It only took a moment for us to make our plan… the rest of the elevator ride was spent looking forward to the chance to get our hands on the major nuisances of our ‘lives’.
Salome had eagerly offered their room number like virgins to a pyre, along with the infuriating news that Mrs. Caroline Holiday had reserved her room for 4 nights… Killing Sookie would only take 1. Including their night to plan… turning her would take four.
Even if we didn’t know which room was theirs, Hadley made their location known as soon as we were clear of the elevator. The petulant little bitch was whining in full voice to Lorena about wanting to go downstairs to feed…
Lorena’s tone was pandering as a minimum when she told her infantile company to have some patience…
All of my plans for Lorena were tossed aside when she told Hadley that she wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. “…See what’s so special about the cow that my Bill had to die for…” She was looking forward to inspecting his substitute.
I hadn’t seen her for more than a century… And she was still completely enamored with her pathetic excuse of a child…
I motioned to have the Berts follow me to the stairwell so that I could change the plans…
My original plan was to storm into the room and take the twat’s head from her shoulders… Barehanded… for the fun of it… and let Hadley sit in vampire debris and the fear of Andre’s imminent arrival.
The new plan wasn’t going to make Sookie happy, but she’d probably be less angry than with the original.
Sadly, since both of them were vampires, neither of them pissed down their legs when they jumped to their feet… But the looks on their faces when the splinters of door and framework flew at them after I kicked it in was enough.
Hadley, being the pathetic waste of plasma that she is, tried to run away… My satisfied smile when Hadley screamed in the hallway was reflexive… primal.
Poor Hadley ran into her ‘brothers’ (probably literally) just outside the door while Lorena leapt for a stake she’d left on her nightstand.
I watched her.
In the light tight room, there was only one exit and it just so happened to be blocked by the mother fucker she should’ve been considering when she made her plans to come after my Sookie.
She held onto her stake, shaking in spite of her attempt to hide how frightened she was while I rolled up the sleeves of my shirt so that her filth wouldn’t taint it. “Long time, no see, Lorena. What have you been doing with yourself?”
She hissed in a miserable attempt to intimidate me. “Most recently I’ve been mourning the loss of my child.”
“Why mourn a cock drip like Bill? Just replace him with some marginally sane vagabond. At least they have some manner of survival instinct.”
“I doubt you’d be so flippant if you lost your precious ingénue.”
I laughed at her. “Ohhh, my Pam is hardly an ingénue… I’d call her a protégée if she weren’t so proficient… She hasn’t needed me for a while now. I don’t need to be reminded of how lucky I am that she prefers to stay with me.”
“I hear that your luck extends to taking fat little whores from other vampire’s beds too.” Trying to bait me into lunging for her? Compton never had a chance with such a fool for his maker.
“It does. You mentioned wanting to meet her.”
“I didn’t come here to meet the little bitch.”
Snorting at her, I slid my hands into my pockets, knowing that it would make her believe it was a vulnerability and itch to use it against me. “Lorena, I’m aware that it’s been a while, but you know what you’re dealing with. Are you going to drop the stake and play nicely?”
“So you can kill me? I DO know what I’m dealing with…”
“Lorena, if you truly had a single sane thought in your head, you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t have come for my Sookie. You wouldn’t be standing there with a stake thinking it could do any good against me. I’m stronger. I’m faster. And the only way you’re going to get to live long enough to finalize your will is if you drop that fucking stake.”
“Or what? You killed my Bill. What else do I have to live for?”
“Your Bill left your side ages ago because you’re so blatantly maniacal that your own child couldn’t tolerate you. You should have thrown yourself on a chair leg then and saved me the trouble of bothering with you tonight. By my estimation, you owe Sookie and me 17 nights each. You can either drop your silly little stick and come with me or you can put up a fight.”
“To what end?”
“Cooperating guarantees a quick death… resisting comes with a perfunctory 34 nights of ruin, mutilation and violation… and you know I have the means and animals at my disposal to make it happen.”
“Don’t you get your hands dirty anymore?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“For a human…?”
“For my human. I’m not sure you’re catching on, Lorena. Since I rise early in my old age, by the time you rise you’ll be enjoying fresh stitches every night… you remember those, don’t you? Being flayed and stuffed with silver slag, then sewn back together with fine gauge silver wire… to rise like that every night and then die with a different animal on top of you every morning… your last 34 nights… and believe me, if you take me away from Sookie for that long, I’ll be inventing new fun. Just. For. You.”
“She was Bill’s human.”
“She’s responsible. She owes me a child.” Over my dead body.
“Calling him a cock drip was the nicest thing I could think of, Lorena. He needed a fucking helmet. If he were smarter or had a smarter maker, he wouldn’t have introduced her to me at all. She came to me. She wanted my protection because your stain was such a failure as a vampire he couldn’t manage to cover his tracks. You might as well have separated him from his head yourself… Would you like to know how he spent his last night in existence? Or do you already know? Could you feel the silver burning him from Seattle? Did you know that for pocket change, you can buy hundreds of little sterling earring hooks… Pam and I make the occasional bets… whose hooks can hang the longest without pulling through… we use little brass fishing weights. 6 ounces are just enough that they don’t slice through too fast…”
“You tortured him before you killed him?”
