Club Dead Chapter Eight

I was so tired by the time we entered Alcide's apartment that I was sure all I was good for was a nap. It had been one of the longest days of my life, and it was only the middle of the afternoon.

But we had some housekeeping chores to do first. While Alcide hung the new shower curtain, I cleaned the carpet in the closet with Resolve, and opened one of the air fresheners and placed it on the shelf. We closed all the windows, turned on the heat, and breathed experimentally, our eyes locked on each other's.

The apartment smelled okay. We simultaneously breathed out a sigh of relief.

’’We just did something really illegal,’’ I said, still uneasy about my own immorality. ’’But all I really feel is happy we got away with it.’’

’’Don't worry about not feeling guilty,’’ Alcide said. ’’Something'll come along pretty soon that you'll feel guilty about. Save it up.’’

This was such good advice that I decided to try it. ’’I'm going to take a nap,’’ I said, ’’so I'll be at least a little alert tonight.’’ You didn't want to be slow on the uptake around vampires.

’’Good idea,’’ Alcide said. He cocked an eyebrow at me, and I laughed, shaking my head. I went in the smaller bedroom and shut the door, taking off my shoes and falling onto the bed with a feeling of quiet delight. I reached over the side of the bed after a moment, grabbed the fringe of the chenille bedspread, and wrapped it around me. In the quiet apartment, with the heating system blowing a steady stream of warm air into the bedroom, it took only a few minutes to fall asleep.

I woke all of a sudden, and I was completely awake. I knew there was someone else in the apartment. Maybe on some level I'd heard a knock on the front door;or maybe I'd registered the rumble of voices in the living room. I swung silently off the bed and padded to the door, my socks making no noise at all on the beige carpet. I had pushed my door to, but not latched it, and now I turned my head to position my ear at the crack.

A deep, gravelly voice said, ’’Jerry Falcon came to my apartment last night.’’

’’I don't know him,’’ Alcide replied. He sounded calm, but wary.

’’He says you got him into trouble at Josephine's last night.’’

’’I got him into trouble? If he's the guy who grabbed my date, he got himself into trouble!’’

’’Tell me what happened.’’

’’He made a pass at my date while I was in the men's room. When she protested, he started manhandling her, and she drew attention to the situation.’’

’’He hurt her?’’

’’Shook her up. And he drew some blood on her shoulder.’’

’’A blood offense.’’ The voice had become deadly serious.


So the fingernail gouges on my shoulder constituted a blood offense, whatever that was.

’’And then?’’

’’I came out of the men's room, hauled him off of her. Then Mr. Hob stepped in.’’

’’That explains the burns.’’

’’Yes. Hob threw him out the back door. And that was the last I saw of him. You say his name is Jerry Falcon?’’

’’Yeah. He came right to my house then, after the rest of the boys left the bar.’’

’’Edgington intervened. They were about to jump us.’’

’’Edgington was there?’’ The deep voice sounded very unhappy.

’’Oh, yes, with his boyfriend.’’

’’How did Edgington get involved?’’

’’He told them to leave. Since he's the king, and they work for him from time to time, he expected obedience. But a pup gave him some trouble, so Edgington broke his knee, made the others carry the guy out. I'm sorry there was trouble in your city, Terence. But it was none of our doing.’’

’’You've got guest privileges with our pack, Alcide. We respect you. And those of us who work for the vampires, well, what can I say? Not the best element. But Jerry is their leader, and he was shamed in front of his people last night. How much longer you going to be in our city?’’

’’Just one more night.’’

’’And it's a full moon.’’

’’Yeah, I know, I'll try to keep a low profile.’’

’’What are you going to do tonight? Try to avoid the change, or come out to my hunting land with me?’’

’’I'll try to stay out of the moon, try to avoid stress.’’

’’Then you'll keep out of Josephine's.’’

’’Unfortunately, Russell pretty much demanded that we come back tonight. He felt apologetic that my date went through so much aggravation. He made a point of insisting she come back.’’

