Torturing Long Shadow and sending him to his True Death was not satisfying at all. He doesn’t have my money anymore; he fucking pissed it all away on prostitutes and gambling. Come to find out, Long Shadow was actually nearly a million dollars in debt to The Mississippi Queen, the name of riverboats and a casino owned by the King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington. Long Shadow thought to pay down his debt using my money from the club. In his eyes, he wasn’t taking anything he didn’t deserve; he thought he should have been entitled to at least twenty-five percent of the profits of Fangtasia. I ripped the head from his body just to shut his fucking mouth up.
My mood is sour when my eyes open the following evening. I have no pressing business for this evening, so I am not in a hurry to leave the comfort of my bed. The silk sheets are cool and smooth against my skin, but they bring me no satisfaction. I am edgy; something isn’t sitting right with me tonight. To my knowledge, there is nothing hanging over my head that would result in this feeling of unease.
Grabbing my cell phone off the bedside table, I swipe my thumb over the unlock function before typing in my security code. There are text messages, missed calls, and voice mail messages from Dawson. The text message is the first thing I open.
Another girl’s been killed. Jason Stackhouse has been arrested for the crime.
Not bothering to listen to my voice mail, I press the button for Dawson’s number. How the fuck could this happen? I have guards in place so the family will be protected; instead the brother ends up arrested for murder. Stackhouse doesn’t have it in him to be a cold-blooded killer. First, he can’t think his way out of a paper sack, so there is no way in hell he would be able to premeditate any of this. Second, he may be hot-headed and reactionary and not cerebral (though I’m not sure he has the ability to think period), but he wouldn’t strike a woman much less kill one. No fucking way he would kill in a week. Someone is going out of their way to make the male Stackhouse be accused of these crimes. I wonder why that is.
After four rings, Dawson finally picks up his phone. His voice is hushed when he begins speaking. “Give me a minute to get outside.” I sit impatiently as I wait for Tray to move to a new location. I hear the door open and close and he finally begins speaking again. “There are extra people over at the family home pretending to console Mrs. Stackhouse; really they are just here to get the inside scoop. I don’t want any of these busybodies to overhear anything.” Tray finishes with a growl so it must mean that someone is trying to eavesdrop. I can hear him walking so he must be moving further away from the house.
“What happened?” My patience is at an end. He needs to start explaining what’s happened and fast.
“I got here around ten to relieve Jones. Sookie had the day off but Merlotte called her around eleven asking if she could go to one of the other waitress’ homes since she didn’t show up for work today. Sookie said that the girl, Dawn, would skip out on shifts if she was shacked up with a new guy. We both thought she was shacked up with Jason since he didn’t come home last night according to Sook.”
That fucking idiot! I told him to keep a low profile and he fucking does this?!?! Maybe I should let him rot in jail for being stupid.
“So Sook and I took a ride over there in my truck. When we got there, the woman’s car was in front of her house. Sookie knocked on her door a couple a times, but there was no answer. She tried the door handle and it opened. We entered the house together to search for the missing waitress. I could tell by the smell in the house there was a dead body inside it. Sookie found her in the bedroom. I tried to shield her but she’s more stubborn than any Were bitch I’ve ever encountered!”
“Was she killed the same way as the other woman?” My first instinct was to ask after Sookie, but I need to act like the vicious vampire I am renowned for being. Two murders of women that have been known to associate with vampires in my area, particularly me, are not a coincidence. Women that have been to my club, offered themselves to me, are being murdered. And then one of my “pets” is being accused of the crime. It seems someone is mounting a personal attack against me. Whoever is doing this is in for a rude awakening. My fangs snap down as the beginnings of bloodlust rise up in me. It’s been too long since I’ve had the opportunity to hunt my prey. The Great Revelation, while a necessity, has severely hindered a vampire’s natural instinct to hunt.
“She was strangled and there were older fang marks on her thigh,” Dawson says, confirming what I already knew. “While Sookie and I were there, Jason showed up with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. Apparently he and the waitress had dated off and on; they’d had a fight last night. She had thrown him out and he spent the night getting drunk at his house.”
That fucking idiot! I told him to stay at the house with his female relatives, specifically so something like this wouldn’t happen. Why couldn’t he follow a simple order? Should I have drawn him a picture with construction paper and crayons? Is that what it would have taken for that irresponsible, good-for-nothing waste of space to have gotten the message? If I didn’t think it would hurt Sookie, and by extension Adele, I would drain him dry and leave his body in a swamp for the alligators to deal with.
“So he has no alibi,” I say as I pinch the bridge of my nose and my eyes close. I swear I have the beginnings of a headache forming in my temporal lobe. “What were you able to find at the murdered woman’s home?” I know Dawson would have tried to find some clues before the police arrived. Dawson, not only excels at security, but he is a former Marine, one that specialized in covert operations.
