Hey everyone! No this story was not forgotten. Life just got a little crazy for a while. Mega thanks to Chicpea for this chapter. The two of us have worked out much of the rest of the story and it's all shaping up nicely. The next chapter is already written and will be up in a few days.
In the last chapter:
Gran called Sookie out about Eric spending the night, forcing Sookie to admit that she was "seeing someone." It didn't take long for the rumor to spread among Gran's friends, who had lunch at Merlotte's.
Sam got a whiff of it, and though he may have connected the dots, he still opted not to raise the subject of vampires openly.
When two waitresses called out sick, Sookie was forced to work a double shift, canceling her plans to go to the hospital with Eric. He went alone to interrogate the Were who had survived the car crash that killed Mark Stonebrook.
After closing, a vampire attacked Sam in the bar parking lot, forced Sookie into her car, and demanded that she be taken to Eric.
Chapter 11 - Three's a Crowd. Four's a Party.
Without any semblance of a plan, I drove toward Granger. I had no idea if Eric was still there, but I sure as hell wasn't taking this woman, vampiress, to Gran's house.
"Who was the shifter?" she demanded.
I couldn't answer her question. I didn't understand it, and that was something which had rarely happened to me. I tend to know exactly what people mean - all the time - even when what they mean isn't what they're saying. I might have enjoyed the novelty of this situation, if I wasn't struggling to breath. I tried to speak, but I had nothing to say, my lips parting and closing again like a fish out of water.
"Who is he?" she barked again, and I swerved.
"Please," I croaked out, begging her to let up.
I could feel hot tears stinging my eyes and I took my foot off the gas for a minute. If I lost control of this car too, at least I'd be going more slowly. The snow had melted off the roads but in the headlights I could still see patches back in the trees, where the sunlight hadn't quite penetrated during the day. I was grateful it was so late at night, and there were no other cars around. I wasn't putting anyone else in danger.
"Keep driving," she hissed.
"Yes ma'am, but please, it's hard when you're trying to choke me."
Her grip loosened infinitesimally and again I swallowed hard against the resistance of her hand. I was too tired to be clever, or to dare trifle with her. I was keeping her away from other people for the moment, which was about all I felt capable of.
"I'll take you to Eric Northman, or to the last place I knew he was going. He said he could find me, so even if he's not there, he'll come eventually, okay? I promise. I got no quarrel with you folks, truly, he'll come, and you two can..."
I trailed off. What I hoped very sincerely was that he would take this woman apart just as easily as he'd disassembled Kim Jade, but I wasn't going to tell her that.
"Where are you keeping him?"
"I don't know where he goes during the day," I lied.
"What do you mean?" she demanded, throttling me again. "They transport him during the day?"
My hands gripped the steering wheel even though I wasn't going more than 20 miles an hour now. God help me if there were any patrol cars on this road. I'll get pulled over on suspicion of being drunk, and of course I stink like a brewery. Maybe I'd get off on account of the murderous vampire in the backseat. No. More likely I'd probably be forced to take the rap for whatever she did to the officer, too.
"I don't understand what you mean," I said pleadingly. If she wanted any sense from me, she really needed to start making some herself.
"Stop the car," she ordered.
Gladly. I pressed the brake and we stopped right there in the middle of the parish road. My hand went to my side and I unclipped the seat belt, just in case I had to, got the chance, to run.
She pulled me clear out of the car once I put it in park, though not before I could turn it off. Maybe she'd just steal it and go.
"Who are you?" she demanded.
She was tiny. A few inches shorter than me, but blonde like me, only her hair was lighter and longer. Her eyes were dark blue like mine, and her skin was pale like Eric's. She was strong like Eric too, and she was freaking furious. Her fangs were full out.
"Sookie Stackhouse," I said shakily.
"Who do you work for?"
"Sam Merlotte. Back there, at the bar..."
"If you say so ma'am."
What the hell was a shifter? Is there something besides witches, vampires, and werewolves? Was Sam one of them? What the heck is next? Goblins and unicorns?
"Where are you keeping my master?" she asked, shaking me.
"Your master? Are you... you're not with them? You're with um, Area 5? Eric is your... sheriff?"
"Eric is my maker, human, and you will tell me where you are keeping him, or else I will kill you slowly." She emphasized this with another shake.
My eyes were wide then.
"And if I do, you'll kill me quickly?"
"You do know where he is."
"He was going to Granger Memorial Hospital."
"Why did you take him there? For blood? Have you have bled him dry?"
"Please," I begged again. I was trying to back away, but she had me in her clutches. Her little white fists were tight around my shirt and jacket.
