Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Sookie was living a new normal. She arose in late morning. She cleaned and did the shopping, taking advantage of markets being so close. She planned her menu and bought only enough for each day. “So the smells won’t bother you,” she explained to Eric, but she knew it was really because she enjoyed living somewhere everyone knew her by name.
People she’d known now for over a year waved as she walked past them. “How’s your man?” they’d ask, or, “Looks like the business is doing well, then?” Children greeted her and Sookie started exchanging with her neighbors, both in terms of small gifts and small talk.
Brian, the ‘fixer’ in town, always stepped outside his pub to chat, and Sookie was on good terms with his wife and the wives of many of the other business owners. If Eric had an odd reputation in town, Sookie saw little evidence of it. She chatted about the weather and slowly, started to exchange town gossip. When one of the shopkeepers asked her about children, she knew she’d gained acceptance. It was a personal question, the kind you only asked someone you considered a friend.
“It won’t happen for us. I can’t, and with our lives? It would be hard anyway.” The lies slipped so easily now and if they gave her a moment’s guilt, there were the side benefits.
“There’s always adoption,” her listeners assured her, but Sookie could see that this lack of perfection in the lives of the Northmans endeared her to several and ended any cause for jealousy on the part of others. Still, it didn’t mean that when Sookie rose in the afternoon, her human face was the one reflected in the mirror. Since that day she’d accepted her powers, it was her Fae face that took over as she slept.
Every Tuesday, Sookie traveled to Maryann’s to use the garage behind her house. Sookie demonstrated some piece of magic and Octavia would turn it against her. Every Thursday, Sookie traveled to the garage again, for this was the day Niall arranged for her to face off against other Fae.
For the past few weeks, Sookie worked with a leprechaun. He wasn’t the one she’d met before with Claudine. “Fergus,” he’d introduced himself that first day, “Now, let me see what’s on your feet.”
Sookie found herself handing over her shoes. “Dismal,” he’d pronounced her boots and almost at once, the garage was transformed into a workshop where Fergus went about the job of re-making her footwear. “Niall thinks a great deal of you,” he’d told her, signaling she should pull up a stool. “He’s sworn me to secrecy and promised that I will be sole keeper of your jewels if I let you learn my magic.”
“I don’t think I could learn that very easily,” Sookie indicated Fergus’ hands moving, as he used a small awl to remove the stitching that held upper to sole.
“Och, shoes are my passion,” Fergus told her, “It’s something else I use to protect myself.” For the first time since he’d gone to work, he looked directly at her, “You’d do me a kindness if you’d fetch me that hammer over there.” He pointed and Sookie saw the hammer quickly enough, but when she rose to get it, she instead found herself wandering to the other side of the garage, more interested in the assortment of knifes and small saws hanging against the back of Fergus’ workbench.
After a bit, Fergus scolded, “The hammer, girl! Do you have wool in your ears?”
“I’m sorry,” Sookie stuttered, feeling as though she’d been daydreaming. “Of course, I’ll get it right away.”
She started toward the hammer again, only to find herself staring at the shoe forms. She literally shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs. “I’m sorry,” she stammered again.
She had no idea how long she’d been standing there, but when she managed to turn her head, Fergus was sitting back, smoking a foul-smelling pipe, and her boots were sitting on his small work surface, polished and ready for her feet.
“That’s a good trick,” Sookie praised. “I had no idea you were doing anything. It felt as if it was what I wanted to do.”
“It’s a glamour that’s served my people for ages,” Fergus nodded. “It works against both humans and Fae. How else do you think we manage to keep our riches intact?”
“I remember someone telling me that leprechauns guard the treasure of the Fae. Do you have your own as well?” Sookie wasn’t asking for any purpose other than curiosity, but Fergus’ look darkened.
“And what if we did?” he growled. “Tis little enough recompense for the trouble those like your Grandfather cause! Trooping Fae have no idea of value. When they have it, they spend it faster than water running through their hands! If we didn’t hide it away and make it hard for them to reclaim, they’d be living under bridges and in caves. They think they’re smart, but we’re the reason they live so well!”
“That’s what my cousin told me,” Sookie soothed Fergus. “She explained the importance your people hold for the Seelie. She was most grateful.”
“And which cousin would that be?” Fergus grumbled, looking very much like a wet hen, puffed out and bristling.
“Claudine,” Sookie answered. “And you should know, Grandfather shares her opinion.”
“I preferred Rogan,” Fergus informed her. “Still, Niall has been fair in his treatment and he did trust me to work with you.” Fergus seemed to make a decision as he hopped down from his chair, tucking away his pipe. “Brigant says you have a number of rare gifts, but no idea as to your limits. He thinks you have more range than you know, and he’d like to test it.” Fergus gave her an appraising eye, “I don’t think it’s likely you’ll have the magic of leprechauns, but I’ll let you try. Since you know what to look for, why don’t you give me a dose of my own medicine?”
