Stop The Presses
By the time I returned to my hotel room, I had a plan…
I’d stretched the loophole wide enough to get a dump-truck through it, but it was still a loophole, rather than a blatant skirting of the treaty altogether. I could have just used Adele… but that would have been lower than even I was willing to stoop.
I’d thought to ask the receptionist for copy-paper before I went to my room and spent every idle second translating the Codex…
I made calls to my assistant, my property manager, my casino manager and a certain Bon Temps pastor… While my employees were accustomed to occasional late calls from me, Pastor Roper more than happily accepted my apology for waking him once he heard my reason, and very seriously invited me to wake him whenever I felt like it.
While each caller made notes about their chores, I translated the old journal…
It occurred to me that I was dealing with the strong-willed Stackhouse women as I would usually be forced to deal with Pam… using something pretty to distract from an unpleasant detail…
It also occurred to me that instead of using a new car to soften the blow of delivering bad news, I was using a book to soften the ‘blow’ of a car…
I caught myself smiling more than a few times.
The Stackhouses were nothing, if not refreshing.
When I rose I was trapped in my room for the usual hour… taking advantage of my unfinished translating to fill my idle time, I didn’t think to check my messages until after I’d showered.
The message from Bobby: “Everything you asked of me was done by 10AM. The only hitch I came across was Mrs. Stackhouse. She made me eat breakfast while I was there. Sweet lady. Nice people all around.” Because I cared what he thought of whom I spent my time with.
Kinsey’s message: “All squared away, sir. I just thought I’d let you know. Happy tenants. Let me know if you think of anything else for me to do. Goodnight.”
Mr. Mortimer didn’t bother leaving the floor of the casino to call me. “Signed, sealed, and delivered, Mr. Nordmann. Thank you for the bonus. That expenditure would have hurt the current budget. It won’t take but a month for your casino to have the most up to date hotel in the area.”
The surprise was that Linda called: “Um… Erik… I know you’re busy, but I’m not getting any work done either… You need to do some damage control to get ahead of this because Sookie’s probably going to flip out. I’m not going to say anything about it, but I’ll be at the house when you get there to pick her up just in case you need backup.” Not that I minded hearing from her, but the cryptic message she left all but pointed to the fact that I’d been exposed somehow.
If Jack Herveaux exposed me as a Vampire, he was going to suffer… I’d thought we had a bit of an accord since we were both in the same fucking situation. I should have known better.
When I called the number she’d called from, hoping she’d be able to fill in the blanks of her puzzling message, I only heard a recording about a chicken processing plant’s business hours… and there was no answer when I called Sookie’s number.
I was going directly to Sookie’s house as soon as the sun set regardless, but I had the distinct feeling my night wasn’t going to go as I planned. As rational as Linda was, I doubted she was calling to warn me that Sookie had caught wind of my plotting. It seemed to be a given that I’d have to defend my usage of loopholes…
As I rode the elevator down to the lobby, I planned Herveaux’s ‘accidental’ death just in case…
The ass-kissing concierge blustered towards me as soon as the elevator opened. “Good evening, Mr. Nordmann. Out for a little R&R this evening?”
“No. I’m going mountain climbing.”
He raised an eyebrow and scanned my outfit again, confirming I was wearing flip flops and swim trunks. He laughed nervously, “Oh. I get it. You’re being sarcastic.”
“Am I? What can I do for you?”
“I have things for you…” He held up a key chain as though he was playing with a cat and didn’t continue until I accepted them. He proceeded to itemize each ‘thing’ as I took them from him. “Your newspaper, and the files your assistant left for you. Can I be of further help?” The headline was perfect, just as I instructed… it was the perfect excuse… “AS TEMPS CLIMB OFFICIALS URGE CITIZENS TO STAY COOL”
He nodded and offered his hand. As I shook it, he said, “Then enjoy your R&R… congratulations, sir.”
Congratulations? When I gave him an inquiring look, he tapped the collection of items in my hand. Ah. The Codex. I wouldn’t have bet he would read the ‘little’ headlines.
