Up To Speed
I woke up to the smell of coffee & food and the overwhelming sense that I was too far away from Sookie. When I rolled over, I saw that she had folded my clean clothes and put them on the side of the bed. Perfect. I quickly took my shower, shaved and dressed so that I could search her out.
I found her in the kitchen, standing over the stove. She was just wearing a pair of jeans and a snug black t-shirt, but it made me realize I’d probably think she was sexy in anything. I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist, kissing her neck.
She hummed and laid her head back against my shoulder. “Hmmmm. I love that, but what if Eric catches us?” I couldn’t help but laugh, but I slapped her ass anyway. She snuggled back against me and twisted her neck for a kiss. “Last night was redonkulous.”
“Redonkulous, huh? That’s a good word for it. Have you run into the keystone cop yet?”
She giggled. “No, he’s still asleep. His phone was going off like mad so I plugged it in for him. It’s still going off, but it’ll have juice when he gets up.”
“You’re too nice to him.” Especially after he was such a hemorrhoid last night.
“No, I’m not. If I didn’t do anything nice for him, he wouldn’t have a reason to feel guilty for being a shit.” Psychological warfare? Nice.
Sookie was loading plates with sausage and pancakes when Alcide came into the kitchen checking his phone. “Tell me princess; what’s your favorite position?” He’s taunting her on purpose and if he doesn’t knock it off…
“Good morning to you too!… When you’re dealing with a horse cock like Eric’s there isn’t a bad position… Mish is good, reverse cowgirl is better. Then again, I do love the look on his face during a Hindi massage.” She gave me a wink while we watched Alcide’s mouth fall open.
“I didn’t think you’d actually answer, I just…”
“Thought you’d see how far you could push the new girl? I know… I’m a teacher; I understand how a child’s mind works.”
She set our plates down at the table and poured 3 coffees and I noticed that her snug t-shirt was a Violent Femmes concert T. Tell me she likes punk and I will drop on one knee, for real.
When we sat down to eat, I watched her smear her pancakes with strawberry preserves.
Alcide had noticed too. “Fucking Christ on a cross! He’s got you eating like him?” I reached over and took the jar from her when she was done and started slathering strawberry on my short stack with a smile.
She smiled at him. “It’s a coincidence. I never liked syrup.” I nodded. Amen. That stuff smells like piss.
“To be honest? I think it smells like urine.” Holy shit! Everyone I had ever said that to, thought I was off my rocker. “I think ketchup tastes like the plague, even though I like just about everything else tomato and I don’t drink milk plain- it tastes salty to me. And I prefer fruit flavored candy to chocolates. I’d rather have a sucker than a candy bar and I prefer pie to cake.” Ohmygod. There is no way!
Alcide looked back and forth between us with his eyebrows drawn together. “Did you two find each other on a food freak website? Do you have a devout perspective on yellow mustard too?”
She giggled. “I forgot that one. Yellow mustard is unnatural. Brown mustard is where it’s at. Oh! And I like bologna and hot dogs as long as they aren’t beef. If I wanted beef, I’d get a burger.”
“You both have the same taste in music too?”
She reached behind her and grabbed her iPod from the dock on the counter. “See for yourself, and don’t get any syrup on it.”
Sookie and I shared a look while we went back to eating our ‘freak cakes’, as Alcide put it. “You two aren’t a fucking couple. You’re androids! You have the same weird programming! She’s paused on Nada Surf, between the Dandy Warhols and the Mighty Bosstones. You both like that ska/punk/metal/techno/euro shit.”
I smiled over at her and couldn’t help but laugh. I’d thought of her as perfect before, now I was going to have to think of a new word for her.
Alcide, of course, used brunch as a venue to interview her. I’d have stopped him if I wasn’t curious myself. “Elvis or the Beetles?”
“If I have to pick one, Elvis… The deeper answer is Rat Pack.” I couldn’t agree more.
“What about movies? Favorite Spy?”
“007, but Connery and Craig. Moore, Dalton and Brosnan are douche bags.” Faultless?
Alcide was chuckling and shaking his head. “Adam Sandler?”
“Oh, that’s a tough one… Big Daddy got my girly side at the end, but Billy Madison had me bent over. Non-Comedy- Reign Over Me.” Sublime?
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Mobster? Crime fighter?”
“Tony Soprano but if I have to pick a movie… John Tutuorro as MoMo Giancana in Sugar Time. Crime Fighters? Ness in The Untouchables and Earp in Tombstone.” I thought I was the only person to remember Sugar Time! Unequalled?
“Unforgiven. Hands down. Josey Wales, Fistful of Dollars and Hang ‘Em High are up there though. Are you going to be getting out the hot lights and refuse me a toilet?” An Eastwood fan? Oh. I. AM. IN. LOVE! Bulls eye?
“Almost done… Sports movies and Star Wars… Then you’re free to go.”
She raised an eyebrow at him and looked over at me. “Is your dad going to grill me like this?”
Oh God! Fuck. “Probably, but he’ll have the decency to do it over heavy drinking and a football game.”
She took a deep breath and huffed. “Tie between Major League and Field Of Dreams; two different genres so I shouldn’t have to pick. I like Sci Fi, but more of the Paranormal and Horror movie stuff. Futuristic, spacey SciFi irritates me. Did I pass?” With flying colors.
Alcide started shaking his head again. “As long as you promise to rub off on my wife.”
“Sweetheart, if I rubbed off on your wife, you’d lose her to the other team for good.”
He stared at her, delivering rapid fire blinking while he tried to recover from the mental image. I helped him along with a kick to his leg. “I meant the movies and stuff.”
