A Swing With A View
“You is a pretty bitch, but you needs to get out of my spot.” I opened my eyes and my face was inches away from that of a big black guy in purple eye shadow and a lace do rag. Fuck.
I moved my hand the couple of inches to find my gun under the pillow. “Sookie, why does he think I’m in his spot?”
She rolled over and snuggled up to me. It was only then that I realized I was bare assed and uncovered. She giggled. “Because every Saturday morning, Lafayette does the walk of shame straight to my house to tell me about his adventures in babysitting the night before while we drink coffee and eat fattening pastries over cartoons… Back off Sweetie. He’s mine.”
“You always was a selfish bitch… I already started the coffee and put out the pastries.”
She giggled again and tossed the sheet over me so I rolled over to my back and propped myself up. “Eric, this is my roommate from college, Lafayette Reynolds. Lafayette, this is my fiancé, Eric Northman.”
He put his hands on his hips. “BITCH!”
“What?” She was laughing.
“A- I am not just some co-ed ho that shared a hot plate with you! We sisters! B- When the FUCK were you going to tell me?”
“I’m sorry. You’re right… Eric, Lafayette has always been more than my roommate. The two of us go together like high heels and a short skirt.” I watched him put his hands together and bow dramatically as thanks for her acknowledgement. “And Eric just asked me on Halloween.”
He started laughing. “That costume of Tara’s have anything to do with the proposal.”
I started laughing too. “Everything.”
Sookie joined in. “Don’t worry, we’ll start shopping for your maid of honor dress soon.”
He smiled as he kicked his shoes off, bouncing up onto the bed to spoon in behind her. “Something off the shoulder? “
She snickered, but it was cut off by a gag. “Lafayette! You reek! Dakkar AND CK1! You slut. Go get your shower.”
“It is what it is.” He kissed her cheek and rolled off the bed and went to her closet. Apparently, he kept clothes at her house.
Once he was in the shower, I snuggled up to her. “Any more surprises?”
“I don’t know. It’s my life. I’m used to it all. I’m sorry if it seems crazy. I know your life is pretty quiet.”
“My life was boring. Your life is fun. I like it. It’s just that I almost shot him.”
She snorted. “I think we’re done with the surprise wake ups. This morning, I have company coming though.”
“In about an hour the squad will be over to run a few drills.”
“I’m the cheerleading coach.” Ungh. Shit.
“Ok. Let me know if I’m leaving something out. You work for Stackhouse Landscaping as a part time receptionist and bookkeeper. You teach History and Government, unofficially act as school counselor, supervise the Killer Club, coach cheerleading, anything else? What were those books that got mentioned last night?”
Her eyes hadn’t left mine until I mentioned the books. Then she avoided eye contact. “I… uh… I’m Adele Hale.”
I’d heard that name before. Where was it? Thinking… thinking… Shit! “The one that wrote those books for kids about famous people who had learning and mental disabilities!… ‘In Spite of Everything’ right? That’s what they’re called?”
She nodded sheepishly. “Gran came up with the idea while I was tending to her. So I used her name as my pen name.”
“You know I just bought one! Alcide’s older boy has dyslexia and his birthday was last month.”
She started laughing. “Ew. You’ve got a lot to learn if you’re ‘that guy’ who buys books for dyslexic kids on their birthday. Do you buy Ho-hos for diabetics too.”
I laughed and swatted her ass. “It was an afterthought. I saw it when I was in the book store. I had already bought him an ass load of Magnetic.”
She gave me a kiss. “Thank God!”
“So what does your schedule look like during the week?”
“I get to school at 7:30. School gets out at 3. Monday is Serial Interrogative until about 4:30. Wednesday and Thursday I supervise Cheerleading until 4:30. My cousin’s son spends a couple nights a week with me when she works late. Friday night I go to the game and Saturday morning after breakfast in bed with Lafayette we work the girls out. Saturday night, I usually go out with Sam and Tara and Sundays Daddy and Jas and I go out to breakfast. That’s all default settings. There’s a lot weekends I’m not even in town. You were lucky it was flu season. When school was canceled, I almost went to Dallas to visit a friend until Daddy and Jas got sick.” Shit. How lucky for me.
“No wonder you weren’t lonely. You’re too busy.” She smiled at me. “So how did you end up living off campus as a freshman? With a male roommate?”
“When Daddy and I took the tour of the college, we took a walk on the campus at night and ALL of the dorms were crazy busy. Some had parties but most were just loud from warring stereos. Daddy didn’t like the idea of me walking back and forth to the library at all hours to study in the quiet, so a couple of weeks before school started, we went and looked for an apartment.”
“And your Dad didn’t mind because Lafayette is gay?”
“Not exactly. Back then, Lafayette was still hiding. What got Daddy was that Lafayette’s first words to us when he opened the door were…”
“I have a 4 point 5-5 grade point average. I plan to keep it that way. You can find loud music at a club. Not here. Even your cell needs to be quiet. Any problem with that?” I looked over at Lafayette who was now standing in the doorway to the bathroom, draped in a towel.
I smiled at him. “So Corbett approved right away, how did you fare with her mother?”
“Oh no. Uh uh. You seen them movies where the silly negro goes running up the stairs to see what made ‘that noise’, then the next thing you see is that fool bitch’s head rolling down the steps. Thump. thump. thump… I’m not that stupid. When I’m told that they is a monster in the closet, I don’t open that fuckin’ do’!… Never met the bitch.” I liked him already. A lot.
I was laughing so hard it hurt. “You should have introduced me to him before her!”
“You met her? Shit! What she do?”
“She did her best to upset Sookie. Brought up Bill…”
“When’s he gonna let me do the divorce? I love your Daddy dearly, but he is stubborn as hell.” Lawyer? Huh.
Sookie got out of bed, still nude, and went to her dresser. I sat up on the edge of the bed to start shaking the cobwebs off. She was digging for something to put on when Alcide came to the door. He barely managed to grumble a ‘good morning’ before he realized that Sookie was naked.
He spun around so fast I thought he’d twist into the floor. “I’d say I’m sorry, but you assholes need to figure out what doors are for!”
