Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(13)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(13)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"So why are you joining in this fight?" I said.

"Patrick Furnan tried to put me out of business," Dawson said.

"Why'd he do that?"

"Aren't that many other motorcycle repair shops in the area, especially since Furnan bought the Harley-Davidson dealership in Shreveport," Tray explained. "That so-and-so's greedy. He wants it all for himself. He doesn't care who goes broke. When he realized I was sticking with my shop, he sent a couple of his guys down to see me. They beat me up, busted up the shop."

"They must have been really good," I said. It was hard to believe anyone could best Tray Dawson. "Did you call the police?"

"No. The cops in Bon Temps aren't that crazy about me anyway. But I threw in with Alcide."

Detective Cal Myers, obviously, was not above doing Furnan's dirty work. It was Myers who'd collaborated with Furnan in cheating in the packmaster contest. But I was truly shocked that he would go as far as murdering Maria-Star, whose only sin was being loved by Alcide. We'd seen it with our own eyes, though.

"What's the deal with you and the police in Bon Temps?" I asked, as long as we were talking about law enforcement.

He laughed. "I used to be a cop; did you know that?"

"No," I said, genuinely surprised. "No kidding?"

"For real," he said. "I was on the force in New Orleans. But I didn't like the politics, and my captain was a real bastard, pardon me."

I nodded gravely. It had been a long time since someone had apologized for using bad language within my hearing. "So, something happened?"

"Yeah, eventually things came to a head. The captain accused me of taking some money this scuzzbag had left lying on a table when we arrested him in his home." Tray shook his head in disgust. "I had to quit then. I liked the job."

"What did you like about it?"

"No two days were alike. Yeah, sure, we got in the cars and patrolled. That was the same. But every time we got out something different would happen."

I nodded. I could understand that. Every day at the bar was a little different, too, though probably not as different as Tray's days had been in the patrol car.

We drove in silence for a while. I could tell Tray was thinking about the odds of Alcide overcoming Furnan in the struggle for dominance. He was thinking Alcide was a lucky guy to have dated Maria-Star and me, and all the luckier since that bitch Debbie Pelt had vanished. Good riddance, Tray thought.

"Now I get to ask you a question," Tray said.

"Only fair."

"You have something to do with Debbie disappearing?"

I took a deep breath. "Yeah. Self-defense."

"Good for you. Someone needed to do it."

We were quiet again for at least ten minutes. Not to drag the past into the present too much, but Alcide had broken up with Debbie Pelt before I met him. Then he dated me a little. Debbie decided I was an enemy, and she tried to kill me. I got her first. I'd come to terms with it... as much as you ever do. However, it had been impossible for Alcide to ever look at me again in the same way, and who could blame him? He'd found Maria-Star, and that was a good thing.

Had been a good thing.

I felt tears well up in my eyes and looked out the window. We'd passed the racetrack and the turnoff to Pierre Bossier Mall, and we went a couple more exits before Tray turned the truck onto the off ramp.

We meandered through a modest neighborhood for a while, Tray checking his rearview mirror so often that even I realized he was watching for anyone following us. Tray suddenly turned into a driveway and pulled around to the back of one of the slightly larger homes, which was demurely clad in white siding. We parked under a porte cochere in the back, along with another pickup. There was a small Nissan parked off to the side. There were a couple of motorcycles, too, and Tray gave them a glance of professional interest.

"Whose place?" I was a little hesitant about asking yet another question, but after all, I did want to know where I was.

"Amanda's," he said. He waited for me to precede him, and I went up the three steps leading up to the back door and rang the bell.

"Who's there?" asked a muffled voice.

"Sookie and Dawson," I said.

The door opened cautiously, the entrance blocked by Amanda so we couldn't see past her. I don't know much about handguns, but she had a big revolver in her hand pointed steadily at my chest. This was the second time in two days I'd had a gun pointed at me. Suddenly, I felt very cold and a little dizzy.