She giggled at him. “Thanks for clearing that up, Colombo. I can do my best, but you’ve heard that shit about old dogs and new tricks, right?”
He started laughing… OH. MY. GOD! Did she just tame THE shrew? Holy Shit!
I was marveling at how well she handled him. I’d been his partner for a few years and never seen him so fucking docile. I wondered if she drugged him. The conversation morphed from an interrogative to friendly chat. I laughed to myself when I thought of how she’d deal with Pam. Wait. Ok, all wedding ‘jokes’ aside. I’d just had a Freudian slip from hell. I was still wondering if the comment she made about meeting my family had anything to it. And now I was amusing myself with the idea of Sookie domesticating my boss. She’d already dealt with my partner. Fuck.
I was watching Sookie unload and reload the dish washer (learning where everything goes) while Alcide and I went through some particulars of the case when there was a knock on the door.
She looked out the window over the sink and when she turned to me, she was cringing. “My dad.”
“Fuck… What do you want me to do?” Hide under the bed? Answer the door? Shit. Fuck.
She shrugged. “Keep a leash on Barney Fife.”
Alcide kept running his mouth, so I had to kick him to shut him up. I wanted to eavesdrop.
“Hey Daddy. You look much better. What are you doing out this way?”
“I’m here to invite you and your fiancé to dinner tonight.” He was growling in a slow drawl. Not happy.
“Oh God! Don’t act like that!”
“Like what? Disappointed that my daughter is engaged and the whole town of Bon Temps met her fiancé before me?”
“Yeah. Just like that. I wasn’t expecting to see him last night.” Well done.
“It’ll kill your mother.”
“IT WILL NOT! We should be so lucky. You stop being such a damn drama queen right now, Daddy! That Macho bullshit doesn’t fly with me, and you know it. Your feelings are hurt that you didn’t know I was dating him. What did Tara tell you?” If I talked to my dad like that he’d throw boxing gloves at me and take me to the yard.
“Tara didn’t tell me anything.”
“You jerk! You went after Sam!” I heard a loud thump. I think she hit him. Ballsy. “What did you bully from him?”
“He told me that he’s friendly, has a sense of humor, he’s not a stick in the mud…. He has his hands on you in every picture from the party.” Oh fuck. The pictures. “You were dressed like a trollop.”
“Yeah, well, thank your other daughter for the costume.”
“I can’t believe you still do that with her.” He was laughing slightly.
“Does he treat you right?”
“So far so good… What are you making for dinner?” Another nice evasion. Maybe she should be a Fed.
“I didn’t want to make plans until I found out what he likes.”
“He has the same tastes as we do.”
“Be there at 6?”
“Yeah, we’ll have someone with us. Eric’s friend is here too.”
“Jason will be there, of course.”
“Of course.” I heard a kiss and then the door open and close.
When she walked back into the room Alcide started laughing at the look on her face. It was half way between a grimace and a scowl.
“So? How did it go?”
She eyed me. “You were listening…”
“Yeah, but my father would have cold cocked me three times for talking to him like that. That was strange to listen to.”
“My dad and I have always had a pretty open dialog. I’m a Daddy’s girl. Watch out for my mom though.”
“She a bitch?”
She nodded. “My dad will want to know about you and how you’ll treat me. She will want to know your complete genealogy and how you’re gonna take care of me if she chews her way out of her cage at all.”
Fuck. Make a joke. “Should I print a bank statement?”
She laughed. “She’d be happy to see one, but if you do, I’ll kick your ass.”
“Why are we bringing Alcide?”
I watched her go over to him to hug his head to her shoulder and pet it. “Shhh. He’s right here. You’ll hurt his feelings…” She let go of his head when he started laughing. Shit. She’d tamed him. “He needs to eat too.”
“Couldn’t we just leave out some kibble?” Seriously. After how he acted last night, he’s likely to make us both want to shoot him.
“Oh, he’ll behave.”
“What makes you so sure?” This is the best behaved I’ve ever seen him. It can’t last for long.
“Well for starters, because he can smoke like a chimney and no one would care.” Alcide smiled at that.
“It might take more than nicotine to keep him at bay.” She was starting to get that smile on her face again. The one that made me want to apply as a Bon Temps Sheriff’s deputy.
“To be honest, he doesn’t really need to. Nothing either of you say or do would make my mother happy and unless he jokes about how much I charge for anal, my dad and brother can get along with anybody.”
Alcide still promised that he’d be on his best ‘church behavior’. Could he go into a church without being smote?
Sookie left us alone in the kitchen to work and disappeared into the back of the house. I was under the same roof with her and felt lost by not knowing what she was doing. It was miserable to look at Alcide’s ugly mug when her radiant smile was so accessible. Fuck. I’m that pathetic asshole already and I haven’t known her for 24 hours yet. Fuck. Alcide had been talking for a while and I didn’t hear a fucking word. Lovely.
“What did Pam say when you called her last night?”
“Asshole. I just got done telling you.” Fuck you. I don’t need to be reminded that my head is fucked.
“Tell me again.”
“I also tried to tell you last night.”
“I had more important business to attend to. What did she say?” He laughed and shook head. He looked like he wanted to say something, but thought better of it. It was probably a good choice. Knowing him, he’d have called me pussy whipped. Then I’d have to beat his ass for being right.
“The first thing she did was yell at me for calling her at 4am.”
“Never mind that. She’d have been pissed if you sat on it for any amount of time too.”
“Damn straight she would. Anyway, I’m surprised that she didn’t call yet. I told her about Sookie’s theory…”
“And her students.”