I laughed again when I realized that Sookie had taken cover behind her friend. “Lafayette, that’s Alcide. He’s Eric’s partner. Could you dig something out for me, please?” She kissed his cheek and disappeared into the bathroom.
Lafayette started laughing. “Partner? Are you willing to share this one. He’s pretty too.”
Sookie laughed from the bathroom. “Have at him.”
Lafayette came over to the bed and laid on Sookie’s side, singing Alcide’s name he propped himself up on an elbow. He pat the bed next to him and blew a kiss when Alcide turned around. The look on his face was priceless. I laughed so hard that I fell over on the bed. I slapped Lafayette five when he offered. Having him around was going to be fun.
“Can I come get my laptop without being jumped?”
Lafayette chuckled and dropped his voice. “I don’t know hooker. That all depends on the price of your stroll.” OH. MY. GOD! I thought I was going to die choking it all back. Considering the way I’ve seen him talk to women, Sookie in particular, he deserved to feel like a piece of meat right now.
“Lafayette, are my pants over there? I didn’t see where they landed.”
He grunted when he bent over to grab them for me. “You ain’t thinking of taking her away from us are you?”
“No. I’m transferring from New Orleans to Shreveport. Tara asked too. Bill try to move her?”
“No. He didn’t have any control over her without her mother’s help. Just making sure.”
“I offered to go back to Nashville so that she could finish her masters, but now that I’m meeting everybody, I’m glad she wanted to stay here.”
“Awww. Ain’t you sweet.”
Alcide was still standing in the doorway while I pulled my pants on. “Sweet!? He calls me asshole.”
I looked over my shoulder at Lafayette and shrugged and he laughed. “What’s gonna happen if you don’t have those clothes for her?”
His eyes grew before he leapt out of the bed towards her dresser and went into the bathroom with her. I went to her closet and was happy to find my bag sitting in the floor with my clothes in it so I grabbed a fresh outfit and went to the bathroom with Alcide giving me his usual dirty look.
Sookie and Lafayette were talking while they got dressed. I got a quick shower and she was blowing her hair dry and he was putting on eye shadow when I got out. Sookie had put on a tight pair of black work out shorts and a Bon Temps High tank top. “I found sexy, smart, and fun in the same place AND I get some cheerleader fantasy on the side? I am a lucky mother fucker.”
Sookie stretched up to kiss me. “I found sexy, smart and fun in the same place and I get some cop fantasy on the side. We’re lucky enough we should hit Vegas.”
“Is you two going to be one of these couples that makes us single folk sick?”
We both answered. “Probably.” He rolled his eyes at us.
Alcide knocked on the door. “Company. Corbett and Jason are here. Pam is circling like someone dumped chum in the water.”
Sookie started laughing, but Lafayette yelled ‘Daddy!’ and bolted through the door, almost knocking Alcide over on the way.
When Sookie and I came down the hall, Corbett was still hugging and greeting Lafayette. Then Jason complained about being chopped liver so Lafayette hugged him too. When I went to shake Mr. Stackhouse’s hand, he hugged me instead.
“It’s nice to see you didn’t get scared off after last night.” He patted my back. “Call me Corbett until you’re comfortable with calling me Dad.” I almost argued that I was hardly comfortable calling my own father ‘dad’, but I kept that to myself. Instead, I just thanked him.
When Sookie finally got her turn hugging him, she introduced Pam, who licked her lips. “Daddy, what brings you?” She was laughing at the smirk on her father’s face. Alcide and I REALLY felt like we were watching shark week. Pam was flirting, and Sookie’s father was enjoying it.
“I need a minute with you.” Sookie looked confused but followed him outside.
“Pam, please don’t flirt with my father in law.”
“He isn’t wearing a wedding ring.”
Lafayette, Alcide and I tripped over each other trying to see his left hand through the window by the front door. I KNOW he was wearing it last night. I remember noticing it. When we gave up trying to confirm that it was gone, all three of us looked at Jason.
“She’s right. He put it in her suitcase when he packed her shit.”
Pam laughed at the three of us, calling us stooges. Not a one of us could think of anything to say until Lafayette threw a punch at nothing and started whooping. He jumped up and wrapped his legs around Jason, kissing his head.
When he was done, Jason put Lafayette down like he hadn’t just caught a 200 pound man midair without budging. “After y’all left last night, he didn’t say a word to her. He went to her room and packed her things. This morning, we ate a silent breakfast and we took her to the train station to go stay with her sister then stopped at the bank to start an allowance for her. He’s done. He warned her about it being the last straw. I tell you what, she’s lucky she didn’t scare you off.”
Pam actually took the reins of concern. Alcide and I were still slack jawed. “How is he holding up? How will Sookie take it?”
Ok. As a recap, I woke up this morning next to a man, spent a fair amount of time in bed naked with him, then took a Very Brady Shower which I hadn’t done since college. I watched my boss flirt with my future father in law. Found out that my in-laws are getting a divorce. And now the wicked witch of the south is the only person in the room who can muster a word of concern. All of this before I’ve had a drop of coffee… Coffee. That’s what I needed.
Jason started laughing. “He’s fine. They haven’t slept in the same room since we were in high school and Sookie will be fine. When we were kids, we used to ask Santa for a divorce. There’s nothing left of the horse to beat.”
I started for the kitchen and waved at them to follow me. “Does Tara know?” I pulled coffee cups and set them and the pot on the table and started the makings of a fresh pot.
“Naw. She’s our next stop. Hey Lafayette, I’m dragging Daddy to the Dirges tonight.”
“NO YOU’RE NOT! What time?”
Jason smiled and Alcide asked what the Dirges was.
“After dinner. Bout 8. Dirges In the Dark is a bar. Laf, you gotta make sure Sook comes. Daddy won’t play without her.”
“Oh you know I’m your bitch! I’ll put her in the trunk if I have to. You have her stuff right?”
“I have some stuff, but she’d rather have hers. If we just tell her it’s for Daddy, you shouldn’t have to use cuffs or anything. Just don’t let her wear a skirt or she’ll use it as an excuse to not take the seat. I’ll have Tara and Sam come out too.”
