A/N Charlaine Harris owns this world and these vampires and Sookie. She does not however, own the town this chapter takes place in, so there.
I have no beta and I'm sure I made some boo boos, sorry!
Thanks so much for your patience! The good news is that this is the longest chapter I've ever written, over 15,100 words! So you have a nice long chapter to enjoy.
All the historical tidbits with books,movies is all accurate for the year this takes place.
Sookie is working for Eric and his bootlegging vampire group in Havre de Grace Maryland. Bill, who is the baby vampire in this group, has asked Eric for permission to claim her as his human. Eric has said yes, but his "spidey sense" is going off from his blood that Sookie carries. He's taken an experimental sip from Sookie's leg over a disgruntled Bill's objections. Now, he's noticed the fang marks left on her leg from his bite almost 70 years prior in real time, but approximately a week for Sookie. Here we go!
It wouldn't be so bad being glamoured all the time if I could just get some sleep. That would be fine. But no, there had to be something nerve wracking and scary going on every time I was faking being glamoured. And frankly, it was getting old. Between working my butt off, getting accused of being a "lollygagger", worrying about all the other humans here, and trying not to slip up and let the vampires know that I knew what they were…well…I needed a vacation. Not a 'take time off work because I'm injured again" type vacation, but a real one. You know, the kind where you get to sit in a lounge chair holding a drink with a little umbrella in it.
I was sprawled out in the chair, my legs spread and one leg hanging over Eric's shoulder. On the bright side(there's always a bright side my Gran used to say), at least I had real modern day panties on, even if they were granny style ones. Eric and Bill were both staring at my inner thigh like it held one of the great mysteries of the ancient world. Bill's lips were puckered like he'd eaten a lemon.
"Anyone we know?" Bill asked.
Eric cocked his head to one side like it would help him think. "It's several days, maybe a week or so old." That was about right, give or take a hundred years or so. "It's definitely not Malcolm or Victor."
Bill's brow creased a little, "You know…it kind of looks like ….you." He gazed at Eric with a "Do you have something to tell me?" sort of look.
Eric rolled his eyes. "Don't be absurd. You found her in Baltimore and I haven't had time to go there for days. I've been feeding on the house girls and the workmen", He said impatiently, then paused. "But you're right…it matches my bite next to it…and there's something else….." His eyes almost looked angry. Eric didn't like mysteries, especially ones that could spell danger for him.
He sat back while Bill busied himself reattaching my garter to my stocking, closing my legs, and pulling my skirt back down…..typical Bill. "So probably one of the vampires in Baltimore has a similar bite, it's an odd coincidence to be sure. Why? What else? " Bill asked, while he was smoothing my skirt.
"Did you notice anything when you were feeding on her?" Eric asked thoughtfully. His blue eyes kept studying me, like I was a figment of a dream he couldn't remember after waking up.
"She has a lovely scent. Her blood is delicious", Bill replied, his dark voice getting husky.
"Besides that", Eric said.
"She feels good", Bill admitted.
That got Eric's attention. "Explain", he demanded.
"I just…feel comfortable with her. It's not like other humans, where I feel apart from them. With her, I feel like we connect. It's like I can understand and feel her as a part of me." Bill stopped, glancing at Eric like he thought he'd tease him about his explanation.
"Have you ever given a human your blood?"
Eric gave him a skeptical look," Never?"
"My Maker made me share blood with her frequently. I've had enough of being chained to another's emotions swamping my own. I prefer feeling just my own thoughts and emotions and I have no desire to change that any time soon. Why? What is your concern? She seems harmless enough." I could have told Bill that depends on who you ask.
Eric sat on the floor, with the flickering fire lighting him from behind. He had one knee bent, his chin was resting on it. Just from the expression on his face, I knew he wasn't going to answer Bill's question, and I was right.
"She's different, but you're probably right about her being harmless. If you notice anything else strange about her, let me know", Eric advised, as he gracefully stood up to his full height and stretched. "We need to get going. There's work to be done. The Bayou will need a very large shipment by tomorrow to get ready for the weekend and I promised the negros at The Ordinary an additional shipment".
"The Roger's House will be offended that you didn't sell the additional shipment to them", Bill warned.
"Then they should learn to pay their bills on time with less whining", Eric sneered. That's my Eric, the capitalist with a capital C. The only color he cared about was green. "They've delayed paying twice and I've had enough. From now on they need to pay in advance or they can find their product elsewhere. "
"Were our associates in Baltimore satisfied with our tribute?"
"Victor says they are for the moment. I assume they'll wait and see how well racing season goes, then they'll try to hit us up for some more. Damn Cossack, I had to deal with him in the Old World. He was one of those who told me not to come to America, that our kind didn't belong here. Now he's settled here too, and I'd be willing to bet it's just to annoy me." Eric scowled, then looked thoughtful again. "Are there any signs that they noticed we poached off their territory?"
"Victor says no."
"Victor says no," Eric repeated slowly, and there was a significant subtext hidden under that statement.
Bill simply nodded, and he pulled me up out of the chair, which was a shame because I was getting nice and comfy next to the fire. He straightened my dress and smoothed my greasy hair. Dark eyes stared into mine and I felt the familiar pressure of his glamour, excuse me, his trance pushing into my mind. He told me that I had been cleaning this whole time and wouldn't recall anything that had happened in the previous 20 minutes or so. My cleaning rag, duster, and little tin of wax was pressed into my hands and he gently pushed me towards the bookcase. I went back to dusting like nothing had ever happened.
Eric went into the next room with some of his papers, he came back empty handed. He locked some forms into the big desk next to the bedroom door and he left, telling Bill he would be down at the cannery discussing some things with the foreman down there. I noticed he had the tinted glasses on when he left.
The French lady had stopped singing and the needle had hit the end of the record. Bill turned the player off and there was quiet for a minute as I finished wiping the bookcase. Then RINGGGGG! , which made me jump a little. I wasn't used to these old phones. They were really loud. Bill walked over to Eric's desk and picked up.
"Hello? Yes, I'll send her right over. She's done the second floor I believe and most of Mr. Blue's quarters. She'll need to come back to finish my room. It needs dusting I'm afraid. She'll be over in a minute…..of course..you're welcome. Goodbye." He turned towards me,"Mrs. O'Miley needs your assistance, then you'll need to come back here to finish this floor. My room is across the hall. I'll leave it unlocked for you. "
"Thank you Mr. Co…Crumpton….I'll come back over to finish once I'm done with Mrs. O'Miley (working my fingers to the bone). " He nodded and I hustled out of there. As I made my way back towards what I thought of as the "main" house, I pondered what I had heard. It sounded like there were vampires in Baltimore making Eric pay them some sort of "stay away" money. Given how much bigger Baltimore was than this town, I had to assume the vampire group was larger and more powerful than Eric's. I thought that the vampire hierarchy with the Kings/Queens had been in place by now, but I could be mistaken. But even so, maybe it didn't operate the way it does now.
And Eric's reference to "poaching", maybe he meant us…meaning we humans?" That would explain why the vampires kind of abandoned us before the rail yard. Vampires are extremely territorial and they always know if another vampire has entered their turf unless that vampire is taking care to avoid them.
I was a bit nervous about going back to clean Bill's room. Now that he had declared me "his", I wondered if he would be well…wanting…certain things…besides blood that is. What if he glamoured me to do something? What would I do?
I pushed the rising panic down as I waved to poor Alice at the washing machine, working on the women's clothes. After going to see Mrs. O'Miley, it turned out she had called me back to help Alice. So we worked on the clothes and hung them out to dry just like the night before. Both of us ran to get the outfits we had worn the day before and added them to the wash. I was happy to be able to finally wash my borrowed clothing. The reenactors dress and petticoats seemed to come out pretty well, although it was hard to tell in the dark. I could pick out of Alice's head that she was dying to ask me about my clothes and what it meant, but she was too polite. This was just as well, since I would have hated to make up anymore lies for her.
Then we went back into the kitchen and cleaned up the dishes from the women's dinner and made what felt like a hundred sandwiches for the next day. I got the impression that Mrs. O'Miley was trying to "get ahead" with regards to the food prep, so we wouldn't be making meals at the last minute. The new fridges had been delivered and were all shiny white with gray trim, humming away in the corner. Alice had excitedly shown them to me when I stepped back in. The milk and other items that had been in the icebox had already been moved, so we put the sandwiches in a box and slid them into the other one.
