Home > Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)(14)

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)(14)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"I'm glad you believe her," I said.

"We also talked to Calvin." Andy leaned on his elbows. "He gave us the background on Dove and Crystal. According to him, Jason knew all about their affair."

"He did." I shut my mouth tight. I wasn't going to talk about that incident if I could help it.

"And we talked to Dove."

"Of course."

"Dove Beck," Lattesta said, reading from his own notes. "He's twenty-six, married, two kids."

Since I knew all that, I had nothing to say.

"His cousin Alcee insisted on being there when we talked to him," Lattesta said. "Dove says he was home all that night, and his wife corroborates that."

"I don't think Dove did it," I said, and they both looked surprised.

"But you gave us the lead that she and Dove had had an affair," Andy said.

I flushed with mortification. "I'm sorry I did. I hated it when everyone looked at Jason like they were sure he'd done it, when I knew he hadn't. I don't think Dove murdered Crystal. I don't think he cared enough about her to do that to her."

"But maybe she ruined his marriage."

"Still, he wouldn't do that. Dove would be mad at himself, not at her. And she was pregnant. Dove wouldn't kill a pregnant woman."

"How can you be so sure?"

Because I can read his mind and see his innocence,I thought. But the vampires and Weres had come out, not me. I was hardly a supernatural creature. I was just a variation on human. "I don't think that's in Dove," I said. "I don't see it."

"And we're supposed to accept that as proof?" Lattesta said.

"I don't care what you do with it," I said, stopping short of offering a suggestion as to exactly what he might try. "You asked me; I answered you."

"So you do think this was a hate crime?"

It was my turn to look down at the table. I didn't have a notepad to scribble on, but I wanted to consider what I was about to say. "Yes," I told them finally. "I think it was a hate crime. But I don't know if it was personal hate, because Crystal was a slut ... or racial hate, because she was a werepanther." I shrugged. "If I hear anything, I'll tell you. I want this solved."

"Hear anything? In the bar?" Lattesta's expression was avid. Finally, a human man saw me as intensely valuable. Just my luck he was happily married and thought I was a freak.

"Yes," I said. "I might hear something in the bar."

They left after that, and I was glad to see them go. It was my day off. I felt I should do something special today to celebrate, since I was coming off such a difficult time, but I couldn't think of anything to do. I looked at the Weather Channel and saw the high for today was supposed to be in the sixties. I decided winter was officially over, even though it was still January. It would get cold again, but I was going to enjoy the day.

I got my old chaise longue out of the storage shed and set it up in the backyard. I slicked my hair up in a ponytail and doubled it over so it wouldn't hang down. I put on my smallest bikini, which was bright orange and turquoise. I covered myself in tanning lotion. I took a radio and the book I was reading and a towel, and went out to the yard. Yep, it was cool. Yep, I got goose bumps when a breeze came up. But this was always a happy day on my calendar, the first day I got to sun-bathe. I was going to enjoy it. I needed it.

Every year I thought of all the reasons I shouldn't lie out in the sun. Every year I added up my virtues: I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, and I very seldom had sex, though I was willing to change that. But I loved my sun, and it was bright in the sky today. Sooner or later I'd pay for it, but it remained my weakness. I wondered if maybe my fairy blood would give me a pass on the possibility of skin cancer. Nope: my aunt Linda had died of cancer, and she'd had more fairy blood than I had. Well ... dammit.

I lay on my back, my eyes closed, dark glasses keeping the glare to a minimum. I sighed blissfully, ignoring the fact that I was a little on the cold side. I carefully didn't think about many things: Crystal, mysterious ill-wishing fairies, the FBI. After fifteen minutes, I switched to my stomach, listening to the country-and-western station from Shreveport, singing along from time to time since no one was around to hear me. I have an awful voice.

"Whatchadoing?" asked a voice right by my ear.

I'd never levitated before, but I think I did then, rising about six inches off the low folding chaise. I squawked, too.

"Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea," I wheezed when I finally realized that the voice belonged to Diantha, part-demon niece of the half-demon lawyer Mr. Cataliades. "Diantha, you scared me so bad I almost jumped out of my skin."

