Not trusting Leland, let alone the 2-week old infant to be so close to Sookie and her family, I ordered them to stop where they were… Killing two Vampires in public would be a nightmare even if there weren’t many bowlers present to be glamoured afterward.
The young Vampire shied away from Julie as she approached him, stiffly accepting the hug she gave with as much warmth as a tree… Even Pam had been more receptive.
Judging by how quickly she stepped back, his reaction wasn’t typical.
While the rest of us watched the train wreck, Julie shook her head, “What’s wrong with you, Shawn? Patty’s been worried sick!”
Sookie moved quickly to press herself against my side and whisper, “Jesus Erik, that’s the real estate agent’s husband.”
I don’t suppose it mattered how Julie knew him…
The cat was going to be out of the bag soon enough.
So much for toying with Pam.
I leaned over to answer Sookie quietly. “And now we know why he’s been missing… I’m sorry my work interrupted your party. I’ll make this as brief as possible.”
Pam’s eyes were bulging by the time I ordered Leland to go outside. Pam could have been stunned by how much Sookie seemed to know or Sookie’s acceptance of it, but it wasn’t as though it mattered.
As I herded Leland and his child towards the parking lot, Julie called, “I hope you’re proud of yourself, Shawn… Your babies are devastated.”
Since it was reasonable to assume that Julie knew Shawn’s wife as well, I motioned for Pam to go ahead without me and returned to the family.
Julie and Sookie’s eyes were watering.
“I can’t explain now…” Even though only Brandon, Julie and Hadley were unaware of Vampires, they still couldn’t be told in public.
Sookie shook her head and put her hands on my chest. “No. I know. It’s alright. Go ahead.”
“Julie, I need for you to resist the urge to call his wife…”
“But… She thinks he’s dead and he’s run off with… are they like a couple?”
Before I could answer, Hadley shook her head and offered, “No Julie… whatever’s going on, Shawn isn’t okay with it.”
I agreed, “He doesn’t have a choice. I’ll explain later.”
Jason offered, “We’re on it… We won’t let her jump the gun.”
It was nearly impossible to take him seriously given that he looked like he was dressed to slop pigs.
As I joined Pam outside, she was snarling, demanding that Leland define what ‘wait outside’ meant to him…
I didn’t give Leland the chance to answer. I growled, “I have two witnesses to the fact that I knew you were hiding something from me. You were told when you checked into my Area that you were prohibited from bringing over locals.”
HUGE OFFENSE. HUGE.
Even without his new child’s family to consider, friends and coworkers were an immediate risk of exposure. Once one makes a child, one leaves the Area he was from, otherwise one risked the scene that just played out inside.
Not to mention… I didn’t accept newborn Vampires in my Area unless I knew the Maker was a suitable disciplinarian. Leland’s Maker only released him a few years ago… and at 200 years old, Leland had no business being a Maker.
Leland stammered. “Yes Sheriff… I’m… I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry for ignoring my policy or you’re sorry for being cruel enough to keep your child so close to a family he can’t contact?”
“I… uhhhh… Both?”
“Tell me why you followed my child from Shreveport to impose on my personal life… Why you chose to bring Vampire business to a Human function, knowing I have the attention of the press.”
While Leland’s jaw bounced, Shawn stepped towards me and pulled a stake out of the pocket of his leather jacket to offer it to me.
His tone was nothing if not depressing. “I want to be ended. He refuses to kill me again. He commanded me to not harm myself… I think he brought me to you because he’s hoping you’ll have something inspiring to say, but if I can’t see my family… that’s it for me.”
“More than a few of us feel that way in the beginning.”
He shook his head and swallowed the lump in his throat. “I can’t stand the idea that they’ll think I don’t love them… They’re everything to me.”
Leland picked the wrong Area for this fuckery. Judging by the way Pam was humming next to me, she already knew this wasn’t going to go well.
I asked, “Has your Maker bothered to explain that the Revelation is only a few years away? We’ve been told it will be done in 2000. You’ll be able to see them again.”
Shawn sighed, “All due respect, Sheriff, my children are young. The oldest is five. The baby is… he just started walking… By the time I can see them again, they’ll have forgotten me or they’ll hate me. I don’t know what’s worse, but I can’t stand the idea of either.”
Pam snorted, “Oh Leland… this is so bad for you.” Well put.
“Shawn, how does Julie know you?”
