Home > Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)(16)

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)(16)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"Ah, is Niall there?"

"I can reach him. Can I help you?"

Steady,I told myself.Steady . "Would you please tell him I've killed a fairy and he's laid out in my yard and I don't know what to do with the body?"

There was a moment of silence.

"Yes, I'll tell him that."

"Pretty soon, you think? Because I'm alone and I'm kind of freaked out."

"Yes. Quite soon."

"And someone will come?" Geez Louise, I sounded whiny. I made my spine stiffen. "I mean, I can load him in my car trunk, I guess, or I could call the sheriff." I wanted to impress this unknown with the fact that I wasn't completely needy and helpless. "But there's the whole thing with you guys being secret, and he didn't seem to have a weapon, and obviously I can't prove this guy said he'd enjoy killing me."

"You ... have killed a fairy."

"Is aid that. Way back." Mr. Slow-on-the-Uptake. I peered out the window again. "Yeah, he's still not moving. Dead and gone."

This time the silence lasted so long that I thought I must have blanked out and missed something. I said, "I'm sorry?"

"Are you really? We'll be there very soon." And he hung up.

I couldn't not look, and I couldn't bear to look. I'd seen the dead before, both human and nonhuman. And since the night I'd met Bill Compton in Merlotte's, I'd seen more than my share of bodies. Not that that was Bill's fault, of course.

I had goose pimples all over.

In about five minutes, Niall and another fairy walked out of the woods. There must be some kind of portal out there. Maybe Scotty had beamed them up. Or down. And maybe I wasn't thinking too clearly.

The two fairies stopped when they saw the body and then exchanged a few words. They seemed astonished. But they weren't scared, and they weren't acting like they expected the guy to get up and fight, so I crept across the back porch and out the screen door.

They knew I was there, but they continued their eyeballing of the body.

My great-grandfather raised his arm and I crept under it. He held me to him, and I glanced up to see that he was smiling.

Okay,that was unexpected.

"You're a credit to our family. You've killed my enemy," he said. "I was so right about humans." He looked proud as punch.

"This is a good thing?"

The other fairy laughed and looked at me for the first time. He had hair the color of butterscotch, and his eyes matched his hair, which to me was so weird that it was really off-putting - though like all the fairies I'd met, he was gorgeous. I had to suppress a sigh. Between the vampires and the fairies, I was doomed to be a plain Jane.

"I'm Dillon," he said.

"Oh, Claudine's dad. Nice to meet you. I guess your name means something, too?" I said.

"Lightning," he said, and gave me a particularly winsome smile.

"Who is this?" I said, jerking my head at the body.

"He was Murry," Niall said. "He was a close friend of my nephew Breandan."

Murry looked very young; to the human eye, he'd been perhaps eighteen. "He said he was looking forward to killing me," I told them.

"But instead, you killed him. How did you do it?" Dillon asked, as if he was asking how I rolled out a flaky piecrust.

"With my grandmother's trowel," I said. "Actually, it's been in my family for a long time. Not like we make a fetish of gardening tools or anything; it just works and it's there and there's no need to buy another one." Babbling.

They both looked at me. I couldn't tell if they thought I was nuts or what.

"Could you show us this gardening tool?" Niall said.

"Sure. Do you-all want some tea or something? I think we've got some Pepsi and some lemonade." No, no, not lemonade! They'd die! "Sorry, cancel the lemonade. Tea?"

"No," said Niall quite gently. "I think not now."

I'd dropped the bloody trowel in among the cannas. When I picked it up and approached them, Dillon flinched. "Iron!" he said.

"You don't have the gloves on," Niall said to his son chidingly, and took the trowel from me. His hands were covered with the clear flexible coating developed in fairy-owned chemical factories. Coated with this substance, fairies were able to go out in the human world with some degree of assurance that they wouldn't get poisoned in the process.

Dillon looked chastened. "No, sorry, Father."

Niall shook his head as if he were disappointed in Dillon, but his attention was really on the trowel. He might have been prepared to handle something poisonous to him, but I noticed he still handled it very carefully.