It seemed fruitless, but after an hour of Sookie asking and then trying to deflect Fergus in another direction, she was ready to give up. “Don’t be so hard on yourself!” the leprechaun laughed. “I felt something, truly!” He gathered a few tools together and with a wave of his hand, the workshop vanished. “If you’re willing, I’ll be back next Thursday, and you can try again. That is, unless you’d like to stop now.”
But Sookie hadn’t given up. Fergus returned the following Thursday, and then Sunday as well. She hadn’t mastered it yet, but Sookie knew she was making headway in learning the secrets of leprechaun glamour and how to use it for herself.
When she finished lessons, Sookie headed up the street, climbing the cobblestone sidewalks that led to Ghoul’s Kiss when Eric was in town, or heading home when he wasn’t. If she had enough energy, Sookie danced with Eric, happily swinging in his arms until closing, but some nights she went straight to the back office, just using the energy she had to tackle their business’ receipts and bills.
Christmas was on her before she realized it. The stores had been wearing their decorations for some time, but Sookie managed to ignore them. It finally made an impression when she picked up the mail from the floor below her mail slot to find a card from Aunt Linda and Uncle Lars. Sookie tried to chat with Linda at least once a week, but since moving back to Slievemore, the calls became less frequent. The card had a form letter reporting the news of the year. Around the words were photos of Linda, Lars, Hadley, Remy, and Jason. One whole border was made up of pictures from their wedding. Sookie hadn’t seen these particular photos, so it brought back memories of that evening. She remembered how handsome Eric was, and the crazy squeaking bed that drove them to spend their wedding night in the root cellar.
On impulse, Sookie tried Skyping her Aunt and Uncle Lars answered. Lars called over his shoulder and soon Sookie found herself chatting with Linda, Lars, and Jason, who was there on furlough. “Damn, it’s cold here!” Jason complained. “How’s the weather there?”
They talked of snow and Lars described the larger of the storms they’d had. Jason lifted the computer so Sookie could see the blanket of white outside the windows of Linda’s house. As Jason walked back, Sookie couldn’t help noticing the decorated Christmas tree in the background and the cheery decorations that seemed to cover every surface of Linda’s house. When Sookie ended the call, it occurred to her how little effort it took to honor the holidays, and how marking them just made her feel better.
It was a Wednesday, which meant it was a day Sookie usually helped out at the Kiss. She wasn’t a regular waitress, but she was the boss’ wife, so seeing her there lending a hand was expected. Making up her mind, Sookie called to let the bar to let them know she had an errand to run. While she’d done some walking around Slievemore, Sookie didn’t know where to find either holly or evergreen growing wild and somehow, buying it didn’t seem right. ‘I suppose I could just summon it,’ she thought, but that wasn’t right either. Instead, she warmed up her car and took the drive to Killary.
It was the first time she’d been back since her time with Breandan. The snug cottage still sat there, perched on its spit of shale, overlooking the sea. The windows were dark and, even though the grass was mown, it had the air of a place long abandoned. Sookie stood in the driveway a long minute. She knew where the key was hidden, and she was tempted to peek inside, but better sense won out. ‘This is your past,’ she chided herself and turning, picked her way past the evergreens and then down the cliff to the well and its holly tree.
Sookie thought about Paula Brady, the farmer’s wife who lived just down the road. It had been Paula who first brought her here. Although it had only been a year, the things that happened when she lived here seemed another age altogether.
Pulling out a small knife, Sookie half-mumbled apologies to the tree for cutting its boughs, saying words that popped into her head. Tatters of ribbon still hung from the branches, reminding her of when she hung holly at the corners of the bed. ‘I might have ended up pregnant,’ she thought and it occurred to her that Paula Brady knew what might happen when she’d told Sookie to do it.
Sookie wondered who paid the Bradys now that Breandan and Rogan were gone. Sookie knew the money the farmers received for care-taking made a difference, but she couldn’t help remembering how angry Breandan became that night. Paula Brady had tricked her, which left Sookie less sympathetic to the Brady’s fates.
Sookie stooped to lift her basket, but when she straightened, the hair on her arms rose. A tall woman was standing before her. The woman’s face was beautiful, and her clothes flowed around her. Sookie squinted, for although she could see the woman clearly, she could see the path back up the hill through her. “Sister,” the woman said inside Sookie’s head.
Ever one for manners, Sookie decided to bow to the apparition. Since she wasn’t sure what would be proper protocol, Sookie used the same angle she used for the Queen’s Second, Andre. It must have been acceptable, because the phantom woman drifted closer. She lifted her hand and ran fingers over Sookie’s face, but, instead of feeling them, Sookie felt how they passed through her skin, leaving trails of cold within her. “What are you?” Sookie asked.
