Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(14)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(14)
Author: Charlaine Harris

I was trying not to look directly at Amelia. "I don't blame you," I said, trying to keep my voice steady. It was nice to be on the verge of laughter instead of wanting to smack someone. I grabbed up my purse, checked my ponytail in the mirror in the hall bathroom, and exited out the back door to drive to Merlotte's.

I felt tired before I even walked through the employees' door, not a good way to start my shift.

I didn't see Sam when I stowed my purse in the deep desk drawer we all used. When I came out of the hall that accessed the two public bathrooms, Sam's office, the storeroom, and the kitchen (though the kitchen door was kept locked from the inside, most of the time), I found Sam behind the bar. I gave him a wave as I tied on the white apron I'd pulled from the stack of dozens. I slid my order pad and a pencil into a pocket, looked around to find Arlene, whom I'd be replacing, and scanned the tables in our section.

My heart sank. No peaceful evening for me. Some asses in Fellowship of the Sun T-shirts were sitting at one of the tables. The Fellowship was a radical organization that believed (a) vampires were sinful by nature, almost demons, and (b) they should be executed. The Fellowship "preachers" wouldn't say so publicly, but the Fellowship advocated the total eradication of the undead. I'd heard there was even a little primer to advise members of how that could be carried out. After the Rhodes bombing they'd become bolder in their hatred.

The FotS group was growing as Americans struggled to come to terms with something they couldn't understand - and as hundreds of vampires streamed into the country that had given them the most favorable reception of all the nations on earth. Since a few heavily Catholic and Muslim countries had adopted a policy of killing vampires on sight, the U.S. had begun accepting vampires as refugees from religious or political persecution, and the backlash against this policy was violent. I'd recently seen a bumper sticker that read, "I'll say vamps are alive when you pry my cold dead fingers from my ripped-out throat."

I regarded the FotS as intolerant and ignorant, and I despised those who belonged to its ranks. But I was used to keeping my mouth shut on the topic at the bar, the same way I was used to avoiding discussions on abortion or gun control or gays in the military.

Of course, the FotS guys were probably Arlene's buddies. My weak-minded ex-friend had fallen hook, line, and sinker for the pseudo religion that the FotS propagated.

Arlene curtly briefed me on the tables as she headed out the back door, her face set hard against me. As I watched her go, I wondered how her kids were. I used to babysit them a lot. They probably hated me now, if they listened to their mother.

I shook off my melancholy, because Sam didn't pay me to be moody. I made the rounds of the customers, refreshed drinks, made sure everyone had enough food, brought a clean fork for a woman who'd dropped hers, supplied extra napkins to the table where Catfish Hennessy was eating chicken strips, and exchanged cheerful words with the guys seated at the bar. I treated the FotS table just like I treated everyone else, and they didn't seem to be paying me any special attention, which was just fine with me. I had every expectation that they'd leave with no trouble Pam walked in.

Pam is white as a sheet of paper and looks just like Alice in Wonderland would look if she'd grown up to become a vampire. In fact, this evening Pam even had a blue band restraining her straight fair hair, and she was wearing a dress instead of her usual pants set. She was lovely - even if she looked like a vampire cast in an episode of Leave It to Beaver. Her dress had little puff sleeves with white trim, and her collar had white trim, too. The tiny buttons down the front of her bodice were white, to match the polka dots on the skirt. No hose, I noticed, but any hose she bought would look bizarre since the rest of her skin was so pale.

"Hey, Pam," I said as she made a beeline for me.

"Sookie," she said warmly, and gave me a kiss as light as a snowflake. Her lips felt cool on my cheek.

"What's up?" I asked. Pam usually worked at Fangtasia in the evening.

"I have a date," she said. "Do you think I look good?" She spun around.

"Oh, sure," I said. "You always look good, Pam." That was only the truth. Though Pam's clothing choices were often ultra-conservative and strangely dated, that didn't mean they didn't become her. She had a kind of sweet-but-lethal charm. "Who's the lucky guy?"

