomore history. They’re registering for the spring semester in the auditorium. You sleep alright last night, well, this morning?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember falling asleep, getting to bed… But I feel fine, even slept in. Thanks for unpacking my stuff by the way.”
“No prob. I was waiting for coffee and laundry. Needed to keep moving so I wouldn’t crash.”
“So you do get tired. I was starting to wonder.”
She laughed. “Shut up. I told you I’m hyper.”
Cody had gone straight to Sookie and she picked him up to say hi and ended up carrying him while we went out to the car.
He bubbled. It was the only way to describe how perky he was.
“Who’s that guy?”
“This is my friend, Alc. Y’all get to hang out with him for a little bit.”
“He’s big like Mr. Quinn.”
“He’s bigger than Mr. Quinn, but that’s because Mr. Quinn can’t work out like he used to.”
“Because of the pole up his back?”
Sookie giggled. “The rod is along his spine, cutie.”
“Ok… Where are we going?”
Great. My turn. “First, we’re going to your house to get Victor and then we’re going to go visit the police station for a little bit.”
Sookie looked like she was processing for a second before she took over. “Oooooh, Cody! I have a mission for you.”
He smiled. “What am I doing?”
“Two missions… first one is just for fun. I need you to tie Deputy Prior’s shoe laces together.”
“Won’t he be mad?”
“Not at a precious little man like you. When he trips, you tell him that Sookie says it wouldn’t happen if he had a proper shine on his shoes.”
He laughed. “How do you know that his shoes aren’t shined?”
“Because I’ve known him forever. His shoes always need a shine.”
“Ok. What’s the next mission?”
“This one is serious. It’s a matter of life and death.”
He gave her a very serious (and cute) nod.
“I need you to eat as many doughnuts you can without getting sick.”
His head fell back when he laughed, “That’s not a mission!”
“Oh, it is. Sheriff Dearborn shouldn’t have sweets, but he eats them anyway. If he fusses at you, tell him Sookie says it’s for his own good.”
“You got it!”
She laughed. “I knew I could depend on you.”
Sookie bent over and put Cody into his seat and kissed his forehead…
Then gave Holly a hug…
And kissed my cheek again. “Cheer up. Tonight: cold beer and comfort food while the ‘Boys whoop the Falcons… Tomorrow: Jack and Carm.”
She patted my chest on her way back to the school and damn if the idea of vegging out and then getting the boys didn’t make me feel better about staring down the barrel of putting a family in protective custody and dealing with an autopsy.
I was half way back to get Victor and Eric before I realized I was handled into a better mood.
Even though Holly and Victor were flipping their lids about the situation they were in (and trying to hide it from the kid), Cody was excited as hell about his ‘missions’.
He tried running ahead of us, but Victor grabbed him to carry into the station.
Dearborn was sitting on the edge of a desk, chatting with Kevin when we walked in and they both grinned, greeted us by first name and asked us what we needed.
The friends of Stackhouse Express: Membership has its privileges.
Once we explained the situation, Bud (he insisted on first names) went back to his office and came back with a box of toys for Cody to play with. It was full of action figure type things that he keeps round for his grandsons.
Cody sat down, excited to have something to do and slowly started migrating over to where Kevin had his feet stretched out under the desk far enough to be reached from the other side.
The kid finally got close enough and he reached over to slowly untie the first lace, but Kevin noticed. He didn’t move his feet though.
By the time Cody was done, he was close to watering his shoes to keep from laughing more than a giggle.
Kevin made the kid wait a minute, while he finished talking about the new hunting rifle his girlfriend let him get… and finally got up to ‘got to the bathroom’.
As soon as he tried to take the first step, he went over. He twisted around, looking like goon in the process with his arms up and flailing before he hit the floor. Hard.
Kevin proceeded to… cry. If I fell that hard, I’d have broken something, but Kevin was faking. It was hilarious.
Cody got up and went over to him, feeling guilty and patted his back. “Deputy Kevin? Deputy Kevin, I’m sorry. I’m real sorry.”