"Okay," Amanda said after looking us over sharply.

Alcide was standing behind the door, a shotgun at the ready. He'd stepped out into view as we came in, and when his own senses had checked us out, he stood down. He put the shotgun on the kitchen counter and sat at the kitchen table.

"I'm sorry about Maria-Star, Alcide," I said, forcing the words through stiff lips. Having guns aimed at you is just plain terrifying, especially at close range.

"I haven't gotten it yet," he said, his voice flat and even. I decided he was saying that the impact of her death hadn't hit him. "We were thinking about moving in together. It would have saved her life."

There wasn't any point in wallowing in what-might-have-been. That was only another way to torture yourself. What had actually happened was bad enough.

"We know who did it," Dawson said, and a shiver ran through the room. There were more Weres in the house - I could sense them now - and they had all become alert at Tray Dawson's words.

"What? How?" Without my seeing the movement, Alcide was on his feet.

"She got her witch friends to do a reconstruction," Tray said, nodding in my direction. "I watched. It was two guys. One I'd never seen, so Furnan's brought in some wolves from outside. The second was Cal Myers."

Alcide's big hands were clenched in fists. He didn't seem to know where to start speaking, he had so many reactions. "Furnan's hired help," Alcide said, finally picking a jumping-in point. "So we're within our rights to kill on sight. We'll snatch one of the bastards and make him talk. We can't bring a hostage here; someone would notice. Tray, where?"

"Hair of the Dog," he answered.

Amanda wasn't too crazy about that idea. She owned that bar, and using it as an execution or torture site didn't appeal to her. She opened her mouth to protest. Alcide faced her and snarled, his face twisting into something that wasn't quite Alcide. She cowered and nodded her assent.

Alcide raised his voice even more for his next pronouncement. "Cal Myers is Kill on Sight."

"But he's a pack member, and members get trials," Amanda said, and then cowered, correctly anticipating Alcide's wordless roar of rage.

"You haven't asked me about the man who tried to kill me," I said. I wanted to defuse the situation, if that was possible.

As furious as he was, Alcide was still too decent to remind me that I'd lived and Maria-Star hadn't, or that he'd loved Maria-Star much more than he'd ever cared about me. Both thoughts crossed his mind, though.

"He was a Were," I said. "About five foot ten, in his twenties. He was clean-shaven. He had brown hair and blue eyes and a big birthmark on his neck."

"Oh," said Amanda. "That sounds like what's-his-name, the brand-new mechanic at Furnan's shop. Hired last week. Lucky Owens. Ha! Who were you with?"

"I was with Eric Northman," I said.

There was a long, not entirely friendly silence. Weres and vampires are natural rivals, if not out-and-out enemies.

"So, the guy's dead?" Tray asked practically, and I nodded.

"How'd he approach you?" Alcide asked in a voice that was more rational.

"That's an interesting question," I said. "I was on the interstate driving home from Shreveport with Eric. We'd been to a restaurant here."

"So who would know where you were and who you were with?" Amanda said while Alcide frowned down at the floor, deep in thought.

"Or that you'd have to return home along the interstate last night." Tray was really rising in my opinion; he was right in there with the practical and pertinent ideas.

"I only told my roommate I was going out to dinner, not where," I said. "We met someone there, but we can leave him out. Eric knew, because he was acting as chauffeur. But I know Eric and the other man didn't tip anyone off."

"How can you be so sure?" Tray asked.

"Eric got shot protecting me," I said. "And the person he took me to meet was a relative."

Amanda and Tray didn't realize how small my family was, so they didn't get how momentous that statement was. But Alcide, who knew more about me, glared. "You're making this up," he said.

"No, I'm not." I stared back. I knew this was a terrible day for Alcide, but I didn't have to explain my life to him. But I had a sudden thought. "You know, the waiter - he was a Were." That would explain a lot.

"What's the name of the restaurant?"

