Home > Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)(3)

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)(3)
Author: Charlaine Harris

I had to deal with the consequences here and now.

The trace of fairy blood I carried made me more attractive to supes, at least to some vampires. Not all of them could detect the little trace of fairy in my genes, but they tended to at least be interested in me, though occasionally that had negative results. Or maybe this fairy-blood thing was bull, and vampires were interested in any fairly attractive young woman who would treat them with respect and tolerance.

As to the relationship between the telepathy and the fairy blood, who knew? It wasn't like I had a lot of people to ask or any literature to check, or like I could ask a lab to test for it. Maybe little Hunter and I had both developed the condition through a coincidence - yeah, right. Maybe the trait was genetic but separate from the fairy genes.

Maybe I'd just gotten lucky.

Chapter 2

I went into Merlotte's early in the morning - for me, that means eight thirty - to check the bar situation, and I remained to cover Arlene's shift. I'd have to work a double. Thankfully, the lunch crowd was light. I didn't know if that was a result of Sam's announcement or just the normal course of things. At least I was able to make a few phone calls while Terry Bellefleur (who made ends meet with several part-time jobs) covered the bar. Terry was in a good mood, or what passed for a good mood for him; he was a Vietnam vet who'd had a very bad war. At heart he was a good guy, and we'd always gotten along. He was really fascinated by the Weres' revelation; since the war, Terry had done better with animals than people.

"I bet that's why I've always liked to work for Sam," Terry said, and I smiled at him.

"I like to work for him, too," I said.

While Terry kept the beers coming and kept an eye on Jane Bodehouse, one of our alcoholics, I started phoning to find a replacement barmaid. Amelia had told me she would help a little but only at night, because she now had a temporary day job covering the maternity leave of a clerk at the insurance agency.

First I phoned Charlsie Tooten. Charlsie, though sympathetic, told me she had the full care of her grandson while her daughter worked, so she was too tired to come in. I called another former Merlotte's employee, but she'd started work at another bar. Holly had said she could double up once but didn't want to do it more than that because of her little boy. Danielle, the other full-time server, had said the same. (In Danielle's case she had twice the excuse because she had two children.)

So, finally, with a huge sigh to let Sam's empty office know how put-upon I was, I called one of my least favorite people - Tanya Grissom, werefox and former saboteur. It took me a while to track her down, but by calling a couple of people out in Hotshot, I was finally able to reach her at Calvin's house. Tanya had been dating him for a while. I liked the man myself, but when I thought of that cluster of little houses at the ancient crossroads, I shuddered.

"Tanya, how you doing? This is Sookie Stackhouse."

"Really. Hmmm. Hello."

I didn't blame her for being cautious.

"One of Sam's barmaids quit - you remember Arlene? She freaked about the were thing and walked out. I was wondering if you could take over a couple of her shifts, just for a while."

"You Sam's partner now?"

She wasn't going to make this easy. "No, I'm just doing the looking for him. He got called away on a family emergency."

"I was probably on the bottom of your list."

My brief silence spoke for itself.

"I figure we can work together," I said, because I had to say something.

"I got a day job now, but I can help a couple of evenings until you find someone permanent," Tanya said. It was hard to read anything from her voice.

"Thanks." That gave me two temporaries, Amelia and Tanya, and I could take any hours they couldn't. This wouldn't be hard on anyone. "Can you come in tomorrow for the evening shift? If you could be here about five, five thirty, one of us can show you the ropes again, and then you'll be working until the bar closes."

There was a short silence. "I'll be there," Tanya said. "I got some black pants. You got a T-shirt I can wear?"

"Yep. Medium?"

"That'll do me."

She hung up.

Well, I could hardly expect to find her happy to hear from me or delighted to oblige since we'd never been fans of each other. In fact, though I didn't believe she remembered, I'd had her bewitched by Amelia and Amelia's mentor, Octavia. I still squirmed when I thought of how I'd altered Tanya's life, but I didn't think I'd had a lot of choices there. Sometimes you just have to regret things and move on.