She looked as arch as a vampire over two hundred years old can look. "Who says it's a guy?" she said.

"Oh, right." I glanced around. "Who's the lucky person?"

Just then my roomie walked in. Amelia was wearing a beautiful pair of black linen pants and heels with an off-white sweater and a pair of amber and tortoiseshell earrings. She looked conservative, too, but in a more modern way. Amelia strode over to us, smiled at Pam, and said, "Had a drink yet?"

Pam smiled in a way I'd never seen her smile before. It was... coy. "No, waiting for you."

They sat at the bar and Sam served them. Soon they were chatting away, and when their drinks were gone, they got up to leave.

When they passed me on their way out, Amelia said, "I'll see you when I see you" - her way of telling me she might not be home tonight.

"Okay, you two have fun," I said. Their departure was followed by more than one pair of male eyes. If corneas steamed up like glasses do, all the guys in the bar would be seeing blurry.

I made the round of my tables again, fetching new beers for one, leaving the bill at another, until I reached the table with the two guys wearing the FotS shirts. They were still watching the door as though they expected Pam to jump back inside and scream, "BOO!"

"Did I just see what I thought I saw?" one of the men asked me. He was in his thirties, clean-shaven, brown-haired, just another guy. The other man was someone I would have eyed with caution if we'd been in an elevator alone. He was thin, had a beard fringe along his jaw, was decorated with a few tattoos that looked like home jobs to me - jail tats - and he was carrying a knife strapped to his ankle, a thing that hadn't been too hard for me to spot once I'd heard in his mind that he was armed.

"What do you think you just saw?" I asked sweetly. Brown Hair thought I was a bit simple. But that was a good camouflage, and it meant that Arlene hadn't sunk to telling all and sundry about my little peculiarities. No one in Bon Temps (if you asked them outside of church on Sunday) would have said telepathy was possible. If you'd asked them outside of Merlotte's on a Saturday night, they might have said there was something to it.

"I think I saw a vamp come in here, just like she had a right. And I think I saw a woman acting happy to walk out with her. I swear to God, I cannot believe it." He looked at me as if I was sure to share his outrage. Jail Tat nodded vigorously.

"I'm sorry - you see two women walking out of a bar together, and that bothers you? I don't understand your problem with that." Of course I did, but you have to play it out sometimes.

"Sookie!" Sam was calling me.

"Can I get you gentlemen anything else?" I asked, since Sam was undoubtedly trying to call me back to my senses.

They were both looking at me oddly now, having correctly deduced that I was not exactly down with their program.

"I guess we're ready to leave," said Jail Tat, clearly hoping I'd be made to suffer for driving paying customers away. "You got our check ready?" I'd had their check ready, and I laid it down on the table in between them. They each glanced at it, slapped a ten on top, and shoved their chairs back.

"I'll be back with your change in just a second," I said, and turned.

"No change," said Brown Hair, though his tone was surly and he didn't seem genuinely thrilled with my service.

"Jerks," I muttered as I went to the cash register at the bar.

Sam said, "Sookie, you have to suck it up."

I was so surprised that I stared at Sam. We were both behind the bar, and Sam was mixing a vodka collins. Sam continued quietly, keeping his eyes on his hands, "You have to serve them like they were anybody else."

It wasn't too often that Sam treated me like an employee rather than a trusted associate. It hurt; the more so when I realized he was right. Though I'd been polite on the surface, I would have (and should have) swallowed their last remarks with no comment - if it hadn't been for the FotS T-shirts. Merlotte's wasn't my business. It was Sam's. If customers didn't come back, he'd suffer the consequences. Eventually, if he had to let bar-maids go, I would, too.

"I'm sorry," I said, though it wasn't easy to manage saying it. I smiled brightly at Sam and went off to do an unnecessary round of my tables, one that probably crossed the line from attentive and into irritating. But if I went into the employees' bathroom or the public ladies' room, I'd end up crying, because it hurt to be admonished and it hurt to be wrong; but most of all, it hurt to be put in my place.

