It was just after midnight when Sookie finally arrived in Bon Temps. Surprisingly, she had left New Orleans on time and thanks to the competence of her assistant, Izzy, Sookie and her party of six had no problem whatsoever getting to Shreveport. Instead of relying on Anubis to get her boss to Shreveport, Izzy had arranged a private plane and earned her boss’s praise and a bonus.
Sookie had stopped at Fangtasia briefly to feed and drop off Eric, Ana, Rasul, and Izzy before making her way to Bon Temps. Sookie would have preferred staying at Fangtasia to enjoy the night with her Blood but, as usual, Sam was fucking up. It reminded Sookie of all the times the shifter had called her in to cover a shift for one of the other waitresses and messed up her plans. Granted, mortal Sookie rarely had nights out or big plans, but Sam had still taken advantage of their friendship.
The brief stop at the bar had given Sookie the chance to observe Tara again to see if she had made any progress since she had last seen her five weeks ago. Sookie wasn’t at all surprised to see that Tara hadn’t made much progress. The bitter young woman was still running at the mouth regarding things that she was entirely clueless over and continued giving Pam hell. Tara had at least learned how to feed on humans, but even that had been a struggle. Sookie suspected things would soon come to a head. Tara had pissed off so many of the vampires in Area Five that it was only a matter of time until someone bit back and it wouldn’t be pretty when it happened.
Sookie banished all thoughts of Tara once she pulled up outside the old farmhouse. Climbing out the SUV, Sookie looked up at the house where she had spent the last twenty-odd years living. While she stared at it, she waited for a sense of nostalgia to come, she waited for a feeling that said this was home, but it never came. The house was just that, a house. It was no longer a home to her. While she had some good memories of living there and she had been happy for a time, the re-emergence of her old memories had helped her put everything into perspective. She finally saw the suffering that had happened in that house, the misery, and the nights spent in tears because of something she had heard in someone’s head.
Now that she finally remembered her real mother, Sookie was able to remove the blinders when it came to thinking of Adele Stackhouse. She would always be grateful to the old lady who would always have a place in her heart, but she no longer worshipped her as she once had. Sookie finally accepted that Adele wasn’t perfect and, at last, she put her Gran to rest.
“This is where you lived?”
Sookie chuckled at the disbelief she could hear in her guard’s, Eliza, voice. “You should have seen it a year ago,” she replied while she moved to the house and climbed the porch steps. “It looked a hundred times worse after the Maenad was through with it.”
“A maenad?” Eliza questioned as she followed Sookie up onto the porch. The dark-haired beauty scanned the area making sure no one was around. She had heard all about the shifter who was causing trouble for Sookie and she wanted to make sure he wasn’t there spying on them. Eliza knew the shifter’s abilities gave him the option to become any animal he wanted and, depending on if he had killed a family member, any human as well. The shifter could literally be any animal. However, Eliza had the gift of an enhanced sense of smell. She could differentiate between a genuine animal and a shifter with ease. She could also pick up scents and track them with the same simplicity. It made her work as an assassin that much easier. Once she had a scent she never forgot it and she was able to grasp scents that were several weeks old, sometimes even months. “I thought the last of them was destroyed in St. Petersburg in the eighteenth century.”
Sookie paused by the front door and turned to look at the centuries-old vampire. “Shit, I’d forgotten all about that,” She chuckled once she realized what she’d said. Of course she had forgotten about the massacre of St. Petersburg! Up until a few months ago she had forgotten everything about her life! Remembering the madness that the maenad had caused in St. Petersburg would certainly have helped when they were dealing with Maryann. Still, they had eventually gotten rid of Maryann. “What was her name? Callisto? I kinda liked her, you know, with all the bloodletting and orgies. It was a shame she tried to sacrifice Phoebe to her God. That pissed me off and made her our enemy.”
“Phoebe was not best pleased either,” Elijah said when he stepped up behind his sister Eliza. “If memory serves, she threw quite the tantrum and killed many of the Maenad’s followers.”