Then Mrs. O'Miley surprised me by saying, " Once you've finished with this, you can get yourselves cleaned up and get ready for bed. The two of you are a mess and it doesn't reflect well on Mr. Blue. Get your hair cleaned up and looking respectable. Sookie you still need to go back and finish Mr. Crumpton's room."
"Yes ma'am", Alice and I answered together. I was going to wash my hair! Oh happy day! Mrs. O'Miley went back to her mending down the hall, so Alice and I discussed our bathing strategy. Since I would be delayed, she would bathe and get her hair washed. Hers was so short, she could easily wash it herself. My hair was too long to do in our little sink, so she said she'd help me do it in the kitchen sink. She also offered to heat up some water so my bath would be somewhat warm. Alice deserved to be nominated for sainthood, I swear.
Once we finished wrapping the sandwiches in wax paper, I grabbed my little bundle of rags and furniture wax and trotted back towards the house of iniquity in a much better mood. I was going to wash my hair. I was going to wash my hair! I kept thinking this to myself and there was a definite skip to my step. Being the hired help, I went in the back door as before. I could hear laughing in the main sitting room and glasses clinking, so I was grateful for the back servant's staircase. I climbed the stairs, hurrying past the second floor and was breathless by the time I got to my destination, the third floor.
It was comparatively quiet, the hallway had the same soft glow and the carpet muffled my footsteps. I crept down the hall, listening for any male voices that would signal a vampire's approach, but heard nothing. I felt with my other sense and there was nothing, no humans (besides the ones downstairs having a jolly good time) and the only vampire void was downstairs with the humans, so he was occupied. It was such a pleasant relief being able to have some quiet time to myself.
Bill's door was unlocked as promised and his room was what I expected. Everything was the same heavy woods, with a relaxing green fern wallpaper, and those Tiffany style lamps. A wardrobe hung open and his clothes were inside. The bed was made and neat as a pin, I assume because Bill never used it. I wondered where his hidey hole was. A door led to a private bathroom. I'll bet Eric had one too on the other side of the hallway. Calculating my location, I figured that this bathroom was right above the one on the second floor which made sense. There was loads of black/white tile, a sink, toilet, and (surprise!) a big tub, with hot/cold taps of course. The bathroom was neat. Bill is not a messy person. And unlike Eric, who I think has never hung a towel on a rod in his entire undead existence, Bill's towels were draped neatly over their respective rods. I was surprised to see a shaving mug sitting on the sink, with a brush floating in foamy water. A nearby shelf housed a toothbrush and a tin of teeth cleaning powder. Vampires don't need these things, but to hold up the façade of being human, they had to pretend to. There was also some bathing salts, soap and other wonderful bathing items that made me green with envy.
With a heavy sigh, I trudged back into the bedroom. I started doing what I was supposed to be doing, waxing and dusting furniture. Once I made my way to his desk, which was against a wall, I noticed a film projector sitting on it. It had a metal spool with film loaded onto it and it was pointed towards the only wall in the room with nothing hanging on it, which was above Bill's bed. Trying not to be icked out by this, I waxed the individual desk drawers and then the top. It was one of those desks with a back piece and little drawers that held paper, envelopes, stamps and the like.
There was a good sized stack of brand new magazines and books. Boy, Bill was a serious reader. Curious, I wanted a peek, but took a second to scan the floor again. Nothing on this floor, and the vampire in the house was still downstairs making nice with the clients. There were a few magazines I was familiar with like Time, Life, Harper's Bazaar, and a few I wasn't like Science and Mechanics, Dragnet, Weird Tales, and Amazing Stories which appeared to be science fiction. The cover was in color with space ships battling it out above the Earth.
The books were interesting; an Agatha Christie mystery, a Tarzan book, a science book by HG Wells, another science fiction book called The Exile of Time by Ray Cummings. It had a picture on the front of a young woman with a robot holding her prisoner. She appeared in modern day New York claiming to have been kidnapped from the year 1777 and forced to travel through time. Normally, I'm not into reading Scifi but that sounded interesting. I wanted to know what happened to this girl. Maybe I could ask Bill to loan me one of his books to read on my day off. There were a few philosophy books that looked too deep for me. A couple history books, one caught my eye, History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru by William H Prescott, well, well, that explained Bill's later trip. Then I noticed a book that I had read when I was twelve, The Mystery of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene. It was part of the Nancy Drew series. Bill reads Nancy Drew! I sniggered, holding my hand against my mouth to muffle any noise. I wondered if he read the Hardy Boys too.
Well, this was consistent with what I knew about Bill already. He liked science fiction, although I shouldn't have been surprised that he got interested in it from reading first. He was curious about the world and liked learning how things worked. Unlike a lot of vampires, he wasn't afraid of new technology. And he liked mysteries too. This would explain why he had been such a good investigator for Area 5. Or as Eric had put it, once Bill was their investigator, there weren't many mysteries left to solve, which was the closest thing to a compliment that I'd ever heard Eric throw in Bill's direction.
Carefully I restacked the books, having reasoned that Bill would expect me to touch them so I could wax the desk. As I was finishing up, I glanced at the projector again. What on Earth would 1930's porn look like anyway? The projector looked simple enough to operate. A peek wouldn't hurt would it? I tiptoed back to the open doorway and looked down the hallway, my eyes confirming what my telepathy already knew. There was no one on this floor. All the buzz was happening on the main floor. I would watch for just a minute or two to satisfy my curiosity, that's all.
After examining the projector, I figured out where the on/off toggle switch was. I flicked it and the film started running, making that light clattery noise that projectors used to do. Then, I stopped it and flicked it back. The spool ran in the opposite direction. Okay, that was good. I would watch a little, then rewind so no one would know. So, I flicked it forward again.
The first piece turned out to be a short cartoon (in black and white of course). It consisted of a giant….well…Mr. Happy running around on his own. He came upon a Betty Boop looking girl with a short flirty dress, who seemed delighted to see him. She sat on a big rock, spread her legs real wide, Mr. Happy took a running start and ….oh my. I couldn't decide if this was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen or the funniest. I know that Jason and Hoyt would think it was most hilarious thing ever. The cartoon only lasted 2 minutes. Then it was on to the main show.
A man was driving an old car down a bumpy country road. He came upon two young women. (The plotlines for porn haven't changed much have they?) They needed a ride and he would give them one, for a price. I know movie's had sound by now, but this had those black screens with the dialogue. Well, it's porn, so it didn't really need extensive dialogue. The two women acted shy about getting naked for about 30 seconds, then started stripping off their dresses right there by the side of the road. The man wanted some girl on girl action, so they started hugging and kissing for him. Then he decided he'd get out of the car and get naked too, minus his black stockings with garters, and his shoes.
The performers were all very…ah….natural and perfectly relaxed about it. And they all could have used a little time at the gym. And it was creepy seeing people who looked like pictures I'd seen of my Great Grandparents era doing these things. There was touching, and oral activity, then he bent one of the women over the hood of his car and made like the energizer bunny while the other woman played with herself. This was actually getting boring.
Unfortunately, I was so mesmerized watching this weirdness, that my telepathy took a mini vacation and wasn't paying attention.
I jumped as I suddenly realized there was a void right behind me. The bedroom door clicked shut. I whirled around to find that I was facing the vampire I'd been hearing about.
He was dressed like the other men here, but with his typical GQ flair, all pressed and polished. He had his usual snowy white hankerchief sticking out of his jacket's breast pocket. His first words did not bode well.
"It's always intrigued me how the more religious someone is the more perverted they are. I wonder why that is?" he mused, a playful smile on his lips. He strolled over as I stood frozen in place, terrified of what he was going to do. He was my height and stared me in the eyes as he continued," Did you see anything you'd like to try?"
"Ah", I answered, that was about as verbal as I could manage.
"Let's reenact what those performers are doing. Wouldn't that be fun?" He reached for the edge of my apron.
I finally found my voice. "No! I don't want to do any of those things with you. Leave me alone!" I slapped his reaching hand like he was an errant child.
"You religious girls always play hard to get", he smirked, and I was becoming afraid. I pushed at him, which didn't do anything of course since he's a vampire and much stronger than me. He gripped my shoulder tightly and pulled me towards him, twisting me around, and I could feel his "trance" pushing into my head. What was I going to do? If I didn't fake being glamoured, he'd tell Eric and Eric would kill me or more likely have me killed, I just knew it. But if I pretended to be glamoured, I'd have to ….