’’Club Dead on a full-moon night, Alcide. This isn't wise.’’

’’What am I gonna do? Russell calls the shots in Mississippi.’’

’’I can understand. But watch out, and if you see Jerry Falcon there, you turn the other way. This is my city.’’ The deep voice was heavy with authority.

’’I understand, Packmaster.’’

’’Good. Now that you and Debbie Pelt have broken up, I hope it's a while before we see you back here, Alcide. Give things a chance to settle down. Jerry's a vindictive son of a bitch. He'll do you an injury if he can, without starting a feud.’’

’’He was the one who caused a blood offense.’’

’’I know, but because of his long association with the vampires, Jerry has too good an opinion of himself. He doesn't always follow the pack traditions. He only came to me, as he should, because Edgington backed the other side.’’

Jerry wasn't going to be following any tradition anymore. Jerry was lying in the woods to the west.

While I'd napped, it had gotten dark outside. I heard a tap on the glass of the window. I jumped, of course, but then I padded across as quietly as I could. I opened the curtain and held a finger across my lips. It was Eric. I hoped no one on the street outside looked up. He smiled at me and motioned me to open the window. I shook my head vehemently and held my finger across my lips again. If I let Eric in now, Terence would hear, and my presence would be discovered. Terence, I knew instinctively, would not like to find he had been overheard. I tiptoed back to the door and listened. Goodbyes were being said. I glanced back at the window, to see that Eric was watching me with great interest. I held up one finger to indicate it would just be a minute.

I heard the apartment door close. Moments later, there was a knock at my door. As I let Alcide in, I hoped I didn't have those funny creases on my face.

’’Alcide, I heard most of that,’’ I said. ’’I'm sorry I eavesdropped, but it did seem like it concerned me. Um, Eric is here.’’

’’So I see,’’ Alcide said unenthusiastically. ’’I guess I'd better let him in. Enter, Eric,’’ he said, as he slid open the window.

Eric entered as smoothly as a tall man can enter a small window. He was wearing a suit, complete with vest and tie. His hair was slicked back into a ponytail. He was also wearing glasses.

’’Are you in disguise?’’ I asked. I could hardly believe it.

’’Yes, I am.’’ He looked down at himself proudly. ’’Don't I look different?’’

’’Yes,’’ I admitted. ’’You look just like Eric, dressed up for once.’’

’’Do you like the suit?’’

’’Sure,’’ I said. I have limited knowledge of men's clothes, but I was willing to bet this sort of olive-brown three-piece ensemble had cost more than I made in two weeks. Or four. I might not have picked this out for a guy with blue eyes, but I had to admit he looked spectacular. If they put out a vampire issue of GQ, he'd definitely be in the running for a photo shoot. ’’Who did your hair?’’ I asked, noticing for the first time that it had been braided in an intricate pattern.

’’Oooh, jealous?’’

’’No, I thought maybe they could teach me how to do that to mine.’’

Alcide had had enough of fashion commentary. He said belligerently, ’’What do you mean by leaving the dead man in my closet?’’

I have seldom seen Eric at a loss for words, but he was definitely speechless - for all of thirty seconds.

’’It wasn't Bubba in the closet, was it?’’ he asked.

It was our turn to stand with mouths open, Alcide because he didn't know who the hell Bubba was, and me because I couldn't imagine what could have happened to the dazed vampire.

I hastily filled Alcide in on Bubba.

’’So that explains all the sightings,’’ he said, shaking his head from side to side. ’’Damn - they were all for real!’’

’’The Memphis group wanted to keep him, but it was just impossible,’’ Eric explained. ’’He kept wanting to go home, and then there'd be incidents. So we started passing him around.’’

’’And now you've lost him,’’ Alcide observed, not too chagrined by Eric's problem.

’’It's possible that the people who were trying to get to Sookie in Bon Temps got Bubba instead,’’ Eric said. He tugged on his vest and looked down with some satisfaction. ’’So, who was in the closet?’’

