As I drove back to Shreveport, Pam called to tease me.
She’d apparently been closely monitoring my moods all evening although I’d been too preoccupied to even think about hers.
I was close to hanging up on her when I changed my mind and let her finish her roll. I told her nothing about Sookie while she suggested one caterer, hotel and dress designer after another… because the only ‘logical’ reason for my confusion and frustration had been wedding plans.
She thought she was hilarious.
I went directly to Glamour to use my computer…
I spent more than an hour calling one corporate office after another to leave identical messages with eight services. “This message is for Niall Brigant. Tell him to contact Erik Nordmann as soon as possible.” His holdings were my only leads. Even if I didn’t have a plan concerning what I’d say to him if he bothered to return my calls, I’d fulfilled my promise to Sookie and Linda. I’d tried to contact him.
I surprised myself by actually working. After a week of suffering from a constantly wandering mind, it was refreshing to have some manner of focus back.
Did I think of Sookie from time to time? Yes, but I wasn’t being tortured by agonizing cluelessness… and I was able to get back on track.
In fact, I was able to tend to work with plenty of time to spare…
Plenty of time to enjoy more entertaining ideas… Sure, I had a long list of chores to do Sunday night, but I took the last hour before sunrise to lie in my bed and give attention to the peace Sookie had to offer as she slept.
My to-do list for Sunday night included research again…
I needed information about Linda’s condition and the medications she was taking before I could call Dr. Ludwig. Other than the connection Adele made between the ailment and menstruation, I was fucking clueless… After reading what I found on the Web, I missed being clueless. It wasn’t the photos or medical jargon that bothered me…
Reading about the symptoms and progression of Linda’s illness, made me realize I’d already grown fond enough of the woman to loathe her suffering.
I went outside to enjoy the quiet of the roof to call Dr. Ludwig…
Making Linda’s appointment was a painless process. Ludwig was righteously indignant she’d been seeing Human doctors and was more than willing to treat Linda given the situation… She ranted and raved about insurance companies, Linda’s in particular, being too worried about bottom lines than how easy it was for cancer to hide under endometriosis until it was ‘too late’.
At least she made her tirade amusing until I moved on to another subject…
The night before, when I mentioned Dr. Ludwig, I had the thought to ask her for input concerning Hadley…
The tiny doctor proved her worth. Even if Linda decided on different tactics, I still congratulated the doctor for her innovative ideas.
When I turned to leave the roof, there was a woman blocking my path to the ladder.
Tall, beautiful, long dark hair, unfathomably deep eyes and the telltale iridescence of the Fae…
She didn’t give me the chance to speak before she held her hand up to show me she was armed with a stake… a skillfully crafted stake, with a silver tip.
“Stay where you are, Vampire. The breeze is in my favor.”
“Who are you?”
“That isn’t important. Prince Niall Brigant demands to know your reason for contacting him.”
“Prince Niall Brigant should call me if he’s too cowardly to meet in person. I mean him no harm. I only have questions.” That uppity asshole sent an underling when it would have been safer for him to meet me since he could mask his scent.
“Pertaining to what?”
“If I meant to speak to you, I’d have called you.”
“I’m as close as you’re going to get to speaking to my grandfather.” He sent his granddaughter?
“I’ve recently met a Human family with Fae qualities, yet they don’t know who in your world they’ve descended from. They’re only curious about their origins.”
“And they chose a Vampire to act as their envoy?”
“I had to emerge victorious from a grueling match of Rock/Paper/Scissors against a Leprechaun and Bigfoot… Yes, they chose me. I’m their only known connection to the Supernatural world, idiot.”
“Are they doing well? Linda and the children?”
“You know them?” She only stared at me. “Sookie and Jason are well and with Doctor Ludwig’s assistance, Linda and Hadley should improve shortly.” An olive branch. I still periodically checked thesauruses to see if ‘Fae’ had been added to the listing for ‘difficult’.
“What questions do you have?”
“They’d like general information…”
“Did you contact a Prince to gossip about the Stackhouses?”
“They want information. I promised I’d attempt to contact Brigant.”
“How does it serve your purposes?”