“Phoebe is definitely her Maker’s child,” Sookie replied with a small laugh. Phoebe Golden, the reigning Queen of Iowa, had only been a century old when they encountered the maenad and had been unable to defend herself against her. Luckily for Phoebe, she had still been traveling with her Maker, Warlow, and he had not taken an attack on his child well. Between them all, they managed to overcome the maenad’s madness and killed her before she could follow through on her plan to sacrifice Phoebe.
Sookie frowned when she thought of Warlow. She still had yet to hear from him and she was growing concerned, especially considering Jason’s claim that Warlow had killed his parents. Sookie was thinking about contacting his children to see if they had heard from him, but she was holding off for the moment. Warlow’s eldest was currently up to her eyeballs in human bullshit, seemingly thanks to every human authority coming out the woodwork, auditing her and trying to find any signs of criminal activity within her operations. As if any one of my bloodline would ever be stupid enough to leave evidence of it lying around.
Phoebe was due to arrive within a week; she had been forced to shore up her Queendom and make it as strong as possible before she left her State. Like everyone in the bloodline, Phoebe was aware of the threat that the Sanguinista Movement posed and while the majority of its power base had been destroyed, there remained some who would love nothing more than to steal her throne.
Putting all thoughts of Warlow and his children in the back of her mind momentarily, Sookie returned her full attention to the siblings. “Did you find anything suspicious during your search?” she asked, directing the question to Elijah.
“There are numerous scents around the property,” Elijah reported. “Some of them are several days old, some even older. I picked up the scent of a two-natured as well as a vampire around the back of the house. Those are at least twenty-four hours old, but there was no sign of anyone other than us here presently.”
“A two-natured and a vampire,” Sookie repeated musingly. “The vampire was probably Jessica. She’s Compton’s child…” Sookie chuckled at the twin growls that the siblings made at the mere mention of Bill. “Jessica witnessed me torturing Bill before I took him to Fangtasia; it’s likely she was looking for me in order to ask me what I did to Bill. She lives across the cemetery in the old Compton house…” Sookie trailed off as a number of ideas flew through her mind. “Elijah, go and check out the Compton house. Jess’ scent will be all over it and that way we’ll be able to discern if she was outside my house last night. Also, while you’re there, search through Bill’s belongings to see if the idiotic, little cretin has any more surprises in store. He might be meeting the True Death soon, but I don’t trust him not to have any nasty bombshells waiting for us.”
The dark-haired, handsome, vampire bowed respectfully to Sookie before speeding off the porch and across the cemetery toward Bill’s house. From the time that he had met Bill eight weeks earlier, Elijah had despised the poor excuse for a vampire. He had begged, pleaded, and even offered riches he didn’t have to be freed before anyone had even touched him!
Sookie watched Elijah as long as she could, and then she turned to face the front door and opened it. “Yuk! It smells like wet dog in here!” she remarked when she stepped into the old farmhouse. She wrinkled her nose at the smell that had saturated the house. Ever since returning from Fairy until regaining her true state, Sam hadn’t stepped foot in the house once and yet his scent filled the house; it emanated from every corner. “It seems Sam wasn’t just snooping around the outside of the house, he was snooping inside it as well. Fucking shifter!”
“His scent also leads upstairs, My Lady,” Eliza said, tracking Sam’s scent up the stairs and into one of the bedrooms.
“Call me Sookie, Eliza. It’s only us here,” Sookie said when she stepped into her old bedroom behind the dark-haired vampire. She didn’t mind the vampires of her line addressing her by her given name when they were in private. It was only when they were around those not of their bloodline did she require the more formal title.