I was totally lost in the conversation, but I was afraid if I said anything, I’d give myself away. Thankfully, Pam was getting sucked into the Stackhouse vortex like Alcide and I had been. “What seat? Play what?”
“Sookie hated singing in pageants so she taught herself to play guitar, hoping that Sheila would let her do that instead. Of course, the answer was no. Daddy didn’t want her effort to get wasted so he’d take her to the garage and would play, then I joined in, then Sam. Laf even joins in once in a blue moon. Any of y’all play anything?”
We all shook our heads. I wasn’t even good at Guitar Hero.
“Shit. It would have been nice to have an extra drummer. Sookie hates it because she gets sweaty, but she’s the only one of us who can keep her air to sing and play at the same time.” He looked up at me while I poured my coffee and grabbed a danish. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I raised my eyebrow at him and followed him out the back door to the porch.
“Sookie didn’t tell you about what happened to her at school. I could tell by the look on your face when Sheila brought it up.”
“No. But we talked about it some when we got home last night.”
“It was bad. She nearly died. The doctors weren’t sure if she’d be alright even if she woke up because the concussion was so bad. Did she tell you anything about the guy who did it?”
I shook my head, not liking where this was going. “She told me she doesn’t have any memory of it.”
“She came home for Thanksgiving. She had a huge fight with Bill after dinner and broke up with him, again. She was talking to me and Daddy about it when Sheila came in. Bill had called her and told her what a bitch Sookie was being, so Sheila laid into Sookie. Daddy and I helped her pack to go back that night because she really just needed to get out of Dodge. Anyway, when she got back to school, she took an extra shift the next day. That’s when it happened. Daddy and I both knew it was Bill. We called Bud and the whole of Bon Temps was looking for him and his folks said that he went back to school but nothing added up. We found out that he flew home out of Nashville instead of Shreveport.” I wanted to walk across the cemetery and shoot him in the face on the spot.
“But there was never any proof?”
Jason shook his head. “We know that part of the fight was because Sheila had told Bill that Sookie was living off campus with a man. We hadn’t told her that he was gay because she’s a bigot from the word go.”
“So you think that Mommy Dearest called Bill and told him that she was on her way back to school, to Lafayette, and Bill snapped and followed her back.”
He nodded. “Daddy and I spent a month in Nashville with her, helping her bounce back and get around. I took her to classes because I blended in better being her age. Daddy took care of the apartment and her errands. Lafayette was the only one she’d let help her bathe…” He trailed off, obviously bothered by the memory. “Lafayette came home with us for Christmas and Sheila had left for her sister’s house that morning. After the way she acted about the rape, Daddy told her not to be there when we got home. After Christmas break they went back to school and three days later Daddy got a hysterical call from Sookie. She was waiting for paramedics to come. She came home from class and found Lafayette in a puddle of blood on the floor. The whole apartment had been trashed except for her room. So Daddy and I went and stayed for another month to help him. Again, Bill was in the wind but no one had any real proof other than the broken nose Laf gave him which he claimed he got in a bar fight in Seattle that no one else remembered. He’d worn a mask this time.”
“Was Lafayette raped too?”
He looked surprised that I’d thought to ask for a second. “No… To be honest I don’t think the cops gave a shit to put a real effort in. They saw a pretty co-ed with big boobs and a ‘fag’ and figured they had it coming. All that is how Sheila broke Sookie down enough to marry Bill after Gran died. That fucker even got offered a job in Nashville and turned it down to keep her from finishing up. She wasn’t right the whole time they were together. The day she walked out on Bill, it was like she woke up. She started doing all the stuff she talked herself into not liking while she was with him because he ‘frowned’ on it.”
“Why did he want her? She told me she tried to stop the wedding.”
“Everybody wants her. There ain’t a guy in this town with feeling below the waist that wouldn’t leave his family for her. There’s a reason she won all those pageants. She’s fuckin’ Helen of Troy. He wanted her as a prize though. He comes from old money and has a sense of entitlement that could choke a horse.”
“So he’s been stalking her since high school?”
“Yeah. I’m just telling you this because now that you’re in the picture, he might consider it a dare or something. I feel a little better knowing that she has the gun, but I still worry that she wouldn’t use it. And you can’t always be around.”
“Well, Alcide will probably be here with us for a while until he can move his family up. And we’re driving down to New Orleans tomorrow to get my things.”
Jason had been stone faced the entire time we’d been on the back porch and the moment I said that I was moving in, his face was all smile. “No shit! Do you know when you’re getting hitched?”
“We’re shooting for Christmas time while school’s out. We still have to work on details since my family is in San Diego and friends are all over and all of Sookie’s people are here.”
He slapped my shoulder. “Don’t worry about us. If you get married on the moon, we’ll be there.”
Back in the kitchen, everyone was gathered and enjoying the company. Pam was still flirting with Corbett. Fuck. I didn’t have time to rheum over it for long before Lafayette came up behind me and hugged my chest.
“I’m in the mood to dance! Will you take me dancing?!” He’s setting Sookie up to go out tonight.
“Sure sweetheart. Anywhere you want. Just me and you, or can I bring Sookie?”
“You can bring Sookie as long as you bring that pretty ass partner of yours too.” I chuckled when he blew a kiss at Alcide, making him tense.
“I can’t go. The family will be here around lunchtime to go look at houses. They’re staying the night.”
Sookie chimed in. “My cheerleading squad will be here in minutes. You’ll have a pool of girls I’d trust to stay here with the little guys. We should all go. When was the last time you and Amelia went out?”
He smiled at her. “Amelia’s pretty particular about who she leaves the kids with. If you can convince her, I’m down.”
Corbett smiled and looked at Pam briefly before he scanned the rest of the room and nodded in agreement.
Jason clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Alright, we’ll have Tara and Sam meet the rest of the family… Dirges at 8?!”
Lafayette put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed. “I’ll get my guitar and my dancing shoes.”
Sookie stared at me wide eyed for a moment, but then her eyes narrowed. “You helped handle me. You set me up.”
