Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(6)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(6)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"Oh," said Cope suddenly. "Amelia, I forgot to tell you. Someone called the house for you last week, someone I didn't know."

"Her name?"

"Oh, let me think. Mrs. Beech wrote it down. Ophelia? Octavia? Octavia Fant. That was it. Unusual."

I thought Amelia was going to faint. She turned a funny color and she braced her hand against the arm of the couch. "You're sure?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm sure. I gave her your cell phone number, and I told her you were living in Bon Temps."

"Thanks, Dad," Amelia croaked. "Ah, I'll bet supper's done; let me go check."

"Didn't Sookie just look at the food?" He wore the broad tolerant smile a man wears when he thinks women are being silly.

"Oh, sure, but it's in the end stage," I said while Amelia shot out of the room as swiftly as I'd just done. "It would be awful if it burned. Amelia worked so hard."

"Do you know this Ms. Fant?" Cope asked.

"No, I can't say as I do."

"Amelia looked almost scared. No one's trying to hurt my girl, right?"

He was a different man when he said that, and one I could almost like. No matter what else he was, Cope didn't want anyone hurting his daughter. Anyone except him, that is.

"I don't think so." I knew who Octavia Fant was because Amelia's brain had just told me, but she herself hadn't spoken it out loud, so it wasn't a thing I could share. Sometimes the things I hear out loud and the things I hear in my head become really tangled and confused - one of the reasons why I have a reputation for being borderline crazy. "You're a contractor, Mr. Carmichael?"

"Cope, please. Yes, among other things."

"I guess your business must be booming right now," I said.

"If my company was twice as big, we couldn't keep up with the jobs there are to do," he said. "But I hated to see New Orleans all torn up."

Oddly enough, I believed him.

Supper went smoothly enough. If Amelia's father was disconcerted at eating in the kitchen, he didn't give a sign of it. Since he was a builder, he noticed that the kitchen portion of the house was new and I had to tell him about the fire, but that could have happened to anyone, right? I left out the part about the arsonist.

Cope seemed to enjoy his food and complimented Amelia, who was mighty pleased. He had another glass of wine with his meal, but no more than that, and he ate moderately, too. He and Amelia talked about friends of the family and some relatives, and I was left alone to think. Believe me, I had a lot of thinking to do.

Hadley's marriage license and divorce decree had been in her lockbox at her bank when I'd opened it after her death. The box had contained some family things - a few pictures, her mother's obituary, several pieces of jewelry. There'd also been a lock of fine hair, dark and wispy, with a bit of Scotch tape to keep it together. It had been placed in a little envelope. I'd wondered when I'd noticed how fine the hair was. But there hadn't been a birth certificate or any other scrap of evidence that Hadley had had a baby.

Up until now, I'd had no clearly defined reason to contact Hadley's former husband. I hadn't even known he existed until I'd opened her lockbox. He wasn't mentioned in her will. I'd never met him. He hadn't shown up while I was in New Orleans.

Why hadn't she mentioned the child in her will? Surely any parent would do that. And though she'd named Mr. Cataliades and me as the joint executors, she hadn't told either of us - well, she hadn't told me - that she had relinquished her rights to her child, either.

"Sookie, would you pass the butter?" Amelia asked, and I could tell from her tone it wasn't the first time she'd spoken to me.

"Of course," I said. "Can I get either of you any more water or another glass of wine?"

They both declined.

After supper, I volunteered to do the dishes. Amelia accepted my offer after a brief pause. She and her father had to have some time alone, even if Amelia didn't relish the prospect.

I washed and dried and put away the dishes in relative peace. I wiped down the counters and whipped the tablecloth off the table and popped it into the washer on the enclosed back porch. I went into my room and read for a while, though I didn't take in much of what was happening on the page. Finally, I laid the book aside and got a box out of my underwear drawer. This box contained everything I'd retrieved from Hadley's lockbox. I checked the name on the marriage certificate. On impulse, I called information.

"I need a listing for a Remy Savoy," I said.

"What city?"

"New Orleans."

"That number's been disconnected."

"Try Metairie."

"No, ma'am."

"Okay, thanks."

Of course, a lot of people had moved since Katrina, and a lot of those moves were permanent. People who had fled the hurricane had no reason to come back, in many cases. There was nowhere to live and no job to go to, in all too many cases.

I wondered how to search for Hadley's ex-husband.

A very unwelcome solution crept into my head. Bill Compton was a computer whiz. Maybe he could track down this Remy Savoy, find out where he was now, discover if the child was with him.

I rolled the idea around in my head like a mouthful of doubtful wine. Given our exchange of the night before at the wedding, I could not imagine myself approaching Bill to ask for a favor, though he'd be the right man for the job.

A wave of longing for Quinn almost took me to my knees. Quinn was a smart and well-traveled man, and he would surely have a good piece of advice for me. If I ever saw him again.

I shook myself. I could just hear a car pulling into the parking area by the sidewalk at the front of the house. Tyrese Marley was returning for Cope. I straightened my back and left my room, my smile fixed firmly on my face.

The front door was open, and Tyrese was standing in it, pretty much filling it up from side to side. He was a big man. Cope was leaning over to give his daughter a peck on the cheek, which she accepted without a hint of a smile. Bob the cat came through the door and sat down beside her. The cat was looking up at Amelia's father with his wide-eyed stare.

"You have a cat, Amelia? I thought you hated cats."

Bob switched his gaze to Amelia. Nothing can stare like a cat.

"Dad! That was years ago! This is Bob. He's great." Amelia picked up the black-and-white cat and held him to her chest. Bob looked smug and began purring.

"Hmmm. Well, I'll be calling you. Please take care. I hate to think about you being up here at the other end of the state."

"It's just a few hours' ride away," Amelia said, sounding all of seventeen.

