Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(16)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(16)
Author: Charlaine Harris

Furnan said, "My wife disappeared yesterday." His voice was ragged with grief and fear. And anger. "Alcide's got her, and that f**ker is going to pay."

"Alcide wouldn't do that," I said. (Well, I was pretty sure Alcide wouldn't do that.) "You're saying you didn't order the hits on Maria-Star and Christine? And me?"

"No, why would I go for the women? We never want to kill pure-blooded female Weres. Except maybe Amanda," Furnan added tactlessly. "If we're going to kill someone, it'd be the men."

"I think you and Alcide need to have a sit-down. He doesn't have your wife. He thinks you've gone crazy, attacking women."

There was a long silence. Furnan said, "I think you're right about that sit-down, unless you made up this whole thing to get me into a position where Alcide can kill me."

"I just want to live to see the next week myself."

"I'll agree to meet with Alcide if you'll be there and if you'll swear to tell each of us what the other is thinking. You're a friend of the pack, all the pack. You can help us now."

Patrick Furnan was so anxious to find his wife he was even willing to believe in me.

I thought of the deaths that had already taken place. I thought of the deaths that were to come, perhaps including my own. I wondered what the hell was going on. "I'll do it if you and Alcide will sit down unarmed," I said. "If what I suspect is true, you have a common enemy who's trying to get you two to kill each other off."

"If that black-haired bastard will agree to it, I'll give it a shot," said Furnan. "If Alcide has my wife, not a hair on her body better be disturbed, and he better bring her with him. Or I swear to God I'll dismember him."

"I understand. I'll make sure he understands, too. We'll be getting back with you," I promised, and I hoped with all my heart that I was telling the truth.

Chapter 9

It was the middle of the same night and I was about to walk into danger. It was my own damn fault. Through a swift series of phone calls, Alcide and Furnan had worked out where to meet. I'd envisioned them sitting down across a table, their lieutenants right behind them, and working this whole situation out. Mrs. Furnan would appear and the couple would reunite. Everyone would be content, or at least less hostile. I would be nowhere around.

Yet here I was at an abandoned office center in Shreveport, the same one where the contest for packmaster had taken place. At least Sam was with me. It was dark and cool and the wind was lifting my hair from my shoulders. I shifted from foot to foot, anxious to get this over with. Though he was not as fidgety as I was, I could tell Sam felt the same way.

It was my fault he was here. When he'd become so curious about what was brewing with the Weres, I'd had to tell him. After all, if someone came through the door of Merlotte's trying to shoot me down, Sam at least deserved to know why his bar was full of holes. I'd argued bitterly with him when he'd told me he was coming with me, but here we both were.

Maybe I'm lying to myself. Maybe I simply wanted a friend with me, someone definitely on my side. Maybe I was just scared. Actually, no "maybe" about that at all.

The night was brisk, and we were both wearing waterproof jackets with hoods. Not that we needed the hoods, but if it got any colder, we might be grateful for them. The abandoned office park stretched around us in gloomy silence. We stood in the loading bay of a firm that had accepted big shipments of something. The large metal pull-down doors where the trucks had been unloaded looked like big shiny eyes in the gleam of the remaining security lights.

Actually, there were lots of big shiny eyes around tonight. The Sharks and the Jets were negotiating. Oh, excuse me, the Furnan Weres and the Herveaux Weres. The two sides of the pack might come to an understanding, and they might not. And right smack dab in the middle stood Sam the Shapeshifter and Sookie the Telepath.

As I felt the hard red throbbing of Were brains approaching from both north and south, I turned to Sam and said from the bottom of my heart, "I should never have let you come with me. I should never have opened my mouth."

"You've gotten into the habit of not telling me things, Sookie. I want you to tell me what's going on with you. Especially if there's danger." Sam's red gold hair blew around his head in the sharp little breeze wafting between the buildings. I felt his difference more strongly than I ever had. Sam is a rare true shapeshifter. He can change into anything. He prefers the form of a dog, because dogs are familiar and friendly and people don't shoot at them too often. I looked into his blue eyes and saw the wildness in them. "They're here," he said, raising his nose to the breeze.

