Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(15)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(15)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"Isn't Furnan's strategy real... unusual?"

"Yes," Tray said heavily. "I don't know what's gotten into him. Apparently, he don't want to face Alcide in personal combat. He don't want to just beat Alcide. He's aiming to kill Alcide and all Alcide's people, as far as I can tell. A few of the Weres, the ones with little kids, they already repledged themselves to him. They're too scared of what he'd do to their kids, after the attacks against women." The Were stood. "Thanks for the food. I've got to go feed my dogs. You lock up good after me, you hear? And where's your cell phone?"

I handed it to him, and with surprisingly neat movements for such large hands, Tray programmed his cell phone number into my directory. Then he left with a casual wave of his hand. He had a small neat house by his repair shop, and I was really relieved to find he'd timed the journey from there to here at only ten minutes. I locked the door behind him, and I checked the kitchen windows. Sure enough, Amelia had left one open at some point during the mild afternoon. After that discovery, I felt compelled to check every window in the house, even the ones upstairs.

After that was done and I felt as secure as I was going to feel, I turned on the television and sat in front of it, not really seeing what was happening on the screen. I had a lot to think about.

Months ago, I'd gone to the packmaster contest at Alcide's request to watch for trickery. It was my bad luck that my presence had been noticed and my discovery of Furnan's treachery had been public. It griped me that I'd been drawn into this fight, which was none of my own. In fact, bottom line: knowing Alcide had brought me nothing but grief.

I was almost relieved to feel a head of anger building at this injustice, but my better self urged me to squash it in the bud. It wasn't Alcide's fault that Debbie Pelt had been such a murderous bitch, and it wasn't Alcide's fault that Patrick Furnan had decided to cheat in the contest. Likewise, Alcide wasn't responsible for Furnan's bloodthirsty and uncharacteristic approach to consolidating his pack. I wondered if this behavior was even remotely wolflike.

I figured it was just Patrick Furnan-like.

The telephone rang, and I jumped about a mile. "Hello?" I said, unhappy at how frightened I sounded.

"The Were Herveaux called me," Eric said. "He confirms that he's at war with his packmaster."

"Yeah," I said. "You needed confirmation from Alcide? My message wasn't enough?"

"I'd thought of an alternative to the theory that you were attacked in a strike against Alcide. I'm sure Niall must have mentioned that he has enemies."

"Uh-huh."

"I wondered if one of those enemies had acted very swiftly. If the Weres have spies, so may the fairies."

I pondered that. "So, in wanting to meet me, he almost caused my death."

"But he had the wisdom to ask me to escort you to and from Shreveport."

"So he saved my life, even though he risked it."

Silence.

"Actually," I said, leaping to firmer emotional ground, "you saved my life, and I'm grateful." I half expected Eric to ask me just how grateful I was, to refer to the kissing... but still he didn't speak.

Just as I was about to blurt out something stupid to break the silence, the vampire said, "I'll only interfere in the Were war to defend our interests. Or to defend you."

My turn for a silent spell. "All right," I said weakly.

"If you see trouble coming, if they try to draw you in further, call me immediately," Eric told me. "I believe the assassin truly was sent by the packmaster. Certainly he was a Were."

"Some of Alcide's people recognized the description. The guy, Lucky somebody, had just been taken on by Furnan as a mechanic."

"Strange that he'd entrust such an errand to someone he hardly knew."

"Since the guy turned out to be so unlucky."

Eric actually snorted. Then he said, "I won't talk to Niall of this any further. Of course, I told him what occurred."

I had a moment's ridiculous pang because Niall hadn't rushed to my side or called to ask if I was okay. I'd only met him once, and now I was sad he wasn't acting like my nursemaid.

"All right, Eric, thanks," I said, and hung up as he was saying good-bye. I should have asked him about my money again, but I was too dispirited; besides, it wasn't Eric's problem.

I was jumpy the whole time I was getting ready for bed, but nothing happened to make me more anxious. I reminded myself about fifty times that Amelia had warded the house. The wards would work whether she was in the house or not.