I was saved from this decision by another presence in the room.
Another set of hands landed on top of Victor's, familiar hands that had held me,comforted me, pleasured me and hurt me too.
Victor was caught off guard by Bill's sudden attack. He'd been spun off of me a bit , but he was reorganizing himself and straightening his perfect little suit to hide his embarrassment. At least, he was acting like he was.
"Bill, what a surprise! Is there a problem?" he asked with a perfectly innocent expression, like he'd been selling Bibles and Girl Scout cookies all night.
"She's mine."Bill declared. He carefully cradled me with his long arms wrapped around my shoulders. He was holding me like a child holds their favorite toy so no one will snatch it from them.
"Says who?" Victor asked.
"Eric gave me permission to claim her", Bill responded.
"Really?" Victor answered, acting as surprised as if Eric had told Bill he could buy the Brooklyn Bridge with Eric's money. "That's funny, no one told me."
"I'll tell you what's funny", Malcolm's voice interjected, as he suddenly appeared leaning in the doorway with his arms crossed over his shiny gray suit. Just what I needed, another vampire in the middle of this mess. Now if Eric showed up, we'd have ourselves a party. "What's funny is that Eric told ME that he told YOU, that he'd said Bill could claim this human. It's odd you don't remember this." Malcolm's mouth smiled slightly feigning amusement while his dark eyes squinted dangerously. I remembered that Bill said Malcolm was very old, although I had always assumed he wasn't as old as Eric. It looked like Malcolm was going to have Bill's back, well it was nice to know he was good for something.
"Well, Eric can be forgetful sometimes", Victor said lightly. Yeah right, and my Gran used to just "forget" to go to church on Sunday…..NOT.
Malcolm and Bill both gave each other a look that pretty much matched my opinion of what Victor had just said. Their silence spoke volumes. Victor pretended this silence meant agreement. "And anyway, no one asked ME", he complained. "That's hardly fair is it?"
"Are you saying you want her?" Bill asked, keeping his voice level.
"And what if I did?" Victor asked, raising his eyebrow, trying to look only mildly curious.
There was a pause, while Bill pondered the question. Please be my possessive pain in the ass Bill, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.
"I'll call you out", Bill answered, his dark voice dropping low and threatening. The reaction was priceless. Victor's mouth dropped open and Malcolm's face lit up like a Christmas tree. I think booze running wasn't very interesting for Malcolm , especially if Eric was making him abide by all sorts of rules, which I'm sure he was. This was going to be the highlight of Malcolm's week.
"You're joking!"Victor exclaimed, once he found his voice. "You'd fight me over this greasy, little religious fanatic? I'm older than you, in case you've forgotten."
"Your point being?" Bill responded with an icy tone. Malcolm had a smile a mile wide as he looked back and forth between the two arguing vampires. Bill pushed a little harder, "Let's go outside. We'll do this right now." Wow, if this was a bluff on Bill's part, it was a darn good one. Go Bill.
"I don't think Eric would be pleased about our fighting do you?" Victor asked. Oh yeah, NOW he cared about what Eric had to say. He was going to back down, I could smell it.
Bill shrugged, like he couldn't care less what Eric thought.
"You know, I would be perfectly willing to share. I'm not greedy", Victor said, acting like he was doing Bill a favor.
Malcolm snickered back in the doorway. I was tempted to join him. The odds were better for winning the Powerball lottery than for Bill willingly sharing me, especially after challenging Victor. Victor was trying to save face.
Bill just stared at Victor and said nothing. The temperature in the room went down a couple more degrees. There was the soft "bong, bong,bong" of a clock out in the hallway.
"Whoops! I didn't realize how late it was. I need to take care of a few things. We'll have to speak about this another time Bill", Victor chattered, like he and Bill had been discussing the weather. Victor slid past the smiling Malcolm on his way out. I wanted to let my knees buckle with relief, but that would alert the vampires that I wasn't in a "trance".
Bill carefully plopped me down in the desk chair, as Malcolm laughed some more," He's such a charmingly, sneaky little bastard isn't he?"
"Yes", Bill answered coolly, as if nothing had happened.
Malcolm strode forward and peered closely at the flickering image from the projector. "This is a really boring movie Bill! Eric wasted his money. I don't want to watch humans humping each other." I should mention that the movie had kept running during this entire vampire standoff here in Bill's room of geekdom and porn.
"Malcolm", Bill said, sounding overly patient. "I've told you this before. The first half of the film is the human movie that we show the customers, so they'll be ready for the girls and quick. I have to cut the film and splice it a bit for the vampire part which is hidden after the credits on the human movie."
"Oh yes! Now I remember. When are you going to do that? Can we watch it now?"Malcolm asked eagerly. He was still all revved up after observing the almost showdown.
Oh, I most certainly did not want to be around for that. As curious as I was to see what vampire porn looked like, I'm sure it would give me nightmares for months. Not to mention, it might give Bill and Malcolm ideas with me in the room and I needed to get back to the main house so I could wash my damn hair and get to bed. I was tired and I wanted sleep more than anything right now.
Geez, I hoped Bill wasn't going to break into our room and feed on us again. Hopefully, he'd find someone else tonight. It was odd, thinking this way. When we'd been dating, I was beside myself with jealousy at the thought of him sticking his fangs into anyone else, male or female. Now, I comprehended that he was just …you know…EATING..and even though he definitely enjoyed his meals, that's really all it was for him. I refocused back on Malcolm and Bill's conversation.
"I really just don't have the time tonight. I only set it up, so I could find my splicing point and work on it later. It'll be ready by the weekend, when all the out of towners start pouring in for the opening call on Monday afternoon. " Bill explained. He flicked the toggle switch on the projector , fussing with it a bit.
"Oh, come now Bill!"Malcolm urged.
"No, I'm too busy. Watch it yourself if you'd like". Bill was rifling through some papers in one of the desk drawers now.
Malcolm eyed the projector suspiciously, he may have enjoyed watching the films, but like a lot of older vampires; he didn't like actually having to deal with technology himself. Then he changed the subject. "So, what do you think of your pet human watching this little movie? Maybe she's not as virtuous as she appears, eh?" He shifted his dark gaze from the projector to me.
"The projector was here, she was probably curious and she had no way of knowing what was on it", Bill replied, quite reasonably I might add. "And I'm going to wipe that memory anyway. I don't want her to remember this, since I'm going to ask her to attend the cinema with me tomorrow night".
"Because I like her and I want to spend time with her", Bill replied.
"If you want to have sex with her, why wait? Just do it now. I could watch", Malcolm, smiled with his fangs fully extended. Oh gack.
"I'd like to get to know her a little before becoming intimate with her. I want her to be willing and to remember it …mostly. And no, you may not watch this time. This isn't an orgy."
"Oh Bill, I promise not to bite your greasy little pet", Malcolm said playfully. This "greasy" critique was starting to get on my nerves. I'd like to see how Malcolm's hair looked after traveling through time, tromping through woods with Vikings, and not being washed.
"No", Bill answered firmly. He was starting to sound a little exasperated.
Becoming more serious, Malcolm added,"You know that getting romantically involved with humans is a lost cause. Why set yourself up for all that trouble? Just enjoy her body and her blood and be done with it. There's always another human. After all, they breed more of them every day." He laughed at his little joke.
"Thank you for the advice", Bill responded, not sounding thankful at all. "Now, I need to get to the garage and help Gerald's man with the transport car and she needs to get back to the main house. She looks tired and probably needs a good night's sleep." Well, it was nice that someone noticed.
Me, Bill and our good buddy Malcolm marched back down the servants stairs. Malcolm got off on the 2nd floor. I could hear him talking to Victor, who seemed to be in charge of the "entertainment" on that floor. Bill had already "glamoured" my memory again. It was a good thing I couldn't be glamoured for real, otherwise I'd probably start becoming goofy like some of the overly eager fangbangers were. They spent too much time around vampires and had been glamoured one too many times. It wasn't good for anyone's brain to do that.
Bill walked me all the way back to the main house. The kitchen was dark, so we went further and found the other women listening to the radio, mending clothing. As soon as we walked in the door, I could tell that Mrs. O'Miley had a lollygagging speech all ready for me.
