Push The Envelope
Once talk of Hadley’s ‘come to Jesus’ segued into more pleasant conversation, Jack invited me to join him outside for a cigar.
Sookie and Linda were surprised I accepted… They were obviously unaware of the litany of trends I’d had to endure to ‘fit in’ over the years. Invitations to join business associates for evening cigars at gentlemen’s clubs were easier to accept than early tee times or cricket matches.
As we walked out to the porch, Linda called after us to say they’d be along once the cakes were put away… and even though we were warned we wouldn’t have much time, Jack still stared once our cigars were lit.
The poor bastard didn’t know where to start, so I did it for him.
“The women know I’m a Vampire.”
He rattled his head as though he was trying to shake something loose. “You said you guys don’t share that.”
“We don’t. No one had to tell me you’re a Were. No one had to tell you I’m a Vampire. Sookie could tell I’m not Human…”
“What about me?”
“You should say something before you’re caught hiding it.”
“How did they take it? That you’re a Vampire?”
“Linda was preoccupied by the fact that I was living in London when Shakespeare was still alive.”
He chuckled. “She would… So… they didn’t freak out?”
I shook my head. “Sookie argued, but she settled quickly enough.”
“So… I guess you know what they are, huh?”
I nodded. “I do… but, like I told Sookie when she asked about you, it’s not my secret to tell.”
“And you hooking Lin up with Doc Ludwig isn’t ‘just because’… She needs to be seen by a Supe for Supe reasons.”
“You really aren’t going to tell me?”
I chuckled, “No. I’m really not… I’m still interested in our original plan. Shift. It’ll be fun.”
He laughed, “You’re a funny asshole… Hey, why are you letting another Vampire screw with you like that Pam broad?”
“Pam’s my child. We’ve been taunting and playing pranks on one another since she was still adapting.”
“Ahhh. Nothing else to do before cable, huh?”
He narrowed his eyes and urged, “About what they are.”
“Females, if I was forced to guess.”
His face puckered when he shook his head. “Would you tell me if I guess right?”
“That hardly seems fair. I revisited the idea several times and excluded it for one reason or another.”
He took a deep breath and nodded, breathing, “Fae.” Not bad.
“Fact of the matter is, they don’t know everything. They asked me to look into their situation for them. I have news, but I can’t exactly discuss it in front of you.”
He huffed, “I… I could call to check on my kids, claim my daughter jammed the garbage disposal or something and bail out to…” My, my… what a good sport.
I shook my head to cut him off. “I wasn’t suggesting anything so drastic. Once Jason leaves, just excuse yourself to the restroom for a few minutes.”
He was just as surprised by my offer as I was by his cooperation…
Sookie interrupted my chat with the Were by jogging to meet us in the driveway with Tina at her heels. Both of them were smiling.
“So what are you guys talking about?” Jack tensed and it was too tempting to ask Sookie what he was thinking. I was probably more curious about Sookie’s nature than she was about mine.
I offered, “I was just asking him to make himself scarce for a few minutes after Jason leaves so I can discuss some private matters with my co-conspirators.”
She smirked and countered, “That’s a great way to put it…” She relieved me of my cigar long enough to take a few experimental puffs. She pulled a face and shook her head as she handed it back to me. “Echhh. I don’t mind the way it smells, but it tastes like plague… Okay Jack. I promise not to tell, but it’s driving me nuts. What are you?”
The color drained from his face and he stammered, “What… Why do you… How?”
She shrugged. “Because you’re different. I’ve been studying you all night… You know what Erik is. You know who Dr. Ludwig is…” She slapped her hand over her mouth and gasped, “Nooooooo.”
When she staggered back a step, I caught her. Jack was on his own, so when he realized Sookie knew what he was, he nearly fell backwards.
I chuckled at her. “I’m impressed with your poker face, Sookie. We should play.”
She laughed at herself and slapped my shoulder. “I can’t help it… That’s…” She lifted her mouth to my ear to whisper, “Mr. Merlotte was too, wasn’t he?” Remarkable.
I nodded. “What linked them for you?”
She knit her eyebrows together and offered, “Jason… but I should explain that later, I guess.”
“Perhaps you can explain while we run an errand in a bit.”
She steadied herself as she asked, “Where are ‘we’ going?”
I was cut off when Jack’s brain began functioning again. He took two panicked steps towards us and grumbled quietly, “How do you know?”
She tilted her head to the side. “It doesn’t matter… Your secret’s safe with me. You should tell Aunt Linda though. She won’t freak out. She already thinks something’s up with you anyway.”
“She said something?”
Sookie raised an eyebrow at him. “You’ve given her little hints.”
“Like…” He seemed to be waiting for Sookie to fill in the blanks, but she didn’t, he pressed, “Like what?”
