Like A Rock
Until we arrived at the stadium, Sookie and I brainstormed ways to make Klaasje more comfortable in her new home… indulgences we were sure she’d never ask for or expect.
Sookie made a list as each item came to us…luxurious linens, bath items, patio furniture and a Jacuzzi… I’d suggested installing a pool, but Sookie made a very good point by reminding me Klaasje’s dogs would most likely use it as a toilet. The Jacuzzi would just be used as a water dish. She texted Keira about the last minute additions, and called her brother to have him take an assortment of homemade candles to Klaasje’s house before work in the morning… and I called Bobby to ask about his progress and add to his chores.
It didn’t escape me that Sookie wasn’t the least bit bothered by my new responsibility to Klaasje… She seemed completely determined to help me.
Meanwhile, my friends seemed to reel at the idea I’d be willing to accept a Lordship. They knew I didn’t want the meager position I had. I hadn’t kept my jealousy of Connelly’s retirement to myself. I sent a rocking chair to congratulate the lucky prick.
But if I ever wanted to return to Europe, I’d be on edge until Halfdan was ended. The unfortunate reality of my situation was that retirement wasn’t likely. No matter where I would go, my reputation would precede me. Lordship was the closest I’d ever get to retiring.
We were still settling into our seats when Teague approached us with Klaasje in tow.
“Hello, baseball fans.”
He was in an oddly chipper mood… he must have run over a few Weres in the parking lot.
We all greeted him, but the boys did so wearing bright smiles, calling him ‘Mr. Sheriff Teague’.
He corrected, “Sheehan. Teague Sheehan…” That was news to me. “Americans take surnames so seriously. I finally had to choose one. In the old world I could say ‘just Teague’. Americans ask why…”
He chuckled, “I thought about that, but it could be taken other ways now… Klaasje chose it for me…”
Klaasje offered, “I was watching an older movie at the time. A man named Sheehan produced it.”
I chuckled, “I knew a Sheehan… Winfield… He ‘discovered’ John Wayne, but that was his only real claim to fame.”
Teague offered, “Klaasje was watching a Shirley Temple movie. Her English was minimal when we arrived. The housekeeper brought ‘American classics’ to tutor her. It worked well enough I’m jealous about learning all the languages before electricity.”
I agreed with a nod. It would have been nice to learn the Chinese languages from movies instead of enduring the scent of markets (because that was where people gathered) in the cabbage capital of the world.
Teague continued, “Since you’re all leaving tomorrow night, I thought Klaasje should visit for a while…”
Before Teague could finish, Sookie moved to sit on my lap and patted her vacated seat as Klaasje’s invitation. We’d both hoped to see her again before leaving so we could try to learn more ways to pamper her.
Klaasje smiled at Sookie, but waited until I nodded towards the seat before moving.
I asked, “Are you staying, Sheriff?”
He leaned against the railing and folded his arms. “No… Where are the boys?”
Cort and Hunter glanced at each other before I answered, “They followed something interesting into the restroom. They should be along shortly.”
“Then I’ll trust you to pass along a warning… You were on television last night. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t mind if you extend your visit, but the four of you together make Saâd uneasy…” Before Connelly or I could say anything, Teague held his hand up to stop us. “I know better, but Saâd is still young… It’s the same shit I deal with, so I understand. He had the hotel watched this afternoon. He told me your pet bought enough bathing suits to seem as though you were planning to extend your stay…”
Sookie covered her mouth and gasped, “I’m soooooooo sorry.”
I shook my head. “Don’t be. This is the same fuckery that resulted in my post as Sheriff. Even hearing we’re planning to go to the Caymans won’t change his perspective. He’ll assume Wyannie hired us… Teague, are we being asked to leave tonight?”
“No. That’s what he wants, but I told him I’d see to it you’re on your flight tomorrow night after the game as scheduled… If he doesn’t like it, he’s free to call his Maker and explain why he was trying to burn bridges with one of Rodrigo’s favorite Knights.”
That was adorable… time zones would keep Saâd from contacting Rodrigo if he’d kept his old habit of tending to business as soon as he’d risen and spending the rest of the night between the thighs of his pets.