Sam called while Terry and I were closing the bar. I was so tired. My head was heavy, and my feet were aching.

"How are things going there?" Sam asked. His voice was rough with exhaustion.

"We're coping," I said, trying to sound perky and carefree. "How's your mom?"

"She's still alive," he said. "She's talking and breathing on her own. The doctor says he thinks she'll recover just fine. My stepfather is under arrest."

"What a mess," I said, genuinely distressed on Sam's behalf.

"Mom says she should have told him beforehand," he told me. "She was just scared to."

"Well ... rightly so, huh? As it turns out."

He snorted. "She figures if she'd had a long talk with him, then let him see her change after he'd watched the change on TV, he would've been okay."

I'd been so busy with the bar I hadn't had a chance to absorb the television reports of the reactions around the world to this second Great Revelation. I wondered how it was going in Montana, Indiana, Florida? I wondered if any of the famous actors in Hollywood had admitted to being werewolves. What if Ryan Seacrest was fuzzy every full moon? Or Jennifer Love Hewitt or Russell Crowe? (Which I thought was more than likely.) That would make a huge difference in public acceptance.

"Have you seen your stepfather or talked to him?"

"No, not yet. I can't make myself. My brother went by. He said Don started crying. It was bad."

"Is your sister there?"

"Well, she's on her way. She had a hard time arranging child care." He sounded a little hesitant.

"She knew about your mom, right?" I tried to keep the incredulity out of my voice.

"No," he said. "Real often, were parents don't tell the kids who aren't affected. My sibs didn't know about me, either, since they didn't know about Mom."

"I'm sorry," I said, which stood for a lot of things.

"I wish you were here," Sam said, taking me by surprise.

"I wish I could be more help," I said. "If you can think of anything else I can do, you call me at any hour."

"You're keeping the business running. That counts for a lot," he said. "I better go get some sleep."

"Okay, Sam. Talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

"Sure," he said. He sounded so worn-out and sad it was hard not to cry.

I felt relieved that I'd put my personal feelings aside to call Tanya, after that conversation. It had been the right thing to do. Sam's mother being shot for what she was - well, that just put my dislike of Tanya Grissom into perspective.

I fell into bed that night, and I don't think I even twitched after that.

I'd been sure the warm glow generated by Sam's call would carry me through the next day, but the morning started badly.

Sam always ordered the supplies and kept up with the inventory, naturally. Also, naturally, he'd forgotten to remind me that he had some cases of beer coming in. I got a phone call from the truck driver, Duff, and I had to leap out of bed and hurry to Merlotte's. On my way out the door, I glimpsed the blinking light on my answering machine, which I'd been too tired to check the night before. But I didn't have time to worry about missed messages now. I was simply relieved Duff had thought of calling me when he got no answer at Sam's.

I opened the back door of Merlotte's, and Duff wheeled the cases in and put them where they were supposed to go. Somewhat nervously, I signed for Sam. By the time that was done and the truck had pulled out of the parking lot, Sarah Jen, the mail carrier, came by with the bar mail and Sam's personal mail. I accepted both. Sarah Jen had her talking shoes on. She'd heard (already) that Sam's mom was in the hospital, but I didn't feel I had to enlighten her about the circumstances. That was Sam's business. Sarah Jen also wanted to tell me how she wasn't astonished at all that Sam was a wereanimal, because she'd always thought there was something strange about him.

"He's a nice guy," Sarah Jen admitted. "I'm not saying he's not. Just ... something odd there. I wasn't a bit surprised."

"Really? He's sure said such nice things about you," I said sweetly, looking down so the line would be a throwaway. I could see the delight flooding Sarah Jen's head as clearly as if she'd drawn me a picture.

"He's always been real polite," she said, suddenly seeing Sam in the light of a most perceptive man. "Well, I better be going. I got to finish the route. If you talk to Sam, tell him I'm thinking of his mom."