“It doesn’t. I hate the whole pompous lot of you. Sookie is Mine and at the moment, she’s curious about why she’s the only Stackhouse with an ability. Linda’s primary concern is her daughter’s recklessness, but she would like more details. Adele is devastated by the idea of her husband hiding his true nature from her. I’m concerned that Corbett Stackhouse was collateral damage in the grudge match between Clans…”
She hissed, “We are not bickering children, Vampire! The Sky Clan is defending itself from…”
I cut her off. “You say that as though I give a fuck about your politics. Sookie’s well-being is my concern, not yours or Brigant’s…”
“If Grandfather isn’t successful, the Stackhouses will be beyond your protection.”
What the fuck was that supposed to mean?
Before I could ask, the Faerie bitch tossed a heavy purple envelope to me as though it was a Frisbee. “Give that to Linda. Tell her ‘Cousin Claudette said hi’.”
And then… because the Fae were nothing if not predictably infuriating, that cunt popped out of sight…
Mitchell Stackhouse could have been anyone… The only reason I had for asking Brigant about Mitchell Stackhouse was the ‘fairy tales’ Linda remembered seemed to be favoring the Sky Clan. Mitchell Stackhouse could have been a Faerie Niall Brigant would have needed to fish his memory for information on.
Niall Brigant was Claudette’s grandfather… Linda was Claudette’s cousin…
Niall fucking Brigant was Linda’s grandfather… Mitchell was his son…
The Faerie cunt left me with the knowledge Sookie, My Sookie, was part of the Sky Fae’s royal fucking pedigree.
If I were ever going to scream from sheer frustration, that would have been the time… as it was, the roof’s ledge was going to need repairs.
Because I was in the mood for more fuckery, Pam was in my office when I went back for my keys.
I was going to use Cousin Claudette’s visit as my excuse to go to Bon Temps… But it was so late I would have needed to choose who to wake up to deliver the envelope to.
Pam’s visit was well timed. I needed the distraction of tormenting her. She was too entertained… She’d sang ‘Erik and Sookie sitting in a tree’ to my voicemail last night… The reporter and Pam were both going to suffer together.
Pam’s feet were on the corner of my desk and my keyboard was in her lap. When she opened her mouth, I beat her to the punch. “Good. I was going to call you. Do you have any jewelry store pets who will open late?”
Her eyes bulged. “Jewelry? Shopping for my birthday so early?”
“What are you shopping for?” Engagement rings.
“None of your business.”
“Then I can’t help.”
She huffed, “They all have different specialties, Erik.”
“That actually sounds like a fine excuse to pry… Platinum and diamonds, if you must know.”
She gaped and even managed to ask, “Necklaces?” without closing her mouth.
“You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding!”
“Why would I be kidding? I told you, I enjoy Sookie’s company… The jeweler?”
“Jacobsen and Sons on Seventh Ave. You’re fucking with my head. You’re taking the articles out on me.” Articles? Plural? Fuck… I was almost annoyed Sookie hadn’t called to leave a message about it.
“Could you call them now? I have other things to do.”
She snarked, “Like book a venue?”
“I’m not sure I need to. I like the Chancellor Hotel in Sligo.”
“Is your offer to help arrange the wedding still good? Sookie has an aunt and a grandmother who would gladly plan…”
“You’re not getting married!”
“Could you please settle down? They’re going to need help with scale… And of course, you can arrange for the flowers and catering through your companies.”
“Stop. This isn’t funny. You’re actually scaring me.” Yes, I was, and it was hilarious.
“Does America have finishing schools anymore? Sookie’s not lacking in charm or articulation, but she’s young and rough around the edges. She’ll need tutoring on formal etiquette. I can’t exactly leave her at home when I’m invited to public functions.”
“CALL THE JUNIOR LEAGUE!”
My eyes lit up and I nodded. “Inspired. Thank you… I’m leaving now. Call your pet. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” I should have been ashamed of myself.
I left her panic-stricken in my office and walked out of the back door of Glamour.
It hadn’t taken but a moment for her to give chase. She caught my car door as I tried to close it and squatted to give me a level stare. “What. The. Fuck. Are. You. Thinking? This isn’t like you.”
I smiled at her. “It’s perfect. You know how I despise the ‘eligible bachelor’ nonsense. I won’t have to bother with a prenup either. She’ll think she married a winning lottery ticket and when I’m bored with her, I’ll glamour her to fuck someone else and I lose nothing in the divorce unless I’m feeling charitable enough to give her an allowance. And having a beautiful Human wife when Vampires reveal themselves won’t hurt. It’s brilliant.”