"Eric is not my prisoner. I've been helping him. He's... there's something wrong with him. A witch's curse. There's a whole coven of them around. They're werewolves too. One of them is at the hospital. Eric went there on his own. I swear to you. I haven't seen him for five hours. I swear it. I swear to God, I haven't done anything to hurt him."
I fell flat on my butt when she let me go, and that stung like anything, but I forced myself to get back on my feet straight away.
She stepped closer again, and by instinct I threw my hands up to try to hold her off, but she only grabbed my wrists, twisting them and jerking my forward so that I came stumbling, elbows bending. She was right in my face, and she inhaled.
"You smell of him. You have stolen his blood."
"He gave it to me freely! I was hurt bad. One of the werewolf witches, Mathis... Mathis Winthrop, crashed into my car, and then a vampire named Kim Jade came and flipped it back over, and my arm was broke, and I was bleeding, and my head, I think, a concussion maybe... I couldn't go to the hospital because we couldn't explain these injuries once he killed the vampire and we took Mathis hostage, but then Eric killed Mathis in my kitchen because he was casting another spell..."
"Enough," she said, glaring at me. After a moment she asked, "What is the state of Eric's mind?"
"There is something wrong with his memories," I told her, because that had been a pretty specific question. She must know something. We knew there were others who have been cursed in the same way. Maybe she really is one of his allies.
"He was pretty bad when I met him. His feet were frozen a bit, and he'd been in a fight with some wolves he said, and sleeping in the ground, but I have been helping him, and he has been... hunting... some of the humans around here, so he is, at least as of 8 o'clock tonight, fit as a fiddle. Ma'am."
She let me go then, and I took to rubbing my wrists. She moved around to the passenger side of Gran's car. I looked over and she was staring at me impatiently.
"Get in. Take me to Granger Memorial Hospital."
Well yes, Miss Daisy.
I didn't dare say it. Though she seemed to have calmed down a little bit, I wasn't putting anything past her. I put the car in drive, but found myself slamming on the brake again immediately and screaming as Eric appeared directly in front of us.
"Saints alive," I panted, and in another second, there I was being pulled out of the car again, only this time the vampire was shielding me. I guess he was right about being able to find me. He moved us in flash over to the largest tall pine nearby, putting it behind me and me behind him. He turned to face our foe, who by that point was out of car and approaching slowly.
He rushed at her, and she crouched. When he reached her, Eric grabbed her unresisting body by hip and shoulder and hurled her into the ground about ten feet away. I could feel the impact through the thin soles of my sneakers and he winced too. He turned to me in uncertainty.
"Master," she groaned. "Eric..."
Very warily he moved closer, and she started to stir, pulling herself on to her knees and keeping her head bowed. Eric looked at me again and I skipped forward a few paces. He held his hand back with his fingers outstretched, a gesture I chose to read as, "Yes, come closer, but not too close."
"Who are you?" Eric asked, sounding more sure of himself than he had looked a moment ago.
"Do you truly not know me Eric? Can you not feel who I am?"
"I know that you are...mine," Eric finally decided.
"I am your child, your progeny. I am Pam."
Pam's head was still bowed, and Eric turned to me again. I lifted both my shoulders, shaking my head. I had no idea.
"She called you her maker," I informed him. At least she was consistent.
I was right behind him now and he turned again to look down at me, then raised his hand and traced across my neck. I had a flash of fear before I realized that I must have some marks there from her fingers.
"You have hurt this woman," Eric said coldly, turning back.
"She...I found her scent in your house. I found your scent near this woman's house. I found the place where she works for a shapeshifter. I have been told strange things, master. I have been so worried. She has had your blood, I thought surely she must be involved in what has befallen you."
And there was the look of indecision in his face again. I moved slightly more to the side of him.
"Miss...Pam? Are you here to help Eric?"
"Yes," she said, desperately, and I believed her.
"She is telling the truth," Eric told me. "I know this. I feel this. I feel her. She is what she says she is."
"Then she's a friend to us," I said.
"Yes," Pam agreed, finally looking up. Eric nodded at her and she stood, although he shifted himself and me back from her, still defensive. She didn't know what to make of that or me, it was plain on her face.
"We should get out of the open," Pam said cautiously. "Human, do you have someplace where we can shelter?"
"No," Eric said. "We cannot go to her shelter. I have a place. Sookie showed me a hovel where I can stay safely hidden."
Pam showed due disdain at the word hovel.
"It is a great improvement over my previous circumstances."