’’The biker who marked Sookie last night,’’ Alcide said. ’’He made a pretty rough pass at her while I was in the men's room.’’

’’Marked her?’’

’’Yes, blood offense,’’ Alcide said significantly.

’’You didn't say anything about this last night.’’ Eric raised an eyebrow at me.

’’I didn't want to talk about it,’’ I said. I didn't like the way that came out, kind of forlorn. ’’Besides, it wasn't much blood.’’

’’Let me see.’’

I rolled my eyes, but I knew darn good and well that Eric wouldn't give up. I pulled my sweatshirt off my shoulder, along with my bra strap. Luckily, the sweat-shut was so old, the neck had lost its elasticity, and it afforded enough room. The fingernail gouges on my shoulder were crusted half-moons, puffy and red, though I'd scrubbed the area carefully the night before. I know how many germs are under fingernails. ’’See,’’ I said. ’’No big deal. I was more mad than scared or hurt.’’

Eric kept his eyes on the little nasty wounds until I shrugged my clothes back into order. Then he switched his eyes to Alcide. ’’And he was dead in the closet?’’

’’Yes,’’ Alcide said. ’’Had been dead for hours.’’

’’What killed him?’’

’’He hadn't been bitten,’’ I said. ’’He looked as though his neck might have been broken. We didn't feel like looking that closely. You're saying you aren't the guilty party?’’

’’No, though it would have been a pleasure to have done it.’’

I shrugged, not willing to explore that dark thought. ’’So, who put him there?’’ I asked, to get the discussion going again.

’’And why?’’ Alcide asked.

’’Would it be too much to ask where he is now?’’ Eric managed to look as if he were indulging two rowdy children.

Alcide and I shot each other glances. ’’Um, well, he's ...’’ My voice trailed away.

Eric inhaled, sampling the apartment's atmosphere. ’’The body's not here. You called the police?’’

’’Well, no,’’ I muttered. ’’Actually, we, ah ...’’

’’We dumped him out in the country,’’ Alcide said. There just wasn't a nice way to say it.

We had surprised Eric a second time. ’’Well,’’ he said blankly. ’’Aren't you two enterprising?’’

’’We worked it all out,’’ I said, maybe sounding a tad defensive.

Eric smiled. It was not a happy sight. ’’Yes, I'll bet you did.’’

’’The packmaster came to see me today,’’ Alcide said. ’’Just now, in fact. And he didn't know that Jerry was missing. In fact, Jerry went complaining to Terence after he left the bar last night, telling Terence he had a grievance against me. So he was seen and heard after the incident at Josephine's.’’

’’So you may have gotten away with it.’’

’’I think we did.’’

’’You should have burned him,’’ Eric said. ’’It would have killed any trace of your smell on him.’’

’’I don't think anyone could pick out our smell,’’ I told him. ’’Really and truly. I don't think we ever touched him with our bare skin.’’

Eric looked at Alcide, and Alcide nodded. ’’I agree,’’ he said. ’’And I'm one of the two-natured.’’

Eric shrugged. ’’I have no idea who would have killed him and put him in the apartment. Obviously, someone wanted his death blamed on you.’’

’’Then why not call the police from a pay phone and tell them there's a dead body in 504?’’

’’A good question, Sookie, and one I can't answer right now.’’ Eric seemed to lose interest all of a sudden. ’’I will be at the club tonight. If I need to talk to you, Alcide, tell Russell that I am your friend from out of town, and I've been invited to meet Sookie, your new girlfriend.’’

’’Okay,’’ said Alcide. ’’But I don't understand why you want to be there. It's asking for trouble. What if one of the vamps recognizes you?’’

’’I don't know any of them.’’

’’Why are you taking this chance?’’ I asked. ’’Why go there at all?’’

’’There may be something I can pick up on that you won't hear of, or that Alcide won't know because he is not a vampire,’’ Eric said reasonably. ’’Excuse us for a minute, Alcide. Sookie and I have some business to discuss.’’