“She works at the bakery next to my wife…” He clenched his jaw and shot a scathing look at his Maker. “My widow’s office. They’ve been friends for a few years… She doesn’t know about Vampires, does she?”
“Not yet, but thanks to your Maker she will soon.” Glamouring her would be pointless when I couldn’t glamour Brandon.
“Your… Your Sookie, she knows?”
I nodded, not wanting him to hope he could expect a similar reception by his wife. “Part of her family is supernatural though… How controlled is your feeding?”
It was a stupid question. He was only a couple of weeks old… I needed to hear that he was still feral so I could stop feeling sorry for the poor bastard and do him the favor of ending him.
Leland barked, “He’s been rejecting donors. He feels like he’s cheating on his wife. He barely feeds from them. Won’t fuck anyone. He isn’t much of a Vampire… His glamour is perfect though.”
I growled, “I’ll let you know when I’m speaking to you, Leland…”
Pam repeated, “This is sooooooooo bad for you.”
I continued, “Go wait in your car… Pam, go ask Hadley if she’ll join us outside for a moment…” As she turned, a thought occurred to me. “And Jason.” She was curious, but she knew better than to ask for my reasons in mixed company.
While we waited, I asked, “You aren’t tempted to feed at all?”
“I feel hungry, but I can’t get close to a donor without thinking of Patty. We’ve been together since we were 14.”
“Have you tried to contact her?”
He nodded. “I’ve called the house a few times… Leland caught me before I could say anything.”
“You realize that if you reveal yourself to her, she’s likely to be repulsed.” If he didn’t drain her because he was only hungry for her.
He nodded. “Hence the stake.”
“How did you meet Leland?”
“I didn’t really meet him. I met associates for drinks. Leland hit on me. I guess… because I was with other guys… I don’t know.”
“You rejected his advances, and the last thing you remember is walking to your car.”
He nodded. “And then I was clawing my way out of the fucking dirt. Yeah.”
“What did you do for a living before you were brought over?”
“I was a drafter. You know, blue prints and whatnot. Engineering degree… I mostly did the technical end of renovations.”
“It’s something you could do freelance. Work at home, yes?”
“If I wanted to keep on like this, yeah.”
All conversation stopped when Hadley and Jason joined us.
Hadley smiled up at me, expecting to hear an answer about why she was invited.
She cut me off by shaking her head. “No. You’re so mad you’re hot… Pam’s about as curious and confused as she can be… And… Shawn, right?”
She sighed, “He really needs a hug.”
Since Jason was in company, all I could do was hope he’d be less confused by the situation… At least not so confused that he’d overreact.
“Shawn is a Vampire. He disappeared when his Maker brought him over… How old were you when your father walked out?”
“Ummm. Five… A Vampire?”
I nodded. “Like me. Like Pam.”
She glanced down at the stake in my hand and breathed, “Damn.”
That was it? That was all the reaction she had to offer? I was sure she could sense something was different about me, like Jason had a sense of Jack and Merlotte’s breed. But ‘damn’ was still more subdued than I expected… and, no, it wasn’t because Pam was more shocked when I told her she was a Vampire.
“Being five years old when your father left, how would you react to seeing him again now, after all this time? Hearing that he didn’t leave because he wanted to, but because he didn’t have a choice…”
She narrowed her eyes. “Ummm… I gotta ask… Why doesn’t he have a choice? Did his wife turn him out when he told her?”
“When Vampires are first made, they have difficulties that could make…”
Shawn argued, “I’d never hurt my family! Ever!”
Jason snorted, “Fuck, dude… I’ll go with ya… My dad died, like for good, when I was 11… I’d be happy as hell to see him again. Vampire or not.”
Hadley nodded and offered, “Me too… But… Why is he waiting? I don’t get it…”
Jason shrugged. “Me either… I mean if he’s got lil’uns, then they won’t get it, but he could still see ‘em, right? I mean, only at night is better than nothin’. Y’all could try talking to his wife… if she freaks out, then y’all could do that Vampire schmooey… Wait. Is that real?”
This wasn’t going as planned… I was hoping that hearing from two orphaned children might change Shawn’s mind about being ended… It was a last ditch effort to see how serious he was… I didn’t expect for Jason and Hadley to suggest he go back to his Human life.
“It’s real, but… he can’t go back to his old life without risking exposure. His neighbors would notice…”
Hadley rolled her eyes. “Fuck the neighbors. They aren’t gonna feel like shit not knowing… His kids are gonna get all kinds of fucked up thinkin’ they did something wrong to make him leave.”