"May we go there?" Pam asked. She was cautious but keen to move things along.
"Maybe you two should. I should go... oh God, I need to go check on Sam! My boss," I added for Eric's benefit.
"The shapeshifter," Pam supplied.
"Ah. The dog is a shapeshifter. That makes more sense. I was wondering why the scent was so strong."
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"The dog I told you about from your woods. His scent is all over your place of work, even coming from inside the buildings. Pam,"he articulated carefully, "says this man, Sam Merlotte, is a shapeshifter. He is the dog."
What else do you say to that, really? So Sam was just like one of those men-who-change-into-wolves, only he changed into a collie. At least collies are friendly.
"I still need to check on him. She hit him pretty hard."
"We will go together." Eric said. "You should not be alone. I could tell that you were very afraid earlier. I could feel you. I could feel both of you, I think," he added, including Pam. "It was very strong. So, we will go together with Sookie, and then I will tell you what I have discovered tonight, and you, Pam, you have things to tell me too, and you will help us now."
"Yes, of course," Pam agreed, looking relieved.
"It is settled. Sookie, you will drive this car."
So I did, and I appreciated the fact that he had taken charge. He seemed less forlorn when he was giving orders. Less adrift than he had been just a couple of days ago. He liked making plans and executing them. Pam seemed familiar and comfortable with him in this role as well.
Maybe with her around, we'd have a better idea of what was a good or a bad plan. So far we'd been flying blind, and despite what Eric had said about all the progress we were making, it felt like all we were doing was getting into more trouble. Now that Pam was here, she'd be able to help him cope. He wouldn't need me, and I could extricate myself. Which is what I wanted to do, right? This was all so dangerous.
They sat in the back together, him behind me this time. In the mirror I could see Pam's oscillating gaze shift back and forth between us. She was trying to figure out our dynamic. I hoped she planned to share her conclusions with the class.
Sam wasn't in the parking lot, but a mental scan for brains indicated that he was in his trailer. I had the vampires hold back while I went up.
"Cher," he breathed in relief, drawing me into a tight hug. "Are you alright? How did you get away?"
One of the vampires must have made a noise as he continued to hug me because Sam went still and I could tell he was watching the two of them over my shoulder.
"Come in the house now, Sookie. Nice and slow. They can't come in."
"Sam," I said, stepping back out of his grasp before he could pull me in. "I came to make sure that you're alright, and now that I see you are, I have to apologize. There was a terrible misunderstanding, but the vampire who attacked you is... a friend of a friend. She thought I had hurt him, and because you were with me, that you were in on it. I think she understands now that you're not involved."
"Northman," Sam muttered, glancing at Eric.
"You know Eric?" I was astonished.
"I know him by sight. And reputation," he was sure to emphasize that it was not a good reputation. "And by smell," Sam finished, looking at me again. "He's been stalking your woods."
"Are you aware of what's been going on around here lately?" I asked, ignoring the accusation.
He wasn't. He knew there'd been more traffic through here lately. He'd tracked the scents, but he had no idea what it meant. Before I could start to explain, Pam stepped up and began to drill him on what I suppose amounted to his supernatural bonafides.
What did Sam know of Eric? Local vampire sheriff, rumored to be old. Northman, like Norseman, as in Viking. Eric certainly looked the part, but that would make him hundreds of years old.
What other contacts did he have in the area? The werewolves in Shreveport. Sam knew their leader, and he mentioned some other names that didn't mean anything to me. I wasn't sure they meant anything to Pam, either, but she didn't comment. Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it, and Sam was obviously no supernatural schlub. She asked about his own people and his family, but by then he'd had enough.
"I'm just about done talking for now," he said. "How about you have a turn?"
By then the two vampires had crowded onto Sam's small porch, while he stood back a couple of feet inside the trailer. I was in the no man's land of the doorway, feeling grateful but guilty that all the heat from indoors was rushing out past me. Thankfully Sam didn't seem too concerned about his utility bill just then.
"I'll say my part, then," Pam offered, glancing at Eric as if to give him a chance to object. He didn't, so she went on, "A few days ago I was contacted by Clancy, one of the vampires in this area, to inform me that my maker had gone missing, had been missing for almost two weeks by that point."
I didn't know her face well, but I could recognize the tightness in it. It was obvious that she didn't think well of the vampires who waited so long to bring her in as a reinforcement. Remembering the state of Eric when I'd found him, I couldn't help but agree.
"Apparently all efforts to track him had failed. There's no proper tracker in this area, and no one else can be spared to assist here. The rest of the state is in similar upheaval. The Queen's companion and some of the other vampires are missing as well," she finished.
