They were all around us. They circled the house.
Their brains were wound up to fever pitch. If Barry and I hadn’t been so engrossed in our conversation, maybe I would have tagged them as they crept towards us. I grabbed Barry’s hand and was almost physically overpowered by the clarity I was reading minds with. My look of fear was mirrored in Barry’s eyes as a countdown became the loudest thought of all.
“Hit the floor!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. I pulled Barry down with me and we huddled in a corner behind a couch. Our eyes screwed closed instinctively.
Every vampire obeyed. So when the Fellowship opened fire, it was the humans that died.
Barry and I stayed huddled in that corner for what seemed like forever. I could hear Barry sobbing into my shoulder as we clung to each other. Finally, the sound of gunfire subsided and along with it the sound of shattering glass, screaming humans and roaring vampires. When I opened my eyes, the room was full of dust and smelled like blood and gunpowder. Humans were moaning in agony and vampires were hissing in pain as the wounded called out for other survivors. I was about to ask Barry if he was okay when the couch in front of us suddenly moved around ten feet away and I was pulled into Eric’s arms.
“Sookie are you well?”
“I … I’m okay. I’m not hurt, Barry? Are you hurt?”
His voice was small and he was curled up in a ball in the corner. I saw Eric’s nose twitch and thought it was the blood he smelled but as I got closer to Barry, I was hit with the scent of urine. I felt bad for Barry and stood up, looking for Isabel. Surely she would have felt his fear?
Eric shrugged and looked towards one of the empty window frames. I saw Joseph giving chase to some of the attackers. I blinked, trying to get a better view through the stuffing from the furniture that floated in the room like snow. Eventually Isabel appeared, looking rosy and well fed. She sauntered over to Barry and curled her lip in disgust. I was angry at her. She had claimed Barry as her human, yet wasn’t even able to bring herself to show concern for him. I wondered if there was any way that Barry could renounce her claim, look for his own protection rather than that of a vampire forced on him. Then I realised that I never got to choose who protected me. Maybe I just lucked out?
“We should go. There’s no reason for us to linger here.”
Just as Eric said it, Pam appeared. She looked just as nourished as Isabel did. I tried to get a last look at Barry as I was being herded out of the door but so many vampires were milling around it was impossible to see him.
Barry, if you ever need help, don’t hesitate to contact me. It doesn’t matter how you do it or what kind of help you need. Promise me?
You’ll help me? No matter what?
I promise to try, is that good enough?
It’s the best offer I’ve had so far.
I was relieved. I felt his conviction and that he trusted me, just a little bit. I had gotten Barry into this situation, the least I could do is offer him a hand when he needed one.
We flew back to Shreveport that night, making it back to our house around 30 minutes before dawn. Eric started the shower and lifted me, bridal style, into the bathroom. He seemed to realise that after being covered in broken glass and dust from a wave of gunfire, I wouldn’t be in the mood for sexy times. We washed each other gently and dried each other the same way before falling into bed.
When I woke the next day, I started unpacking my bags to start some laundry loads. When the first load was started, I ate breakfast and checked my cell for messages. There were a few from Gran and a couple from Jason. They had seen the news footage of my kidnapping. I slapped at my forehead, how could I have been so blind as to think they wouldn’t find out? I called Gran before I checked any more messages.
“Stackhouse residence, Adele speaking.”
“Gran, it’s me. I’m so sorry I didn’t get in touch sooner. I’m okay, I’m home now, they hurt me but I’m better now.”
“Praise the lord Sookie. When we saw the news, we didn’t know what to do. I was sure we’d never see you again. Then they reported that the Fellowship centre had been attacked … well, we almost lost hope.”
“I’m so sorry I didn’t call you to let you know I was alright.”
“Calling is fine sweetie but I’d rather see with my own eyes that you’re fine. Come here for dinner, tonight, I’ll make chicken and dumplings with pumpkin pie for dessert.”
“That sounds too good to resist. I have some things to check but I’ll be there before 5. Will Jason be coming too?”
“I imagine so, he was very worried about you too, Sookie. I’ll call him to let him know we’re having family dinner and I’ll see you tonight. Bye sweetheart!”
“Bye Gran, see you later!”