He quickly returned to his post behind the desk and as I walked towards the door, a clerk whispered, “Well?”
He answered, “What? I congratulated him. He said ‘thank you’. What else do you want?”
“So he didn’t deny it?” Why the fuck would I deny outbidding the wealthiest Human in the country?
More confusing than anything, when he said, “No,” the clerk squeaked…
The world had gone stark raving mad while I was dead…
Pam tried to call, but she barely had the chance to say my name before the signal was dropped. It didn’t crackle to warn me… and judging by the frustration she was feeling, she probably believed I hung up.
If her mood continued to fester, I’d just ask Adele if I could use her phone… AFTER I found out why Linda felt like I needed back up.
When I arrived at the Stackhouse home, Linda was already waiting on the porch with Adele… and the windows were closed…
The women seemed pained as they waited for me to park the car I’d driven next to my Corvette that Bobby had delivered as instructed.
I had to stop to lift Tina, otherwise I’d have kicked her while she tried to bite my feet.
“I heard your message, but I’m not sure I understand it…”
Both women gasped and Linda cringed as she asked, “So… you… don’t… know?”
She sucked air past her teeth and took a newspaper from the small table to offer it to me.
I shook my head. “Just tell me what’s going on.”
“You and Sookie are… you’re on the front page of the Society Page… Jack was looking for the classified ads to make sure his ad for a secretary was run…”
She closed her eyes and nodded. “She… she’s on your lap… y’all are kissing… Um…” She held up the newspaper to show a photo that had to have been taken from the other side of the club…
The most annoying part of the situation was the headline. “SHREVEPORT’S MOST ELIGABLE BACHELOR OFF THE MARKET”
Linda sighed, “I’m sorry, sweetie… this is bad…”
I nodded. “Worse when you consider it’s my newspaper… Do you mind if I use your phone, Mrs. Stackhouse?” If Pam did it…
She sighed, “Help yourself, but it gets worse.”
“You wore black silkies… she wore… a white gown… the limo…”
“OH, COME ON!” Both women jumped so I forced myself to take the newspaper from Linda gently…
I scanned the article to see some of the most asinine claims…
“Our favorite local tycoon made a rare appearance at his popular night club ‘Glamour’ last night with a beautiful companion. Mr. Erik Nordmann and his Mystery Lady arrived in style in a stretch limo for one of Glamour’s considerably popular themed nights. Pajama Party Night was a marked success as was the couple’s attire. Mr. Nordmann made girls swoon when he stepped out of the car in nothing but black, silk pajama pants and his lucky date was jaw-dropping in her simple and elegant white chemise… Clues maybe? Erik Nordmann is notoriously evasive in regards to his private life and his rare public appearances are usually limited to charity functions, yet his sudden emergence with his beautiful date seems more than symbolic… To this reporter, they might as well be standing atop a tiered cake…
…The scene could only be described as intimate as the couple enjoyed dance after dance, rarely taking their hands from one another. They even spent some time visiting with Mr. Nordmann’s less reclusive sister, Pamela. The couple found a reason to leave just after a romantic dance. One has to wonder if they’ve already wed secretly or if they’re in the planning stages… Just this week, Mr. Nordmann was seen out and about in Shreveport. Not only has he been spotted at the Botanical Gardens, but a jewelry store has also made its way to his list of errands…
…I’m dying to know who this woman is to have stolen Erik Nordmann’s heart. Who is she? Where is she from? Why isn’t she wearing a ring? Whoever Lady Doe is, we know she has phenomenal taste in men. Who wouldn’t want to be swept off her feet by a wealthy and handsome man?
…Either way ladies, it seems as though Shreveport’s resident heartthrob is a bachelor no more. All we can do is hope we get to see him on the prowl again soon. He might be spoken for, but we can still dream…
Sadly, Mr. Nordmann was unavailable for comment.”