“It’s a foolish way to get a reporter to stop following you around.” It would be, if that was all I was doing.
“It would be if I didn’t know what I was doing… Fuck. I’m so preoccupied, I didn’t ask. Did you need to talk to me?”
“No. My AOL runs so slow it’s like watching old people fuck now that I loaded SimsCity 2000. I was just checking my bids on Ebay… Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go home long enough to pack a bag, then go to the jeweler and I’m going to stay in the Chancellor for the day…”
She raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Because I want to be in Bon Temps early tomorrow night. I have plans.”
“Plans to propose.”
I nodded. “Among other things. I’m looking into a couple of properties…”
“Businesses? All the way out in the sticks?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Your new house is almost done. Why are you looking for something else?”
“For me and Sookie, of course. She was raised there. She prefers the quiet and I can definitely see the appeal…”
“When am I going to meet my Maker’s future wife?”
“One night soon.”
She stood in the parking lot with her arms folded and watched me drive away. I could tell she was feeling me out, trying to decide if I was having fun fucking with her or if I was having fun planning my ‘wedding’.
With a duffle bag full of clothes, another Codex, and four of the biggest fucking diamonds Jacobsen had in his store, I walked into the lobby of the Chancellor Hotel. The concierge was fucking giddy to see me and failed at hiding it.
“Mr. Nordmann! A pleasure to see you again. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“As a matter of fact… I’d like to keep something in the hotel’s safe for the day while I get some rest…” His eyes immediately went to the jeweler’s bag and lit up. “And if it isn’t too much trouble, it would be helpful if you could have a few things delivered. I’m going to be busy for the day…”
“Yes, yes… of course. Anything you need.” He turned to lead the way back to his station and as soon as I set the Jacobsen bag down, his eyes locked onto it.
“Roses. Red. As many as the florist can fit into the biggest vase they have…”
“If you don’t mind my saying, Sir, that sounds like an apology bouquet. Is that what you want?”
“It is… and do you think it would be possible to find a large assortment of bridal magazines?”
He nodded in somewhat of a daze. “That would be very easy, sir… Is this what you’re storing in the safe?”
I reached into the bag and removed one of the boxes. “This is.” His eyes bulged like Pam’s had and once I was upstairs, she’d glamour him to see it… Because I was supposed to not notice she followed me?
“May I? I don’t want to intrude, but you and your fiancé are the closest Shreveport has to celebrities.” He had no idea how easily he was playing into my plans.
I opened the ring box and set it on the counter. “Do you have a copy of the recent article?”
He nodded, still hypnotized by the 8 carat round cut diamond in an heirloom setting. I probably could have left and he wouldn’t have noticed. He snapped his fingers and held his hand out to the clerk… There just so happened to be a copy of the Metro section behind the counter.
While the clerk struggled to look at Sookie’s ring, I scanned the article…
From what I could tell, the picture was taken from the parking lot of the mini-mart next to Belanger’s… probably just out of Sookie’s range if she wasn’t shielding herself altogether because she was at work. The photo was of Sookie cheerfully greeting me with a kiss and the article consisted of more conjecture based on Sookie’s refusal to answer the reporter’s questions. I wasn’t exactly pleased the article printed Sookie’s full name or that she was actually being stalked… but apparently I was a ‘closet romantic’ for picking her up from work… The only quote Sookie actually gave was when she was asked why she was working when she was engaged to a ‘wealthy man’… Sookie told the woman, “I must’ve missed how to be a gold-digger while I was busy earning my keep.” I could almost hear the distain dripping from every word…
As quiet as her mood was, I was almost certain calling would wake her… since it was already 2 AM, I resolved to tending to my plans to torment Pam and Rebecca Mills and plan my ‘special occasion’ loophole for Sookie’s birthday.
I went to my room and translated the Codex while I made a myriad of phone calls, most of them Sookie related, until dawn… and I still had to leave a list for Bobby.
When I rose on Sunday night, I had six messages waiting… Four were from business associates, one was from a project manager to let me know things were going smoothly and the last was from Bobby. Given the nature of his errands, he was bold enough to actually congratulate me, and thanked me for trusting him with the tasks he’d been given. It was almost cute.