“I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but remind me and I will. You thinking Sookie’s students would get a kick out of one of those ‘letters of thanks’?
“Yeah.” Fuck me. No way he’s that tamed.
“Anyway… told her about the new theories that sprung up. Man, I could hear her dick get hard. She told me to send the files to her, which I did, and she’d call us when she woke up and looked through it all.”
“What about Maudette Pickens?”
“Told her that too. She wants a full report and everything we can send to her as soon as we see the sheriff. She wants us here for the autopsy.”
Thank. You. God! I get to spend 3 days with Sookie! Hidethesmile… hidethesmile… hidethesmile. “I figured, but I don’t know why. It’s not like we actually have a hand in it and he hasn’t left us anything to go on yet.”
“I talked to Amelia, the kids are feeling better already. You mind if I stay on to save myself the drive?”
“Yes, but Sookie would kick my ass for not talking to her first.”
“You’re an asshole. I’m being nice.” Because you forced her to handle you.
“You want me to ask her for you, don’t you?”
“No. I can ask. I just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t have a problem first.” Holy. Fucking. Shit. I’m. In. The. Twilight. Zone!
I was starting to wonder if I was hallucinating from a possible gas leak when there was another knock on the door.
I called for Sookie a couple of times and when she didn’t answer me, I went to the door.
When I opened it, there was a teenage girl wearing not nearly enough clothes. Never mind the cold weather; I would make any daughter of mine wear more clothing to the beach in July. Her skirt was shorter than Sookie’s had been last night and I’m pretty sure that a wash rag was made from more fabric than her top.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for Miss Stackhouse. Is she home?” She was fidgety, shifting from one foot to the other and when she did, I saw scarring on the inside of her thigh. Cutter. Shit.
“Yeah. Can I tell her who you are?”
I let her in, leaving her in the living room and went back to look for Sookie. She was sitting at her desk, kicked back with her feet up. She was reading what looked like a book report with a highlighter and a red pen in her hand and when I walked up to her, she jumped. She looked up at me with a startled smile, pulling her ear buds from her ears.
“Fun in the isolation booth?”
“Just giving you guys some privacy. What’s up?”
“Someone is here to see you. Sandy. A student maybe?”
“Is it a problem? I can tell her you’re sleeping.”
“No. If Sandy’s here, she NEEDS something… Fuck, where is she?”
“In the living room.”
She got up and bolted down the hall and I followed, not liking that she wanted to know where both Sandy and Alcide were. When I saw that Sandy was in the living room alone, I went to the kitchen and sat back down with Alcide.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t really know. One of Sookie’s students has come by to see her.”
“Oh… Did you look at Sookie’s file on The Vampire yet?”
“No.” That’d be as good a thing to distract myself with as anything. Better that than why Sookie looked terrified at the idea of my partner being alone with a child. What would she think he’d do?
“Look at this shit. She used Google Earth to pinpoint each dumpsite, then pinned the area with the crime scene pictures of the direction of the arm. She doesn’t have a picture of all the victims though.”
“She only hacked into the data base for us. She wouldn’t have done it for herself. The photos she has are probably the leaked ones.”
He grunted. “We can add them for her, I guess. Anyway, then there’s a linear model starting with the first victim; her birthday, missing date, dump date. Possible stalking dates too. Sookie said that the girls lived and worked in the same town, but 3 of the girls were under working age. She tell you her thoughts on that?”
“No. We told you, we don’t talk about work. And last night, we didn’t do much talking after you left.”
“No shit. Asshole. You could have at least shut the door.” I didn’t bother to answer that. “I think I know what our guy looks like.”
“What!? Why didn’t you say something earlier?”
“I was getting to it. I just started looking through the pictures that we have of the girls, like Sookie suggested. The same guy is in the background in 3 of them.”
He turned the laptop a little more and pulled up the photos. Sure enough there’d been the same ‘man’ lurking in the background of three photos. “Mid thirties, 5’10”, dark brown or black hair, nothing of real use though. He has a uniform. In all three pictures he’s wearing the same dark red pants and gold shirt. But now that we know what we’re looking for, we need to know who all of them went out with for their birthdays and track them down.”
I stared at the photos in turn. This guy looks predatory in each frame, practically salivating at his intended victim. These pictures were of a cocky man. He’s not ashamed of himself. He isn’t tortured by his actions. He revels in them. He’s too proud for his own good. He was practically dressed like a peacock while he was looking for his target. He considers stalking them, his courtship. This is how he woos these girls. I started looking at the other pictures for other similarities. If he thinks he’s being romantic, he’s doing something ‘special’ for them…
“Alc… Look… in 5 of the 9 pictures they have Champagne.”
“People get champagne for birthdays all the time.”
“Yeah, but they tend to get a whole bottle, not just one glass and they all have a strawberry in the bottom. Look. Here’s two pictures of the whole table. Both of them only have one flute. That mother fucker is flirting with them.”
“Your girl was right. We really do need those pictures.”
Sookie finally said goodbye to her student and came in to grab a drink from the fridge.
“Hey guys, sorry about that. You both look like Christmas morning. Find something?”
Alcide smiled up at her and before I had the chance to tell her any news, he jumped, headlong, into the conversation. He started by telling her how awesome she is, making her blush and then showed her all of the things that we had seen in the pictures.
“Oh god. I think I’m going to be sick. Did y’all notice he’s hard in all 3 of the pictures.”
