Northman meet me at Fangtasia at eight.
Mustapha’s text message had arrived during the afternoon while I was dead for the day. It’s not like Mustapha to wait around to deliver his report; usually he leaves his findings in a folder for either Pam or I to deal with. The fact he wants to meet face to face is unsettling. What could he possibility have found in less than a day?
In addition to the text from Mustapha, I have a detailed email from Herveaux about the preliminary findings of the home inspection of the Stackhouse property. As I suspected, it would be easier to level the house and start from scratch. However there is much to be said for maintaining one’s history, and that dilapidated farmhouse is the story of the Stackhouse family going back over two hundred years. The electric and plumbing, including the septic system, need to be updated. There are cracks in the foundation as well as termite damage. A new roof is needed and the heating and cooling system belong in the junk yard. The water heater is a relic and the appliances were outdated when they were first installed. It will be a painstaking process to restore the home, but that is what I am paying Herveaux a fortune to do. I want the house to be completely renovated, having all the comforts of the twenty-first century while still looking like the ancestral home it is. Money is not a problem. Like the Stackhouses, I too understand the need to preserve one’s heritage. My true home may have been destroyed centuries ago, but I still own the land my father’s village sat upon.
Pam is working the door when I arrive at the bar. I cannot help but smirk when I get a good look at her. It seems she got the instructions I left for her in regards to her wardrobe for the evening. Her skin shimmers in the light from the outdoor lamp thanks to the body glitter that covers her. In addition to the glitter, she is wearing a hooded black robe over her outfit, like the ridiculous Volturi characters in those ghastly teen novels. When she sees me approaching she drops her fangs and hisses at me which only enhances my good mood.
“You’re a fucking asshole,” she says angrily. Her eyes are blinking rapidly as she tries to adjust to the foreign objects inside them. Her charade as a sparkly vampire wouldn’t be complete without the red contact lenses. Since our eyes produce no lubrication, it is extremely uncomfortable to wear these lenses. “How fucking long do I have to wear this shit?”
“Until you’ve learned not to discuss my private affairs with my maker,” I say seriously.
As we are conversing, a group of tourists get out of a van. You can easily tell the tourists from the fangbangers; the tourists are usually very skittish and smell like a combination of fear and feces. I shouldn’t despise all of them so much since they have made me an even richer vampire than I was before, but I do. I hate the tourists more than the fangbangers because of their ridiculous questions and their inability to understand that we aren’t exhibits in a zoo for them to ooh and ahh over. This group of tourists approaches us cautiously, not sure if they really want to go in or not. However seeing Pam seems to put them at ease which I find entertaining.
“See Mary Beth, I told you Twilight was real! With vampires out of the coffin, there’s no way Hollywood would make a movie that was inaccurate,” a brunette says in a condescending tone of voice. Her friend shrugs her shoulders and asks how she was supposed to know? The group of women, none of which I would guess to be older than twenty-three, approaches Pam and begin bombarding her with questions.
“Oh my God! I love your costume! Did they base Jane from Twilight off of you? You look just like her!” This girl is the cliché ditzy cheerleader; she probably only has three working brain cells in her head.
“So if your eyes are red, does that mean you drink human blood? Wait, your eyes are blue? So does that mean you drink water? I thought vampires couldn’t drink anything but blood?” This set of questions comes from a brunette that looks completely confused.
“Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?” The last question is spoken by a rotund woman wearing clothing at least two sizes too small for her. I think the button and zipper on her jeans are screaming for help, and her shirt clings to every roll and imperfection she has. She left her home thinking she looked good? Do these people not own mirrors?
“Oh my God Amanda, I can’t believe you asked that! She’s a vampire, so of course she’s Team Edward!”
“You don’t know that Brittany,” Amanda replies hotly. “She might be an animal lover! Besides, Jacob is so much hotter than Edward,” she says scornfully.
“No way! Edward is the hottest!” The one called Brittany turns her attention back to Pam. “So which are you: Team Edward or Team Jacob?” She looks at Pam as if her answer is of vital importance, like it is the cure for world hunger and communicable diseases. My teeth are biting down hard on my lip trying to keep my laughter inside. This punishment is working out even better than I thought. And we haven’t even gotten to the stuff I will be glamouring Ginger to do.