The arrangement of roses was so large it kept the concierge from seeing me before I cleared my throat to get his attention. Three dozen roses, nine bridal magazines, the five cakes Bobby had been tasked with ordering… all of which Mr. Arkady happily helped shuttle to my car, along with a copy of today’s paper and the ring from the safe. The paper’s most recent Erik and Sookie reports included a ‘large purchase at Jacobsen’s, a longtime favorite of Erik’s sister’, and ‘while Mr. Nordmann hasn’t commented on the pending nuptials, he hasn’t denied them either’.
As I drove to Bon Temps, I took a moment to second guess my plans… It might have been stupid since I’d told Sookie how to kill me the other night.
Sookie and Tina met me next to my car… even though Tina was smiling, Sookie was more serious.
“Is something wrong?”
“Not really… I just wanted… wait…” She stretched up to kiss me. “At the risk of sounding clingy, I missed you. How’ve you been?”
“I’ve missed you too, but I filled my time with some sport. I’ll get to that in a minute though. What’s going on?”
“Just a head’s up… it’s a family meeting so Jason’s here. And since the subject is Hadley, Aunt Linda brought Jack…”
“Your grandmother finally met him… Is she happy about that?”
“As happy as she can be. She hasn’t been right since the other night. She’s really upset that Grampa lied to her… and… now Aunt Linda is freaking out about being part Faerie and wondering if she should tell Jack too.”
“I’m not sure why. It isn’t as though she can accidently pop to another state while they’re in the middle of fucking.”
She snickered, “Right… still she doesn’t want to lie to him, but who’d believe it? He’ll think she’s more nuts than I thought you were at first… I mean, I didn’t have an excuse since I’m obviously ‘extra’… He’s just a Human.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Is he… Is he a Faerie?”
“No… nonono… Faeries are beautiful and tempting. He’s a large, ugly beast. You’ll get no spoilers from me. It’s his secret to tell, but I doubt he’ll keep it for long.”
“He’s harmless though, right?”
“No. Not at all.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
I smiled at her. “Because none of us are harmless, my little Faerie. He’s capable of tearing a man to shreds, but he’s been vouched for…” By his Packmaster and one of the many cops on my payroll. “He never laid a hand on his wife and his children have never been in any trouble. There isn’t a single reason to believe he’d hurt Linda.”
She narrowed her eyes, still curious, but reluctant to push. I assumed our recent ‘sharing’ session was fresh enough to make her realize not all secrets are problems. “Okay… so Jason and Jack are here. We didn’t say anything to Jason about Faeries or Vampires, so he’s clueless. We weren’t sure if he’d go running off at the mouth and since you couldn’t glamour me, we thought it would be better if he didn’t know anything.”
I nodded. “That’s probably best until we know more…” I reached into my car and pulled out her roses. “These are for you.”
She tried to keep a straight face, but the corners of her mouth betrayed her. “They’re beautiful, but they had to break the treaty.”
“You foolish girl… You didn’t negotiate apologies.”
She snorted, “I’m gonna kick your ass one of these nights… What are you apologizing for then?”
“For making you an accessory in a small war…”
She put her nose to one of the roses and inhaled before cooing, “I was more than willing to help your prank against Pam.”
“This is a new prank… and it’s bigger. I’m hoping you won’t kick as hard if you’re holding those. Have you eaten dessert yet?”
She gave me a confused look and shook her head. “That’s a weird question, but no… Gran wasn’t even in the mood to cook Sunday Supper. Jason and Jack manned the grill while Aunt Linda and I made sides… I told you, she isn’t acting right. Her heart is…” She paused to stretch up to kiss me again. “Thank you… for telling me what you are… after just a week, you trusted me… I know we had more going on and we could tell we needed to talk, but… just, thanks.”
“Your grandmother is Human… even though she’s exceptionally open-minded, it would have been foolish for him to expose himself. And we can’t be sure if he knew… I have news on the Fae front. I was ‘graced’ with a visit last night… Talk to Linda about it first, but if you’re comfortable with it, I’ll glamour Adele to forget the discovery. It will just have to be something you and Linda keep from her too.”
She sighed, “God… I hate the idea of that. As much as she’s hurting, to turn around and do the same thing… the only reason I’m even thinking about it is because I hate seeing her like this too.”
I nodded as I walked to the trunk of my car and opened it. “I completely understand. Talk to Linda and let me know what you decide.”