“A banshee,” the woman’s voice echoed in Sookie’s head. Her head tilted and her eyebrows pulled together, “I’m not yours. I belong to another family, but you called me anyway.”
“I don’t understand,” Sookie stammered. When the woman made to touch her again, Sookie backed up. The woman cocked her head to the side and Sookie noticed the banshee’s silver eyes looked angry. “I sing for those who will die, but my family has all gone,” the woman said after a bit. “This well,” and she gestured at the stone horseshoe that framed the small pool of water, “This is a place for your family?”
“No,” Sookie stammered, “Maybe you mean the Bradys?”
“I could love your family,” the Banshee pressed, ignoring Sookie’s question. Sookie tried walking around, but suddenly the banshee was very close to her. Sookie felt cold falling from the apparition. It was as if Sookie was standing next to a great block of ice.
“Thanks for the offer. We’re good,” Sookie stammered. “Besides, there’s only going to be me and Eric in my family, and Eric’s a vampire. Don’t banshees follow mortals?”
“You’re mortal,” the phantom purred, coming closer.
“Not really,” and Sookie slipped her masque, more afraid of this spirit than having some human passer-by spot her uncloaked.
The woman’s face transformed. “Lies!” she hissed, but then she smiled and her voice fell to a croon, “It won’t save you, not really. I see you, and so will others.” The banshee fell back toward the cliff, growing tall, her silver eyes flashing, but then, in the next moment, she was gone, leaving nothing but a dust devil whipping fallen leaves in a circle on the ground.
“Well, I never!” Sookie exclaimed, before falling against the well, pressing her hand to her chest until her heart stopped hammering. ‘I wonder if she was one of Niall’s trials,’ she thought, but she couldn’t see it. Niall let her know when to expect visitors. The banshee felt more like a nasty surprise.
Sookie’s legs shook as she climbed the cliff and her hands trembled on the drive back to town. Rather than heading home, she found a place to park on the curb and walked into the Kiss. It wasn’t until she was sitting in the window, her hands wrapped around a bowl of chowder, that she admitted she’d been terrified.
“What happened to you?” Pam asked.
“I don’t know,” Sookie shook her head. “What do you know about banshees?” She told Pam about her encounter with the woman in Killary. Eric was out of town on business, but Pam pulled out her phone and texted him anyway. “What is it?” Sookie asked.
“Seeing banshees is bad, Sookie,” Pam answered. “A banshee appears out of some sense of love, but her coming never signals good things.”
“I thought they only appeared to mortals,” Sookie repeated the lore she’d heard. Leaning forward, she whispered, “and when I showed her my Fae face, she left in a hurry.”
“She shouldn’t have been able to show herself to you at all,” Pam muttered, staring at her phone. “Eric says you should call your Grandfather,” Pam told her, “right away.”
Sookie gathered her things, “It would probably be best if I had him come to the house.” She glanced around. It was a busy night, but she still asked, “Will you come with me?”
Pam guessed right away, “You may look brave, but she frightened you, didn’t she?”
“Like an arrow to the heart,” Sookie nodded. “She felt like ice.”
“She touched you?” and Pam stood. “That’s not usual.” Pam told Mick she might not be back, and together, Sookie and Pam walked the few short blocks to Goat House.
Sookie texted Niall before leaving Kiss, but there’d been no reply, and the house was dark. “I can’t help feeling like someone’s watching,” she stammered. “I know I’m being silly…”
“Not really,” Pam told her, taking the key from her hand. “Let me.”
Pam went first, turning lights on. “Wait here,” she told Sookie. Turning on her speed, Pam moved through the house. Sookie heard her overhead, and then fainter as her friend checked the attic as well. Within a minute, Pam was back. “No scents up here. Let’s check below.”
“Below?” Sookie asked, and then she remembered. “So, there is another room.”
“Tunnel, really,” Pam shrugged. “I can’t believe Eric didn’t tell you.”
“Are you?” She sounded waspish, and Sookie stopped, took a breath, and added, “We have been busy. I’m sure he would have gotten around to it.”
“He loves you,” Pam almost laughed. “I don’t think you appreciate how crazy that sounds. Eric has lived this way for a long time. He compartmentalizes. Every aspect of his life, and the people in it have neat places that he can shut off if he needs to. It’s allowed him to survive, but, Sookie, you cut across all of that for him.”
“Why me?” Sookie asked.
“You’ll have to ask him,” Pam shrugged. “But I think you remind him of someone.”
Sookie filed that away, sorry she’d asked. “Well, I guess I’d like to see the passage. Will you show me?”
Pam walked Sookie back to the front room. “I’m surprised your workmen didn’t find it,” she said, her fingers working the wood beside the steep stairs.
“Why is it always under the stairs?” Sookie laughed.