I shrugged with a shit eating grin on my face. “It sounds like fun.”
“Any special requests?”
I looked up while I considered it… “Just One Kiss.”
She crossed the room to stretch up and kiss me. “That might be all you get.” She slapped my chest.
I laughed along with everyone else. “I meant the song.”
After Corbett and Jason left and Sookie and Lafayette went outside it took all of 30 seconds for Alcide and Pam to tell me that they didn’t get anything from Arlene that Sookie hadn’t already given us. Alcide had the idea to take our laptops out to the porch so that he could smoke as much as he wanted while we worked. I didn’t argue. I wanted to watch Sookie. We quickly realized that we didn’t have much that we could do without Sookie’s help and set the computers aside. Alcide sat on the steps and smoked while Pam and I watched from the swing.
There were only 3 boy-leaders among the squad of 18 girls and they were built like linebackers. I found out later that they were on the football team and they were only used during the halftime cheers. I wish I had thought of that. Nice gig.
Lafayette was up close and personal with Sookie. Every time she suggested a move where a lift was involved, Lafayette was the one she did it with. She even sat on his shoulders while he paced back and forth during a routine run through. I know that it was to ‘maintain propriety’ since they weren’t on school grounds and they are dealing with horny teenagers, but I had a friend in high school who pretended to be gay to hook up with girls. It worked well enough that Shane had 4 or 5 girls lined up as booty calls. With the right lie, any of them would invite him over and their parents were fine with it because he was ‘harmless’. So anytime I saw a gay guy be chummy with a female ‘friend’, that dickhead Shane was on my mind. My 10 year reunion was coming up and I was anxious to see how long that worked for him before a father/brother/boyfriend ‘discouraged’ his game.
As soon as she let the girls take a break for juice and pastries, she came over and sat on my lap. “Do you mind if I gain a hundred pounds like the last coach did to get out of this job? I’m getting too old for this shit.”
I put my arms around her and smiled. “You are not. You did better than all of them and they’re 10 years younger.”
She giggled and gave me a kiss. “Yeah, but when we’re done, they’ll go to the mall and I’ll need to ice my knees. Are you avoiding the idea of me porking out?”
“Absolutely. An extra hundred pounds would make the stuff we did last night nearly impossible.” I was expecting to get a dirty look, but she giggled.
“That reminds me…” She leaned over and put hand on Pam’s knee. “If you’re gonna fuck my Daddy, take it easy on him. He hasn’t been ridden hard in long time.” What? There isn’t even dust on her mother’s dresser yet and she’s talking about him dating.
Pam laughed. It was the first time I had ever heard her laugh and it not given me chills. “I’ll do my best.”
We could hear a cacophony of giggling coming from inside, some of it was Lafayette’s. Sookie got up and went in, returning a few minutes later with one of her students.
“Alcide, this is Taryn. She’s a straight A student whose been babysitting since she was 12. She’s a lifeguard at the country club during the summer and is CPR certified. She is going to school next fall for Early Childhood Development because she wants to be an elementary teacher. She told her parents that she’d watch her kid brother tonight, but said she’d bring him along. He’s one of Tara’s students, so Jack will be able to make a friend. You think Amelia will approve?”
He looked up at her and laughed. “She’s more qualified to tend to the kids than I am. I hope so.” He looked over at Taryn. “You don’t think your folks will mind you bringing him along? Can you handle that many at once? Carmichael is four and a real handful right now.”
“My parents are charter members of the Sookie fan club and I tend to 6 preschoolers Wednesday night during AWANAs.”
Alcide’s eyes went to Sookie for a minute before going back to Taryn and telling her to be back at 7. When Taryn went back in, Sookie went over and squatted down next to Alcide.
“You figure out which way you’re gonna go yet?”
He thought about it for a minute. “I’m gonna go with sainthood.”
She leaned over to nudge him. “I think you can pull it off.”
“Then why does it bother me?”
“Because the high road gets cold from time to time.” She leaned over and whispered into his ear.
He turned to look at her, but didn’t say anything and I couldn’t see the look on his face either.
She smiled at him. “When she gets here, act like you missed her.”
“I did miss her.”
She stood up, still smiling at him and pat his shoulder. “I know that jackass. You can’t just feel it. You need to show it.” She leaned in the door and yelled that the break was over and in a heartbeat all of them came spilling out of the house, getting back into formation.
The next hour of the practice was fucking torture. Excruciating. I watched as Sookie did back flips and hand springs landing in the splits. She did handstands and she did cartwheels. She did the splits. She held Lafayette’s hands and walked up his body to flip from his shoulders. Did I mention that she did the splits? I was only vaguely aware that anyone was in the yard with her. I was, however, painfully aware that my boss was sitting right next to me. I was trapped. Fuck. I wanted, NEEDED, practice to be over. She’d want a shower after practice. I could help her with that. That train of thought didn’t help anymore than watching her show the cheerleaders how to do a single handed handstand with the splits.
What brought me back was Alcide quietly clearing his throat. “Eric, what’s the EX look like?”
“5’8”. Dark hair and brown eyes. Lacoste, dockers, loafers. Yuppy douche. Why?”
“He’s in the trees watching. At your 7.” I nearly broke my teeth clenching my jaw. “Wanna go scare him off?”
“No. If I do, I’ll shoot him.” I was nearly growling.
“What’s up with you?”
“You know the bomb that mommy dropped last night?”
“I talked to Jason. Bill flew back to school out of Nashville the next morning.”
Alcide stared at me for a minute while he processed. “No other evidence?”
“No. She never saw the guy.”
“He knocked her out first?”
Alcide stood up and went inside without another word.
It wasn’t long before he walked up to the porch from the yard with a HUGE shit eating grin on his face.
“Do I want to know?”
“Gave him a taste of his own medicine.”
“What’d you do?”
“Tackled him from behind, put his face in the dirt, then told him that if he fought back it’d hurt more. He shit himself when he heard my pants unzip so I let him go.”
I had started to chuckle. “Alc, if he hadn’t shit his pants, what would you have done?”
“You don’t need to know.”