“I let Pam torture him. She’s been a very good girl this year. An early birthday gift of sorts. He’d have gone on like that for a while if he hadn’t been royally discontinued.”
“You’re either talking about THE queen, MY child or MY Sookie…”
“Fine! Your human BITCH! She’s the reason…”
“She actually cried for that lump of shit, felt guilt for her part in his asinine choices. She isn’t to blame for his incompetence; you are… Lorena, you’re keeping me from Sookie. I’m losing patience for you. Make your choice.”
She stared at me for long enough that I was starting to think she was actually going to take her chances with the stake.
I could’ve stood there until dawn if it weren’t for the fact that Sookie was a wreck. An emotional tornado… overwhelming amounts of horror and fatigue and angst… my only peace came from the gifts she gave me… the scent from my shirt, though fading, offered some tranquility… my rings told me that Pam was close enough to Sookie to be some comfort… They were so close that I could practically see Sookie’s hands in Pams.
The source of my impatience was the understanding that Sookie’s state wouldn’t improve until she saw that I’d given Lorena the chance to be rational. That I didn’t kill her recreationally… Just because Sookie wasn’t frightened of me, didn’t mean that she couldn’t be…
I loved her too much to fuck up so early…
Sookie was watching the door when I walked into Shed, tethering one useless cunt in each hand by her hair.
Sookie’s emotions seemed to die and her stare became blank… watching me lead the bitches to stand by a pair of chairs I kicked to the middle of the floor… waiting for Siegbert to return from the bathroom and Wybert to be done clearing the lounge…
I didn’t need to explain to Pam… she seemed the least interested in our entrance of anyone in our entourage… Salome, Owen, Mickey, Herveaux, Jake… all of them were watching as though they’d paid full price for tickets. I almost made a joke about Paulette not being invited.
Even when Seigbert returned from the bathroom, there was no reaction from Sookie… the silver nets that she disposed of the night before were showcased in his gloved hands…
Sookie watched Siegbert lay the nets out over the seat of each chair and both of the stupid twats tried to take a step away. An act that was only successful in pulling their own hair.
I enjoyed the smug look on Hadley’s face too much to make her sit first.
I directed Lorena over her would-be throne. “Lift your skirt. Take a load off.”
She balked, making the mistake of sneering.
“Lorena, one night or thirty four, the choice is yours.”
She swallowed nothing as she tried to ease herself onto the equivalent of a seat of a branding iron.
“I already have plans for when you try to leave that seat. All I need is an excuse. Understand?”
When she nodded, I finally had the chance to pay some special attention to Hadley.
She was so smug… “You wouldn’t. I’m the queens…”
“Retard. You’re the queen’s least fruitful venture. Your flavor as a human couldn’t possibly make up for how you shame her as a vampire. It’s only been days since your queen, your maker set the precedent of declaring a human as a protected asset and in your infantile little tantrum brought on by your own foolish sense of entitlement, you led that blood thirsty whore directly to your own kin… I would. I can. I will put your ass on silver until Andre can come take your self-important ass away.”
“You’d punish the queen?”
I pulled her closer to laugh in her face, but not so close that she’d spoil my shirt. “No. And you won’t either… Since you were so brilliant as to brag about being able to block your own maker from sensing you… Sophie-Ann won’t feel a bit of it. If the queen feels the slightest bit of your time-out, then the Fellowship of the Sun will have a young vampire, signed, sealed and delivered to its doorsteps first thing in the morning and you will be their next casualty in the war on vampires.”
I let her turn her head enough to see that the Berts were on board and turned her to face me again.
“You’re so young, Hadley… Do you know how long it’ll take to burn? The Berts are sick of how you embarrass and weaken their maker. Andre is sick of babysitting you… Now, Lift. Your. Skirt.”
“Sookie! Make him stop! This isn’t fair…”
I was worried that I’d overplayed my hand, afraid that one pleading word from Sookie would break me, would make me back down… I still felt nothing from her… she was as much an enigma as she had been the night I’d met her. Turning to look at her wasn’t an option… one tear would undo me.
The sound of her throat clearing softly sent chills over my back that became needles while I waited. “Hadley, I’m not sure what you want me to do. I’m smart enough to not defy my master.” The room actually felt as though it was spinning… without sharing her feelings I didn’t know if she agreed with the punishment or if I was going to lose her for forcing her into a morbid recess of habitual bullshit pageantry… and just hearing her call me her master in the midst of the uncertain situation pushed a profound dread into my throat… Calling me master playfully was powerful, promising that she wasn’t afraid of what it meant… not between us… but not knowing her state of mind… the idea that she could be hiding hostility and sarcasm under those precious little words… I couldn’t swallow.