Alcide looked at me to make sure I was okay with this, before he nodded grudgingly and went out to the living room.

Eric said abruptly, ’’Do you want me to heal the marks on your shoulder?’’

I thought of the ugly, crusty crescents, and I thought about the thin shoulder straps on the dress I'd brought to wear. I almost said yes, but then I had a second thought. ’’How would I explain that, Eric? The whole bar saw him grab me.’’

’’You're right.’’ Eric shook his head, his eyes closed, as if he were angry with himself. ’’Of course. You're not Were, you're not undead. How would you have healed so quickly?’’

Then he did something else unexpected. Eric took my right hand with both of his and gripped it. He looked directly into my face. ’’I have searched Jackson. I have looked in warehouses, cemeteries, farmhouses, and anyplace that had a trace of vampire scent about it: every property Edgington owns, and some his followers own. I haven't found a trace of Bill. I am very afraid, Sookie, that it is becoming most likely that Bill is dead. Finally dead.’’

I felt like he'd smacked me in the middle of the forehead with a sledgehammer. My knees just folded, and if he hadn't moved quick as lightning, I'd have been on the floor. Eric sat on a chair that was in the corner of the room, and he gathered me up into a bundle in his lap. He said, ’’I've upset you too much. I was trying to be practical, and instead I was ...’’

’’Brutal.’’ I felt a tear trickle out of each eye.

Eric's tongue darted out, and I felt a tiny trace of moisture as he licked up my tears. Vampires just seem to like any body fluid, if they can't get blood, and that didn't particularly bother me. I felt glad someone was holding me in a comforting way, even if it was Eric. I sunk deeper into misery while Eric spent a few moments thinking.

’’The only place I haven't checked is Russell Edgington's compound - his mansion, with its outbuildings. It would be amazing if Russell were rash enough to keep another vampire prisoner in his own home. But he's been king for a hundred years. It could be that he is that confident. Maybe I could sneak in over the wall, but I wouldn't come out again. The grounds are patrolled by Weres. It's very unlikely we'll get access to such a secure place, and he won't invite us in except in very unusual circumstances.’’ Eric let all this sink in. ’’I think you must tell me what you know about Bill's project.’’

’’Is that what all this holding and niceness is about?’’ I was furious. ’’You want to get some information out of me?’’ I leaped up, revitalized with wrath.

Eric jumped up himself and did his best to loom over me. ’’I think Bill is dead,’’ he said. ’’And I'm trying to save my own life, and yours, you stupid woman.’’ Eric sounded just as angry as I was.

’’I will find Bill,’’ I said, enunciating each world carefully. I wasn't sure how I was going to accomplish this, but I'd just do some very good spying tonight, and something would turn up. I am no Pollyanna, but I have always been optimistic.

’’You can't make eyes at Edgington, Sookie. He's not interested in women. And if I flirted with him, he would be suspicious. A vampire mating with another - that's unusual. Edgington hasn't gotten where he is by being gullible. Maybe his second, Betty Joe, would be interested in me, but she is a vampire, too, and the same rule applies. I can't tell you how unusual Bill's fascination with Lorena is. In fact, we disapprove of vampires loving others of our kind.’’

I ignored his last two sentences. ’’How'd you find all this out?’’

’’I met up with a young female vampire last night, and her boyfriend also went to parties at Edgington's place.’’

’’Oh, he's bi?’’

Eric shrugged. ’’He's a werewolf, so I guess he's two-natured in more ways than one.’’

’’I thought vamps didn't date werewolves, either.’’

’’She is being perverse. The young ones like to experiment.’’

I rolled my eyes. ’’So, what you're saying is that I need to concentrate on getting an invitation into Edgington's compound, since there's nowhere else in Jackson that Bill can be hidden?’’

’’He could be somewhere else in the city,’’ Eric said cautiously. ’’But I don't think so. The possibility is faint. Remember, Sookie, they've had him for days now.’’ When Eric looked at me, what I saw in his face was pity.

That frightened me more than anything.

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