I had some good locks on the doors.

I was tired.

Finally, I slept, but I woke up more than once, listening for an assassin.

Chapter 8

I got up with heavy eyes the next day. I felt groggy and my head hurt. I had what amounted to an emotional hangover. Something had to change. I couldn't spend another night like this. I wondered if I should call Alcide and see if he'd, ah, gone to the mattresses with his soldiers. Maybe they'd let me have a corner? But the very idea of having to do that to feel safe made me angry.

I couldn't stop the thought from going through my head - If Quinn were here, I could stay in my own home without fear. And for a moment, I wasn't just worried about my missing wounded boyfriend, I was mad at him.

I was ready to be mad at someone. There was too much loose emotion hanging around.

Well, this was the beginning of a very special day, huh?

No Amelia. I had to assume she'd spent the night with Pam. I didn't have any problem with their having a relationship. I simply wanted Amelia to be around because I was lonely and scared. Her absence left a little blank spot in my landscape.

At least the air was cooler this morning. You could feel clearly that fall was on the way, was already in the ground waiting to leap up and claim the leaves and grass and flowers. I put on a sweater over my nightgown and went out on the front porch to drink my first cup of coffee. I listened to the birds for a while; they weren't as noisy as they were in the spring, but their songs and discussions let me know that nothing unusual was in the woods this morning. I finished my coffee and tried to plan out my day, but I kept running up against a mental roadblock. It was hard to make plans when you suspected someone might try to kill you. If I could tear myself away from the issue of my possibly impending death, I needed to vacuum the downstairs, do a load of my laundry, and go to the library. If I survived those chores, I had to go to work.

I wondered where Quinn was.

I wondered when I'd hear from my new great-grandfather again.

I wondered if any more Weres had died during the night.

I wondered when my phone would ring.

Since nothing happened on my front porch, I dragged myself inside and did my usual morning get-ready routine. When I looked at the mirror, I was sorry I'd troubled. I didn't look rested and refreshed. I looked like a worried person who hadn't gotten any sleep. I dabbed some concealer beneath my eyes and put on a little extra eye shadow and blush to give my face some color. Then I decided I looked like a clown and rubbed most of it off. After feeding Bob and scolding him for the litter of kittens, I checked all my locks again and hopped in the car to go to the library.

The Renard Parish library, Bon Temps branch, is not a large building. Our librarian graduated from Louisiana Tech in Ruston, and she is a super lady in her late thirties named Barbara Beck. Her husband, Alcee, is a detective on the Bon Temps force, and I really hope Barbara doesn't know what he's up to. Alcee Beck is a tough man who does good things... sometimes. He also does quite a few bad things. Alcee was lucky when he got Barbara to marry him, and he knows it.

Barbara's the only full-time employee of the branch library, and I wasn't surprised to find her by herself when I pushed open the heavy door. She was shelving books. Barbara dressed in what I thought of as comfortable chic, meaning she picked out knits in bright colors and wore matching shoes. She favored chunky, bold jewelry, too.

"Good morning, Sookie," she said, smiling her big smile.

"Barbara," I said, trying to smile back. She noticed I wasn't my usual self, but she kept her thoughts to herself. Not really, of course, since I have my little disability, but she didn't say anything out loud. I put the books I was returning on the appropriate desk, and I began looking at the shelves of new arrivals. Most of them were some permutation on self-help. Going by how popular these books were and how often they were checked out, everyone in Bon Temps should have become perfect by now.

I grabbed up two new romances and a couple of mysteries, and even a science fiction, which I rarely read. (I guess I thought my reality was crazier than anything a science fiction writer could dream up.) While I was looking at the jacket of a book by an author I'd never read, I heard a thunk in the background and knew someone had come in the back door of the library. I didn't pay attention; some people habitually used the back door.

Barbara made a little noise, and I looked up. The man behind her was huge, at least six foot six, and whip thin. He had a big knife, and he was holding it to Barbara's throat. For a second I thought he was a robber, and I wondered who would ever think of robbing a library. For the overdue-book money?

