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.
“Whoa!” Peter, one of Sarah’s twin sons, stood up from the kitchen table as Rick flew down the back staircase. He stepped in front of Rick, bodily blocking the boy’s head-long rush toward the dining room. Rick came up short and lifted his hand to hide his mouth, but Peter had already seen enough. Sarah’s son stepped forward and pulled the Rick’s hand away. “Wow, Chub!” he whistled softly, “Are those real?”
Peter and his brother, Seth, had known Rick since the day he arrived in Chester with his mother. It was the twins who nicknamed Rick ‘Chub,’ because as a baby Rick had been so big. No one really called Rick that name anymore, but just hearing it made Rick feel better somehow. Of everyone he knew, Seth and Peter were as close to brothers as Rick had. As soon as he was able to toddle after them, Rick had made a habit of haunting the twins’ footsteps. He ran after them into the woods, crying out for them to wait up. When the twins got older, Rick spied on them, making noise and interrupting their first dates.
Most of that changed when the twins transferred to Morris for high school. Seth was the athletic one and his crowd didn’t have much tolerance for a persistent, pesky adolescent. It was Peter who remained Rick’s more regular companion. Part of the reason they remained as close as they did was their mutual love of music.
Both Peter and Rick had an almost uncanny natural musical ability. They could coax tunes from any number of instruments, most without needing any instruction on how to play. When you listened to them, it was clear that Rick was the more technical musician. Sookie’s son was precise and the music he preferred had clean, logical progressions. Peter’s style was something else; a cross between bluegrass, fusion, and jazz.
In the years before the twins left for college, Rick spent hours either playing with Peter or listening to Peter play with others. When Peter and Seth did leave, Rick told his mother that Peter’s absence was a gaping hole in the town bands and it made Rick sad.
That had been two years ago.
Seth traveled to New York City for college and majored in architecture. His mother told Sookie that she figured that child was lost to them forever. Seth assimilated into city life as if he’d been born to it. Although only a sophomore, he was already interning for an architectural design firm. Just getting him to agree to come back to Chester for holidays was a chore. ‘Captured by the Big City,’ Sarah sighed.
Peter went a different route. Peter was accepted to a prestigious school in Boston on full scholarship, but after a year and a half, he dropped out. The way he explained it to Rick over hand-rolled cigarettes and home-brewed ale was that the instruction on musical composition and teaching techniques was too confining. Peter had thrown up his hands in frustration as teacher after teacher tried to push him to capture what he heard in his head on to neatly drawn bar scales. What flowed from Peter’s quick mind was something so organic that even he himself couldn’t remember or repeat it once it was done. After less than one semester, Peter decided to shift his major from attending school to majoring in the city’s musical scene. He had no problem finding venues that welcomed his sitting in to standing gigs or playing solo. While it fed his soul, the scholarship wasn’t so forgiving of dropped classes and failing grades. The grant was revoked, and Peter returned to where he told everyone he belonged.
When his Mother’s friends asked, he explained he was more interested in living a simple life than getting a piece of paper to prove something he already knew: he could make music. Peter was perfectly happy living in Chester, leading the town Morris line and playing for the weekly dances in the basement of the town hall. Peter moved into the space above his Mother’s garage and he once more became part of Rick’s circle.
It wasn’t like before, though. There remained a distance between the musician and Rick. Part of the distance was the age difference. Rick was more his own person now and wasn’t so inclined to follow Peter in that blind fanboy way he once had. The other factor was George Hermosa.
George had become Rick’s best friend, united by age, classroom, and interests. The time they spent rock climbing together had built a trust between the two of them that delegated Peter to be a less influential role in Rick’s life.
For the most part, that suited both Rick and Peter fine. One of the changes college did make was Peter’s new tendency to silence. It was as if Peter had decided that words were worth more than money, he gave them out so sparingly. This new habit did have the effect of making people listen harder when the twin did talk, but it made reforming the close relationship that had once existed between Rick and Peter more difficult.
Still, there was the trust that came from having known each other almost all their lives. Rick knew that Peter would stand with him no matter what, and Sarah’s son now proved it once again.