Of course I was ‘unavailable’. I was dead, but if the fucking author of the story had bothered contacting me for a comment, there would have been a message to that affect waiting when I rose.
I shook my head and read it again… and none of it made more sense than it had the first time…
I was trapped in a bad dream.
“The outfits… I didn’t choose…”
Linda held her hand up as a stop. “White to set off her tan, I’m sure. And light colors wash you out. We aren’t idiots, sweetie. We know it was completely misconstrued.”
“Is Sookie going to worry about the photo or…” I trailed off. I knew why I was pissed. The fucking paparazzi had been trying to marry me off to every fucking ‘heiress’ in Louisiana (most of them Vampires) for ages, but they had only ever been a nuisance before. Semi-automatic questions were easily ignored…
“No… Jack called me… I barely had the chance to brace myself before someone came into my office to confirm that’s Sookie in the picture… in a town this small, there’s no point in denying it, so the ball was rolling. She’s going to flip because that little story basically calls her a shallow gold-digger. In case you didn’t notice, Sookie has a thing about gold-diggers and it’s highly possible she could flip her lid thinking that everyone will think she’s one…”
While Linda explained, I made my hit list… the editor of the newspaper for letting the story run, the ‘journalist’ who wrote the story… and I needed to figure out if there was any blood on Pam’s hands.
“I’m going to use the phone. I’ll be right back.”
Linda called after me, “Erik, it could go the other way too, hon. She could shrug it off.” I couldn’t invest in that. Linda could hope while I braced myself.
Pam answered after the first ring. “Hello?” She sounded as bothered as she felt.
“Did you have anything to do with this?”
She huffed, “Of course not. I know how you hate the press.” Why would she have chosen that boundary to respect? She’d stolen my books.
“The fucking article was run in my own newspaper, Pam. Why did I buy a newspaper when we came to the Area?”
“Because ‘controlling the media is the only way to prevent exposure’. I’m not completely daft, Erik. This wasn’t me… I have to ask, is there going to be a problem?”
“What kind of problem?”
“You know… is the girl on your lap in the paper going to be found in a ditch tomorrow? If you need an alibi, you know I’ve got your back… The timing isn’t ideal, but her disappearance will blow over…” When the fuck had I ever been so sloppy. Pam was having too much fun.
“You think this is funny? She’s getting off work in a few minutes and I get to tell her she’s on the cover of the…”
“You’re actually dating her?” Fuck me. This conversation was going to take longer than I wanted it to.
“You? Erik Nordmann, King of Cock and Fang are dating someone?”
“Erik Nordmann, my Maker who relentlessly teases me for keeping pets…”
“Erik Nordmann, the one Vampire Mafia… you’re dating a Human…”
She gasped, “Oh, no you didn’t!”
“Yes, I did. I tease you for keeping enough pets to fill a zoo…”
“Oh, and you’re going to tell me your little girlfriend can entertain you?”
“Sookie manages to entertain me, yes. I’m as surprised as you are.”
“So when’s the wedding?”
“Don’t be a bitch… I enjoy her company and you know too well that hasn’t ever happened before.”
“Are you going to glamour her to erase memories of your non-human qualities or just break her heart when you finally get bored with her?”
“I doubt I’ll get bored…”
“Then again I ask, when’s the wedding? Eventually she’s going to want to marry you. Are you thinking you’ll string her along until Vampires come out of the coffin and then, ‘oops, it’s illegal’? Because you know it will be. That’s one bandwagon everyone will try to jump on.” Exhibit A: She couldn’t keep her teeth in one topic. She segued from teasing me to the pitfalls of Vampires living in the open.
“We haven’t known one another long…”
“Don’t give me that shit. You’ll have to marry her, Erik. Thanks to that article everyone in Shreveport is probably hoping to be hired for the wedding by now.”
“I’m not playing hypothetical wedding games with you…”
“Can I put a bid in for my florist to do the flowers?”
“Can I help plan it? You know I’d make it fabulous… What’s her favorite color?”
