Men At Work
“Hey pretty boy! Wake up.”
I growled and rolled over to snuggle Sookie, but she wasn’t there. When I opened my eyes, I got an eyeful of sunshine. Damn it. I rolled my arm over to look at my watch. 8:00. Shit. “How long have you been up?”
“Just got up. I think your woman drugged me.”
I started to chuckle and sat up on the side of the bed. I reached for my phone, hoping to find a message from Sookie and there was a note on the nightstand.
“Didn’t have the *heart* to wake you…
Breakfast is in the oven…
Lunch is in the fridge…
Text me if you need anything…
I’ll be home by 5.
*Heart* Sookie.” She hadn’t spelled out the ‘heart’s, she’d drawn them. Cute… and lovable as hell for her to worry about our meals before she went to work.
“Is it private?”
I shook my head and handed it to him on my way to the bathroom and when I came back with an empty bladder and minty fresh teeth, he was gone. So was the note. As I worked my way down the hall, I heard Alcide yelp.
I came around the corner and the oven door was wide open and he was at the sink, running water over his hand. “What did you do?”
“Hot? The oven? Noooo.”
Instead of giving me his usual dirty look, he started laughing. “I guess there’s a reason she left the note for you instead of on the table.”
I laughed and grabbed an oven mitt and pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven, setting it on the stove. There were 6 long, narrow foil pouches. “Why don’t you sit down before you hurt yourself… Again.”
I grabbed a couple plates and slid a pouch onto each one then sat down with a cup of coffee since there was a fresh pot waiting for us. I watched Alcide light a cigarette and look like he was afraid to touch the pouch and made conversation to buy himself time for it to cool off. “What’s the plan of the day?”
“We won’t know for sure until we hear from Pam… Victor Madden, for starters. We need to start calling the families about those photos. I know Pam was going to try getting in touch with Rio today about this guy’s priors.”
“Should we crash the club meeting today?”
“I want to, but Pam is worried that he might be watching the school for his next victim. Besides, we have the autopsy too.”
Alcide actually looked disappointed that he wouldn’t get to go to the high school. I chuckled at him and started pealing open the foil on my mystery breakfast. When the smell hit me, I was instantly starving. Alcide squinted and watched steam waft from what appeared to be a breakfast burrito. I pulled up the edge of the tortilla and it was overstuffed with onions, peppers, steak, eggs and some kind of melted white cheese. I reached back and opened the fridge, grabbing the salsa from the door with a huge smile on my face.
I started eating, savoring my meal and Alc took my cue. I was still really impressed with her cooking, more so with the fact that she embraced such an old fashioned ‘way to a man’s heart’. I sure as shit wasn’t going to complain.
Alcide took one bite and scowled at me. “Fuck you!”
I laughed. “What?”
“It’s just not fair.”
“I know that. I actually feel guilty.”
“Don’t feel guilty… Just make sure you invite me over once in a while. There’s plenty of places to eat in New Orleans when the wife is on strike, but in Bon Temps I’m fucked… What did she leave us for lunch?”
I opened the fridge again and looked. “Some of the chicken salad leftovers from yesterday. Probably because she didn’t know if you have allergies. The bulk of it is seafood salad sandwiches. There’s a big bowl of pasta salad in there too.”
He started shaking his head. “Your gonna get fat.”
I laughed. “I’m taking you with me.”
His eyes lit up. “Promise?” I had to hide how sad it was that he acted like an enthusiastic stray. Little Orphan Alcide.
We went back to eating and while I was about half way through my second godlike burrito, my phone rang. It was Sookie. Smile.
“Alcide wants to move in for good. Breakfast is amazing.”
She giggled. “I’m glad y’all like it. I make them a lot.”
“Are you ignoring your students to call to me?”
“They’re at an assembly… Um, I did something.”
Oh shit. “Uh, oh. What kind of ‘something’?”
“There’s a landscaping crew tending to Alcide’s place.”
“Oh, well… That’s fine. I’m sure…”
“…A certain landscaping crew.”
“Yes sir. He’s with Jason today.”
“That makes it easier than trying to track the asshole down. Thank you.”
“Anytime. Also, tell Robocop to pester the wife about paint colors. I have helpers for him for this Friday during the day.”
“How’d you do that?”
“Our school requires a 3.0 GPA and 10 hours of volunteer work each month for athletes. They’re allowed to leave at lunch on Fridays to go do their good deeds as long as they have a note. I let everyone know that I needed volunteers for painting and I’ve already had 8 sign up. By the end of the day, there’ll be more. The whole house should be done in a couple hours; plenty of time before Smom and Dad get here.”
“Well then, you’re only 1 miracle away from sainthood.”
“I’ll have to work on that later. How does ‘Sookie, Patron Saint of More-gasms’ sound?”
Ungh. Completely accurate after the last few days. “It sounds good, but could send the wrong message in catechism classes. We should work on it.”
She started to giggle. “Speaking of breaking records… Did Pam do the walk of shame yet? Jas said that he barely saw Daddy this weekend.”
I laughed. “We haven’t seen her yet.”
“Don’t make too much fun. Remember, she’s armed.”
“…And Dangerous. I’ll talk to you later.”
“You better. Bye.”
We finished eating our breakfast while I filled Alc in on the news Sookie had given me and we started cleaning up our dishes. Alcide was the next one to get a call. It was Amelia. Cringe. He’d been happier to hear Sookie’s ringtone than his own wife’s. He was rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, so he hit the speaker button.
“Morning Babe, how’s the packing going?”
“Who’s packing? I don’t know what you told them, but the boys won’t give me a moment’s piece to get anything done.”
“I didn’t say much of anything. I told them that it had a big yard and that they’d have their own rooms and bathroom. That’s about it.” And promised them power wheels and a jungle gym, but that was guy stuff.
“If they keep it up, I’m sending them to you so that I can get something done.”
I saw him roll his eyes. ”We could hire movers if you want.”
“Oh! That’d be great! I’d love to have strangers going through our things! No. I don’t think so. If I can’t get them to settle down so that I can get some work done, they’re coming to stay with you. Then you can figure out what to do with them for once.”
I could see the look on his face, or lack thereof. She was being ridiculous and his lack of reaction proved that he was used to it. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t we plan on that anyway. I’ll register the kids for school this week and they can start Monday. I’m sure you’ll have an easier time of it without them underfoot. The house here will be done by Friday.”
The line was quiet for a minute. “How?”
“The landscapers are there now, unfucking the yard and the painting will get done on Friday. I just need you to tell me colors. I’ll borrow Sookie’s air mattress and we can camp out in the house until our stuff comes.”
“I suppose Sookie and Eric are helping you.” She sounded like we were diseases. What a bitch.
“Of course they are. I can come get them Sunday, if you want.”
“Why Sunday? Do you three have big plans this weekend? More partying? Dancing?” Even if we did, Taryn could watch them.
“No. Eric’s parents are coming into town to meet their future daughter in law.” I started shaking my head and whispered that my parents’ visit didn’t matter. They could come today if he wanted. I was starting to think that the less time they spent with her, the better. He grimaced in my direction. “You know what; Eric just said not to worry about his folks. Do you want to do it earlier? Today is going to be really busy for us, but the rest of the week will be a whole lot of settling in. I could come out to get them any time.”
