With A Little Help From My Friends
Eggs. I started to roll over and heard eggs breaking. Mother fucker. I sat up to see that there must have been more than a hundred around me on the bed. I was wearing at least a dozen scrambled eggs on my chest and side from rolling over. Oh! It’s on. The only real problem was coming up with a way of retaliating without getting the boys mixed up in our little game.
I had to strategize my exit from the bed to make my way to the shower, cursing Alcide the whole way. For the record, yolk is a bitch to get out of chest hair. Asshole. I dumped shampoo into my hand and stepped under the water, trying to plan my next maneuver, when I noticed a foul smell… that’s when I became aware that my hands were STICKY. That mother fucker egged my bed and then replaced my shampoo with syrup. Dead man. WAR.
It took me forever to get the stink of syrup out of my hair. Even longer to fight back my nausea. I stripped the bed and after I threw on a ratty pair of old jeans, a faded Sex Pistols T shirt and my vans, I made my way to the kitchen with Alcide’s laundry and the gag shampoo.
Sookie was standing at the stove attentively making breakfast. She was wearing knee high brown suede boots (another pair of very high heels), a dark brown corduroy skirt that stopped just above her knee and hugged her perfectly and a snug turquoise sweater with a really deep V neck. The way she looked almost made me forget about what I woke up to. She smiled at me for a split second before seriousness took over her face.
I gave her a G rated kiss good morning. “Please tell me that we aren’t having eggs for breakfast.”
Alcide was sitting at the table with the boys and all three of them started laughing. He must have gotten them to help with his little prank. Fucker.
Sookie listened in earnest while I told her about what happened and the table continued to laugh. She poured me a cup of coffee and handed me a plate, apologizing that she’d made steak, hash browns and EGGS.
I sat at the table and scowled at Alcide while I ate my breakfast, eggs and all, the boys snickering at me sporadically. I gave them the occasional dirty look.
Finally… “You know, you’re not innocent anymore. Right boys?”
Carm and Jack both looked at me fearfully and Carm’s hand shot up to point at Alc. “It was Daddy’s idea!”
“But you helped.” I was being playfully grumpy with them. “That makes you an accessory. The punishment for being an accessory is the same as if you’d done it on your own.”
He started shaking his head. “Daddy’s the boss. Det him.”
“Oh, I will. But I’ll have to think of something special for you two.”
Jack started shaking his head anxiously. “We’re just kids!”
I raised an eyebrow at him and leaned over. “You were grown up enough to be the one who put syrup in my shampoo.”
The look on his face was priceless. “How do you know it was me?”
“You smell like syrup. You’re at the top of my list, little man. Game on.”
Alcide was still laughing through his nose. “Take it easy on them… We thought we were going to wake you up anyway. Neither one of them stopped laughing the whole time.”
Knowing that didn’t make me feel any better… Wait… Laughing? “Sookie! Did you know?”
She turned around and smiled at me with a slight cringe. “Yes Sir. I expect that I’ll be punished later. Alc told me that I wasn’t allowed to be involved. If I interfered in this morning, I would be obliged to interfere in your revenge. For the record, the menu included eggs before I found out.”
I stared at her, pissed that a rule I had laid down, got me. Shit.
Alcide nudged my leg with his foot. “Hey! It was your rule that she had to be a bystander. You can’t be pissed at her.”
“I’m not pissed at her. I’m plotting… Boys, you should go get dressed for school before I have the chance to sew your pants shut.”
Their eyes got big as the idea sunk in and then bolted out of the room and the three of us started laughing once they were gone.
Sookie popped Alcide’s shoulder. “If either of you have designs on buttering my floor, think again. House rules: No one gets hurt.”
Alcide and I gave her a collective ‘yes ma’am’.
When I was done eating, Sookie came over and sat on my lap and gave me a kiss. “Ok, the coffee maker is ready to go; all you have to do is turn it on. There’s fresh muffins, cranberry orange and banana nut, set out for your meeting. I figured it wouldn’t be messy if you need to spread out on the table. There’s cheese steaks in the fridge. When you’re ready for lunch, just slide them under the broiler until the cheese melts. Chips in the cupboard and dip in the door of the fridge. There’s enough for all of you in case you work late and the fridge on the back porch is stocked with drinks. Got it?”
I smiled at her. “Got it… You didn’t have to go to all that trouble.”But damn if it wasn’t appreciated. God! She’s amazing.
“What trouble? I’d have made lunch for you guys anyway and the boys helped make the muffins after they packed their lunches.”
Alcide cocked his head to the side and narrowed his eyes. “They packed their own lunches?”
She smiled and turned to him. “Yes sir, they did. While you showered, they each made their own sandwich and picked a fruit, a veg and a dessert. They had a blast.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate all your help.”
She gave him a courteous nod and a wide smile. “Not a problem.”
“Did Eric tell you what happened after you went to bed last night?” I guess he was starting to feel guilty.
She turned her head to look at me and I couldn’t read her face. Damn it. She was doing it again. “No. What’d I miss?”
He actually looked sheepish as he explained. “Long story short… Hadley came over. Hunter was out 2 hours past curfew and wasn’t picking up his phone. I figured he was with Taryn so I called her. I went to get him and got Jason to help with an alibi. Unless Hunter came clean, Hadley ‘knows’ he was with Jason, crashed out after watching a movie.”
She stared at him for a minute. HA! She’d locked her face down on him too.
“So you lied to my cousin to help a 14 year old boy get away with breaking curfew to feel up a cheerleader. Why?”
“Because if your cousin had found him, she probably would have embarrassed the shit out of him and gone off on a tear about the girls instead of for Hunter being an inconsiderate asshole and not picking up his phone.”
She stared at him for a moment and he actually started to squirm a little. “Were they at least dressed when you got there?”
“Yes, but they knew I was on the way. I looked him over for booze or anything else. They’d just been making out.”
“K. Thank you.”
He actually looked surprised. “You aren’t pissed?”
“No. You’re right. She’d have made it all about who he was with and what they were doing. Whether we like it or not, Hunter is growing up. Breaking curfew is one thing, but breaking curfew to be with a girl is a step she’s not ready for. It’s another step to him being out the door. And after what happened to Remy, she’d be fine if Hunter became a basement dwelling WOW geek.” I’d have thought she’d go through the roof.
“So you don’t mind that I handled her?”