Bill took off his hat and launched into his own little spiel."I apologize for her lateness. It was my fault. She had a bit of work to do. I'm afraid I've let my room go a bit, what with being so busy and all", he said. Mrs. O'Miley was all ready for bed, with a robe and a sleeping cap on her head. Alice was sitting with her, darning socks it looked like. She was freshly washed and her short bob was still wet. She pulled her robe around her tightly and appeared embarrassed once she realized Bill was with me.
Mrs. O'Miley was polite to Bill and of course it was no trouble at all she said. I had to fight the impulse to roll my eyes a bit. If I had been by myself, she would have been all over me about taking so long. Then Bill waved his fingers at her, calling her back into the kitchen. She thumped after Bill, leaving Alice and I in what I thought of as the ironing room.
"That's so nice of him to let Mrs. O'Miley know he kept you late, so you wouldn't get into any trouble," Alice said, as she finished breaking thread on a sock she was mending.
"Yeah, I'm glad he did," I shrugged. "Given how she is and all that ….." Alice giggled softly in agreement.
"Do you want me to help you with your hair?" she asked.
"Oh yes, please!" I said. "It'll be so nice to have it clean. I hate it being like this."
"Okay, let me run and get the things we need", she said as she left the room. I could hear her footsteps going up the stairs.
Since I was alone in the room, I went to the radio and fiddled with the control a little. It switched from a news program to a musical one. A smooth woman's voice drifted from the radio's speaker. She was singing about her man leaving her. Their love had felt so perfect, she had waited for him so long, then it was all destroyed when he left. And now she had nothing. Sing it to me sister.
There was a void right behind me.
I whirled around, going into a defensive crouch. It was just Bill. He looked even more startled than I did as he held his hands out in a nonthreatening manner.
"I am terribly sorry. I didn't mean to startle you Miss Norris," he said.
I held my hand to my chest, trying to slow the beating. This being on edge all the time was getting old. "I'm fine, Mr. Crumpton. What do you need?" I asked, a trifle unsteadily. "Where's Mrs. O'Miley?"
"She has decided to retire," he explained. "I need to ask you something."
"Shoot," I urged. His face had a blank expression, then I realized my mistake. "Go ahead, ask. "
" I was wondering if you would attend the picture show with me tomorrow night?"
Even though I should have been prepared, since I had heard him tell Malcolm about this, it was still a little odd. Bill asking me on a date? Even though I was grateful (kind of ) that he had claimed me and refused to loan me out to Victor like a backhoe; I was going to squirm out of this if I could. I averted my eyes a little by pretending to sort through the clothes that still needed mending. This would avoid me having to play the "glamour" game with Bill. I chose the easiest answer, " I don't think Mrs. O'Miley would allow that. She always has lots of work for us to do."
"I've spoken with her. She's willing to accommodate my request as long as you're not gone too long." Well of course she did. Bill was probably glamouring her in the kitchen, so she'd agree to his request. It was time to go to plan B.
"I can't leave Alice alone to do all the work. That wouldn't be fair," I explained firmly, while I pretended to check the seam on a pair of work pants.
"She can come too, then," Bill said easily. Well, crap, he just had an answer to everything didn't he?
"Oh, I don't know," I muttered, trying to buy a moment to think.
"Miss Norris, is there a problem? Have I offended you in some way? Do you not like me?" His voice carried a plaintive quality now. He was going for the guilt card.
It would have been fun to just tell him off, but I couldn't do that. I had to get along with everyone here and technically Bill was one of the people I was working for. Not to mention, if Bill thought I just didn't like him at all, he might be tempted to just throw me at Victor with a "here, you can have her". Then Victor would glamour me to do the things those actors had been doing in that porn film. That would be intolerable.
It just occurred to me that with Bill, I at least had some sort of advantage. After all, I knew what his secret was, but he didn't know mine. And here in this time period, I knew him better than he knew me, which was a nice switch. Our relationship had always had a lopsided quality to it, with me coming out on the short end of the stick. This time, I was the one with the knowledge. This time, I could be the one manipulating the situation. A tiny feeling of power rushed into my breast(a teensy bit evil of me I know, but can you blame me?) It was time to make Bill jump a few hoops.
"Honestly, Mr. Crumpton, I do have a problem with you," I answered wearily, like I was tired of even talking with him.
"There was a shocked silence behind me. It was hard not to smile.
"Could you please enlighten me? Perhaps there's something I can do?"
"I'm just not sure what to think of people who take advantage of children, " I explained slowly. "Having a boy who is trying to help support his family, work with no wages and is running aound in rags. Wouldn't you agree that it reflects badly on Mr. Blue? That's just wrong to me and that's not the sort of man I would want to spend time with."
"I see, well I can speak to Mr. Blue about wages, but that may be difficult since the boy did agree to work for tips alone. And we are providing a place to sleep and meals. The clothing I can do something about…here…." His hand lightly touched my arm, tugging gently. I turned a little, without looking up at his eyes directly, so he wouldn't be tempted to glamour me. His hand was holding out a ten dollar bill. "Take this and buy him some clothes and a pair of shoes tomorrow. You don't need to pay me back. "
I wasn't sure if ten dollars was going to cut it since I had no idea how much children's clothing cost. I had been looking at the food prices after all. But I said the correct thing," Thank you , I'm sure Sammy will appreciate it."
Just then, Alice came back into the room, carrying stuff to use on my hair I assume. "Oh! Mr. Crumpton, I didn't realize you were still here! "she exclaimed, still a little embarrassed at Bill seeing her in her bathrobe, and her hair still damp. I wondered how embarrassed she'd be if she knew he'd been lying on top of her the night before with his fangs buried into her neck.
" Alice, perhaps you could do me a great favor?" Bill inquired smoothly.
"Why of course Mr. Crumpton, what can I do for you?" she asked, as she clutched the hair items to her chest.
"I've asked Miss Norris here to allow me to escort the two of you to the picture show tomorrow night for a few hours. I've gotten permission from Mrs. O'Miley, but Miss Norris is being rather reluctant. Perhaps you can assist me in convincing her to attend?" he explained with a smile.
"Oh my, the movies?" she exclaimed, the eagerness evident in her voice. I could pick up from her brain that she'd only been to the movies a few times in her life since money had been so scarce for her family. This would be very exciting for her. Well, great, let's pack my bags for the guilt trip. If I said no, she'd be disappointed. "Sookie?" she looked at me with her big brown eyes begging me. Damn Bill, why did he have to be so nice and invite Alice?
I reconsidered. At least with Alice there, I didn't have to worry about Bill making any amorous moves. It would only be for a few hours. We'd go see a movie, then come back, no big deal.
I sighed, " I guess we can go. It'll be nice to get out for a little while. Where is the …where is it?"
Bill looked pleased, "It's only a few blocks from here. I'll come by and we'll walk over together. I'm sure we'll have a wonderful time. Good night ladies." And with that, he nodded his head, put his fedora back on and left.
Alice waited until we heard the backdoor click shut. "Oh my! He's such a gentleman isn't he?" She gave me a big smile as we walked back into the kitchen so I could finally, FINALLY wash my damn hair. "And he's so generous. What was that money he gave you?" I didn't realize she'd caught that part of the conversation, apparently she'd only heard part of it.
"The money is so I can buy Sammy some decent clothes and a pair of shoes." I said.
"He gave you money to help out the little negro boy? That's so charitable. What a lovely man…." And I had to endure Alice's running complimentary commentary on the wonderfulness of Bill for the next 15 minutes. The only reason I tolerated it was because I was in the middle of the religious experience of having my hair washed thoroughly. It was a shame he wasn't interested in her, because she thought he was the cat's meow. But then, I'd be "fair game" as far as the other vampires went and Eric was too busy and too weirded out to claim me. Malcolm had no interest in someone with my physical attributes, which would leave Victor. Going out with Bill wouldn't be so bad, I guess.
While we were doing my hair, Alice had two big kettles on the stove heating up water. About the time we finished she had some boiling water ready to help heat up my bath water. The bathtub was located in a tiny room on the main floor right above the kitchen, I assume because it had been easier to install the plumbing. Not to mention, it was a cast iron tub and taking it up a staircase would have been pretty dangerous. I only filled the big tub half way so the boiling water added would have more effect. If it had been all hot water, I would have taken a nice leisurely inspirational soak. Instead, I was going to take a perfunctory bath just so I could finally feel clean. At this point, that would be good enough for me.