Kevin sobbed, “I think I broke my butt.”
Cody started laughing. “You can’t break your butt.”
“What would you call it? There’s a huge crack in it!…”
When Cody got lost to hysterics, Kevin rolled over and sat up.
“…The next time you see Miss Stackhouse, you tell her that my girlfriend shined my shoes last night. Now go get on your other mission. Doughnuts are in the first room around the corner.”
Kevin was already texting when Cody took off. I had to ask how long Sookie’d been having kids do that. It’s only happened a couple of times, but she’s been tying his shoe laces together since they had been in grade school…
Bud came back to the lobby with a handful of coloring books and crayons and asked where the kid was. Once Kevin told him that Cody was ‘on a mission’ Bud made a bee line for the breakroom cussing about ‘damn Stackhouses’ under his breath.
While Holly and Victor talked and cried quietly huddled together on the bench against the wall, Cody never seemed to notice that there was a single thing to be concerned with. He was too busy having fun.
Handled. And I wasn’t the only one to notice.
Kenya slid herself onto the counter shaking her head. “Y’all probably won’t ever catch on to how much she handles folks. Half of it is subliminal.”
Eric started chuckling. “Tell me about it. She’s been handling me from day one.”
Kevin snorted. “She talked Kenny into cheering. She played softball so her football seasons were free and it was before guys caught on to skirt gazing… She mentioned all the making out that happens on the bus… Kenny didn’t want her boyfriend getting someone else’s attention. When her and Max broke up, she ended up on Jason’s lap though.”
Kenya kicked him and fired back, “I. Will. Kick. Your. Ass. It was high school. We dated for 3 months. It’s the only excuse I’ve got, but at least I never woke up naked in center square with him… Besides, Sookie talked you into drag.”
“Hey! That was the whole town!”
He snarled at her and I got the distinct impression that she wasn’t calling him ‘chere’… “What’s that? The whole town does drag?”
Kevin put his hand in Kenya’s face so that he could explain. “Every year since we was in high school. It was for Homecoming. What A Drag was the theme. See, it’s not long after Halloween, so Sookie figured that the costumes would be cheaper, since they’re marked down, than buying formal wear and renting tuxes so the lower income families wouldn’t be as put out. Now we do it for the fundraiser every year.”
“So you were Cher… and your date was Sonny?”
He started laughing. “Naw. My date was a sailor. You know, the Turn Back Time video on that battleship… Y’all ever shave your junk?… Anyway, don’t. Itched like a bitch growing back. Waxing’s better.”
Eric and I both started laughing.
“What? I’m serious! You shave it and you end up with razor burn… legs too. If you wax it grows back so slow you don’t notice.”
“Doesn’t it hurt though?” I don’t know why I asked, I sure as shit wasn’t going to get that far into it, but I couldn’t help it.
“Naw. Feels like a slapped sunburn for a second and goes right away. Gotta do it a couple days in advance though, otherwise you’re all red and shit.”
Kenya nodded to Eric. “You and Sookie know what you’re going as?”
“Not yet. We weren’t supposed to be living here. Our transfer was kind of sudden. I wouldn’t have been able to plan on going if we were still in New Orleans.”
“Y’all better start thinking about it. You’re gonna have to get fitted for anything you pick. Sookie can just shop in the boys department, but y’all will have to special order your shoes.”
Kevin nudged her leg. “It won’t be too hard. Had.”
“Ohhhh. Yeah. Y’all are set for that. Hadley can sew anything. She made Terry an Ariel costume… You know, little mermaid. He looked great.”
Kevin snorted again. “Cept he didn’t listen to me. His chest was itchy for weeks.”
“Not all guys are up for walking into a salon to get a wax, stupid.”
“I’m telling ya. It’s the only way to go.”
Eric was too busy laughing, leaving me… “Kevin, haven’t you ever heard of opaque tights?”
He gave me a confused look before he started laughing. “Why do you know about them?”
“Trannys. Some of them wear opaque tights and body suits so they don’t have to keep up with shaving.”