The only thing to save me was the indignant bitch attached to the hair in my fist. Her attempt to fight for her freedom was foolish at best. The fucking brat thought that punching me, a childish jab to my nose, was going to do anything more than piss me off.
She started crying the moment she realized she hadn’t and couldn’t really hurt me, not unarmed as she was. I laughed in her face again, “Are you always like this when you’re punished?”
“Go. Fuck. Yourself.”
“I was serious about blocking Sophie-Ann and what would happen if you don’t. We’re all prepared to spare her future humiliation.”
“Are you deaf…?”
“Berts, you’ll let me know?”
When they provided a unified ‘sofort’, I quickly yanked up the back of Hadley’s skirt and shoved her ass onto the chair. I watched her face contort, puffing in short, annoying ‘breaths’… Lorena found it in herself to roll her eyes at her coconspirator over the display. Even if Lorena’s tacky instigating had brought her to silver many times over the years, she at least had the conceit to not play a victim when her games caught up to her.
While Hadley oscillated between hissing and whining ridiculous obscenities at me, I reminded her that getting up wasn’t in her best interest…
If it weren’t for my ring, I wouldn’t have known Sookie was leaving. She’d quietly nudged Pam so that she could scoot out of the booth and quietly duck into the hall leading to the bathrooms…
Part of me was worried that she was interested in finding the stakes.
I waved Pam off, needing to know for myself what was going through Sookie’s head.
Still feeling nothing.
The bathroom was expectedly vacant except for Sookie’s heartbeat and shallow breathing. Her feet were under the door of the last stall… and she’d found another way to lock me out.
“Sookie. I don’t need you to open the door. I can go over it or through it. Say something. I can’t feel you. It’s like the Abbey all over again.”
Her face was turned down when she opened the door. She didn’t look at me as she wrapped her arms around my sides. “Just give me a minute.”
I hated it.
I hated touching Sookie when I had the stench of those fucking bitches on my hands.
I hated that Sookie had closed me out again.
I hated waiting, dangling in suspension while I awaited unknown fallout.
I hated the idea that she might climb into my bubble to hide from talking to me.
I hated all of it…
But I did it.
I gave her the time she asked for…
After a few minutes she began to tremble as though she was freezing and it was only a warning of what was to come… the abrupt and vicious barrage of her feelings hitting our bond as they came back to her was so mind numbing that it made me realize that I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I’d had them all along. I felt like I was standing at the base of a dam as it crumbled… paralyzed to stop it and only hoping to not get swept away. But there was no bracing myself for the swell.
Affection. Apathy. Hate. Fear. Security. Pain. Turmoil. Greif. Exhaustion. Spirit. Anger. Pride. Shame. Trust. Nihilism. Relief. Mania. Understanding.
As the flood of every feeling I could identify settled into pools, Sookie’s arms tightened around me.
“I’m glad you’re ok. How’s your nose?”
“My nose? I’m more worried about my pet.”
“Thank you.” Her cousin made the mistake of wearing a g-string on Hot Seat Night at Shed. Sookie thanks me. I’d have to turn her so that she’d live long enough for me to comprehend her.
“You wanted to kill her, but you didn’t.”
“Sookie, I’m still going to. She can’t be trusted to not carry a grudge.”
“I know… you gave her the chance to back down though… thank you.”
“That isn’t all you’re thinking about though.”
“Care to share?”
“Not right now… I just really hated worrying about you.”
“You need to prepare yourself. Things could get ugly when Andre arrives.”
She pulled away to look at me, gasping. “Because you’re punishing Hadley?”
“No… He’ll pretend to be grateful so that he isn’t forced to admit she’s out of his control. He’s going to take his embarrassment out on her though.”
“That’s what you’re warning me about?”
She laid her head on my chest again. “Fuck her. She’s dead to me.”
“She is dead, Sookie.”
She giggled, but her mood took a colder turn. “Since you don’t play in the human sandbox often, I’ll clarify… There are three types of dead. There is the human termination of earthy existence… There is temporary, solar induced death that vampires dance with… The third kind is ‘dead to me’… dead to me basically means that you’d kill them, but you like hating them too much to give them an escape.”
“That should be embroidered on a pillow… but you forgot Zombies.”
She stepped back and shook her finger at me. “Don’t you dare tell me they’re real. I’ll never sleep again.”
I shrugged. “They suck for conversation, but they’re great for noodling.”
She cracked a smile and poked my ribs when she caught onto the joke. “Keep it up and I’ll glue you and Pam together in your sleep. She tried to convince me that some vampires really sparkle.”
As we came out of the back hall, Hadley was fidgeting… too stupid to realize that squirming only gave her skin the chance to heal and reburn. She modified the focus of her pleading from berating Jake about ‘growing a set’…
She whined, “Sookie! How could you let him do this to me? I’m your…”
Without warning, Sookie moved at a surprising speed to interrupt her cousin by backhanding her. Sookie’s hand collided with Hadley’s cheekbone hard enough to leave a gash and then she spit at her.