Alcide and I both went over the photos again, and sure enough, not only was he in the same place at the same time, and looking at the victims he was excited. Pretty fucking damning. Our list of ‘to dos’ included getting the pictures of all 12 parties AND the locations so that we can find out if champagne is normally served with a strawberry there.
She was still looking at me as though she tasted bile. She clearly didn’t have the stomach for this shit. “Sookie, Alcide brought up a good point about the idea that the girls all worked and lived in the same place. There were 3 girls who weren’t old enough to work and a stay at home mom.”
Alcide continued for me while I closed the laptop and pulled her onto my lap sideways, holding her knees and rubbing the back of her neck. She looked slightly green. “One girl at her high school, one girl next to her house, one girl at a walmart. The mom, at their church.”
“The girl found at her school was on the yearbook and prom committees. If you go back and look at the property lines, the girl found at home was actually just over. She babysat for the neighbor. The girl at the walmart had helped her little sister’s troop sell girl scout cookies out front a week or so before she was taken. The mom was at the church where she volunteered for nursery duty and according to the news, ran the food pantry. Volunteer work is close enough, I guess.”
“How’d you dig all that up?”
“I didn’t. Rene did. He really ran with this. He started scrutinizing the news. Neighbors and friends and family’s sound bites. Rene is the one who caught those details. He was sure that The Vampire wouldn’t break his rules.”
Eventually, Alcide got up and announced that he would call Pam to fill her in again, so I went fishing.
“Sookie, what was that earlier? With your student? You seemed worried to let her be alone with Alcide. I know he’s an asshole but…”
She put her finger over my lips to shut me up and laid her head down on my shoulder. “I wasn’t worried for her. I was worried for him.”
“Him? She couldn’t weigh 90 pounds. He’s nearly 3 times her weight and armed. How could she hurt him?”
“Not him as much as his career and family.”
“Sookie? What are you saying?” She sat up and looked down at me with sad eyes and it broke my heart. “If you’re worried that I’d say something, don’t be.”
She took a deep breath and blew it out, trying to prepare herself. “The school counselor is 60 year old man who’s biding his time until retirement. The principal asked me because I’m young and not the least bit shy to help him out because of my psych background, specifically with the girls. I met Sandy when she was in 8th grade, a junior now. She has an Elektra complex worse than textbook case studies and she’s sexually impulsive. She practically rapes men and then punishes herself by cutting when she gets her way. When she doesn’t get her way, she cries rape to cover her shame. She can’t have any male teachers. She got appendicitis last year, had a fever of 105 and she tried to give the EMT a hand job on the way to the hospital. Even though she has pathology, the accusation would leave a mark. Some bells can’t be unrung.” I feel like a piece of fucking shit now. Asshole.
“So why did she come see you today?”
“Well, Reynard County doesn’t get enough funding for sex ed, so I’m kind of planned parenthood for the high school. The little table next to the porch swing has a drawer that I keep stocked with condoms. No questions asked. They can grab n’ go. Any girl that wants to go to the health department to get put on birth control, they know I’ll take them. And I keep a few morning after pills for accidents. Sandy needed a morning after pill. Her mother’s boyfriend rejected her last night so she ended up on a bender and having sex with 6 kids (that she remembers) at a party. She’s not even sure she knows whose house she was at.”
“Could you take her to get a depo shot? Something that she wouldn’t have to take daily?” Not that a baby is the worst thing she could end up with after last night.
“Not anymore. I’ve already gone head to head with her mother. I’d be forcing the principal’s hand. If I push the issue for Sandy, I’d risk losing my job and letting down all of the other kids. I hate to say it, but keeping Sandy from getting pregnant is like putting a band aid on a sucking chest wound. Right now, I take condoms to school by the truck load and stash them in her gym locker for her. School being closed this week had been a problem and I don’t even want to know how fast she went through the 4 boxes I gave her on Monday before school cut out.”
“You pay for all of that out of your pocket?”
She smiled slightly. “Well, there’s a few parents and teachers who are on board and anchors aweigh with the cause, the principal even pitches in. But for the most part, the lady at the pharmacy probably thinks I’m a big ole skank. I’m in there buying condoms and morning after pills in large quantities like I’m shopping for the Bunny Ranch.”
“Do you have a lot of Sandys and Renes?”
“I don’t lump Rene in with being troubled. He just needed someone to understand him, make an effort with him- like your pal in the other room. I only have 3 Sandys. One kid is bi-polar with escalating suicidal gestures and the other is a predator and has the potential to end up on your back one day.”
I know that when I looked up at her, I looked surprised. “What do you mean on my back?”
“When I talked to his mother, she told me that when he was 5 they nearly sued the pet store in Shreveport because his hamsters and fish were dying at an alarming rate until they realized he was getting up at night to smother them. The hamster in the fish tank and the fish on the desk, then he’d put them back. He set a cat on fire, while it was still alive. Then last year, he was caught in the act of… violating a family member’s dog and when the uncle walked in on him, he finished and then kicked the dog hard enough to break its spine in front of witnesses.”
“Fuck. Michael Meyers.” She nodded. “Why isn’t he in juvi?”
“Because he’s only 13.” My chest hurt. After everything, it’s still hard to believe that a child that young could be that evil. Fucking sick.
“Still, what did you mean about my back?” I knew what she meant, but I enjoyed hearing her explain how her mind processed through things.
“You have a school of 5 Maori Sharks tattooed on your back and shoulder. You’re on the Predator Task Force. You were born in Hawaii, and sharks are predators. You didn’t get them all at the same time, or by the same artist because the ink and markings aren’t a perfect match. Notches in your gun belt. They’re souvenirs, reminders.” She smiled at me with her eyebrow raised. Mmm.
