A/N: Hello! Before anyone points it out to me, let me say that I know the sequence of time is totally wrong, but I didn't want to leave this part of the plot dangling, so I'm compressing and switching some canon events around. Do not flame me please. I've already given everyone ample warning that this is AU. Maumauka


Just before the Queen of Louisiana's wedding, Pam called me all frantic because Eric lost his memory. She and Sookie were hiding him at Sookie's house and she wanted me to come right away. I went because Eric needed to be at the queen's wedding. Her Majesty asked him to be in it so he could look out for Rachel. I wondered if whoever had taken him out knew that. Wouldn't surprise me if the queen had a few spies in her house, and from what I knew about that Arkansas bunch, I was afraid someone was going to try and assassinate her.

I headed for Bon Temps as fast as I could go; I know the roads between Shreveport and New Orleans like the back of my hand, so I was able to break quite a few speed limit laws. I hoped I could figure out more from Eric than I had from Uncle Paul and Company. I cast every spell I could think of; I shook hands with folks until my wrist had a permanent kink, and I could not find one stray thought or spoken word to indicate the Balletois knew anything about the attack on Eric. I only had my own gut to go by, and my gut said something was hinky.

Pam and Sookie were both waiting for me on the porch of Sookie's house. Pam looked tense and Sookie looked awful—like she hadn't slept in days. Poor gal didn't deserve what she'd gotten. I hoped at least they were paying her.

"Billy!" Sookie came forward and hugged me. "I can't tell you how glad I am to see you."

I hugged her back and let her go quick. I always thought Sookie was pretty cute and I didn't want her to think I was taking advantage. "He in the house?"

"Yeah. We thought you could have a look at him."

"I thought" Pam corrected. Sookie looked irritated and didn't answer.

They led me inside. Eric was sitting on the couch looking like someone vacuumed his brain out through his ear. "Who are you?"

"Billy Dupree Balletois. I'm a witch."

He was in my face and snarling in two seconds. A pair of strong hands just about crushed my windpipe as Eric lifted me into the air. "DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?!"

"Eric! Put him down! He's here to help!" Sookie grabbed his arm and he dropped me on the floor the way a dog does a bone. I coughed and worked on getting air back into my system. I couldn't really blame the guy. He knew that whatever happened to him had involved magic, so he was probably looking to kick any magical ass he could find.

"You know my sister Rachel" I said as I tried like hell not to hawk a huge glob of phlegm onto Sookie's floor. "She's a vampire and you and Pam looked after her for a while. I'm here to try and help you figure out who gotcha. You remember anything at all?"

Eric shook his head. "I remember running down the road near Sookie's house, but no more than that. I don't know what happened before."

"Okay. For me to get an idea, you're gonna have to let me hold your hand" he looked suspicious, so I continued, "If you're nervous, Miss Pam here can stand right here behind me. She'll rip me in half if I try to do anything to you."

Pam nodded and stepped up behind me. Eric reluctantly held out his hand. When I took it, the energy hit me at once. It took all my focus not to drop it and get sick all over the place. Whoever put the spell on him knew what they were doing. I could tell right away that the caster was the only person who could undo it. I forced myself to keep my grip and tried to get a sense of who the person was. When I do that, it's not like reading someone's mind; more like I let the energy wash around inside my head and try to suss out the feelings connected to it. If you can do that, you can figure out the person's intent and the intent might give us a clue to their identity.

There was a shitload of malice. Someone either hated vampires a lot or hated Eric personally, which made it a good bet they weren't any of those Wiccan folks. Paul had suggested I check out Wiccan groups in the Shreveport area but that had been a dead end. These people wanted power, pure and simple. With The Sheriff gone, they thought the vampires in Shreveport might scatter or start fighting among themselves leaving the way clear for...

I squinted. Something about the energy wasn't right. The image of a wolf flashed through my mind. Clan, I thought. I didn't ask myself why I thought that. When I'm using my savvy, it's best just to let things come and sort through em' later.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, letting myself sink deeper into the energy. It got less intense, probably because it had sensed I wasn't here to get rid of it. I was looking for anything that might connect the caster to my family. I smelled metal like old nickels you find under your car seat. Money had changed hands; I was sure of it. Not surprising when you considered that these folks had been trying to extort money from Eric.

"I dunno if they're Balletois" I said finally. "I'm not feeling anything familiar, but whoever it is, they're full of hate. I got a picture of a wolf-it might mean they're hunting you-"

"Weres" Pam said behind me.

I knew what Weres were. Tante Aurelie had filled me in pretty good on the other supernatural folk in our neck of the woods, but I never heard of one being a witch before. That don't mean much, though. Before Rachel, I never heard of a vampire witch, either.

"And they want power any way they can get it. I can't take the curse off; it's wired so only the caster can do that, but I might can force a reveal. Miss Pam, have you ever spoken to these folks yourself? Or do you think any of them might have been somewhere y'all conduct your business?

"Merlotte's!" Sookie exclaimed. "They've been to Merlotte's where I work! They wanted to talk to Sam...that's my boss."

"Then that's the next place we need to go."

Miss Pam elected to stay at the house with Eric. Sookie and I drove to the little bar and grill and I had no trouble smelling the magic. her boss, Sam Merlotte, was some kind of Supe but I didn't ask him about it. Sookie explained what we were there for and he took us back to his office. "Sure, I've seen em'" he said. "And they're definitely bad news. If you're a witch, can't you deal with em'?"

I shook my head. "It's usually not a good idea to try to take on a bunch like this solo. I'm still trying to find out about them so I don't go into this situation blindfolded. They give you any names?"

"Stonebrook. Hallow and Mark Stonebrook."

I would bet dollars to doughnuts that those were aliases. "I don't want to freak you out, but do you have anything they handled? A glass or some silverware or something?"

"That stuff's all gone in the dishwasher."

"Did either of em' smoke?"

"Yeah, one of them. Mark."

"You still got the ashtray?"

"Yeah, but I emptied it."

"Don't matter as long as you didn't wash it. Can I see it?"

Sam went out and brought me a green glass ashtray. It still had residue in it and gave me a helluva jolt. Glass holds energy just like it holds heat. I saw the witches almost immediately inside my head. A man and a woman, full of hate and greed and wanting, wanting wanting. What did they want? Eric's money would let them build themselves up, let them do whatever they wanted. They had known to come here, that Area 5 was a rich vampire nest. Who had told them?

That area was completely blank. No way it could be an accident.

"Thanks, buddy" I said as I handed the ashtray back to Sam.

"What'd you get?"

"They're here for a reason. There's a reason they want vampire money and control of this area. They're trying to build themselves up, and they're very strong. Their energy is totally hyped up" A thought hit me then, and I said it out loud: "Are they on V?"

Sookie and Sam looked at each other. "I think so", Sookie said.

"Then you've got motive. Your best bet is to round up as many Supe folks as you can...vampires, weres, shapeshifters, any witches or Wiccans you can lay hold of. To undo the spell on Eric, you need the casters alive and that's not gonna be easy."

"Will you help?" Sookie asked softly, laying her hand on my arm. Goddamn it...I am a complete fool for a lady with pretty eyes and a nice rack. "I will if I can, but there's something I gotta do first."

I had to get Paul to tell me the truth, one way or the other.