“Pam. I know how fucking amused you are right now, but I’m not in a joking mood…” Before I could threaten to pull Pam’s fangs out, the phone was snatched from my hand.
I turned around in time to see Linda put the receiver to her ear. “Pam?”
“Yes. Who’s this?”
“Linda. I’m Sookie’s aunt and if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you shut the hell up so he can think about more important things. There will be plenty of time for you to nag him later. He’s a lot nicer than I am. Once I found out the article wasn’t part of your prank war, I… Well, I’d have done this…” Linda slammed the receiver onto the phone’s base and swatted my ass with a wink. “It’s five to nine. You need to go fetch your girlfriend.”
She turned and walked into the kitchen without giving me the chance to object to the way she’d spoken to Pam…
It only took a moment for me to realize I didn’t have anything to complain about.
Feeling that Sookie’s emotions weren’t troubled in any way as I drove towards the storage facility only improved my mood slightly. Eventually, she was going to find out…
Sookie was leaning against the office door when I pulled into the lot and offered a bright smile as she jogged towards the car. She nearly bounced out of her tank top… that was not going to help me focus… not at all.
She slid into her seat and leaned over to kiss me. “This is a nice surprise. I was expecting Aunt Linda… How pissed are you?”
She cringed. “Oh nuts… tell me you already heard about the article.”
“I did.” I immediately backed out of the parking spot… I wasn’t going to take it for granted her good mood would hold out for long.
“I was oblivious until I arrived at your house. Linda explained… Your aunt and grandmother are under the impression you’d be bothered by the article.”
“Well, I am, but… that’s because everyone and their brothers know you’re dating a nobody from the boonies. It’s not like my image is an issue. And it’s only half of the ‘big day in Bon Temps’… You didn’t answer me. How pissed are you?”
“I’m furious that so many of my employees didn’t bother to contact me, but I’m less pissed now that I know Pam didn’t have any part of it. I’m used to business related press… this is new to me. How did you find out?”
“Andy came in at about 11 and pitched a five-minute fit about me being secretly engaged. His feelings were hurt that we didn’t mention it when we saw him last week. Anyway… He showed me the article and I figured one of two things was going on… 1- Pam is absolutely diabolical or 2- someone with a grudge-match over antiquities with Bill Gates probably gets some attention from the press… I opted to give Andy the prank explanation because it was easier. The phone started ringing off the hook so I ended up giving the same story to everyone else who called or came by the shop except for the reporter. Someone called her and told her who your ‘Mystery Date’ was. As it turns out, I’m not very cooperative. The poor thing got sick of hearing ‘no comment’.”
“You aren’t upset?”
“Well, yeah… I’m sorry you’ve got to put up with that stuff. I get that you’d make the headlines once in a while, I just don’t see how your personal life should be up for grabs.”
“They’ll more than likely harass you now.”
“Until they realize how boring I am…” She pushed her back against the seat to lift her ass and pulled a piece of paper from the back pocket of her inspiring little shorts. Fuck. Focus. “I got this for you.”
I looked it over to see it was a rental agreement for a unit made out for Rebecca Mills. “This is the reporter?”
Sookie wiggled her eyebrows. “And her address and her phone number and her credit card info… I couldn’t help but notice the chicken had the story printed as ‘Associated Press’ and she was dumb enough to try to pretend being a customer before she started questioning me.”
“And you’re giving this to me, why?”
“I figured if you can arrange to keep Pam out of her house, you can probably have some fun toying with Miss Pants-On-Fire if she doesn’t lay off her Constitutionally protected right to be full of crap.”
“You have an impressive wicked streak, Sookie.” I didn’t think I could possibly be more attracted to her. Wrong… Fuck. Focus.
She giggled, “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead; When she was good, she was very good indeed…” She hadn’t fallen to the common misquoting either.
I chuckled as I finished the rhyme. “But when she was bad she was horrid.”
She nodded. “Gran swears Longfellow had me in mind.”
“If our ‘engagement’ was only half of the news, what was the rest?”