"Don't scream," he hissed through long sharp teeth. I froze. Barbara was in some space beyond fear. She was way into terror. But I could hear another active brain in the building.

Someone else was coming in the back door very quietly.

"Detective Beck will kill you for hurting his wife," I said very loudly. And I said it with absolute certainty. "Kiss your ass good-bye."

"I don't know who that is and I don't care," the tall man said.

"You better care, muthafucker," said Alcee Beck, who'd stepped up behind him silently. He put his gun to the man's head. "Now, you let go of my wife and you drop that knife."

But Sharp Teeth wasn't about to do that. He spun, pushed Barbara at Alcee, and ran right toward me, knife raised.

I threw a Nora Roberts hardback at him, whacking him upside his head. I extended my foot. Blinded by the impact of the book, Sharp Teeth tripped over the foot, just as I'd hoped.

He fell on his own knife, which I hadn't planned.

The library fell abruptly silent except for Barbara's gasping breath. Alcee Beck and I stared down at the creeping pool of blood coming out from under the man.

"Ah-oh," I said.

"Welllllll... shit," said Alcee Beck. "Where'd you learn to throw like that, Sookie Stackhouse?"

"Softball," I said, which was the literal truth.

As you can imagine, I was late to work that afternoon. I was even more tired than I had been to start with, but I was thinking that I might live through the day. So far, two times in a row, fate had intervened to prevent my assassination. I had to assume that Sharp Teeth had been sent to kill me and had botched it, just as the fake highway patrolman had done. Maybe my luck wouldn't hold a third time; but there was a chance it would. What were the odds that another vampire would take a bullet for me, or that, by sheer accident, Alcee Beck would drop off his wife's lunch that she'd left at home on the kitchen counter? Slim, right? But I'd beaten those odds twice.

No matter what the police were officially assuming (since I didn't know the guy and no one could say I did - and he'd seized Barbara, not me), Alcee Beck now had me in his sights. He was really good at reading situations, and he had seen that Sharp Teeth was focused on me. Barbara had been a means to get my attention. Alcee would never forgive me for that, even if it hadn't been my fault. Plus, I'd thrown that book with suspicious force and accuracy.

In his place, I would probably feel the same way.

So now I was at Merlotte's, going through the motions in a weary way, wondering where to go and what to do and why Patrick Furnan had gone nuts. And where had all these strangers come from? I hadn't known the Were who'd broken down Maria-Star's door. Eric had been shot by a guy who'd worked at Patrick Furnan's dealership only a few days. I'd never seen Sharp Teeth before, and he was an unforgettable kind of guy.

The whole situation made no sense at all.

Suddenly I had an idea. I asked Sam if I could make a phone call since my tables were quiet, and he nodded. He'd been giving me those narrow looks all evening, looks that meant he was going to pin me down and talk to me soon, but for now I had a breather. So I went into Sam's office, looked in his Shreveport phone book to get the listing for Patrick Furnan's home, and I called him.

"Hello?"

I recognized the voice.

"Patrick Furnan?" I said, just to be sure.

"Speaking."

"Why are you trying to kill me?"

"What? Who is this?"

"Oh, come on. It's Sookie Stackhouse. Why are you doing this?"

There was a long pause.

"Are you trying to trap me?" he asked.

"How? You think I got the phone tapped? I want to know why. I never did anything to you. I'm not even dating Alcide. But you're trying to off me like I am powerful. You killed poor Maria-Star. You killed Christine Larrabee. What's with this? I'm not important."

Patrick Furnan said slowly, "You really believe it's me doing this? Killing female pack members? Trying to kill you?"

"Sure I do."

"It's not me. I read about Maria-Star. Christine Larrabee is dead?" He sounded almost frightened.

"Yes," I said, and my voice was as uncertain as his. "And someone's tried to kill me twice. I'm afraid some totally innocent person is going to get caught in the cross fire. And of course, I don't want to die."

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