"Yes," Eric confirmed. He didn't seem surprised to learn there was a vampire Queen, accepting it at readily as everything else he was forced to re-learn, but that was the part I got hung up on. Was it like in Anne Rice with the serrated tiara and the metal bikini? I bet she lives in New Orleans. Unconsciously I pinched my arm as Eric kept talking. Nope, still not dreaming.
"When we interrogated the witch, he told us that they had worked in different groups, with different targets. We know that there are other vampires affected this way," Eric shared, gesturing vaguely to himself.
"Your Queen is aware only that people are missing. Now that I've found you, I will call to report your state. Maybe it will provide a clue for finding the others, and who is responsible." Pam volunteered.
Eric began to recap for Pam what we had learned so far: that the coven of werewolf-witches had been hired to destabilize the state, and that he'd been the specific target of their leader. This wasn't new information to me, so I found myself focused on Sam, and the immense displeasure rolling off him as Eric continued to speak. He didn't want to be involved in this at all, but feared it was already too late.
"Look," Sam interrupted, right before Eric could start telling what he'd learned at the hospital. That annoyed me as well since I'd been waiting for that part. All three of us turned at once to stare at him. He flinched slightly, but then took a step forward.
"I think it's time for you two," he gestured to Eric and Pam, "to clear out. Take your sheriff back to his vamps. We," he continued, now pointing to himself and me, "have nothing to do with this. We want nothing to do with this."
Squaring up even more, he spoke to Pam directly. "You got what you came here for. Now you take him, and you go, and I'll forgive the rest."
He was speaking with an authority I'd hitherto only seen him use with rowdy drunks. I half expected Pam to laugh in his face, but she didn't. I don't know if it was genuine caution or just the fact that she agreed with him and wanted to be on her way herself. After a moment's regard, she gave him a significant nod and turned expectantly to Eric.
He was less accepting.
It was like a tennis match when three heads suddenly swiveled in a new direction.
"This woman is the key to my cure. I know this. Already she has risked herself in helping me, and already our enemies know her. Already they have attacked her. We should not leave this area without her."
"I'll protect her if it comes to that," Sam asserted. I must have looked incredulous. He looked at me hard, and I realized that Sam and I had a hell of a lot to talk about, now I knew his secret.
Pam too was looking incredulous, though it seemed to be more at Eric's refusal.
"Eric," she said quickly, delicately. "I know that you are grateful to this woman. I am also grateful for the assistance she has given you. We will see that this generosity will not go unrewarded, but the shifter is right. What we need to do now is return to Shreveport and plan our strategy. There is better strength in numbers."
Seeing his opening, Sam said, "I'll put in a call to Col. Flood. Shreveport Packmaster," he explained. "If what you say is true, that there are Weres from out of state running through his territory, he'll wanna know about it. Could be he already knows. Either way, the Longtooth Pack should be just as eager to see the back of them. Maybe he could help."
"Thank you," Pam said. "Once we know where to go, we will need all the reinforcements we can get."
"We know where to go." Eric and I spoke at the same time, and then looked at each other.
I was thinking of the address in Shreveport where Greg Aubert was supposed to meet the witches. I hadn't been willing to go there alone with Eric, nor to let him go by himself – not without knowing what we were talking into. With a bunch of vampires and the possibility of some friendly Werewolves at his back, it just became a viable option.
"This is what I was coming back to tell you," Eric said to me. "The Were at the hospital had the address. It matches the one you got from your insurance agent."
"Yes," he smiled. "We have found the lair."
I couldn't help grinning back. He was so obviously thrilled to finally have a solid lead.
"Then you won't be needing us further," Sam spoke up.
"No," Pam agreed. "Though you should still make the call to the Packmaster. I will give you my contact number to pass along."
They were talking around us, both trying to finish up here.
"Wait," I asked. "What happened at the hospital? Is Yaxley still alive?"
"Of course he's not," Sam snapped.
I looked at Eric and for half a second he looked abashed.
"I had every reason and right. He confessed much to me of their plans, for me and for the vampires of this state. His end was much quicker than he deserved."
"You killed a man in the ICU? Eric, you promised me you would be careful."
"I was careful. I was only seen by one human as I entered, and it was easy enough to make her forget that. It was for the best, even if he were not guilty, which he was. His spine was broken in too many places. He only lived through the crash because he was a Were. He would not have healed completely."
"So you were being merciful," I said, with no inflection. I was having too many emotions to settle on any one.
God damned vampires.
That was Sam.
