Jason Stackhouse stormed into the house, nearly knocking Sookie over with the door in the commotion.
Sookie had been impossibly accurate about his state. ‘Drunk as a skunk’ had been fitting considering his nearly toxic odor.
“Gran! What’s wrong? Who’s this guy?”
“Nothing is wrong, Jason. Have a seat.”
“You said someone was trying to get into the house. You said you needed help.”
She smiled at him. “You must’ve misunderstood me, son. I said that someone was on the way to the house… to help.”
As she led her grandson to his chair, she winked at me. That sly old woman had lied to her grandson, knowing he’d ignore her if it hadn’t been an ‘emergency’.
He stared at me, bewildered if not blank and Sookie resumed her perch next to me. “So who is he? What does he want?”
“I’m Eric Northman. Your sister brought your situation to my attention. My primary interest is damage control. It won’t matter who the killer is if the press catches wind of the murders, it will become about vampire ‘subculture’.”
“So you give two shits about the women that are dead?!”
Mrs. Stackhouse swatted at her grandson and told him to mind his manners.
I sat forward, leaning my elbows into my knees and doing my best to not palm his head and cave it in. “Mr. Stackhouse, you are the one with a vested interest in these women. Their deaths very much make you look responsible. Your concern should lie in that I typically have very little patience for humans. Now, do you know anything about the vampire that…” I looked to Sookie for a reminder.
“Thank you… Do you have any information about the vampire Maudette was with?”
“Uh… There was a video. Maudette liked to tape… it. He has a tattoo on his head… up his neck onto his head.”
The only fool that fit that description was…
Again, Sookie took me by surprise. “You know him?”
She nodded angrily. “Unfortunately. I met Malcolm, Diane and Liam at Bill’s. They’re vicious. The stereotype.”
She was painfully right about that. Not only were they the stereotype, but they prided themselves on the fact. “They’ve been spending time in Bon Temps?”
“I’m not so sure about that. Bill would be the one to ask. Malcolm mentioned Monroe. I think they were just welcoming Bill to the neighborhood.”
“Regrettably, identifying him does no good. If he were the killer, strangulation would have been but an appetizer.”
Sookie nodded in agreement. “I can’t imagine he’d leave much to identify. Maudette and Dawn were ‘just’ strangled.”
The drunk jolted to his feet, irate and spitting. “APPETIZER!? JUST STRANGLED!?”
I didn’t budge as I ordered, “Sit down.”
He blinked quickly, erratically and finally flopped back into his chair.
“Since you are the only one known to have bedded both women, did you mention their bite marks to anyone else?”
“Why me? Who says that this Liam Vamp ain’t the one to do ‘em both?”
“Because as a rule vampire are better at cleaning up after themselves. If they knew something that would be damaging to the vampire they were with, they would have simply been glamoured.”
“You would know, right?!”
Sookie patted my knee, ignoring the ill mannered accusation more easily then I had. “What if they couldn’t be glamoured?”
“All humans can be glamoured.”
“You… You can’t? How are you sure?” My, my, my… The plot thickens.
She shrugged with a proud grin on her face. “I asked Bill to try.”
“And nothing?” I was aware that I was staring.
“Well, I could feel him try, but it didn’t work.”
As inept as Compton is, he surly could glamour. “That isn’t typical.”
Her brother interrupted, rather erupted again. “Sookie! How do you know he isn’t the killer?”
“GEEZ LOUISE! Because I walked into his bar looking for information! If he was the killer, I would have been drained and dumped in the woods along the highway. Instead, he took time out of his life to sit here and get accused of murder by the only suspect in a double homicide after being cross examined about feudal Russia! It doesn’t matter why he’s interested, shut up and be thankful! DAMN!” She was nothing if not perceptive… and captivating.
We needed to get back on track. “Mr. Stackhouse? The marks? Did you mention them to anyone?”
“I… I… might have mentioned them to my friends.”
“How chivalrous. Which friends?”
He squirmed, avoiding the topic and I watched Sookie lean forward, tilting her head as though she was correcting an antenna. He shouted, “STOP THAT!”
She gave him an angry look before she jerked her head to face me. “Can I talk to you alone for a minute?”