“Are you fucking kidding me? You five have to be the most stupid humans on the face of the planet! Those movies and books are shit! Not a goddamn thing about them is true!”
The five tourists stare at Pam aghast at her words. They look to be ready to argue the pros and cons of their beloved supernatural myths with my progeny. With a grin, I tell her she cannot maim or kill any of them in Old Norse before slipping inside the club. The episode outside has temporarily eased the worry I had about Mustapha’s visit to the club, but my concerns come rushing back to the front of my mind when I see the dangerous looking Were sitting at the bar.
“Mustapha,” I say succinctly when I approach the bar.
“Northman,” he says respectfully though he does not rise from his seat.
“Ginger,” the simpleton turns to me with hero worship and anticipation in her eyes. I resist the urge to roll my eyes and tell her it’s never going to happen. “I’ll be in my office. No interruptions.”
“Yes Master,” she says fervently.
“Follow me,” I tell the Were and head back to my office. I’m settling in my desk chair when he enters my office. There is a large expandable file in his hand and I am curious to know what information he has found. Mustapha is always exceptionally thorough, but that seems to be a lot of information given he has only had a short amount of time
“Here,” he says sliding the file across my desk. “Criminal records, credit scores, Google search, and other basic information I found for the list of names you gave me. That town is one that time seems to have forgotten about, so there isn’t much information about them from the Internet. The most telling things were the criminal records and the credit scores,” Mustapha begins as he settles in a chair across from me.
“Did you know the Shifter has a record? He was dishonorably discharged from the Army. He drifted around for a few years after that until he ended up in jail in Texas. Assaulted an ex-girlfriend of his; messed her up pretty bad from what I saw of the crime scene photos. She still has a restraining order against him.”
“Fucking Shifter,” I growl menacingly. His behavior the night I first made contact with Sookie is all the more troubling now that I hear about this. If he thinks he’s got a claim on her, I fear what he will do when he gets a whiff of her scent now that she smells like me. I grab my cell phone to text Dawson.
“I already told Dawson,” Mustapha interrupts me. At my raised eyebrow, he shrugs. “I figured he’d need to know to protect the girl. Dawson said he already handled it when the Shifter made a big spectacle earlier. Said he’d call you about it to see if you wanted to take any further action against the Shifter.”
There will be one less dog in Bon Temps tonight if that asshole raised his hands against Sookie. Probing the tie with her I can tell she is at work; she is feeling determined, hassled, and irritated with an underlying sense of weariness. Every time I tried to leave her last night, Sookie would become restless and fussy in her sleep. I ended up staying until an hour before dawn, and made it back to my house as the sky was changing from darkness to light. I’d gone to my daytime rest cloaked in her scent and when I rose for the night, my fangs and my cock were aching for her. The AB negative blood I drank from the random donor on the way to the bar did little to satisfy me, just as the donor’s oral skills left something to be desired. Honestly with all the free access to porn on the Internet, you would think humans would know how to give a decent blowjob!
“Is this the reason you came here tonight? To warn me about the Shifter?”
Mustapha smiles. “That was an added bonus. Most of the people in Bon Temps have lived there all their lives, barely educated, and all of them are at or below the poverty line. From what I can tell, the only one in the town to associate with vampires besides the two dead girls is your new pet.”
“So you found nothing useful?” I growl in frustration as I shove the folder away from me.
“I wouldn’t say that. There were two residents in town whose background checks were clean, too clean in my opinion. So clean that they seem fake,” Mustapha says in a hard voice.
“Fortenberry and Lenier. Perfect driving records, no criminal backgrounds, perfect work history, and nothing abnormal with their finances. The only difference between the two men is that Lenier’s paper trail only starts five years ago; he’s a ghost before that. As for Fortenberry, he’s so far up his momma’s ass that you need the Jaws of Life to separate them,” Mustapha Khan says with disgust.
“So you’re telling me the two best leads are a momma’s boy and a ghost?” I pinch the bridge of my nose as I think about the information Khan has given me. The Fortenberry boy doesn’t seem like a realistic candidate to be a killer, but perhaps his mother and his bumbling attitude with women has created a monster inside that is full of rage and takes his aggression out by beating and raping women before murdering them. But then there is Rene Lenier. How is it that he doesn’t seem to exist before five years ago? What is he hiding?