Peter squinted and grabbing Rick’s chin, moved the younger boy’s head first to one side, and then the other. Peter leaned in, getting closer, his eyes at fang level. After a moment, he seemed to have made up his mind about something because he nodded and straightened up. “I always knew you were different,” he said. The twin glanced over his shoulder toward the dining room door. “There’s still a couple of those guests hanging out, jawing your Aunt Lora’s ear off. They’re out-towners and you know you can’t go out there looking like that!” Peter waved toward Rick’s mouth, “Sporting those will sure get peoples’ jaws moving around here. Folks would probably call a town hall just to talk about what to do about you.” Peter didn’t say it as if he was scared or angry. He was smiling as if Rick’s having fangs was some fine joke and his reaction helped Rick to calm down.
Rick lifted the cell phone that was grasped in his hand. “I think something’s happened to my Mom,” he lisped around his teeth.
Rick dropped the phone in his friend’s hand. Peter took it and pushing buttons, read the text, and ran his thumb over the screen once. Rick could tell he was thinking and he slipped into his head almost by instinct. What Rick found was that he couldn’t really read Peter. His friend’s thoughts seemed to jump around and there was music playing in the background of his brain in a way that made hearing what he was thinking almost impossible.
Peter looked up after a bit, “Do you know where your Mom is, Chub?”
Rick nodded, “Louisiana. I think she’s with Mr. Hermosa, George’s Dad.”
“Come on, then,” Peter turned him back toward the stairs, “Let’s get upstairs and make some phone calls. Someone will know something. We should start with George. If there’s one thing I know about boarding school parents, there’s always an emergency line. He’ll be able to get through.”
As they sat down and Rick thumbed down his list of contacts, he asked, “What if George doesn’t know anything?”
“Then who’s next on the list? I would have said to call your Aunt Fran, but Mom told me how things are. I’m real sorry.” Rick looked away, his chest aching as he thought about his Aunt so far away. Rick’s fingers flew, texting George, and asking him to call.
As they waited for George, Rick said, “I guess the next one would be Uncle Desmond. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to help, but he made a lot of the arrangements for this job, so he might know something.” The text came back telling them George was on the other line and would call back in a minute.
Peter held out his hand and Rick handed the phone over again. Peter was looking at the message Rick got from his Mother, “Go to your Father?” he asked. “You know who that is?”
“Yeah,” Rick sighed. “Yeah, I do.” Rick turned to the computer and pulled up his search engine. He typed in ‘Eric Northman image’ and turned the screen toward Peter. “That’s him. There isn’t a lot on the Internet about him, but George says that’s how they like it, vampires, I mean. They like to keep things on the down low.”
“So, if your Mom is in Louisiana, do you know where he is?” Peter asked, nodding toward the screen.
“Oklahoma, I think,” Rick answered. “What I found says he’s got businesses there, but it’s not real specific about where he lives or anything. There’s a couple pictures of him with his new wife, but I can’t even find her name. It’s like they barely exist.”
“Make it hard to drop in on him, then,” Peter said. Rick had the impression he was thinking, but Peter was silent so often now, it was hard to know.
After a bit, Rick said, “You handled the vampire thing pretty well.”
“Not the first time I’ve seen fangs,” Peter shrugged. “Boston had a fair number. Vampires really like music and I got to know a few. Not bad people and when they bite you…” and there was something about how Peter’s eyes darkened that let Rick know that the urges he was feeling were probably felt by other people, too. Peter seemed to realize where the conversation was heading and he gave Rick a direct look, “Let’s just say it doesn’t hurt, Chub. If you find you want to bite someone,” and he pointed at Rick’s mouth, “don’t worry. It’s not a bad thing.”
“Thanks,” Rick stammered, and he was saved from having to say anything more when the phone started ringing. “George,” Rick answered, “Do you know where your Dad is?”
“How did you know?” George said. “I just got off the phone with my Mom. She’s freaked out, and what’s really scary is she’s trying to hide it.”
“I’m putting you on speaker phone,” Rick interrupted. “Peter’s here. He’s going to help.”
