Chapter 4 – All War is Deception
The Stackhouse Homestead – Bon Temps
Pam held her fingers out in front of her, admiring her handiwork, and smiled. It had taken the smallest brush she could find and every colour of nail polish Sookie owned, but finally the nails on her left hand vaguely resembled Moss, Roy, Jen, Douglas and Richmond.
“Oh my Lord! Pam, look at the mess in here!”
Sookie looked at the small bottles littering her bedroom floor and the acetone scented cotton balls over her bed. Pam blinked and smiled crookedly.
“I was conducting an … art experiment?”
“Geez, Pam, I was downstairs going over opening day with Gran for an hour. I hate to think what you would have gotten up to if I’d been any longer.”
Pam bit her lip and picked up the waste paper basket. “I would never blow up your bathroom. You know that.”
Sookie blinked and shook her head, wondering if it was a good idea to buy a lockable cabinet for any sharp or flammable things around the room.
“Did we have a good Grand Opening?”
“Yes, we did. Very good.” Sookie dug into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out some folded sheets of paper. “I thought you’d like to see these.”
Pam unfolded the notes and grinned as she read them out loud. “’Excellent customer service’, ‘staff went that extra mile’, ‘I will definitely be back and I will be telling my friends’ and, the piece de resistance – ‘So much better than Buy Everything’.”
“It’s cool, huh?”
“Cool, Sookie? It’s awesome!”
Sookie finished putting her nail polish back in the drawer and sat, Indian style, in the middle of the bed. “So, I got to spend a lot of time with Eric today.”
“Yeah, both of you on the door – tough break. But you did a really good job of calming that guy down when he tried to blame you for his car running out of gas.”
“Thanks. Eric isn’t a bit like I thought he would be. I was expecting some self-absorbed meat head who didn’t know a fan from a flash drive … like Jason.”
Pam nodded and sat next to her. “I knew he was a good salesman and very driven by his job but, to be honest, I haven’t spent that much time with him in the last 6 years. Everything I knew about him before we started working together was gathered from snippets of conversation at family dinners.”
“So you have no idea how he managed to become an expert on graphics cards or how long it took him to master a pitch perfect impersonation of Commander Riker?”
“None, but I can see that it interests you.” Pam nudged Sookie and wiggled her eyebrows.
“If you bring up my … soft spot for Jonathon Frakes – I will kill you.”
“Are you kidding? You’ve got more ammo against me than I’ve got against you … but do you want me to ask him to talk like Riker all the time?”
“No! And if I find out you’ve mentioned this to him – in any capacity – that video of you trying to feel up Chris Hemsworth and telling him to fill you with his thunder stick at Comicon will be made very public!”
Buy Everything – Shreveport
“Hey Felipe, you know that new superstore that opened up?” Lafayette furrowed his brows. “Word on the street is they’ve got some genius on tech support, I’ve had three cancellations for rebuilds this morning.”
Felipe’s eyes narrowed and he growled out. “Staaaaaackhooouuusse.”
SB Electrical – Manager’s Office
Adele smiled as Caroline and Andy gushed about how exciting and profitable their team venture was. She smiled because, she was about to put an end to their excitement. She wasn’t the type of woman who revelled in other’s misery or liked to cause people pain. But one thing she didn’t like was being taken for a ride.
“So, I noticed that your funds for the shop-fitting and other, supposedly, joint costs haven’t arrived in the SB business account yet. I hope that they’ll be deposited before the end of the month.”
Caroline blanched. Until that point she had been under the impression that Adele wasn’t keeping a close eye on the business account.
“Oh, the money isn’t available right at this minute – we weren’t given a lot of time to … uh … sell our shares, tie up our investments and liquidate our assets.”
“Really? Because you haven’t put a dime towards this collaboration yet. To me, it looks like Bellefleurs Electrical Emporium didn’t have two cents to rub together.”
“That’s preposterous!” Andy snorted and crossed his arms defensively.
Adele smiled again and nodded. “You have until the end of October – that’s three weeks – to hold up your end of the arrangement and deposit the agreed amount into the business account. If it’s not there on November the first, I’ll be taking a trip to see Sid Matt Lancaster.”