Hadley stood up and barely had the chance to get her legs under herself before Sookie shoved her down onto the chair again while we watched in awe, at the ready to end the confrontation before Sookie was hurt.
She loomed over her cousin, grabbing her face to squeeze her cheeks, mashing her lips into her fangs and drawing blood. “I’m not anything to you. I’m not your cousin. I’m not your friend. I’m not your ally. You played the poor, pitiful vampire princess until it was too late to get protection for Gran. You led Lorena here to turn me on a grudge after doing your best to upset me. The only thing you have left is Jason and I swear, if you do anything to harm one hair on his helpless head, I’ll end you with a splinter of the home you turned your back on.”
“You little bitch! You always got the attention…”
“Well, genius, you’re getting plenty now. How’s that working out for ya?” Pam and Herveaux snickered behind her.
When Hadley’s next tirade began Sookie rolled her eyes and stormed over to where she’d left her purse. Since her back was to me, I couldn’t see what she was rooting around for… the only things I had to go on were Sookie’s frustration and the way Pam mouthed ‘I love her’ to me with a raised eyebrow.
I didn’t get the feeling that Sookie was tending to her scheme with her back to me secretively. It seemed like circumstance of positioning were to blame for why I was out of the loop. Hadley squirmed more as Sookie reached under the chair and Lorena’s bloodied eyes widened while Sookie grumbled that Hadley even managed to ‘fuck up dying’ like everything else she’d ever tried.
When Sookie stepped back from her hateful kin, there was a patch of silver net affixed over Hadley’s mouth. Sookie had gagged her and as she walked past me with a wink, she groaned. “Thanks a lot, Hadley. Thanks to your perpetually cranky suck hole, I’m out of Crazy Glue and need to replace my Swiss Army.” She’d used Crazy Glue to silence a vampire with silver. Crazy Glue.
When Sookie came back from washing her hands in the restroom, Pam started laughing out an absurd song. “Mother Necessity… With her good intentions,”
Alcide made it a duet, “Where would this country be… Without her inventions?”
Sookie rolled her eyes and joined them (along with Owen) to butcher a verse about the invention of the cotton gin… and then they explained Schoolhouse Rock to those of us who were oblivious to what the fuck they were singing about.
When Andre arrived he seemed truly appreciative of my call about Hadley’s location… he began oozing disgust when the outline of her incorporated revenge scheme was explained though. The silver shackles he paraded her through the lobby in were but a clue of what she had to look forward to. Not to mention… he hadn’t covered the slowly healing burns on her ass and thighs or taken Sookie’s offer to remove the gag.
As a ‘token of appreciation’ for the evening’s entertainment, Salome offered to babysit Lorena until I could return to her just in time for Sookie to thank Jake for ‘realizing Hadley needed an intervention’ and keep her dinner plans in spite of everything…
Since Merlotte was still ‘in the wind’, Sookie used that as her excuse to invite Herveaux to dinner… and no sooner than we entered the lobby, Sookie provided a pair of diversionary donors for Wybert and Siegbert… and had to promise to find some ‘fresh meat’ for Pam later.
Any fool would’ve known she was up to something when she insisted on specific seating arrangements. The only empty seat in the booth was across from me and next to Pam. At least the bigger table and booth would provide a buffer from vodka being breathed into the shirt that had even gotten Andre’s attention.
Sookie had seemingly gotten a second wind. With yet another immediate threat out of the way, we both enjoyed her lighter mood.
At 10:10 I asked her if she thought ‘her date’ had decided to stand her up.
She giggled and swept her foot over my shin as she turned my hand over in her lap. “S H E S H E R E.” But hadn’t made a showing? Our company.
I returned, “A N G R Y?”
“S C A R E D.”
“A. N O W E R E S.” As closed off as Michelle was, that wasn’t a surprise.
“S H E S L I S T E N I N G.”
“W E W A I T?”
Sookie made the mistake of nodding her answer…
Pam leaned towards us. “What was that? Are you two… Can you…?” I was sure she was implying that Sookie could read my mind now that we were bonded.
Before I had the chance to categorically deny anything, Sookie’s mood became mischievous… she placed a finger to her lips and quietly hushed Pam.
Pam gasped, “Bullshit.”
“You’re just fucking with me.”
Sookie stared while I spelled out a message and was quite possibly having more fun than I should be allowed. Sookie matched Pam’s lean. “The reason you don’t have any body hair is because your maids got body lice so you’d been sugaring.” She turned her head to look at me. “What’s sugaring?” I’d only just thought of the short way to spell out the process when she winked. “OhhhhOhhh. And it doesn’t hurt like waxing?”
Pam shot back in her seat and gaped. Her eyes moved like a tennis ball between us while I spelled another message.
I smiled and shook my head. I definitely hadn’t had Pam going like that in ages.