“Oh, if she finds out, you and Jason burn as a pair. We aren’t going down with you. And you had better use your help as leverage for something. He’s definitely old enough to learn about the birds and cats.”
“If you mean birds and bees, I think he’s got that covered.”
“I know he does. Who do you think told him? But it IS the birds and cats… A bird is flying south for the winter and gets separated from his flock. So he’s flying all alone and it gets so cold he starts to freeze and falls out of the sky into a field. Well this cow wanders over, doesn’t even notice him and takes a dump right on him. He’s upset at first, but he quickly realizes how warm he is and that even though he stinks, his life has been saved. He’s so happy that he starts tweeting and chirping. Well, with all the ruckus he was making, a cat notices him. The cat comes over and takes him out of the cow pie, cleans him off in the grass and then… the cat eats him…”
Alcide and I both started laughing. “Is this a Louisiana thing?” She playfully slapped my cheek and shushed me. Ungh.
“The moral of the story is: Not everyone who shits on you is an enemy, not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend and if you are happy and safe, keep your mouth shut so that you don’t jinx it.”
It took us both a while to stop laughing and by the time we were calming down, there was an argument brewing in the back of the house. Alcide stood up to go break up the fight. “YOU… are a riot, and I see your point. I’ll make sure to do some mooing.”
She smiled at him and once he was around the corner, she turned to give me a hairy eyeball. “I can’t believe you went along with it.”
Sucker punched. “Me? What?”
“You let him lie.” She looked like she wanted to cry.
I started to panic. “I could tell he was up to something. Once he explained why, once I had the whole story, I understood… just like you did.”
Her face finally relaxed and she started to snicker.
“You bitch! I thought you were actually upset!”
Still laughing. “I know.”
I growled at her and pulled her in for a kiss. She leaned her body against mine and I tightened my grip around her hips, sliding my other hand up her thigh. As much as I hated to do it, I pulled away and cleared my throat. “You’re killing me. You know that, right?”
She licked her lips. Mmm. Fuck. Her smirk started to spread and she leaned into my ear. “I want you so bad I can feel it in my teeth?”
Ffffuck. God damn it! Now there was no way I was going to be able to think about anything else. “That just makes it worse.”
“Worse how, Eric? It makes you harder? I know it makes me wetter.” Like that wasn’t enough, she started nibbling on my ear. Fuck!
“Sookie… Sookie…” I couldn’t keep my eyes from rolling back. She was being cruel. “You have to stop.”
When she sat back, she had ‘that look’ again. She cleared her throat and locked her eyes on mine. “Sorry, you’re not the only one that can’t get enough.”Oh. Fuck. Me. Another long day.
At 7:30 on the nose, Sookie walked out the door with both boys. They were both beside themselves over their first day at a new school, but I think having so much fun while they got ready had a lot to do with their enthusiasm. They’d both mentioned how much fun it was to have Alcide home in the morning and hanging out with them before school. They also mentioned how much fun Sookie is, comparing her to Amelia without saying it.
While I waited for Pam and Kenya to show up, I worked through the frustration Sookie left behind. I did the dishes from our breakfast (I had to make Sookie leave them for me so that I’d have something to do), and put fresh sheets on our bed. I even went ahead and started washing the egg covered sheets even though it was part of our arrangement that Alcide should be doing it. Huh. ‘Honor among thieves’… Then I found myself getting pissed that Sookie was such a good housekeeper. There wasn’t anything else to do. Shit! If she was going to keep doing this to me, she was going to have to teach ME to bake.
Alcide had closed himself into his room, I assume to make some calls since I could hear him talking. So I sat in the club chair, feet up, and did the same. I called and left a message for Jane about getting Tippy back from her. I really didn’t want to stick her with taking care of the feathered epitome of high maintenance any longer than I had to. Jane had already done more than I should have let her.
When that was done… I was staring at my address book entry for Marnie, trying to muster the willpower necessary to call her and invite her to join us in New York. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to because I was sure she’d show up and be a twat. I mulled things over for a while. In all fairness, I’d turned out to be very wrong about a lot in the last few days. The benefit of the doubt had just resigned me to press the send button when my phone vibrated to life and my father’s ring tone spilled from it.
“Hey, son. What am I interrupting this morning?”
I chuckled. “Not a thing. I’ve already eaten breakfast and Sookie has already left for work. I’m waiting for a meeting to start… You’re retired. Why are you still waking up so early?” It was only 6:30 for him.
“Force of habit. I’ve tried everything and 7:00 is sleeping in for me.”
“So what’s up?”
“Well, Deb was curious… She wanted to know if you are inviting Aurora to the wedding.”
Easy one. “No.”
“Mind if I ask why?”
“I don’t mind… She isn’t anything to me. I have Smom.”
“She IS your mother.”
“I don’t want to deal with it, Dad.”
“Deb will feel bad if you don’t invite her.”
“She blames herself for you not having more patience with Aurora.”
I smiled to myself as I thought about Sookie’s perspective. “Well, it is kind of her fault.”
“If Smom hadn’t loved me so damn much, I’d probably feel lacking enough in the Mom department to pick the scab.”
“What would you say to someone else in the same boat?”
I laughed a little. “I have a second opinion and everything… Look, we have different perspectives because we’re all very different people. Smom is a mother and it would break her heart if her child didn’t want anything to do with her, right?”
“Yes. You know it would.”
“But would Smom have walked away from her kid?”
He huffed. “No.”
“I don’t see where Aurora has the right to show up for the good stuff when she left Smom to do her ‘dirty work’. Inviting Aurora would be a slap in Smom’s face. Like I didn’t respect everything she’s done for me.”
“What dirty work?” He didn’t sound like he was anything more than curious so I humored him.
“When we were little and you deployed, it was Smom who busted her knuckles putting together bikes on Christmas Eve. It was Smom who reminded you to leave tooth fairy money. It was Smom who suffered through the flu twice as bad as we did when we brought it home from school. It was Smom who sat up with me for the first week I had braces because my jaw was killing me. It was Smom who talked me through when my first girlfriend’s family was transferred away. It was Smom who made millions of cookies for the Boosters. It was Smom who gave a shit. She rubbed Noxzema on every sunburn, bandaged every scraped knee, apologized to every neighbor with a broken window and said a prayer for every flushed goldfish. Aurora might have mailed me a letter every year, but SMOM is the one who would take a whole fucking day to make my favorite meal for my birthday. Who the fuck needs a ‘mother’ when they have a ‘SMOM’?!”