Shawn nodded. “See. This is insane… Leland said he’d plant my wallet to fake my death. My family can bury me…”
Jason argued, “Or you can visit your kids on weekends… you know, like any guy who splits with his wife, asshole. You might not be able to have it all back, but don’t be a damn pussy.”
Part of me thought he could pull it off. His children wouldn’t be old enough to know better by the time the announcement was made.
Jason shrugged. “Shut me up if I’m talkin’ out my ass, but… you could bring ‘em out to my place. Call his wife. Tell ‘er what’s what. If she flips her shit, ain’t nobody gonna hear it but nutria. You can schmooey her like nothin’ ever happened and then get on with things. If things is all good, ‘cuz she’ll probably just be happy he ain’t shacked up with another broad, he could see them there. I got a swing set from when we was kids and the pond for swimmin’.”
Pam squeezed her eyes shut and massaged her forehead while she tried to understand the situation. I wanted to tell her ‘Welcome to the world of the astonishingly tolerant Stackhouses.’
Shawn eyed me for a moment before he shook his head. “She’ll hate me. He’s full of shit and getting my hopes up. Say it.”
“He’s full of shit and getting your hopes up.”
Hadley knit her eyebrows together and put her hand around my wrist. “You don’t believe that though. If y’all can make her not remember it, y’all could give it a try. It doesn’t sound like trying would do any harm. And you know we’d keep the secret.”
When I growled, Pam probed, “You’re seriously considering this?”
I nodded. “Only because the Revelation is planned… Shawn, do you want to risk…?”
“Leland said he’d kill her if I contacted her again.”
“Leland won’t be a problem. He brought over a Human in my Area and didn’t have the intelligence to move on.” And he interrupted Sookie’s birthday party.
His eyes bulged. “Then yes. YES… It’ll kill me if she’s scared of me, but…”
Jason finished, “You’re going that way anyway, dude.”
I nodded towards the front of the building. “Go. Tell Leland I’ll be there to end you once I’m free… Be as indignant as possible that I’m making you wait until after my pet’s birthday party. When Leland asks why your mood has improved, tell him you’re looking forward to everything being ended. Make as many arrangements as you can… a suicide note and things regarding your finality. I’ll need it all if your wife doesn’t accept the situation. I’ll make arrangements to have Patty meet us at Jason’s house.”
“Not the kids though… I don’t want… Please.”
“I’ll see to childcare too. They’re a variable we don’t need.”
Once Leland’s car left the parking lot, I groaned, “I know better than to introduce variables to a situation. Why the fuck…”
Jason cut me off. “It’s all good. I mean, it’s sad and all, but it ain’t the end of the world. Want me to tell Julie? She’s flipping her lid. She thinks he just walked out on his family.”
Pam snorted, “It would probably be better if she were schmooeyed to forget she saw him.”
Jason cringed and offered, “That ain’t gon’ work. Brandon knows Shawn too. Taught him how to change a diaper on account Jules is only ‘bout a month younger than his lil’un. ‘Sides, they know ‘bout Weres. Ain’t no sense in hiding it.”
Hadley blurted, “WERES!?” and slapped her hands over her mouth to mumble, “Sorry.”
I nodded. “Yes, Weres. Seemingly normal people who have the ability to shift into animal form.”
She relaxed and gave a little giggle. “Like Teen Wolf?”
I shook my head. “Not quite. You can’t tell a Werewolf from an actual wolf when they’ve shifted except for size. Most of them are bigger than actual wolves.”
Jason chuckled, “And we already know a couple… This shit’s kinda cool. I’m usually the last to know e’rything.”
I shook my head and growled, “Hadley had other things on her mind last night, Jason.”
Hadley suddenly put her hand in the middle of my chest and breathed, “Jack. Jack’s not Human, is he?”
Jason gave a slow dramatic shake of his moth-addled head. “Nope.”
Hadley’s face pulled in as she shook her head. She whined, “No. Nooooo… I thought… I treated him like shit because… I kept getting the vibe he was hiding something… ohhhh God.”
“Don’t worry about that. He was party to the conversation regarding you. He was angry for you, not at you… We should probably focus on Shawn’s situation at the moment.”
She nodded and took a deep breath. “I’ll go get Julie if you want… So you can talk to her outside.”
“That would be better. Thank you…”
“Sookie’s going to want to know what’s going on too.”
“That’s fine. Tell her she’s welcome to join us.” At this point, it was more like she was bringing her party to the parking lot.