Normally, when Adele wanted to make a point, she would leave the room after such a statement. This enabled the people who were the cause of the statement to mull over her words. But today she wasn’t in a mood to let Caroline mull over her threat in private. Instead, she picked up the sign on her desk that said ‘Adele Stackhouse – Co-Owner’ and polished it with her handkerchief.
Andy didn’t like the way Adele was rubbing the sign, because she was only rubbing the ‘Co’ part of it. It made it look like the sign said ‘Adele Stackhouse – Owner’. His brain scrambled for ways to get the money they promised for the collaboration but he didn’t think Portia would earn a lot of money on the streets. The Bellefleur coffers weren’t empty, but there certainly wasn’t enough to fully pay what they had promised they would.
Caroline was thinking along more legal lines and wondering if there would be fees if she remortgaged the antebellum mansion they lived in. She realised it would have to be done by a bank outside of Bon Temps. There was no way she would risk anyone in town, especially Adele, finding out that the Bellefleurs had to go to such lengths to stay in business.
SB Electrical – Break Room
Eric carefully placed his lunchbox in the fridge, making sure that his name faced outwards, before heading to the coffee machine and pouring himself a drink before the store opened. Sookie arrived with Bill seconds behind her and said her hellos to Pam, who was sitting reading 2000AD, and Eric before nodding to Bill and going to put her own lunch in the fridge.
“Eric, are you concerned someone will steal your lunch if you don’t put your name on it?” She smiled and chuckled.
“Well, if someone steals it then I have nothing to eat. I can’t just pick any old sandwich to fill up. I have a wheat allergy.”
“Really?” Sookie asked wide-eyed. “That must be awful!”
Bill cleared his throat and smirked. “A lot of people mistake intolerances for allergies. It’s possible you just have wheat intolerance.”
“He breaks out in a bright red, lumpy rash, has a headache so bad he can’t open his eyes and throws up if the room is too bright. It’s an allergy, Bill. I remember the first time it happened, my Aunt Thalia was convinced Eric was going to die. It took weeks for the hives to go away and the migraine stuck around for a few days too.”
Sookie gasped at Pam’s description and turned to Eric. “We’ll need to make sure everyone is aware of it so you don’t end up eating something with wheat in it by accident!”
“That would be good, Sookie, thanks. The last time I had an incident was in a restaurant, they used wheat starch to thicken the sauce on my steak. It took me three days to feel human enough to leave the house.”
Sookie’s hand flew to her mouth. She’d never been unfortunate enough to suffer from food allergies, but she had no idea that it could affect someone so badly. She was still worried about Eric accidently swallowing something wheat based after he and Pam had left the break room to get changed.
“Don’t you see what he’s doing, Sookie?” Bill pulled his chair closer and put his hand on her shoulder.
“What do you mean, Bill?”
Bill sighed and looked away from Sookie. He didn’t want her to see the twinkle in his eye when he put his plan in motion.
“Eric. He’s softening you towards him so he can swoop in and use you up, he’s an expert in getting women to do whatever he wants – look at all those women who bought products from him at Buy Everything.”
“Don’t be silly!” Sookie scoffed and went to get up from her seat, but Bill tightened his grip a little to make her stick around.
“I’m not being silly, Sook. If you want to fall for his manipulations then more fool you. When he chews you up and spits you out, don’t come crying to me.”
“Okay Bill.” Sookie sat back down and glowered at Bill as best she could. “A. I’m not some stupid chick that drops my panties because a guy is hot.”
“You think Eric is hot?”
“Besides. The. Point. B. If I was interested in Eric, it would take more than a food allergy anecdote for me to jump into bed with him. C. If he was trying to manipulate me, Pam would see right through it – and there’s no way she would let him try anything like that.”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt, sweetheart. And Eric … I saw the way you looked at him the other day. You’re interested. But he’s bad news, Sookie, with his hair and his smile, guys like him are only looking for one thing – I don’t think you want to be locker room talk, do you, sweetheart?”