“Same reason trolls are always under bridges, because there’s space!” and the door sprang free. The stairs down were wood, but the wall was stone. “We think this was a smuggler’s tunnel,” Pam was saying. “It runs a bit and then there’s a door cut into a bank. You wouldn’t see it unless you knew where to look,” and then Pam’s eyes glowed. “What the hell?”
Somewhere ahead there was a scrambling sound and, in an instant, Sookie found herself standing alone. The sound of Pam’s feet seemed to go on a long time, long enough that Sookie glanced at the stairs wondering if she should head back. Instead, she opened her phone, distracting herself by checking for messages. “Well, that was unexpected,” Pam was suddenly beside her, causing Sookie to jump.
“Not rats?” Sookie asked hopefully.
“Not unless rats can open doors,” Pam replied. “Look, let’s go upstairs and pack you a bag. I was planning on heading to Carrack tonight. Why don’t you come with me? Eric will be finished in a couple days. He can meet us in Carrack or maybe your oh-so-famous relative will clear this all up before then.”
“You think I’m in trouble,” Sookie stated, and Pam laughed.
“It’s your middle name, Stackhouse! Come on, it will be fun!” Together, they headed up the stairs. Pam texted Eric and then Mick at Ghoul’s Kiss while Sookie packed.
“How long will we be gone?” she asked. When Pam shrugged, Sookie lifted her chin, “Look, I see you’re down-playing this, but I have customers here. People count on me. If I’m going to be gone for a while, I need to figure that out!”
Pam scowled, “It might be best to take your laptop. I’ll ask Ian to swing by and pick up receipts for you.”
“I think Ian might be a little busy with Eric,” Sookie huffed.
“I think Ian will do anything I ask,” Pam smirked. “Get a second bag if you need it. My car’s back at the Kiss so we won’t have to carry them far. Have you spent any time in Carrack?” Sookie knew Pam was trying to keep things light, so she played along, shaking her head. Pam grinned, “Fun town! There’s a university there, so plenty of eye candy. We can be at my house and settled in a couple hours. We can go dancing with Chow if you’re up to it.”
Faster than she thought possible, Sookie was in the passenger seat and they were speeding down narrow, dark roads. “What do you think it was?” Sookie asked again.
“Smelled like merrows,” Pam answered.
Sookie racked her brain, trying to remember her lore. “Like selkies?” she asked.
“Only meaner,” Pam nodded. “You seem to be attracting a lot of attention. Maybe it’s something Niall set up, but I’d like to be sure. Did he text you back yet?”
Sookie shook her head. With a sigh, Sookie started to text all those who would expect to see her, letting them know she was taking an unexpected vacation with Pam and assuring them it would be business as usual. “But, we’ll be back in time for Christmas, right?” Sookie asked.
The holiday was a little more than a week away and Sookie was planning on dinner with Maryann and her friends. Pam was attending and Eric promised he’d be back, if only for the night. Between now and then there were other holiday parties with friends, and the day after Christmas was Wren Day. “We’ll see,” Pam said airily, and for the second time tonight, Sookie started to worry.
Pam’s house was what Sookie would have imagined. It was set on a street with other houses nearby. There was a small yard in front that probably held flowers in Spring. There were two bedrooms on the second floor, both of which had the windows permanently blocked. You didn’t notice it until you moved the curtains. “It’s pretty,” she told Pam, although her inner voice was telling her the room felt more like a prison cell decorated in chintz.
“I’ve had the place forever,” Pam shrugged, but Sookie could see she was pleased. “The Kiss here in Carrack is just a few blocks away. Why don’t we walk over?”
Sookie was starting to feel more depressed by the minute, but she dug deep and agreed. Taking a quick shower helped, and soon enough they were walking together past storefronts and walled parks. “It’s so nice to be back in a real city,” Pam purred. Sookie smiled. After Boston, she wouldn’t have called Carrack a city, but it was bigger and far busier than Slievemore. The Ghoul’s Kiss here was bigger, too.
Where the Slievemore club was all dark wood and comfort, the Carrack Ghoul’s Kiss was high energy and neon. Bright colors reflected off stainless steel countertops and mirrored walls. The music was contemporary and lights pulsed on the dance floor. No sooner had Sookie looked around, openly gawking, then she was confronted by a tall, dark-haired man. “Mistress,” he hissed in a tone pitched for her ears only. He inclined his head before winking at Pam. “Your booth is ready,” and he swept his arm toward a dark table surrounded by a red leather banquette set in the corner.
“You can see everything from there,” Pam assured Sookie, taking her arm to make sure they kept up with Chow. Sookie slid in and was sandwiched between Pam and the manager. “Any progress?” Pam asked.
“Can’t believe it started again,” Chow hissed, his eyes flicking into the crowd. “It has to be the humans. I’ve pressed everyone else. If only we had a telepath.”