She nodded and Jason followed her back into the bowling alley to offer to watch Jules… He was sure Brandon was going to want to be part of the conversation.
As simple as he was, it didn’t occur to him that the telepath wouldn’t need a face to face conversation… but something made him sure.
Jason’s ‘sneaky’ ability was just going to have to wait for another night.
“Pam, does your cellular have a signal?”
She raised an eyebrow at me and dug into her purse. “I don’t suppose you’re going to offer an explanation yet?”
“Sookie and Brandon are telepaths. Hadley is empathic. We suspect Jason is too. Give me your phone.”
She opened the clamshell covered in rhinestones and looked at the display. “It only has one bar. This place is a shithole.”
“I’m having a tower added to the Drive-In property. I don’t get a signal at Sookie’s house, Sandwich Island, or my new house… I had Bobby check and one bar is the best I can hope for with any carrier.”
“Leave it to you to have a cellular tower installed instead of just forwarding your calls… What the fuck is Sandwich Island?”
I had to use my phone to find Patty Ingram’s number and dial it on Pam’s phone… and hope I could be done before anyone saw me with the sparkly thing to my ear.
The woman answered on the first ring. “Hello! Shawn, is that you?”
Pam offered a frown for the woman’s desperation.
“Miss Ingram, it’s Erik Nordmann. I’m sorry for calling so late, but I was busy until just now.”
“Oh… Okay, what can I do for you Mr. Nordmann?”
“Again, I apologize for the hour, but I’m busy for the rest of the week. I was hoping you could meet me with the inspection report on the house. I want to speak to a contractor about some renovations so I can proceed as soon as the house is mine.”
There was a long pause before she offered, “I… do you mind if I bring my children along? I probably won’t be able to find a sitter. If you just want me to drop some files off…”
I wasn’t lucky enough to avoid being seen with Pam’s garish phone to my ear. Brandon, Julie and Sookie arrived just in time for me to give Jason’s address to Patty.
As soon as I closed Pam’s phone and tossed it back to her, Julie huffed, “Where did he go?”
Before I could answer, Brandon grumbled, “Mom, calm down.”
Julie scowled at her son, the look truly appeared foreign on her otherwise cheerful face.
Sookie sighed, “Jason gave us an update…”
“Tell me he didn’t say anything aloud.”
She shook her head. “No. He told me though. Brandon caught it too… Can I… can I explain? I know it’s not my place, but…”
I shrugged, too curious about how she’d word the explanation, wondering if there was a more Human spin she could put on the situation.
She turned around to lean against me and sighed, “I know this is a lot in just a couple of days… but… I’m thinking you might take it better since your son and granddaughter are telepaths. And you already know about Weres and all too… Julie, Erik’s a Vampire. Pam too.”
The woman raised her eyebrows as though Sookie had a second head.
“Vampires are real, but most stuff you’ve heard about them is crap… Anyway, Leland, that guy who came in with Shawn, made Shawn a Vampire. Shawn doesn’t want to be away from Patty and the kids, but he can’t go home. Everyone they know would suspect something’s wrong. He can’t go out during the day. He can’t eat food. He can’t risk exposing that Vampires are real yet. Not until they’re all ready.”
“What? That’s stupid! Patty’s a real estate agent. They can sell their house and move to another town. No one would ever know.”
Pam shook her head and mumbled, “Fuck. Another one?”
Brandon shrugged and offered, “You should have seen her when I told her about my boss. She wanted me to ask if she could watch him shift.”
Julie defended herself, “I have a telepathic son. It was awesome to hear there was more to other people than… you know… just people. I was just excited. Sue me.”
He kissed her forehead and chuckled, “Shut up so Sookie can finish.”
“Oh! Oh God. Sorry. Yeah. Go ahead.”
Sookie continued, “Now, Shawn isn’t exactly happy about never seeing his family again… his Maker won’t do it so they came here because Shawn wanted Erik to kill him…”
Julie gasped and covered her mouth with both hands. “God NOOOO! There has to be something… Shawn’s a good man! Why Erik? Is he like…?”
Sookie left me to take Julie’s hands. “Erik’s in charge of the Vampires in the Area… They’re going to try. Erik’s going against his better judgment on this. He’s setting up a meeting so Shawn can try to explain to Patty what happened… But if Patty can’t handle it, Shawn doesn’t want to wait until the kids have gotten over his disappearance and turn their lives upside-down again.”
