Home > Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1)(12)

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1)(12)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"Who would that be?"

"That would be Bill Compton."

"The vampire."


"How late was Mr. Compton at your house?"

"I don't know. Maybe midnight or one."

"How did he seem to you?"

"He seemed fine."

"Edgy? Irritated?"


"Miss Stackhouse, we need to talk to you more at the station house. This is going to take awhile, here, as you can see."

"Okay, I guess."

"Can you come in a couple of hours?"

I looked at my wristwatch. "If Sam doesn't need me to work."

"You know, Miss Stackhouse, this really takes precedence over working at a bar."

Okay, I was pissed off. Not because he thought murder investigations were more important than getting to work on time; I agreed with him, there. It was his unspoken prejudice against my particular job.

"You may not think my job amounts to much, but it's one I'm good at, and I like it. I am as worthy of respect as your sister, the lawyer, Andy Bellefleur, and don't you forget it. I am not stupid, and I am not a slut."

The detective turned red, slowly and unattractively. "I apologize," Andy said stiffly. He was still trying to deny the old connection, the shared high school, the knowledge of each other's family. He was thinking he should have been a detective in another town, where he could treat people the way he thought a police officer should.

"No, you'll be a better detective here if you can get over that attitude," I told him. His gray eyes flared wide in shock, and I was childishly glad I'd rocked him, though I was sure I would pay for it sooner or later. I always did when I gave people a peek at my disability.

Mostly, people couldn't get away from me fast enough when I'd given them a taste of mind reading, but Andy Bellefleur was fascinated. "It's true, then," he breathed, as if we were somewhere alone instead of sitting in the driveway of a rundown duplex in rural Louisiana.

"No, forget it," I said quickly. "I can just tell sometimes by the way people look what they're thinking."

He deliberately thought about unbuttoning my blouse. But I was wary now, back to my normal state of barricaded seige, and I did no more than smile brightly. I could tell I wasn't fooling him, though.

"When you're ready for me, you come to the bar. We can talk in the storeroom or Sam's office," I said firmly and swung my legs into the car.

The bar was buzzing when I got there. Sam had called Terry Bellefleur, Andy's second cousin if I recalled correctly, in to watch the bar while he talked to the police at Dawn's place. Terry had had a bad war in Vietnam, and he existed narrowly on government disability of some kind. He'd been wounded, captured, held prisoner for two years, and now his thoughts were most often so scary that I was extra special careful when I was around him. Terry had a hard life, and acting normal was even harder for him than it was for me. Terry didn't drink, thank God.

Today I gave him a light kiss on the cheek while I got my tray and scrubbed my hands. Through the window into the little kitchen I could see Lafayette Reynold, the cook, flipping burgers and sinking a basket of fries into hot oil. Merlotte's serves a few sandwiches, and that's all. Sam doesn't want to run a restaurant, but a bar with some food available.

"What was that for, not that I'm not honored," Terry said. He'd raised his eyebrows. Terry was redhaired, though when he needed a shave, I could tell his whiskers were gray. Terry spent a lot of time outside, but his skin never exactly tanned. It got a rough, reddened look, which made the scars on his left cheek stand out more clearly. That didn't seem to bother Terry. Arlene had been to bed with Terry one night when she'd been drinking, and she'd confided in me that Terry had many scars even worse than the one on his cheek.

"Just for being here," I said.

"It true about Dawn?"

Lafayette put two plates on the serving hatch. He winked at me with a sweep of his thick, false lashes. Lafayette wears a lot of makeup. I was so used to him I never thought of it any more, but now his eye shadow brought the boy, Jerry, to my mind. I'd let him go with the three vampires without protest. That had probably been wrong, but realistic. I couldn't have stopped them from taking him. I couldn't have gotten the police to catch up with them in time. He was dying anyway, and he was taking as many vampires and humans with him as he could; and he was already a killer himself. I told my conscience this would be the last talk we'd have about Jerry.

"Arlene, burgers up," Terry called, jerking me back into the here and how. Arlene came over to grab the plates. She gave me a look that said she was going to pump me dry at the first chance she got. Charlsie Tooten was working, too. She filled in when one of the regular women got sick or just didn't show. I hoped Charlsie would take Dawn's place full-time. I'd always liked her.

"Yeah, Dawn's dead," I told Terry. He didn't seem to mind my long pause.

"What happened to her?"

"I don't know, but it wasn't peaceful." I'd seen blood on the sheets, not a lot, but some.

"Maudette," Terry said, and I instantly understood.

"Maybe," I said. It sure was possible that whoever had done in Dawn was the same person who'd killed Maudette.

Of course, everyone in Renard Parish came in that day, if not for lunch, then for an afternoon cup of coffee or a beer. If they couldn't make their work schedule bend around that, they waited until they clocked out and came in on their way home. Two young women in our town murdered in one month? You bet people wanted to talk.

Sam returned about two, with heat radiating off his body and sweat trickling down his face from standing out in the shadeless yard at the crime scene. He told me that Andy Bellefleur had said he was coming to talk to me again soon.

"I don't know why," I said, maybe a tad sullenly. "I never hung around with Dawn. What happened to her, did they tell you?"

"Someone strangled her after beating on her a little," Sam said. "But she had some old tooth marks, too. Like Maudette."

"There are lots of vampires, Sam," I said, answering his unspoken comment.

"Sookie." His voice was so serious and quiet. It made me remember how he'd held my hand at Dawn's house, and then I remembered how he'd shut me out of his mind, known I was probing, known how to keep me out. "Honey, Bill is a good guy, for a vampire, but he's just not human."