“Don’t mention it… It was entirely selfish of me. If I’m not difficult, he doesn’t have an excuse to replace me… I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
Sookie nearly rattled apart, shaking her foot violently, until Teague was out of earshot.
She finally lurched forward to turn around, cringing. “Eric, if I had any idea that’s how bikini shopping would have been taken, I would have just shopped online. I swear… I’m so sorry…”
“I was serious when I told you not to worry about it. Saâd had you followed because of who you’re vacationing with. You didn’t do anything wrong…”
Connelly added, “With our reputations, we could have predicted this without a crystal ball. I tried to retire three times before Francesca invited me to settle in her territory.”
Sookie nodded, but while Klaasje assured me Teague was truly annoyed by Saâd’s lack of diplomacy, Sookie stared at my chest…
Connelly explained Saâd’s paranoia to Edward and Richard when they finally joined us, and Sookie still stared at my chest…
Sookie finally leaned to put her mouth to my ear and whisper, “I wasn’t followed, Eric.”
Since Connelly didn’t know better than to assume Sookie was simply Human, he tried to explain anyone could be followed for a while without noticing.
I guessed, “Hotel staff?”
Sookie shook her head. “The concierge told me about the tourist trap after I explained my Master is taking my family to ‘the beach’. Once we were back, I even showed him the suits I got for Gran because she’s not the bikini type, and he said his wife isn’t either. He knows the bathing suits aren’t part of relocating.”
“Are there any signs he’s Supernatural?”
She shook her head. “The gift basket could be bugged.”
Fuck. Her secret, her ability, could have been revealed… Linda’s journals… I couldn’t begin to guess about what had been said while I was dead for the day…
“Boys, did you thank Francesca for Sookie’s gift basket?”
Even if Saâd didn’t know Sookie’s name, he would have been able to have a Vampire glamour that information from the concierge. Saâd knew Francesca well enough to have passed off the joke about Sookie babysitting Edward and Richard.
Richard growled about being distracted by co-eds as he fished his phone from his pocket.
Even though we were only forced to wait for a minute, Sookie was anxious enough that I pulled her hand from her mouth to keep her from biting her nails.
Yes, Francesca had sent a gift basket. The items that should have been included were exactly what Sookie received… Like the rest of us, Francesca understood why Saâd would be concerned to see me in his Kingdom given my past and the lunatic I work for…
“I didn’t smell anyone who shouldn’t have been in our room, but it’s still possible our room was bugged… What did you talk about while you were in the suite today?”
She shook her head slowly while she thought about her answer…
“We… went out to eat when we got up… asked the concierge about tourist traps on our way out… came back long enough to change so we could go to the pool…”
And then we spent a fair amount of time discussing her unique ability to absorb sunlight and her aunt’s cognitive ability.
She whimpered, “It’s what we talked about that worries me.”
“Me too…” The worried look on her face was almost enough to drown out that Connelly and the boys had asked what she was referring to.
Sookie and I hadn’t discussed ‘the rules’ of her ability in the room. If someone was listening, they could assume she could read Vampires’ minds. There would be a bounty on her head.
Sookie sighed, “Would it make sense for Saâd to kick you out of Florida if the other stuff was heard though?”
“No. If he’d heard that, the last thing he’d want is for me to leave the territory.” But by demanding we leave, he could have been fishing to learn our travel plans.
My friends asked ‘what’ again while Cort blurted, “Tha driver, Mommy! Tha driver coulda spilled ‘cuz he’s tha same one since we got here. He seems alright, but he coulda got glamoured… he joked ‘bout why ya need all those bags a’ beach gear!”
Sookie’s eyes lit up. “I joked. I said I was staying here forever.”
Then the more pressing question pertained to how sound-proof the partition in the limo was.
Without explaining, she left my legs and easily climbed over Klaasje before she began running up the steps, asking Richard if he could call the driver to have him return to the loading zone…
I didn’t have time to explain, even if I was willing to say anything in front of Klaasje; she had my patience and my attention, but she’d have to earn my trust.