Placing her hand on Eliza’s back, Sookie gently moved her to the side and stepped further into her old bedroom. She clenched her hands into fists when the smell of wet dog grew stronger on and around her bed. “That sick fucker!” Sookie cursed, her anger for her former employer growing fiercer by the second. “He fucking rolled around in my bed!” Sam was lucky Sookie didn’t smell sex on her old sheets; if she had she would have tracked him down and ripped him limb from limb. As it was, she intended to track him down, no doubt to his bar, and tear verbal strips off him. Sookie might have been able to understand his concern, but there was no plausible reason for Sam to roll around in her bed like some pervert.
“His scent is all over your closet as well,” Eliza informed her when she pulled open the closet door and took a look inside. “It looks as if he searched through the clothing you left behind here.”
“I’m gonna kill him!” Sookie swore deathly serious. She couldn’t believe Sam had been through all of her belongings! Sookie may not have wanted the clothing left behind there, but that was beside the point. Sam, someone whom she once considered a friend, had violated her privacy, searching through her house and personal items like some perverted stalker. Sookie was relieved that she’d managed to secure the cubby before she left for New Orleans given that there was no telling what Sam would have done to it had he gained access.
“The vampire I scented around the house is the same one who lives across the cemetery,” Elijah verified when he appeared out of nowhere and stood by his sister. He grinned at Eliza as she glared back at him. “The house was empty, but she was there no less than a few hours ago as was the two-natured I scented. The house reeked of sex. The vampire and Were are fucking… At least they were a few hours ago.”
“Did you recognize the Were’s scent?” Sookie asked curiously. Elijah had met many of Louisiana Packs after his arrival in the State eight weeks earlier. The nearly two-millennia-old vampire had taken over running of much of the security at Headquarters and he made it one of his top priorities to meet most of the Weres in every Area, wanting to make sure none of the packs near to them were using V as Edgington’s Weres had.
“No,” Elijah answered, shaking his head. “The Were’s scent is unknown to me. I did obtain a piece of his clothing so Eliza could learn his scent as well. I left it in the car along with other items I took from Compton’s house…”
“Did you find anything suspicious?” Sookie asked, remembering what else she had asked him to do while there.
“Nothing that could be used as an obvious weapon,” Elijah reported. “In fact, other than a set of knives in the kitchen, I didn’t find any type of weapon in the house at all. For a vampire who was King, his security was exceedingly poor.”
“From all I could see, Bill relied on Authority-appointed guards to protect him and secure his palace,” Sookie snorted. Even as a human she thought that was stupid though at the time she didn’t yet know of an Authority or Sanguinista Movement, still, even human Sookie knew one shouldn’t rely on third-party guards whose loyalty would always be to the one paying their wages.
“He was lucky he wasn’t staked months ago,” Elijah remarked.
“Not that lucky; he ended up in our cells,” Sookie said, smiling devilishly. Bill would have probably preferred being staked over what he had since suffered after having been a guest of her family.
Elijah chuckled at her words knowing the truth of them. The former Confederate soldier had suffered momentously at the hands of their bloodline for his crimes against their Lady. “I removed the hard drives from his computers for Molly. Our little genius will be able to find anything on it that looks remotely suspicious. I also found a laptop in his bedroom hidden under the floorboards.”
Sookie nodded in approval while making her way out of her old bedroom. The scent of Sam all around was really pissing her off; she both wanted and needed to get out of the house! “I’m going to have to get Izzy to arrange for cleaners to come and fumigate this place. Fucking shifter!”
“You plan to keep the house?” Eliza inquired, following Sookie down the stairs and out of the house.
“Yeah,” Sookie said as she paused by her SUV and looked up at the old farmhouse again. “I may not have the attachment to it I once did, but it was home for a while, plus, Jason might want it… If we ever fix what those fucking fairies did to him.”
“I can’t help but wonder what the fairies plan was when it comes to your brother,” Elijah said contemplatively. He was something of a master strategist when it came to battle planning. Elijah had been a soldier during his human years and had quickly risen through the ranks due to his intelligence and dedication to duty. “They do not seem to have a long-term goal in mind. Jason’s behavior is erratic; he switches from hating vampires to being tolerant of them at the flip of a switch. The only consistency to whatever it is that ails him seems to be his auditory and visual delusions of his dead parents around him all the time.”