“Myth and legend,” Pam shrugged. Drinks were delivered, although Sookie hadn’t ordered.
“How did you…?” Sookie was looking at the gin and tonic she would have ordered.
“All in the vault,” Pam grinned, tapping her forehead. After sipping from the glass Sookie knew contained blood, Pam leaned forward to tell Chow, “I’ll be here in Carrack for a while. We can try to set up some extra surveillance.”
“May I help?” Sookie asked. The looks Pam and Chow gave her were less than encouraging. “What?” she protested. “I’m here and Pam says we could be here a while. No one on your staff knows me…”
“My vampire staff does,” Chow countered.
“Then tell them to keep their mouths shut,” Sookie pressed. “If you trust them and you think it’s humans, I may be able to get closer to them. I’ll waitress…”
“You are getting way ahead of yourself!” Pam protested. “Eric is trusting me to keep an eye on you…”
“And where better than here, where you already know everyone?” Sookie pointed out. “Look, I can be the older, ‘new’ guy. The college kids will treat me like I’m invisible and no one will question me wandering around aimlessly for a while.” She looked at Chow, “I’ve waitressed most of my life. I know what I’m doing.”
Chow didn’t say anything at first, but then turned to Pam, “Up to you. I don’t think Eric will like it…”
“I don’t need my husband’s permission,” Sookie snapped, “and I have just as much stake in what happens here as you do. Shared money and all that.”
Pam sighed, “Chow’s right about Eric, but so are you. Just do me a favor and text Eric. I don’t want him thinking this was my idea.”
“On it!” Sookie grinned, feeling unnaturally happy about finding at least one area where she could do something that might make a difference.
“Guess that means no dancing,” Pam grumbled. “Can’t have this looking like anything but a job interview.”
“I am tired,” Sookie agreed, feeling every bit of her too active day. Looking at Chow, she asked, “What time do you want me here?” and it was settled.
Sookie showed up at Ghoul’s Kiss just before lunch. A brusque waitress handed her an apron, and in no time, Sookie was filling water glasses and busing tables. It struck her how used to being the boss’ wife she’d become. Until now, she hadn’t realized how the employees at Slievemore deferred to her, cutting her breaks and doing extra around her. Here, there was no slack shown and by the time lunch rush was over, Sookie was sweaty, her feet hurting. “You did okay,” her trainer told her. “Come back around five. Chow will be in and the regular bartenders. Make sure your shirt’s clean. It’s mostly drinks after dark, so you’ll have to hustle.”
The waitress hadn’t been kidding. Sookie’s first impression was right. At Slievemore, people came in and lingered. That wasn’t the case here. Tables turned over more quickly. The music was piped in and the dance floor was full. Eyes flicked over her, dismissing or appraising, but it was the demanding attitude that set this place apart.
Sookie picked out the vampires immediately, but everyone else in the pub was human. Not for the first time it struck Sookie how her eyes lingered on the glow that marked the supernatural. When she returned to waitress the lunch rush next day, Sookie wondered if her eyes seeking the supernatural was what kept her from spotting the humans pocketing money until almost the end of her shift.
The first time she saw it, she wasn’t sure, but then the waitress did it again. Sookie figured it was a single thief, but, then, she saw a bartender do it, too. He was looking at the till, counting change, and then he lifted the Euro note from the tray and slipped it into his own pocket. His head turned, he saw her, and he smiled. He showed no guilt at all.
“Are you making change?” Sookie challenged, pointing at his pocket.
He looked honestly confused, and when Sookie insisted and he removed the bill from his pocket, he looked even more confused. Sookie let it go, but she watched more closely. The bartender she’d confronted did it at least two more times and the waitress Sookie spotted earlier pocketing cash did it again as well. Sookie wasn’t positive, but she thought one of the other two waitresses might be stealing, too.
That afternoon, she walked back toward Pam’s house with Finola, one of the waitresses she’d spotted pocketing cash. They reached a small bridge and there was a homeless person huddled there, his cup in front of him. Finola reached into her pocket and removed a handful of bills, the ones Sookie was pretty sure she’d stolen, and dropped it in the cup.
“Thank ye,” the man mumbled.
“For what?” Finola snapped and, turning to Sookie, she sniffed, “Cheeky bugger! As if I’d give him the time of day!”
Sookie was sure Finola had no idea what she’d done. It was as if some other force was making her hands act on their own. ‘Glamour,’ Sookie thought. Finola peeled off at the next corner and Sookie pulled the phone from her pocket, texting Pam. Perhaps it was her excitement at having found the source of the shortages, or maybe it was bad luck. Sookie’s toe struck the edge of the pavement, and almost as though she’d been shoved, she found herself falling face first into the street. There was a screech of wheels and the blare of a horn. Sookie felt rather than saw the car narrowly miss her.