There was a whole lot of nothing on the other end.
We? Oh shit. “Smom?”
I heard her sniff a couple of times. “Ya, Eric?”
“I love you. Don’t feel badly that I don’t want Aurora there. I’m not choosing between you two because there’s no contest. Ok?”
“Ooh Key. If you’re sure.”
“I couldn’t be more sure. As far as I’m concerned, when you get here on Friday, Sookie IS meeting my mother, not my ‘step mom’.”
Shit. She started audibly weeping.
“Are you going to cry like this at the wedding?”
“More than likely.”
When I laughed she snickered with me. I wanted to distract her a little more and tell her about the wedding plans, but I thought Sookie would want to be in on it. So I held back and settled for having slowed her waterworks this much. “Then I hope Mary Kay makes a good waterproof mascara.”
She snickered again. “Does Sookie know how lucky she is?”
“I’m the lucky one. She’s amazing. You’re going to love her.”
“Ooh, I know I will. Your father hasn’t thought of a single nasty thing to say about her behind your back, doncha know.”
“Oh really? What do we have to compare it to? He hasn’t met anyone I’ve dated in years.”
“Ooh, you know. He never held any stock in any of them because he knew you’d get bored with them. None of them were smart enough for ‘his boy’.”
I heard my father clear his throat.
“Hush, Jim. You know it’s true. You always said they were too pretty to be smart enough to keep him interested.”
He cleared his throat again.
“What?! You were just bragging about them last night at your poker game! George’s wife called and told me all about it!”
I was holding my finger over the receiver so that they couldn’t hear me laughing.
“Eric, your Sookie… she impressed the heck out of your Dad. He’s so excited to come visit he’s pacing the house distracting himself with little honey-dos.”
Fucking hell. Like I needed to hear NOW that we have something in common. Thankfully, there was a knock on the door. “Hey, Dad?”
“You’re off the hook. My meeting is starting.”
“Thank GOD. Love you kid.”
“Love you guys.”
I laughed my way to the door and Kenya was standing there waiting with her sweet smile.
“There it is!” She was wearing a long jean skirt and tan boots with a very feminine floral blouse in blues and ivory. “That sweet lady costume I was talking about.”
“Hey federale. You look more and more like a truant every time I see you.”
“I’ll get prettied up for you if we go out. Promise. Come on in.”
I offered her coffee and muffins and she smiled and muttered ‘typical Sookie’ before she accepted and we sat at the table. She reached into her pocket and pulled an envelope out before she hung her jacket over the back of her chair.
“You have to swear to keep this between us. This isn’t evidence. It’s reference material.” She slid the packet across the table to me.
I eyeballed it. “What is it?”
“The whole Loudermilk thing got me thinking last night. So I went digging through my old photo boxes. I brought these as tactical reference, but Sookie would probably kill me for still having them.”
“What are they of?”
“Her wedding. She got married there.” That explains why she knew SO much about the property. I had chalked it up to being part of local history.
I didn’t even reach for them. “There’s something that came up late last night. The Vampire has been sending emails to Pam… song lyrics. We figured that they were clues about victims, but Sookie looked at the list. She thinks it’s a map to the Loudermilk Farm.”
Her eyes went wide like she was being electrocuted and she smiled like Santa left her a pony. “Can I see it?”
I grinned at her and went back to my room and grabbed the file box, my laptop and the aerial of Bon Temps to take to the kitchen. I thought about knocking on Alcide’s door, but I figured that if he didn’t come out on his own, I’d let Pam fetch him when she arrives.
When I got back to the kitchen, Kenya was waiting patiently at the table. I handed her the list, complete with Sookie scribbles, and sat back to wait for her reaction. She looked through the list and her grin grew line by line.
“That’s one smart girl. There isn’t any other place I can think of that would fit. Did Sookie think of anywhere else that it could be?”
I shook my head. “She didn’t mention anywhere else.”
She raised an eyebrow and gave the envelope full of pictures a scoot. “See for yourself.”
I didn’t want to. The last thing I wanted to do, EVER, was see her first wedding. I blew out a deep breath and opened the flap. When I started flipping through the photos, I did my best to look for the scenery… The things Sookie mentioned as reference… statues, headstones, windows. I did see them, but just as I suspected, I also saw what I didn’t want to. While the pictures were proof positive of everything Sookie told us last night, they were also an unpleasant testimony to Sookie’s misery. There were a few dozen photos and the only member of Sookie’s family with a smile on their face was Sheila. Even cute little Hunter, at a ripe old age of 7 or 8, looked miserable. Big shock there. What’s more… Sookie was near tears or crying in every last fucking one of them and the bridegroom was wearing a proud, shit eating grin. I couldn’t look at them anymore.
I set them down and gave Kenya a nod.
“That’s why I told you that Sookie would kill me. I thought the pictures could help us approach the house a little more safely.”
“And bum me out.”
“And put you in the mood to shoot someone.”
I gave her a little grin.
“So, how did this guy rent a decoy apartment?”
“Fake ID. He had a Louisiana driver’s license with Madden’s info but his face. Do you have any leads on forgers in the area?”
“No… But Sookie’s students would. Around here, it wouldn’t do much good. Most everybody knows everybody else so kids couldn’t be buying liquor, cigarettes or porn anyway. They’d use it to get into clubs in Shreveport and whatnot.”
I grabbed my phone and called the school, asking for Quinn.
“To what do I owe the honor?”
“Would you mind terribly helping me to speak to one of your students?”
“That depends on which one. Why not just talk to them at home?”
“Rene Lanier. From what I understand, approaching him at home might rile his father.”
“You’re right about that. Let me call him down. I’ll put him on for you.”
I sat and waited. I watched Kenya go through the list again and take pictures out of her pile pertaining to each of the clues and then put the rest away. Then she carefully started drawing a rough diagram of the grounds. I also noticed that it was going on 9 am and Pam still wasn’t present and accounted for. I had to choke back the urge to laugh wondering if Corbett might be her reason for being late.
He sounded like he was scared when he picked up the phone.
“Hi Rene. This is Eric Northman. Do you know who I am?”
“Uh, Miss Stackhouse’s fiancé, right?”
“Not for this phone call… Did she tell you what I do?”