“Oh no! That’s none of his business! You stop doing that! You promised!”
I’d barely had the chance to tell her yes before she took my hand and led me to the front porch. “Shut your mouth Jason. It’s for your own good. If you get out of your seat, he’ll glamour you back into it.”
I was staring again. “What was that?”
She rolled her eyes and heaved out a deep breath. “I can read minds.”
I was still staring, but now in disbelief. “What am I thinking?”
“That I’m insane, but I don’t have to be a mind reader to know that. I can’t hear Vampire thoughts.” She punctuated the end of her statement with a wide smile.
“You can’t read my mind, but you can read humans’ minds.”
She nodded. “Jason was bragging on his… conquests to his buddies on the road crew. Hoyt and Rene.”
“Is that why you can’t be glamoured?”
She shrugged again. “I’m new to it. If you don’t believe me, try for yourself.”
I stared at her, wanting to take the bait too much for my taste. “What if I choose to glamour you to do something in poor taste?”
She raised her eyebrow and tilted her head to the side. “Then you’re less likely to get a yes when you finally ask me out.”
“You are very cheeky.”
“So I’m told.”
I started, unable to ignore the invitation. As I pushed harder, she rocked onto her hip, crossing her arms and grinning. “Are you even trying?”
She giggled and rocked to her other hip. “It feels like the carbonation in a soda. Little bubbles. What were you trying to get me to do?”
“Simply lift your arms. How? I’ve never…”
“I don’t know. The locals call me ‘Crazy Sookie’ because I usually have a big fake grin on my face to hide my reactions to what goes through people’s minds.”
“You’re quite serious. Everyone in town knows?”
“Not really. Most everyone just thinks I’m a nut.”
“I’m anxious to see you do it.”
“Mr. Northman, the murders.”
I laughed at myself for being so preoccupied with her. “Questioning the two friends would be in his best interest.”
“The police wouldn’t question them. Not on my suggestion anyway.”
“Could you pick through their thoughts?”
“It’s more like a live radio broadcast.”
“So they would have to be actively thinking about the killings.”
“How do you think that might be achieved?”
“Ooooh. That’s the $64,000 question. We’d have to think of a way to bait them.”
Less interested in the murders than I was her, I decided to play. I took a step towards her, licking my lips. “What are you suggesting?”
She laughed. Our faces inches away from one another and she was unphased. “I’m not planning on putting myself at the end of that hook, thanks.”
“Hmmm. Fair enough.” I didn’t back away, testing to see if she would.
“I’d feel guilty if someone else was bait and things didn’t go well though.”
“Miss Stackhouse, are you asking me to bite you?”
I let my fangs down with a smirk and she giggled. Giggled? “How long have you been perfecting that smile of yours? You’re a flirt.” Such sass.
“A very long time. You didn’t answer my question.”
“I figured it was redundant. Would you be willing to glamour my brother to make sure he brings Hoyt and Rene to Merlotte’s tomorrow night. I could listen in to their thoughts. Have Bill visit, maybe just talking to him might get an anti-fangbanger brain spinning.”
“And if it works you could be strangled in the parking lot before I have the chance to ask you on that date.”
“I might be safe if there was a really strong vampire there to make sure I get home safely.”
“That might be a good idea.”
“Good. I’ll call Bill in just a bit.” She wiggled her eyebrows at me and turned to go back inside.
Mmmmm. It is a good thing she can’t read vampire minds. I reached for her, putting my arm around her waist and pulling her to me. Her playful gasp was practically musical and I put my mouth to her ear. “What if there was another volunteer for the job?”
More surprising than her lack of resistance, was the amazing feel of her arm as it laid over mine across her ribs. “I’ll have to consider all the applications. Do you always have such a hard time focusing?”
As I was finishing Jason Stackhouse’s glamour, there was a knock on the door.
Sookie rolled her eyes and huffed as she got up from her seat next to me. “That’d be Bill, since anyone else would have had the manners to not come by at 3am.”
“How did he get here?” I’d have heard a car, so would Sookie for that matter.
“He’d have walked. He lives on the other side of the cemetery…” Lovely. “Do you need to talk to him? Or can I just apologize for ditching him and send him home?”
“I should speak to him.” Even if he was the last thing I wanted to deal with.