Sookie giggled, “Sorry buddy. My lips are sealed.”
He nodded and huffed as he stepped back to lean against his truck. “Because explaining would hint at what you are, and it’s not fair that I find out before she does and… yeah. Great.”
She poked his shoulder to taunt him. “Does it make you feel better to know Erik will probably laugh his ass off about it when I tell him what tipped her off?”
He growled jokingly, “Go ahead and whisper it to him.”
She snorted, “As soon as he’s done holding his breath,” and leaned back against me. I wanted to ask if she heard him thinking he’d be able to hear her or if she assumed his hearing was heightened to some extent… either way, I couldn’t help but be proud of her wit. She hadn’t missed a beat.
Jason walked outside with a cake box in his hand and Linda just behind him.
While Sookie went to keep Tina from running into the cemetery, Jason shook Jack’s hand and they exchanged nice-to-meet-yous…
Then he stepped to the side and hugged me… again.
“Thanks for helpin’ out with Hadley…”
“You’re welcome, but if you hug me again, I’ll consider it our third date.” Sookie giggled as she returned with Tina in her arms.
He chuckled as he walked towards his truck. “Nice try… you’re straight as rebar… Thanks for breakfast though.” He turned to wave his box of cake and blow a fucking kiss at me before sliding into his truck.
As he drove away he shouted for me to keep him in mind when I auditioned caterers.
I leaned over to whisper to Linda, “Do you think he’ll stop hugging me if I tell him I’m a Vampire?” I whispered because we were keeping up appearances because Jack ‘didn’t know’… but I thought it might help solve his dilemma if he had the chance to see her acceptance for himself.
She chuckled and patted my stomach. “It’s not like it stopped me.”
I chuckled, “Fair enough… Is Adele not joining us?”
Linda sighed and leaned against Jack’s truck. “She’s not in a visiting mood.”
“Sookie mentioned she hasn’t been herself since Friday.”
She shook her head solemnly since there wasn’t much she could say with Jack in company.
He cleared his throat and took a deep breath… I almost laughed when he held it for a moment before blurting, “I’m a Werewolf. I know this is my cue to take a hike to the bathroom, but could you people stop pussyfooting around everything now?”
Linda’s jaw dropped while I bit the inside of my mouth to keep a straight face… it was probably one of the clumsiest confessions I’d ever witnessed.
Linda shook her head and repeated, “A Werewolf?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I can shift into a Wolf… I was trying to figure out if you had an idea and if I was going to tell you, because it’s not something we share with Humans, but I’ve been suspecting you aren’t really a Human, and I thought it could be in my head… then Nordmann brought Hadley back to the house and I already knew him because of who he is… and he was getting the same feeling you guys aren’t Human, but he was in the same situation as me… he just told me you found out about him… But… yeah… I’m a Werewolf.”
She stared at him briefly before she threw her arms around his neck and gasped, “Oh, thank God!”
He gave me a confused look so I shrugged. “I’m impressed you said all of that in one breath.” Sookie giggled and told me to behave.
Linda almost disappeared when he wrapped his arms around her. “Thank God? You’re happy I’m a Werewolf?”
She laughed, “I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you I’m a damn Faerie… Can you believe that? Erik put it together for us Friday night.”
“How’d he… Thanks for the heads up, Vampire.”
“Blame your daughter. I left a message for you to call me.”
“Damn it… she just broke up with her boyfriend… she’s spent the last couple of weeks on the phone with her friends. Sorry… So how’d you put it together?”
Linda answered when I nodded to give the floor to her. “I have an allergy to citrus… and his wheels were already spinning when I remembered my Daddy used to tell me ‘fairy tales’ about specific Faeries… I thought he just made them up…”
While Linda and Jack discussed the details of their respective secrets, and Jack groaned at hearing telepathy was Sookie’s specialty, I left in search of Adele…
I wandered through the house slowly, taking the ‘mysterious’ purple envelope from the kitchen table along the way, and found Adele in her room with the recently translated Codex on her lap.
She peered at me over the rim of her reading glasses. “This is just… You know, I think it might be the sweetest thing in the world that you translated these, but still wrote them backwards. It’s as authentic as I can get.”
I leaned on the doorjamb. “I’m happy you’re enjoying them. We belong to a small club, you and I.”
She offered half a smile. “Do we? I might enjoy history and literature, but you experienced them.”
“No… I learn from them. Humanity, as a whole since we’re all pretending, has predictable patterns of megalomania.”
She nodded. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce, right?” I couldn’t help but smile at the Marxist quote.
“Vampires’ life expectancy is based on their understanding of that caveat… You might be interested to know one of Karl Marx’s governesses was a Vampire.”