I studied his face for a long while and decided that I agreed with him. Not only did I not need to know, I most certainly did NOT want to.
Practice was just starting to wrap up when Amelia’s minivan came into view. The driveway was lined with cars and trucks and the property looked more like there was a party going than federal agents working. Alc directed her to park around the back side of the house and followed the car on foot.
Pam had watched and leaned over towards me. “How long do you think it will last?”
I had to hide my surprise. That was the closest I had ever heard Pam get to a personal question. She’d actually said before that everything she needed to know about us was in our file. “I wish I knew. Sookie started house breaking him as soon as she met him. He was behaving by the time we were done with breakfast yesterday.”
“How’d she do that?”
“She started by knocking him down and letting him know that she could hide his body.”
Her eyebrow spiked. “She’s one hell of a handler.”
I smiled at her, and she returned it. I was also surprised to realize that Sookie had been right. Pam really was beautiful when she was relaxed.
She patted my knee. “She’s a keeper, Northman. Congrats.”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you.” Holy shit.
Sookie had seen Amelia pull up, so she cut everybody loose telling them that she’d see everybody by Monday and hugged almost every one of them as they left and Lafayette went inside. I watched one girl in particular come up to Sookie as everyone else headed the other way and she spoke to her very quietly. The girl was looking at her hands as she played with her fingernails rather than looking into Sookie’s eyes. I was half expecting that this would be another Sandy situation until Sookie squealed and wrapped her arms around the girl excitedly. She was giddy when she let go of the girl to tear into the house and was back outside in seconds, leaping over the steps. She handed the girl a small brown paper bag with a little more quiet conversation and hugged her again, swatting her butt as she walked away.
Sookie bounced up onto the porch and sat on my lap, putting her legs across Pam’s and kissing me. “Sookie, what was all that about?”
Sookie looked at Pam. “I shouldn’t give specifics, but I think first times are exciting.”
Pam’s eyes narrowed. “Awww. The two of them been holding out long?”
Sookie giggled. “They’re seniors and they’ve been holding hands since the sandbox.”
Pam smiled at her. “That’s sweet. She looked nervous, but she trusted you.”
“They all do. They know I won’t judge them.”
“It’s a gift that carries over to mountainous special agents with rocky marriages too apparently.”
Sookie snorted. “You should know better than anyone that no matter what people do, they have a reason. Judging them is easier than understanding them, but it doesn’t help.”
“Some people can’t be helped.”
Sookie nodded. “Granted. And some people just haven’t found the right kind of help.”
“You think you helped Herveaux?”
“Some. Even if it’s just a band aid. He’s not hopeless, just lost.”
“You’re not one of those hopeless romantics are you?”
Sookie giggled and faked a scowl. “Not as much as you.”
Pam balked. Her head jerked hard enough to move the swing with the weight of 3 people on it. “What makes you think that I’M romantic?”
“You don’t really want me to go into it right now do you?” I knew she was talking about me being right there.
Pam decided to challenge her though. “Sure.” She raised her chin and looked down her nose, daring Sookie to be contrary. I knew the look well.
Sookie raised an eyebrow at her with a ‘you asked for it’ look. “The first thing you said when you found out that girl was going to have sex for the first time wasn’t a snide ‘horny teenager’ comment. You swam to the romantic end of the pool. You show an interest in Alcide’s marriage enough to know it’s rocky. And last night when you opened your suitcase, you had matching lace bras and panties.”
“What the hell does my choice of underwear have to do with anything?”
“You opted for ‘Scary Pam’ so that you’d be taken seriously in a man’s world. It’s worked well for you, but at the end of every day after you’ve pretended to be stoic and frigid, you take off your simple suit, plain pumps and gun. The last thing you see every day is beautiful and feminine.”
Pam just stared at her. I knew better than to laugh at her speechlessness, but it was fucking hard to not show a hint of amusement.
“Alcide and you aren’t so different. In a nutshell, his asshole armor is so that the job doesn’t get to him. When he goes home at night, he kisses kids he barely knows and a wife who misses him. So when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who’s letting his family down. He’s walled himself off instead of building a partition. Men don’t do duality well at all.”
“What about Eric?”
“What about him?”
“What’s his deal? He doesn’t seem to have a problem. He deals with it better than most I’ve seen.” A compliment? Shit.
I raised an eyebrow at Pam, but Sookie caught her. “Uh uh. We’re not talking about him. We’re talking about you.” I smiled at Sookie and she kissed me. I was proud of her for catching that Pam was deflecting.
“You talked about Herveaux.”
“We had already talked about him. I mentioned him as a parallel. And you’re still deflecting instead of admitting that I’m right. Romantic.”
I finally snorted. “Go ahead and tell her your thoughts. Even though you told me not to analyze YOU. Brat.”
She giggled and kissed me again. “Fine, I owe you one then… It does get to Eric, but because of being raised by a man who expected him to be hard, he’s armed himself with a certain degree of ADD. So he fakes his way through unpleasantries until he can distract himself with something fun with low maintenance friends.”
“I do not have ADD.”
She gave me the ‘you asked for it’ look. Oh fuck. “Oh really? Just yesterday inside of 10 minutes time, we talked about Elektra, sharks and nuptials before we almost clawed our way through each other’s clothes. You distract yourself from extremes by changing the subject when you can.”
Shit. “Fine. I have ADD… Corky.”
She laughed. “Don’t be mad. I can spot my own.”
“You can spot your own, huh? What kind of things do you do to distract yourself?”
“Until recently, music, dancing, friends. Nowadays, I have a new toy to play with.” She reached up and rubbed my ear.
I could have been offended by being called a toy, but her hand… “Call me whatever you want, as long as you keep doing that.”
I could have fallen asleep right there but Lafayette came out to the porch. He had showered and was wearing a black suit and dark purple shirt and tie. Without his eye shadow, he looked like any lawyer I’d ever met.
“Alright bitches. I’ve got to stop by the office. Sookie, you stay here and I’ll take your rental and trade it for Rotten. Keys and card.” She named her car? Cute.
“You bitch. You just want to cruise for meat in my ride.”
“Hooker, do I look like I’m going cruising?”