Rick pushed the button and George said, “She kept telling me nothing’s wrong, but I have to stay put and watch out for Maddie and Frank. Then she said she’s going to stay with Gran and Pop-pop for a while in Mississippi. I asked if they were breaking up and she got all emotional. Not mad emotional. She was scared. I could tell.”
“I got a text from my Mom. It sounded like she was saying…” and Rick’s chest constricted. His eyes hurt. He couldn’t say the words.
“George, have you tried to call your Dad?” Peter asked.
“No, not yet. I’ll try right now and call you back,” and the line disconnected.
“You said your Uncle Desmond might know something?” Peter prompted Rick. “You have his number?”
“Not on the phone,” Rick said. “But my Mom has a number in her dresser drawer.”
“Why don’t you go get it?” Peter prompted. “I’ll stay here and answer if George calls back.”
It didn’t take long to run downstairs and then back up, but by the time Rick returned, George was back on the line. “There’s no answer from George’s Dad,” Peter told Rick.
“That’s not like him, either,” George confirmed. “Even when he’s in the middle of something, he always picks up just to tell me he’ll call back.”
“We need to go down there,” Rick said.
“What? Louisiana?” George asked. “I don’t even know where he’d be. He travels all over the state. He could be anywhere.”
“Well, isn’t there some place where they all report in to? My Mom said they were both working for some King. If there’s a King, there’s got to be a headquarters, right?”
Rick was spit-balling, but then George said, “You mean the Palace in New Orleans?”
Peter snort-laughed and Rick said, “Palace? Are you freaking kidding me?”
“No,” George huffed, “They have one. Dad had to go there to report from time to time. Sometimes he’d take Mom and they’d make a weekend out of it.”
“Look, George,” Peter spoke up, “It’s not late. You spend time here and it sounds like you two need to do some more talking. Grab an overnight bag and tell your house proctor that I’m coming over to get you. And do me a favor. Pack your school uniform.”
“What are you thinking?” Rick asked.
“Maybe nothing,” Peter told Rick, “but you never know. But while I’m gone, call your Uncle Desmond. See if he knows anything.”
Once Peter left, Rick sat on the bed and stared at the formal business card. There was a handwritten number on the back and that was the one he called. The number rang and rang. Rick figured that voice mail would pick up soon, but it didn’t. He just about gave up when a strained voice said, “Who is this?”
“Uncle Desmond?” Rick asked. “Is that you?”
“Rick!” and it was Uncle Desmond. It didn’t sound like him. He was almost hissing and his voice was tight. “How did you get this number?”
“From my Mother’s bedroom,” Rick answered, “Uncle Desmond, I think my Mom’s in trouble!”
“Why would you say that?” the attorney asked, but the way he said it didn’t sound as if he was ready to settle back for a chat. He sounded stressed, so Rick read him the text message.
“Should I go to Oklahoma to find my Father?” Rick asked.
“Don’t go there!” Mr. Cataliades snapped, and then he moderated his tone, “There’s no need to go to Oklahoma. Your Father isn’t there anymore.”
“Then where is he?” Rick asked.
“He’s here,” the attorney answered, “But, Rick, I don’t’ think it’s a good idea to come here either. There’s been some trouble. I have a few things I have to sort out, but as soon as I convince people here whose side I’m on, I will find out what happened to your Mother.” There was a growl on the phone and it sounded like a scuffle of some kind. “I will call you back,” Mr. Cataliades said quickly and the connection was gone.
Peter and George were walking up the stairs and Rick told them what Uncle Desmond said. “I knew it!” George exclaimed. “My Mom sounded scared.”
“You think your Uncle Desmond is going to be able to find your Mom?” Peter asked.
“I don’t know,” Rick was starting to feel overwhelmed. “He sounded like he was in trouble, too.”
“Trouble for vampires usually means final death,” George added, and both Rick and Peter turned to stare at him. “I’m serious!” George protested. “I know my Dad was involved in at least one vampire killing. They don’t see it the same way we do. Maybe it’s because they’re already dead, I don’t know!”
