Chapter 6 – We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
SB Electrical – Bon Temps
Adele hosted a briefing every morning before the store opened. She always had. It kept the staff on top of how the store was faring and informed them of anything they might need to be aware of for the coming day. Andy didn’t see the point in it for those reasons, he saw as a chance to take note of who was there and who wasn’t. It was roll call for Andy. And, this morning, Sookie made it in by the skin of her teeth but Bill was missing. Andy thought it was strange that his nephew hadn’t called to say he wouldn’t be in because he was sick or some such and concluded that Bill was simply running late.
Probably car trouble. Despite his old man being a mechanic – that boy’s car breaks down more than a celebrity divorcee on a chat show.
“Now, Halloween will be here before we know it.” Adele winked at Andy and Caroline. “And in grand Stackhouse tradition, it is mandatory that all staff wear a costume of some kind.”
Hadley, Jason, Sam and Sookie grinned and high fived each other. Andy, Caroline, Portia, Terry and Arlene groaned. Pam and Eric smiled as the gulf between the ways the two families worked was made even more obvious.
“It don’t need to be fancy.” Jason piped up. “Last year I wore a plaid shirt and jeans with a sticker tellin’ folks I was a werewolf.”
“Shouldn’t you have been dressed as a wolf?” Terry frowned.
“Nah! There weren’t no full moon was there?”
Terry nodded in comprehension and Arlene followed suit. The staff chattered excitedly as they made their way to their posts. Despite trading for weeks, the queues were still forming outside before the store’s doors swung open. Everyone was working flat out to try and serve everyone, but there were still plenty of customers asking for help and trying to attract the attention of a salesperson. Sookie was taking a customer to the payment desk and grabbed Andy when she walked past him.
“Andy, we’re slammed – where’s Bill?”
“I have no idea; he ain’t called in or nothin’ and his cell and landline are just ringin’ out.”
Sookie stopped in her tracks. “Well, doesn’t that worry you a little?”
“Of course it worries me, but right now there ain’t much I can do. Maybe when it quietens down I’ll try callin’ him again.”
Sookie sighed in exasperation. “I’ll go over and check on him on my lunch break.”
The morning passed quickly and with still no sign of Bill or any contact from him at 2pm, Sookie got in her car and drove over to the Compton Mansion. She was annoyed at how blasé Bill’s uncle was over his absence. But that was the Bellefleurs for you – money always came first with them. Everyone knew that.
Bill could be hurt or anything! He could be lying in a ditch at the side of the road and Andy didn’t seem to give two hoots.
When Sookie pulled up, the first thing she noticed was that both Bill and Jesse’s cars were still in the drive. That worried her more than if no-one had been home. The last time she remembered Bill taking any time off school and staying at home was when his Mom died. As she approached the front porch she thought about all the people Bon Temps had lost through freak accidents and illnesses like cancer.
If there’s such a thing as a hellmouth, then surely Bon Temps is sitting on one.
Sookie knocked softly on the door and called out for Bill. When there was no answer, she knocked louder and shouted. When there was still no answer, she shakily found the spare key and cautiously unlocked the front door.
“Bill? Bill, are you home?”
Bill’s muffled voice came from upstairs and Sookie quickly made her way in the direction it came from. When she reached the top of the stairs she noticed that the Compton house didn’t smell right. Usually it smelled like cigar smoke and fried chicken, but today the air was sharp with a scent Sookie wasn’t familiar with.
“Bill, are you up here?”
“I’m in Daddy’s room.”
Sookie went to Jesse’s door and pushed it open; the acrid air hit her full force and made her gag. On the bed, Bill was lying next to a very still Jesse. Daylight was streaming through the gap in the curtains, making it obvious Jesse was not the colour a normal healthy human should be.
“Umm … Bill, I think you should get up off the bed and come and have some tea. Would you like that?”
Buy Everything – Shreveport
The Nerd Squad were overrun and staff from all over the store had to chip in and deal with the queue. Laffy, Heidi, Chow and Bruno, plus the two newbies Barry and Niall, threw disgusted looks at Felipe as another customer dumped their PC tower on the desk and waved the “50% off upgrades – just ask for Felipe!” flyer at them.
Andre scowled in his office. He had been hoping Felipe would have been a less controversial Assistant Manager than Eric, although he knew that the flyers were a prank of some sort, it would have been worse publicity to refuse them than entertain them … and Andre was sure that whatever ‘joker’ had put a flyer in every mailbox in a one mile radius knew that too.
The Compton Mansion – Bon Temps
Sookie carried the warm drinks from the kitchen to the living room. The cups made a tinkling sound against the saucers on the tray. She set the tray on the coffee table and handed Bill his tea. He calmly sipped at it, staring straight ahead but not really looking at anything. She could tell by his eyes that he hadn’t been crying.
It must be the shock. Bill isn’t the most emotional guy but this should be affecting him more.
“Um … I called Bud and your Uncle Andy at the store. Bud is on his way, Andy seemed … not sure what to do.”
Bill nodded and Sookie bit her lip, trying to keep her own emotions in check. She’d known Jesse all her life but now he was gone. Sookie, Jason, Hadley and Bill had all been affected by the deaths of parents … but that was when they were children or barely out of their teens. It seemed more shocking now that she had interacted with Jesse as an adult.