I couldn’t help but smile. “I’m an FBI agent working on the Vampire case.”
“That’s not funny. Who put you up to this?”
I chuckled. I hadn’t thought of it ahead of time, but I would think it was a prank too. “Rene, it seems that this guy has stolen someone else’s identity. I was hoping you might be able to point me in the direction of someone who could make a good fake ID.”
“You’re not kidding?”
“No sir. I’m not. I know about all the work you’ve been doing and it’s been very helpful. Can you think of anyone in the area who has a fake ID?”
“Yes. But I don’t think you’ll believe me without seeing it for yourself.”
“Well then, how would you like to meet so that you can share what you know?”
“If I leave now, I can be back in time for Government. Are you at home?”
“Yes I am.” I gave Kenya a wink and she smiled back at me.
“I’m going to put you back on with Mr. Quinn. Give me ten.”
Before my smile was completely plastered on, Quinn was back. “I don’t know what you told him, but I’ve never seen him smile like that. It was creepy.”
“He won’t be reprimanded for leaving school will he?”
“No. He’s 18 and can sign himself out even if I didn’t know why he’s cutting.”
“Ok. Thank you.”
While Kenya continued her drawing, I thought I’d get her input on a prank or two intended for Alcide during our wait. We laughed about a few of them hard enough it baited Alcide out of his hiding place. He gave her a smile and made a bee line for the muffins.
I oinked at him.
“Not my fault! That woman of yours is too good a cook. Her fault.”
“You had the same steak, EGGS and potatoes I did. You couldn’t possibly have room for more.”
He sat down with two muffins and a fresh coffee. “Not the point. I’m considering this a vacation. When my shit gets here from New Orleans, the gym is getting set up before my bed. Until then, this is an extended Thanksgiving.”
“There’s a scale in our bathroom, but it only goes up to 300. Fatty.”
“No. Jason said we wouldn’t.”
He shrugged. “He would know.”
Kenya started chuckling and never looked up from her task. “You two sound like a couple of women, but Jason’s right. When Sookie put the cheerleading squad on a diet in high school, we were all gaining muscle and dropping fat so fast that we started skipping periods. I didn’t start getting chunky until I went on the Bon Temps diet. Take out and sitting still… If Sookie’s feeding you, she’s certainly not going to fatten you up, pretty boy.” She looked up just long enough to give me a high eyebrow.
While I was on the way to answer the knock on the door, Alcide and Kenya started placing bets on whether it was Rene or Pam. Kenya won. It was Rene. He had a nervous smile on his face and looked like an extra from a Fallout Boy video… still. I had to wonder how long it took to put on that much makeup every morning.
When he came in, I introduced him to Alcide and Kenya. They made nice while I poured him a cup of coffee and gave him a couple of muffins.
“Ok, Rene. What do you have for us?”
He was shoveling muffin into his mouth and gave a nod in Kenya’s direction. “She can tell ya, last year my cousin Charlsie died driving back from a bar in Clarice. She was trashed and she killed her two passengers and the guy she hit head on. She was only 17. Well the bartender and bouncer got canned because they didn’t spot the fake ID.” He wiped his hands down his chest and reached for his wallet. “I don’t even care if I get in trouble for this. I’m just glad to have someone take me seriously.”
He handed me two IDs. They were identical except for the birthdays. One gave his birth year as 1990 the other gave it as 1987. “Why do you have a fake ID?”
“Well, when Charlsie died and those guys got fired, I didn’t think it was fair that they get punished when the guy that did her fake ID was the true catalyst… so at the reception after her funeral, I went through Charlsie’s laptop and desk. She had an email in her inbox with instructions to meet at the food court in the Minden mall with no other info and the address wasn’t in her address book. So I searched through and found out that HE was the guy she got the ID from. I made my own arrangements and got one with the intention of taking it straight to the police and they laughed at me. Called me too big for my britches. They didn’t even bother themselves with taking the fake from me. I thought about tossing it, but it cost me 200 bones. Now I just use it to buy booze for my old man so that he isn’t on the road between bottles.” Admirable.
I handed them over to Alcide and he held them side by side. He reached for his wallet after popping a huge piece of muffin into his mouth. He put his driver’s license next to the other two and looked back and forth. Then flipped them over. “Even the barcode for his two are a dead on match!”
“OK. So what do we need to find the guy? Do you still have the email address?”
He reached into his jean jacket and handed me a rolled up manila folder with a smile. “Happy reading.”
I opened it and there was a pile of clippings about his cousin’s death and the subsequent fallout and three other fake IDs. I looked them over and handed them to Alcide.
He smiled. “Those are friends of mine who got them and then gave them to me when they got old enough to not need them. Same guy’s work.”
I gave him a nod and went back to the folder… printed emails exchanged between ‘charlZEE’ and ‘oldenuff’… another paper clipped collection of emails between ‘ROLanier’ and ‘oldenuff’…
“Yeah… those are scanned copies of our original IDs. So that he’d have something to go on. I think he’s using the DMV system though. Keep going. You’ll probably love the ending.”
I flipped through another few pages looking over a log of when Rene contacted ‘oldenuff’, when he picked it up, when he talked to other students about their IDs. This kid was really thorough.
“Hey Kenya, since he’s 18, if we talk to Bud… do you think he’d deputize Rene so that someone other than us would actually take him seriously?” I cut my eyes over to see the wide eyed look on Rene’s face.
“NO. Bud’s a jerk. Too old and set in his ways. The day he announces his retirement plans, is that day you see Kenya for Sherriff posters.”
“This is bullshit. If someone had listened to him or Sookie, the Vampire could have been caught months ago. We’ll have to make sure Pam lists him as a source on the Vampire case… Not just the club.”
Alcide guzzled some more coffee to wash down his fourth muffin. It would serve his gluttonous ass right to pork out. “Cater might too if they find him. You really need to call her.”
“Fuck that. You call her.”
“I’m not gonna…”
Kenya started laughing at us again. “Y’all need to stop acting like little girls. How bad could this Cater be?”
I let Alc explain. “That bitch is scary as shit! You know that guy… the grab-assing prick in the sensitivity-in-the-workplace videos… he’s her hero.”
She threw her head back and laughed. “You two meat stacks are afraid of a girl?!”
I chuckled. ‘Meat stack’? Never heard that one before. I kind of like it… unique. Better than ‘muscle bound’ or ‘weight jockeys’.