Soap, clean water, washcloth, towel, and robe…..they seem so minor and yet they can create so much happiness. The water was temperate, but at least not cold. I gritted my teeth and tolerated it. I wished I could brush my teeth. Maybe I would buy a toothbrush and teeth 'cleansing powder' when we got paid. I wondered if my breath had the same funk as some of the other people's I'd run into here. What day were we getting paid anyway? And what was today? Tuesday? Wednesday? My mind was roaming around now that it wasn't distracted by my body's ever growing grunge.
Alice helped me get the detangling process started on my hair, then I shooed her to rest. We were back in our room with the little lamp on and the black stove warming up. She was yawning and stretching out on the bed, drifting off to la la land. I sat on my side of the bed, working on my hair with the comb she'd lent me. My grocery bag was sitting on the floor, partially shoved under, all fat with the Viking's skin wrapped parcel still jammed into it. At this point in my travels, I wasn't even sure what the heck was in there. I would go through it later. There wasn't anything of real value in there after all. It would be safer to do this when I had a couple minutes alone. The wool Viking blanket was folded on the floor. It looked really dirty. I'm sure we'd be doing some laundry tomorrow since that was turning into a daily thing around here. I'd wash it then and hang it up outside. No point in throwing out a perfectly good, abeit slightly rough looking blanket.
The room was warming some more and the coal in the little stove shifted and softly thunked against the inside as it burned. Alice was drifting off and the bed had warmed up too because of her body heat. I snuggled into my pillow, trying to get comfortable. Saying my prayers yielded little in the way of comfort. Other than getting back home safe and sound, I wasn't sure what or who to pray for here. Who knows how all these different people's lives turned out? Would I impact that? Could I? And was that good or bad? I was too tired to allow my brain to hurt like this and I was still a little jumpy wondering if Bill was going to launch in here any second like Batman. It was really tempting to just tell him the truth; that I knew what he was: and by the way, could he just drink his dinner and be on his way so I could get some sleep? The room had been dark for several minutes and it appeared no vampire was coming up here anytime soon, so I heaved a deep sigh and let myself drift off.
The next day was pretty much like the previous one, except I had to endure Alice talking excitedly about us attending the movies that night and what a great guy Bill was. I could hardly begrudge Alice's excitement over getting to enjoy a little entertainment with the hard life she was leading. And I was grateful that Bill had extended his invitation to us both, but listening to her go on about Bill was riding my nerves. I'm not sure if it was because of my lingering resentment towards him and his misdeeds or because she reminded me of myself when I had first fallen for him. I had thought he was best thing since sliced bread, and I was so happy to have found someone, until it all went down the toilet.
Curious, I allowed myself to listen in to Mrs. O'Miley's thoughts while Alice and I were talking about our little outing. Or more accurately, Alice was talking about it and I was listening and agreeing. She kept bringing up different actors names(apparently famous ones) and I didn't know who any of them were, so I kept my mouth shut. Mrs. O'Miley didn't seem to have suffered any ill effects from Bill's influence. She was her usual grumpy self and just kept reminding us that Bill had agreed that we should have the majority of our work done before going out.
I was nervous about bringing up Sammy to Mrs. O'Miley. She didn't seem to have anything in particular against black people, she just saw them as outside 'regular' people and as long as they remembered their 'place', everything would be fine. Deciding to throw Bill's name around a little would help.
While I was opening what felt like fifty cans of corn (boy was I missing my electric can opener), I spoke up. "Ah, Mrs. O'Miley, I need to let you know something."
She looked over her shoulder from the pot she was stirring on the stove. "What?"
I needed to word this carefully. "Mr. Crumpton gave me a little money to take Sammy into town and buy him some decent, clean clothes. He felt Sammy's current clothing situation reflected badly on Mr. Blue. Once Alice and I have the laundry hung up, could I call him so I can take care of this?"
The expression on Mrs. O'Miley's face was almost comical. She WANTED to say no, but I had said some magic words like Mr. Crumpton, and 'reflects badly on Mr. Blue'. Allowing anything to reflect badly on Eric went against her grain.
The weathered face puckered up, but I knew what she was going to say,"Alright, but no wasting time. And I'll give you a list of a few things we need in town, so you can do those too." It made her feel better to give me tasks to take care of while I was doing this, in her mind, pointless errand.
The Viking blanket cleaned up better than I expected, so I hung it up outside with the rest of the laundry. It looked so out of place with all the modern day clothing and sheets that were made with sewing machines and factory looms. Now that it was washed, the grey color looked lighter and softer than I had imagined. And there were some kind of Viking symbols or decoration around the edges done with a reddish thread. Those Vikings really didn't like leaving their stuff plain.
I waved to Larry the milkman while I finished hanging up laundry. Alice let him in so he could deliver our milk for the day. After he left, I went back inside and asked how to contact Sammy. Mrs. O'Miley told me to call The Ordinary, someone should answer. Eric had mentioned that name the previous night for a delivery. She grumpily told me to go into town and finish my errands. Without further explanation, she headed into the mending room to sit down fixing clothing and listening to her soap operas. Alice followed her down the hall.
While I was pulling off my apron, I picked up the phone receiver and stared at the blank rotary mechanism. It suddenly occurred to me I didn't know how to place the call. She hadn't mentioned a phone number although they seemed to exist. I had seen them displayed in the shop windows and on the sides of trucks the day before. Maybe I could dial an operator? I stuck my finger in the face and rotated it all the way around.
I heard a woman's voice on the other end of the phone say,"Havre de Grace operator, how may I help you?"
"Um, yes…..hi…I need to place a call to a business called the The Ordinary? I'm not sure what the address is"
"Let me connect you." Okay, so she was on the ball.
"Thank you." I couldn't remember if I'd ever spoken to a telephone operator before. Usually I just 'talked' to the phone company's computer voice system.
I heard a ringing, it went on for about five or six rings, then someone picked up. A man's voice answered. "Hello?"
"Hi, I'm trying to reach one of Mr. Blue's employees. He's a little boy called Sammy."
"Let me find him." The phone was set down, and I could hear walking and talking.
Sammy came to the phone breathless, "This is Sammy."
"Hello Sammy, this is Sookie Norris. "
"Hello Miss Norris! I'll be right there if you need me!"
"Yes, if you could come down to the main house please. I'm going into town and I need you to go with me", I said. I would tell him about the clothes once he got here.
"I'll be right there! " The phone's handset was dropped and I could hear his running footsteps.
The man came back, "He's on his way ma'am. He's a good boy, hardworking, does what you tell him. I wish all the people who worked for me were like that!" And he laughed deeply.
I laughed with him and said, "I think he's great too. Thanks for your help. Have a nice day sir."
"You have a good day too ma'am," he replied, sounding surprised for some reason.
I stashed my apron on a hook next to the new Fridgedaires. I got the little fabric purse from Mrs. O'Miley again ,made another list ( a shorter one this time), and got ready to leave. Then Alice, who had disappeared for a couple minutes, came back in with a little brown felt hat, decorated with a darker ribbon and a big button decorating the front.
"You need to wear a hat," Mrs. O'Miley declared, like I had been deliberately not wearing one just to be an annoyance to her.
"Sorry, I don't have one," I explained.
"Well, you can wear this one from the closet. You need gloves too. You look like some migrant worker," she said.
"I don't have gloves and I don't have money to buy any. I don't know what you want me to say," I answered back, maybe a little snippily.
"Make sure you buy some when you get paid," Mrs. O'Miley said. "Are you listening to me?"
It was so hard not to get angry with her about this. I was tired from all the unfamiliar work, missing my home and I was definitely tired of her. But I heard my Gran poking me in the back, reminding me to be polite to my elders, so all I said was ," Yes ma'am. I'll buy gloves when we get paid." She settled her bulk back into her chair and went back to mending the jacket on her lap. So, I guess I was going to add gloves to the toothbrush then. I wondered why they didn't have some gloves in that handy big closet. Or maybe because they were gloves, they got damaged,stained and weren't usable after a while. Whatever.
About this time, Sammy burst in the back door running at full speed and it made me tired just looking at him. Maybe I should get that wagon out and have him pull me in it. But it turned out, we didn't need to do that.