Sookie started to giggle. “The first thing you did when BetaMax came out was record Saturday Morning Cartoons on all three networks and you tried to call in sick to watch them all that night.”
Pam looked de-animated so Herveaux snapped his fingers in front of Pam’s face a few times. “Great. Y’all broke her.” Even I laughed… and spelled out more trivia.
Sookie laughed again. “You’ve been shopping for a new name since ‘88 because you hate Toto?” Herveaux started laughing that he knew just enough of the lyrics to ‘Pamela’ to have some fun with that fact. Then Pam elbowed him for humming it.
Sookie added to the fun, letting go of my hand to dig through her purse to find her cell phone and dissuade Pam from catching on by using her hands. “Sampson and Delilah. Homer and Marge. Adam and Eve… Hansel and Gretel.”
Pam shook her head suddenly. “Alright stop. That’s just…” She stopped talking when she realized that Sookie was eying her carefully. “…What?”
Sookie spun her head around to give me a ‘surprised’ look. “Eric, if I didn’t know better… it’s faint but…” She winked again as she disappeared under the table, dragging her hand over my lap on her way to the other side. When she reappeared next to Pam she sidled in as closely as she could, staring almost as intensely as Michelle had done to me the night before. “…This is… it’s quiet… Think something. Really concentrate on it…”
Pam’s chin disappeared into her neck, leaning away from Sookie’s invasion of her personal space while she waited.
Sookie whispered. “Ssss…sucker… Sucker?”
Pam gasped. “Close enough! ‘Mother fucker’… motherfuckermotherfuckermotherfucker…”
Sookie tilted her head and gave her a relatively curious look. “Nooooo. Pam. I’m pretty sure… Yeah… Definitely. It’s SUCKER.”
“No. It was mother fucker… why would I think about a… OH! YOU! BITCH!”
While Herveaux and I roared, completely, to our cores amused at the result of Sookie’s joke and the residual expression on Pam’s face, Sookie leapt out of the booth to spare herself an embittered blow from her victim.
Our noise had attracted plenty of attention by the time I let Sookie scoot back into her place…
Herveaux was wiping his eyes. “Fuck. Sookie, I’m crying. Crying… If I can’t tell folks about that prank I’m going to be pissed… That was too good.”
As it turned out, he’d seen our hands moving all along and figured us out, but wanting to share the prank, reminded Sookie that I hadn’t called Flood yet.
The call didn’t take long. Explaining that there was no way to predict the lengths humans will go to probably didn’t dissolve his paranoia that I harbored any resentment, but it did relieve me of the responsibility of any pending health problem he might develop from ruminating. I’d tried. I tried to settle his nerves and even thanked him for his cooperation and what his pack had accomplished. My attempts to ‘play nice’ were rewarded with teasing little fingernails running along my inner thigh and waking up every part of my body below my belt.
Michelle’s arrival was immediately noticed… It seemed that Sookie was much better at hiding her wear and tear than Michelle. It could probably be explained by the fact that Sookie was immersed in society while Michelle enjoyed a more hermit-like status.
Her choice of clothing helped her appearance. Although frail could still describe her frame, it wasn’t as obvious thanks to her padded bra, properly fitting dress and curled hair. The baggy clothing and limp hair had made her seem skeletal last night.
She leaned against the side of our booth with an unsure grin. “I wasn’t sure I’d join y’all, but I could use a good laugh and I could hear y’all in the lobby.”
I nodded to the empty seat as invitation. “Alcide, Pam, this is Sookie’s friend Michelle.”
“Hey. Nice to meet you. So what were y’all going on about?”
“Sookie had Pam wholly convinced that she could suddenly read vampire minds.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head at the casual mention of telepathy. “Not only is it a source of income, but it’s good for parlor tricks to, huh sweets?”
Sookie nodded. “Among other things.”
“It makes me one hell of a wing man.”
Pam laughed, “Amen.”
Sookie suddenly became troubled and immediately kicked Herveaux under the table earning a scowl from her guard.
She mumbled at him, “My shoes aren’t even on. Stop.”
“I’m going to…” She turned her attention to Michelle. “I’m sorry. He figured it out.”
Michelle sat back and pointed. “Good for you, smarty pants. Now what the fuck are you? Your brain is impossible.”
“THAT ONE doesn’t have a problem.”
“That one has more practice and a coach. What are you?”
By the end of a long exchange of glances between the three of them Michelle was left staring at Herveaux.
Pam broke the silence as she signaled the waitress. “I’m not buying it.”
Instead of trying to convince her, we laughed and moved on.
Michelle didn’t drink nearly as heavily as she had during our previous dinner. Much more of their conversation was voiced as well. She seemed more comfortable being around other non-humans just as much as Sookie … The two of them even teased Herveaux about the waitress’s ‘plans’ for him.
Once the ‘chewing’ portion of dinner was over Sookie ended a brief silent exchange with a smile… “Hey Pam, you should fix your makeup while Alcide escorts me to the bathroom.”