“Can you come tomorrow? Then the only thing I’d have to pack with their ‘help’ is their clothes.” I was trying to figure out why she wasn’t packing now, since the boys should both be at school.
“I’ll call you back. I want to clear it with Pam. K?”
When he said goodbye, he said that he loved her and she said ‘whatever’. Nice. She had the balls to get indignant with Sookie, but didn’t care enough to reciprocate an ‘I love you’.
He laid into me the second the call ended. “Sookie is going to kill us! If I do go get them tomorrow, she’s going to have 5 houseguests, not counting Pam.”
I raised an eyebrow at him and pulled out my phone to text Sookie while I answered him. “It seems that Pam is now Corbett’s houseguest, and did you miss the look on Sookie’s face last night when she heard that Jack thinks you’re a whore?”
“No, but… Your folks.”
“Smom will love having little kids around.”
“Your old man?”
“Might play in the yard with them. Might ask to see their vet records. It’s a tossup. Don’t worry about him. He knows you’re going to be here and Sookie mentioned your kids.”
My phone vibrated with a message almost immediately. I smiled at her reply. “I sent her: ‘Ame read Alc the riot act about the kids being underfoot so I suggested that he go get them. Hope you don’t mind.’ She replied with: ‘A daily flight leaves SRVPT at 7 then NO at 1. They’d be home for dinner. Good call. Miss you already.’ See. I told you so.”
Alcide shook his head. “You know Ame doesn’t trust me. She just thinks I can’t cheat if I have the boys here. She wants them to babysit me.”
“Fuck her reasons. That’s not the point. Having them here will be fun. Now go get your scary asshole costume on. We have a dirt bag to interview.”
Having a fêted ‘Task Force’ job had its perks. The biggest of them (for me, anyway) was that we only ever wore suits when meeting with directors. Alcide and I were both big guys and REALLY stood out when we wore suits. We looked like the ‘Men In Black’. Pam preferred for us to dress more ‘professionally’ when we were at the field office, but other than keeping a dress shirt and slacks on hand, Alcide and I usually wore what we called ‘Boondock Saints Casual’. Jeans, t-shirt or wife beater and boots. We looked more like thugs, especially with our tattoos showing.
Alcide had a full sleeve of black and gray. His arm was actually the inspiration point for my own ink… It was a collage of different crosses. One for each and every life he’d taken. There were 23 of them at the moment; every one was confirmed and only a few haunted him…
While I enjoyed infinite popularity in college, and then was courted by an FBI headhunter, Alcide wasn’t as lucky. Right out of high school, he joined the marines. He was quickly shipped off to Iraq and did his 4 years dutifully (where most of his crosses came from). When his time was up, he went home to Texas and joined the Dallas PD. His skills with a gun were discovered and he was recruited to the SWAT team. He’d been decorated for bravery in both jobs and by the time he met Amelia who was waitressing at the bar him and his cop friends hung out at, he was working his way to a degree slowly with his GI Bill. By the time Carm was born, his application had been accepted and he graduated just two classes ahead of me. We were both assigned to the same office and the Director gave us both to Pam. When I arrived, Alcide’s first partner had just put in for a transfer. She had burned out after 5 years so Pam, armed with that sense of humor I just ‘love’, paired us up. She said that we’d be perfect for each other and she said it like a yenta matchmaker. Light and dark, rough and polished, god cop and bad cop. Depending on the mood she was in, she called us Oscar and Felix or Dumb and Dumber. We were the only agents she had nicknames for and we were always the ones she woke up in the middle of the night.
Physically, the two of us were an even match, we lifted the same weights, ran the same 3 minute mile, and Pam joked that we both made a wife beater look like God meant them for us. Funny. All things considered, I liked him right away, like a big brother. The ONLY thing I ever seriously held against him was that he was a ‘cheating bastard’ and now I was already starting to feel a shift. Like it wasn’t enough that I trusted him with my life, and considered him my best friend, I was actually starting to respect the mother fucker.
When we pulled up Alcide’s new driveway, we saw several men working diligently with wood chippers and lawn mowers. ‘Overgrown’ had been an understatement. The yard was bad enough that the house looked like the beginning of a ghost story involving a high school dare to enter the house and stay inside for ‘5 whole minutes’. It must’ve been empty all summer for it to be so bad. I joked with Alc that if he had left the yard alone, I would have started calling him and Ame ‘Dr. Giggles’ and the ‘Blair Witch’. The house was nice though.
Jason had spotted us from the roof where he’d been mucking out the gutters and quickly climbed down to meet us in the yard. After a quick ‘hello’ Alcide walked around back to check on the progress.
I offered my hand and he shook it. “The dresser is perfect. Thanks. It means a lot.” I probably would have hugged him if he wasn’t a walking sweat rag. Mensa meets manual labor.
“Aww. It’s nothin’. We’re just glad that Sookie’s happy. Your folks like her or she talk her way out of that?”
“My father doesn’t like anyone. She talked to him for the first time yesterday and had him asking for grandkids. They’re flying in this weekend.”
“Really?! You wanna get everyone together?”
I chuckled. “You should talk to the boss about that, but I’m sure my folks will want to meet everybody.”
He smiled at me. Apparently, I passed another test. “Think your folks will be ok with meeting Laf? I know he’ll butch up to be included.”
I laughed. “My folks should meet Laf, eye shadow and all. Even if they were bigots, I wouldn’t want him to fake it. My step mom, will probably try to give him color advice though. She’s a Mary Kay pimp.”
That got a reaction out of him. He spat laughter at me. “They got any special diet issues?”
I shook my head. “Smom won’t eat anything ‘exotic’. Veal, lamb, venison, none of it, but my dad will eat roadkill… 30 years of eating boat food.”
“Awesome, opossum it is then. I’ll call our Miss Stackhouse and set things up. How do you and Alcide feel about socializing with Pam? We might have to have her surgically removed from Daddy’s ass by then.”
“No. It’s fine. It’s kind of fun to see her act human. We were starting to wonder if she sleeps hanging from a cross beam by her toes.”
Jason started to laugh again. “After what I saw this weekend, I’d swear we were talking about two different people. The two of them are sick, like high school.”
“You know more than us. We haven’t laid eyes on her since Dirges.”
“I made myself busy in the garage yesterday, they got so bad.”
I shook my head and had to fight laughing. Picturing Pam, PAM moony eyed… the word ‘bizarre’ comes to mind. “At least she’s having fun. Seems like Bon Temps has been good to her, case or not.”
“That’s right. The case.” He pointed to my left towards a man whacking at underbrush with a machete. Great, he’s armed. He was short, maybe 5’6”, wearing a trucker’s hat over a dark brown ponytail. His arms were wiry and so over tanned they were orange. Patchy, grizzly beard. His jeans were sap stained and ripped, his Stackhouse Landscaping t-shirt was threadbare and fraying around the hems. In my estimation, he’d look homeless even if he was clean.