Sookie raised an eyebrow at the contents. “K… She might be able to make a call in either direction…. What’s in the boxes?”
“Cake… It’s part of the reason for the roses.”
“I was wondering why you asked about dessert… Why are you apologizing for cakes?”
I chuckled and began stacking the cakes carefully. “You’ll see.”
As I walked towards the house, she followed asking, “Erik? How bad? Erik?”
I bit my lip, putting the cake boxes on the table, and going back to my trunk for the handful of loose items and the bag that was going to cause plenty of debate…
While I was outside, Linda whispered, “What’s all this about?”
Sookie grumbled, “The flowers are an apology, but he’s teasing me about what he’s sorry for. Something about a prank.”
I chuckled as I walked back into the house, “I can hear you.”
Sookie stuck her tongue out and sassed, “I know.”
I took the phone from the wall next to the refrigerator and dialed my cell, cued my voicemail, and held the phone to Sookie’s ear so she could hear the message Pam left the night before. “Hey Casanova. What’s wrong? Trouble in paradise? Sookie and Erik sittin’ in a tree, F U C K I N G… First comes lust, then comes marriage… Well, you know the rest… So are you two fighting over wedding plans? That’s it, isn’t it? You need to have something more formal that you can invite your business associates to and she wants to get married in her back yard with a Tastykake topiary… You want tuxes and she wants her bridesmaids to wear safety orange? One suggestion, don’t be fooled. There are no banjos in a string quartet no matter what her cousin’s Skynyrd cover band claims when he tries to be hired for the reception.”
Sookie only gasped, her look became angrier and angrier as the call went on… Jack dialed his amusement back to a hissing laugh and blamed the look on Sookie’s face.
When I replayed the message for Linda, Jason bent over to hear as well… and their reactions were identical to Sookie’s… except Linda threatened to ‘take a switch’ to Pam.
“She might like it.”
“Not when I hit that sweet spot on the back of her legs… So she’s having fun with the article, huh?”
I nodded and pulled out the Metro sections from yesterday’s and today’s paper. “The reporter is having her own fun. It seems like she was waiting for Sookie to leave work last night.”
“We saw them… So what’s up?”
“I may or may not be leading Pam to believe I’m planning to marry Sookie.”
Linda snickered, “And letting that nosey reporter twit do most of the work for you?”
I nodded. “I had Bobby fetch ‘cake samples’ today…”
Sookie snorted out a laugh. “So that’ll be in the paper tomorrow.”
Linda offered, “Tell her we’re going dress shopping and she’s invited… we’ll be at Dress Barn at noon tomorrow.” I loved every bit of how that woman thought. Anything named Dress Barn would give Pam nightmares and if they were meeting at noon, there was nothing she could do to stop it… Linda was almost evil and it would have been a hint to what she was if I wasn’t distracted by the fun I was having with her help.
I shook my head, surprised Sookie wasn’t already inching towards the silverware, and pulled a note out of my pile of information. “Make it Tuesday. You have an appointment tomorrow at 9AM. The directions are there.”
“She’ll see me?”
I’d only given half a nod before she leapt from her seat to hug my neck. “Thank you! You have no idea how tired I am of being sick.”
“I’m sure… She has the bedside manner of a pit viper, but when I talked to her, she was furious about your current treatment. Just remember to direct any of her sardonic comments to your insurance company.”
Linda chuckled as she sat down. “Dr. Ludwig can say whatever she wants to me. I’ll kiss the woman’s ass regardless.” Jack shot a look in my direction when Linda dropped the doctor’s name.
Sookie cleared her throat, growling quietly, and pulled plates and forks out to set them on the table and proceeded to open the cake boxes. “I’m waiting for the rest, Nordmann.”
I took advantage of the fact that she’d turned around to the coffee pot and took a ring box from the Jacobsen’s bag…
When she turned around, I was on one knee. “Sookie, will you pretend to be engaged to me?”
She slapped the ring box out of my hand and ordered, “Get up!” while her family laughed.
I reached into the bag to remove another ring box. “No one will buy it if you aren’t wearing a ring.”
I let her slap the second one out of my hand… That one hit Jason’s chest. “You’re an ass!”
I pulled a third ring out of the bag. “We’ve established I’m an ass… who doesn’t take no for an answer.”