"SAMMY!" Mrs. O'Miley called out. Sammy ran down the hall leaving me and Alice in the kitchen. She had followed me down and was helping me put the hat on correctly once she saw I was having trouble with it.
"I looked in the closet, but I didn't see regular day gloves," she whispered. "Sorry."
"Oh, it's okay. I can live for a few days." I said.
She stepped away and admired her handiwork."Well, Mrs. O'Miley has a point. Going into town on Mr. Blue's behalf without being dressed correctly doesn't look very ladylike. The hat looks good on you Sookie! The brown brings out the blond in your pretty hair."
"Thank you Alice, you're such a great help," I said, meaning every word. She shrugged modestly.
Sammy came running back in, "We're taking the car!" He sped past me and out the patio door with a slam.
"My, he has a lot of energy," Alice said. She was surprised because she'd always heard that negros were lazy. I caught that from her head before I hastily put up my shields. I wasn't sure how long I was going to be here and there were some things I really didn't need to know. I liked Alice and I didn't want to know things about her character like this.
Society hadn't caught up with reality and Alice was a part of that. One of these days they were going to be forced to come to the realization that people of color were human too, hello! But we American's weren't there yet. I hoped Sammy lived long enough to see and benefit from all the changes that were coming. I wondered if he was still alive in my time. As I walked to the garage, I pondered that.
A car horn made me look up. A big swooping black car with sideboards and whitewall tires was in front of me with Sammy in the driver's seat. Oh great, he was going to drive. It wasn't like I could argue since I didn't know how to drive one of these things anyway. I gingerly stepped into the car. The seat springs creaked, and I automatically reached for a seatbelt that wasn't there. Well, we were only going a few blocks. I crossed my fingers as the car jerked a couple times as he shifted with two hands, and off we went.
I sat quietly because I didn't want to distract Sammy while he was driving. He had propped himself up high enough to see over the dashboard by sticking a rolled up tarp on his seat. He sat right up on the edge so he could reach the pedals. I wasn't sure how he was seeing ahead since the hood looked like it was ten feet long from inside the car. I wondered if Eric knew this little kid was driving one of his vehicles. I wondered if this was the vehicle that Eric had been talking about at my Halloween party, the one he'd moved all the booze in. I glanced around at the beautiful chrome, and real wood on the dashboard. The seats were leather and comfortable even though they weren't the bucket type seats I was used to. It was more like sitting on a high bench. The car bounced a bit, whenever it would roll over something. The name Ford in swooping chrome letters was on the dashboard. I think Eric had said he used a Cadillac? I'd imagine the Cadillac was the more expensive of the two. I was glad we were in the humbler (although still beautiful) Ford. I don't know why, but that made me feel better.
We made it into town alive, he parked the car with another jerk on the parking brake and I got out to do my shopping. This time I made a mental note of things I saw that I might need. I didn't want to buy anything major since who knows when I would jump out of here, but I also didn't know when that might happen. The longest I had been anywhere had been with Eric and the Vikings..what a few days? And I didn't know what the rules were with regards to "stuff" going with me, so I could buy items that would end up being left behind anyway.
Once I was done with the errands Mrs. O'Miley had assigned me and we'd loaded the car's back seat, I told Sammy what we were doing next. He was flabberghasted.
"Mr. Crumpton gave you TEN DOLLARS? And I can get clothes and new shoes?" he exclaimed, his mouth open with shock and amazement.
"Since you're representing Mr. Blue, like the rest of us, they want you looking presentable, " I explained. "And you need to take care of these things we're buying," I felt compelled to add, thinking about boys like Coby who would dive into the dirt in a brand new outfit, freaking out Arlene. Then I brought up the part I wasn't sure of, where could I take him to buy these clothes? There were several shops in this town that sold clothing, but there seemed to be some unwritten rules about who was allowed to walk into which shop. Sammy had a solution.
"Mr. Richie told me about a place on Market Street that sells good used clothes, "he said thoughtfully.
"Who is Mr. Richie?"
"He runs The Ordinary…Mr. Washington…but he said I could call him Mr. Richie."
"Oh, well you don't have to buy used, we could get new if you'd like." I didn't want him thinking he HAD to buy used clothing.
"Well, they cost less and we could buy more? And they might have some shoes that are kind of new," he explained, a focused expression on his face. He was trying to maximize our limited funds. Well, I couldn't argue with him there. So we jerked our way out of our parking space and were on our way.
The shop was run out of a black woman's house. She had a homemade sign over the door with "Rosie's" neatly written on it. The first two rooms were packed with clothes hung on wooden rods. Everything looked reasonably clean and in decent condition. It was a lot like the clothing we'd been given by the vampires.
As it turned out, the money went pretty far. He was able to buy a jacket, pair of pants, two shirts, underwear, socks, a new cap, and some shoes that fit him pretty well. They were just a little big as opposed to the ones he was wearing which were made for much larger feet. As he modeled the jacket and cap in front of the mirror, the owner Rosie teased him a little, "You think you're just a regular swell don't you boy?"
He laughed. "I will be some day," he replied boldly. That made her laugh harder, shaking her head over the illusions of a little boy.
I patted his shoulder," You look great Sammy. Let's go."
"Did we use all the money?" he asked.
Rosie handed me ten cents back. "You have enough to go see the new show playing at the movie house there boy," she laughed. "You can show off the new clothes." We waved to the smiling proprietor and left.
As we got settled in the car, I asked him if he knew how much a movie ticket would cost. I figured he'd be less likely to think it was strange since he was a kid. He thought for a moment. "In Baltimore the kid's tickets were ten or fifteen cents. The adult tickets were more I think."
That gave me an idea.
"Sammy, Mr. Crumpton is taking Alice and I to the movie's tonight. How would you like to come along? I'll pay for your ticket with the ten cents." I suggested. I thought this was a great idea. I'd get two chaperones to help keep Bill at bay.
"But I still may have work to do…..do you think Mr. Crumpton would let me?" he asked, his face eager. Like Alice, he'd only seen a couple movies and like any young boy he was dying to see more.
"We'll only be gone a couple hours because we all have work to do as well. I'll ask him myself, so I'm sure he'll say yes," I said. Here was another nice hurdle for Bill to jump I thought with satisfaction. We bumped along back to the house. I had to direct Sammy with parking the car in the garage like I was ground crew at an airport terminal because he couldn't see well enough to park it.
Once he checked with Mrs. O'Miley to see if she needed anything, he ran off. I put my apron back on, handed over the purse (after putting the ten cents in my apron pocket) and got back to work with Alice. There was a good breeze going, and it was sunny so the laundry was drying really fast. After we did some more food prep, we went outside and started pulling things off the lines. I was amazed how quickly the Viking blanket had dried. I dragged it along with the reenactor's dress and petticoats upstairs to our room. I hung the clothes up to deal with later and carefully spread the blanket out on the foot of the bed. It wasn't a full sized blanket like we think of that can cover a bed. But it was able to just tuck in along the bottom to help keep our feet warm.
I didn't feel badly about inadvertently taking it from human Eric since he was being dragged off into the woods by that gargoyle vampire. And anyway, right now, Eric was asleep next door in a comfortable house, with hot and cold running water, and a floor full of women below him.
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly and it got dark. We set up the food for the women as before, but this time Mrs. O'Miley sent me over to the big house by myself. I carried the tray filled with food that was going to get thrown out I'm sure. It peeved me, to see good food go to waste when people were starving, but there was nothing to be done.
I knocked on Eric's door gently, then opened it when I heard him tell me to come in. I walked in the door a few feet, then came to a dead stop because I realized that Eric was alone. He was sitting at his desk, talking on the desk phone. The room was fairly dark because he only had the desk lamp lit. I set the tray on the desk and turned to leave, but he motioned me to stay. So, I stood there like a bump on a log, and waited for him to finish his phone call. He wasn't talking, just going "uh huh, I see " , that sort of thing.
He was wearing a dark blue suit, with a white shirt and a blue tie. I was seeing a theme here.
The handset came down with a decisive sound and he gave me his full attention. "Miss Norris, I understand you and Mr. Crumpton had a conversation about Sammy's compensation here."
It was a relief that this was what he wanted to talk about. I could handle this. "'Well, yes sir, it just seems unfair to me. He may be just a boy, but he has a family depending on him as well."