“He ever give you a hard time?”
“Naw. When Sook said you needed to talk to him, it surprised me. I got guys that are constantly coming to work straight from the drunk tank. I got guys that are probably illegal and working with a fake ID. I got wife beaters and bar brawlers. This guy never says boo to anybody. He’s quiet but plenty friendly and on the phone with his girl on every break. What you looking at him for?”
I thought about not telling him for a minute, but decided to be vague instead. “We think he might be able to give us something about the Vampire.”
He blanched. “But he isn’t the guy right?”
I shook my head. “No, but we know he’s been in contact with him.”
I made my approach slowly, carefully, I stopped about 10 feet behind him, making sure to keep an eye on the 18 inch blade in his hand. “Victor Madden.”
He stopped mid-swing, frozen.
“Victor Madden, Federal Agent. I need to speak with you.”
He stood up straight with his arms out like I had just declared myself a stagecoach robber.
“Drop the knife, please.”
He did. As soon as it bounced to the ground he took off, running to God only knows where through the thick trees and undergrowth. As I took off after him, I decided that if I got poison ivy from chasing him, I’d kill him… I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere near Sookie for days.
He didn’t get far. Sure, he’s small and agile, but my legs are longer and God Damn it, I’m fast for a guy my size. I tackled him around the waist and took him down like the Super Bowl depended on it. I twisted his arm up behind his back and lifted him to his feet without a bit of courtesy, leading him back towards the house. As we cleared the trees, Jason and Alcide were standing there watching. I shook my head. Thanks for the help, partner. I took the pair of cuffs out of my pocket, glad that I thought to grab them now, and cuffed Victor Madden behind his back. One arm twisted up, one hand twisted back behind his head. It was a big ‘no-no’, but my favorite thing to do when an asshole pissed me off. This way, there wasn’t any means to relax. I shoved him all the way around the house without a word and sat him on the steps to the deck to loom over him ominously. Alcide was hot on my heels.
I introduced myself and told him his rights and it made him sweat bullets to hear them. “Why’d you run?”
“I… I… I… was scared.”
“This guy… He threatened my girlfriend.”
“What did he want?”
“He wanted me to send creepy emails for him.”
“And how did he convince you?”
He turned white as a ghost and actually started to shake.
“Mr. Madden, I can always lock you up until you feel like sharing.”
He started to cry. No shit. He was blubbering. “He showed me a video on his phone. He said it was of the girlfriend of the last guy who told him no.”
Fuck. “What was on the video?”
“It was a girl in a bathing suit tied to a tree. He sprayed her down with something and then tossed a wasp’s nest at her. She screamed and cried and it was horrible. Then she went limp. Then he started showing me pictures of my Holly. At work and picking up her kid from school. Is he who I think he is?”
“How did he contact you?”
“The first time, was in person. He cornered me in Lowe’s out in Minden when I was shopping with Holly and Cody. He gave me a phone number to call him on once I made my decision, but it never worked again. After that, he left notes in my mailbox. I haven’t seen him since.”
“How many emails have you sent?”
“7?… 8. I have the notes at home.”
“When was the first time?”
“May. It was Cody’s birthday and we were shopping for a swing set. He came up behind me singing Happy Birthday.”
“What made you start sending them from work?”
“When I found out that Mr. Stackhouse would let us use the computer, I thought it would be easier. I don’t even have an email account of my own. A new email was always on the note he’d leave. I’m no good with computers. I have a hard time with ATMs.”
“That’s why the first few came from libraries?”
I looked over at Alcide, trying to think of anything I might have forgotten.
“He… he’ll know… he’ll know that someone was here talking to me. He has someone watching me. He knows stuff like what I had for lunch or what stories I read to Cody at bedtime. You gotta let me go so I can get them somewhere safe.”
I looked over to Alc again to suggest he call Pam but he was already pulling his phone out of his pocket.
I took Victor to the car, still in cuffs but now more comfortable, then went to explain to Jason.
“Pam’s gonna hide him and his family. He knows enough to be in danger.”
He nodded, smiled and slapped my arm. “Nice tackle. You play in college?”
I smiled at him. “High school. I used community college as an excuse to not play college ball. Broke my father’s heart. I’d have been moving faster if it weren’t for your sister’s burritos. She’s gonna kill me.”
“You lucky asshole! She makes them for me and Daddy and drops them by the shop on the way to school. Haven’t had one in a couple of weeks.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you gonna cry?”
He laughed. “I might. I’ll have to file a complaint.”
“Don’t complain too much. You might make an enemy out of the old man over there. He’s looking into having Sookie adopt him.”
“Don’t you think his wife will put up a fight?”
I started laughing. “Yeah, but my money’s on Sookie. Last night she took one of my former teammates down. He cried.”
“What the fuck? What’d she do that for?”
“Prick grabbed her ass and made a pass at her. Her knee was in his chest before Alcide or I could get to her.”
“She’s alright though? I talked to her this morning she sounded fine.”
“She was laughing as soon as the door closed behind him. She had fun giving him the attitude adjustment.”
Jason started to laugh slowly. “How often do you get calibrated?”
I smiled at him. “Oh, I’m a good boy. I’ve never given her a reason. The worse I’ve ever done earned me a slap on the shoulder. Plan on keeping it that way.”
It took us another hour to collect Victor’s terrified girlfriend and her son. I stayed at her apartment with Victor while Alcide took her to the school to get Cody. Victor frantically paced around the place, gathering clothing and toys into a pair of small suitcases. I watched him light a pack worth of cigarettes, take a drag and then pitch each one. I watched him walk into the kitchen and open the fridge then close it again without taking anything out about a dozen times. He was reticent, despondent, anxious and paranoid. Every move he made was erratic and awkward. He was… completely predictable. I’d ‘sat on’ enough frightened witnesses to not be surprised. Nothing I could say or do would make him feel better. What’s worse, the Marshalls that would be hiding him and his family would teach him how to be MORE scared, and it would be for their own good.
When Alc got back with Holly Cleary: Hysterical Mess, we took the three of them to the police station to wait for their ride to whatever temporary safe house the government would be putting them in, in God Knows Where, USA. The one upside to the upheaval of Madden’s life was that by the time Alcide and I were done with the red tape and posturing with the fucking douche bag Marshalls, the autopsy was over and done with. Darn it all to heck! You mean, we don’t get to see the body of a tortured woman dissected and treated like a Thanksgiving turkey? Shoot! Alcide and I smiled like madmen as Mike Spencer made his apologies for going ahead without us and promised to bring the report by the house tonight on his way home. You gotta love a small town.