Diantha was laughing silently, her lean, flat body bobbing up and down. She was sitting cross-legged on the ground, and she was wearing red Lycra running shorts and a black-and-green patterned T-shirt. Red Converses with yellow socks completed her ensemble. She had a new scar, a long red puckered one that ran down her left calf.

"Explosion," she said when she saw I was looking at it. Diantha had changed her hair color, too; it was a gleaming platinum. But the scar was bad enough to recapture my attention.

"You okay?" I asked. It was easy to adopt a terse style when you were talking to Diantha, whose conversation was like reading a telegram.

"Better," she said, looking down at the scar herself. Then her strange green eyes met mine. "My uncle sent me." This was the prelude to the message she had come to deliver, I understood, because she said it so slowly and distinctly.

"What does your uncle want to tell me?" I was still on my stomach, propped on my elbows. My breathing was back to normal.

"He says the fairies are moving around in this world. He says to be careful. He says they'll take you if they can, and they'll hurt you." Diantha blinked at me.

"Why?" I asked, all my pleasure in the sun evaporating as if it had never been. I felt cold. I cast a nervous glance around the yard.

"Your great-grandfather has many enemies," Diantha said slowly and carefully.

"Diantha, do you know why he has so many enemies?" That was a question I couldn't ask my great-grandfather himself, or at least I hadn't worked up the courage to do so.

Diantha looked at me quizzically. "They're on one side; he's on the other," she said as if I were slow. "Theygotyergrandfather."

"They ... these other fairies killed my grandfather Fintan?"

She nodded vigorously. "Hedidn'ttellya," she said.

"Niall? He just said his son had died."

Diantha broke into a hoot of shrill laughter. "Youcouldsay- that," she said, and doubled over, still laughing. "Choppedinta pieces!" She slapped me on the arm in her excess of amusement. I winced.

"Sorry," she said. "Sorrysorrysorry."

"Okay," I said. "Just give me a minute." I rubbed the arm vigorously to restore the feeling. How did you protect yourself if marauding fairies were after you?

"Who exactly am I supposed to be scared of?" I asked.

"Breandan," she said. "Itmeanssomething; Iforgot."

"Oh. What does 'Niall' mean?" Easily sidetracked, that was me.

"Cloud," Diantha said. "All Niall's people got sky names."

"Okay. So Breandan is after me. Who is he?"

Diantha blinked. This was a very long conversation for her. "Your great-grandfather's enemy," she explained carefully, as if I were very dense. "The only other fairy prince."

"Why did Mr. Cataliades send you?"

"Didyerbest," she said in one breath. Her unblinking bright eyes latched onto mine, and she nodded and very gently patted my hand.

I had done my best to get everyone out of the Pyramid alive. But it hadn't worked. It was kind of gratifying to know that the lawyer appreciated my efforts. I'd spent a week being angry at myself because I hadn't uncovered the whole bombing plot more quickly. If I'd paid more attention, hadn't let myself get so distracted by the other stuff going on around me ...

"Also, yercheck'llcome."

"Oh, good!" I could feel myself brighten, despite the worry caused by the rest of Diantha's message. "Did you bring a letter for me, or anything like that?" I asked, hoping for a little more enlightenment.

Diantha shook her head, and the gelled spikes of her bright platinum hair trembled all over her head, making her look like an agitated porcupine. "Uncle has to stay neutral," she said clearly. "No paper no phone calls no emails. That's why he sent me."

Cataliades had really stuck his neck out for me. No, he'd stuck Diantha's neck out. "What if they capture you, Diantha?" I said.

She shrugged a bony shoulder. "Godownfightin'," she said. Her face grew sad. Though I can't read demon minds in the same way I can read human ones, any fool could tell Diantha was thinking about her sister, Gladiola, who had died from the sweep of a vampire's sword. But after a second, Diantha looked simply lethal. "Burn'em," Diantha said. I sat up and raised my eyebrows to show I didn't understand.

Diantha turned her hand up and looked at the palm. A tiny flicker of flame hovered right above it.