Then the two groups were standing about ten feet away on either side of us, and it was time to concentrate.

I recognized the faces of a few of the Furnan wolves, who were more numerous. Cal Myers, the police detective, was among them. It took some kind of nerve for Furnan to bring Cal along when he was proclaiming his innocence. I also recognized the teenage girl Furnan had taken as part of his victory celebration after Jackson Herveaux's defeat. She looked a million years older tonight.

Alcide's group included auburn-haired Amanda, who nodded at me, her face serious, and some werewolves I'd seen at the Hair of the Dog the night Quinn and I had visited the bar. The scrawny girl who'd worn the red leather bustier that night was standing right behind Alcide, and she was both intensely excited and deeply scared. To my surprise, Dawson was there. He wasn't as much of a lone wolf as he'd painted himself to be.

Alcide and Furnan stepped away from their packs.

This was the agreed-on format for the parley, or sit-down, or whatever you wanted to call it: I would stand between Furnan and Alcide. Each Were leader would grip one of my hands. I would be the human lie detector while they talked. I had sworn to tell each one if the other lied, at least to the best of my ability. I could read minds, but minds can be deceptive and tricky or just dense. I'd never done anything exactly like this, and I prayed my ability would be extra precise tonight and that I would use it wisely, so I could help to end this life taking.

Alcide approached me stiffly, his face harsh in the hard glare of the security lighting. For the first time, I noticed that he looked thinner and older. There was a little gray in the black hair that hadn't been there when his father had been alive. Patrick Furnan, too, didn't look well. He'd always had a tendency to porkiness, and now he looked as though he'd gained a good fifteen or twenty pounds. Being packmaster hadn't been good to him. And the shock of the abduction of his wife had laid its mark on his face.

I did something that I never imagined I would do. I held out my right hand to him. He took it, and the flood of his ideas washed through me instantly. Even his twisty Were brain was easy to read because he was so focused. I held out my left hand to Alcide, and he grasped it too tightly. For a long minute, I felt inundated. Then, with a huge effort, I channeled them into a stream so I wouldn't be overwhelmed. It would be easy for them to lie out loud, but it's not so easy to lie inside your own head. Not consistently. I closed my eyes. A flip of the coin had given Alcide the first question.

"Patrick, why did you kill my woman?" The words sounded like they were cutting up Alcide's throat. "She was pure Were, and she was as gentle as a Were can be."

"I never ordered any of my people to kill any of yours," Patrick Furnan said. He sounded so tired he could hardly stand up, and his thoughts were proceeding in much the same way: slowly, wearily, on a track he'd worn in his own brain. He was easier to read than Alcide. He meant what he said.

Alcide was listening with great attention, and he said next, "Did you tell anyone not in your pack to kill Maria-Star and Sookie and Mrs. Larrabee?"

"I never gave orders to kill any of you, ever," Furnan said.

"He believes that," I said.

Unfortunately, Furnan wouldn't shut up. "I hate you," he said, sounding just as tired as he had before. "I would be glad if a truck hit you. But I didn't kill anyone."

"He believes that, too," I said, maybe a little dryly.

Alcide demanded, "How can you claim to be innocent with Cal Myers standing with your pack? He stabbed Maria-Star to death."

Furnan looked confused. "Cal wasn't there," he said.

"He believes what he says," I told Alcide. I turned my face to Furnan. "Cal was there, and he murdered Maria-Star." Though I dared not lose focus, I heard the whispering start all around Cal Myers, saw the rest of the Furnan Weres step away from him.

It was Furnan's turn to ask a question.

"My wife," he said, and his voice cracked. "Why her?"

"I didn't take Libby," Alcide said. "I would never abduct a woman, especially a Were woman with young. I would never order anyone else to do it."