Kevin seemed to be ‘warming up’ to Alcide and me. I’m sure that it had something to do with my relationship with Sookie, since it carried over to Bud Dearborn as well. Kevin introduced us to Kenya, another deputy for Bon Temps. They had both gone to school with Sookie. Kenya had joked about Sookie being a trendsetter and could talk anyone into anything, namely when she was talked into joining the cheerleading team in spite of her lack of ‘pep’. Kevin saw Kenya’s story and raised her. He brought up that Sookie managed to convince the Homecoming committee to use ‘What A Drag’ as the theme. He told us that he was still having nightmares about the panty hose he wore that night while Alcide and I laughed. Nearly everyone griped about it until they found out it was Sookie’s idea, everyone- even the ‘phobes’ showed up in full drag and it was so popular, the school had done it every year since as a fundraiser. We decided that when we got home tonight, we’d have to look for Sookie’s yearbooks. Kevin went as far as inviting Alcide and me to go hunting with him for Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t normally. I’d been hunting a few times and not been impressed enough to look forward to it, but Alcide’s eyes lit up and immediately asked if Kevin would mind if he brought ‘his boys’. That, I could look forward to.
It was after one o’clock and Alcide and I decided to go by Madden’s apartment to get the notes from deCastro. The taunting emails had been coming from addresses like ‘soonerorl8r’ and ‘laydeetrubblz’. Each one was a simple song lyric. Just a line or two. Never anything artful or obscure or even veiled. The most recent one (Wednesday morning) was from a lame Guns N Roses song. ‘I used to love her, but I had to kill her, I knew I’d miss her, so I had to keep her. She’s buried right in my back yard.’ He’d quoted the The Doors, Melissa Etheridge, The Pretenders, Britney Spears, and Aerosmith; just to name a few. Every few weeks the message would go straight to Pam’s bureau email address. Every time, it was signed ‘Waiting for you, my love. Your vampire.’ I didn’t care if it gave Pam the creeps or not, it freaked me right the fuck out! Especially since Sookie pointed out the fact that the victims are alphabetized and P and R were quickly coming up in the alphabet.
When we got to Madden’s place, we noticed the small grouping of about a dozen or so buildings was all but deserted. There were very few cars in the lots and yet through the untreated windows of most of the ground floor units, there was many a television set on. Housewives. Bored ones. Just great.
Just as I suspected, the second Alcide and I were out of the car, we saw blinds and curtains gap open to make way for what we affectionately call ‘domestic surveillance’. We rolled our eyes at each other, chuckling.
I unzipped the lock pick set that I keep in my glove box and went to work while Alcide used his body to cover. Never mind that Victor told us to help ourselves, any one of the busy body women in the complex could have been a real pain in the ass just by calling 9-1-1. Any random ‘deputy dip shit’ could come out and draw way too much attention to the situation.
I just about had the tumblers to the lock taken care of when… “Watcha doin’?”
The woman who inexplicably snuck up behind Alcide was EXACTLY the ‘ogre’ that I’d imagined the day I’d laid eyes on Sookie instead. Picture what happened to Bill Pullman in Weird Science when he pissed off Kelli LeBrock, ‘Chet the Shit’, only add knotty dark hair and a wad of gum big enough to fix the gaps in the Saints’ defensive line.
Alcide was short on manners, so as I opened the front door I ignored the ‘about to barf’ look on his face to come up with our story. “We’re friends of Vic. He called and said him and his girl had to go out of town and asked me to empty out his fridge so he doesn’t have bugs when he gets back.” Good enough I thought and Alc seemed to approve when he turned to escape the stink coming from her… I think they call it a ‘Shift’, but it’s a glorified robe that gets tossed on to cover the fact it was some sort of ‘pajama holiday’. It smelled like a litter box.
“Why would ‘VIC’ call YOU? I have a key.”
I tried to look apologetic. “He told me that his neighbor is nosey and would look through everything. Sorry.”
“Did he tell you to bring this guy too? How do you know him?”
“No. Would you like to call his boss? He knows we’re here.”
She eyed me suspiciously for a minute and then grunted, breathing a ghastly amount of what could only be a combination of coffee, cheese and fried chicken in our direction. Retch. “Fine then. Work fast. In five minutes, I call Bud.”
I chuckled. I was really starting to like this town. It was easy to get around with a little knowledge. “Fine, but he’s at lunch with Mike and Corbett. Kevin’s dispatching today. Tell him Eric says ‘hey’.”
“You know Kevin?”
“Yes ma’am. Just through Sookie though.”
“You know Soo… You’re Sookie’s beau!? You’re the one that punched out THAT Bill?”
“Guilty.” I shrugged. I spent a split second worried that she held a soft spot for Bill or his family.
“Well hell, son! Ain’t you a sight to behold? If I had known, I’d have brought you a copy of MY house key!” She was laughing hard enough that in the sun, the shaking pattern on her shift nearly gave me a seizure. “Hitting him could get you the mayor’s office. The whole town’s been tryin’ to run the Compton’s out on rails for decades! ”
I smiled at her and reached into the mailbox to take in (and rifle through) the contents. “Thank you, ma’am. We’ll just be a minute. Like I said, we’re just tending to the food in his fridge.”
She patted my shoulder, sparking within me the urge to bathe… in scalding water… IMMEDIATELY. “You bet, son! If you talk to him, let him know I’ll tend to his mail until he gets back.”
Her robe ballooned out when she turned and started waddling away in her ‘house shoes’ and Alcide and I retreated inside like we were dodging grenades.
The pile of mail was dropped on the kitchen counter, undisturbed and I reached into my pocket for the packet of latex gloves I’d almost gotten out of the practice of carrying over the last few days. I had to remind myself to go back for them before we left the house this morning. Alcide and I both put on a pair and set about our tasks. He went to the fridge and emptied it into the garbage to help our ‘story’ and I quickly leafed through the stack of mail that had seemingly gone unchecked for a few days. In the pile between his power bill and a junk mail envelope of coupons was an unmarked envelope. Nothing written on it. No stamp. No return. No postmark.
Alcide quickly turned and joined me at the counter, handing me his Gerber like I didn’t have my own. I carefully cut open the seam and then used the pliers to pull out the note. It was hand written, very neatly, on a piece of lose leaf paper.
Closr2u was the new screen name apparently. “I can love how I like if I want it, whatever keeps me high. Yeah, we can take it, good and loose on an endless spree.”
Alcide read it over my shoulder. “That’s the song from Kids, right?”
“Why do you know that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I was actually old enough to see an NC17 movie when it came out… Sport.”
I laughed at him. “You make a good point, FATHER TIME. Does Madden have any baggies?”
He whopped me across the back of my head and chuckled. “Respect your elders, junior.” He started opening drawers and cabinets. “Hey Eric, someone threatens Sookie… Where do you keep your gun?”
“IN MY HAND.” I turned around and saw that Alcide was staring into a drawer. Sitting on top of a pile of ketchup and soy sauce packets was a revolver.
“And if her life depended on how often you checked your mailbox? Would you go this long without checking it?”
“This doesn’t add up.”
“You think he’s a talent scout or a happy helper?”
“Does it matter? Call Pam. She’ll get it out of him.”
While he was on the phone, I started looking around the apartment. The bed was made the toilet paper roll was where it was supposed to be. The whole place was neat as a pin. A single guy. A single guy that looked like he could have fit in at a soup kitchen, had an apartment neater than the one I just left behind, and I was what most people would call ‘anal’. The only thing I ever left untidy was my bed. Yes, it was a Freudian punch at my berthing tossing, AJ squared away father. So what.