“You could. You know you look good.” He smiled and winked at her. “My purse is on the counter.”
After Lafayette left, Sookie started to do a happy dance on my lap. She was happy to be getting her car back and the dance was bringing my mood up. She noticed and gave me a smirk when she stopped moving. She grabbed my hands and stood up. “Come on and help me with lunch.”
She held me close to her as she tugged me into the house, the occasional rub making things worse. When we got to the kitchen she flipped on the oven and I went to the fridge.
“What should I grab?”
She giggled and shot me a look. Fuck. If she was going to play it like this, I wasn’t going to last. She came over and stood behind me to run her nails up the backs of my legs.
“Sookie.” That’s all I could muster.
She giggled again and bit at my side through my shirt. “Eric.” She wrapped her hands around to run her nails along the top of my thighs and my knees tried to buckle.
I turned around and yanked her against me, putting my mouth to her ear. “I’ve been doing my best to behave, but after I spent the morning watching you do the splits, I’m not sure how long I can hold out.”
She looked up at me and took a hard swallow before she took a step back. She cleared her throat. “If you could just hand me the ziplock of hot wings, that’d be great.” FUCK. I scared her? Fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck. shit!
I didn’t get the chance to apologize before Alcide and Amelia came in with the kids. Sookie went right over to Amelia and hugged her when Alcide started the introductions. It seemed like he’d just woken up, so Carmichael was being shy. Jack, on the other hand, was wide awake and had brought his A game.
Sookie squatted down to his level with a smile and her hand out and he gave it a shake. “You’re pretty.”
Sookie giggled. “Thank you, but I think you’re daddy is prettier.”
Jack looked offended. “He’s not pretty. He’s handsome.”
“And you look just like him. What does that make you?” He really does look just like Alc. Amelia had their first grade pictures framed side by side and hung them in their foyer. They were even missing the same teeth at the same time.
She chuckled. “To say the least.”
Jack smiled and started flirting with her. Like father, like son. “Do you have any kids?”
“No sir, I don’t.”
“So your house will be boring.”
Alcide fussed at him and Sookie gasped. “Never! I have a closet full of fun stuff for you and Carmichael to do. Plus I have a Wii and a PSP and any movie you can think of. What do you want to do first?” I hadn’t seen a Wii or a TV other than the big screen in her room.
Jack looked suspicious. “Let’s see that closet.”
Sookie told him ‘yes sir’ as she stood up and took his hand, leading him to the living room. I went over and gave Amelia the usual hug and high 5ed Carm.
“I can’t believe you didn’t say anything, Eric. When did you meet her?”
I smiled to myself. “Last Halloween.”
She shook her head at me. “So, am I gonna like it here?”
“I hope so. I love it here. It’s quiet and the people are friendly. And Shreveport isn’t too far away when you want to go looking for rude and busy.” It reminded me a lot of Dahlgren. Insulated and familiar but Fredericksburg wasn’t far. “Did Alc or Sookie mention that Sookie’s sister will be Jack’s teacher?”
“She said that she knew her! Really!”
I nodded. “Sam, your real estate guy, is her husband. They’re good people. Sookie’s already made plans for you to meet half the town too.”
“I heard. Did you meet our babysitter?”
“Yeah. She seems like she’s got a good head on her shoulders.”
When Sookie came back into the room, she was alone. Alcide smiled at her. “What’d he find?”
“A Rubbermaid full of Lincoln Logs.” Jack called for Carm to go play, so he slid down Ame’s side and ran off to see what his brother found. “Jack told me to remind you not to put mustard on his sandwich.”
Alcide shook his head and started pointing his finger at me. “It’s all his fault. He liked mustard just fine until Eric said that it was ‘evil’.”
Sookie chuckled and suggested that Alcide give Amelia the nickel tour while she set lunch out. She went to the fridge and pulled out the bag of wings that she’d asked for and put them into the oven and then started grabbing lunchmeat and fixings.
“Sookie, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” She still hadn’t made eye contact with me.
“But I scared you.”
She didn’t say anything. She didn’t look at me.
“You didn’t scare me.”
“Then what’s wrong?” She still wasn’t looking at me.
“When you grabbed me… I just need to switch gears before I jump you.”
“Oh…” FUCK. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck!
“Yeah, oh. Just one of those ‘you’ve been bad, go to my room’ situations.”
Fuck me. It’s going to be a long day.
While Amelia made sandwiches for the boys, Sookie went to the living room to start a movie for them. She opened the large armoire that I had assumed was for storage to reveal an entertainment center that any man would be proud of. There was another computer tower in it and on the hard drive she must have had a thousand movies. The boys eventually agreed on Swiss Family Robinson when Sookie explained what it was about and that it was one of her favorites.
The 5 adults sat down to eat once the kids were set up and completely engrossed by the movie. Sookie and Amelia talked for a while about the town and its people while the rest of us munched. I had been focused on eating. Food. Not fucking. Food. I was happy to hear Amelia steer the conversation to tonight. I’d been hoping to get a hint or two without asking.
“So, this bar we’re going to… What’s it like?”
Sookie smiled at her. “It’s a dump. One of my Dad’s buddies came home from Vietnam and bought a big piece of property and opened a crop dusting business and it went under in a few years. It was just him and a plane so he was too small to compete. So he was stuck with this hangar out in the middle of BFE so Terry started having the occasional party or poker night in it until Daddy suggested that he turn it into a bar. They built a stage at one end and a bar at the other and he’s open on Friday and Saturday only. The end where the stage is has those big doors, so when there’s live music Terry opens them so the high school kids can enjoy it too. He put a gate up so they don’t cross it and cause ABC trouble and even put a window in the side so that he can serve them sodas. It’s not much, but it’s packed on weekends anyway. And it’s worse when there’s a band. The lawn will be slammed tonight at the very least. I could hear the kids cells start going off while we were running drills.” She giggled. “They think I’m too old to hear their mosquito ring tones. Anyway, Terry named it Dirges In the Dark after Daddy’s favorite song since they’re partners.”
I’d never heard of it. Apparently, neither had anyone else.