“Well, I’m not dead and I’m a vampire!” Rick said.
“Not really,” Peter said in a way that could have been them discussing the cost of coffee. When Rick looked as if he’d protest, Peter held up his hand. “I don’t know what you are,” he told Rick, “but you aren’t the usual, run of the mill vampire.”
Rick thought for a minute, “There’s a Supe doctor in Boston who looked at me. She called me a Damphir.” George’s head fell forward as his fingers flew over his phone.
“Wow!” he said after a minute. “That makes you half vampire.”
“See?” Peter nodded, “Like I said. But I guess the question you boys have to answer is what you want to do. You can sit here and wait, or you can figure out what you can do to find out about your parents.”
“You have a plan?” Rick asked.
“From what I’ve seen, the two of you have balls of steel. Wouldn’t catch me dangling from ropes up those rock faces. And you team pretty well.” He turned to George, “You think those vampires in the Palace would know where your Father is?”
George nodded, “Vampires are real tight. They watch out for one another and they seem to know each other’s business. If my Dad is in trouble, they’ll know.”
“And you’re sure your Mom is with George’s Dad?” Peter asked Rick.
Rick looked at George, who nodded. “Yeah, they’re both working for the same guy and they were supposed to be together on this job.”
“Then I think you should go down to New Orleans and ask for help at that Palace,” Peter shrugged.
“Whoa!” George said, “Just like that? I mean, how would we even get down there?”
“Train,” Peter shrugged again. “Planes are faster, but there’d be a lot of questions with you two riding alone. Chances are there’d be some connecting flight and there’d be more questions. Buses would be the same thing. They’d expect someone older to be traveling with you. But trains? Once we get you tickets, no one would question you, and we know the people at the station. You boys wear your school uniforms and I give you a cover story? You’d be in New Orleans in two days.”
“I don’t know…” George was saying.
“You think it’s possible?” Rick asked.
“I know it is, Chub. Then all you have to do is figure out where this Palace place is, and you can walk in and ask. Once you’re there, they can’t turn you away.” He looked at George, “And if they’re as clannish as you say, all you need to do is declare yourself as your Father’s son and they’d probably be duty-bound to help you.”
“They are pretty much all about honor and duty,” George was starting to warm up to the idea. George’s fingers started moving again, “I’m not coming up with anything about vampire palace in New Orleans. It’s a big city. How would we find it?”
“I can probably help there,” Rick said. “I can’t explain it, but I kind of know where vampires are. It’s like seeing them in my head. If we get down there, I can just scan around for where the most vampires are located, and chances are that would be the Palace, right?”
Rick and George stared at each other for a long moment. “Someone will notice we’re missing,” he said.
“Not right away,” Peter shrugged. He stepped over to Rick’s laptop and started pulling up train schedules. “If I get you through the station here by seven tomorrow morning, you’ll be in the city and on the next train to New Orleans. I can get you guys a sleeper cabin. Tomorrow is Wednesday. That means Stu is at the station. He sees you school kids going through the station all the time. I know they bend the rules for the rich boarding kids. Shouldn’t be any problem at all to get you two on board.”
George took a deep breath, “Are we doing this?” he asked.
“You bet!” Rick said. “Let’s go down there and figure out what the hell’s going on!”
Eric Northman stood at the large, light-tight window that looked out across the Canal. He held his arm away from him, allowing the slowly, seeping blood to drip into the wastebasket. It was over. The fight was won.
De Castro had proven tougher to defeat than anyone anticipated, but Eric wasn’t surprised. He’d suspected the foolish trappings the Nevada King draped around himself were meant to disguise his true self. Felipe had moved with surprising speed, his rapier dancing so quickly it was almost impossible to follow its progress with the eye. Eric had to watch the fighter instead, anticipating attacks from his enemy’s movements. It was a strategy that took some time to settle into and during those first minutes, Eric took damage.
His arm was opened from his shoulder to his elbow. At one point, De Castro knocked him down and fastened his fangs in Eric’s neck, ripping and tearing. The King scraped furrows of skin from Eric’s face with his fingernails, trying to gouge out the Viking’s eye. Eric endured. It was a level of fighting and fury that he was familiar with; something he had experienced in his past.