“Not bad, Corky, but it kinda takes the wind out of my sails that you didn’t ask.”
She gave me a giggle. Perfect. “Fine. Go get another tattoo and I promise to ask you to explain it when you show it to me.”
“I might just do that. Would you still ask if I got a blonde pinup dressed as the devil?”
She narrowed her eyes at me. She didn’t believe I’d do it. “What do you need a souvenir of last night for? You have me.”
“Do I?” Sayyes. Sayyes. Sayyes.
“Do you what?”
“Do I really have you?”
“You know… I think you do.”
“Are you going to marry me at Christmas?”
She looked at me like I’d sprouted an extra head. “Now how would that work? Really. You live in New Orleans.”
“Ooh! You’re good at geography too!” She slapped my chest and I laughed at how hard she was trying to not crack up. “We have options.”
“Like what? Me moving to New Orleans?”
“Actually, that thought never occurred to me.”
“Then what did occur to you?”
“Not only could you finish your masters, but there’s a field office there. When you’re done, I can transfer to Shreveport.”
“You wouldn’t miss New Orleans?”
I shook my head. “I’ve only been there for 5 years. I’m a Navy Brat remember. Moving is nothing to me.”
“What if I wanted to stay here?”
“Then we skip the Nashville steps and I put in for transfer to Shreveport. I commute. You teach. I’m pretty flexible.”
“I remember that from last night.” She ran her finger over my bottom lip. Fuck.
“Mmmm. Don’t try to change the subject.”
“45 minutes is a long drive each way 5 days a week.”
“It’s only 10 minutes more than I already spend each way. Think about it?”
“Are you afraid of just seeing each other on weekends?”
I had to think about that for a minute. Not my answer. How she’d react to it… Fuck it. No guts, no glory. “Absolutely. I think I’ll miss you before I’m on the highway back to New Orleans. Think about it?”
“This is more than a little crazy. If one of your friends came up to you and told you they got engaged a couple of hours after he met the bitch, what would you say?”
“How was Vegas?” She slapped my chest. “But we’d been playing house for a while.” She slapped my chest again so I got serious even though she’d been giggling. “Now that I’ve met you, I’d be the most understanding friend he has. Think about it?”
She looked at me for a long while and I’m pretty sure she even stopped breathing. I’m not sure if she was expecting me to change my mind or what, but I was starting to panic from her silence. Finally… “Is it all or nothing?”
“Of course not.” I’ll take what I can get. Anything.
A smile crept across those perfect lips, warming me from the inside out. “Then I’m thinking about it.”
She leaned over and put her lips to mine. Her tongue ran over my lips softly before she gave a nibble to my bottom lip. We moaned into each other’s mouths as we picked up momentum and I pulled her body closer to mine, touching every bit of her I could. Oh god! Fuck. She trailed her sweet lips down my neck and then back up to my ear again. Her breath gave me a chill all over my body. She wrapped her arms around my neck and shifted to straddle my lap. When her mouth went back to mine, we both reached for each other’s belts and started pulling and tugging…
“Hey you’ll nev… FUCK! Have either of you geniuses ever heard of a DOOR?”
Sookie started chuckling. “Why wouldn’t we get married? We already have a kid.”
I dropped my head to her shoulder and laughed. “Sookie, Alcide wants to stay until we can do the Post Mortem on Monday. It’ll save him 10 hours in the car. Do you mind?”
She leaned back and looked at him upside down. “Alcide, if you don’t mind our little den of iniquity, you’re welcome to stay here.”
Alcide smiled at her and if I didn’t know better, he was… grateful? “Great, thanks. What I was coming in here for… Pam is off the grid.”
“WHAT!? Since when?” Sookie and I both stood up and started putting ourselves back together.
“Since about an hour ago. 1:30ish. She stepped out for lunch. Dahlia says that she got an urgent call that she tried to connect and no phone, no text, and her car is still in its parking spot.”
“What are they doing?”
“Dahlia said that they’re kind of scared to look for her. No one wants to find Pam if she’s hiding on purpose. They’re looking anyway, but I get the feeling that their dragnet might include having animal control activate her microchip.”
Fucking hell! I thought I was going to piss myself. Sookie was laughing because it would have been funny to say that about nearly anyone in a bad mood, but she didn’t know Pam like we did. “Sookie, you don’t understand. ‘Special Agent in Charge Pamela Ravenscroft’ has a nickname. We all call her PAM Riding-Crop and none of us are sure, but we suspect she came up with it herself. She’s… FRIGHTNING.”
“How bad could she be? She lets you call her by her first name.”
Alcide started laughing. “That’s only because someone told her it’s an anagram for Punish And Mutilate. She actually signs it in all caps.” Sookie started snickering. Again, she doesn’t know Pam like we do. *shudder*
Sookie convinced Alcide that we needed to take two cars into town, so that she could run errands while we worked and then we wouldn’t get stuck waiting for her at the station if she wasn’t done before us. It didn’t take too much convincing either. The real reason for taking two cars was because it was the last chance we’d have at information gathering. The first thing she did when we got in the car was hand me her cell phone and a copy of her house key.
“Ok. What do we need to know to get through this?” I stared at the key before I added it to my key ring then started searching through her phone and adding my numbers.
“My dad is the cook in the house. My mother takes care of the other chores. Yes, it’s because she’s a horrible cook. She will be nasty. My mother will probably bring up my pageant days. And tell you about all the money she put into ballet and gymnastics and stage lessons. If it goes on too long, I will figure out a way to double tap myself in the forehead to end it all.”