“Why wouldn’t she be able to handle it? She loves him more than anything. My God, those two have been together since junior high school…”
“Not everyone has a foot in the door like you do. She could flip out and be scared… Erik expected me to be.” I didn’t have to look over. I could feel Pam burning a hole into the side of my face. It was almost funny.
Julie’s eyes focused on Sookie’s chin for a moment before she shook her head. “I want to go. I want to be there. If she flips out… I know her…”
I interrupted, “Actually, I was hoping you’d think of a reason to visit so you can watch her children. Shawn doesn’t want them there.”
Brandon offered, “I got it. If that’s the only reason you have… I helped Shawn coach soccer for his oldest this spring. I’ll lie and say Mom sent me over to see if there’s anything she needs done around the house.”
Pam huffed, “I’m going on record now… Do you people even realize how insane it is that you’re pulling some Hands-Across-Podunk routine for a suicidal Vampire?”
Sookie snorted, “Get used to it. Not all of us are going to be sharpening stakes when y’all come out.”
Pam stared at Sookie…
Sookie stared back…
I didn’t bother trying to hide how amused I was…
After a full minute of Pam expecting Sookie to forfeit their staring match, Brandon cleared his throat and started, “So after we bowl, Erik’s going to meet Patty and Shawn at Jason’s house. I’m babysitting… Yeah… Let’s get our bowl on…” He didn’t just step between Sookie and Pam, he put his hands on Pam’s shoulders and forced her to lose the stare-down while he steered her back towards the entrance. “Let’s get you out of those horrible shoes and into something more comfy, huh?”
As soon as they were out of sight, Sookie wrapped her arms around me and sighed, “What made it get worse? Everything was alright-ish, then it wasn’t shortly after Hadley and Jason came out.”
“There isn’t anywhere in Louisiana that allows local Humans to be brought over… The Vampire is supposed to prospect elsewhere or leave as soon as the child rises.”
“Temptation to reconnect with their friends and family… exposure risks…” She was already a better Vampire than Leland.
“Exactly. Leland not only turned a local, but he kept his new child within a few miles of his family. He’s actually lucky Shawn wants to be ended since the alternative is madness. Not many Vampires like rising to find out they’ve been stolen from their lives… I asked Jason and Hadley to join us because I wanted an objective opinion about how Shawn’s children might feel if their father resurfaced…”
“Awwww… With the big announcement so close, you were hoping Jason and Hadley would be able to offer some kind of confirmation.”
“You and your fucking family have retarded me. I shouldn’t even consider anything but putting him out of his misery. Your brother and cousin didn’t just give him a reason to try to wait a few years before he could see his children in the open. They gave him the idea that he could be part of their lives now.”
She gasped and leaned back. “But… but you said being hungry was a problem.”
I nodded. “But they didn’t know that.”
“What’s going to happen then?”
“I’m going to do what I can. I painted myself into a proverbial corner. I’m going to make sure he’s fed before he sees his wife. If he tries to feed from her, then I’ll end him and she’ll be glamoured to forget seeing him again. If he can control himself when he’s fed then I’ll arrange for him to be supervised for a while… Time will tell, I suppose.” I was the one who’d be supervising. Me or Pam. I couldn’t exactly outsource for an experiment that could blow up in my face.
She tightened her arms around me and sighed, “Or you’ll become so retarded you don’t care anymore.”
“There isn’t a single reason for this situation to work out perfectly. I’m almost certain your brother is going to have a mess in his yard by the end of tonight.”
“But you tried… Can I go with you? Maybe… maybe if Patty sees…” She sighed and narrowed her eyes struggling with something before she offered, “She thought we were a cute couple. Maybe…”
“Maybe everything will be perfect and they’ll live happily ever after… or maybe his aversion to feeding from donors caused by his inspiring sense of fidelity will end when he sees his wife and I’ll have to end him because he tries to drain her.”
Sookie raised an eyebrow at me. She backed away, taking my hands to tug me towards the bowling alley’s entrance. “I was going to say, maybe she’ll do the absolutely southern-born-and-bred thing. Keeping up appearances, sticking with the status quo… it’s ingrained in the DNA of too many southern women.”
“You think that if she’s outnumbered by Humans who accept the existence of Vampires, she’ll revert to her training long enough for someone to get through to her.”
Sookie shrugged, “If nothing else, do you think she’s going to want to offend the only guy buying a 6-figure house in this economy?”
That actually made me feel better somehow.