Pam rolled her eyes. “Subtle, Sookie. Really subtle.”
Michelle stood to let everyone slide out and as she scooted, Sookie snorted, “You glow in the damn dark, Pam. What do you know from subtle?”
Michelle watched them leave and was still smiling when she turned back to me. “How full of shit is she?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t heard most of your conversations.”
“Say I get a ‘job’. What does that mean?”
“It would depend on the job. What did you and Sookie discuss?”
“She thought that the casino might want to hire me to do what she’s doing for them on a smaller scale because I’m not as strong as her.” The equivalent of using an antenna when satellites are down, but better than nothing.
“That’s entirely likely.”
“Could I stay secret or would I end up being ‘The Telepath’ like Sookie?”
“I’m sure arrangements could be made to offer the illusion of being a normal employee, but some would have to know. You have to be aligned with Salome for protection and some of her staff would have to be made aware of your ability so that they can understand why you’d be able to give orders.”
“Sookie said that exposure could be ‘minimal’, but zero would be impossible.”
“Michelle, you need to realize that if you are exposed, if you find yourself publicizing your gift for any reason, there will be no going back. You will need protection, a master for as long as you live. There are those of us who would value your services, but there are some of us who would exploit you for financial and political gain. You would have to leave the country and create a new identity in order to ‘retire’ completely. The only other option would be to become a vampire. Even then you’d have to be able to trust your maker to protect you instead of using you. You understand that, yes?”
She nodded. “This Salome… How well do you know her?”
“I’ve known her for centuries. She’s patient and as above-board as I’ve seen. She achieved her rank as Sheriff because she’s loyal and she’s known to mediate as well as Solomon. She’d more than likely be willing to offer protection and a contract. When your contract is up, she’d let you move on, but do her best to encourage you to stay.”
“Would you be willing to talk to her? Sookie said that she would but you’re the business man… There’s stuff in her contract that she never would’ve thought about because of differences between vampires and humans. And… money is kind of subjective…”
“Silly little things like rest escape most of us after a while and holidays tend to be nothing more than a reason to have a party. As for the money… How much would you like to make?”
“I don’t know… see… that’s the thing. What should I ask for? I couldn’t do it for less than $10 an hour. That’s what I made housekeeping and I was making ends meet.”
I tried to not laugh at her underestimation. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”
She stared at the candle in the middle of the table for a moment before letting a long breath. “Alright… put me in, coach.”
“I just told you that retiring quietly isn’t an option.”
“Eric, I’m a recluse now. If I need to change my name from Michelle Johnson to Jennifer Smith and move to Reykjavík…”
“Learn Spanish or Mandarin. It’s more versatile. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. I suggest you plan an escape route and safehouse immediately. Just in case.”
“Yeah. I don’t have a life as it is. I don’t have much to lose.”
While Herveaux decided to retire, Pam opted to join us in the casino. She liked to watch Sookie work.
Rather than play, we made ourselves comfortable at one of the closed tables. There was a steady stream of vampires who would sit at the empty end of the table after quietly setting an envelope by my elbow. Sookie greeted each one with manners that weren’t surprising me anymore.
More than half of the ones she felt the need to deliver bad news in person to had been waiting for her when she was waiting out the unfolding family drama in Shed. Four of them returned with more pets and the rest of the anathema was waiting for her when Sookie entered the casino.
There were more than a few occasions when Sookie seemed still enough to be ‘talking’ to Michelle while she observed from the active poker table next to our post.
Sookie had just cleared the 3rd pet in ten minutes when Salome joined us to ask about progress.
The report that Baton Rouge pets seemed to be either well behaved or ‘straight from the depths of hell’ (even those were few and far between though) was ended with another customer.
Michelle had been watching the envelopes become a stack of $31,000, probably believing it to be closer to $3,100, so since she was within earshot I tested the waters.
“Salome, I have a hypothetical question for you.” Michelle twitched.
“If someone were to be discovered to be in your casino and using an ability like Sookie’s, what would you do?” Pam could have bit through her to cheek when she realized we’d been serious at dinner and Michelle folded with an Ace high flush making it hard to keep a straight face.
She laughed. “What am I, a fool? I’d hire them on the spot!”
“How much would you offer them?”
“Whatever they wanted, plus the kitchen sink and my youngest child as a slave.”
I laughed, “Mickey would hardly be an incentive… Seriously, what kind of contract would you offer such a hypothetical person?”
Her eyes sparkled when she realized she wasn’t dealing with a hypothetical opportunity. “For the sake of argument, would this notion of a being be as skilled as your Sookie?”
“Hmmm, just for the sake of argument then, let’s say that said individual has the potential to be as talented with practice.”
Our amusing little negotiation was interrupted by one of Sookie’s customers and Salome seemed to be resisting the urge to vibrate impatiently until Sookie informed him that his car hadn’t been stolen last year. His pet sold it.