“Alc… ALC!” He looked up, concerned that I’d interrupted Pam. “Tell Pam to separate them. Holly could be disposable.”
“How do you know?”
I waved him over and lifted the couch cushion. “Nothing.”
“So. He’s a neatnick.”
“He’s not a ‘neatnick’. The apartment is a cover. There’s a fresh roll of toilet paper on the wall. There’s nothing hanging in the closet, nothing in the dresser. NOTHING in the medicine cabinet. No razors, rubbers, toothpaste, nothing. The bed looks made, but it’s just a comforter and pillows. No sheets. What was in the fridge, the trash can?”
“A can of coffee, a jar of mayo and a skunked beer: Pabst. The bag was empty.”
“I didn’t see a vacuum or a coffee maker. The apartment and the happy little pseudo family could all be for appearances.”
I went back to the fridge and opened it. Alcide, a devout member of the ‘brotherhood of java’, hadn’t tossed out the can of coffee anymore than the Hindu would put down a sick cow. It was sacrosanct. I opened the Hills Brothers can and pushed my hand down in the bitter grounds. I’d been right. I found a prize. I pulled out the bag hiding at the bottom to see that it had a small collection of jewelry. Carefully spreading it out on the counter, there were a few earrings with no mates, a pearl pendant with no necklace, a silver necklace with no pendant, a bracelet, an anklet with a ‘C’ charm. Most noticeably, there was a ring. A class ring to be exact. I held it up to Alcide so that he could see the engraving on the inside.
“Geri Anderson.” His jaw clenched and he told Pam that we needed a little help out here.
We waited for the lab dorks with the ‘thooper cewel’ cameras and chemicals. These guys worked over a crime scene like termites in a lumber yard, but ‘dork’ was an understatement. Some of them were nice enough, but most all of them fancied themselves to be the end all, be all of forensics and acted a bit uppity. Sadly, I’d never once seen any one of them look anything like Catherine Willows. They usually looked more like a stereotype, begging to be TP bombed and shoved in a gym locker. They usually steered clear of me and Alc because we looked like the type to do it to them.
Alcide volunteered to go back to the house and bring back lunch. I thought it was a great idea, but I gave him shit about it, just for fun. As much as I appreciated a home cooked meal, I understand how much happier a good meal makes him. He was paying for a houseful of groceries and his wife didn’t bother with feeding him. I guess that could be taken as a metaphor for other areas of their marriage too.
While he was gone, I kept myself busy. I looked through things more carefully. I found false bottoms in the drawers in the kitchen, including the one holding the stub nose. I left them alone for the dorks, knowing I’d find out soon enough. And I found a few notes written in the margins of the phonebook. Nothing suspicious. The store hours for the bait shop on the lake. The directions to the Stackhouse office. The interesting thing about it was that the handwriting matched the print on the note mixed in with the mail.
I went ahead and pulled out the roll of wax paper from his cabinet. His ‘hiding place’ for the other 8 notes he’d gotten ‘from the Vampire’. He’d meticulously rolled each one into it. Not a bad hiding place, either. I was looking them over when Alcide came back. He’d only been gone for about 20 minutes and even though I heard the car, he still managed to surprise me by walking light.
“Sookie went back to the house at some point to start dinner. I’m pretty sure there’s chili in the crock pot and the whole house smells great.”
I smiled at the thought as I followed him out to the car. I sat in the front, he sat in the back, both of us stretched out along the seats with our feet up enjoying our lunch. The seafood salad was shrimp and crawfish. I could taste lemon and dill and she’d put it on homemade bread again and I could have hurt myself eating the pasta salad.
“Not now. I’m busy.”
I laughed at him. “You’re gonna have to figure out a way to control yourself. You’re gonna develop a food fetish.”
“Too late. What’s up?”
“They didn’t have a swingset. The playground for the girlfriend’s complex was just outside her kitchen window and there isn’t one here.”
He stared at nothing, pulling the memory out of his mental filing system before agreeing with a nod. He pulled out his phone and started typing. I saw his eyebrow twitch a couple of times while he multitasked: shoveling in his sandwich and surfing the internet. Until his eyes lit up. “Maybe his story was a lie, just not his lie. Do you think that all this shit could be to make him look like our guy? deCastro doesn’t know that we aren’t lost anymore.”
“What’d you find?”
He handed the phone to me and went back to two handed eating. He’d found a news article. “St. Charles Officials Call Wasp Attack Death A Fluke.” I raised my eyebrow at him and kept reading. “After Missy Dunlap’s unfortunate encounter with a wasp nest while hiking at Lake Pontchotrain with boyfriend George Broward last week, wildlife experts have made a plea to the public. According to entomologists at the University of Illinois, the brutal manner of the wasp attack is unheard of to them. One scientist remarked that he had only ever seen as many as a dozen wasp stings on a single victim and even then, the attack was due to the victim accidentally sitting on the nest in question. ‘At the risk of sounding like I’m defending the wasps, for a hive that large to collectively be that angry, they would have had to be provoked.’
Forestry officials have surmised that the wasps responsible for the death of Miss Dunlap are indigenous to the area. ‘We aren’t dealing with a new breed. This isn’t like the African killer bees that have people worried. Miss Dunlap was unlucky enough to have stumbled across a very large nest is all. The general public should not be worried for their safety anymore than they usually would when considering a hike.’
Mr. Broward suffered multiple stings in his effort to help his companion and is currently hospitalized for treatment…”
Alcide smiled proudly at himself. “That was in late April. What are the odds that we can track down Georgie?”
“Slim to none. This whole thing could mean that Madden is in on things or it could mean that deCastro brought him in to set him up as an exit strategy. You think that the girlfriend is a bona fide, but the apartment is for show?”
“Maybe. I just got to thinking. That guy looked like he was gonna shit his pants when you asked him about the video. You said that he acted like the usual nail biting, terrified witness waiting for us to get back from the school. If he was such a prick to be taunting boss lady like this for fun, I think his pamper soaking tremors woulda been harder to play.”
“Good point, but the apartment… his neighbor knows him, the gun, the souvenirs, he knew where we’d find the notes…”
“Maybe you should go ask Jaba what ‘Victor Madden’ looks like.”
“Because you’re ‘Prince Eric of Clan Stackhouse’ and she’ll forgive you for lying to her because you smote the evil Earl of Compton.”
I growled (trying not to laugh at him) as I climbed out of the car. “More like: you have the gag reflex of a bitch with morning sickness and would shoot her if you tossed your precious lunch because she smells like cheese whiz and cat shit.”
He chuckled and winked at me. “That too.”
He blew a kiss at me and shoved in some more food.
The smell was vile and she hadn’t even opened the door yet. Eww. Alc owes me. BIG.
She smiled when she answered the door. “Hey cutie! You and your pal heading out?”
“Uh, no ma’am. We were wondering, can you describe Victor for me?”
She looked angry… confused maybe? Either way, her expression didn’t improve things. “Why?”
“Just out of curiosity. We’ve never been to Victor’s place before and we wanted to make sure he isn’t messing with us. Like a joke.”