“I think we can sell it without me wearing an engagement ring.”
I shook my head. “It was mentioned in the first article that you weren’t wearing one.”
She leaned like she was studying the ring… it was a ruse to get close enough to slap the back of my hand, sending the ring box over my head. Jack caught it.
I reached into the bag again. “OH. MY. GOD! How many rocks did you buy!?”
“Enough to do this all night… And I think the jeweler would prefer they be called ‘stones’.”
“You should have known better than to go to a jeweler, Erik! I’ll ruin a real ring… damn diamond will fall into preserves or candle wax…”
“Would it make you feel better if I told you the settings are real, but the stones are zircon?”
“Are they?” Fuck. I should have known she’d be smart enough to ask.
“No.” Linda chuckled that I should have lied and tapped my shoulder so she could pass the airborne rings back to me.
I opened all of the boxes and held them up. “All of them are 8 carats set in platinum. Different cuts and settings. Whichever one you chose to wear will be insured… I understand your disclaimer about something happening to it. If Pam couldn’t see a fake from a mile away, I might have considered one… As it was, she followed me to the jeweler and then dragged information from him.”
Sookie was still scowling, amused and bothered simultaneously, when Adele finally joined everyone in the kitchen.
She took a look at the rings and snorted. “Don’t be stupid, girl. A man tells you the truth and offers you a ring, you’d be a fool to refuse.”
Sookie rolled her eyes up and scoffed, “Gawd! Fine… Are any of them in a bezel at least?”
I was very tempted to point out that Pam would have mauled me before she left any of them in a box as long as Sookie had… but I let myself get too preoccupied by sliding one of the rings onto her finger. Imagining it tangled into my hair… Fuck.
She studied the ring for a moment and complained, “It’s on your conscience when someone cuts my hand off to get this thing…”
“Throw the ring and run. The ring can be replaced.”
“What else is in that damn bag?”
“Do you really want to know?”
She shook her head in the negative, but whimpered, “Yeah.”
“A few pieces I’m going to show Pam when I have her find a gown for you to wear when I take you to the zoo fundraiser next month.”
“You hate the press… and you’re going to take me down with you, huh?”
“No. I hate the press, but your help fucking with them will make it bearable if not entertaining.”
She shook her head and went to plop down in a chair at the table.
I was being given the silent treatment… at least for the time being.
Once everyone piled small plates with cake samples, I asked, “So the topic for the evening… Has anyone had any ideas pertaining to Hadley?”
Linda shook her head. “No… Well, Jason offered to beat the crap out of her. And Momma suggested I call her father to see if he decided to care yet. How about you?”
I nodded. “I thought of a few tactics. Had some help with another… I’m going to remind you, you said ‘anything’. Stop me at any point.”
She nodded. “I said anything. Go for broke, sweetie. I’m all ears.”
“I thought… hypnosis might be an option worth trying. If it were to work, it would need to be done frequently to keep her from slipping. The drawback is there could be extenuating circumstances that could keep her from being hypnotized.” She nodded, realizing I was choosing my words carefully because of Jason and assuming Jack was included… the way he caught on to her lack of confusion was amusing. His eyes shifted back and forth between me and his girlfriend fast enough he should have made himself dizzy.
She nodded. “Okay. Gotcha. What else are we weighing?”
“It might be possible to keep her bound to your property…”
Jason scoffed, “Like a wireless fence? Like for livestock?” Linda’s head tilted to the side. She was catching on before I winked at her.
I nodded. “Something like that… it could keep Hadley at home, but everyone else could come and go at will. The drawbacks to that would be she could invite anyone over and she could have an epic tantrum.”
Linda huffed, “She already had one of those recently… So, A and B… is there a C?”
“And a D… C is in light of your fears she’ll get a ride home from Mr. Wrong and become a statistic… I can arrange for exactly that to happen. I can have her followed on her next outing… drugged, taken prisoner, and subjected to thinking she’s next in line for torture, rape and murder… The negative aspects involved with C is she could be too scared or when she’s released she could disregard the experience entirely.”
“How could you arrange that?” The proof that Linda was at the end of her rope, utterly desperate to help her child, was the seriousness in every facet of her posture.
“Simply adding a drug into her drink, waiting for her to pass out, transporting her to a dirty basement and locking her up with an amazing actress who is completely capable of sounding as though she’s living a nightmare.”