“We’re not afraid of her… She’s just… she… Fuck it… She IS scary! OK? What’s worse is that Pam thinks it’s hilarious.”
“Call her and have her come on up. I dare her to touch either one of you girls when Sookie’s around.”
That got a nod from Alc. “Good point. Sookie’d put Cater in her place in a heartbeat.”
I snorted. “Fine. Call her then…” I got to the last couple of pages in the report and saw a grainy photo of a rear license plate on an Audi. I gave a look to Rene.
“I followed the guy out to the parking lot after our exchange.”
“Did you do a look up?”
“Don’t need to. Look at the last page.”
I flipped the page and the last picture was from the front of the car with the same license plate… and the forger was behind the wheel. I was so excited that I bounced out of my seat, knocking my chair over and grabbed Rene to kiss him.
I put my arm around his shoulder and even told him that I was going to name my first kid after him. Love, love… LOVE THIS KID! Alcide and Kenya were speechless and the looks on their faces were PRICELESS! So I explained…
“It’s BILL! Making fake IDs… William Thomas Compton is making fake IDs… Even if he didn’t make the one for the Vampire… this is enough for accessory to vehicular homicide and forgery… 5 counts of forgery. That’s twenty years!… At LEAST!”
Alcide started laughing and looked over at Rene. “You did good kid. Even if it wasn’t the guy at the top of his shit list… You still did good.” He reached out and shook the kid’s hand.
Kenya gave him a proud smile and I pulled out my phone and dialed as I told Alcide to call Pam and find out what exactly ‘first thing’ means to her.
“Hello sexy… Lonely in Shreveport already?” Jennifer’s voice made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. *shudder*
I rolled my eyes. “Far from… I have a jurisdictional carnival up here. The Vampire has been using another guy’s identity. He set up an apartment and bank accounts…”
“Homeland security doesn’t do identity theft though, stud. Why call me unless you miss me?”
“We’ve IDed the guy. He’s a Brazilian sailor who AWOLed the Fleet Week before last and has no papers. I could have called NCIS but we have a very valuable helper who deserves credit that those assholes won’t give him.”
“What has Mr. Helper done for you?”
“He found the guy who forged the Vampire’s IDs to help him get around in the states.”
“So I need to come get your forger, huh?”
“Oooh… I like it when you call me ‘ma’am’. We’ll deploy right after lunch. See you tonight.” She purred the last part and it gave me chills… not the good kind. creepy…
I looked up at Alc. “Cuffs will be here tonight… Pam?”
“She didn’t answer.”
“Call in her GPS?”
“Because if she’s still at Corbett’s we can rib her about WHO she had for breakfast this morning, otherwise, I worry that tossing the apartments made him want to skip a couple of letters.”
He nodded and went about it.
While I waited, I poured fresh coffees and started another pot and sat back down.
Rene leaned over and whispered. “Were we right?”
“Sook… Miss Stackhouse didn’t tell you?”
He shook his head and I smiled again. I would have told him.
“It’s still an open case, so don’t say anything… You guys were right about everything. You should be very proud of yourself.”
He closed his eyes and nodded with a huge smile.
“Why didn’t you tell her about Compton? She’d have gone to bat for you with the local PD.”
“And that would help how? She’d look like a vindictive Ex…” Unfortunately he was right. “What’s your background? How’d you get to be a FED?”
“Started out wanting to be a cop. Admin of Justice to Criminology and added Psych to the mix… Sookie says you’re thinking about Psychiatry.”
“She talks about me?” He looked a little paranoid.
I gave him a friendly grin. “More like brags about you like you’re her own.”
He actually looked like he was going to cry hearing that someone was proud of him. Poor kid.
Rene didn’t have to avoid eye contact with me for long. It was only a couple of seconds later when Alcide started laughing his ass off.
He hung up his phone and slid it back in his pocket, shaking his head. “Corbett omelet!”
“Oh! This will be SO MUCH fun!!!”
Kenya looked confused. “Corbett is dating your boss?”
I grunted at her. “Yeah. Well, I don’t know if you’d call it dating… They don’t seem to leave the house much.”
She was wearing a smirk by the time I pulled out my phone and started a text to my superior. “As your subordinate, we are waiting on you with a lot to talk about. As your future son in law, hang up the saddle before you kill Dad.”
We went back to talking and more importantly congratulating Rene for a job well done and it only took a few minutes for Alcide’s phone to go off.
“Why did Pam just text me to punch you in your jejunum?”
I laughed and slid him my phone. When he read the message he started laughing in spite of muffin number 6 being in his gob and then mumbled that she was on the way.
Rene was anxious to get back to school so that he wouldn’t miss Sookie’s class and I was saying goodbye and thanking him again when I opened the door and my usually graceful boss stumbled through the doorway with her hand on the knob. She recovered quickly and eyed Rene while I apologized.
“Who are you?”
I grinned at her and threw my arm over his shoulder. “THIS is my new best friend. Rene Lanier. He’s responsible for my FABulous mood!”
Alcide yelled from the kitchen. “HEY! You can’t replace me! I’m willing to shoot Bill!”
Pam rolled her eyes at our joking, but then her face changed when things clicked for her. “Wait… THE Rene? The prodigy?”
I nudged him with my elbow and gave him an I-told-you-so. He looked like he was on the verge of tears again, too surprised to react.
“Well then, Mr. Lanier, what gifts have you brought to us today?”
He cleared his throat, but his voice still cracked. “Just a little light reading… If you’ll excuse me, ma’am. I need to get back for class.”
She nodded and stepped out of his way but called after him before she closed the door. “Rene, I don’t impress easily… You’re very helpful.”
I went directly to the window over the sink and watched him as I poured coffee for Pam. He actually sat in his car and cried for a minute before he put his junker in gear. “Remind me to do something mean to his father if I ever see him.”
Alcide snorted. “You mean because the kid is just about as smart as Sookie and almost cries when he gets complimented?”
“That’d be why.”
Kenya shook her head. “Even if that asshole remembers it, he’ll just take it out on Rene.”