“I got a few scents from the room, Stackhouse I could smell all over the place. But there was another scent that I didn’t recognize. It was definitely male though, human only. The scent was all over the body as well as the bedroom. The police showed up then so I had to leave the scene.” Dawson snarls before continuing his tale. “Andy Griffith and the police of Mayberry would be more qualified to conduct a murder investigation than the bumbling idiots of the Bon Temps police department! They didn’t even bother to collect any evidence. The only thing they did was haul Jason away in the back of a police cruiser for everyone to see,” Dawson says in disgust.
“Is he still there?” I place the phone on speaker as I use vamp speed to dress for the evening. It looks like I will be going back to Bon Temps for the evening.
“Yes. Sookie called Cataliades to see if he could help out Jason. He was making a call to a colleague that specializes in criminal cases. We don’t know if the lawyer is with Jason. Sookie got a little lippy with one of the police officers. He threatened to arrest her so I had to get her out of there. She’s got quite the mouth on her,” Dawson says with a chuckle. “I think it even made me blush with some of the things she called that cop.”
I can imagine her and I’m sure she was magnificent in all her righteous indignation. Though I am curious about what she said; I didn’t think anything could faze his unflappable demeanor. It definitely makes me wary to have Sookie around Pam. The two of them together have the potential to turn my hair white.
I’m going to the slain woman’s home. I want to see if I can find something that the incompetent police couldn’t. I also want to know if the lawyer is with Stackhouse. Something tells me he would end up confessing even if he didn’t do the crime. And when he is released, I don’t care what it takes, but you keep him at the house with his family. If you have to chain him to the bed so he can’t move, then do it. I will not have him endangering himself or his family any longer.”
“In all honesty Northman, maybe you should let him stay locked up,” Dawson states quietly before I hear the hiss of a match lighting and then a slight popping as Dawson brings his cigar to life. I know he has a reason for saying what he did, but my patience is wearing thin and he needs to get on with his explanation.
“With Stackhouse in jail, if another girl ends up murdered, it will prove he didn’t do it. I don’t think the Bon Temps police are so incompetent that they would think he broke out of jail to kill a girl and then broke back in so he couldn’t be accused of the crime. Think about it, if the prime suspect of the Bon Temps PD is locked up, this gives you the opportunity to lay your trap for the killer; you could flush him out,” Dawson says around his cigar.
He has a point though I hate to admit it. If Stackhouse remains safely ensconced in prison, I will be able to search without the human police interfering. There is more of an upside to Dawson’s suggestion than down, but the biggest negative about Dawson’s plan is how much Jason’s incarceration hurts Adele and Sookie.
“I’ll consider it,” I say even though I have already made up my mind. “I will be there shortly.”
“Status,” I demand of Thalia before my feet are firmly planted on the ground outside the Stackhouse home. I am surprised to see the surly vampire here, but then again I shouldn’t be. She made it clear last evening that she would be willing to guard Sookie, so I can only assume she is already performing the job.
“From what Dawson told me, the two women have been huddled up in the house all day. The Shifter,” she sneers with disgust, “apparently asked Sookie to come in to work today since he was short a waitress because of the other woman’s death.”
I raise my eyebrows at Thalia’s words. If the Shifter cared for Sookie so much, then why would he ask her to work when any fool would be able to understand she was upset not only about finding a friend of hers dead but because her brother has been arrested accused of being a serial killer. Is he really that insensitive or was he hoping to comfort Sookie in her hour of grief? It seems he didn’t get the message before that the Stackhouse family is mine; I’ll be sure to make the message loud and clear when I next deliver it.
“Dawson said nothing of this,” I say with irritation. “Did she go?”
Thalia shakes her head. “No. The elder woman told the Shifter that some things are more important than money and that Sookie needed to be with her family today to deal with this private matter. Of course, that has not stopped every bloodbag in the area from coming here to ‘console’ the distraught family. To my knowledge, no one said anything offensive within the old woman’s hearing.”
“But that doesn’t mean they didn’t think it,” I say with a sigh. My eyes glance to the house again where the sound of music drifts quietly out of the open windows and screen doors. I don’t know if it is intentional but Chopin’s The Funeral March whispers along the wind, like it is coming from the rustling of the leaves on the trees. There are only two heartbeats inside the house; one rhythm indicating the person is at rest, the other seems to flutter as rapidly as a butterfly’s wings. Turmoil, anger, despair, resolve, and a great deal of pain seem to be coming from Sookie. I can’t begin to imagine the strain she has been under today. Dawson should have kept the others away from the family; he allowed an already stressful situation to escalate to something far worse.
Thalia smiles that creepy smile again and I have to fight the need to take a step back. “I took great pleasure in exterminating the vermin infestation that had infected the house today. I particularly enjoyed seeing that heifer in a circus tent running out of the house when I told her that her brand of sympathy was no longer welcome. I said I had seen killer whales with more compassion for their victims than she showed towards the Stackhouse family.”