A couple rushed forward, leaning over Sookie, asking after her. Sookie found it took a minute before she was able to stand. Her palms stung and her knee was bleeding where it skinned against the pavement. The woman offered to call an ambulance, but Sookie shook her off. “I’m fine,” she insisted. “Just feeling foolish.”
“This will make you feel foolish as well,” the man said, handing over her phone with its shattered faceplate.
After assuring her Good Samaritans that she was fine to continue home, Sookie limped on, hoping she remembered the code to Pam’s house. Stroking the shattered glass of the phone’s faceplate with her thumb, Sookie grumbled, “Would be better if I had a vampire’s memory.” All her codes and passwords were on the phone and she worried she wouldn’t be able to recover them soon enough.
Sookie was looking down, so that may have accounted for her walking head-first into the pole. “Oof!” she exhaled, and then “Ouch” as she fell back, her foot catching the sidewalk, falling heavily on her butt. “Jesus Christ, Shepard of Judea!” she swore.
There were no Samaritans this time. Three teenaged boys passed her by, not bothering to hide their laughter. An older woman passed by as well, tutting and muttering.
Rubbing the knob forming on her head, Sookie clambered back to her feet. Tucking her phone in her pocket, she paid more attention, but still barely avoided being knocked down a third time by a running dog trailing a leash.
She stood in front of Pam’s door, trying to get her shaking fingers to poke in the code when the door opened. “You look like shit,” Pam announced, and stepped back.
“That’s a nice way of saying how I feel,” Sookie assured her, “but I think I’ve figured out how we’re being robbed.”
Pam obligingly headed to the pharmacy and came back with the supplies Sookie had written down. “You need more blood,” she sniffed as she watched Sookie bandage her knee.
“You know what Eric said,” Sookie shrugged. “He has to be in Scotland.”
“Do you feel him?” Pam asked.
“No,” Sookie shook her head. “He’s cut off the bond. He does that when he’s…” ‘Working,’ was the word Sookie was going to say, but ‘torturing’ was the word she was really thinking.
Pam seemed to know where Sookie’s head had gone and she gave a short laugh. “You have a suspicious mind, Ms. Stackhouse. He does have to focus, though, and he probably finds the bond between you a distraction.”
“Yeah,” Sookie sniffed, “wouldn’t want that.” She hissed as the disinfectant ran into the scratches on the palm of her hand.
“You might try working on distractions, yourself,” Pam tsked. “Tell me again how you managed to fall twice?”
“The old woman who stepped over me gave me the sign against the evil eye,” Sookie grinned. “Probably thought I was drunk.”
“Have you heard from Niall?” Pam asked, standing, suddenly all business.
“No,” Sookie sighed. “And take a look at my phone. Not like I can get any messages now, anyway.”
Pam fished Sookie’s phone out of her coat pocket, and then pulled her own out. “I can take care of a replacement phone, at least.” Pam poked at the screen, her fingers a blur, explaining, “I’m asking Chow to come here. I don’t think you should risk leaving until we get this all sorted. Creatures below your house, and now this?” and she jerked her chin toward Sookie. “There’s something going on and we need your Seelie relatives to give a crap and get this figured out.”
“What?” Sookie snorted. “They have some charm against being clumsy?”
“If you have been cursed, it’s not funny,” Pam scolded. “If someone’s cursed you, it will only grow worse.”
“Do you think it was that banshee?” Sookie asked.
“Oh, that’s right,” Pam nodded. “Do you remember anything else odd happening before that?”
“No falling, if that’s what you mean,” Sookie answered, and then she thought. “Do you think it could be Breandan?”
“Why do you ask?” Pam looked up from her phone. “Have you seen him?”
“I don’t know,” Sookie sighed. “But in Slievemore, when I head out to Maryann’s, I see…well, I see seals out in the harbor. I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure they’re Selkies.”
“And you didn’t think to mention this before?” Pam eyerolled, and jabbed at her phone again.
“If it’s a curse, should we ask Octavia?” Sookie asked.
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Pam agreed, and stabbed at the phone again.
Within the hour, Chow was at the house. His nose crinkled in a way that reminded Sookie of Eric when she’d been cleaning the house. She supposed it was the disinfectant. “So, you’re sure of what you saw?” he asked.
“Don’t doubt her,” Pam snapped. “Sookie wouldn’t put humans at risk if she wasn’t sure.”
“What do you mean, ‘at risk?’” Sookie asked,
“I’ll have to kill them,” Chow shrugged. “It must be made clear that no one steals from vampires without facing the consequences.”
Sookie’s mouth fell open as she stared first at the tall, dark vampire, and then Pam, who shrugged as if to say, ‘What did you expect?’ “I don’t think they even know what they’re doing!” Sookie protested. “It was like they were sleepwalking!”