I was laughing, but completely sure she’d get her turn when she meets ‘Command Master Chief Northman, Retired’. “That bad?”
“She fucking worried me into a bald spot by the time I was 8. She keeps my crowns and ribbons in my old room. Even now she rolls her eyes when she sees me in my glasses because she thinks they’re ugly. She’s still bitter that I got disqualified from a ‘MAJOR’ pageant for wearing chucks under my evening gown. She’s also still bitter that I wore a Rancid t-shirt under the strapless prom gown she bought without me, and again, my chucks. I was still voted prom queen and… Oh yeah, it was a disgrace that I went stag because Bill and her tried to gang up on me about my wardrobe choice. On that, Bill was only my ‘boyfriend’ as far as she was concerned. She hosted his ascension when my actual boyfriend left for college, even though I was still dating him.”
I was enjoying this. Maybe too much. I wish I’d met her in high school. “So you weren’t a cheerleader?”
“Yeah, I was. Captain… Uh… Oh! This tooth here isn’t real. It was knocked out in a mosh pit, but Daddy and I told my mother that I fell breaking in a new pair of heals.” Fucking fabulous! I was barely holding myself together at the seams.
“Danzig… My birthday is July 1st and my Dad sets off fireworks for it every year. I’ve never blown out candles because Daddy has always lit sparklers on my cakes. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving: all of the togetherness, none of the greed. I hate my birthstone. Favorite colors are blue to green and anything in between. Thanks to school, I speak Italian, French and Spanish passably but I didn’t retain enough Japanese to get through Mr. Roboto. Oh, this isn’t my car, it’s a rental. I dropped mine off for custom upholstery. It’s a convertible ‘68 Galaxie. Cobalt blue with bright green flames on the hood. One of my students did it… You know about my majors, divorce, the layout of the house except for the two rooms upstairs… Can you think of anything else?” Perfect.
“Well, what do you drink?”
“In an ideal world, black and tans or Guinness. Stout. Pilsners are fine though and I tend to do shots when I go out. Never wine or champagne. What about you?”
I smiled at her. “Exactly the same. What about food?”
“Other than my obvious condiment issues, I’m ok with pretty much anything. I’m not allergic to anything either.” Still Perfect.
“Sookie, I think we’ll do fine.”
“Uh, there’s probably one thing you should know…” Great here it comes. She used to be a man? Her parents are brother and sister?…
“I have a record.” She looked over at me biting her lip. “When I said that I filed for divorce before Bill woke up the next morning, I left out that I set the spare bedroom on fire.”
I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. “Remind me to never piss you off.”
When she saw that it didn’t freak me out, she smiled. “Ok, I told you that I was under the impression that we were trying to start a family… Well, every time we fought he’d manipulate his way back into my good graces. Instead of flowers or an actual apology, he bought nursery furniture, christening gowns, baby naming books. And every time my period started he’d make ME feel like the failure. Hindsight being 20/20, I spent the whole time we were married ping ponging around the first four stages of grief. When I walked out, I dumped a bottle of Absolut in the bedroom and dropped a match. That’s what pissed him off enough to go after Gran’s house and alimony. When the judge heard my side she told Bill that he was lucky it was just the baby stuff. She’d have set HIM ‘ablaze’. She gave me a fine for ‘unlawful incineration of waste’. ”
Ok. I can’t say that I’d have done any differently. A bonfire of the vanities was completely called for. “What were you grieving?”
“Me. I didn’t want to marry him. We actually didn’t have a wedding cake because I called and canceled everything a month ahead of time. I didn’t send out the invitations. I ‘stole’ my dress from my mother and took IT back… ended up getting married in an off the rack dress because my mother and Bill kept working around me.”
“Your dress was your white flag?” She nodded. “So you over compensated for being rebellious as a kid and went into character.” She nodded again. “Is it ok if I don’t like your mother?” Joking of course.
“I’ll get you the membership information. There are dues and the initiation is grueling, but we like having fresh blood.” Straight faced. Interesting. She looked over at me with a raised eyebrow. “Don’t you sit over there and analyze me…” Busted. I smiled at her and she gave me a wink.
“I have more experience with it anyway. My mom is my baggage. She’s always tried living vicariously through me. Hell, when Bill proposed after he graduated, she expected me to not go to school, even told me that I’d have to get a job to pay for my application fees on my own. My dad: he’s always been my champion though. For my sweet 16, my mother bought me a four poster bed, complete with lace canopy. Daddy bought me an old roadster and we rebuilt it together. I still take it out when it’s warm.” I think I’m going to like her dad when he’s done being angry.
“Moving on? My turn?” She smiled at me and nodded. She didn’t seem to mind telling me about herself and refreshingly didn’t seem to have any secrets. She was pretty much an open book and if I wanted to know, all I’d have to do is ask… “I have a pet bird. Her name is Tippy. Favorite color is blue. Birthday is April 20th. My favorite holiday is the fourth of July: cookouts and fireworks after a day at the beach. My dad is a hard ass. My step mom is a Mary Kay rep with a million casserole recipes. I call her Smom- always have. She reminds people of the red headed school secretary in Ferris Beuller. I don’t talk to my step sister because she’s vacuous and venomous. My father had me play sports growing up. I played little league baseball and football. Then in high school I played baseball, basketball, lacrosse and football. I didn’t hate it like you hated pageants; I just didn’t like that it was all that mattered. I wasn’t allowed to skateboard because I could hurt my throwing arm but I did anyway. I was in JROTC and hated it… I have a scar on top of my head from getting really drunk at a friend’s house during a hurricane party and falling out of a tree, but my dad thinks we were playing lacrosse. There’s something about raw apples that make the inside of my mouth itch, so I don’t eat them often. Thanks to school, I speak BARELY passable Russian and German, but I can read it and understand it. My Bel Air was my first car… What else?”