She shook her head mildly and offered, “That sounds like the risks outweigh the possible benefits… her ‘kidnappers’ could be hurt if she tried to put up a fight. She could opt to press charges… and they’d actually have to hurt hurt her for her to take that cue. What is D?”
“D is a variation on the theme of C… You’re all worried she could be hurt, or become sick, or pregnant… I can arrange to have her drugged and taken from a bar, have her paralyzed, impregnated, and test positive for HIV…”
Jason blurted, “Fuck that! She might as well have some fun while she’s working toward that on her own!” Brilliant plan.
Linda barked, “LET. HIM. FINISH!”
“Aunt Lin! You gotta be kiddin’!”
“That was for shock value… let him finish… Go ahead, Erik. Lemme hear it.”
“Medicine and lies… She’s drugged, taken to a hospital, put in a coma while the drugs she’s already using are flushed from her system, given a procedure called an ‘epidural’… are you familiar?”
A grin slowly started to form at the corners of her lips. “I am… they use them for childbirth. I call it cheating because I’m bitter I didn’t get one. You can’t feel anything from the ribs down though. Like you’re paralyzed.”
“That’s how it was explained to me. When she wakes up from her medically induced coma, unable to feel her legs, she’s told she was found a couple of months ago near Alexandria… she and ‘the baby’ are in relatively good health in spite of her severed spinal column and being HIV positive…”
Linda held her finger up. “Why are we waiting ‘a couple months’? And why was she so far away?”
I winked as I told her, “I’m getting there… She needs to believe she was in a coma for so long so there’s a reason why she’s ‘healed’ from the secondary injuries one would receive from a car accident serious enough to break one’s spine… The primary reason she would need to be so far away would be so there will be plenty of time for ‘the police’ to arrive before her supportive family… they’ll read her rights to her, handcuff her to the bed railing, and suggest she seek legal counsel to defend her against the vehicular manslaughter charges and if you want to push the envelope, a man can confront her for killing his wife and children while she was too stoned to know what she was doing.”
Linda breathed, “Smoke and mirrors.”
I nodded. “And when she’s terrified enough, she’ll be given something to knock her out again. I suggest we make a fake headstone, and leave her on her own mock grave… and let her wander home…”
“And remove the headstone later so she thinks it was all like she was seeing the Ghost of Promiscuous, Club Hopping Future.”
I nodded and let her process the information.
After a few minutes, she asked, “Momma, do you have any thoughts one way or the other?”
Adele washed a bite of cake down with a sip of coffee and nodded. “You know how I feel about lying, but being a fox hasn’t worked, baby. It’s time to be a lion.” It didn’t escape me she was referencing a Bonaparte quote…
“I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other.”
Linda shrugged and looked to Jason. “You know we need to do something drastic, Jas… Are you going to be on board with this?”
He leaned back and ran his fingers through his hair. “Well… if she ain’t actually gonna be hurt… yeah. I just… you know… the way Erik put it… sounded nicer to just feed her to gators… But…” It probably would have been in poor taste to mention alligators were finicky eaters.
“Well… as manipulative as she is… I don’t think anyone should go see her… Not like leave her there to rot, but…”
Linda raised an eyebrow and finished, “Since seeing her like that, believing she ruined her life… you think one of us would break. We should remove the variable.”
He shrugged. “Yeah… and it kinda adds to it. You know, that she’d be on her own. Scared, alone, FUBAR.” Uh oh, Jason’s brain cells weren’t just there for decoration. What a pleasant surprise.
Linda nodded and looked towards me. “We’re in. It’s probably the most beautiful lie I’ve ever heard.”
“Plan D was Dr. Ludwig’s idea. I explained your hopes and concerns and she tailored the plan to Hadley from similar tactics she recently used on her own nephew. I’ll choose Hadley’s ‘blind date’ this week… He’ll be lurking in the area, waiting for an opportunity. I’ll make sure he’s reading, or at least carrying, Shakespeare so you know he’s mine.”
Linda’s eyebrows went up. “Good signal… Not that it changes my mind about the plan, but how well did the doctor’s other attempt work?”
“She said she was 90% successful. He’s still a bit of a letch, but he’s working to support himself now, and by extension he’s become more responsible. Apparently, Elliot was sponging from his parents and having the maid send his dates home the next morning.”