“Is there anything you need me to do, Bill?”
He was shaken out of a daze by Sookie’s voice and replied as if on autopilot. “No thank you, Sookie. I’m fine.”
Sookie pulled Bill against her and patted his shoulder; he relaxed into her hold a little but stiffened when knocking sounded at the door. Sookie sprang from the sofa, glad to have a reason to move around. She found it hard to stay still at the best of times. Bill stared after Sookie as she went to answer the front door and nodded to Bud as he walked past the archway with Mike Spencer, the coroner, in the direction of his Dad’s body.
Body. That’s all it is now, just a body.
Bud questioned Sookie and Bill separately, waiting until Mike was removing Jesse’s corpse before talking to Bill as a means to distract him from what was happening.
“There’ll need to be an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death. With no sign of foul play it could be any number of things, stroke, heart attack … I’m heart sorry for ya Bill. Jesse Compton was a good man – he worked hard and did right by you.”
Bill simply nodded; the whole questioning session had already been cast to the back of his mind as the reality of the situation set in.
“Has someone contacted Tray down at your Dad’s garage? I’m sorry to say but … you’re gonna have to call round folks and let them know what’s happened.”
“Of course, yes, yes. I’ll … get right on that, Bud.”
Bill slowly walked away to retrieve his cell phone. Sookie’s eyes followed Bill but soon her full attention was on Bud.
“Thanks for coming so quickly, Bud. I’ll try to help him out with the phoning round and stuff.”
Bud nodded and tipped his hat to Sookie. “That boy is gonna need someone to watch him for a while, probably until after the funeral, sometimes the shock don’t wear off til then.”
Bill came back into the living room to find Sookie standing by the fire and rubbing her arms. He had just dialled the number for his Dad’s garage when Andy and Caroline Bellefleur burst into the house and ruined the contemplative silence.
Buy Everything – Shreveport
Felipe felt very small and completely freaked out as Sophie-Anne LeClerq stared him down through the video feed. He’d grinned from ear to ear when Andre asked him to take part in the conference call with head office but his happiness was short lived. She was still, except for her right hand which was softly stroking the log sitting in her lap.
“This back and forth pranking is obviously personal – why did you think it was appropriate to bring it to Buy Everything’s doorstep?”
“I … I didn’t know she would distribute flyers! She’s the one who cost Buy Everything money!”
“But you’re the one who sent someone to her workplace with an unfixable laptop – you started it. It’s up to you to finish it!”Her demeanour changed as she looked at her log and shushed quietly before humming the theme to The Love Boat.
Felipe blanched and nodded meekly.
SB Electrical – Bon Temps
The next morning briefing started as normal, despite almost everyone wondering why Sookie had left early on a very busy day and then Andy and Caroline both disappeared only a couple of hours later. Adele pursed her lips as the staff whispered and muttered through her sales targets update.
“I know you folks have questions – but, please, let me get through this part first.”
The way Adele blew out a breath and closed her eyes before continuing made the group quieten down. Sam had already noted Sookie’s pallid features. He had also observed that Andy and Caroline seemed to be trying to contain their happiness about something.
What would make Sookie sad but the Bellefleurs cheerful? Bill is still missing, so whatever is making Sookie sad has something to do with that. The only thing I know that makes Andy happy is money.
“Now that all of the silly sales talk is over, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Yesterday, Bill’s Dad – Jesse Compton, passed away. Bill won’t be back at work for a while. He needs to wait until the autopsy has confirmed cause of death before a date can be set for the funeral. I don’t think I need to say this, but I will – he greatly needs the support of his colleagues right now. The store will close for a few hours to let those who wish to go to the funeral do so.”
“That’s awful!” Hadley put her hand over her mouth and, just because Eric was looking at her, choked back a sob and sniffled. “How is Bill?”
Sookie stood up and started to tell everyone that he was in shock but didn’t seem to be a danger to himself but was interrupted by Andy.
“How is he? He’s rolling in dough – who knew ol’ Jesse was a secret millionaire? Me and Grandmamma were there when the lawyer came to go through everything.”
“Money can’t replace his Father, Andy.” Sookie scolded with a nodding Adele and Jason at her back. “And I think it’s very poor form to discuss his financial circumstances in front of everyone like that.”
Andy’s face reddened under everyone’s gaze as he realised that everyone except his Grandmother and sister agreed with Sookie. Portia excused herself to the HR office to go over applications for new staff, which caught Eric’s attention straight away. He sent a text to Heidi and Chow to let them know SB were hiring as he made his way to the Geek Clique desk.
Hadley and Terry sat in the break room. Until their radios screeched that someone needed something then they could kick back and relax.
“So, still no luck with Eric then?”
“Pfft, the guy is, like, unaffected by my charms. I’ve tried smiling, telling jokes, laughing at his jokes and being all breathy and seductive. I don’t know what else to do.”
“I’m not having much luck with Arlene either. I have a plan but we’d need a quart of peanut oil, some bubble wrap and as much yarn as you can find.”
Hadley smiled strangely and excused herself. She wondered, briefly, what kind of plan Terry had come up with.
Yarn, oil and bubble wrap. Geez, that guy is a …
Just then she spotted the plastic banding from some boxes overflowing from the garbage.