"True," he said, trying for rueful but charming. He missed by a foot or two. "Sookie, thanks for the evening," he called over his daughter's shoulder.

Marley had gone to Merlotte's to see if he could scope out any information on me, I heard clearly from his brain. He'd picked up quite a few odds and ends. He'd talked to Arlene, which was bad, and to our current cook and our busboy, which was good. Plus assorted bar patrons. He'd have a mixed report to convey.

The moment the car pulled away, Amelia collapsed onto the sofa with relief. "Thank God he's gone," she said. "Now do you see what I mean?"

"Yeah," I said. I sat beside her. "He's a mover and a shaker, isn't he?"

"Always has been," she said. "He's trying to maintain a relationship, but our ideas don't match."

"Your dad loves you."

"He does. But he loves power and control, too."

That was putting it conservatively.

"And he doesn't know you have your own form of power."

"No, he doesn't believe in it at all," Amelia said. "He'll tell you he's a devout Catholic, but that's not the truth."

"In a way, that's good," I said. "If he believed in your witch power, he'd try to make you do all kinds of things for him. You wouldn't want to do some of them, I bet." I could have bitten my tongue, but Amelia didn't take offense.

"You're right," she said. "I wouldn't want to help him advance his agenda. He's capable of doing that without my assistance. If he'd just leave me alone, I'd be content. He's always trying to improve my life, on his terms. I'm really doing okay."

"Who was that who had called you in New Orleans?" Though I knew, I had to pretend. "Fant, her name was?"

Amelia shuddered. "Octavia Fant is my mentor," she said. "She's the reason I left New Orleans. I figured my coven would do something awful to me when they found out about Bob. She's the head of my coven. Or what's left of it. If anything's left of it."

"Ooops."

"Yeah, no shit. I'm going to have to pay the price now."

"You think she'll come up here?"

"I'm only surprised she's not here already."

Despite her expressed fear, Amelia had been worried sick about the welfare of her mentor after Katrina. She had made a huge effort to track the woman, though she didn't want Octavia to find her.

Amelia feared being discovered, especially with Bob still in his cat form. She'd told me that her dabbling in transformational magic would be considered all the more reprehensible because she was still an intern, or something along those lines... a step above novice, anyway. Amelia didn't discuss the witch infrastructure.

"You didn't think of telling your father not to reveal your location?"

"Asking him to do that would have made him so curious he'd have torn up my entire life to find out why I'd asked. I never thought Octavia would call him, since she knows how I feel about him."

Which was, to say the least, conflicted.

"I have something to tell you that I forgot," Amelia said abruptly. "Speaking of phone calls, Eric called you."

"When?"

"Ah, last night. Before you got home. You were so full of news when you got here, I just forgot to tell you. Plus, you'd said you were going to call him anyway. And I was really upset about my dad coming. I'm sorry, Sookie. I promise I'll write a note next time."

This was not the first time Amelia had neglected to tell me about a caller. I wasn't pleased, but it was water under the bridge, and our day had been stressful enough. I hoped Eric had found out about the money the queen owed me for my services in Rhodes. I hadn't gotten a check yet, and I hated to bug her since she'd been hurt so badly. I went to the phone in my room to call Fangtasia, which should be in full blast. The club was open every night except Monday.

"Fangtasia, the bar with a bite," Clancy said.

Oh, great. My least favorite vampire. I phrased my request carefully. "Clancy, it's Sookie. Eric asked me to return his call."

There was a moment of silence. I was willing to bet that Clancy was trying to figure out if he could block my access to Eric. He decided he couldn't. "One moment," he said. A brief pause while I listened to "Strangers in the Night." Then Eric picked up the phone.

"Hello?" he said.

"I'm sorry I didn't call you back before now. I just got your message. Did you call about my money?"

A moment of silence. "No, about something else entirely. Will you go out with me tomorrow night?"

I stared at the telephone. I couldn't manage a coherent thought. Finally I said, "Eric, I'm dating Quinn."

"And how long has it been since you've seen him?"

"Since Rhodes."

"How long has it been since you heard from him?"

"Since Rhodes." My voice was wooden. I was unwilling to talk to Eric about this, but we had shared blood often enough to have a much stronger tie than I liked. In fact, I loathed our bond, one we'd been compelled to forge. But when I heard his voice, I felt content. When I was with him, I felt beautiful and happy. And there was nothing I could do about it.

"I think you can give me one evening," Eric said. "It doesn't sound as though Quinn has you booked."

"That was mean."

"It's Quinn who's cruel, promising you he'd be here and then not keeping his word." There was a dark element in Eric's voice, an undertone of anger.

"Do you know what's happened to him?" I asked. "Do you know where he is?"

There was a significant silence. "No," Eric said very gently. "I don't know. But there is someone in town who wants to meet you. I promised I would arrange it. I'd like to take you to Shreveport myself."

So this wasn't a date date.

"You mean that guy Jonathan? He came to the wedding and introduced himself. I've got to say, I didn't much care for the guy. No offense, if he's a friend of yours."

"Jonathan? What Jonathan?"

"I'm talking about the Asian guy; he's maybe Thai? He was at the Bellefleur wedding last night. He said he wanted to see me because he was staying in Shreveport and he'd heard a lot about me. He said he'd checked in with you, like a good little visiting vampire."

"I don't know him," Eric said. His voice was much sharper. "I'll ask here at Fangtasia to see if anyone has seen him. And I'll prompt the queen about your money, though she is... not herself. Now, will you please do what I'm asking you to do?"

I made a face at the telephone. "I guess," I said. "Who'm I meeting? And where?"

"I'll have to let the 'who' remain a mystery," Eric said. "As to where, we'll go to dinner at a nice restaurant. The kind you'd call casual dressy."

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