She huffed, thank god this time it wasn’t in an upward direction. Her eyes rolled, annoyed. “Oh, you know… Kinda tall, ‘bout 5’10”. Short dark hair, kinda like a marine. He’s got one of those silly frenchie mustache thingies. You know, thin on the lip and the stripe down his chin… That’s Victor.” Bingo.
“Does he have an accent?”
“Well of course he does. My husband calls him ‘gay zorro’.” Husband? Someone gets into bed with her at night? Shudder.
I smiled at her. I wanted to fucking kiss Alcide. The son of a bitch was like a god damn Rainman sometimes! “How often to you usually see him?”
“Oh, he’s a tomcat, never sleeps on his own stoop, if you know what I mean. I see him coming and going every few days. It’s a good thing he’s not home more too, he cain’t park to save his life. 2… 3 slots sometimes with that big ole Bonneville of his.”
“Who’s the landlord here?”
“You thinkin’ of movin’ in?” She ‘made eyes’ at me and I felt an unpleasant quiver in my throat. Swallow it back. Fucking eww. “Merlotte, LLC.”
I didn’t wait to talk to Alcide; I looked up the number and called right away.
“It’s a wonderful day at Merlotte Realty. This is Dawn. How can I help you this afternoon?”
“Hi, Dawn. Is Sam around?”
“Sure thing. Who’s calling?”
She gasped. “Sookie’s boyfriend?! I saw you at the Dirges the other night when you cleaned Bill’s clock! You made yourself famous overnight.”
Lovely. I’m infamous in a small town for being violent. “Does anybody like that guy?”
“NO! His own momma died to get out of going to his wedding.” She started laughing. “I’ll put Sam on for ya.”
I got comfortable on the hood of my car while I waited. “HELL-oh.”
“Hey Sam, its Eric. How’s it going?”
“Never better. What can I do for ya?”
“Well, I wanted to talk to you anyway to thank you for the dresser, but it seems that I need your help.”
“Oh! No problem. We’ve never seen Sook so happy to be herself. We’re happy to have you join the ranks. Whatcha need?”
“It seems that I’m working on a case that took me to one of your apartments. And it seems the guy we have in custody isn’t the guy that really rents the unit. You don’t by any chance get a copy of a photo ID for your records?”
“Usually a couple of them and a credit card and a check from an account in their own name. What’s the unit?”
“903A Gatling Way.”
I heard quick typing, then a hum. “Yeah, uh huh. I got a credit card scan from Unity Trust, a scanned check from the same. No social security card, but the ID I have is a Louisiana Driver’s License. I just hit the print button. Where do you want me to bring it?”
“I’m there now. I’m waiting for the unit to get searched. It would help if I have your permission.”
“Why me? Legally…”
“Legally you own the property that we believe was leased under identity theft.”
“Oh, Shit! Yeah, no problem. Anything else you need?”
“Not unless you own King’s Plantation Apartments too.”
He chuckled. “What unit?” Shit! This family owns half the fucking town!
More typing. “Yeah. That’s weird though.”
“Victor Madden is on both leases, but the IDs don’t match.”
“Yes sir. That’s what we were afraid of.”
“Printing it all now. Be there in 10. K?”
I waved Alcide out of the car while I was dialing Pam and turned the speaker on.
“This better be good, Oscar. I’m in the middle of something.”
“Ask him why there isn’t a swing set.”
Empty line. I’d barely gotten used to it. I’d always said ‘wait one’ or ‘be right back’. Pam; nothing. “When he saw that deCastro was watching them, he offered Cody a PSP. He didn’t want him playing outside. They just moved into a 3 bedroom from a 2 and got lucky that they got a unit right next to the one for the complex.” Alcide made an ‘it figures’ face. One puzzle piece.
“What’s his address and how long has he lived there?”
Another pause. A long one. “1317C Plantation Place. He moved in last December. The apartment was his girlfriend’s. They met in Minden almost 2 years ago and when he finally found work in Bon Temps he moved in. Sound familiar?” Ignoring that last bit.
That explains a few things. “Slight hitch.”
“Northman! I don’t like hitches!”
“Yes ma’am… They burn our asses too. The address we’re at, waiting for Forensics, belongs to ‘Victor Madden’. It’s the address in the phone book. The neighbor ‘knows’ Victor, but her ‘Victor’ matches deCastro’s description.”
“Fuck! Eric, you found evidence without permission to enter and without a warrant. You two really shit the bed…”
“Shut up.” Alcide actually took a step back like he was afraid she might come through the phone. “I got lucky. Sam… He owns both properties. He has photo IDs that don’t match with both leases. Since the lease was obtained fraudulently, permission to enter reverts to the owner, not the tenant, whoever that might be. Sam is on his way with the info… I got lucky.”
“Did you just tell me to shut up?”
“I need to know why the notes are where he said they’d be, but in the wrong apartment.”
“You told me to shut up.”
“Yes, I did. I’m sorry. I was being impatient. This is a huge cluster fuck and I can’t figure out where Madden ends and deCastro begins.”
“Pussy. If you hadn’t backed down, I might have been proud of you.” I punched Alcide’s shoulder when he started laughing.
There was another long pause before she came back on the line. “He’s… not himself. He seems to be worried that deCastro has been in his apartment.” In the background, his irrational tirade cemented her observation. The guy was going bat shit.
Alcide started to chuckle and mumbled that she should take notes to make reporting back to her mother ship easier.
“Well, if you can get him to give permission again, we’ll send forensics to the right address when they’re done here.”
“No. I’ll send another team out now.”
“Ok. Oh, and Pam?”
“Us kids miss you. Will you be home for dinner tonight, Mom?”
“Fuck yourself.” She hung up, but I was laughing by the time she did.
Alcide was shaking his head. “You’re gonna pay for that.”
“Oh yeah, I am.” I turned to see that Sam was pulling up. “And it’ll be fun, unless she grounds me from my favorite toy.” I smiled at him and slid down to greet Sam.
I shook his hand and he handed me a manila folder and nodded towards the apartment. “I gotta ask… Is the place wrecked?”
“Not at all. No one’s ‘lived’ in it. It’s done like a model. It’s a little stuffy but as soon as the seal comes off, it’s move in ready.”
“That’s a relief. I was worried someone might have been building bombs in there or something.”
I started looking through the file. “That’s someone else. Alcide and I mostly deal with serial killers and rapists.”
Sam looked up at me, scared out of his mind.
“Oh yeah, it makes us REALLY popular at dinner parties.”
He tried to fake a smile but didn’t even get halfway there.
“It’s easier to be vague and just say we’re with the FBI. Then people tend to picture some Hollywood version of the job.”
He took a deep breath. “You deal with that shit all day long?”
“It could be worse. Trust me. If you want to hang out for a couple minutes, you can see how inaccurate TV is. ‘CSI’ will be here any minute. They all look like they do the job just to fund their trips to SciFi and Comic conventions.
Thankfully, that got a laugh out of him. “No Sara Sidle?”
Alcide laughed. “Not a chance. Usually nothing but paper baggers and basement dwellers.”