“Keep digging,” I tell Khan. “I want everything you can find on Fortenberry, Lenier, and the Shifter.” I know the Shifter isn’t involved in these murders, but I want everything I can have on him. I’m prepared to run him out of town to keep Sookie safe.
“Will do,” Khan says as he rises from his chair. “What’s with Sparkle Barbie at the door?”
“She’s learning a valuable lesson; not to fuck with her maker.” An idea takes root in my mind and my lips spread in a devious grin. “Mustapha how would you like to make an extra ten thousand tonight? It’ll only take a few minutes of your time.” I quickly explain what it is I need for the Were to do. He shakes his head with a wry chuckle but agrees to my terms.
The tourists that Pam had argued with when I entered Fangtasia are still outside arguing with her. I cannot help but chuckle at my progeny’s obstinacy. She’s like a dog with a bone when she’s arguing for something she believes in. The tourists are vehemently arguing for their beloved sparkly vampires and werewolves. This makes what I have planned even more perfect.
Pam and the tourists are still arguing when one of the girls in the group starts shrieking hysterically. The other tourists turn their heads to see what’s happening. The other girls start making the same sounds as their friend when they see the large black wolf turning the corner of the building, heading towards them. The wolf is far larger than a completely wild animal; closer in size to a lion. It is completely black with the yellow glowing eyes indicative of a Were. Pam stands her ground, unsure of what is going on. The wolf walks up to Pam, sits down on his haunches next to Pam and looks at her. She stares at the wolf in silent challenge. The silent stare off goes on for a few minutes until the wolf rises on his back legs, puts his paws on Pam’s shoulders, and licks her face. My progeny is struck dumb and immobile while the tourists begin giggling uncontrollably. The wolf walks away from the group, turning to go back around the building. The girls are all atwitter about seeing vampires and wolves coexisting and getting along. I’ve caught everything on video so I can replay it over and over. I know I have to glamour the event out of the memories of the tourists so they don’t know werewolves are real, but it is more than worth it to see how completely affronted my progeny is. This has been one of my better punishments if I do say so myself.
Zipping back inside to my office, I am chuckling as I watch the black wolf transform back to the impressive body of Mustapha Khan. While he is getting dressed, I walk over to the safe, easily inputting the combination then opening the door. With a grin, I pull two stacks of money out of the safe and turn to give them to the Were. “Here’s twenty thousand; you more than earned it,” I say as I chuckle again.
Tonight Sookie is working at the Shifter’s bar and she is supposed to be closing. Dawson and Thalia are there to make sure she is safe, but I will be going. First, I need to deal with the Shifter and second, we have a killer to catch. I do not like the idea of using Sookie as bait, but I have no choice. The killer wants her; he will not stop until he has her. Fortunately, I have years of experience knowing how killers think. He’s going to wait to strike until he has the absolute perfect scenario. To strike too soon will not be satisfying for him. He wants to terrorize her; he needs her fear to completely overtake her. Then he will strike. He will enjoy her struggles, watching the light fade from her eyes until there is nothing left. That is his moment of euphoria, and he will keep killing to keep experiencing the high.
Looking at the clock shows that it is nearly midnight. Fangtasia is nearly at capacity though we are short one group of tourists. I left them with the memories that they came to Fangtasia but did not get past the bouncer at the door. Replaying the video of my child and the Were has kept me in good humor while I have sat on this ridiculous throne, but as time has passed, a sense of unease has settled inside me. Gesturing for my child, I tell her that I am leaving for the evening. I stride purposefully out of the bar, ignoring those that fall to their knees and those that reach out trying to touch me. Under normal circumstances, I would flash my fangs at all of them and growl, enjoying the smell of fear and arousal that mingles together. But tonight I don’t have time for them.
Slipping inside my Corvette, I turn the car on and rev the engine, letting the roar of the engine express my frustration with the situation. My tires squeal as I drive as fast as possible out of the parking lot and take the highway heading east. Sookie’s emotions have not wavered much throughout the evening, but a sense of unhappiness settled inside her. A text message to Dawson earlier in the evening revealed she was still at work and her brother was the hot topic of conversation among the locals. Fucking savages! And these people claim to be Christians.