Her brother got up in an annoyed bluster announcing that he wasn’t in the mood for ‘Vampire Bill’. I watched him leave through the front door, shoving past Bill Compton and leaving the uppity asshole at an open door and glaring at me.
When Mrs. Stackhouse stood, I remembered the stale human custom and joined her. She smiled and put her hand in the middle of my chest. “Mr. Northman, you may never know how much I appreciate your help. Thank you. I’m grateful even if my grandson is too pig headed to be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to retire my old bones.”
So help me, I smiled. “My pleasure, Mrs. Stackhouse. Will I see you tomorrow night when I bring your granddaughter home?”
She laughed. “You should hope not.” She winked and began her slow, stiff journey towards her room.
“Hey there, Bill. Come on in…” Sookie closed the door behind him. “…I’d offer you a true blood, but you’re looking pretty pink.”
“Sookie, are you alright?”
She gave him a confused scowl and shook her head. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Brilliant that he was, he shot a dirty look in my direction. “After Pam took you…”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “When we were done in his office we came to get you, but you were surrounded with dinner options.” And he wasn’t worried enough to call her over the last 2 hours. He showed no concern until he saw my car parked in the yard. And I thought I’d be bored all night.
“Sookie, I told you…”
“Hush. It’s fine. He got me home just fine and we’ve already worked some things out for finding the killer…” She turned to me and smiled. I was still amused that she told him to hush and he obeyed her. “Do you need a minute?”
I shook my head so she offered Bill a seat and sat next to me on the couch again. “Bill.”
“How often have you seen Malcolm and his nest?”
He scowled at Sookie as he answered. “They’ve called on me twice.”
“Are they still nesting in Monroe?”
“To the best of my knowledge.”
“Is there a reason that you escorted Miss Stackhouse to Fangtasia to interrogate my customers about dead fangbangers without announcing yourself?”
“You weren’t available when we arrived.”
“Pam was available. She was at the door tonight.”
“We… I… We were already at the bar when I noticed your absence. I was about to ask to see you when Pam seized Sookie.”
The look he gave Sookie was scathing, as though he was blaming her for his poor etiquette. “I see, and when you felt her leave, how did you presume she was getting home?” The look on his face was priceless. “She’s had your blood. You were perfectly aware that there was a growing distance.”
Sookie tensed next to me, confirming my suspicion. He hadn’t told her about the side effect of having a vampire’s blood.
Bill spat, “YOU TOLD HIM!?”
“She told me that you healed her. It’s neither here nor there. The point is that you ignored the custom with your reason for being at Fangtasia and again by not checking in with me when you arrived in my area. Consider this a warning.”
“I was still in my grace period. I haven’t been here for 2 weeks yet.” Whining. Even if it wasn’t a surprise, it was still galling.
“And you came to my place of business as a gypsy. You know too well that you should have told Pam your intentions and that you needed an audience.”
“I told you…”
“I am your Sheriff. YOU don’t tell me anything.”
“I didn’t think it would hurt to let her speak to Longshadow. He wouldn’t have told her anything damming. I didn’t think any of you would tell her anything. I was just humoring her.”
Sookie made an angry noise in her throat that sounded a bit like a farm animal. “Mr. Northman, are you done discussing?”
I had to try not to laugh. “Quite.”
She huffed and rolled her eyes. “Bill, your invitation is SO rescinded! Jackass.”
Bill foolishly tried to resist as he was drawn out of his chair and back to the door and she stayed a safe distance away. “Sookie?”
“Be quiet. Gran’s trying to rest.”
“Sookie?” He lingered just past the threshold of the door.
“Seriously Bill, you were placating me? When I’m worried that my brother might go to jail for murders he didn’t commit? Watch your nose. Swinging door.”
“Don’t you look at me like that.”
I almost laughed. I was trying to seem sympathetic. “Like what?”
“Like you feel sorry for me. Faker. You had fun making him look like a jerk.”
I stared at her affronted that a human was chiding me and once again amused that she be so outspoken.
“He didn’t need your help. I was already angry that he hadn’t bothered checking on me all this time after being yanked out of my chair. Are you going to finish spilling the beans about this mysterious blood thing?”