"Honey, neither are you," I said, very quietly but very sharply. And I turned my back on Sam, not exactly wanting to admit why I was so angry with him, but wanting him to know it nonetheless.

I worked like a demon. Whatever her faults, Dawn had been efficient, and Charlsie just couldn't keep up with the pace. She was willing, and I was sure she'd catch up with the rhythm of the bar, but for tonight, Arlene and I had to take up the slack.

I earned a ton of money in tips that evening and on into the night when people found out I'd actually discovered the body. I just kept my face solemn and got through it, not wanting to offend customers who just wanted to know what everyone else in town wanted to know.

On my way home, I allowed myself to relax a little. I was exhausted. The last thing I expected to see, after I turned into the little drive through the woods that led to our house, was Bill Compton. He was leaning against a pine tree waiting for me. I drove past him a little, almost deciding to ignore him. But then I stopped.

He opened my door. Without looking him in the eyes, I got out. He seemed comfortable in the night, in a way I never could be. There were too many childhood taboos about the night and the darkness and things that went bump.

Come to think of it, Bill was one of those things. No wonder he felt at ease.

"Are you going to look at your feet all night, or are you going to talk to me?" he asked in a voice that was just above a whisper.

"Something happened you should know about."

"Tell me." He was trying to do something to me: I could feel his power hovering around me, but I batted it away. He sighed.

"I can't stand up," I said wearily. "Let's sit on the ground or something. My feet are tired."

In answer, he picked me up and set me on the hood of the car. Then he stood in front of me, his arms crossed, very obviously waiting.

"Tell me."

"Dawn was murdered. Just like Maudette Pickens."


Suddenly I felt a little better. "The other waitress at the bar."

"The redheaded one, the one who's been married so often?"

I felt a lot better. "No, the dark-haired one, the one who kept bumping into your chair with her h*ps to get you to notice her."

"Oh, that one. She came to my house."

"Dawn? When?"

"After you left the other night. The night the other vampires were there. She's lucky she missed them. She was very confident of her ability to handle anything."

I looked up at him. "Why is she so lucky? Wouldn't you have protected her?"

Bill's eyes were totally dark in the moonlight. "I don't think so," he said.

"You are..."

"I'm a vampire, Sookie. I don't think like you. I don't care about people automatically."

"You protected me."

"You're different."

"Yeah? I'm a waitress, like Dawn. I come from a plain family, like Maudette. What's so different?"

I was in a sudden rage. I knew what was coming.

His cool finger touched the middle of my forehead. "Different," he said. "You're not like us. But you're not like them, either."

I felt a flare of rage so intense it was almost divine. I hauled off and hit him, an insane thing to do. It was like hitting a Brink's armored truck. In a flash, he had me off the car and pinned to him, my arms bound to my sides by one of his arms.

"No!" I screamed. I kicked and fought, but I might as well have saved the energy. Finally I sagged against him.

My breathing was ragged, and so was his. But I didn't think it was for the same reason.

"Why did you think I needed to know about Dawn?" He sounded so reasonable, you'd think the struggle hadn't happened.

"Well, Mr. Lord of Darkness," I said furiously, "Maudette had old bite marks on her thighs, and the police told Sam that Dawn had bite marks, too."

If silence can be characterized, his was thoughtful. While he was mulling, or whatever vampires do, his embrace loosened. One hand began rubbing my back absently, as if I was a puppy who had whimpered.

"You imply they didn't die from these bites."

"No. From strangulation."

"Not a vampire, then." His tone put it beyond question.

"Why not?"

"If a vampire had been feeding from these women, they would have been drained instead of strangled. They wouldn't have been wasted like that."

Just when I was beginning to be comfortable with Bill, he'd say something so cold, so vampirey, I had to start all over again.

"Then," I said wearily, "either you have a crafty vampire with great self-control, or you have someone who's determined to kill women who've been with vampires."


I didn't feel very good about either of those choices.

"Do you think I'd do that?" he asked.

The question was unexpected. I wriggled in his pinioning embrace to look up at him.

"You've taken great care to point out how heartless you are," I reminded him. "What do you really want me to believe?"

And it was so wonderful not to know. I almost smiled.

"I could have killed them, but I wouldn't do it here, or now," Bill said. He had no color in the moonlight except for the dark pools of his eyes and the dark arches of his brows. "This is where I want to stay. I want a home."

A vampire, yearning for home.

Bill read my face. "Don't pity me, Sookie. That would be a mistake." He seemed willing me to stare into his eyes.

"Bill, you can't glamor me, or whatever you do. You can't enchant me into pulling my T-shirt down for you to bite me, you can't convince me you weren't ever here, you can't do any of your usual stuff. You have to be regular with me, or just force me."

"No," he said, his mouth almost on mine. "I won't force you."

I fought the urge to kiss him. But at least I knew it was my very own urge, not a manufactured one.

"So, if it wasn't you," I said, struggling to keep on course, "then Maudette and Dawn knew another vampire. Maudette went to the vampire bar in Shreveport. Maybe Dawn did, too. Will you take me there?"

"Why?" he asked, sounding no more than curious.

I just couldn't explain being in danger to someone who was so used to being beyond it. At least at night. "I'm not sure Andy Bellefleur will go to the trouble," I lied.

"There are still Bellefleurs here," he said, and there was something different in his voice. His arms hardened around me to the point of pain.

"Yes," I said. "Lots of them. Andy is a police detective. His sister, Portia, is a lawyer. His cousin Terry is a veteran and a bartender. He substitutes for Sam. There are lots of others."


I was getting crushed.

"Bill," I said, my voice squeaky with panic.

He loosened his grip immediately. "Excuse me," he said formally.

"I have to go to bed," I said. "I'm really tired, Bill."

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