I made a list in my head of everything that had to be done now that the debacle that was Dallas was over. First, there was Tray. As I checked more messages, I sighed in relief when I found out that Bobby had called me to let me know which hospital Tray was in and what the visiting hours were. If I got a wriggle on, I’ve be able to make it for afternoon visiting. Next was the fact that Bill would be rising with his new child tomorrow night. Then there was the Maenad problem, I wondered if Sam had any news about that from his own investigation. I rubbed at my temples with my fingertips; nothing was ever straightforward or easy in my world.
I showered and dressed, bypassing my business clothes for jeans and a checked shirt, and got in my car to go and see my injured body guard. I didn’t like being in the hospital, it reminded me too much of Valmont. The smell, the uniforms. I expected one of the staff to take me back to my cell any moment. I wondered if I should have waited until Tray was back home and visited him there but then I gave myself a shake. My irrational fear of medical institutions was a drop in the ocean compared to what Tray was going through. I swallowed my nerves and headed for the room Bobby had told me Tray was in.
When I knocked on the door, I was surprised at how chirpy Tray sounded. He was sitting up in bed, eating from a giant fruit basket with his little boy curled into his side. They had watching kids TV, Spongebob Squarepants, but the little one was fast asleep right now. I smiled at them.
“You look great Tray! How are you feeling though?”
“I’ll be fine. I won’t be able to get drunk again but I’m alive. Apparently that has something to do with you. I was out of it for the hospital move, but when I came round I was told that Dallas wasn’t safe for me and that the info had come from your messenger.”
“That’s about right. The … attackers had a team waiting to take you out if you left Parkland Memorial on two legs.”
Tray nodded. “Well, thanks for that.”
“If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have been there. I think the last thing you need to do is thank me. You seem … better than you should be.” I knew Were’s had accelerated healing but Tray’s condition went beyond that. Tray cleared his throat.
“I had a little help. Eric sent Thalia to make sure I made it back to Shreveport. She gave me some vampire blood. It wasn’t hers though. She said it was from some stockpile she had and that the vampire it belonged to was now finally dead. It was just a tiny vial, not even enough for a mouthful, but damn if it didn’t work straight away. The doctor had his palm greased to keep him quiet but he said if it wasn’t for my missing kidney, he’d swear I’d never been operated on.”
I filed that under ‘questions to ask later’. The blood must have been from a very old vampire if it had such an effect with such a small amount.
“So you’re definitely going to be okay then?” Tray nodded. “Well, you take as much time as you need, I’m sure we all need a rest after this but I’ll tell Eric to find a temporary guard for me. Maybe Sophie-Ann will send Tom Drummond for a spell?”
“That old dog!” Tray laughed. “It’d sure be good to see him again, the dude’s a legend! He whooped Colonel Flood in a pack master contest then told everyone he didn’t want the job!”
My eyes widened, I knew something had gone on between the two wolves but not that. “Well, maybe I’ll make a special request. I’ll get going so you can spend some more time with your boy, call me if you need anything okay?”
“Will do, Sookie. Thanks for coming to see me. You could have brought some chocolate though!”
We both laughed and Tray’s son stirred. I quietly made my way out of the room and back through the hospital corridors to my car. I still had some time before I had to be at Gran’s house, so I decided to stop off at Merlottes to see how Sam was getting on with the Maenad problem. When I entered the bar, everyone turned around to see who was coming in. I was knocked off my feet by a blur of red and blonde and found myself being swung around in a circle.
“Geez Louise Sookie! You sure as hell gave us a fright lil’ sis!”
I was put down and swayed on my feet for a second before my brain caught up with what was happening. “Jason you almost gave me a heart attack!
“Well, snap then! Me and Gran were worried sick about you!”
“I know and I’ve told Gran how sorry I am that I didn’t get in touch sooner to let you know I was okay. Things were pretty wild but I’m okay. What’s been goin’ on in this neck of the woods?”
Jason huffed out a huge breath and led me to a table. We passed Sam at the bar and I smiled and waved at him, he asked if I wanted some tea brought over and I nodded enthusiastically. I hadn’t realised how parched I was until refreshment was suggested. We sat down and Jason ran his hands through his hair and stared off into space for a second.
“What’s been goin’ on here? Damned if I know where to start, Sook. Okay, well Lafayette got murdered and was found in Andy Bellefleur’s car. Andy’s sister Portia has been tryin’ to clear Andy’s name, says all the evidence points towards Laffy’s death bein’ by misdemeanour from some sex party.”
“Do you mean death by misadventure?”