As soon as they were gone again, Salome took the reins of conversation. “I’d offer such a person $1000 per night, protection, and all of the working arrangements that are contingent in Sookie’s contract.”
“How would you go about things if said person were adamant about remaining theoretical? Would it be possible for only a pair, no more, of your staff members to know the true nature of their speculative position?”
“Completely possible. Said person’s position might be ‘Loss Prevention Manager’ or something of the like. Of course a hypothetical talent wouldn’t be able to enjoy the additional income from clinics.” Sookie was positively giddy and showing nothing.
“Maybe this imaginary contract should allow for clinics and sidework if the pretend individual were to manifest willingly.”
After a moment of anxious quiet, Sookie’s foot found my thigh… “G O” Where she put the O and how almost made my fangs run out.
“Well then Salome, in the interest of a potential whimsical windfall, maybe drawing a probationary contract for your wish list would be engaging.”
She did nothing but stare except for the 8 times she blinked. “Where?”
“Playing house with 7 dwarves.” Well, playing poker with a full house. 7s over 5s. When Sookie giggled I couldn’t tell if it was because she’d heard me, or Michelle ‘told’ her.
“She already has Sookie at her beck and call and wouldn’t need a second with limits and no training.”
“Your finder’s fee?”
“Already taken care of.”
“Bullshit… Do you want a slave?”
I laughed at her. “Stop trying to franchise out that heel and go type.”
“In our room. It’s more private.”
“I’ll go arrange for that babysitter.”
Michelle wisely went home without as much as a nod in our direction (probably as a safety measure Sookie suggested) and Pam left us for ‘greener pastures’… Greener pastures was code for the barely-legal bimbo with a pierced septum and a tree frog tattoo on the side of her neck. An homage to the Emo menu options that Fangtasia previously offered perhaps.
Sookie had pushed herself until 1am… but her second wind was failing her. Since the flow of customers had slowed to a trickle, I decided that it was time to quit for the night…
We were halfway…
Halfway between the gaudy entrance to the casino and the bank of elevators…
I should’ve known better than to think we’d get away that easily.
Even though I’d slowed to match Sookie’s stiletto hindered gate, I still almost hurt her arm when she halted suddenly… It didn’t seem as though her feelings had caught up to whatever stopped her and my only hint was a breathed, ‘stupid sonofabitch’.
She quickly silenced me by putting her fingers to my lips, shook her head and whispered ‘later’ as she started walking, no, sprinting towards the elevator…
A man called her name and she did her very best to ignore it… and the only thing that kept Sookie from slipping around the corner to escape into a waiting elevator was the loud, harsh slap from just behind us… the noise was unique to a body crashing onto marble with force.
Considering how quickly she’d been moving this time, her instant standstill could only be called violent.
Unsure of what she’d been running from since I was only guessing that it was her Shifter, I put her behind me as we turned … Herveaux had a man pinned to the floor, arms twisted behind his back at impossible angles and Owen was only inches away from them. “Sheriff, Miss Stackhouse, we’ll take care of him.”
The man under Herveaux jolted, not enough to free himself from having a knee grinding between his shoulder blades, just a semi-successful attempt to lay his eyes on Sookie. “Sook! Sookie… tell them you know me!” When his scent reached me, the odor of grease confirmed it was the Shifter, the putz… and he’d made one hell of an entrance.
Sookie groaned louder than I thought she could given her fatigue. “I know the jackass… Alcide, could you please let him up… Owen, is there somewhere private we can borrow for just a minute?”
He gave a nod. “Certainly. Whenever you’re ready.”
I found it difficult to not laugh at Herveaux. He was annoyed enough that he had to let Merlotte up, that he manhandled and berated him all the way to the small office that Owen led us to. My favorite of his slurs: ‘Retarded piece of shit shifter. What the fuck do you smell like? Is your familiar a chicken fucking nugget?’ Not only was I forced to crack a smile, but it broke through Sookie’s irritation enough to warrant a giggle.
Owen stopped at the door to stand sentry and Herveaux shoved his captive through the door with enough strength to send him over a chair and, again, onto the floor.
Sookie took a step towards him and grabbed the back of his shirt. “It’s ok. He’s not a threat, just an idiot. What are you doing downstairs anyway?”
“The Berts’ dinner break freaked out Maria-Star… She woke me up to keep her company while she ate… We were leaving the restaurant when I saw him tear off after you… if he’s fine, why were you avoiding him?”
“I just didn’t feel like dealing with him.” If the shadows under her eyes weren’t enough she yawned enough to make her eyes water.
“So this weasel… wait… pussy… no… cockroach… I got it… Jackass.” Who’d have thought a Were could have as much fun with animal humor as I could…
“Yep. That’s Sam.”