When she turned down muffins, I found containers to put them (and the bagels) away. Alcide pretended to weep. Goofy jackass. Once Pam had been introduced to Kenya and Pam was sitting at the head of the table with a cup of coffee, the show started. Her mouth watered as she listened to all of the new information… the solution to the song mystery… the possible location of de Castro’s base of operations… the source of de Castro’s identity… If she had a dick, it’d be hard. I was nice and didn’t rib her about her early morning extracurricular activities in front of Kenya. I was a good little boy and kept up the show. Just business. All business. And when Kenya took a bathroom break, I got a smile and she mouthed a ‘thank you’ for keeping it professional. Behind Alcide’s back of course.
“So ladies… are the four of us armed enough to do this now, or should we play it safe and wait for Jennifer and her minions?”
Kenya gave Pam a sneer. “I vote we do it now. If he’s there, he could take cover in the trees. At night, we’d lose him. I don’t know what you keep with you so I brought extra Kevlar and 6 boxes of 9 mil rounds.”
Pam beamed at her and blew her a kiss.
Alcide announced that we both brought our guns back from New Orleans and that we had ammo.
Pam smiled at the three of us. “All we need is a warrant for the property.”
She reached for her phone and Kenya put her hand on Pam’s arm. “You should just call for permission.”
“Why? Does Sam Merlotte own that too?”
“No. Corbett does. He says the only reason that he doesn’t burn it down is because every hunter in the county would hate him for scaring off the game. He bought it when his in-laws fell on hard times and almost lost it. Sheila’s mother was a Loudermilk.”
Pam shook her head and muttered about the Stackhouses owning the whole county and then looked up at me. “You call him.”
“Because he’s not in a very good mood.”
I couldn’t imagine Corbett being in a bad mood anymore than I could imagine Sookie being in a bad mood… unless… I started laughing. “Sookie gets grumpy from time to time too.”
“PMS isn’t quite the same thing…”
“Oh, I’m not talking about PMS. She’s not fond of being… interrupted.”
She smiled wide enough that I could see her back teeth and she started a slow laugh. “We might as well be dating the same person.”
“Then we’re both pretty fucking lucky.” I fished out my phone and started dialing.
“Hey Corbett, how are you this morning?”
He huffed into the phone. “I’ve had more stuck in my craw… what can I do for you?”
“This fly in our ointment… the guy we’re hunting down… We’re pretty sure that he’s using one of your properties to hang his hat.”
“The one that’s sending Pam those emails?”
“What do you need from me?”
“Permission to search your land.”
“The Loudermilk estate.”
“Fucking piece of shit… I should’ve burned it down with Sheila in it long before that fucking wedding…” He was growling and I don’t think that he was doing any more than thinking out loud until… “Yeah, yeah… go ahead. Search it. The whole fucking thing is mine, all three properties. Knock yourselves out.”
“Great. Thank you… Corbett?”
“We’ll do our best to make sure she’s home for dinner.”
“Oh, you better.” He hung up.
I was still laughing… “Sookie’s not quite THAT bad!”
She started laughing too. “I’ve never met anyone who is.”
Kenya just looked back and forth between us.
Alcide snorted. “You’re no prince either… You’ve threatened to shoot me… twice.”
I stopped laughing and screwed on my serious face. “I wasn’t kidding either.”
He knew I was fucking with him and started laughing until Pam broke up our fun to order us into our ‘party dresses’.
When I came down the hall Kenya was waiting already changed into her uniform and tying the laces on her coraframs. She gave me a once over and started shaking her head.
“You and Sookie are perfect for each other. She makes everything look good too.”
I was just wearing steel toed boots, black cargo pants and a black T-shirt. “She does, no argument there, but I look like a retard in a polo shirt.”
Alcide came down the hall agreeing with me. “He really does look like Rainman.”
When he came out from behind me, Kenya’s eyes shocked wide. “Holy shit! Do you do anything BUT eat and work out? No wonder Cater can’t keep her hands off you!”
Alcide was wearing pretty much the same thing I was except his shirt was sleeveless… and his shoulder holster actually made him look wider. While I tend to make myself busy to decompress, he’s inclined to meditate on his weight bench. I do joke about our weigh difference. Even though I’m a couple inches taller, the 30 pounds between us could be found across his back and chest.
He smiled and batted his eyelashes at her so she rolled her eyes.
After dropping off Kenya to ‘borrow’ Bon Temps’s paddy wagon, we made our way to the old farm and pulled onto the long driveway back to ‘Paradise Hills’ with Kenya leading the way. As planned, she blocked off the lane just after the turn offs for the other two tracts and we left the van and Alcide’s trooper behind to separate into two teams to circle around to the back of the house using the tree line as cover. Alcide and I were one team, Pam and Kenya were the other. I had suggested that I go with Kenya. I wanted Alcide with Pam because he’s an expert marksman, but when I made the motion I was shot down immediately and jokingly branded as sexist for ‘wanting the teams even’. Fuck me for caring.
We worked our way through the woods without conversation. I would say we did it silently, but it would be bullshit. The enormous fucking asshole behind me laughed through his nose every god damn step of the way because I must have snapped every branch in my path while he ninja-ed his way through my wake of clamor. Shithead. Unfortunately, stealth has never been a word in my dossier; even Smom called me ‘thunderfoot’ from time to time.
As I plowed through the terrain, Alcide and I took notice of the Angel statue first. The bottom half of one of her wings had been broken off, but it was otherwise in good repair. Alc nudged me and whispered to mention that she had her hands out like ‘Christ the Redeemer’. I gave him a nod, wondering if the statue was a part of his decision on this property since the piers his ship moored at sat in the shadow of the giant landmark in Rio.
Moving along the tree line our next landmark was the gazebo that served as the altar at the ‘Compton wedding’ giving me an arson related fantasy or two of my own. I considered if Corbett would mind… if I tagged along… if he ever decided on that brand of therapy.
It didn’t take long to make our way around the back of the clearing. We cleared the side of the house at just about the same time as Pam and Kenya and I started to feel better as soon as I saw them both moving in the tree line. Our corner of the property was where the family cemetery was situated. Enclosed by a slate half wall, it was just as unassuming as any cemetery I’d ever seen except for the large pink marble obelisk standing directly at the opening. Neither of us saw any reason to show it any special attention since none of the headstones were tall enough to use as cover. Alcide and I were far more concerned with the fact that Pam and Kenya’s corner of the property included the garden and tucked between the garden hedge and the trees of the surrounding woods was the airstream. Kenya gave me a smile wide enough to land a plane on as Alc and I started to close the distance between the two teams.