“I’m not certain the Fae had an end goal in mind when it came to Jason,” Sookie replied. “Granted my information on them is several millennia old, but back during the war they had no use for half-breeds that didn’t possess the spark. They believed them worthless.”
“Such a charming race,” Elijah scoffed, contempt dripping off his tongue. “I am most eager to meet one of these fairies!”
“I have a feeling you will get your wish before long, Elijah,” Sookie said with a sigh. “They will show their faces soon or I will get tired of waiting and hunt the fuckers down and rip them apart. Either way it will be…” The ringing of her cell phone interrupted Sookie and she fished it out of her pocket. A smile spread across her face when she saw the caller ID. “Finn!” Sookie greeted warmly. Tossing the SUV keys to Elijah, Sookie mouthed, “Merlotte’s,” to him before walking around the vehicle and climbing into the passenger seat. “Where are you?”
“In New York,” Finn replied, his tone rough. “I meant to be with you tonight, My Lady, but there was an unfortunate incident. I had to take a detour and kill the Queen of New York…”
“You killed the Queen of New York?” Sookie asked making sure she had heard him correctly. Roman was just going to love this!
Elijah chuckled when he heard what Finn said. The rugged vampire was always entertaining whenever he was around. Starting the SUV, Elijah pulled out of the farmhouse driveway and turned the vehicle in the direction of the bar. Finn is coming… That certainly explains why Roman was in such a bad mood before we left.
“I did, Mistress,” Finn replied with a touch of pride in his voice. “Unlike the Empress of China, New York’s guards didn’t have any swords so I had to improvise. I broke the leg off her throne and staked her with it!”
“Well, I applaud your ingenuity, Child,” Sookie praised sarcastically. “I am delighted to know that you can create a weapon out of anything. Still, would you mind telling me why you killed Queen Catalina Ramos?” Sookie couldn’t say she was sorry the woman was dead, she had never liked her; however, there truly were few outside of her line that she did like. Nevertheless, while Finn killing monarchs was not unusual, he didn’t usually take detours to do so.
“She laid her hands on my child, My Lady,” Finn replied, anger taking over the pride in his voice. The nine hundred and fifty-year-old vampire adored his child and refused to allow anyone to put their hands on her. Elizabeth was his only child and while he didn’t spoil her in terms of material possessions, he shielded her as much as he possibly could from the violent aspects of the vampire world. He always made sure she was fully informed of just how dangerous and violent their world was so she wasn’t ignorant of their ways; nonetheless, he tried to protect her from the worst of it.
Elizabeth had seen too much war already in her short life. The stunning young vampire had been a nurse during World War One; she had seen the horrors of war firsthand. She didn’t shy away from the sight, but she hated it even now. Elizabeth was a gentle soul, preferring to heal rather than hurt, although she accepted all that being a vampire was and never judged those of the Line she knew for their less-than-gentle behavior.
“Is Elizabeth OK?” Sookie asked, concerned. The Head of the Line was rather fond of the soft-spoken young vampire and didn’t wish to see her hurt in any way. She pointed toward the road Elijah had to take, and directed him to the old bar and grill where she had once worked. “Next left.”
“She is fine now,” Finn replied. “She suffered burns from the silver…”
“Ramos silvered her?!” Sookie growled, her own anger rising at the news. She couldn’t think of a single reason why Elizabeth would ever need to be silvered. “What the fuck happened, Finn?”