“Ever been married?”
“No. Never even close. No kids either.”
“So the first time that the words ‘marry me’ came out of your mouth, was when you saw me dressed as Mephistopheles?” She started giggling.
“That’s all it took. But for the record, you had me the second you picked up my gun and racked it.” She winked at me.
“What were you doing last Halloween?”
Weird question and I had to think about it. “I sat out front of my building with Tippy and my neighbors, handing out candy. Why?”
“When they ask, ‘So when did y’all meet?’ That’s when we say ‘last Halloween’. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t working with Alcide. I was in New Orleans last year and a bunch of times since then.” Last Halloween TECHNICALLY being yesterday.
“You could be a criminal mastermind.”
“Nah. I’m too lazy.”
I leaned over and kissed the side of her neck and breathed into her ear. “You didn’t seem a bit lazy last night.”
She gave me a quick kiss. “I can only be evil in short bursts… there’s always energy for amazing sex… What’s my favorite part of your apartment?”
I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of that last night, or Alcide for that matter. I couldn’t help but smile. “Well, you love how open it is since you don’t see many studios around here. It has brick walls and big windows. My couch is dark blue and uncomfortable, so you’d prefer my bed. The sheets are light blue and the blanket is white. No head board, just the frame. The floor is hardwood…. Hmm… You barely see the lake from the windows, but it’s fun to watch Tippy try to pick fights with the pigeons and seagulls… I’ve never used the dishwasher. No shower curtain, it has sliding doors. And last Christmas, I didn’t put up a tree because the year before, Tippy pulled off all of the ornaments and broke them playing. I did put up lights around my windows though. Oh, it’s on the 5th floor, but it’s not a walk up.”
She’d been smiling, picturing things I guess. “Tell me about Tippy. How’d you end up with her? What kind of bird is she? I don’t know whether to picture a budgie or an ostrich.”
“Two Christmases ago one of my neighbors, Chow, was buying a huge fish tank so I went to the pet store with him to help move it. When we walked in, there was a big commotion about a loose bird. She was flying all over the place and the employees were pitching a fit. I watched her fly overhead a few times and while Chow was getting some things, she landed on my shoulder and started nibbling my face. I bought a bag of food and a bed for her and I’ve been hers ever since. She usually sleeps on the couch or on the bed with me. She’s a cockatoo and she will NOT like competing with you for my attention. When Alcide comes over to work after hours, or my neighbor lady (Jane, by the way) she gets right in the middle of things and if I bitch at her, she pretends to cry by putting her head under her wing and shaking. But don’t buy it, after a minute she peeks out to see if you’re affected.”
“Does she talk?”
“Some. She calls Alc ‘asshole’. She says Jane, and Eric. It sounds like ‘Ayy Reek’ though. She says ‘hello’, ‘stop that’, and she knows how to cuss. She’s kind of a trick pony though. I taught her to shudder every time someone says ‘Pam’. She turns the TV on when I’m not home and she gets lonely. When I get home at night, I usually have to sweep up popcorn or chips. She follows me into the bathroom to shower. She takes hers in the sink. Jane comes over and plays with her and taught her to tell me that I work too much and I need a life.”
Sookie started giggling. “Sweetie, I thought you said you didn’t have kids?” Sounds like it, when you think about it.
We’d been sitting in front of the sheriff’s office for most of the Tippy conversation. Alcide had pulled in right behind us, but hadn’t gotten out of the car yet. I turned around and saw that he was arguing with someone on his cell.
Sookie had turned around and watched him… “What the hell has him so fired up?”
“Amelia is probably giving him grief about being here.”
“She’s a doormat, but picks bad times to stand up for herself?”
Our faces were between the seats, watching the unfortunate scene. I pecked her cheek… “Perceptive. Ironically, she’s probably accusing him of cheating the one time he’s not.” Oh God, she smelled good.
“I was wrong about him…” She started rummaging through her purse.
I watched her dig out what looked like a small remote control and jerk her head to get me to climb out. “What is that?”
“Tara got it for me last Christmas. It plays with cell signal. Best toy in the world for a high school teacher, also not bad at keeping a fight from escalating.”
I followed her behind the car and she got Alcide’s attention by slapping her hand on the hood of his Trooper. His eyes met hers with a jerk of his head and by the look on his face, he was furious. I watched Sookie put her hand up and count down from 5 silently with her fingers. Mmmm. Her fingers… Focus. She held up the ‘remote’ and held a button down. Alcide held his phone out and gave it a confused look and put it back to his ear. Then looked at it again. I could faintly hear him saying Amelia over and over then Sookie held her hand up and counted down again, then pushed a different button. He looked at his phone again and started climbing out of the truck. She’d killed the call.
“Everything ok, Alc?”
“I’m cheating on her, so she’s leaving me.”
“She thinks you’re cheating because you’re here, or she found out about all the other times?” Zero sympathy. None.
He darted his eyes between Sookie and I, I guess he assumes she’d tattle. Here’s a thought: If you’re ashamed for people to know, it probably means it’s a bad idea. I rolled my eyes at him. “She thinks I am because I’m here.”
Sookie stepped forward and held her hand out for his phone and he handed it to her. Then she started walking towards the front doors looking over her shoulder. “What do you call a small town? Podunk? Bum Fuck?”