I offered, “Don’t glamour the children because you’re impatient; I’ll explain later,” and left my seat to follow Sookie.
As soon as I heard Edward complaining behind me, I knew I should have chosen my words more carefully… Connelly was tagging along. I was sure he’d use the excuse that he’d learn eventually anyway.
When I caught up to Sookie, she took my hand and sighed, “We’re never going to hear the end of this… that Cort figured it out.”
“Ignorance is bliss. He wasn’t worried about how much you’d be worth.”
“Or how many secrets I’m sitting on that no one would ever want anyone else to know.”
“Even if Saâd knows nothing, you’re taking my blood tonight. You’ve been associated with me. That alone could make you a target.”
Connelly actually gasped, but Sookie squeezed my hand slightly as she pushed through the crowded concourse against the flow of fans making their way to their seats…
While we waited at the curb for the limo to make it through traffic, Connelly asked, “What exactly do we think we’ll accomplish by speaking to the driver? If he’s been glamoured, he won’t remember…”
Sookie sighed, “Say you kill a guy and there’s a witness. You glamour the witness and everything’s yippie-skippy. You walk away and you never have to worry about that again, right?”
He nodded. “Why do I feel like I’m about to need to tie up some loose ends?”
She shook her head. “As far as I know, no one will ever know what the witness saw… But a telepath would know that he saw something. Glamouring leaves a scar behind where the memory used to be.”
He scowled at me. “Flying and telepathy? You lucky arse! Fuck you. You don’t get to retire. You don’t walk away from a table when the deck’s stacked in your favor.”
I actually managed to chuckle.
“I’m not a telepath, Connelly… Sookie is.”
“You mean the Mermaid-Kitsune-Witch?”
Sookie raised an eyebrow at him and offered, “You forgot Fae.”
“Right. Now you’re a mind-reading Faerie… So? What am I thinking then?”
“You think this is bullshit, and you’re understandably sick of being the butt of my jokes… but I can’t read Vampires’ minds.”
He mumbled that her excuse was weaker than her tooth fairy taxi driver and waved his arm to catch the attention of a group of three men on their way into the stadium.
“Excuse me, have any of you heard of John Edward?”
Sookie snorted as the men shrugged and nodded their heads.
Connelly pressed, “My wife died and my friends are trying to convince me to go to a John Edward show.”
The three men stared back at him somewhat blankly for a moment before Sookie huffed, “Contestant #1 thinks you should go for it because it can’t hurt anything, but you should make us pay for travel and tickets… #2 is focused on a co-worker’s obsession with the show… and #3 would love to go to a John Edward taping so he can call bullshit… but he’d shit his pants if he heard from his grandfather.”
The three test subjects weren’t the only ones gawking at Sookie… There was a gaping hole in Connelly’s beard…
And I would have been lying if I denied being impressed. It was the first time I’d really seen her work.
Sookie added, “The third one is mostly creeped out by the idea of having spectral witnesses to the more private moments in life… Blumpkins? Ew.”
Contestant #3 argued, “Don’t judge me! I was trashed!”
Sookie giggled, “Not so trashed that your memory is tweaked, but can I at least judge your girlfriend?”
As amusing as the demonstration was, our limo was sidling the curb.
I snorted, “If that’s good enough for you, glamour them and cut them loose.”
Connelly was still glamouring the trio when the driver walked around the car to open the door for us, and Sookie anxiously watched them walk away before turning her attention to the driver.
“We aren’t going anywhere… Anthony, I was wondering… Did you talk to anyone after I got back to the hotel from shopping this afternoon?”
He nodded. “Nothing noteworthy… The valet on shift today was just a stupid kid, so he kept asking what kind of stuff goes on in the back of limos. I sat in the car for a long while because there’s only so many ways I can say the partition blocks almost everything. A couple of folks stopped to ask if I’m driving someone famous, but that’s pretty normal… One guy asked if 2 Live Crew was staying there.”