I took the folder over to the hood of my car and laid it down to compare the rental applications side by side. “Hey Alc, the application for this address is UBER neat like the notes. The real Victor has the kind of handwriting only a pharmacist can read.”
Alcide came to look over things. “We should call your girlfriend.”
I gave Alcide a dirty look for putting it like that with Sam around and not explaining. Jennifer Cater was with Homeland Security and would be interested, nay, jump at the chance to help us track down a serial killer who was in the states illegally. She’d probably have a lot of fun with the forger that did deCastro’s IDs too.
Cater was pretty enough, but psycho. She is wound WAY too tight, WAY too full of herself and well… To put a finer point on my repulsion: Jennifer might as well be a gay man in very good drag; a female misogynist… She was ‘inappropriate’ with Alc and me. We both referred to her as the other’s ‘girlfriend’ like Sookie and Jason had the ‘your mother’ dispute. Pam thought it was hilarious that Alc and I were sexually harassed. Cater never missed the opportunity to grab at us and to be honest, she’d probably touched my partner’s dick more than his wife had over the last year. She was not on the short list of things I’d be missing about New Orleans.
Sure enough, while Sam got an explanation, a Crown Victoria crept into the parking lot. 5 ‘dorks’ spilled out of the car and Sam slowly started to snicker as they appeared and went to the trunk.
He started playing the game that Alcide and I played without even knowing about it. “The tall one… Data?”
I started to chuckle. “The skinny Asian guy… Hero Nakamura.”
“The bald one… John Locke, Lost.”
“Ooh good call. The pudgy girl?”
Alcide was rude enough to point. “I can see her trying out Hermione.” He started laughing. “The scruffy guy though…”
“Sookie’s really hot and smart enough for the job, you’ve never seen a Claire Bennett or a Mystique?”
Alc laughed through his nose. “Psh. I wish. We joke that we’re unicorn hunting.”
“The best part is coming up. They ooze with delusions of superiority. They think we’re all glory whore, former jocks.”
I laughed. “That’s not the point.”
I straightened up just in time for John Locke to introduce himself and after hearing that his name was Gervase, I decided that I would call him John Locke anyway.
“Did Ravenscroft brief you on what you’re looking for?”
He rolled his eyes at me. “We were told this was priority one. The Vampire case. We’ll go over the place like we always do. Where’s the warrant?”
“No warrant. The lease is void. Sam Merlotte is the owner and permits the search.”
“If you say so. It’s your ass in court. What did you fuck up before we got here?”
“I touched the door knob and two pieces of mail ungloved. The only items I disturbed are on the counter, and the kitchen drawers have false bottoms.”
“I wouldn’t have needed YOU to tell me that.”
“Of course not. I was just hoping that the counter and hidden items could be cataloged before we leave.”
“Hot date tonight?”
“As a matter of fact… We have another property to deal with, so we were going to leave so that we won’t be underfoot. You can just call us if you find anything else of interest and we can come back to be briefed.”
“Sounds like you might have had a good idea, Conan. Bully for you.”
The conceited prick walked away like I was the one trying to pick a fight and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Told ya.”
Sam snorted. “No shit.”
It pissed me off to no end that the false bottoms were concealing memory cards and mini discs. Now that the case was moving along and finally seemed to have a momentum, I hated to have to wait. The fact that there were 13 of each of them and 13 victims, really, really had me tapping my foot and would until I could see what is on them. The team of forensics folk (trying to be nice) didn’t seem impressed with anything else in the apartment. They didn’t find anything that might make them suspect anything other than the apartment was just somewhere to stash what we had already found. Not that Alcide and I had either, but there is always the nagging at the back of the brain that ‘something bigger’ might be found. That’s just greed talking though. The day had already offered more than we could have thought in the headway department.
The most direct route between Point A (deCastro’s apartment) and Point B (Madden’s) took us right past the high school. It was 3:30 and most of the parking lot was empty. Not that ‘Rotten’ wouldn’t have stood out anyway, but since it sat alone without another car nearby, it might as well have been backlit by a guiding light of divine radiance like the Virgin De Guadeloupe. My internal countdown started. We had approximately one hour to deal with the next apartment before ‘pumpkin time’. My patience would completely expire as soon as I knew Sookie would be accessible. I had gone almost 10 hours without seeing her and I needed a fix.
We gloved our hands and went into Victor’s actual home to give things a once over while we waited for the second team to arrive. We went straight to the kitchen to find that there was wax paper on the top shelf just like in the other cabinet. Unrolling it, Alcide and I shared a look. The notes were in this one too. Definitely a ‘what the fuck’ moment. deCastro was setting Madden up as the ‘fall guy’.
Alcide went to the fridge and without a word, nudged my back to bring my attention to the contents. We both stood there dumbfounded for a moment, staring at a bottle of cheap ‘sparkling wine’ and a carton of fresh strawberries. Sitting among the groceries you would normally see in a family’s fridge, was deCastro’s favorite type of ‘date bait’. There also just so happened to be a can of Hills Bros coffee.
I opened the can, just as sure as I was before that I’d find something. Expecting to find a small bag full of jewelry, I pulled out a folded piece of lose leaf instead. “You have new friends, Victor. Now your Holly does too.”
Alcide’s neck twitched his head to the side, a quirk he showed only when he was truly creeped out. “As far as threats go, not bad… Do you think Victor thought anything of the champagne?”
“Dunno. Call Pam.”
“You owe me for Jaba.”
He laughed as he pulled out his phone. I pulled mine out too, calling my ‘good friend’ Kevin.
“Hey Kevin, Eric Northman.”
“Miss me already?”
I chuckled. This town is fun. “Absolutely. I thought of a good reason to call and everything.”
“Then hit me with it.”
“Could you do a DMV search on Victor Madden and Holly Cleary for me?”
“That is a good cover. Give me a minute.” While I was on hold, I was amused by a musak version of You Were Always On My Mind. Poor Alcide was missing a chance to flirt with a Piggle AND to hear country music.
Alc was off the phone with Pam quickly. “He kept going back to the fridge because he noticed the bottle. He thought Holly had something special planned for tonight and was feeling really guilty about the timing. Pam’s pissed. He had just calmed down and now he’s retarded again.”
I had just identified the next song as Black Velvet when Kevin got back on the line. “Alright, I got a few. For Madden, Victor I have an 87 Dodge Dakota; green. And an 89 Pontiac Boner; burgundy. For Cleary, Holly I have a 93 Pontiac Grand Prix; teal. A 96 Honda Civic; white, but that one had the engine seize up on the side of the road. The tow company has a lien on it. She hasn’t driven that in a couple years. Then she has a 77 Airstream.”
“OK. Where could someone put an airstream down around here?”
“Anywhere really. They aren’t that big. There’s a couple of campgrounds, but they could be hooked up for power and water with an extension cord and garden hose. And there’s so many dead ends and country roads around here, it wouldn’t be hard to hide one. Hell, you and Sookie could hide one out at your place.” Our Place… smile.
I was hoping to have been wrong. “Ok. Kevin, the Boner and the Airstream are in their names, but our suspect is the one who uses them. You might want to let your guys know that he’s armed with military training. We have him, dead to rights. We just need to catch him.”