I was trying to remember the lyrics when Sookie rolled her eyes, cleared her throat and started singing. “And, while Lenin read a book on Marx the quartet practiced in the park, and we sang dirges in the dark the day the music died…”
We all smiled at her. I knew she sang in pageants, but I never imagined. Her voice was smooth and sexy and I couldn’t wait to hear her sing tonight.
Alcide seemed to have been just as surprised as I was. “And you play guitar AND drums?”
Sookie nodded. “I play base, violin and piano too. I prefer guitar, but Jason has a voice to kill for and can’t sing lead and drum at the same time. So we switch off. Daddy usually plays bass and sings backup but if I’m going behind the set, he’s singing for me tonight.”
Pam smiled at Sookie. “There’s nothing sexier than a man with pipes.”
Sookie winked at her. “Deep like Johnny Cash and smooth like Rob Thomas.”
“So what should we wear? What kind of bar is it?”
Sookie giggled. “In a small town like this, they cater to all kinds. I usually wear something trashy. Jason and Daddy might wear jeans and a t-shirt in the shower for all I know. It’s all they wear. Sam will too. Tara will look like a model. Lafayette will look… well, like himself. I’ve got your back though. If I can find a Halloween costume for the Iron Giant over here, we can dig out something in the realm of hotness for you.” Trashy? Uh oh.
I was still picturing ‘trashy’ when Jack came in to the kitchen. “I need a rag. Carm’s juice box fell over and dribbled.”
Sookie smiled and got up to get it for him. “How are you liking the movie kiddo?”
“It’s awesome! A fleet of ships just showed up!”
Sookie handed him a damp rag but stayed put and I watched her face go from her usual sunny expression to deeply thoughtful. “Sookie? Something wrong?”
I watched her furrow her brow and her look became more serious. “A fleet of ships…”
“What about it?”
“Guys, Geri Anderson… Late June, right?”
Alcide and I looked at each other and tried to remember the date. Alcide beat me to it. “June 29th. She was 20.”
“Her birthday was June 9th.”
We all nodded even though we knew she was just thinking out loud.
I knew what Fleet Week was. Every navy brat does. It’s when your father goes underway to Ft. Lauderdale, New York or Boston for Navy sanctioned partying and spends half a paycheck on booze and tours. “What does that have to do with Geri?”
“Fleet week is in early June. You know damn good and well that sailors get rolled and go missing, even UA all the time, especially foreign ones. One of the news reports said that Geri had just gotten back from ‘vacation’. I bet he saw her celebrating and couldn’t resist. I bet his command listed him as missing with the Ft. Lauderdale PD and NCIS. Getting a name and command would narrow down your search for previous victims too.”
I got up (sprang from my seat might be more accurate) and kissed her cheek on my way to the bedroom. I was already powering up Alcide’s laptop when Pam came in to get hers and work from the desk. I called the Andersons while Pam called Ft. Lauderdale’s PD. I got chills when Mr. Anderson confirmed that when the family went on vacation two of Geri’s friends went with them to Ft. Lauderdale. The three girls went to an all ages club to celebrate Geri’s birthday. The father went on the mention that the girls had joked about some ‘skeazy old Cuban’ trying to buy them drinks while he pulled the vacation photos up to forward them to me. Fucking hell! Sookie was right.
While Pam was rolling her eyes at the muzak from being on hold with the ‘piggles’ as she called them (local pigs) I heard Sam and Tara come in. Pam and I listened in and I assume that Amelia looked confused to see that Tara was black because we heard Tara laughingly explain. “The Stackhouses were just too vanilla, so they added some chocolate to the party.” Then I had to explain it to Pam.
“So he’s sexy, friendly, smart, talented AND has a heart. Why can’t I flirt with him?”
“To spare me the weirdness of my father in law hooking up with someone that might as well be my mother.”
“Fuck you. I’m not that old.”
“No, but you boss me around.”
She smiled at me. “I’m still going to flirt with him.”
“Yes ma’am. I’m still going to give you grief about it.” And I’d probably call her ‘Mom’ just to piss her off if they worked out.
She stuck her tongue out at me. It was the most human I had ever seen Pam act. She’d always made it a point to not socialize with her team. It was frustrating to understand why. Before I’d assumed it was because fraternizing within ranks was never a good idea. Now, thanks to Sookie, I saw that it was because her Elvira veneer wasn’t something she could maintain 24/7. I was really starting to like this Pam. I knew the guys, the type, that wouldn’t have taken her seriously. There were several, including that numb nuts Twining, that would have called her ‘baby doll’ or ‘toots’ if they weren’t terrified of her, but now that it was just the three of us in Shreveport she wouldn’t have to worry about it. Alcide and I would take orders as ever and let the rest of the world think she was a hard ass.
While I waited for Pam to get transferred 4 times, I checked my email and I already had an email from the Geri Anderson’s father.
“We took a lot of pictures that week. More than 1000 between the bunch of us. I’m uploading them as I type. I hope you find what you’re looking for.” So did I.
He’d included a link to his Picasa album and I started going through them. He’d been organized enough to have dated the pictures so I started with the June 9th folder. Right away I found the pictures that Geri and her friends had taken at the club. One of the friends was pretty shutter happy and had taken about 50 pictures; there were only about a dozen with her in them. Dancing, drinking, posing. It was bittersweet to see Geri so happy and full of life. While her last birthday was a happy one, twenty short days later she would be taken from her driveway after she got home from work. Knocked out, her keys and her purse left next to the small blood smear on her lawn. She’d be tossed into the back of a ‘large black sedan’. Her throat would be cut with a serrated blade, probably a cheap blister packed hunting knife from Wal-Mart, and she’d be flipped over while her heart did the rest of the work for her murderer before he ‘enjoyed’ her lifeless body over the next day. Then he’d spray her body down with bleach and water to get rid of any DNA he might have left behind before dumping her by the back door of the Blockbuster she worked at, nude and without the locket from her boyfriend or her class ring. He’d been keeping souvenirs. This was hard, but looking through the pictures of Lin D’Nai’s 11th birthday was going to be worse. Seeing that bastard lurking in the shadows of a Chuckie Cheese or Build-A-Bear Workshop type of place was going to give me nightmares.