When the tides turned, it was decisive. Eric swept his heavy sword down, separating the King’s arm from his body close to his shoulder, and then swept horizontally, severing the King’s body neatly in half. De Castro’s lips were still moving when his body turned to dust.
Around him, the sounds of battle continued. Even now, almost an hour later, Eric could hear the clang of metal on metal and the occasional, shrill battle cry. Soon, those sounds would fade, replaced by the cries and screams of the defeated. Eric promised no mercy for two nights. For two nights, revenge and retribution would reign, and near dawn on the rising of the third day, Eric would call an end and his victory would be complete.
It was their way. It was how vampires had conducted their affairs for centuries, but Eric found he was troubled. He glanced at the wound on his arm. It still was not fully healed. He would need donors.
“Have you called Russell yet?” Pam asked from the door.
“No,” Eric replied. “Not yet.” His daughter walked up beside him and looked at his arm. In an instant, she was gone, and after a time, she returned with two women. They were not unattractive, but their fear reduced their appeal. “Find me Royalty,” he told her.
“Don’t be stupid!” Pam snapped, and she cruelly grabbed first one and then the other, glamouring them into compliance.
Now, the women turned back to Eric, their faces dreamy, and they wrapped their arms around him, caressing. It didn’t seem right to him, not best, but Eric lowered his head to first one and then the other, drinking from their necks. He became hard. It was inevitable, and the women stroked him. “Enough!” Eric growled and pushed them away. “Take them someplace safe and heal them, Pam,” he ordered. Seeing his daughter’s worried expression, he modulated his voice, “All’s well! I thank you for the gift of blood. It helped. I have much to consider. When you have taken care of yourself and things are more settled, return here. We should talk.”
Pam nodded eagerly, and without another word, took the arms of the glamoured donors and left.
Eric knew Pam didn’t understand his reaction. She had been living here, first under Sophie-Ann, then under Felipe de Castro. They were rulers who lived in the old way, where vampires ruled and everyone else was secondary to their needs. Eric realized his attitudes in that regard had changed.
Sookie Stackhouse kick-started his journey. She insisted that he see other races as having value. It was a notion he already held, but it was his interaction with her that accelerated that learning. He found his relationships with Weres improved and he found he enjoyed interacting with humans. Even the Fae had their uses, and although he didn’t trust them, he was one of the few vampires whom Sookie’s Great-Grandfather, Niall Brigant, had visited and called friend when the Fae Ruler was still in this world.
Living in Oklahoma took him even further down the road. Freyda was young enough that some of the crueler aspects of vampire life had never touched her. She had never experienced the arrogance that allowed vampires to wipe out whole villages, or enthrall dozens of children and young people as blood slaves. Her reality was one of skillful détente, and then mainstreaming. She had good relations and as a result, Eric didn’t see the usual prejudice and fear that humans felt in interacting with vampires when he lived in her kingdom. She had been on the throne long enough that those who did remember her predecessor had died, and Freyda carefully fostered the idea that the old ways were more Hollywood than reality.
There was another scream, someone meeting their end. Eric knew he wanted the life here that he had lived in Oklahoma. He wanted this place to become an enlightened kingdom where things were civilized and all species felt safe interacting with each other. Eric knew that somehow that would lead to prosperity for all of them, but for now, he felt his age, and he felt the weight of every cruel act he had ever committed, both on his own and at the bidding of his Maker. The ability to make something shining rise from the blood that was on the floors and walls of this Palace seemed too much a dream tonight, one that was unlikely to ever be reality.
And then Eric thought of Sookie. He remembered her smile in Denver. He remembered her telling him she loved him. “Where are you, Lover?” he asked out loud. Eric shook his head; it was foolish thinking about it. Sookie Stackhouse was somewhere far away, ‘North,’ Karin told him. She was probably married. She had a child. She had a life that didn’t include the bloodshed and violence that surrounded him now, and Eric knew he loved her too dearly to ever ask her to put aside her normal life and come back to this.