"It went into him really easily," I said, and had to repress a sudden wave of nausea. "I don't know why. It's sharp, but it's not that sharp."

"Iron can part our flesh like a hot knife in butter," Niall said.

"Ugh." Well, at least I knew I hadn't suddenly gotten superstrong.

"He surprised you?" Dillon asked. Though he didn't have the fine, fine wrinkles that made my great-grandfather even more beautiful, Dillon looked only a little younger than Niall, which made their relationship all the more disorienting. But when I looked down at the corpse once more, I was completely back in the present.

"He sure did surprise me. I was just working away weeding the flower bed, and the next thing you know, he was standing right there telling me how much he was looking forward to killing me. I'd never done a thing to him. And he scared me, so I kind of came up in a rush with the trowel, and I got him in the stomach." Again, I wrestled with my own stomach's tendency to heave.

"Did he speak any more?" My great-grandfather was trying to ask me casually, but he seemed pretty interested in my answer.

"No, sir," I said. "He kind of looked surprised, and then he ... he died." I walked over to the steps and sat down rather suddenly and heavily.

"It's not exactly like I feel guilty," I said in a rush of words. "It's just that he was trying to kill me and he was happy about it and I never did a thing to him. I didn't know anything about him, and now he's dead."

Dillon knelt in front of me. He looked into my face. He didn't exactly look kind, but he looked less detached. "He was your enemy, and now he is dead," he said. "This is cause for rejoicing."

"Not exactly," I said. I didn't know how to explain.

"You're a Christian ," he said, as if he'd discovered I was a hermaphrodite or a fruitarian.

"I'm a real bad one," I said hurriedly. His lips compressed, and I could see he was trying hard not to laugh. I'd never felt less like mirth, with the man I'd killed lying a few feet away. I wondered how many years Murry had walked this earth, and now he was crumpled in a lifeless heap, his blood staining my gravel. Wait a minute! He wasn't anymore. He was turning to ... dust. It wasn't anything like the gradual flaking away of a vampire; it was more like someone was erasing Murry.

"Are you cold?" Niall asked. He didn't seem to think the disappearance of bits of the body was anything unusual.

"No, sir. I'm just all upset. I mean, I was sunbathing and then I went to see Claude and Claudine, and now here I am." I couldn't take my eyes off the body's incremental disappearance.

"You've been lying in the sun and gardening.We like the sun and sky," he said, as if that was proof positive I had a special relationship with the fairy branch of my family. He smiled at me. He was so beautiful. I felt like an adolescent when I was around him, an adolescent with acne and baby fat. Now I felt like amurderous adolescent.

"Are you going to gather up his ... ashes?" I asked. I rose, trying to look brisk and purposeful. Action would make me feel less miserable.

Two pairs of alien eyes stared at me blankly.

"Why?" Dillon asked.

"To bury them."

They looked horrified.

"No, not in the ground ," Niall said, trying to sound less revolted than he was. "That isn't our way."

"Then what are you going to do with them?" There was quite a heap of glittering powder on my driveway and in my flower bed, and there was still his torso remaining. "I don't mean to be pushy, but Amelia might come home anytime. I don't get a lot of other visitors, but there's the odd UPS delivery person and the meter reader."

Dillon looked at my great-grandfather as if I'd suddenly begun speaking Japanese. Niall said, "Sookie shares her house with another woman, and this woman may return at any moment."

"Is anyone else going to come after me?" I asked, diverted from my question.

"Possibly," Niall said. "Fintan did a better job of protecting you than I am doing, Sookie. He even protected you from me, and I only want to love you. But he wouldn't tell me where you were." Niall looked sad, and harried, and tired for the first time since I'd met him. "I've tried to keep you out of it. I imagined I only wanted to meet you before they succeeded in killing me, and I arranged it through the vampire to make my movements less noticeable, but in arranging that meeting I've drawn you into danger. You can trust my son Dillon." He put his hand on the younger fairy's shoulder. "If he brings you a message, it's really from me." Dillon smiled charmingly, displaying super-naturally white and sharp teeth. Okay, he was scary, even if he was Claude and Claudine's dad.