He started chuckling. “Well, then I hope y’all catch him before Kenya does. She was a friend of Maudette’s.”
“Then tell Kenya that if she finds him to take her time calling me.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I think I’m gonna like having you around.”
I laughed. “I hope so. I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
Alc and I checked the apartment over again. Other than the wax paper roll full of notes and the champagne, we found false bottoms in the kitchen drawers just like in the other apartment. The contents were the same too. A revolver and sauce packets in one and take out menus and coupons in the other. It was miserable to not open the compartments. It made my hands itch. It was times like this that made me think about smoking.
We went back outside and I sat on the hood of my car, Alc paced with a cigarette.
“So unless he’s got that airstream parked at a campground, we’re shit out of luck, huh?”
“Helicopters could spot it from the air.”
“If it’s in a clearing. More than likely, he’s got it sitting in thick cover.”
I chuckled. “Naw, you’re not smart enough.”
He laughed and changed the subject. “You still ok with me dipping out tomorrow to go get the boys?”
“Absolutely. I’ll be up to my asshole in pictures and files and I’ll call the families about birthday photos. I’ll do office work from the house manana.”
“You’re sure you don’t mind having them around, with your parents and all.”
“I’m sure. It’ll get the wife off your back for the next two weeks.”
“Or not. She could end up calling me every 10 minutes to make sure I haven’t lost them or let them hurt themselves.”
I started laughing. “For Christmas I think I’m going to get you a new cell. Mine came with a really cool feature. It’s called an ignore button.”
“You’re a funny mother fucker… you’ve seen firsthand that it doesn’t help to not answer when she calls.”
I shrugged. “Tell her to shut the fuck up.”
The look on his face was priceless. “Says the man that’s completely pussy whipped.”
I smiled and nodded. “Give me a reason why I shouldn’t be.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Give it a few years.”
“Ok. And IF Sookie manages to make me as miserable as Ame makes you, promise me that you’ll remind me that I should tell her to fuck off.”
“Miserable? What makes you think she makes me miserable?” He didn’t seem to be pissed at the suggestion, just curious. That was almost proof, right there.
“Do you really want to go into it right now?”
“Sure. It’s not like we’re doing anything else.”
I took a deep breath, expecting this to end in an argument. I wanted to get it all out as quickly and calmly as I could while the invitation was out there. “Alright. I know you’re miserable because of the constipated look you get when you hear Ame’s ringtone. I know you’re miserable because you HAVE been in a good mood since Halloween. I know you’re miserable because it was easier for you to let your partner think you were a slut than admit it to yourself. Don’t be a fuck. Just admit that she’s too busy treating you like shit to make you happy.”
“The first time she accused me of cheating on her, she told me that she wouldn’t let me see Jack if she ever found any proof. She’s done it since and added Carm to the threat once he was born. I still don’t think I’ll have the balls to risk giving her walking papers.”
“I get that. Trust me. Don’t get me wrong. Trying to make it work for the kids’ sake is admirable, but she’s been doing it already. Every night you stayed ‘on my couch’ was a night that you didn’t get to be with them, a bowl of cereal you didn’t get to eat with them in the morning, a walk to the bus stop you didn’t get to take. She’s been robbing you for years. The boys are going to think that you love the job more than you love them and if you let her keep it up, they might not ever realize that the extra hours are just an excuse to not be browbeaten for some shit she thought up. You said you didn’t want to end up like Corbett. When Ame gets bored with holding you hostage, who else do you think she’ll punish for not cowing to her expectations?”
“You switched sides fast.” Guilt. I was hit with a metric ass-load of guilt.
“It’s easy to pick the right side when you have all the facts.” I shot him a semi-dirty look to let him know that it bothered me to be kept in the dark.
“Pissing her off doesn’t do any good.”
“I want another partner. I’m sick of being around smart people.”
I laughed at him. “Then you should have stayed in the marines. Jarheads are dumb by definition.”
He growled at me. “Navy brat.”
We played the game again as Crown Vic #2 emptied to take control of the Cleary/Madden apartment. Alcide and I quickly cast the inhabitants as Wolverine, Flash Gordon, Robin and the Cat Woman (not only did she need a mask, but ‘she’ was a he). Flash Gordon was the lead for this team and was far friendlier than John Locke had been. When I told him about my curiosity about the false bottoms, he smiled and took care of it himself. The contents of these drawers were thumb drives. Dozens of them. Flash Gordon saw the frustrated look on my face when he popped the panels out of the drawers.
“Hey, it’s something. Right?”
“The other apartment had discs and memory cards. Gervase didn’t seem the least bit concerned with our timeline. It’s going to take forever to get all of the data back.”
He smiled and patted my shoulder. “No it won’t, kid. I’ll go back to the office as soon as we’re done here. I’ll have it all filed into evidence, and copied and printed and I’ll call you the second I put it all in the courier’s hand in the morning for ya.”
I smiled at him, suspicious of his gracious manner. I definitely liked this guy. “Thank you Mr. Burnham, but if you’re too helpful, people might think you’re my bitch.”
He laughed. “Just call me Bobby. Gervase is a prick and I want his job. I already have to do my job, I might as well do it well enough that people notice.”
I was chatting with Bobby while Alcide was ‘supervising’ the search going on in the back of the apartment. When he yelled, it nearly scared me out of my skin.
“SON OF A BITCH!!!”
I double timed it to the master bedroom. “What the fuck? Don’t yell like that.”
“Sorry princess. Didn’t mean to spook you.”
“What were you screaming about?”
He reached into the closet with a gloved hand and pulled out a pair of hangers. “Something tells me these aren’t his.”
No. Fucking. Way. Red pants. Gold shirt. Shit. I couldn’t believe it. Judging by the look on my partners face, he couldn’t either. I was speechless.
“You think he’ll start clubbing naked now?”
I shook my head, hoping it would jump start my brain. “He probably has more than one set. Right?”
“I hope so.”
“Because otherwise, this could mean that he’s giving up his rules along with the uniform. He’s already quit on the compass thing.”
That idea was just fucking frightening.
Before we left for home, I called Gervase, begrudgingly. Those assholes were already half way back to Shreveport without giving us a word. Gervase’s list of things to do started with passing the evidence he collected for us off the Burnham for ‘the sake of continuity’. Bullshit. He was gun decking because he was just in the mood to be useless. If I wasn’t happy about Burnham being the guy to be handling things, I’d push the issue. Pam would have fun reminding Gervase of his job description, as she always did. Alcide was pretty surprised when I told him how amiable Burnham was. In New Orleans, we hadn’t ever come across any ‘Lab Coats’ that we could consider ‘go to’ guys.
It was just after 5 when we pulled into the driveway. Home, sweet home. No shit. That little farmhouse was a sight for sore eyes. More so when I saw that Rotten was already home.
We could hear music, LOUD, as we walked up on the porch. Loud music wasn’t a luxury I was used to in apartment life. I almost had a smile on my face when I heard a man’s voice from inside.
“You cheating bitch! I’m gonna fuck you up!”