“It’s not terribly complicated. Once you have a vampire’s blood he can sense you, your feelings, encourage them to an extent.”
“Since you’ve had his blood, if he wants you to, say… want him he can influence your dreams, how you react to his touch. Since you are angry at him, he may be able to bring on your speedy forgiveness.”
“Oh, not now he won’t!”
“The only thing keeping me from shooting him right now is that he gave me his blood to save my life.”
“It would hurt like hell though, right?”
I laughed again. “And make him really angry. Not a wise decision.”
“Ahhhhh! Speaking of ‘wise decisions’… You gotta go.” She jerked her thumb over her shoulder to the door.
I smiled leaving my seat and closed the distance between us. “Will you come with me?”
She snorted. “No.”
“Just to my car. There could be drainers out there.” I batted my eyes at her. “You promised.”
She laughed through her nose. “That right there is why you are leaving. Come on, flirt.”
I stood in the doorframe and waited for her to get all the way to the driver’s side, laughing as she stopped and hunched down pretending to be on alert.
She gave me a playful smile and whispered, “The coast is clear, Mr. Northman.”
I sped over to her, wedging myself between her and my car and matched her quiet tone. “How can you be sure?”
“Because Bill is managing just fine in the cemetery.”
I looked over and that son of a bitch was skulking back into the shadows. “Not good enough. Leave.”
We both watched, waiting until he was completely out of sight. “He’s scared of you.”
“He should be.”
“Is it because of your position or are you that much stronger?”
She giggled, bringing my attention back to her.
“Mind if I ask you a question?”
She shrugged. “Shoot.”
“Why is it that you don’t seem to be? Scared, that is.”
“Should I be?”
“Yes. Most people are.”
“The obvious reason. I could very easily hurt you.”
“Do you want to?”
“Of course not.”
She tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “Well then… I’m not sure I get it.”
“I could kill you.”
She smirked up at me. “Anyone could kill me. Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you would.”
“How incredibly naïve of you.”
“I could kill you too.”
“That’s your argument? Miss Stackhouse, It would be a lot more difficult for you to hurt me.”
“More difficult, but not impossible. I can’t afford to be afraid of vampires. It’s the only peace I get.”
“The only peace?”
“My disability. The mind reading thing. I can’t hear you so I can relax. I don’t have to block your thoughts.”
“This ability of yours has me very curious.”
She giggled. “Curious is an improvement from the standard repulsion.”
“Repulsion? You’re serious?”
“You’re curious because you know that you don’t have to worry. How would you feel if you found out you had no privacy? That I could hear your every thought?”
“Every thought? Your ability is that strong?”
“I’ve always had it. School was a nightmare because I couldn’t concentrate. It’s easier, louder when I’m touching the person. There’s a few folks, like my boss that are harder, but 99% of the time I hear every single word that goes through a person’s mind and quite a few mental images.”
“Explaining why you call it a disability.”
She nodded. “I thought about trying to put it to good use, but who’d believe me?”
“Well, with the right tactics you may be able to put your ability to good use tomorrow night.”
Sookie gave me a flirtatious smirk. “Tactics?”
“Yes. Well, I believe that Compton’s friendship would have already made you a target so simply talking to a vampire wouldn’t entice a killer’s ire.”
“Oh really? So what are you suggesting, Mr. Northman?”
“That you flirt with me.”
“Me? I’d only embarrass myself. It would be like playing chopsticks for Beethoven!” …And she makes me laugh. Years. Long ones.
“I could help you. It’s only fair since you’ve protected me.”
“It’s getting late. You’d have to make it a quick lesson.”
I lifted my hand to tuck a section of hair behind her ear, then ran my finger down the side of her neck slowly as I spoke. “I think if you really want to sell it, you shouldn’t be afraid of casual touching.”
I could hear her pulse quickening as my touch crossed her collar bone. “I could get confused. What if I cross a line?” One could hope.
“I very much doubt that you could cross any line I might have.”
She smiled, taking my hand just before my finger reached her already pert nipple. “That makes me feel better. Good night, Mr. Northman.” She put my hand to her mouth and put a kiss on my palm.
I watched her bounce all the way into her house, and listened for her to lock the bolt…
I’d hate for anything to happen to my cure to boredom.