“Well, the bartender is on tonight and if he does it again, he’ll lose his hand,” Chow growled.
Sookie pulled herself up to her full height, which was hard since her knee was smarting, “This is a job for your Sheriff and Eric is out of country. You need to turn this over to him.”
“Eric won’t see it any differently,” Pam assured her.
“If they’ve been glamoured, they shouldn’t be punished,” Sookie persisted. “They are human, so it wouldn’t fix anything. Whoever set them up will just glamour someone else.” She stared first at Chow and then Pam, willing them to back off.
Finally, Chow rocked back on his heels, “It is a point,” he conceded, “but we’ll be watching them all the same. If we catch them, we will punish them…” and then he sniffed, “and hold them for the Sheriff.”
There was a knock at the door and Pam went to answer. A vampire stood outside, and Pam dropped Sookie’s phone in his hand. “Does he need my password?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Pam said shortly, and waved in someone else who turned out to be Octavia.
“Time for me to leave,” Chow said, making a point of walking well around the witch.
“You know you still find me irresistible,” Octavia laughed while Chow made his quick exit.
“What’s that all about?” Sookie asked.
Pam was looking embarrassed, which was unusual. When another minute passed, Sookie pressed. “It’s etiquette,” Pam finally said by way of explanation, which didn’t explain anything.
“Chow and I were lovers, once upon a time,” and Octavia took over the story. “I was young then and almost as pretty as you. We were quite the item.”
“You loved him?” Sookie asked. She found herself warming to the thought that this woman who was almost a friend had lived as she and Eric did now.
“With all my heart,” Octavia smiled. Sookie couldn’t help noticing Pam’s uncomfortable shifting. Octavia did, too. “But now, it’s over.”
“Did he love you, too?” Sookie asked. Pam snorted, but didn’t say anything more.
“I believe he did,” Octavia nodded, “although he never said it.”
“Well, what happened?” Sookie asked.
“Age,” Octavia shrugged. “I grew old, and so he put me aside. Now, every time he sees me, it reminds him.”
“It’s considered poor manners for a human companion to confront a vampire when you’re too old to be seen with him anymore,” Pam said shortly. “There is no reason to confront him, or her. It is a harsh reminder of the differences that divide our species.”
Sookie looked from first Pam to Octavia and then back. There was a knot in her chest as a thought formed, “Is that what will happen to me?” she asked Pam. “Will Eric set me aside? Will he be forced to avoid me?”
“Of course not,” Pam said quickly. “You’ll become one of us long before that becomes necessary…”
“I see,” and Sookie found it necessary to take a deep breath. Sookie thought back to the discussions she and Eric had about her turning. She thought of how what he’d offered and Pam’s own reaction now. ‘Don’t think about it,’ she told herself and turning to Octavia, asked, “How would I know if I’ve been cursed?”
Octavia’s eyes widened, and then narrowed, “What makes you ask?” Sookie described what had happened to her. “Sounds possible,” Octavia nodded, “but if you are, it wasn’t by my kind. I’d see it hanging over you and I don’t.”
Pam was looking more interested, “But, Sookie is a danger magnet! She has things stalking her and now she’s getting hurt.”
“It does sound like a curse,” Octavia agreed after hearing the details from the past two weeks. “Of course, it could also be more of an ill wish.”
“What’s the difference?” Sookie asked.
“An ill wish is placed by the Fae. It wears off, but it can come back. Curses are curses. They’re placed, but if they’re lifted, they’re gone.”
“Nice to know,” Pam growled. She was on her phone again, poking messages. “Eric is going to be pissed when he hears that you’ve been seeing Breandan…”
“I haven’t!” Sookie protested. “I don’t even know if the seals were Selkies. Don’t tell him…” and Sookie made a grab for Pam’s phone.
“Well, I’ll let you girls fight this out,” and Octavia stood. “Under the circumstances, I don’t think continuing our lessons is a good idea.” Sookie stopped chasing Pam long enough to ask why. “If you’re under an ill wish, playing with magic aimed to hurt you is tempting fate.” Octavia was reasonable, but firm. “You need to figure this out, so don’t call me for lessons until you do.” Turning to Pam, Octavia asked, “Would you mind if I placed a protection spell around your house? As long as she’s here, it would keep this place a safe haven.”
“Spell away,” Pam shrugged.
“Not my fault!” Sookie protested.
“Always your fault!” Pam replied.
Once Octavia was gone, Pam held out her phone. “You need to call Niall. If this is an ill wish, things could really get out of hand.”
“I’ve tried,” Sookie huffed. “I texted him, I called him. I get that he’s busy, but you’d think he’d at least let me know he’s received my messages.”
“Then you aren’t trying hard enough,” Pam scolded. She poked her phone again and held the message up for Sookie to see.