Her eyes lit up, but not as much as I’d seen them before Friday. “Really?”
“One of the few Vampires I actually enjoy as company. She’s even-tempered and pragmatic, and still has a lot of warmth most of us lose with age.”
“You don’t seem the least bit dispassionate to me.”
I chuckled, “You’ve yet to see me at my ‘best’… Do you think you can pry yourself away from Leonardo long enough to join everyone outside?”
She grimaced and shook her head. “I’m sorry… I’m just not fit for company right now.”
“Sure you are. You aren’t going to claim you’re too old to be up so late, are you? Join the teens, Vampires and Werewolves on the porch for a Faerie tale.”
She gave me a very level stare. “I’m not at all amused, Erik. My husband lied to me.”
“We all tell lies, Adele, but I seriously doubt he ever denied being a Faerie… You can sit in your room and pout about a lie of omission or you can join your daughter and granddaughter outside to hear the news I have. It’s information you’ll hear eventually regardless, so you might as well be part of a group… it will be easier to hide your selfishness.”
As soon as I turned to walk down the hall, she grunted and huffed, stiffly lumbering to catch up to me. “I’m not being selfish. You can’t blame me for being upset that I was lied to for 35 years.”
I turned to face her and she lifted her chin with a scowl. I almost let myself smile at her mettle. “Oh really? Why does it bother you he hid something from you?”
“Because I loved him… I told him everything.”
“Have you stopped loving him?”
“Of course not!”
“I assume you would have still loved him if he told you before you were married.”
“So take the principle attached to your sour mood and compartmentalize it for a moment. What difference does it make? That one detail that didn’t have any bearing on the life you had with him… rationally, what difference does it make?”
“Sookie didn’t tell you about reading minds, but you admitted to racking your brain.”
“I could tell she’s Supernatural and she was dropping hints she knew something about me. You’ve already claimed Mitchell didn’t give himself away… Surprisingly, my news didn’t change anything. Now that I’ve destroyed your riposte, would you care to answer my question?
She growled, “Without principle, I don’t guess it does matter… but it still hurts.”
“Now… did Mitchell die before or after Linda showed a reaction to citrus fruits?”
“Did he die before or after Sookie’s ability manifested?”
“After, but she was still little.”
I nodded. “So… while you’re pouting about something that didn’t matter in regards to your marriage, your daughter and granddaughter were both seriously affected by his secret…” She slapped her hands over her mouth and her eyes began to well. “They’re the ones who have actually suffered for Mitchell’s secret… they aren’t pouting, Adele. They’re grateful for answers and curious for more. Now come along. Everyone is waiting.”
She didn’t budge except to whimper, “I have been… I’ve been so selfish.”
“Everyone does that from time to time too, Adele. Sookie and Linda don’t begrudge you for it. I’m the one deciding your grace period is over.”
When I put my hand on her shoulder and stepped to the side so she could start walking, she slipped her arm behind my back to walk in tandem. She sniffled, “Thank you… God only knows how long I would’ve wallowed…” She stopped suddenly, and looked up at me. “Did you say teens, Vampires and Werewolves?”
I nodded. “I did. Jack is a Werewolf. He was suffering the same impasse I was, the same one Mitchell would have struggled with. We compared notes Friday night. He just blurted the information as though a faucet burst. It was hilarious.”
“Werewolves aren’t dangerous, are they?” I couldn’t help but wonder if the Stackhouses thought Vampires were complete pussies… it was possible given Anne Rice’s books.
It was my turn to stop in my tracks. “Sookie asked the same thing. Why is it none of you seemed fazed by a Vampire?”
“I’m just going on lore because we haven’t had a sit-down about facts yet, but if Vampires are immortal and really hard to kill, then it would stand to reason y’all wouldn’t have been able to stay on the fiction shelves for so long if y’all killed everyone you met… I don’t know anything about Werewolves except they run around biting people and get taken down with a silver bullet. Gimme a run-down.”
“Werewolves are a specific type of Shifter. They’re much stronger than Humans with heightened senses. They shift into animal form under a full moon. What you’ve read about is bitten Weres who don’t live long before they’re killed because the state drives them mad. Being a born Were is genetic…”
She gasped sympathetically, “Babies?”
I shook my head. “Because being a teenager isn’t horrifying enough, that’s when Weres begin shifting as well.”
“So… I don’t have to worry?”
“Not at all. As a class of Supernatural being, they don’t cause nearly as much trouble as the rest of us. As an individual, Jackson Herveaux pays all of his bills on time, and plays well with others, unless you count when he threw a punch at one of his late wife’s doctors. I don’t.”
Just before we reached the porch, Jack called, “You had me investigated?”