Sookie opened her eyes. It was dark, but she could tell she was in a car and it was moving. Her head hurt. “You’re awake?” It was Rubio’s voice, and Sookie tried to push herself up. She was lying on the backseat of a car and she could smell that someone had been sick. She thought it might have been her.
“What happened?” she slurred.
“I got you out of there,” Rubio told her. “I’m going to pull over in a minute. We can try to get you cleaned up.”
It hurt to sit up. There was a coat on the floor of the car in front of where she’d been lying and there was vomit on it. There was some on the car seat, too, and Sookie could still taste the bile. “Do you have some water?” she asked.
Rubio walked to the trunk of the car while Sookie gingerly picked up the coat and threw it into the bushes. Rubio returned with two bottles of water and another of True Blood. He leaned heavily against the car and when Sookie struggled with the cap on the water bottle, he set his bottle of blood on the trunk and twisted it off for her. Sookie’s eyes were adjusting and she could see all wasn’t well with Rubio.
“You’re hurt,” she said.
“Angie was determined. The wounds are sealed, but I am weakened.” He finished the bottle and threw it into the bushes as well.
“You need blood,” Sookie told him. “Where are we going?”
“I don’t know,” he told her, then shrugged. “The vampires who came for you were no one I know. Indira knew my secret…”
“That you were a spy for someone else?” Sookie guessed.
She was rewarded with the vampire’s quick grin, “For your vampire, to be specific,” he told her. “I’ve been Eric Northman’s since the day I met him. That didn’t change.”
“What happened?” Sookie asked.
“Haven’t you guessed?” Rubio looked out into the darkness of the woods surrounding them. “It was a takeover.”
“Who?” Sookie gasped.
“Eric Northman!” Rubio was smiling again. “He came into the state yesterday. I’m assuming things are going well, but until everything’s settled and some kind of cease fire is declared, I’m a target, just like you.”
“Because we’re Felipe’s people,” Sookie nodded. She looked at Rubio, “What about Lily?”
“Indira has her,” Rubio replied. “She’s escorting her to Lily’s parents in Mississippi. Indira’s going to have to lie low, too, until everything gets sorted out. Pam’s already in New Orleans.” He glanced up at the sky, “In the meantime, we need to find a place to hide out.”
Sookie remembered the conversation she’d had with Mr. Cataliades before she left for this trip. “How far are we from Bon Temps? I’m pretty sure my old house is open and Desmond told me there are wards and other protections in place there.”
“Do you still own it?” Rubio asked.
“No,” Sookie shook her head, “but Desmond said my key will still work. He was very sure.”
“Interesting,” Rubio’s eyes narrowed, and Sookie could tell he was in some pain. “I don’t think we’re far. Do you remember the way?”
“I would if I knew where we were,” Sookie grinned. “Rubio, I can see you’re hurting. Why don’t you take some of my blood? It will be…”
“No!” Rubio shook his head. “No, thank you. I’ll survive. It’s…well, I promised Lily I wouldn’t feed from anyone but her. It’s a vow I’ve kept and I’d like to keep doing it.”
“I understand,” Sookie laid her hand on the vampire’s arm. “You’re lucky to have someone in your life you feel that strongly about.”
“I am lucky in many ways,” Rubio told her. “So are you.”
They got into the car and Sookie looked around for her purse. “I guess my purse didn’t get picked up,” she sighed.
Rubio looked at her, then chuckled, “No, I have to say that in the rush to save our lives, I did forget your bag.”
“No big thing,” Sookie chuckled in return. “Do you have your phone? I should text Rick and let him know I’m okay.” Rubio pulled his phone from his pocket and handed it over. Sookie glanced down and said, “I think your battery is dead.”
Rubio took the phone back and pushed the power button a couple times. The first time he got a low power message and the second there was no message at all. “Where’s the charger?” Sookie asked.
“I lost it,” Rubio sighed.
“Well, maybe we can find a store between here and Bon Temps that sells chargers. Let’s get somewhere safe and come up with a plan.” Sookie’s head was throbbing, but she figured Rubio had problems of his own. “You sure you don’t want me to drive?” she asked.