Eric studied me, his blue eyes looked darker in the soft, colorful light of the Tiffany lamps. "Well, it was my understanding that he asked for employment and offered to work for tips. Since that was his decision, then I see no reason to change it. He's receiving free room and board and I understand Mr. Crumpton gave you some money to buy him clothes. Is that right?"
"Then there is nothing more to be said on the subject," he said.
There was nothing for me to say at this point either, so I just nodded again and turned to leave.
"I understand you are going out this evening with Mr. Crumpton ?" Eric asked, his tone of voice commanding me to stay.
You know, men say that women are gossips. But in my opinion, men are worse. And vampires are even worse still.
"Well, it's not just me. Alice Waters is going with us and I'm going to ask him if Sammy can come too."
"Really?" Eric smiled, seemingly amused by something, only God knows what.
Eric shuffled his papers a little. "I've heard you really like movies," he commented, a smirk touching briefly on his lips. Damn gossiping vampires, it just had to be Malcolm. Bill wouldn't have said a word, I knew that for a fact.
I shrugged, but I could feel a blush rising on my cheeks. That caught Eric's attention, and his head did that sideways thing that he'd done the previous night when staring at the bite mark on my thigh. He could feel my embarrassment, I just knew it. He knew what he was experiencing. He was feeling my emotions like he'd given me his blood, but for him this was an impossibility. I could almost hear his brain clicking, probably picturing every woman he'd been with for the past ten years (talk about a list a mile long). He stared at me for a few seconds, tapping his desk with a pencil, then he caught himself.
"I hope you have a pleasant evening Miss Norris," he said politely, while giving me a dismissing wave.
"Thank you sir," I replied, fighting the impulse to curtsy.
"Please let Mrs.O'Miley know I'll be stopping by later this evening to go over a few things with her. "
"No problem, you have a nice evening as well." And finally, I turned to go feeling Eric's eyes drilling holes in my back. I was practically holding my breath, until I got to the back staircase. It had felt like he was going to lock the door and interrogate me any minute the whole time I was in there. It was a relief to make it back to the house. I delivered my message to Mrs. O'Miley, who brightened at the news that Eric was going to grace her domain.
Alice drew me aside in the kitchen,"Did mention what time we needed to be ready?"
"Actually, he didn't," I said. I hadn't thought to ask him for that detail. Our problem was solved by the kitchen wall phone ringing. I answered it.
"Miss Norris, good evening, this is Bill Crumpton calling to let you know I'll be by shortly to escort you and Miss Waters to the movie house. Is this alright?"
"So, we're talking about 15…maybe 20 minutes?"
"Yes, that's about right. Would that be acceptable?"
"That will be fine. Listen, I'm glad you called. I have a question for you."
"I'd like to invite Sammy to go with us. I purchased the clothes for him this afternoon and there was ten cents left over. I think he'd love to go to the movies and the ten cents should cover it, don't you think?" There was silence on the other end. "Mr. Crumpton? Is this alright with you?"
"Yes, that would be fine."
"Do you happen to know where he is right now?"
"Yes, I do. I'll bring him with me. I'll see you shortly Miss. Norris."
"Okay." We both hung up. I turned to a very excited Alice.
"He's coming," I confirmed. There was a tiny squeal and she quickly stepped down the hallway to let Mrs. O'Miley know, which was great so I wouldn't have to.
We went up to our room and we both put our hats on. Alice did have gloves but she had them carefully stashed in her suitcase so they wouldn't be damaged. We hung up our aprons, straightened our clothes and went back down to the kitchen to wait. Normally, I'd still be doing a last dab at my makeup, but neither of us had any. Bill would have to take us as God made us. And there came the knock at the back door.
Bill and Sammy came in, Sammy looked like he had cleaned up a bit and had his newish clothes on.
"Sammy, you look spiffy!" I said.
Sammy beamed," Thank you Miss Norris."
Bill looked nice too, his conservative dark suit draped nicely over his lean frame. He took his hat off when he came in the door. I didn't tell him he looked spiffy though. "Good evening ladies, are you ready?" he asked. We said yes and off we went.
It was a crisp evening, and I soon found myself wishing for a jacket. Alice was wearing her sweater over her dress. Fortunately, my dress was long sleeved and it was a heavier material, plus I was wearing stockikngs, but if I was here much longer I was going to have to purchase a coat maybe. One more thing to add to the list I guess.
When we turned the corner onto the business street where I had been shopping earlier that day, we could see the marquee glowing from where we were. It was one of those big white traditional movie marquees with the letters you have to put on with a pole. I could read it, it said 'Now Playing: Dracula starring Bela Lugosi'.
Bill froze when he saw the title on the marquee, but I slapped my hand over my mouth as my laughter erupted. My fellow movie goers eyed me and Alice asked," Are you going to share the joke?"
"Oh….it's ….it's nothing…it's really dumb. I just had a really dumb thought, " I explained, trying to catch my breath. My extreme reaction had prevented them from noticing Bill's reaction. He had already collected himself.
"You so silly Miss. Norris," Sammy laughed.
"I guess I am," I agreed quickly. Alice shook her head and Bill glanced at me curiously, but made no comment. We joined the small crowd lining up under the lights. All the women had hats, gloves and their handbags over their wrists. Several were leading children behind them. There were actually more women than men. Then I saw why.
A big sign sitting on the sidewalk in front said 'Thursday Night is DISH night!' Alice grabbed my arm and pointed. "Look Sookie! They're having a dish night!" I smiled and nodded since I wasn't sure what that meant.
Bill said," I'll get the tickets." And he started to walk towards the little glass booth where a young woman was sitting collecting the money. I tugged his elbow and tried to hand him the ten cents, but he smiled, shook his head and pulled away from me.
As it turned out, Sammy was right about the kids tickets being ten cents and our tickets were twenty-five cents. Bill handed them out and as we went through the doors a young man in one of those bell hoppy looking uniforms was standing there accepting our tickets. He had several brown boxes behind him and as each patron handed over his ticket, he would reach in and pull out a glass dish of some kind and hand it to them. So they were handing out free dishes?
They were wrapped in newspaper, American newspapers that appeared to be from someplace in Ohio. Alice, Sammy, and I each checked out what we had received (yes, even Sammy received one, that explained why the women were dragging their kids along). They were white plates with tiny pink flowers painted around the ruffled edges. My Gran had called it milk glass, but Amelia had referred to it as Depression glass. And it just so happened I recognized this pattern. My Gran had inherited this exact same pattern from her mother. I still had most of them because they were lucky enough to have been sitting in the china cabinet with the nice dishes I had inherited from a great grandmother. When my house had been set on fire, I lost most everything in the kitchen, except what was in that china cabinet. Because it had been furthest away from where the worst of the blaze was, it had avoided the calamity intact. I say most of it, because there had been a dish just like this one in the sink the night of the fire, and it had gotten broken when the firemen had been putting it out.
I stared in awe at this incredible stroke of luck. My Gran had tried to add to the set to make it complete, but this pattern was hard to find. She'd look at yard sales and garage sales every once in a while, but had never found even one piece. My companions were also very pleased. Alice was picturing herself handing this dish to her mother as was Sammy. Bill kept his tucked under his arm and I got curious.
"Do you like your dish Mr. Crumpton?"I asked.
"Yes, but a single gentleman has little use for pretty dishes. I think I'll give it to Mrs. O'Miley to thank her for sparing you ladies this evening."
Alice smiled at Bill, "I'm sure she'll be so pleased Mr. Crumpton."
"Please ladies, you may call me Bill," he said smoothly, his look including me.
"Please call me Alice then….Bill," she replied , Boy,did she have it bad for Bill. She loved looking at him and she loved his low, cool voice. I picked this up from her head like she was yelling it in my ear. This irked me for some reason.
"You can call me Sookie of course," I added, to not stand out.
There was a tiny stand with another bell hop selling popcorn and a few snacks like Cracker Jack. The popcorn was only 5 cents a bag, so I decided to treat my fellow movie goers with a snack."How about some popcorn?" I asked. "I'll pay for it."
That earned me an odd look from Bill and he quickly said," I'd be happy to supply a snack for you, if you'd like some."
"No, that's okay, and this was originally from you anyway you know."I stated. I went over and paid for the two small bags, that at current day movie prices would have cost at least $5.00 each. I handed one to Sammy, who was too pleased about receiving popcorn to argue about me paying for it.