I nodded and sat on the railing, stretching my legs out rather than sitting next to Jack and Linda on the steps. “I did. Shreveport PD, your bank and your Packmaster…” If he was hoping I’d be apologetic, he was barking up the wrong tree. “Are you going to pretend you didn’t ask Nestor about me?”
He growled, “I didn’t do a full background check. I just asked what your reputation is like.”
“And when he told you all Vampires are bloodsucking assholes, you called Hank and Lawrence because you know they’re bouncers at Glamour. Hank told you the mean old Vampire bent his dick for no reason.”
“You had my phone bugged?” His poker face fit in with the rest of the Stackhouses.
I chuckled, “No. I’m just good enough at the game to predict other players’ moves… So… Do the Stackhouses have any shyness regarding the information I may or may not have gotten?”
Sookie, Adele and Linda shared a round of looks before they shook their heads. Linda asked, “No… We’re good, but why do you put it like that? ‘May or may not’.”
“Because Faeries are a pain in the ass…” I let Sookie’s dirty look develop like a photograph before continuing, “Present company excluded, of course. For instance, I contacted Niall Brigant through his businesses without leaving any details. Brigant sent an underling, armed with a stake, demanding to know why I wanted to speak to ‘the Prince’ and you have no idea how tempting it is to refer to the prick as ‘The Artist Formally Known As…’ I told her I’d met a family with Fae qualities, interested in learning more. She immediately asked how you are…”
Linda gasped, “She knew who we are?”
I nodded. “Specifically, she named you and referred to the three cousins as ‘the children’… I explained your curiosity and she gave this to me. ‘Give that to Linda. Tell her ‘cousin Claudette said hi’.”
Sookie’s ring caught my eye as she took the envelope from me and held it out to Linda… She was already shaking her head. “I… We don’t have a cousin named Claudette.”
“Apparently, you’re mistaken. She seemed quite sure.”
“Ohhhhhhhhh kay… So… We have a Faerie cousin named Claudette. Do I want to see what’s in the envelope?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t read it.”
She jokingly scoffed, “Fat lot of good you are then. You’re supposed to be sugarcoating for me.”
“You need to hold interviews to replace me then. I’ve never seen the point of sugarcoating.”
Sookie giggled and added, “Or ‘dialing it back’… and he kind of sucks at ‘beating around the bush’ too.” If Pam were there, the envelope might have been forgotten while they joked about skills I’d never honed… Pam could offer centuries worth of anecdotal evidence.
Adele chuckled as she made herself comfortable on the swing next to Sookie. “That’s not a bad thing… So… I’m trying to figure out how in Hades Erik calling the Prince prompted a note being sent to Linda… Did you skip the part of the story when she borrowed stationary to write it?”
“How very observant, Adele… No. Claudette already had it with her.”
Adele nodded. “Well, let’s get on with it, girl. Erik was threatened with a stake to get that.”
Linda took a deep breath as she popped the wax seal from the envelope… she removed a glossy sheet of purple stationary and scanned it… I thought the silver backing and silver leafed message were a ‘nice’ touch…
She shook her head and asked, “What did you say to her?”
“I told her you were interested in…”
“After I tried to explain your family was interested in more information, she pushed the issue as to specific questions. I gave a short list of examples.”
“The list included what?”
“Sookie’s curiosity about why she seems to be the only one with a gift, your obvious concerns for Hadley, Adele’s distress concerning being lied to, and I mentioned my suspicions regarding Corbett’s conveniently timed drowning… Is there something wrong?”
She cleared her throat and read the letter aloud…
“My dear ones,
As much as I want to know you all, it pains me to stay away. I only keep my distance for your safety. There are those who would hurt you as a gesture of contempt towards me and that is why you mustn’t send your Vampire pet to contact me again. I know you have questions, and as soon as it is safe for me to do so I’ll happily come to you with answers.
For now, know this…
- Sookie isn’t the only one of my grandchildren with gifts.
- Charge your Vampire with erasing Hadley’s humiliation.
- Mitchell Stackhouse didn’t lie to his wife about what he was.
- Corbett was murdered in an act of hostility against me.
Until we can safely meet,
That prick referred to me as a fucking pet.
Of course, the thinly veiled insults were nothing compared to the shock value of what little bit of information actually in the letter.
There wasn’t any pause. No reflective silence. No awed gaping…
Linda blurted, “Pain in the ass is right!” as she shoved the letter back towards Sookie. It was signed ‘NB’, but you said Claudette was the one there… Who the hell is NB?”
“I assume NB stands for Niall Brigant.”
She argued, “But he wasn’t there.” I couldn’t fault her for her mood. The Fae irritated me enough, I was forced to sympathize.