“Someone freakin’ bought the parcel of land next to Merlotte’s. Damn crew started clearing the land this morning. Aunt Linda’s trying to stay positive, but she’s flipping out that something like a Subway will be put there.”
“Subways are in malls. They don’t build from the ground up.”
“Yeah, but since it’s 20 acres, there’s room for a shopping center. She’s going to have nightmares about potential competition until she can find out what’s going up.”
“Did she not call around? Someone has to know.” Town Hall, the real estate agent…
“I’m sure she was a little busy answering questions about us.”
I nodded, annoyed by the poor timing…
As we pulled into the driveway, Sookie all but cursed the end of the driveway with one of the dirtiest looks I’d ever seen.
“Whose car is that? Do you know?”
“Am I being tested? That’s Linda’s car.”
“Ohhhhh, you are SO going to get it! Of all the answers, you give me coy? By the way, a party dress would suit you better than coy.”
I chuckled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The car, what is that, a Crown Victoria?”
I parked and struggled to keep from laughing at her. “Lincoln Town Car.”
“Where. Did. It. Come. From?”
I shrugged, “Detroit?”
“Ohmigod! You turd! Just answer the question!”
“What was the question?”
She grit her teeth and asked, “Whose car is that?”
“How did you drive two cars out to Bon Temps?”
“I didn’t. I had Bobby deliver my Corvette earlier so I could have it tonight. I drove the Town Car.”
“And how do you plan to get both of them back to Shreveport?”
“I hadn’t thought of that.” I hadn’t planned to take the Town Car, but that wasn’t the point.
Her eyes nearly doubled in size and she blurted, “LIAR!” as she shoved her door open to stomp every step between the driveway and the front door to slam that door closed.
Linda and Adele stared at me. The looks on their faces were an amusing combination of horror and sympathy…
I was still chuckling when I offered, “She isn’t upset about the article.”
I opened the passenger door of the Town Car to take my things from the front seat while Linda asked, “Then… what did you do?”
“It’s funny, actually… She doesn’t know. She’s assuming…” I held the keychain out for Adele. “I understand you don’t have a vehicle at the moment.”
She stared at the key as though I was offering Pandora’s Box. “She’s not assuming much, is she?”
“Do you remember when I mentioned I make plenty of charitable contributions for the write-offs?”
“I’m not registered as a non-profit, Erik.”
“Of course not… This is the time of year when my privately owned companies do a certain amount of spring cleaning so there is plenty of time to hold auctions before the end of the year…”
Sookie yelled from inside, “ERIK NORDMANN, GET YOUR ASS IN HERE AND BRING YOUR LOOPHOLES WITH YOU!”
Adele tried to ignore Sookie’s shrieking. “Am I going to need hip-boots to get through this horse puckey?”
I snorted, “No. I’m offering to loan the car to you. It seems highly impractical for you two to share a vehicle when you have so much on your calendars. The auction for the car is slated for mid-October. If you decide you want to keep it, we can exclude it from the auction. The last time we did it, the average price was close to a thousand dollars.”
“Who gets the proceeds then?”
“The casino had 12 identical ’95 Town Cars. They’re earmarked for several charities. Ronald McDonald House, Hope House… The Methodist church here in Bon Temps will take the proceeds of two of them…”
I nodded. “Pastor Roper mentioned the proceeds will make their Thanksgiving dinner… I hope you don’t mind, but when he mentioned his wife is always at a loss for ovens, I suggested he speak to you two about using the ovens at Sandwich Island during off hours…”
She bolted from the swing faster than I thought she could to wrap her arms around me. “You sneaky, brilliant man! You’ve… You’ve just got a knack for making things happen, don’t you!?”
“I wouldn’t call it a ‘knack’… it’s simply a matter of resources… I told Pastor Roper to contact the other churches in Bon Temps to come up with a list of needs. It galls me to contribute to charities that spend thousands on black-tie fundraisers… it seems like a waste of resources… Why not just donate what was spent on the event?”