"Right," Pam said briskly, turning to Eric. "Well, we can go over the details of that later. I need to bring you back to Shreveport."
"Then Sookie will come with us."
"No," Sam said.
"That would not be the best idea," Pam agreed, still trying to ease him. "This woman is unknown to us."
"I trust her."
"She is unknown to the vampires of your area. They have already visited your known consorts and questioned them in the search for you. Her name was not given. That is why I assumed that she must have had a part in your abduction. It would not be wise to bring her with us. She is a stranger."
Questioned all of his what?
"And she should stay that way," Sam reasoned. He didn't have any trouble staying on topic. "Sookie, you don't want to get involved with these people any further than you already have. Trust me, you don't. You helped Eric, that's... well, that's fine. What's done is done. Your part ends here."
"No," Eric argued. "Her part is not done. I feel that."
"Does anyone care what I think?" I asked pointedly.
Now serving: Sookie Stackhouse.
With everyone's undivided attention, and the proverbial tennis ball in my court, I went on, "Eric, I think you should go with Pam. By the sound of it, there's even more people looking for you than we knew, and a lot of them are your friends. Marshall the troops and... and figure out your next step. Sam, I think you should call this Colonel and tell him what these Were-Witches are up to, and if you've got any pull with him at all, make him see that he needs to help drive them out of town."
"I'll try," Sam offered.
"You gotta do better than that. They keep carrying on like they have been and it's gonna be a whole lot more than just me who finds out about y'all's whole monster world. There's only so many freak deaths and accidents and tattoo shop ravagings that can happen before other people will start to suspect something else is going on."
"A fair point," Pam nodded at me. "This has gone on long enough, and this coven is putting us all in jeopardy."
Sam grunted his assent, but Eric was still staring at me. I couldn't read his face. Pam noticed it, and her patience with this stumbling block seemed to be at an end.
"Sookie, give me your telephone number so that we can be in contact with you. We will call tomorrow night."
I sighed and gave it to her. She didn't bother writing it down.
"I'll tell my Gran that you're a new waitress here," I said. "So she knows your name if you call. Or just have Eric call. She thinks we're dating."
I just shook my head at the look she gave me.
"I will ride with Sookie to her house," Eric announced, and before anyone could object, he continued, "Pam, you will stay here with the shapeshifter..."
"His name is Sam," I corrected.
"Pam, you will stay here with Sam while he calls the Packmaster. I will return here in a short time, and we will go to Shreveport."
All parties finally agreed; we went with Eric's plan. Twenty minutes later we were standing in Gran's driveway.
"You are tired," Eric said.
"Exhausted," I nodded, and found myself yawning at the mere thought of my bed.
"I do not know these vampires I am going to meet," he said.
"Sounds like they know you though."
"Yes, but what do they know?"
"I couldn't tell you."
I was getting a slightly clearer picture though. At first I thought Eric was a vampire mob boss, and maybe that wasn't too far off. He had a lot of different business interests, and obviously the vampires in general operated in secret. They were clearly not averse to violence, and Eric seemed to be a regular dab hand at disposing of dead bodies. Switch out the red sauce for blood, and that sounded pretty damn close to every mafia movie I'd ever seen.
Pam had been scared of him out there on the road before. She'd gone from vicious bitch to abject supplicant the second she saw he was angry.
Oh, and let's not forget all his consorts. I sighed. Well, of course. Just look at him.
Maybe he was connecting it all as well. I was getting a picture in my head. Apart from the violence, most of which had been by necessity though, it was hard to connect it all with the man I knew. Correction: the vampire I knew.
"Maybe you can let Pam do the talking until you get your bearings," I offered. "Do you trust her?"
It was pretty important that he did.
He still seemed so uncertain. "It's going to be okay, Eric. This is the light at the end of the tunnel. It won't be long until you have it all sorted out."
"And what happens then?"
"You'll go back to your life."
"I'll go back to my life, I guess."
Suddenly he was right in front of me again. He lifted his hand to cup my jaw and his thumb rubbed my cheek lightly. He kissed me softly for just a moment before dropping his forehead down to mine. I shuddered from the cold and he stepped back.
"Can I come to you tomorrow night?" he asked hopefully. "I want to tell you about the Were, and I will want to tell you what the vampires say, what we plan."
"If you can then," I agreed, mostly to comfort him. For all I knew, they'd be storming the castle this time tomorrow night.
"I will make sure of it."
He shooed me into the house then, and Gran was already asleep. He was still out there after I'd been to the bathroom and crawled into bed. I kept my mind focused on his until I fell asleep.