‘It’s Sookie. I’ve lost my phone. I’m being chased by Fae. I’m in danger. I need help now.’
‘Sounds melodramatic,” Sookie sighed. “It’s not that bad…”
“It’s getting worse,” and Pam hit her send button. “You need to learn to take these things seriously. Look at you! You’re beaten up, you’re being stalked. How much worse do you need this to get?”
“Eric…” Sookie started to say. She’d told Eric and he hadn’t come. He hadn’t made noises like he was going to come either.
“Eric is busy,” Pam said shortly. “Besides, this isn’t anything he can fix. We’ve eliminated witchcraft. It’s time for your dear Grandpa to step it up.”
“Which is, I suppose, why you’ve summoned me?” Neither of them had felt or heard Niall’s arrival. He was wearing his formal suit and he didn’t look solicitous or pleased. “What is this emergency that couldn’t wait?”
“Look at her!” Pam snarled. “And what are you doing in my house?”
“You summoned me,” Niall drawled before giving Sookie a once over. “Why isn’t your vampire’s blood healing you?” he challenged, and then cut Sookie off by saying, “Never mind. I understand. Is this what you called me to repair?”
“What if it is?” Pam snarled, clearly willing to goad the King.
“Of course not!” and Sookie stepped between them. “It’s more than a fall. I’ve been seeing creatures…well, I guess it would be more like being stalked by creatures. I thought at first you might have sent them.”
“I’ve only sent Fergus,” Niall was starting to look thoughtful. “He tells me you are showing some progress, which surprises him, by the way. Most Fae are incapable of mimicking the powers of another, but I always knew you were special.”
“So special she’s been singled out by a banshee,” Pam’s eyebrow arched and for a minute she looked a lot like Eric at his most arrogant.
“Banshee?” Now, Niall did sit down and he gestured toward the chair opposite. Glancing at Pam, he ordered, “Leave me with my Granddaughter.”
“My friend may stay,” Sookie retorted, figuring she’d better intercede before Pam starting ordering, too.
Niall waved his hand as if it were no big thing, and then leaned forward, “Tell me about this banshee. Where did you encounter her?” Sookie told the Seelie about that day. When she mentioned the Killary cottage, Niall surprised her be asking, “Do you want it?”
Sookie’s mouth dropped open. She was about to say that the cottage belonged to Breandan, but then she didn’t. ‘To the victor go the spoils,’ she thought. “No,” she said aloud. “Thanks, but too many memories.”
Niall nodded, and then started asking questions about what Sookie had seen. When she mentioned the banshee touched her, Niall sat back, “Well, it’s not a banshee, I’m afraid.”
“No, that’s what she told me! I remember!” Sookie protested.
“You may have noticed that some Fae are able to lie,” and Niall leaned closer. “No, not a banshee. I believe you have seen the Leann Sidhe.”
“The…” And Sookie tried to wrap her tongue around the syllables.
“She usually approaches men.” Niall appeared deep in thought. “She must have been compelled to find you by someone quite powerful.”
“You think she was sent?” Pam asked.
“Yes, and her coming brings mischief,” Niall confirmed. “What else?”
Pam told Niall about the merrow scent under the Goat House in Slievemore, then Sookie told her Grandfather about each of the accidents and pratfalls she’d experienced. “Octavia says its not a curse,” Sookie concluded.
Niall nodded and then stood, gesturing that Sookie should do the same. He wrapped her in his arms and breathed into her face. Pam’s eyes narrowed, and even Sookie could see what looked like a vapor surrounding her. “Ill wish, indeed,” her Grandfather mumbled. He seemed to grow very bright and Sookie felt a burning sensation, and then it was as if claws let go. “There!” Niall exclaimed, releasing her quickly. “That should do it.”
“That’s it?” Sookie asked, looking at her now-healed palms.
“You couldn’t have managed it on your own,” and Niall waved his hand. “What I don’t understand is who might have done this.”
“Breandan is a possibility.” Pam’s arms were crossed and she let Sookie explain.
“I will look into it,” Niall promised, “but for now, I must go.” He kissed Sookie’s forehead, “I am most proud of you. Your status among the vampires has made things easier among your own. If you tire of this life, I may be able to offer you a place among your own kind.”
“What does that mean?” Sookie asked.
“The Northman seems fond of leaving you alone,” Niall wore a slight smile. “He doesn’t maintain your bond as he should, or your injuries would have healed. There is no reason for you to remain with…”
“He’s working!” Sookie protested. “We are both busy people! I have my jobs…”
“Yes,” Niall cut her off. “Very busy and he trusts you? Enough to tell you where he is?”
“Scotland,” Sookie replied. Her chin was forward, “Eric and I have no secrets!” she proclaimed. “I trust him!”
“I can see you do,” Niall nodded, but Sookie saw his eyes meet Pam’s and Sookie felt her old doubts return.