Sookie pinched her face together in confusion. “He asked about 2 Live Crew? Of all the celebrities in town for the Series?” When the driver shrugged, Sookie pressed, “Did he say anything else? Have you seen him before?”
He shook his head. “I told him I’m just driving baseball fans to and from the ball games… Is something wrong, Miss Stackhouse?”
She sighed, “Not really. Thanks though…”
“Are you worried about me blabbing about y’all or something?”
“No… I just got a crazy text from my ex. Take care of yourself, okay?”
“He just likes scaring me. I think I just overreacted to some educated guesses. He knew I was bikini shopping, but I kind of have a thing for bathing suits. It’s pretty much the only thing I like shopping for.”
He chuckled and tilted his head towards me. “Maybe your Vampire could think of a way to fix the creepy ex… Just give me a yell if you need to have another powwow.”
On the surface, it didn’t seem as though we’d learned anything from Anthony. The conversation with the test subjects had been much more telling… but Sookie still let Anthony walk away without asking more questions.
As soon as Anthony put the car in gear, Sookie moved to take my hand again and began walking towards the stadium again… She sighed, “Confirmed… Cort’s going to be a complete pill.”
“He’s allowed to be proud of himself… What do we know?”
“Do you guys have terminology for the lie you use to fill in the gap left by a glamour?”
I shook my head. “Not really. Some, the older ones, call it phantázein.”
“Okay… the 2 Live Crew bit is the phantázein. It was sloppy. Anthony remembers talking to me at about two o’clock, and then it was dark outside and he was talking about 2 Live Crew. He’s missing a few hours of his day, but the Vampire who glamoured him left himself in Anthony’s memory. I’ll be able to recognize him if he’s lurking.”
“How honest was he about not being able to hear what’s said in the back of the car?”
“One hundred percent… He’s heard us laughing, but he hasn’t overheard anything we should worry about… He heard y’all singing when he picked y’all up from the airport.”
Connelly mumbled, “This is insane.”
Sookie offered a half-hearted grin in his direction. “So, when I asked him if he’d ever seen the guy before, Anthony had another burn… he was approached last night while y’all were out clubbing. He remembers the barely-legal girls Edward and Richard found, and having a weird internal debate about it. Then he remembers lighting a cigarette for the guy that asked about 2 Live Crew.”
Connelly shook his head, still staring as though he was in the presence of a unicorn. “How do you know so much about glamouring, what it does? Have you been working for Eric?”
“No… Day guys… Eric’s is borderline retarded. If I say ‘your Master’, and leave a pause, they have time to think about their bosses and remember things about them… most of the flashes of memory come in a fast-paced slideshow. For day guys, it’s more like a sieve because they only remember what their Master lets them.”
“That’s incredible… and you get nothing from Vampires?”
She shook her head. “I can gauge some things by the way your mind reacts to a subject matter, but not hear exact thoughts… Your mother…” After a moment, she offered, “Not much, so I’d guess you didn’t know her… but Eric respected, if not adored, his.”
Connelly grinned and nodded. “Fever took her when I was a wee lad. I don’t have any memories of her. My sisters tended to me… This is just… that’s a nice little talent… Are you Fae, or was that part of the joke?”
Sookie shrugged. “Part, but we don’t know how much. I only learned why I’m telepathic once my aunt started dating a Were…”
The announcement for the audience to stand for the National Anthem interrupted Sookie and she began jogging towards the stadium… still holding my hand.
Sookie and I were inching past Klaasje before the end of the first verse of the anthem was finished…
Sookie was whispering apologetically for being a troublemaker as Connelly squeezed past us to move to his seat.
Connelly chuckled, probably realizing Sookie’s supposed trouble-making was genetic.
Edward glanced in my direction more than a dozen times during the course of one song, anxiously waiting for news about our spy…
But once we settled onto our seats again and I opened my mouth to explain, Connelly shook his head and pointed at Sookie… She was leaning back against me, her head resting on my shoulder, so I couldn’t see her face.
She breathed, “Just a sec…”
We had ‘priceless seats’, but everyone in our party was watching Sookie instead of the players taking the field.