“I’m stronger than I look,” he told her, but Sookie noticed he drove slower than usual.
Once they reached the highway, Sookie was able to direct them. It took another twenty minutes to reach Bon Temps, The Kwickie-Mart that used to be open along the way was boarded up and there were no other stores open. Sookie wasn’t sure how late it was, but she was pretty sure dawn was coming. As they pulled up the driveway, Sookie wondered if she’d be able to invite Rubio inside, or if he’d be stuck digging into the ground somewhere until sunset tomorrow. Rubio must have been wondering the same thing, because he lingered near the car when she went up on the porch.
Mr. Cataliades had been right. Her old key fit in the deadbolt and the door swung open. Sookie automatically reached into the house to turn on the light switch and the outside lights blazed to life. “Well, come on in, Rubio,” she said. Rubio didn’t look too confident as he started up the stairs, but to the amazement of both of them, he was able to walk right into the house. “I wonder what that means?” Sookie asked.
“It means either you still own the house, or the owner is a vampire,” Rubio replied.
All the furniture was still in place, and the hiding hole that Eric had enlarged was still there, too. Rubio laughed when he saw it. What wasn’t so funny was that there was no food and no phone charger. Sookie wondered if Merlotte’s was still open, and then, just as quickly dismissed the idea.
“We could ask Bill Compton for help,” Rubio suggested. “He still lives here. He would have a phone charger and blood. He probably won’t have food…”
“I can survive until morning,” Sookie scoffed. “Do you think he’d help us?”
“I can’t think why he wouldn’t,” Rubio shrugged.
“Rick must be out of his mind, worrying,” Sookie couldn’t think about what her son must be thinking and she wondered if he was already coming up with some crazy scheme.
“I could drive over and come back,” Rubio offered.
“I’d better come, too,” Sookie replied. “Like you said, folks around here might still think you’re working for Felipe. Bill was never a fan. If he sees me, he’ll hesitate long enough to let us talk.
Sookie decided to leave the porch light on, but she left the door unlocked before they walked back to the car. It wasn’t a long drive and Sookie was relieved to see lights on at Bill’s house. Over the years Bill had made improvements. The paint was fresh and although it still retained the look of an older, antique house, it didn’t look run down in any way. The lawn was neatly clipped and there were flower pots swaying between the columns.
Together, Rubio and Sookie walked up on the porch and Sookie knocked on the door. It opened so swiftly, Sookie wondered if Bill had been watching them this whole time. “Sookie!” Bill hissed. “You’re here!”
“Can we come in?” Sookie asked. “I have a favor to ask you and I don’t want to do it standing outside.” Bill stepped back, allowing them both to walk past him. Sookie saw that the inside of the house had been renovated, too. It was a little too fancy for her taste, but she figured Bill might have hired someone. “I have been dreaming about you coming here,” Bill was intently watching Sookie, “Ever since I saw you at the Summit. I am so glad you have returned.”
“I haven’t exactly returned,” Sookie was starting to get a little uncomfortable with the way Bill was looking at her, his eyes fixed and his fangs just behind his lip. “You may have heard there was a takeover…”
“No!” Bill exclaimed. “No, I haven’t. Who won?”
“We don’t know,” Rubio replied. “We need to get in touch with our families. Do you have a phone charger I can borrow?” and he held up his dead phone.
“Of course,” Bill nodded, “Come this way,” and he gestured to Rubio to precede him into an office that was just to the side of the front hall. “It’s over there on the desk,” Bill said. As Rubio leaned over to pick it up, Bill struck him with some kind of stick he’d been holding, driving it deep into Rubio’s back.
Sookie screamed and turned to run to the front door, but she didn’t even get the knob turned before Bill was on her. “Don’t worry, Sweetheart,” he whispered as he crushed her wrist. Sookie heard a bone snap and then the pain started to blossom up her arm. “Don’t worry,” he repeated. “I’m going to fix everything now and you don’t ever need to worry about being taken from me again.”