“Betsy has been branching out independently of late,” Finn began. He had missed having his Maker to talk with and confide in. He knew he could always talk to his siblings if he wanted… Well, he could talk to Ana. He wasn’t that close to Molly having only met her a few times, and he would rather suck silver than confide in Roman. “She will spend weeks, sometimes even months on her own before returning to me. Betsy decided to stay in the States during my recent trip to China. She visited New York this past weekend and caught the eye of Ramos; that bitch demanded Betsy service her in exchange for permission to stay in her State. Betsy refused and Ramos had her bound in silver until she changed her mind. She was in silver for the entire day…”
“Please tell me Ramos suffered before you staked her?” Sookie growled. The former Queen of New York was lucky Sookie hadn’t been there or she would have suffered a fate worse than Bill.
“Unfortunately, no,” Finn answered dejectedly. He would have loved to have been able to spend a few hours teaching the Queen why it was a bad idea to touch his child, but he had been more concerned with getting to Betsy and healing her.
“That’s a shame. Fear not, Finn! There’s a vampire at Headquarters in New Orleans whom you can use as a substitute!” Sookie said. She almost felt sorry for Bill now that Finn would be taking out his rage over what happened to his child on the pathetic vampire. “I’ll introduce you once we’re both there…”
“Aren’t you at Headquarters now?” Finn asked. When he spoke to her the previous evening she hadn’t mentioned anything about leaving and he wondered what had happened.
“No, there’s a shifter problem in my old hometown. The shifter in question believes he has the right to interfere in my life, so I’m on my way to inform him that he’s wrong!” Sookie replied with a snort. That was the original plan, but after having stopped by the old farmhouse and scenting Sam all over, Sookie was now considering giving Sam a physical reprimand. “I’m spending the day in Shreveport and returning to New Orleans tomorrow night… Elijah, take the next right and the bar is straight ahead,” she added, realizing they were almost there.
“Fucking shifter!” Finn cursed, making Sookie laugh. Her child was very much like her in many ways. “Is the substitute vampire the one you told me about last night?”
“He is,” Sookie replied with a nod even though Finn couldn’t see it. “He will meet the True Death soon, but I’ve held it off until you could arrive so you get to join in the family fun…”
“I knew there was a reason I loved you, Mistress,” Finn said, a hint of humor coloring his tone. “Betsy and I will arrive tomorrow evening.”
“I look forward to seeing you both again, My Child,” Sookie replied warmly. Part of her couldn’t wait to introduce Eric to Finn. She was sure they would get on like a house on fire, they were so similar. “Oh, and Finn…”
“Try not to kill any more monarchs before you get here,” Sookie said teasingly while Elijah pulled up outside Merlotte’s.
“How about after I get there?” Finn countered half-seriously and half-jokingly.
Sookie laughed at him and whispered a goodbye before disconnecting the call. She slipped the phone back in her pocket, and then stared at the bar. She could hear that the place was packed and a quick mental scan told her that Sam was inside along with a familiar Were and red-headed vampire. “It’s almost like they’re expecting me,” she remarked while climbing out of the SUV.
“My Lady?” Eliza questioned, slipping back into the formal address for Sookie while she got out of the back of the vehicle and moved to flank the Head of the Line.
“There’s two shifters, one Were, and a vampire inside,” Sookie informed her guards. “They knew I was in the Area tonight and have been planning on confronting me to host an intervention.” She chuckled while she dipped into Sam’s head and listened to his thoughts. She wasn’t surprised to hear him blaming Eric for everything that was wrong with her.
“How did they know you were here?” Eliza asked, eyeing the bar carefully as if she expected the shifter and his party to burst out of the door and attack them.
“Oh, I can think of one way,” Sookie said, her tone taking on a dark quality. Fucking Tara! She’s the only one who knew that would tell Sam. Looks like things will come to a head much sooner than I thought.
“The bitter young vampire at Fangtasia?” Elijah suspected, guessing where Sookie’s thoughts had gone.
Sookie nodded in reply, but said nothing. She would have time to deal with Tara later, but first she would deal with Sam and his little, planned intervention. Fucking shifter, she cursed silently while she headed toward the entrance. She was done playing nice. It was time for Sam to see who she really was.