After I carried the mail to Sam's desk, Amelia called from the insurance agency to tell me that Octavia had called her to ask if either of us could take her to Wal-Mart. Octavia, who'd lost most of her stuff in Katrina, was stuck out at the house without a car.

"You'll have to take her on your lunch hour," I said, barely managing not to snap at Amelia. "I got a full plate today. And here comes more trouble," I said as a car pulled up beside mine in the employee parking lot. "Here's Eric's daytime guy, Bobby Burnham."

"Oh, I meant to tell you. Octavia said Eric tried to call you at home twice. So she finally told Bobby where you were this morning," Amelia said. "She figured it might be important. Lucky you. Okay, I'll take care of Octavia. Somehow."

"Good," I said, trying not to sound as brusque as I felt. "Talk to you later."

Bobby Burnham got out of his Impala and strode up to me. His boss, Eric, was bound to me in a complicated relationship that was based not only on our past history but also on the fact that we'd swapped blood several times.

This hadn't been an informed decision on my part.

Bobby Burnham was an a**hole. Maybe Eric had gotten him on sale?

"Miss Stackhouse," he said, laying the courtliness on thick. "My master asks that you come to Fangtasia tonight for a sit-down with the new king's lieutenant."

This was not the summons I'd expected or the kind of conversation I'd foreseen with the vampire sheriff of Area Five. Given the fact that we had some personal issues to discuss, I'd imagined Eric would call me when things had settled down with the new regime, and we'd make some kind of appointment - or date - to talk about the several items on our mutual plate. I wasn't pleased by this impersonal summons by a flunky.

"You ever hear of a phone?" I said.

"He left you messages last night. He told me to talk to you today, without fail. I'm just following orders."

"Eric told you to spend your time driving over here and asking me to come to his bar tonight." Even to my own ears, I sounded unbelieving.

"Yes. He said, 'Track her down, deliver the message in person, and be polite.' Here I am. Being polite."

He was telling me the truth, and it was just killing him. That was almost enough to make me smile. Bobby really didn't like me. The closest I could come to defining why was that Bobby didn't think I was worthy of Eric's notice. He didn't like my less-than-reverent attitude toward Eric, and he couldn't understand why Pam, Eric's right-hand vampire, was fond of me, when she wouldn't give Bobby the time of day.

There was nothing I could do to change this, even if Bobby's dislike had worried me ... and it didn't. But Eric worried me plenty. I had to talk to him, and I might as well get it over with. It had been late October when I'd last seen him, and it was now mid-January. "It'll have to be when I get off here. I'm temporarily in charge," I said, sounding neither pleased nor gracious.

"What time? He wants you there at seven. Victor will be there then."

Victor Madden was the representative of the new king, Felipe de Castro. It had been a bloody takeover, and Eric was the only sheriff of the old regime still standing. Staying in the good graces of the new regime was important to Eric, obviously. I wasn't yet sure how much of that was my problem. But I was thumbs-up with Felipe de Castro by a happy accident, and I wanted to keep it that way.

"I might be able to get there by seven," I said after some inner computation. I tried not to think about how much it would please me to lay eyes on Eric. At least ten times in the past few weeks, I'd caught myself before I'd gotten in my car to drive over to see him. But I'd successfully resisted the impulses, because I'd been able to tell that he was struggling to maintain his position under the new king. "I've got to brief the new gal... . Yeah, seven is just about doable."

"He'll be so relieved," Bobby said, managing to work in a sneer.

Keep it up, a**hole,I thought. And possibly the way I was looking at him conveyed that thought, because Bobby said, "Really, he will be," in as sincere a tone as he could manage.

"Okay, message delivered," I said. "I got to get back to work."

"Where's your boss?"

"He had a family problem in Texas."

"Oh, I thought maybe the dogcatcher got him."

What a howl. "Good-bye, Bobby," I said, and turned my back on him to go in the back door.

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