My voice is rich with humor even though I am shaking my head negatively. “You should not have done that. The Stackhouse women consider these people their friends. Do not make an already tense situation worse. They have to live in this town when the dust settles; we do not.” I ignore the small voice inside of me that says I wouldn’t mind moving Sookie into a new home, mine.
“By then Mrs. Stackhouse was lying down resting. At one point she had what she calls an ‘episode’. It was only Sookie in the house with the vultures. She was trying to avoid them as best she could, but the interlopers weren’t budging. Given the size of the one woman, I’m surprised she didn’t need a forklift to get from Point A to Point B,” Thalia says in disgust.
“How did you get here so quickly?”
“Because I let her stay here for the day,” Sookie says quietly from inside the screen door. She shrugs when my attention turns to her. “It was the least I could do after she saw me home and stayed all night to make sure we were safe.”
“Thalia you are free to go. We will discuss you becoming part of the security detail. Dawson is in charge of the security for the family,” I warn. I had thought to only keep the security detail to the two-natured, but this new situation has forced my hand to include vampires. I will not make Thalia in charge of security merely because she is one of my own; she doesn’t have the skills or attitude to coordinate a multi-person team with multiple species. Thalia has a sullen attitude on a good day; I want to make sure she understands what she is in for if she agrees to this.
“I have no problems with Dawson. If he bites, I’ll bite back,” she says with a negligible shrug.
“I don’t think Pam will appreciate you playing with her chew toy,” I say with a smirk. Thalia shrugs again before running towards the woods at full speed. I sense no danger so I do not follow after her. Dawson is around here somewhere and I can sense others of the two-natured variety in the woods; they are patrolling, close enough to the house in case of emergencies, but still far enough away I do not fear them hearing every word Sookie and I have to say. My eyes take in Sookie’s stance and appearance. She looks defeated and even smaller than her already small stature. In fact, she looks like a strong wind would blow her over.
I walk swiftly up the porch steps, striding to Sookie who has stepped outside the safety of her home. My arms pull her body close to mine; I want to give her a brief respite from all the horrors the day has thrown her way. Sookie’s body is rigid in my arms; her back is riddled with tension. My hands move slowly up and down her back, trying to erase the pain and stress of the day. I can feel her weariness as if it were my own. Slowly her body sinks against mine and a sigh escapes her lips when her hands come to rest at my waist.
“Thanks,” she mumbles against my chest. I reluctantly pull away from Sookie’s warmth and guide her to the porch swing. I sit down first, extending my leg along the back of the swing before I tug Sookie down to sit between my legs. She’s in pain and I don’t like feeling it. Before she can protest, my fingers deftly remove the tie from her hair so I can run my hands through it, massaging her scalp so I can ease the pain in her head.
“Tell me what happened,” I say softly when I feel Sookie’s pain has lessened.
“They took my brother,” she whimpers. “They didn’t even bother to collect any evidence from the scene before they handcuffed my brother and threw him in the back of a squad car. Andy is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jason did it. He’s always hated my brother because Jason’s always been able to get any woman he wanted without putting any effort into it. There was a woman a few years back that Andy really liked. Everyone was at Merlotte’s and Andy was working up the courage to ask the woman out. However, she was too busy making eyes at Jason to really pay any attention to Andy. Jason and the girl ended up fucking in the Merlotte’s bathroom, and Andy walked in on it. He’s hated my brother ever since,” Sookie finishes sadly. I say nothing as I continue to rub her body, moving to her neck and shoulders to help ease her stress.
“You wanna know the worst part about today,” she says wearily.
“I heard the killer’s thoughts while I was at Dawn’s. They were dark and twisted, spewin’ nothin’ but hate. He thinks these girls deserve it, that they bring it on themselves for associatin’ with vampires.” Her body shakes as she brings to cry and when she continues speaking her voice crackles with emotion. “I could see it; every girl he’s killed. It’s more’n Maudette and Dawn. There was at least six of ‘em. And I’m next,” she whispers brokenly.
My hands freeze on her body and my entire body is flooded with an icy sensation of dread. “What do you mean you’re next?”
Sookie turns around so she can look at me. Fresh tears slide down her cheeks as she speaks in a hushed tone. “I saw it in his head. He’s seen me with you, at Merlotte’s and Fangtasia. He thinks I’m a fangbanger and that I need to be punished for my sins. In his mind, he was picturin’ sneakin’ up on me one night as I come home from work. He’d catch me out here and drag me into the woods where he’d choke the life out of me with his belt.” She collapses against my chest, heaving sobs wracking her tiny body as her salty tears saturate the cotton fabric of my shirt. My arms wrap around her fragile body as my eyes scan our surroundings, searching for any danger.
I will not let this monster win. I will meet the True Death before I allow anything to happen to the fairy in my arms.