He believed that. "Alcide didn't do it himself, and he didn't order it done." But Alcide hated Patrick Furnan with a great ferocity. Furnan hadn't needed to kill Jackson Herveaux at the cl**ax of the contest, but he had. Better to start his leadership with the elimination of his rival. Jackson would never have submitted to his rule, and would have been a thorn in his side for years. I was getting thoughts from both sides, wafts of ideas so strong it burned in my head, and I said, "Calm down, both of you." I could feel Sam behind me, his warmth, the touch of his mind, and I said, "Sam, don't touch me, okay?"

He understood, and he moved away.

"Neither of you killed any of the people who have died. And neither of you ordered it done. As far as I can tell."

Alcide said, "Give us Cal Myers to question."

"Then where is my wife?" Furnan growled.

"Dead and gone," said a clear voice. "And I'm ready to take her place. Cal is mine."

We all looked up, because the voice had come from the flat roof of the building. There were four Weres up there, and the brunette female who'd spoken was closest to the edge. She had a sense of the dramatic, I'll give her that. Female Weres have power and status but they're not packleader... ever. This woman was clearly large and in charge, though she was maybe five foot two. She had prepared to change; that is to say, she was na**d. Or maybe she just wanted Alcide and Furnan to see what they could be getting. Which was a lot, both in quantity and in quality.

"Priscilla," said Furnan.

It seemed like such an unlikely name for the Were that I felt myself actually smile, which was a bad idea under the circumstances.

"You know her," Alcide said to Furnan. "Is this part of your plan?"

"No," I answered for him. My mind careened through the thoughts I could read and latched on to one thread in particular. "Furnan, Cal is her creature," I said. "He's betrayed you."

"I thought if I picked off a few key bitches, you two would kill each other off," Priscilla said. "Too bad it didn't work."

"Who is this?" Alcide asked Furnan again.

"She's the mate of Arthur Hebert, a packleader from St. Catherine Parish." St. Catherine was way south, just east of New Orleans. It had been hit hard by Katrina.

"Arthur is dead. We don't have a home anymore," Priscilla Hebert said. "We want yours."

Well, that was clear enough.

"Cal, why have you done this?" Furnan asked his lieutenant. Cal should have gotten up on the roof while he was able. The Furnan wolves and the Herveaux wolves had formed a circle around him.

"Cal's my brother," Priscilla called. "You better not touch a hair on his body." There was an edge of desperation to her voice that hadn't been there before. Cal looked up at his sister unhappily. He realized what a fix he was in, and I was pretty sure he wanted her to shut up. That would be his last thought.

Furnan's arm was suddenly out of its sleeve and covered with hair. With huge force, he swung at his former cohort, eviscerating the Were. Alcide's clawed hand took off the back of Cal's head as the traitor fell to the ground. Cal's blood sprayed over me in an arc. At my back, Sam was humming with the energy of his oncoming change, triggered by the tension, the smell of blood, and my involuntary yelp.

Priscilla Hebert roared in rage and anguish. With inhuman grace, she leaped from the top of the building to the parking lot, followed by her henchmen (henchwolves?).

The war had begun.

Sam and I had worked ourselves into the middle of the Shreveport wolves. As Priscilla's pack began closing in from each side, Sam said, "I'm going to change, Sookie."

I couldn't see what use a collie would be in this situation, but I said, "Okay, boss." He grinned at me in a lopsided way, stripped off his clothes, and bent over. All around us the Weres were doing the same. The chill night air was full of the gloppy sound, the sound of hard things moving through thick, sticky liquid, that characterizes the transformation from man to animal. Huge wolves straightened and shook themselves all around me; I recognized the wolf forms of Alcide and Furnan. I tried counting the wolves in our suddenly reunited pack, but they were milling around, positioning themselves for the coming battle, and there was no way to keep track of them.

I turned to Sam to give him a pat and found myself standing beside a lion.

"Sam," I said in a whisper, and he roared.

Everyone froze in place for a long moment. The Shreveport wolves were just as scared as the St. Catherine's wolves at first, but then they seemed to realize that Sam was on their side, and yips of excitement echoed between the empty buildings.

Then the fighting started.

Sam tried to surround me, which was impossible, but it was a gallant attempt. As an unarmed human, I was basically helpless in this struggle. It was a very unpleasant feeling - in fact, a terrifying feeling.

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