A glass of Champagne with a strawberry on the rim caught my eye immediately. A few photos later there was another attention getter. Our guy. In uniform. Brazilian Navy. Son of a bitch! There was another sailor with him in a couple of them. In one photo there were a few American sailors with him in dress whites. And I did find that damning snapshot of him leering at the victim and at full mast. That piece of shit.
I started going through the other photos and quickly found him at the beach watching her the next day and again in the hotel lobby while the three friends and then the whole family posed in front of the fountain. Pam caught my attention with a snap of her fingers before she spun around in the chair and started typing on her laptop. She gave her email address to the cop on the other end before she hung up and started racing herself to her login screen.
“Only 4 sailors went missing in all of Fleet Week last year. ONE of them was foreign.”
She shot me a look over her shoulder. “How do you know that?”
“He was stalking Geri in uniform. When they leave the ship on liberty, they’re required to be in full uniform.”
She shook her head and opened her email, pointed, clicked, downloaded, approved and there he was. The scanned missing persons report and photo.
Name: Filipe de Castro. Age: 34. Home address: Sao Paulo (A12), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Occupation: Braz. Eq CS.
“Eric, what is Braz. Eq. CS?”
“My guess: Brazilian Equivalent of a CS. Culinary Specialist. Navy speak for mess deck crew. In our Navy they’re usually losers who don’t do well enough to make it into a real ‘A’ School.”
“I take it that your father wasn’t a CS then.”
“No. He called them ‘galley apes’.”
She laughed. “What did you find?”
“It’ll take a while to go through all the photos. The whole family was shutter drunk, but I have the night of her birthday. Champagne with a strawberry, him stalking her with a hard on and then two other occasions where he’s stalking her. We’ve got him. All we have to do is find him.”
“Monday, we’ll start calling the families to get the rest of the pictures to build the case. The more we have, the better. Have you looked at the crime scene photos yet for the Pickens woman?”
“Yeah. We have a problem.”
“If Sookie’s right about the position of the arm…”
“She’s been right about everything so far.”
“He’s either done giving us hints about his ‘next’ or he’s taking another one from Bon Temps. Maudette’s arms were folded across her chest.”
“Could it be a copycat?”
“I doubt it. We have him with her.”
“We’ll search DMV records for the December 2nd birthdays with a Bon Temps address and start interviewing them about their birthday parties on the 3rd.”
“I think we should see how cooperative the school administration will be about the same.”
“If he’s watching the schools it could spook him. Make him deviate. He could take one early and then we’d miss our chance to get him.”
“Unless my fiancé and her sister do the looking up for us.”
She nodded with a sinister sneer. “Does Sookie know about the folded arms?”
I shook my head. “I haven’t told her anything about the case. As far as I know, neither has Alc.”
“EVERYTHING has been based on what she’s gotten from the press?”
“Yes, except for the source of the taunt and what Arlene volunteered as gossip.” Again, fucking offended that someone would think that I’d talk about an open case!
“I was going to ignore that you’d leaked, cover it by adding her as a consult because her help had been so valuable. I can’t believe that she caught so much.”
I didn’t say anything. I should have been impressed that Pam was willing to ignore protocol, but I was too busy keeping myself from punching a wall.
Before they left, Alcide came back to see what we found so I quickly brought him up to speed and left Pam to call Rio about other criminals with a similar methods and to notify the field office that we had a name for our suspect.
After Sam and Tara left with Alcide and Amelia, Sookie and I spent the next 3 hours with the kids in the living room. We built with Lincoln Logs for a while then sat around the coffee table on the floor to draw with a Wizards of Waverly Place marathon playing. I’d finally found something Sookie wasn’t any good at; her drawings looked ridiculous. Even Carm laughed at her. She snickered and told us that nobody was perfect. I’d have thought she was until I had to ask her to whether she had drawn a car or a dog. I held my papers up and took the chance to show off one of my few talents, turning out a crayon sketch of her as she tried to draw a tiger for Carm; biting her lip, her hair tucked behind her ear and all. I snuck a peek of it to Jack and he started laughing, but he kept the secret and Sookie gave me the high eyebrow.
“Be nice, or I’ll take your crayons away.”
“You just worry about that pumpkin you’re drawing.” I stuck my tongue out at her.
“It’s. A. Tiger.”
“If you say so.”
She hissed at me. Cute. Very cute.
Jack went over and whispered into her ear and she whispered something back that made him look at me and cackle.
“You told ME to be nice.”
She smiled at me. “Jack told me that his Daddy called us Ken and Barbie. I told him that you didn’t like to be called Barbie.” Jack laughed again and I couldn’t help but to join in.
When I was done with it, I rolled it up and waved Jack over to give it to him. He ran straight to Sookie’s lap and held it up for her to see. Her chin puckered.
“Oh wow. I’m sorry I thought you were being mean. Thank you.”
We spent a minute just staring at each other before Carm demanded that I draw Tippy for him. I winked at Sookie just before I followed my orders and she blew me a kiss. Mmmm.
Just a little while later, Pam finally came out of Sookie’s room declaring the Brazilian police less organized than The Vampire and muttering about not being surprised they didn’t catch him.
Sookie looked up at her. “Patience Pam, patience. You have about 768 hours before he chooses another one. It’s a Saturday. You’ll have a laundry list of things to do on Monday, but I’m sure you’ll have better luck then.”
Pam closed her eyes, took a deep breath and blew it out. Then another. A few more. I could actually see her calming down. She finally opened her eyes with a peaceful expression on her face and started to survey the drawings scattered over the table. She picked up the drawing I’d done of Sookie and studied it for a while before rolling her eyes and setting it down. “You realize that your children will be absolutely, sickeningly perfect.”
I went back to my drawing of Tippy, but I could feel Sookie’s eyes on me. “All children are perfect, Pam. They are all bundles of concentrated potential.” When I looked at her out of the corner of my eye, she was smiling from ear to ear so I gave her a wink before she went back to her pumpkin/tiger.