“It’s possible the letter was charmed… a failsafe to be sure it wouldn’t give information to the wrong person. It’s likely if I’d opened it, the paper would have been blank.”
Jack chuckled, “Or self-destructed in 3, 2, 1… Yeah, I’ve heard rumors.”
Sookie looked the letter over and passed it to Adele while Linda shook her head. “So that’s it? That’s all we get? A mysterious grandfather comes out of the woodwork and we get a magical post card? What the hell?”
I nodded. “I’m not terribly shocked…”
Linda laughed wryly, “No kidding. I’ve seen your ‘shocked face’.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t realize the letter would give such vague answers. If I’d had time to prepare, I would have prepared a list.”
Sookie snorted, “Yeah, right… You’re a jerk for not realizing we’d get a how-do that could fit on a Post-it. It’s not your fault… this is…”
I put my hand up to interrupt her. “First of all, the chances are good you’re being watched. You should be mindful of what you say…”
She snarled, “Oh, but it’s okay for him suggest you’re our pet and send a silver lined letter?”
“Yes. As far as Niall Brigant is concerned, all life forms are beneath him. Claudette listened to the call I made to Dr. Ludwig, but didn’t appear until later. The Fae don’t show their cards, so I wouldn’t know if some or all of them have various manners of magical spying abilities… It’s possible he knows of my connection to you via the newspaper articles, but in the interest of erring on the side of caution, you shouldn’t say anything you wouldn’t say to his face.”
Sookie huffed and rolled her eyes. “I guess I can’t use the ‘insolent teenager card’, huh?”
She whined, “Fine… what’s the second part?”
“The second part, infuriatingly curt as the message was… your father was murdered because of his relationship to Niall Brigant…”
Adele nodded and added, “I want more answers too, baby, but if that’s the case, then we should be happy for the little bit of confirmation we got.”
I continued, “He sent an underling instead of coming to me himself because it would have been much easier for him to be followed than me. If it’s possible for a Faerie to act altruistically, estranging himself from you is the best way to do it.”
Jack cleared his throat and offered, “I’ve heard a lot of rumors… Lin, if half of what I heard is right, your brother was lucky to drown. Faeries are brutal.”
I nodded to corroborate his understatement.
Linda growled and leaned back against her date. “How brutal?”
Rather than tell stories that could give them all nightmares, I made an effort to move the conversation along. “If Sookie isn’t the only one of you with a gift, was Niall referring to Hadley’s ability to find a party?”
Before Linda could shake her head, Sookie blurted, “Aunt Linda’s a psychic!”
Adele and Linda laughed at her, but Sookie was completely serious… Jack and I were with her on that. We repeated in unison, “A psychic?”
Sookie nodded as stood to begin pacing. “Yeah…” She scowled at Linda when she laughed for Sookie to ‘stop’. “Don’t you dare. You’ve been pulling that ‘women’s intuition’ bit for years… and that’s fine, but that letter said I’m not the only one. If I’m not the only one, the mind reader gets to explore your damn intuition!”
Jack offered, “I’m with Sookie. There’s an ass-load of stuff only Faeries know. She could be onto something.”
Linda argued, “She’s grasping at straws though.”
He snorted, “My ass… your ‘intuition’ is one of the reasons I’ve been going nuts trying to figure out what you are. I thought you could read minds for a while.”
Sookie giggled, “And that would be stupid… who’s ever heard of a mind reader?”
He smiled at her and nodded. “Tell me about it… So since telepathy isn’t the only family gift, then I’m interested in how someone knew Alcide and I had an argument before I left Shreveport tonight.”
Linda grimaced. “It was written all over your face when you got to the house.”
“Yeah… except you knew it was Alcide, not Janice or a problem with a job, and your line of questioning involved me and you instead of anything else we could have fought about.”
She scoffed, “You were going to meet your girlfriend’s family and they haven’t met me yet. It would stand to reason…”
He countered, “Yeah… it would stand to reason… except you also didn’t assume he was upset that I’m dating at all, or that he pushed a boundary by teasing me about our relationship… you honed right in to the topic of him wanting to meet you… And now that we’re talking about it, I’ve been keeping track and you always ask me how poker night goes, except for the three times ‘poker night’ was during a full moon.”
Since Linda seemed to be pouting, I clarified, “One of the things you thought were in your head, yes? You thought she knew you were shifting…”
He nodded. “Yeah… Oh… I’ll go yah one better… When that first article about you two got published, I called to give her a heads up… She was worried Sookie would freak out about your money, right? And was set on giving Sookie a ‘puttin’ because Lin had a feeling you came from ‘humble stock’ and the attention was just as annoying to you.”