Dawson also said that he had three Weres with Adele this evening. The gracious elder Southern woman has proven to be a hospitable host to her guards and it seems that everyone fights over the opportunity to stay with her. Thinking back on Herveaux’s email from earlier, I wonder what I am going to do with the two women as their home is gutted and renovated. They will not be able to stay in the house while it is unlivable though I imagine both women will have strong reactions to being kicked out of their own home. A hotel is not an option because of the security risks. Plus I know both women will object to me spending more money on them. I know Adele and Sookie will try to settle for the least expensive options when it comes to deciding on things for the house. Fortunately, I have told Herveaux that all decisions are to be approved by me. I only want the best for these women; they deserve it seeing how hard life has been for them.
I have driven on autopilot so the harsh light from the sign indicating the Shifter’s bar is surprising. My thoughts have been wrapped up in my new pets. I had hoped to keep this strictly a business arrangement, but that plan was blown out of the water the minute my eyes landed on Sookie Stackhouse no matter how much I tried to insist it was business. Something about this family has gotten under my cold skin and I don’t like it. They are a weakness I cannot afford in my position. The family is distracting and as Pam pointed out earlier, they are bad for business. I’ve spent more time in Bon Temps than my bar recently and Fangtasia’s profits are beginning to suffer. Not that it is my only business, but it is the most visible one, and it’s where many of the area’s vampires come to find a meal. I am responsible for more than just three humans living in a rustic Louisiana town. I need to remember that.
As I’m sitting in the car, the Shifter exits the bar carrying bags of trash. He really is making it far too easy for me. He takes the bags to the dumpster behind the building. Using vamp speed, I am on him in an instant, throwing his body against the metal of the dumpster, making it buckle under his weight.
“Get off me,” he shouts and tries to fight against my hold.
“You’re going to listen very carefully,” I begin in a deadly voice while applying pressure against his windpipe. “Sookie Stackhouse and her family are MINE. You are not to concern yourself with them any longer. And if I find out you raise a hand against any of them like you did with your ex in Texas, road kill will look more appetizing than the way they find your body.” He blanches both from my words and the lack of oxygen flowing to his brain. I slam his body once more against the metal waste bin before tossing him to the ground. The Shifter coughs and splutters indignantly as he glares at me with hatred in his eyes. The backdoor opens and Sookie stands there in the garish light with her hands on her hips.
“If you’re done abusing my boss, I need to talk to you,” she says in exasperation.
“Yes dear,” I say with a smile as I make my way towards her, showing that I can play nice with others. She rolls her eyes and stomps back inside, letting go of the door which I have to catch with my hand so it doesn’t lock me out. Sookie is walking quickly down the hallway, her hips moving vigorously from side to side in the short, tight black shorts that the Shifter requires his waitresses wear. Watching her tan, firm thighs leading up to her shapely backside is hypnotic. Sookie whirls around and catches me staring at her ass. I give her my trademark smirk. I may be dead, but I can appreciate a good ass just as well as the next man.
“Are you finished looking at my ass?” She crosses her arms over the material of her straining white t-shirt, hiding her breasts from my view. Sookie is trying to be irritated with me, but I can tell she is anything but, no pun intended.
“One moment,” I vamp behind her staring at the muscular curve of her gluteus maximus for a few seconds before vamping back in front of her. “Now I’m finished.”
“Ass,” she says while laughing at me. My lips also spread in a carefree grin and it’s a good moment between the two of us. Unfortunately, the good moment passes quickly.
“I visited Jason in jail earlier today,” she says with a tiny growl and glare at me. “There was another visitor in there with him, someone I’ve never seen before. He hightailed it out of there pretty quickly, but I was able to get from his thoughts that he was with the Fellowship of the Sun. They were offering to pay Jason’s legal fees, because they thought his actions are following the path of God. That man thought those women deserved to die. He was also thinking that Jason would be an excellent candidate for some training program the Fellowship has in Dallas,” Sookie says worriedly.
“Fuck,” I mutter emphatically. Sookie gnaws at her lower lip as I pace the confined space of the back hallway. I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and send a text message to my maker, asking for permission to come to Dallas as soon as possible. I put the phone back in my jacket and look at Sookie.
“You’re going to need to ask the Shifter for time off. We need to go to Dallas.”