“Amen to that!”
“You’ll borrow the car, then?”
She finally let go of me to step back, shaking her head. “No… I’m going to buy it… I’ve been saving since my old car started acting up. I was eyeing a few things in the Auto Trader… The window units were you too, weren’t they?”
“I had Mr. Kinsey replace the few window units in the rental properties and had the pastor distribute them, yes.”
“Nothing about making sure we got a couple?” Maybe.
“I should see why Sookie’s yelling for me…”
She swatted my ass as I turned for the door. “She’s gonna get you.”
I found her in the hallway, staring into her grandmother’s bedroom… specifically, she was watching the sheers on the window flutter around the air conditioning.
She didn’t turn around. “You. Are. An. Ass.”
“It’s better you realize that early on.”
“Air conditioning and a car. Congratulations. You won.”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean. My property manager donated 31 window units to your grandmother’s church. How am I to blame for Pastor Roper thinking of your elderly grandmother roasting in a house without air conditioning?”
“You’re going to use Gran as your excuse?”
“No. I’m using your safety as my excuse to find a loophole that suits my wishes and stays within the confines of the treaty. I don’t like the idea of you sleeping in an open house. You’d only just told me Hadley stole your grandmother’s car and I’ve met local law enforcement. You can be angry, if you want, but I’m not going to apologize for seeing to your safety.”
“And the car, seriously Erik…”
“She’s going to buy it. You assumed it was a gift. It’s part of the casinos fleet of shuttle cars. Eleven others just like it will be auctioned off for charity and before you ask, the same thing was done 2 years ago when the ‘93s were replaced. I loaned it to her with the invitation to take part in the auction.”
“If it weren’t for the treaty?”
“If it weren’t for the treaty, I would have done the same thing as far as the car is concerned… I’m sure your grandmother would be too proud to accept a car as a gift.”
“And the window units?”
“If it weren’t for the treaty, I would have hired a eunuch to fan you and peel your grapes…”
She snorted when she tried to keep from laughing. “You’re a giant child.”
“And he’d have followed you everywhere you go to make sure your pillows are fluffed and your drink is never empty…”
Her face puckered and she shook her head. “Stop trying to make me laugh. I’m mad at you.”
“And by the time you were sick of his assistance, you’d have been willing to agree to central air conditioning just to be rid of him.”
“You never take no for an answer, do you?”
“Until last week I wouldn’t have agreed to as much as limitations, Sookie. You have a very strange effect on me.”
“I’m going to kick you in your junk, if you keep it up.”
“It would take more than that to get rid of me.”
She nodded. “I’m willing to do it repeatedly.”
“What will you be wearing? I’m picturing stiletto heels and black panties…”
She bit her bottom lip and flailed to slap both of my arms until I grabbed her wrists and pinned her to the wall.
When I tried to kiss her, she turned her head, leaving me with her neck… One lick and she was already beginning to melt. I whispered against her skin, “Our treaty puts me at the end of a very short leash, Sookie. Don’t think I resent it just because I drag you from time to time.”
She whimpered, “I’m not stupid… I won’t let you yank me too hard.”
“I’m not kidding.” I could tell… even though she was enjoying every bite and lick, she was very seriously warning me.
“Okay… lemme loose so I can get a quick shower.”
She shuddered when I growled against her neck. “Do you want my help?”
“Yes, but not with my aunt and grandmother in the kitchen.” Oh really?
When I stepped back, ‘oops’ was written all over her face… she slapped my chest as she charged into the bathroom.
“Sookie…” She closed the bathroom door and held her breath. “Could one call that a Freudian slip?”
She grumbled, “Shut up, butthead. Go visit. Stop harassing me.”
When I chuckled, “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” as I walked towards the front of the house, she opened the bathroom door just long enough to blow a raspberry.
When I entered the kitchen, Linda snickered, “Do you need ice, or a tourniquet…”
I joined them at the table and shook my head. “No. Sookie’s a lightweight compared to Pam. I’m fine.”