Out of curiosity, I asked, “Sookie, what did Linda know about me before the article was published?” I hadn’t told Sookie much, and most of it was evasive or vague.
She cringed… “Um… I kinda told them like… everything. Because… I was looking for hints…”
“Yeah… I’m sorry… it was…”
“It was for the same reason I was analyzing everything I knew about you… Did you by chance mention I told you my father was the equivalent of a mayor or my Gutenberg Bible belonged to a Nordmann for centuries?”
She gasped, “NO! I mean… yeah… I told her… That would imply… and I told her you went to Oxford… and I mean, the Bill Gates bullying… that doesn’t add up to ‘humble stock’!”
I shook my head, watching Linda. “No. No, it doesn’t… Linda, how did you come to the conclusion I came from humble stock when the evidence pointed to me being more privileged?”
She growled, “I just did.”
Adele offered, “Dang it, girl, why are you being a turd about this? You’re sitting here with a Vampire, a Werewolf and a telepath… there’s a bar joke in there somewhere… Anyway, they’re on to something. You know they’re onto something. Fess up.”
While we waited for an answer, Sookie beamed at me. Her excitement was visible, but I was feeling it… she was feeling vindication.
Linda finally huffed, “I just… the other night he mentioned hunting with his brothers and I got the feeling he was hunting because he needed to…”
Adele pressed, “A feeling or one of your elaborate mental images?” That ‘imagination’ of hers…
I didn’t wait for an answer. “What did you think of, Linda?”
She growled before she answered, “You were young, barely a teenager if I had to guess. It didn’t seem like you had electricity because the only light was from a fireplace.”
“Yet hearing that I’m a Vampire, born well before electricity, you didn’t think that was peculiar? Did you not get a sense of the clothing?”
“You might as well have skipped the Vampire part! You were at Whitehall with Shakespeare! And the clothes were off to me, but I don’t know squat about Sweden. I thought it was just rustic. Clothes were horrible everywhere in the 80s.”
I chuckled, “Fair enough…”
Sookie interrupted by blurting, “Minsting!” As though there needed to be more evidence… Hearing that word, brought Linda’s intuition into a new light. She didn’t know Swedish and even if she did, it wouldn’t ‘stand to reason’ for that word to make its way into conversation.
“You’re reading her mind, yes? Getting a bigger picture?”
Sookie nodded. “Yeah. Two boys, late teens I guess… they were yelling that until you walked outside… What does that mean? Minsting?”
Sookie balked before giving a slight giggle, “Someone called you a runt?”
“My older brothers did… there were enough years between us it was a while before I caught up to them in height…”
Jack offered, “So… she saw it, in your head? She read your mind?”
I shook my head, “It’s been a very long time since I thought about being called Minsting… they stopped once I passed our father’s height. She wasn’t reading my mind…” She saw a long buried memory. “I’m curious for her to meet Pam…”
Linda rolled her eyes and preemptively blurted, “Winifred is her birth name. She hated it so much, changing her name was pretty much her first order of business when she became a Vampire. She was Sarah for a while too, then Elizabeth… She went by Liz, but changed it back to Pamela when you moved here… She hated what the southern drawl did to ‘Lee-uzz’. She thought she was safe until you hired a maid just because she said ‘Pay-umm’.”
I’d used Winifred, but there didn’t seem to be a reason why Linda would have imagined Sarah or Elizabeth.
While everyone else gawked at her, I chuckled, “For the time being, we’ve established Linda has an inherent understanding of the past… it isn’t telepathy because she gleans details that aren’t available through obvious memories… putting a more finite label on her ability is a work in progress, yes?”
I was answered with unanimous nodding.
“Do we want to explore Jason or Corbett’s possibilities or shall we move on to the second answer in the letter? It seems as though that is the only other item up for debate. Hadley’s humiliation…” The Stackhouses stared into the yard as though they’d been frozen, so I continued, “Claudette told me she eavesdropped on the call I made to Dr. Ludwig. I doubt the detail would be mentioned if the Fae believed the standing plan would work. If glamouring a memory from Hadley’s mind doesn’t work, then we can go forward…”
Adele interrupted to explain, “It’s not that we don’t think it’ll work, Erik… It’s just a long story.”
“You have ‘your Vampire pet’ for a few minutes. I have an errand at midnight. In the meantime, I need the details if glamouring Hadley has any chance of working. If I thought a general glamouring to behave was a practical option, I wouldn’t have asked the doctor for her input on the matter.”
She huffed, “I guess the Faeries think Hadley is so shameless because she was…”
Sookie cleared her throat. “If we are leaving in a few minutes, I need to get ready. What should I wear?” Her mood suddenly felt like broken glass under my skin…
I offered, “I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Casual is fine. You don’t need…”
She cut me off by walking into the house, grumbling, “I need a shower,” and she practically slammed the door behind herself, leaving Tina to stare at the door with the rest of us… I couldn’t have been more confused by her mood.