Jason pointed at his nose with one hand and at me with the other. “That’s the one! Anyway, she’s been bringin’ all types of weirdo’s in here tryin’ to get herself invited to one o’ the orgies but no-one is gonna fall for it. No-one wants to invite freaky people to an orgy – they want hot chicks and guys like me!”
“I see.” I looked over at Sam, knowing he’d been listening in and he nodded to me then jerked his head towards his office and flashed 5 fingers at me. “Well! Things have been wild here too then?”
Jason shrugged. “No more than usual. So how’s your man?”
“Eric is fine, he was real mad that I’d been kidnapped and came for me.” Jason nodded and muttered ‘damn straight he should’ under his breath. “Let’s just say that I won’t be going back to Dallas again anytime soon!”
“The news people said that a terrorist group called the Light of Day inst .. tit .. tute took ya, but then the Fellowship centre gets all wrecked by the vampires tryin’ to find you. I think that terrorist group was a cover and that Steve Newlin dude ordered your kidnap!”
I nodded. Jason was dead on and if he had managed to work that out, then there wasn’t much hope for Newlin. I noticed the red-haired waitress staring at me, the way her eyes were narrowed made me think twice about dipping into her head. Whatever she was thinking wouldn’t be nice, and I’d had enough of that in the last couple of days to last me a good while. I finished my tea and made my excuses to Jason before going back to Sam’s office. He held the door open for me and waited until I sat down before he settled in an old chair on the other side of the desk.
“I guess you want to hear about what I’ve found.”
“I would, all Eric and Bill have found is a gravely injured young woman. Her family insisted she be turned rather than die so, right now, she’s in the ground somewhere with Bill. Granted, Eric was distracted from the investigation when me and Pam got nabbed but any info would be good.”
Sam puffed out his cheeks and leaned back in the chair, swaying slightly and making the piece of furniture creak in protest. “I’ve made contact with the Maenad. Her name is Callisto and she … likes my company.”
I furrowed my brow at the way Sam was looking at me, then I got what he was saying. Sam and the Maenad had been seeing each other. “You’ve been … dating a Maenad?”
Sam chuckled a little. “I think dating is the last thing I’d call what me and Callisto do. But one thing hanging out with her has shown me, is that there’s a creepy underbelly to this area. It was Callisto who planted Lafayette’s body in Andy’s car, she said the culprits should be found but she doesn’t want them to be found for justice’ sake – it’s the emotions that will run riot when we find out who did it that she’ll feed from.”
“So … you know who did it?”
Sam shook his head. “Nope, but she does. She won’t tell me, says she’s content playing with me right now.”
I matched his blush with my own. “So, she wants tribute and the furore of revealing Lafayette’s killers will be like a tribute for her. When we find out what happened to your cook, she’ll go away?”
“Looks like.” Sam shrugged. “It definitely has something to do with these orgies but I don’t know when there’ll be another one. Sure, I could run round in animal form looking for evidence but it’s hard to carry a cell phone when you’re a dog.”
I rocked in my chair, thinking, it would need to be someone human and they would need to be invited to a party so their presence wasn’t suspect. Said human could go to the party, scout for evidence then break away to make a call to the police if they discovered something. But what if the killers hid the evidence? It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack … unless you were me.
It seemed pretty dumb, thinking about volunteering to go to a weird orgy just to find out who killed Sam’s cook. But it wasn’t fair that these people were getting away with murder and an innocent policeman was being accused of it.
“Sam, do you happen to have Portia’s number? I have an idea.”
After I had spoken to Portia Bellefleur, which was more of a chore than I thought it would be, I had to run so I would be at Gran’s in time for dinner. I followed Jason’s black truck with pink and aqua swirls in my second hand civic. When we pulled in behind the house, Gran was waiting on the back porch for us. She was running towards me before I even opened the door and wrapped me in a hug as soon as I stood up straight.
“Sookie Stackhouse! I should tan your hide for letting us worry about you! But I know that you probably had a good reason for not getting in touch.”
“I’ll tell you all about it over dinner Gran.”
“You bet you will little lady!”
We all laughed, inside I was wondering how much to tell her. She was a tough old bird and she’d been exposed to a lot of bad stuff in the last year but I didn’t want to assume she could handle all the details. In the end I just told her that Pam and I had been held prisoner and that Godric helped us escape. No need to have her fussing over me having my jaw broken or Pam being almost raped. I left out Barry too, even though they’d probably be interested to know that I wasn’t the only telepath in the world. I’d ruined his life enough already telling the vampires about him, I didn’t need to make it worse by telling even more people – even if I did trust them more than anyone else.