We circled around and met behind the trailer to regroup and Kenya put her ear to the side of it, listening for movement. I gave her a wink, knowing that she was having fun with being useful. I’m sure that in Bon Temps it was a rare occasion for her to see so much fuss. She gave me a smile and shook her head, indicating that she didn’t hear any signs of life. We went into position, I waited under the large window at one end, Kenya covered the window by the door and Alcide and Pam went in through the front, Alcide first.
We found the cabinets full of Ramen and Campbell’s, a mini fridge full of peanut butter and cheese and a closet FULL of clothes including uniforms. Naval and Stalker. Everything in the tiny space was ‘within regs’. Not a single thing was out of place. His groceries were all ‘fronted’ and his clothes were all hanging to face the same damn direction. Alcide joked that if he didn’t know better, he’d swear I lived here so I gave him the one finger salute.
We split into teams again to go through the house. Alc and I went around the front and the ladies, *throat clear* excuse me, ‘estrogen enhanced officers’ went around to the back. After stealing my lock pick set, I might add.
The first floor had nothing to offer unless you count the peeling wallpaper and sloppy painted trim. There had been a fire in the fireplace in the study recently but the empty can of beef stew and 40 oz of Old English told me that it was probably lit by a transient. I hoped he had the chance to move on, but something told me that we’d find him in a shallow grave somewhere on the property. Kenya and Pam met us in the center of the house at the base of a huge formal staircase set in front of the fabled window and Alcide led the way… More nothing. The only thing there was water damage from a broken window and an abandoned nest with requisite droppings.
The four of us were all wearing disappointed glowers as we went upstairs to the third floor, expecting to find a whole lot more of nada. Zip. Zilch. The first three spaces were cleared right away. ‘Bubkis’, as Smom would say. ‘Jack Shit’ to me. But I do love the way Pam puts things sometimes… ‘Fuck all’.
After clearing the east end of the house, we moved in tandem towards the west. The first room had a green loveseat in it. Ancient in my estimation. The pads were filled with straw and the upholstery was dry rotted. More than likely left behind generations ago. The next room… something. We all stopped, awe stricken. There was a pallet made up on the floor. Gold satin sheets and red satin pillow cases. The floor surrounding it had dozens of partially burned pillar and taper candles. It took us all a minute to shake our nausea to move on to the other rooms. The closet was cleared then… the other door. The bathroom.
Resting across the top of a large old claw foot tub was the padded top of a massage table… the kind with a hole at one end as a face rest. How considerate. Mother fucker. What caught our attention more than the leather restraints that he had secured to each of the claw feet, the assortment of candles on every flat surface and the vase of limp roses on the window sill… was the putrid stench that jumped up and punched Alcide and I in the nose. He knocked me back into the door getting out of the reach of the odor so that he wouldn’t contaminate the scene with ‘rented muffins’. Even Pam turned green when she came to stand in the doorway and Kenya’s usually sweet caramel complexion took on the nauseated hue and she followed Alcide’s lead towards the stairwell. I held my breath and dug the mag light out of my pocket. Shining light into the face rest opening, seeing it made my throat seize up. It was a disgusting mix of blood and vomit. I declared myself ‘done’ and charged out of the room.
The four of us, hunched over with our hands on our knees and taking deep breaths, took a few minutes to collect ourselves at the landing of the staircase. Not a word was uttered. As I got myself back I looked around and noticed that Kenya’s face was streaked with tears. I hadn’t told anyone that Kenya had a vested interest in the case, but I don’t think her reaction to seeing the circumstances of her friends last moments could be considered anything other than ‘taking it like a man’. I reached over and gave her shoulder a squeeze as I stood up, leading the way to clear the area behind the last unchecked door.
I didn’t think it was possible, but there WAS more…
The room was large, more of a finished attic space. Open rafters and all. This was his museum… his showcase… Son of a bitch. He’d lined the room with mannequins… 26 of them. Some of them full sized, one of them was a maternity mannequin just for Hannah Summerland and four of them were children sized. There was a fucking chair sitting in the middle of the room. His opera box.
Geraldine Anderson was the first one as I came through the door. She was dressed in jeans and a snug yellow t-shirt along with her Blockbuster vest… Her small Nikes set on the floor in front of her… A framed close up photo taken of her terrified face was hanging on the wall just behind it. As I pulled myself away from everything so that I could continue to ‘fake my way through unpleasantries’ as Sookie put it, I spun myself around and saw ‘Maudette’. Brown cowgirl boots carefully placed… Her long denim skirt brushing the floor and a warm looking, oatmeal colored, cable knit sweater was gracing a model with a long red wig… Just as he had matched hair color and style for all of them… meticulous. Frighteningly so.
I gave her the coldest look I could rally and jerked my arm out to point towards the door.
I saw her eyes well up as she slowly turned for the door, but she noticed ‘Maudette’. Her mouth moved, but nothing came from it. Her chin quivered and her face was drenched in a waterfall of grief. “I bought her that… that… sweater… for her…” She went mute again.
I went over and hugged her around the shoulders. She was frozen as she sobbed into my chest until I started directing her out of the room… down both flights of stairs… through the front door. I sat her down on the front steps and rubbed across her shoulders as she folded herself in half to cry into her knees. She went on for a few minutes. No discussion. Just anguish.
She shot up suddenly and bolted, so I followed her to the tree line and continued to try soothing her as she heaved into the under growth. When she was done, she actually looked embarrassed as she looked up at me. I tried to hide how worried about her I was behind a smile as I unzipped the pocket on my thigh. I pulled out the ‘sick kit’ I’d started carrying not long after I started the job and handed a envelope of wet naps and a tin of altoids to her.
She cringed and chuckled a little. “Boy scout.”
I smiled at her. “Not me.”
“You’re mighty prepared.”
“I was too busy playing sports and becoming a ‘meat stack’.”
She laughed into the wipe as she cleaned herself up. “Do you get sick a lot?”
“No, but Alc does and his pockets are too full of bullets for toiletries. I call these pants his ‘purse’.”
“I guess I should be pretty embarrassed then.”
I gave her neck a little squeeze and shook my head. “No… none of us would have handled that as well as you did. You’re coming at this from a different angle.” I tucked a curl behind her ear and started leading her towards the house where Alcide and Pam were waiting on the porch.
I pulled out my phone to call in the cavalry.
“Mr. Burnham! Please, tell me that you are on the job and waiting for something to do.”