While Jack took the pup to scratch behind her ears, Adele continued, “Hadley was molested… until she was nearly 11.” The fact had more of Jack’s attention than mine… I was trying to make the connection from Hadley’s abuse to Sookie’s feelings.
“I’m assuming then, the Fae believes it’s what created the monster I met.”
Linda nodded, “Probably. Granted, she’s an only child and Carrey and I spoiled her rotten, but she was sweet, normal… we think it started when she was about 6 or 7…”
“God, no… Carrey’s an asshole, but he’s not that bad. He just kind of broke up with her too.”
“If it went on for years, who was it?”
She cleared her throat, making it obvious she didn’t want to answer. “My uncle.”
“On your father’s side?”
“No. Momma’s brother…” Good. Humans were easier to kill. Harder to clean up, but they made up for it in how loud they could scream.
Adele added, “He tried messing with Linda when she was little, but she told us… even though we thought it could have been a misunderstanding, Mitchell put the fear of God into him… he never went near her again.” A Faerie? A Faerie allowed that? Jack cut his eyes towards me… it wasn’t adding up for him either.
Linda sighed, “Since it only happened the once, we all kind of thought I was just spooked… But skip ahead 20 years, he was just a ‘harmless old man’. He’d been going after Hadley for years before we found out.”
“It went on until she finally told someone, yes?”
Adele shook her head. “It went on until Sookie told me… It was after the kids came to live with me. She’d told Michelle, but she thought it was the ‘new way’ Sookie was trying to get attention and ignored her. She was a twit about Sookie’s ability. She tried everything from doping her up to looking into hospitals. Anyway, as soon as I heard what he’d been doing, I beat the tar out of my brother with a broom stick and told him if I ever saw him again, I’d take Mitchell’s old .38 out for the occasion.” Not good enough.
“Sookie read Hadley’s mind, or Bartlett’s?”
Adele and Linda shared a look before Linda growled, “She didn’t have to… We didn’t know about Hadley until after Sookie told Momma about what he’d been doing to Sookie…”
Adele added, “I told Bud so he’d expect to get a call if Bartlett ever showed up, but since the girls were so little, we didn’t press charges. Sookie’d just lost her parents and Hadley’s dad walked out the year before. Linda got Hadley into counseling, but the poor thing just kept repeating it was ‘normal’… Bartlett had her so convinced she was mad at Sookie for telling, even accused her of being jealous.”
Linda finished, “I’ve seen a couple of counselors… since Hadley wouldn’t cooperate, I went just to get some kind of insight into her behavior and whatnot… the general consensus is that she’s promiscuous because it’s her way of controlling things.”
Jack finally unclenched his jaw to declare, “I’ve got Bartlett. You get the Hadley end.”
“Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not a pet. I don’t take orders.”
“How about the rational argument then? He got two of mine and only one of yours. I’ve got this.”
“Fair enough… be as clean as possible. I can only cover so much before I develop a reputation for conspiring with Weres.” And since Sookie was in the newspapers, Bartlett’s death needed to be kept under wraps so it wouldn’t be sensationalized in the headlines.
His chuckle could only be called sinister. “Understood,” was all he said as Linda and Adele’s eyes bounced back and forth between us… Surprisingly, they didn’t argue against however their imaginations were filling in the blanks of our conversation…
I was more than a little curious about how Bartlett would meet his end, but I made an attempt to get the conversation back on track. “Does Hadley cooperate at all? Is there a way for you to bring her to me rather than wait and hope she stays home one evening?”
“Umm… she’s actually really excited about Sandwich Island, for now at least. She’s been helping me with the menu… I could… I could invite her out to dinner, scope out some of the bistros in Shreveport for ideas. That would work because she’d think that would be fun.” That wasn’t sitting well with me anymore than the idea of a Faerie allowing his daughter’s molester to walk away from the experience. Why the fuck would she be excited about Sandwich Island when her name seemed synonymous with selfishness?
I nodded. “Just let me know when.”
“K… I’m interviewing tomorrow night… how about Tuesday?”
“Is something wrong?”
I shook my head, still confused by Hadley’s inconsistencies. “How has Hadley been? Since Thursday night?”
She heaved out a deep breath and answered, “Quiet for the most part. We watched a video last night and then we had fried ice cream while we worked on the menu.”
“She didn’t have a party to go to on a Saturday night?”
“She doesn’t always. She’s kind of a homebody until someone calls to invite her out. We watched Twister. She got her laundry done and even did a few dishes while we brainstormed. It was generally a good night.”