"I'll talk to you soon," Niall said, bending over to give me a kiss. The fine, gleaming pale hair fell against my cheek. He smelled so good; fairies do. "I'm sorry, Sookie," he said. "I thought I could force them all to accept ... Well, I couldn't." His green eyes glowed with intensity and regret. "Do you have - yes, a garden hose! We could gather up most of the dust, but I think it more practical if you simply ... distribute it."

He put his arms around me and hugged me, and Dillon gave me a mocking salute. The two took a few steps to the trees, and then they simply vanished into the undergrowth as deer do when you encounter them in the woods.

So that was that. I was left in my sunny yard, all by myself, with a sizeable pile of glittering powdery dust in a body-shaped heap on the gravel.

I added to my mental list of the odd things I'd done that day. I'd entertained the police, sunbathed, visited at a mall with some fairies, weeded, and killed someone. Now it was powdered corpse removal time. And the day wasn't over yet.

I turned on the faucet, unwound the hose enough so the flow would reach the right area, and compressed the spray head to aim the water at the fairy dust.

I had a weird, out-of-body feeling. "You'd think I'd be getting used to it," I said out loud, startling myself even more. I didn't want to add up the people I'd killed, though technically most of them weren't people. Before the past two years (maybe even less if I counted down the months), I'd never laid a finger on another person in anger, aside from hitting Jason in the stomach with my plastic baseball bat when he tore my Barbie's hair out.

I pulled myself up sharply. The deed was done now. No going back.

I released the spray head and turned the hose off at the faucet.

In the fading sunlight, it was a little hard to tell, but I thought I'd dispersed the dust pretty thoroughly.

"But not from my memory," I said seriously. Then I had to laugh, and it sounded a little crazy. I was standing out in my backyard hosing down fairy blood and making melodramatic statements all to myself. Next I'd be doing the Hamlet soliloquy that I'd had to memorize in high school.

This afternoon had brought me down hard, to a real bad place.

I bit down on my bottom lip. Now that I was definitely over the intoxication of having a living relative, I had to face the fact that Niall's behavior was charming (mostly) but unpredictable. By his own admission, he'd inadvertently put me at great risk. Maybe I should have wondered before this what my grandfather Fintan had been like. Niall had told me he'd watched over me without ever making himself known, an image that seemed creepy but touching. Niall was creepy and touching, too. Great-uncle Dillon just seemed creepy.

The temperature was dropping with the creeping darkness, and I was shivering by the time I went in the house. The hose might freeze tonight, but I couldn't bring myself to care. There were clothes in the dryer, and I had to eat since I'd missed eating lunch at the mall. It was getting closer to suppertime. I had to concentrate on small things.

Amelia phoned while I was folding the laundry. She told me she was about to leave work and was going to meet Tray for dinner and a movie. She asked me if I wanted to come along, but I said I was busy. Amelia and Tray didn't need a third wheel, and I didn't need to feel like one.

It would have been nice to have some company. But what would I have done for social chitchat?Wow, that trowel slid into his stomach like it was Jell-O .

I shuddered and tried to think of what to do next. An uncritical companion, that was who I needed. I missed the cat we'd called Bob (though he hadn't been born a cat and wasn't one now). Maybe I could get another cat a real one. It wasn't the first time I'd considered going to the animal shelter. I'd better wait until this fairy crisis was over before I did that. There wasn't any point in picking out a pet if I was liable to be abducted or killed at any moment, right? Wouldn't be fair to the animal. I caught myself giggling, and I knew that couldn't be good.

Time to stop brooding; time to get something done. First, I'd clean off the trowel and put it away. I carried it to the kitchen sink, and I scrubbed it and rinsed it. The dull iron seemed to have a new gloss on it, like a bush that had gotten watered after a drought. I held it to the light and stared at the old tool. I shook myself.

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