She finally leaned to the side and tilted her head so she could whisper, “Found him.”
I hadn’t even considered he might have followed us into the stadium.
She nodded and gave me an evil grin. “Can we wave at him?”
I chuckled. “It’s probably better to not taunt him.”
She pouted, “Dammit… So, he’s two sections back at seven o’clock, leaning against the wall next to the vomitorium under the nose-bleeds…” She nibbled her lip for a moment before turning to look in the other direction. “Help me out, y’all… Beer vendor, do you see one?”
Brilliant excuse for us to turn and scan the crowd… brilliant enough that Connelly stared at her for a moment before taking his chance to lay eyes on the spy.
All of the cunning, but completely sane… the Fae should have thought of hybridizing earlier.
While we made a show of trying to find a beer vendor, Sookie whispered, “Younger than Pam.”
Average height and build, medium brown hair pulled back into a low ponytail… and making his best effort to look like he wasn’t paying any attention to our party.
‘Younger than Pam’ made Edward whip around in his seat to stare at Sookie, but Richard grumbled without moving his lips, “Don’t be a nosey cunt. It’s Eric. We’ll know when we need to know.”
Connelly scoffed, “Are you calling me a nosey cunt?”
Richard chuckled, “Maybe, but you should own it by now, for fuck sake.”
Edward pointed at Sookie and mumbled, “But… but… how?”
Sookie adjusted to focus on the field again, laying her head back against my shoulder and giggling, “Knowing he won’t get his answers until after the game, this might be the first time he’ll ever be distracted from the Yankees playing a Series…”
I chuckled, “You really are a troublemaker.”
“I own it though… already… at my age…”
Connelly turned and narrowed his eyes. “Now you’re calling me a nosy cunt?”
“Like ya anyway, if that counts for anything.”
Cort and Hunter agreed from Edward and Richard’s laps.
Cort giggled, “He’s not even half as bad as Gran… She tried ta crawl up his butt an’ take notes.”
That was one way to word it.
I said, “That reminds me… Sookie, remind me to email Willem tonight.”
She nodded, but Connelly asked, “Why Willem?”
“Because ‘Gran’ is a histrophile, and her favorite topic is the American Civil War.”
Edward rolled his eyes and scoffed, “Five years of fuckery, that was. It would have been easier to just poison water supplies for all the good it did. Lincoln would have emancipated the slaves anyway. And the aftermath was a complete nightmare.”
Richard snorted, “Meanwhile, we had unskilled immigrants starving in the streets who would’ve jumped at the chance to work a field for a shitty meal. Those poor fools left Europe to escape starvation only to watch their children whither anyway. It was fucking hell to watch.”
Connelly added, “And once the slaves made their way north, what happened? All they knew was farming. I had more hands than I needed. It took a generation or two before anything improved for the poor fucks.”
Hunter shouted, “The Yankee angle!” and stabbed his hand through the air to demand Sookie’s “PHONE!”
Sookie giggled and arched her back to reach her phone… Hunter was already calling Adele when Sookie turned her head to ask quietly, “You planned that, didn’t you?”
“After a long day with Margie and Lil, I’m sure your grandmother will appreciate a reason to call Gus.”
Hunter began quickly repeating what my friends had already mentioned of the Civil War as soon as Adele answered the phone.
Connelly complained, “You’re feeding us to Sookie’s grandmother?”
I shrugged. “Adele Stackhouse isn’t the least bit unpleasant. It isn’t as though I set you up to try to correct a bigot who idealizes slavery… She’s genuinely thrilled to hear a firsthand perspective… as competitive as you all are, you’ll have to make your lesson spectacular.”
Edward nodded and blurted, “We were involved with the Tea Destruct- Tea Party… Sons of Liberty, we were.”
Richard added, “And Pocahontas has been in New York since she was buried in Gravesend.”
Connelly stared at me for a moment, probably annoyed by the temptation to participate. He finally growled, “Stonewall Jackson,” slowly.
It was too easy to imagine the smile on Adele’s face as she giggled, “Hunter, be an angel and pass the phone to my new friend, please.”