Adele offered, “Sorry for worrying you about nothing… Sookie hates ulterior motives, you know, people being together for clandestine reasons… I’m surprised Tara even talks to her anymore since no one wants to hear hard truths anymore.”
“You say ‘anymore’ as though people have ever wanted to hear the truth… Bullshit is the world’s most universal currency.”
Linda laughed, “Damn… it would figure you’d be a cynic like Sookie.”
“I probably have a better reason to be cynical than she does.” I’d been lied to for centuries.
Linda and Adele swapped loaded glances… and I was tempted, again, to glamour answers out of someone. I was nearing the end of my rope…
Instead… and only because I wanted to get the answers on my own… I changed the subject. “Speaking of cynicism… is there anything I should know about Hadley while I brainstorm?”
Adele offered, “She’s on a selfish little quest for instant gratification.”
“And she missed the memo explaining that life isn’t a fairy tale.”
Linda nodded and sat back. “She knows full well life isn’t a damn fairy tale, Erik. Her father walked out on her, she was molested, Corbett all but adopted her and did everything he could for her until he died…”
Adele finished, “Instead of realizing it was something the whole family was going through, on all counts, she milked the attention and acted like she was the only one anything was happening to.”
“And she’s burned bridges in mental health and she doesn’t think she needs rehab, yes?”
Linda nodded. “Right. She’s convinced that she doesn’t have a problem, I do. According to her, we’re the only ones who think she’s out of control… and yes, ‘we’ includes anyone who doesn’t want to use her for five minutes. She’s fine as long as everyone is watching ‘The Hadley Show’, but as soon as we say something over her head, or switch channels to something that bores her, she becomes belligerent so all eyes are on her again.”
“What is her favorite excuse for her behavior?”
“None of it. She pretends none of it got to her. She used to occasionally confide in Jason because he’s the least stuck up of all of us.” Rather than her female cousin?
Linda’s eyes darted to Adele for a split second before she shook her head. “No. She won’t go near Sookie if she can help it.”
“Because Sookie is a ‘Goody Two Shoes’ or because she’s a ‘freak’?”
Adele opened her mouth, but Linda raced to answer, “Both… and we’re broaching overlapping situations. I appreciate your offer to help me with Hadley, but I’d like to stay off the topic of Sookie if you don’t mind. I don’t want to talk out of turn.” Her tone was bitingly defensive.
I nodded and did my best to pretend I wasn’t going mad because of the way this family could dance around a topic. “Has Jason mentioned anything specific then?”
“Thank you… Not in a long time… she can tell he’s fed up with her too.”
“Sookie told me that your concerns are based on Hadley’s health… diseases and overdosing, yes?”
Linda nodded. “Basically that she’s going to get herself killed before she can get whatever this is out of her system and settle down.”
“And what are you prepared to do in the effort to calm her down?”
“Anything is a liquid concept, Linda. I’m sure your idea of ‘extreme’ differs from mine, from Adele’s…”
She sat forward with a completely grave look on her face. “When I say anything, I mean I’m willing to drug her against her will because those drugs can’t possibly hurt her as much as what you dumped in the tub last night. When I say anything, I mean I’m willing to have her abducted and detoxed in a basement somewhere because she wouldn’t have the option of checking herself out of handcuffs. When I say anything, I mean I’m willing to try everything from hypnosis to sewing her damn knees together. My little girl is a pain in the ass, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to outlive her… I’m all for Darwinism, but that’s my child using a lighter to see into a gas tank. Anything, Erik, anything. If you think of something brilliant, I’m on board. God knows, I’ve tried everything else.”
“Point taken… I’m sure you understand why I asked for clarification though.”
“I do… And I’m sure you understand why I can’t bear the idea of watching her party to death.”
I nodded. “Because you’re a good mother… you refuse to let your child fail herself if you can help it… I’ll do some research and make some calls tonight and tomorrow. I might just be able to come up with an agreeable ‘anything’.”