"Thank you Miss. Norris," he exclaimed. He was having a wonderful day. He'd gotten clothes, shoes that fit pretty well, he was attending a movie where he received a free dish to give his momma, and now he had popcorn to enjoy during the entertainment. I smiled down at him. Being able to bring a little pleasure into his young, hard life made me happy. I was glad I'd pushed Bill to allow it.
"Alice you and I can share this bag during the movie, " I said.
"Thank you Sookie, I think I will. I haven't had popcorn for a long time." She replied.
Then I remembered I wasn't supposed to know Bill was a vampire so I offered him some too. " Bill, you can help yourself as well."I offered.
"Thank you, but I'm one of those odd people who doesn't care for popcorn. Thank you anyway," he answered politely, his face expressionless. Well, he was telling the truth there.
We were holding up people behind us, so we started moving and just when I was going to ask where we four were going to sit, Sammy split off. "I'll see you after the movie, Miss. Sookie!" he called as he trotted towards some side stairs, clutching his dish and popcorn tightly to his skinny chest.
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him to stay with us (after all I felt responsible for him), when I got a jolt from observing what was going on around me. All the black people were splitting off and going up the stairs to the balcony seating. And the white people were heading forward towards the main floor of the movie theatre. And just in case this wasn't a big enough hint, there were helpful signs posted. "Colored seating up the stairs" and "White seating only" were clearly posted so there would be no misunderstandings or forgetfulness. As if any of these people could forget. I knew I was going to be sorry, but I gingerly let my shields down to see how the black moviegoers felt about this (especially since they had paid the same ticket prices as the rest of us). There was less anger than I expected, mostly resentment and resignation. This was how things were and they were never going to change , so you might as well accept it. That was the prevailing mood I felt in their heads. I felt anger and guilt myself in equal measure, but I firmly reminded myself that this wasn't a permanent situation. Change was coming. I sighed and resolved to enjoy myself since if what I'd been hearing, when racing season started, we'd be pretty busy.
We followed another bell hoppy fellow into the theatre. He directed us where to sit, holding his flashlight like a conductor's baton. I ended up sitting between Alice and Bill with Bill on the aisle. Bill had murmured to the guy showing us our seats, so I wondered if he had requested these. This way he wasn't penned into his seat. Vampires don't like risking being trapped and I had noticed a severe lack of emergency exits. God help us if there were a fire.
We sat quietly and observed our surroundings and the people. It was a small theatre by modern standards, it probably held three hundred people at the most. There were none of the fancy trappings that I had seen in old movies, it was much more basic with some decorative painting and trim work trying to make it seem classier than it was.
The lights went down and the entertainment began. First there were news reels, letting us know about all the national news and news overseas. I got to see old Hitler again during some news about the Nazi party growing in Germany and how they might take the next election. It gave me chills seeing the film of him giving his speeches to the roaring crowds. I glanced around me. Some of the boys in this audience would be old enough to be drafted and sent to fight him by the time World War II came around. Heck, Sammy was one of them. I needed to stop thinking about this stuff.
The cartoons came on thank God. Even for old black and white, they were very funny and I laughed with everyone else at the goofy jokes and pratfalls. Alice and I were making good work of the popcorn and had already gotten halfway into the bag. Then the main feature came up. I was curious to see the crowd's reaction to this movie.
Over wrought violin music played as they showed the credits, then it cut to a mountain view in Transylvania. Mr. Jonathan Harker was in a horse and carriage on his way to meet his client Count Dracula. The villagers all warned him not to go, but of course he ignored them. There was a happy anticipatory buzz in the audience until Bela Lugosi showed up. The audience got quiet (no cell phones or yakking here) and some of the women were already nervous. He had the scary staring thing down pat. Alice had slowed down her popcorn munching and was sitting further back in her seat becoming noticeably tense.
I remembered having seen bits and pieces of this movie when I was a kid. Jason and I had watched some of it together I think. By modern day standards the acting was stiff and stagey. And it moved really slowly, but during the credits it had said 'based on the stage play'. As when I was a kid, it was hard not to giggle a little at some of the special effects. A large, obviously fake bat flapped over the actor's heads. Some of the creepy creatures in Dracula's castle were obviously not native to Transylvania ( a possum and an armadillo).
But the star was definitely Bela Lugosi. I had to admit the guy had presence as Dracula and whenever he was on screen the audience was mesmerized. Then when he was leaning in close to bite one of the women in the movie, a couple women actually let out little screams. Alice clutched my arm really tight (we'd finished the popcorn), but Bill's reaction was more interesting to me.
When Dracula was leaning into his victims (they never showed him biting anyone, I guess fangs couldn't make it past the censors), Bill was quivering. To another person, he looked like any other guy watching a movie, but I knew him well enough to read that he was getting hot and bothered…in a vampy way. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that his mouth was tightly closed. I was willing to bet his fangs were down, so he was hiding them.
I was also willing to bet my entire paycheck that Alice and I weren't going to make it through the night without a little Bill Biting session.
Then, there was a surprise. One of the women in the movie had exchanged blood with Dracula! From what they were describing, it sounded like she had a blood bond with the Count. I sat up a little and became more alert. I had never paid much attention to previous Dracula movies and I had never read the original book by Bram Stoker, even though Eric would have been happy to loan me his copy. Unfortunately, there was no real resolution to that since the good guys won and the bad guy was vanquished. Once the movie was finishing, there was some applause and people started talking about the movie amongst themselves.
The reactions were a mixed bag. Some thought the entire story was silly. Some had seen the stage play and thought the stage play was better. The women's reaction was amazing. I was surprised that some women in the audience had a crush on Bela Lugosi now. They loved the formal wear, his cape, his accent , his old fashioned manner. And several of them were having fantasies about what it would be like to be bitten. Wow, the 1930's version of a fangbanger. If only they knew.
Most of the kids thought it was creepy and 'swell'. Some wanted to see it again. Sammy was one of them. We hooked up with him out front. He was amped up. "That was swell! Did you like it Miss. Norris?" he asked, holding his plate tightly.
"Yes, that was really something," I replied.
"I wasn't expecting it to be so …so….suspenseful," Alice said. She wasn't able to describe what she was feeling, which was very mixed. On one hand, she felt the bad vampire needed to be vanquished, on the other….boy was there another hand.
"What did you think of the movie, Bill?" I asked, looking up at him. He'd calmed down and looked like his usual unruffled self.
"I've read the original book and I've seen the stage play," he said carefully, (of course he had). "It was quite a different experience seeing it on a big movie screen."That was almost as noncommittal as my answer.
We made it back to the main house. Bill and Sammy left right away due to work they had. Bill had thanked us for a lovely evening, tipped his hat (Sammy had tipped his cap at the same time, it was cute); then they walked towards the garage. Bill said they had to make a delivery to The Bayou Hotel.
Mrs. O'Miley had come thumping down the stairs and had been very pleased with Bill's gift. This plus the fact that Eric and her were going over business in the sitting room on the main floor had her in a good mood. Alice and I had to remove our hats, get our aprons and continue working. There was more foodstuffs to prepare for the next day. The good thing is that we were able to work on our own without the grumpy shadow, so it was almost relaxing. We talked about the movie, the people we had seen, the news reel or rather, she talked a lot about these things and I just kept going along. It was exhausting trying to constantly remember where and when I was and to not slip up.
Once we were finished, we had been told it was okay to go to bed, so Alice headed up while I was finishing up a couple pans. It would be nice getting to sleep at a reasonable hour, but that depended on whether Bill was going to do a bloody drive by or not. Finally, I was done and I slowly walked up the steps towards our room. Dropping into the bed was going to be wonderful. I couldn't wait.
The small lamp was on, and I entered quietly once it appeared Alice was already in bed. Was she asleep already? She must have been even more tired than me, poor thing.
You'd think I'd know by now how to tell a sleeping person from a glamoured person. But I'm not perfect and my telepathy isn't either. I didn't feel the void until it was too late.
A blur and I was pinned against the wardrobe, the grey Viking blanket shoved under my nose and Eric's big blues staring me in the face.
His face was hard and cold as marble. His expression retained no hint of his previous humanity. His grip tightened on my shoulder and his fangs flashed as he snarled "Where did you get this blanket?"
A/N Silly Sookie, she's such a typical Stackhouse saving EVERYTHING.