He growled and started for the door. “I’ll be with Owen…” And continued to grumble, “yeah, Sookie’s the dumb one… she’s got a state worth of vampires eating out of the palm of her hand… stupid fucking shifter… shift into a higher life form… like a fucking hamster… one of those would know better than to go after a vampire’s pet at night at least… fucking idiot…” Sookie had apparently filled him in on Sam’s flawed perspective of her life.
As amusing as his rant was, curiosity made me stop him. “Where is Cooper?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m packing her shit and sending her home if you’re alright with it. She should’ve at least circled as backup. She’s a wooden fucking leg if she’s too spooked by y’all to deal with her own kind.”
I gave him a nod. “Agreed.”
Sookie and I waited impatiently for her shifter to collect himself. “I think he broke my rib.” Alert the Humane Society.
Sookie snorted, “It’s a shame y’all heal so fast. Otherwise, it might teach you a lesson about chasing after people like you did. What the hell are you doing here, Sam?”
His look was angry and disbelieving. “I guess I just had to see it for myself.”
“See what exactly?”
“Jason came to the bar tonight. When Lafayette asked after you, I heard him say that when your ‘business trip’ got cut short by the bombing, Northman brought you here… I tried to track down Compton to see what was going on… but… I can’t believe you’re letting him use you like this.”
She rolled her eyes and came over to lean back against me. “You really are a jackass. You nearly got yourself killed over nothing.”
“How is this nothing!? He’s got you using your disability to make money at a casino and he’s dressing you like a slutty doll…” Slutty? It was almost a shame that Fangtasia wasn’t still standing… He could’ve easily seen ‘slutty’ without getting out of his car. Knowing that Sookie’s dress was Fendi, I was tempted to report his remarks to Pam… but she’d drain him.
Before he had the chance to insult her again, Sookie grabbed a Rolodex from the desk and hurled it at his face. In spite of how deserved it was, I pulled her back to keep her from doing something she’d regret… She was furious and exhausted, but hurt and disappointment were starting to take over her feelings.
Sookie hissed, “One more crappy thing out of your mouth and I will start your whopping and let Eric finish it… I am NOT lining his pockets in the casino, you sanctimonious asshole. I’m here because of the bombing. The sheriff of this area hired me to listen for the wackos from the Fellowship because she’s been having problems. Congratulations on making the world’s longest jump to the wrong conclusion. Guinness Book’s gonna need your picture.”
“Hired you? How did he find out about you at all?”
“She. Salome found out about me because I outed myself. Eric already knew about my ability and didn’t say a word until I called the queen to be put under his protection instead of Bill’s… Bill was the one using me.”
“Do I get to say ‘I told you so’?”
“Say whatever the hell you want, Sam.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, if you think after losing my grandmother, my cat, nearly dying and being played like a pawn by someone I trusted isn’t enough… go ahead and rub my nose in how you told me Bill Compton would use me. Pat yourself on the back while you’re at it.”
Herveaux grumbled from the hallway that he’d volunteer to do the patting if ‘McNugget’ couldn’t reach.
“That isn’t what I mean, Sookie. Why do you have to be so damn pigheaded?”
“Because that’s who I am. I’m a pigheaded telepath. You’re an obtuse shifter. I hardly think it’s worth mentioning anymore. I’m exhausted. I was on my way to bed when you showed up. You can either check in and stick around so we can talk tomorrow, or just go home and call me later. Your call. Either way, I’m not up for your horse shit tonight.”
“Will you be allowed to talk to me without your big scary vampire looming over us?”
“You’re the one scared of him. And no, he won’t be around, but I’d have to kill Alcide to keep him from being there along with the hotel guards.”
“You’re not allowed to go anywhere without a guard?”
“Sam, after seeing for yourself what kind of crap I’ve been through over the past couple of weeks, what makes you think I’d want to be anywhere without a guard? You said yourself that I should get a gun…”
“A sadistic Were isn’t better than a gun.”
“He isn’t sadistic. He’s protective…” And getting a raise.
“And I guess you’ll defend vampires until you’re dead too, huh?”
“Depends on the vampire, Sam. I’ve got a few who want to kill me and I’ve got a few who kiss my ass… I’ll talk to you once you’ve calmed down.”
When we left, he tried to follow us… but Owen helped Herveaux fill the doorway (not that he needed help). Sookie’s Were growled, “Give us an excuse.”
Owen hissed, “You’re lucky she’s willing to talk to you tomorrow.”
When the elevator doors closed behind us, Sookie all but slumped against my chest.
She was nearly asleep by the time we reached our floor. She let me carry her to our room and deposit her in the bed without resisting because she didn’t have the energy.
She hummed as she nuzzled into the pillow, “I wish you could glamour me so I won’t worry. Be careful.”
“I’m always careful.”
“Then be extra careful. Love you.”
“I love you too. I’ll be back soon.”
The door was closed behind me before I realized what I’d said…
In the elevator before I realized that I meant it…
The stake I used to end Lorena was in the puddle on the floor with the rest of her before she knew I was in the room with her…
I had better things to do than waste time with her when I could be with Sookie.