“No seriously. How do you know?”
“You meet folks of all kinds when you’re a cop in a big city. They tend to blabber when they get arrested.” Cross-dressing advice from a coked up he-she hooker was one of those things that the mind doesn’t let go of. Neither were his/her offers for a freebie to get out of his/her charges… and still not as disturbing as seeing Pam in her thong.
Kenya started laughing and kicked Kevin’s leg. “You know all about that, don’t you, Mr. Fudge.”
I wanted to know… I didn’t want to know… But judging by how quickly his face turned red, I decided not to ask.
See, I’m learning.
Eric and I were both on our feet in a second when a short, barrel gutted man came in.
He was carrying his suit jacket over his arm and his hair was damp.
My thumb was on my safety when Kenya told us to ‘calm down, he’s ok’. “Mike, this is Eric and Alcide.” Mike? Ah, Mike Spencer. The hunting coroner.
He let out a goofy chuckle shaking our hands. “Nice to meet y’all. Missed you this morning.” Oh hell.
Eric asked, “Missed us?”
“Yeah, got home last night and had a bunch of messages about your ‘lady friend’. Came in early to take care of her. I was done by the time Bud got to me and told me y’all wanted to sit in on things.”
I shrugged. “I wouldn’t say we wanted to. We were told to by our chain of command.”
He hissed a laugh and started exaggerating his accent. “Well, then boys… y’all should tell that boss of yours all about how dumb us ‘necks can be.”
“Be careful. If we do that, she could come down here.”
He snorted and added a shrug. “I’m too dumb to be scared… So what are y’all up to? Bud and I are on our way over to Chez Stackhouse for lunch. I came up dry hunting and hit the lake instead. Caught some huge fish. Corbett’s grilling them up for us. I know there’s plenty.” Fuck. I wanna go!
Eric grinned at him. “Thanks for the offer, but we’re working all day. Sookie left lunch at the house for us.”
“Alright, alright… y’all gonna be home tonight? Watching the game?”
I nodded. “Yeah. That’s the plan.”
“K. When I get done with lunch, I’ll write up the report. Bring it by before I head home. Save y’all the trip.”
Eric and I had been in more than a few bench marathons waiting for ME reports. Hours on end waiting for a file that wasn’t going to offer anymore to the case than what we already knew…
Hallelujah. Sweet lord above, thank you.
I suddenly had a hard on for small town life.
I can honestly say that I hadn’t ever been able to enjoy 2 hours at a police station so much, ever.
Even given the circumstances of Madden and the autopsy… I’d still managed to have fun.
Once the Marshalls (who weren’t as bad as the usual assholes) carted off Victor and his family, Eric and I headed over to Victor’s apartment to get the notes DeCastro had been leaving him. Other than a colossal mind fuck of trying to figure out if he was really a patsy or if he was a willing accomplice, the search gave us a drawer of media memory, a baggie of souvenirs and the notes…
Waiting for a Geek squad to come out and go over the apartment gave me an excuse to go back to the house to get lunch… and a fistful of cookies.
I guess you could call it a working lunch. We figured out pretty quickly that the girl that Victor had seen stung to death wasn’t a bullshit story… and Eric spent a couple of minutes with the neighbor realizing that the apartment we had been into wasn’t really Victor’s.
Sam ended up having to give us permission to enter because he owned both properties.…
Kevin did a DMV search letting us know that there was an Airstream and a Bonneville registered to Madden and Cleary…
The crime scene pricks acted bothered to be called out…
We went back to Holly and Victor’s actual apartment to find out that DeCastro had been there and that’s how we’d been so mind fucked at the other apartment. He knew where Victor stashed his gun and the notes… and even left a few threatening little presents behind.
At least the second set of ‘CSIs’ wasn’t as bad as the first.
And if all that shit wasn’t enough, I got to have a ‘heart to heart’ with Eric about how fucking crazy miserable my wife makes me. Oh joy.
By the time the sun started to set, I really just wanted that comfort food and cold beer Sookie had promised.