Jason was in the middle of telling us about Crystal, a girl he’d seen around Merlottes and was attempting to woo, when my phone rang. I saw that it was dark outside and predicted that it would be Eric. I’d left a note for him, letting him know where I would be, but I knew I’d be in big trouble for wandering around without a guard.
“Hello my dear, did you see Tray at the hospital?”
“Yes, I did. I’m at Gran’s right now but there’s something I need to talk to you about when I get home. Will you be there or do you have work?”
“I’ll be at Fangtasia most of the evening, I’m afraid, did Alcide talk to you?”
“Alcide? No. Why?”
“Well, he was shadowing you today. You didn’t think you would be without protection just because Tray is incapacitated did you?”
“Well … I figured I’d be getting a replacement but didn’t realise one has already been arranged.”
“Alcide volunteered. It’s returning the favour you did the wolves by alerting them to the danger Tray was in.”
“I need to talk to you about what Thalia did for Tray, I’m interested in … the source.” I didn’t want to say too much in case Gran or Jason were listening in. “I’ll come and see you in Fangtasia. I have news about the little problem in the woods.”
“Really? I’ll look forward to seeing you Lover. Drive safely.”
“I will. See you soon baby.”
I said my goodbyes to Gran and Jason and got on the road to Shreveport. My head was buzzing with all the information of the day and the questions I had and the plans I had … I hoped Eric wouldn’t be swamped with Area business and have time to talk to me in depth.
I entered Fangtasia through the employee entrance, as always, I didn’t like to saunter up to the front of the queue to get in – that just pissed off the people who were waiting and drew attention to me. Eric was in his booth with his laptop and a couple of other vampires. He looked at me when I came in and nodded to the bar, so I settled on one of the stools until he was finished with his business. Chow placed a glass of ginger ale in front of me. He had been brought in to replace Longshadow. The Native American vampire had siphoned $60,000 from the Fangtasia accounts for treatment for his Sino-AIDS but it hadn’t done him a lick of good. Instead of dying from a disease, he was disgraced and sent back to his maker with nothing but the shirt on his back. I had helped out finding who was actually taking the money but stayed firmly in the background once I had discovered the details.
Eric had taken great pains to have everything that Longshadow owned sold off at an auction to recoup the missing money. Longshadow had not only stolen from his business partner – but the Sherriff he had sworn fealty to. Eric was well within his rights to do what he did, according to Vampire law anyway.
Pam sat next to me and we chatted about how busy the club was, how strange some of the customers’ outfits were and how Bill was going to handle being a maker. Pam seemed to like being able to just … talk to me. Not many humans were into chatting with vampires, they just wanted the vampire to have sex with them and bite them. We didn’t spent a lot of time together when I first moved in with Eric, she made it plain she thought he was crazy for trusting me with so much. But she came around when she realised I had no intention of harming her maker in any way. We’d developed an odd form of friendship but it was friendship nonetheless.
Eric tapped me on the shoulder and told me to wait in the office for him while he spoke to Pam about something. Eric’s office was … interesting. It had a big squashy couch but that was the only homely or soft thing in it. He was tidy … in his office anyway, at home it was a totally different story, but his office had a place for everything and everything was in its place. I curled up on the couch and was actually starting to drift off for a nap when Eric came in.
“Sookie, you have news of the Maenad?” He picked me up off the couch and set me on his knee, nuzzling the top of my head.
“Yes. We were right that Lafayette’s death attracted Callisto but she doesn’t want booze or an animal as tribute. She wants Lafayette’s killers found so she can feed from the rage it’ll incite. An innocent man has been accused, so the amount rage will be pretty big. Basically she wants to turn Bon Temps inside out.”
“I see. So the Maenad has a name … Callisto. How can we find out who the killers are and get rid of her before she causes more damage?”
“Uh … well, that’s where I come in. I have a plan but I don’t know if you’ll want to play the part I had earmarked for you.”
“A plan? And how would I fit into this plan.”
“Oh, not just you! I’ll be there and Portia and Pam would be good too.”
Eric laughed. “I have no idea what you’ve cooked up Dear One but I’m extremely intrigued!”