“Is that a normal evening when it’s just the two of you?”
“Yeah… for the most part.”
“For the most part?”
“Well, yeah… she’d already cleaned her room up. Unless I have to get on her about something, she’s usually pretty mellow at home.”
“The other night when I called, did I wake her up?”
“No. We were locking up before we headed to bed… Are you thinking you might have a lead on her gift?”
“Possibly. What was her mood like before I called?”
“Normal. We fought about her disappearing act when I woke her up when I got home from work, but it had passed.”
“But when you confronted her about her behavior again, she became obstinate again, yes?”
“And when I got off the phone with you, she caught me in the hall to give me a kiss goodnight. What’s up?” By the time our call was over, Linda’s mood had shifted towards the romantic to give me advice about my relationship with Sookie.
“Thursday night, Sookie was furious that our date was interrupted. Hadley acted happy to see her initially… Once Sookie behaved negatively, Hadley became insulting and it worsened until I decided to ignore Hadley in favor of calming Sookie down… When she woke in the shower, she was in a house with four individuals who were feeling a combination of negative feelings.”
Jack’s eyes widened when he caught on to my train of thought. He breathed, “Holy shit.”
Linda jerked her head to look at him. “What?”
I continued, “She must have had some jobs… which was her favorite?”
Linda didn’t take her eyes from Jack as she said, “Dairy Queen…”
He nodded. “Because the fucking place is full of happy kids… Ice cream is like Prozac to children… Goddamnit.”
I pressed, “And her least favorite?”
Linda was becoming more exasperated by the second as she was asked questions instead of given answers. “She worked at the funeral home for a week. All she had to do was set up chairs, vacuum and make coffee…” But she was still subjected to depression and pain.
Jack shook his head. “Damn. You’re batting a thousand tonight.” No shit.
“Linda…” I waited for her to turn back to me. “There’s a phenomenon that occurs between a Vampire and his or her Maker… they can feel each other’s emotions and if they aren’t mindful of separating them, they can adopt them…”
“She isn’t a Vampire though.”
“There’s no doubt about that. I’m only comparing it to something I’ve experienced directly. It’s possible for Hadley’s ‘gift’ to be of the empathetic variety. You said yourself she behaves until she becomes frustrated. It could be causing a chain reaction. She contributes at home when it’s just the two of you… but when she was surrounded by drunks looking for a one-night stand at my club, she was a slut… and when she was surrounded by hostility, she was belligerent.”
“If that’s true, we’ve been making it worse!”
“No. You’re entitled to have feelings… She seems to have a passive ability, but given that Sookie can shield herself from the thoughts of others, it’s possible for Hadley as well. If nothing else, she might be able to hone her ability so she can differentiate her emotions from others.”
“So… Sookie’s a telepath…”
“If I’m right, Hadley is an empath… it would explain most of the behavior I’ve seen and you’ve described.”
“Do you think glamouring her will help still?”
“Given how sensitive her moods are to influence, I could probably control her like a puppet. I’ll begin with Brigant’s suggestion.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” It was likely she wouldn’t need the full force of glamouring… simply an unemotional, rational perspective.
“Then we visit other options taking this new information into consideration.”
“Okay…” She tilted her head towards the house. “With everything else settled, what are you going to do about Sookie? She didn’t want you to know.”
I put my feet on the floor and walked towards the door. “Correction: She was afraid it would change something.”
Tina followed me as I climbed the stairs to Sookie’s room and when I stretched out on her bed, Tina whimpered to be lifted.
Tina and I watched Sookie make herself busy, tidying the items on her dresser, arranging the shoes in the bottom of her closet, and pretending she was alone.
When the puppy became bored with waiting to be acknowledged and leapt from the bed, I decided I’d waited for long enough as well…
“Yeah?” She’d forced her voice to sound as cheerful as possible.
“Are you ready to leave?”
“I guess. Do I look alright?”
“No. You’d look better nude and under me, but we’ve run out of time for that.”
She finally turned to look at me. “Oh really?”
I nodded and patted my legs. “We should leave in a few minutes… and any activities that would include nudity would take hours.”
She walked towards the bed slowly and sat on the edge as though I would leave her there. While I pulled her down to lie on top of me, she corrected, “I just took a 10 minute shower.”
“You didn’t have my help… I’d be happy to prove how much time we could spend in the shower if you like…”
“I’ll let you know… so… are we having a talk?” She said ‘talk’ as though the idea disgusted her… She assumed I’d want to discuss what I’d learned on the porch.
“I only came upstairs to let you know we should leave.”
“Are you going to tell me where you’re taking me, or is it a surprise?”
I shook my head, letting myself notice her ring again. “I’m taking my fiancé house-hunting.”