"I didn't know you could do that," I said. I was not a little impressed. I reminded myself to always stay on Diantha's good side.

"Little," she said, shrugging. I deduced from that that Diantha could make only a small flame, not a large one. Gladiola must have been taken completely by surprise by the vampire who'd killed her, because vampires were flammable, much more so than humans.

"Do fairies burn like vamps?"

She shook her head. "Buteverything'llburn," she said, her voice certain and serious. "Sooner, later."

I suppressed a shiver. "Do you want a drink or something to eat?" I asked.

"Naw." She got up from the ground, dusted off her brilliant outfit. "Igottago." She patted me on the head and turned, and then she was gone, running faster than any deer.

I lay back down on the chaise to think about all this. Now Niall had warned me, Mr. Cataliades had warned me, and I felt well and truly scared.

But the warnings, though timely, didn't give me any practical information about how to guard against this threat. It might materialize at any time or in any place, as far as I could tell. I could assume the enemy fairies wouldn't storm Merlotte's and haul me out of there, since the fae were so secretive; but other than that, I didn't have a clue about what form the attack would take or how to defend myself. Would locked doors keep fairies out? Did they have to be granted entry, like vampires? No, I couldn't recall having to tell Niall he could come in, and he'd been to the house.

I knew fairies weren't limited to the night, as the vamps were. I knew they were very strong, as strong as vampires. I knew the fae who were actual fairies (as opposed to the fae who were brownies or goblins or elves) were beautiful and ruthless; that even vampires respected the ferocity of the fairies. The oldest fairies didn't always live in this world, as Claudine and Claude did; there was somewhere else they could go, a shrinking and secret world they found vastly preferable to this one: a world without iron. If they could limit their exposure to iron, fairies lived so long that they couldn't keep track of the years. Niall, for example, tossed around hundreds of years in his conversational chronology in a very inconsistent way. He might describe some event as being five hundred years ago, when another event that predated it was earmarked two hundred years ago. He simply couldn't keep track of the passage of time, maybe partly because he didn't spend most of that time in our world.

I wracked my brain for any other information. I did know one other thing, and I couldn't believe I'd forgotten it even momentarily. If iron is bad for fairies, lemon juice is even worse. Claude and Claudine's sister had been murdered with lemon juice.

Now that I thought of them, I thought it might be helpful for me to talk to Claude and Claudine. Not only were they my cousins, but Claudine was my fairy godmother, and she was supposed to help me. She'd be at work at the department store where she handled complaints and wrapped packages and took layaway payments. Claude would be at the male strip club he now owned and managed. He'd be easier to reach. I went inside to look up the number. Claude actually answered the phone himself.

"Yes," he said, managing to convey indifference, contempt, and boredom in the one word.

"Hi, sweetie!" I said brightly. "I need to talk to you face-to-face. Can I run over there, or are you busy?"

"No, don't come here!" Claude sounded almost alarmed at the idea. "I'll meet you at the mall."

The twins lived in Monroe, which boasted a nice mall.

"Okay," I said. "Where and when?"

There was a moment of silence. "Claudine can get off late for lunch. We'll meet you in an hour and a half in the food court, around Chick-fil-A."

"See you there," I said, and Claude hung up. Mr. Charm. I hustled into my favorite jeans and a green and white T-shirt. I brushed my hair vigorously. It had gotten so long I found it a lot of trouble to deal with, but I couldn't bring myself to cut it.

Since I'd exchanged blood with Eric several times, not only had I not caught so much as a cold, but I didn't even have split ends. Plus, my hair was shinier and actually looked thicker.

I wasn't surprised that people bought vampire blood on the black market. It did surprise me that people were foolish enough to trust the sellers when they said that the red stuff was actually genuine vampire blood. Often the vials contained TrueBlood, or pig's blood, or even the Drainer's own blood. If the purchaser did get genuine vampire blood, it was aged and might easily drive the consumer mad. I would never have gone to a Drainer to buy vampire blood. But now that I'd had it several times (and very fresh), I didn't even need to use makeup base. My skin was flawless. Thanks, Eric!

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