“Northman! I am. What do you have for me?”
“The Vampire’s nest.”
“One team enough?”
“With you at the wheel, it should be. Bring menthol and extra kits though.”
When we met Pam and Alcide on the porch, I tossed the altoids to Alc and he was happier to see that little tin than ever before. One day, he’ll finally take my advice and cheek one BEFORE things get gross.
We sat down on the steps and took a few minutes… Again.
“We need to look for where he bathes them. There should be a yellow patch in the grass from the bleach run off and there’s probably a shallow grave on the property.”
Pam looked confused until I explained the recent fire, stew and beer. We paired off again. Boys v. girls.
Alcide and I were working our way towards the garden, fanning out and whacking at shrubbery to make sure they were planted and not just props…
“What the fuck was that about… with the crying? Bon Temps that isolated?”
“Yes, but her and Maudette Pickens were friends.”
“Shit! Why’d you let her come along?”
“Because I knew if I didn’t promise to bring her along, she’d have come out here alone yesterday. She handled herself really well considering.”
“Amen to that. Any one of us would have lost our shit if that scene belonged to someone we knew.”
“She’s almost as tough as Pam.”
“I like her though. She’s got my vote.”
“She’s the first one I’d call if another case puts us out here. Kevin is fun, but Kenya has her shit together.”
“Bud’s a dim mother fucker too! Poor Kevin’s been answering phones for too…”
Alcide double timed it over to me… “What’d ya find?”
“3 fresh graves.”
“So the hobo… and?”
I looked over at him. “George Broward?”
“You think he’d be twisted enough to drive more than 300 miles with him?”
“Do you think he’d be twisted enough to not drain that tub?”
“Good point… who do you think the third could be?”
I shook my head and reached for my phone. “Probably some poor bastard that was too greedy to wait for deer season. The dirt is still loose.”
“Pam, go ahead and call dispatch about and excavation team and cadaver dogs. We found 3 fresh graves behind the elephant statue in the garden. With this guy, there’s no telling if there’s more.”
“That’s the kind of shit that makes me keep you around… We found the bald spot in the yard too. Heading back to the house.”
“We’ll bring the cars up. How’s Kenya?”
“A real trooper.” That was good to hear.
I measured the distance by cigarettes. It took us long enough for Alc to smoke two cigarettes on the way back to where we parked. It could have been worse. Last year when I tagged along with Alc and the boys to a Saints game, we parked 3 cigarettes away from the turnstile. That’s a long damn walk when you’ve got two sleepy kids with you.
For the next 45 minutes, we all worked on our advanced doctorates in waiting. We twiddled our thumbs and told dirty jokes. We did everything we could to make the wait more tolerable. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we heard a car make its way down the path.
Alc patted my shoulder. “Does this mean it’s lunch time?”
Kenya laughed and looked at me. I just closed my eyes and shook my head. “Herveaux, you need to see a doctor!”
“Can I go after lunch?”
I was still introducing my new favorite forensics guy to Pam when the rest of the party arrived. Including security to sit on the place like they were hatching an egg once forensics came through.
We split up to show the different teams what we’d seen and where we’d looked. Kenya handled the security team. She handled them like a pro too, letting them know the exact property lines, different hunting blinds and possible foot traffic from hunters. All in all, we made short work of turning the scene over to Burnham so that we could get the hell out of his way. God knows, he was going to have enough to deal with.
Once we had tracked each other down, I told Alcide that it was time to go eat lunch. That prick jumped in his truck and left us, spitting gravel as he sped off. He was waiting at the end of the drive where the county road crossed it. He said that it was because he’d been joking around, but I had the sneaking suspicion that he had no fucking clue what a ‘broiler’ is. HaHa
2 o’clock and back at the house. We’d all managed to defeat the sickening urges that tried (because they always do) to linger. I had just slid the tray full of overstuffed hoagies into the oven when my phone started to pulse against my leg. I’d forgotten to turn my ringer back on. It was Sookie.
“What did you do to Rene?” She sounded stiff.
I chuckled at her. “What do you mean?”
“I have him for third period Government and I almost thought he might be high because he was wearing this dopey grin. Then I saw him for fifth period So-Ev and he still looked stoned. I pulled him into the hall and asked him what was going on and he thanked me for the muffins.”
Alcide had come over and listened in for part of it. “Sook, we told him not to drink the bong water.”
The four of us cracked up.
“What are y’all up to?”
“I think it’s called a ‘po-po pow wow’.”
“Only if you’re at Dunkin Donuts.”
“Woh! That’s an occupational preconception! None of us have eaten doughnuts in… hours.”
“You’re in a really good mood. I hate missing it.”
I settled down enough to give her a serious answer and walked out to the living room where it was quiet. “I’ll save some for you. I called Rene over to help with a couple things. He’s the shit and all 4 of us told him so. I’ll explain more later, but I promised to name our first born after him.”
She giggled. “You asshole. I was looking forward to calling a baby ‘5’.”
“OH NO! No fifths in this house unless they can be kept in the cabinet over the microwave!”
“Can his confirmation name be ‘5’?”
“You’re better at it.”
She giggled again. “I would hope so. Go eat your lunch. Are you coming to practice?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.”
“Love you too.”
Kenya was pulling the sandwiches out of the oven when I walked back in. Pam was coming back from the porch with an armful of teas for everyone and Alcide was grabbing plates, having already grabbed the chips and dip.
That was the last grown up thing we did for the next hour. We all (even Pam) joked and laughed, occasionally choking a little. We had ourselves a little celebration over our medium victory… not as big as finding the actual ‘bad guy’, but definitely better than finding a clue that just leads to more clues. I might very well rent a ferris wheel for later tonight when Jennifer carts off Bill in cuffs.
“Pam, this might sound weird, but could you bring Dad back when you come later?”
She eyed me for a minute. “Should I tell him?”
“We’re getting together for dinner… to celebrate our discovery earlier.”
Alcide looked constipated. “Fuck you! Sookie said that I had to make dinner tonight!”
I laughed at him. “I can take care of that. Sookie wouldn’t expect you to cook for extra people. And I’m sure she’ll come up with something for dessert that you can make with the boys.”
Pam started laughing at him and called him a chicken shit. “Ok. So I’m telling Corbett that we’re celebrating. Should we bring anything?”
I smiled at her. “Lawn chairs.”