When we closed that night, I left as quickly and quietly as possible. I knew I was going to have to get over being hurt, but I preferred to do my healing in my own home. I didn't want to have any "little talks" with Sam - or anyone else, for that matter. Holly was looking at me with way too much curiosity.

So I scooted out to the parking lot with my purse, my apron still on. Tray was leaning against my car. I jumped before I could stop myself.

"You running scared?" he asked.

"No, I'm running upset," I said. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm going to follow you home," he said. "Amelia there?"

"No, she's out on a date."

"Then I'm definitely checking out the house," the big man said, and climbed into his truck to follow me out Hummingbird Road.

There wasn't any reason to object that I could see. In fact, it made me feel good to have someone with me, someone I pretty much trusted.

My house was just as I'd left it, or rather, as Amelia had left it. The outside security lights had come on automatically, and she'd left the light over the sink on in the kitchen as well as the back porch light. Keys in hand, I crossed to the kitchen door.

Tray's big hand gripped my arm when I started to twist the doorknob.

"There's no one there," I said, having checked in my own way. "And it's warded by Amelia."

"You stay here while I look around," he said gently. I nodded and let him in. After a few seconds' silence, he opened the door to tell me I could come into the kitchen. I was ready to follow him through the house for the rest of his search, but he said, "I'd sure like a glass of Coke, if you got any."

He'd deflected me perfectly from following him by appealing to my hospitality. My grandmother would have hit me with a fly swatter if I hadn't gotten Tray a Coke right then.

By the time he arrived back in the kitchen and pronounced the house clear of intruders, the icy Coke was sitting in a glass on the table, and there was a meatloaf sandwich sitting by it. With a folded napkin.

Without a word, Tray sat down and put the napkin in his lap and ate the sandwich and drank the Coke. I sat opposite him with my own drink.

"I hear your man has vanished," Tray said when he'd patted his lips with the napkin.

I nodded.

"What do you think happened to him?"

I explained the circumstances. "So I haven't heard a word from him," I concluded. This story was sounding almost automatic, like I ought to tape it.

"That's bad" was all he said. Somehow it made me feel better, this quiet, undramatic discussion of a very touchy subject. After a minute of thoughtful silence, Tray said, "I hope you find him soon."

"Thanks. I'm real anxious to know how he's doing." That was a huge understatement.

"Well, I'd better be getting on," he said. "If you get nervous in the night, you call me. I can be here in ten minutes. It's no good, you being alone out here with the war starting."

I had a mental image of tanks coming down my driveway.

"How bad do you think it could get?" I asked.

"My dad told me in the last war, which was when his daddy was little, the pack in Shreveport got into it with the pack in Monroe. The Shreveport pack was about forty then, counting the halfies." Halfies was the common term for Weres who'd become wolves by being bitten. They could only turn into a kind of wolf-man, never achieving the perfect wolf form that born Weres thought was vastly superior. "But the Monroe pack had a bunch of college kids in it, so it come up to forty, forty-five, too. At the end of the fighting, both packs were halved."

I thought of the Weres I knew. "I hope it stops now," I said.

"It ain't gonna," Tray said practically. "They've tasted blood, and killing Alcide's girl instead of trying for Alcide was a cowardly way to open the fight. Them trying to get you, too; that only made it worse. You don't have a drop of Were blood. You're a friend of the pack. That should make you untouchable, not a target. And this afternoon, Alcide found Christine Larrabee dead."

I was shocked all over again. Christine Larrabee was - had been - the widow of one of the previous packleaders. She had a high standing in the Were community, and she'd rather reluctantly endorsed Jackson Herveaux for packleader. Now she had gotten a delayed payback.

"He's not going after any men?" I finally managed to speak.

Tray's face was dark with contempt. "Naw," the Were said. "The only way I can read it is, Furnan wants to set Alcide's temper off. He wants everyone to be on a hair trigger, while Furnan himself stays cool and collected. He's about got what he wants, too. Between grief and the personal insult, Alcide is aimed to go off like a shotgun. He needs to be more like a sniper rifle."

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)