"Les Deux Poissons." My accent wasn't good, but the Weres nodded.

"Kendall works there," Alcide said. "Kendall Kent. Long reddish hair?" I nodded, and he looked sad. "I thought Kendall would come around to our side. We had a beer together a couple of times."

"That's Jack Kent's oldest. All he would have had to do was place a phone call," Amanda said. "Maybe he didn't know..."

"Not an excuse," Tray said. His deep voice reverberated in the little kitchen. "Kendall has to know who Sookie is, from the packmaster contest. She's a friend of the pack. Instead of telling Alcide she was in our territory and should be protected, he called Furnan and told him where Sookie was, maybe let him know when she started home. Made it easy for Lucky to lie in wait."

I wanted to protest that there was no certainty that it had happened like that, but when I thought about it, it had to have been exactly that way or in some manner very close to it. Just to be sure I was remembering correctly, I called Amelia and asked her if she'd told any callers where I was the night before.

"No," she said. "I heard from Octavia, who didn't know you. I got a call from that werepanther boy I met at your brother's wedding. Believe me, you didn't come up in that conversation. Alcide called, real upset. Tanya. I told her nothing."

"Thanks, roomie," I said. "You recovering?"

"Yeah, I'm feeling better, and Octavia left to go back to the family she's been staying with in Monroe."

"Okay, see you when I get back."

"You going to make it back in time for work?"

"Yeah, I have to make it to work." Since I'd spent that week in Rhodes, I have to be careful to stick to the schedule for a while, otherwise the other waitresses would get up in my face about Sam giving me all the breaks. I hung up. "She told no one," I said.

"So you - and Eric - had a leisurely dinner at an expensive restaurant, with another man."

I looked at him incredulously. This was so far off the point. I concentrated. I'd never poked a mental probe into such turmoil. Alcide was feeling grief for Maria-Star, guilt because he hadn't protected her, anger that I'd been drawn into the conflict, and above all, eagerness to knock some skulls. As the cherry on top of all that, Alcide - irrationally - hated that I'd been out with Eric.

I tried to keep my mouth shut out of respect for his loss; I was no stranger to mixed emotions myself. But I found I'd become abruptly and completely tired of him. "Okay," I said. "Fight your own battles. I came when you asked me to. I helped you when you asked me to, both at the battle for packleader and today, at expense and emotional grief to myself. Screw you, Alcide. Maybe Furnan is the better Were." I spun on my heel and caught the look Tray Dawson was giving Alcide while I marched out of the kitchen, down the steps, and into the carport. If there'd been a can, I would've kicked it.

"I'll take you home," Tray said, appearing at my side, and I marched over to the side of the truck, grateful that he was giving me the wherewithal to leave. When I'd stormed out, I hadn't been thinking about what would happen next. It's the ruin of a good exit when you have to go back and look in the phone book for a cab company.

I'd believed Alcide truly loathed me after the Debbie debacle. Apparently the loathing was not total.

"Kind of ironic, isn't it?" I said after a silent spell. "I almost got shot last night because Patrick Furnan thought that would upset Alcide. Until ten minutes ago, I would have sworn that wasn't true."

Tray looked like he would rather be cutting up onions than dealing with this conversation. After another pause, he said, "Alcide's acting like a butthead, but he's got a lot on his plate."

"I understand that," I said, and shut my mouth before I said one more word.

As it turned out, I was on time to go to work that night. I was so upset while I was changing clothes that I almost split my black pants, I yanked them on so hard. I brushed my hair with such unnecessary vigor that it crackled.

"Men are incomprehensible a**holes," I said to Amelia.

"No shit," she said. "When I was searching for Bob today, I found a female cat in the woods with kittens. And guess what? They were all black-and-white."

I really had no idea what to say.

"So to hell with the promise I made him, right? I'm going to have fun. He can go have sex; I can have sex. And if he vomits on my bedspread again, I'll get after him with the broom."

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