“Bum Fuck usually. Why?”
She shook her head. “How on earth did you manage to find any side action when you don’t know how to handle your own wife?” What?! Did that really come out of her mouth?
I watched her fingers speed over the pad. Alcide asked what she was doing and she shushed him before she handed it back to him. “I texted your wife.”
“Ame, cell signal sucks out here in bum fuck. Try calling me on the station phone.’ I included the number.”
She smiled up at him and patted his arm before she led us in.
The deputy behind the counter put his coffee cup down and bounced over the counter to hug Sookie.
“Hey Sook!” He pointed at Alc. “This your lucky guy?”
She shook her head with a chuckle, patting my chest. “Nope. This one is mine. Kevin, this is Eric Northman. He’s with the FBI and this is his partner, Alcide Herveaux.”
“FEDS?” He looked like he’d been introduced to the school yard bully and been handed a ‘kick me’ sign. My id smiled. Alcide and I stood in our undertaker poses; hands together in front of us, feet shoulder width apart. And watched the friendly local pretend to feel comfortable.
“Yup. They’re here about The Vampire. You’re going to be nice, right?”
“Well, sure. I thought you were here about that kid of yours. Rene.”
The smile and good humor were gone from Sookie’s face in an instant. “What? Why? What’s happened?”
“He came in a little while ago and got all fired up when Bud wasn’t interested in his ‘theories’. Threw a chair at him. We’re holding him, just ‘til he cools down though. Don’t worry. We were gentle.”
“Did you call his house!? His father will put him in the hospital again if you did!” Fucking hell. Is she mother hen for every kid at that school?
“No! No. Sookie, I was the one that answered that call. I know better. I’ll go get him for you. K.”
She nodded and he quickly disappeared into the back.
“Sookie?” She’d tensed so much that her hair even seemed straighter.
She turned and looked up at me and gave me a grin. “I’m fine. I was just scared for him. His father sleeps in the drunk tank more than his own bed. He’s mean when he drinks.” I nodded as I realized how important she was to her students, and vice versa. It wasn’t all off putting. It’s pretty rare to find someone like her. I guess that’s what makes the Sookies worth mentioning.
When the phone started ringing, Sookie ran around the counter and put the headset on. As she answered the phone, she smiled right at Alcide before she disguised her voice; adding nasal and drawl.
“Bon Temps 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?… What was the name again… Lemme check for ya. Please hold…” She winked at him. “Who’s calling please?… Please hold.” She took the headset off and set it down. “Special Agent Herveaux, your wife is on line 3.” She pointed over to the second desk so that he could use the desk phone.
She came over to stand by me and I leaned over to her ear. “How could you help him get away with cheating?” Especially considering what Bill had done.
“Eric, it’s their marriage. It’s not our place to judge him. What needs to be resolved at the moment is that he’s not cheating right now. Otherwise, the kids and the case are collateral damage.” Shit. Maybe she’s too smart.
Alcide hung up the phone and came back over to stand with us.
“Thank you, Soo…”
“Don’t thank me. You either need to come clean so she can make an informed decision of staying or leaving or make fucking sure you start working on sainthood so she NEVER knows. Your personal demons combined with missing adult swim are shit fucking reasons to break her heart. And you know it. Get a babysitter once in a while and take HER to a hotel instead of using her as childcare so you can get a slap and tickle with a random whore.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
I watched my partner open his mouth to say something, but rather than start debating or defending his actions, he closed his mouth and nodded. She’d done in one conversation what I hadn’t managed in 2 years.
Just a moment later, Kevin brought Emo-boy from the holding area. 18 or not, the boy looked like he wasn’t old enough to buy bubble gum, in spite of his piercings and man-scara.
His face couldn’t have shown more shame when he made eye contact with Sookie. She walked over to him and hugged him around the neck. I watched as his arms went around her back and hugged her like a scared child. He called her ‘Miss Stackhouse’ over and over as he apologized for ‘acting out’. She pet his head and rocked him side to side and shushed him. He’d been terrified that his father was going to be called and just seeing Sookie made him feel better. I was really starting to see a trend.
Sookie let go of the wiry boy and his makeup had run. So she sent him to clean up while she ushered Alcide and I to the conference room and introduced us to ‘Sheriff Bud Dearborn’. This guy really made me wonder if South Park was looking for Officer Barbrady. He was a tool. Well, if the tool was missing its power supply and stored in a battered shed without doors. Unimpressed. Alcide and I quickly became sure that Rene EASILY had more to offer on the case than Dearborn did. As it was, he all but threw the box of evidence at us like he were playing some deranged game of hot potato and was barely anything more than a tour guide to the morgue. He talked about the cost of the new refrigeration unit more than Maudette Pickens. The useless old fart hadn’t bothered with the first interview either. Fuck!
By the time we were done with our trip into the Outer Limits, it was nearly 4. Not that an hour and a half was an excessive amount of time, considering the task. Fact of the matter is, a standard evidence transfer and debriefing usually took several hours. But Sookie had walked out of the station just after she made the introductions and I found my mind drifting to her.
The closer we got to Sookie’s house, the more my mood lightened. Normally, a full night’s sleep aided by a 6 pack to block the images of the victim from creeping into my dreams would be the only recipe that could keep me from leaving a wake of discontent everywhere I went for days. Alcide had been at this longer, so I found myself quietly envying his calluses. I knew he cared. I could tell it affected him, but he seemed to be one of the lucky ones who had a sort of emotional mute button. Pam on the other hand could stand over a body at a crime scene and actually compliment the killer’s technique.