Bill stood up and patted Sookie’s shoulder before walking away with a smirk on his face.
Never give up! Never surrender!
Vic’s Redneck Roadhouse
Felipe slid the laptop across the table toward his partner in crime. Vic watched everything. Not because he was nosy, per se, but because he was suspicious at Felipe’s presence in his bar on a Tuesday afternoon. In addition to being in Vic’s bar on a Tuesday afternoon, Felipe was accompanied by a very serious looking blonde woman. Vic had overheard Felipe calling her Sandy and, at first, had considered Sandy to be a girlfriend or maybe even Felipe’s wife. But he had worked behind a bar long enough to know when there’s chemistry going on. And there was no sexual, emotional or vaguely friendly chemistry between Sandy and Felipe.
Yep, this is a business deal if ever I saw one. I’m not sure I want to know what kinda business though. What’s better for me, plausible deniability or guilt?
Vic thought about the animosity between Felipe and the girl who brought all those people in for a drink the night before. That girl made him a lot of money. He sidled closer to Sandy and Felipe under the guise of wiping down a table.
“I’ve fucked this laptop up good. There’s no way even the great Sookie Stackhouse would be able to fix it. What you need to do is make as much noise as possible when they tell you it can’t be mended. You think you can do that?”
“Felipe, how long have you known me?”
“A long time.”
“And have I ever let you down?”
“Never. That’s why I trust you with this. I need to make Sookie Stackhouse look incompetent, but while you’re there I need you to listen and watch out for other chinks in their armour.”
Sandy nodded and put the laptop bag next to her chair. Vic moved out of earshot, back behind the bar, and fished out the business card that Sam had given him. Another bonus of keeping on Sookie’s good side was that the electrician they had working for him had offered to come out and fix any problems Vic might have with his equipment.
SB Electrical – Geek Clique Help Desk
Sam leaned on the desk and beckoned Pam over to him. Pam raised an eyebrow at his furtive glances around the store while he waited on her. She hadn’t had much interaction with the electrician, which she appreciated. Sam preferred to stand back and observe, much like Pam, and he had observed that Pam was very protective of Sookie. He had also observed that Pam didn’t like it when Jason made quips about hooking up with her and that being near Arlene made her wrinkle her nose. But right now he was observing that Pam was narrowing her eyes at him in distrust.
“Hi Sam, do you need something?”
“Do you know where Sookie is? I got a very interesting phone call.”
Pam nodded. “Sure, she’s in the locker room. Hadley tripped up Andy so he would spill his water over her for an impromptu wet t-shirt contest but he missed and hit Sookie with it instead.”
“Was Eric nearby at the time?”
Sam shook his head. Hadley was a card that was sure. He remembered when she used to pull stunts to get his attention.
“Okay, thanks Pam. I’ll talk to you later.”
Pam nodded brusquely and went back to her work while Sam rushed through to the back of the store to the ladies locker rooms.
*knock knock knock*
*knock knock knock*
*knock knock knock*
Sookie threw the door open and stepped out. “What Sam?”
“I had a very interesting phone call!”
“A Phone call? What is it?”
“It’s a method of communication where voices are relayed through a series of cables and exchanges, but that’s not important right now. That guy, Vic, from the roadhouse near here called me.”
“And what did he have to say?”
Sam excitedly repeated the information Vic had given him – everything about Felipe meeting with Sandy and wanting Sookie to be made out as incompetent. He also told Sookie about Vic’s request that Sam service his deep fryer in return for the tip off.
“I guess that’s a small price to pay to know that someone is out to make me look like an idiot. You can do the service on the clock – I’ll cover for you.”
Sam nodded. “Thanks Sookie!”
“No, Sam, thank you.”
She walked out on to the shop floor and scanned the customers for a serious-looking blonde woman with a laptop.
Every wolf suffers fleas. ‘Tis easy enough to scratch! What’s your game, Felipe? Why go to such lengths? Why target me at work? Why try to make out that I can’t do my job?
“Let’s see what you’ve got Felipe. Let’s see what you think will bring me down.” Sookie smirked. “Get ready for a surpriiiise.”