From Dead to Worse
Chapter 15

 Charlaine Harris

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I slept very late the next day. And I slept like a stone. I didn't dream. I didn't toss or turn. I didn't get up to pee. When I woke up, it was close to noon, so it was good I didn't have to be at Merlotte's until evening.
I could hear voices in the living room. This was the downside of having a roommate. There was someone there when you woke up, and sometimes that person had company. However, Amelia was very good about making enough coffee for me when she got up earlier. That prospect got me out of bed.
I had to get dressed since we had company; besides, the other voice sounded masculine. I did a little brisk grooming in the bathroom and threw off my nightgown. I put on a bra and a T-shirt and some khakis. Good enough. I made a beeline for the kitchen and found that Amelia had indeed made a big pot of coffee. And she'd left a mug ready for me. Oh, great. I poured, and popped some sourdough bread in the toaster. The back porch door slammed, and I turned in surprise to see Tyrese Marley enter with an armful of firewood.
"Where do you keep your wood after you bring it in?" he asked.
"I have a rack by the fireplace in the living room." He'd been splitting the wood Jason had cut and stacked by the toolshed the spring before. "That's really nice of you," I said, floundering. "Um, have you had any coffee, or some toast? Or..." I glanced at the clock. "What about a ham or meatloaf sandwich?"
"Food sounds good," he said, striding down the hall as though the wood weighed nothing.
So the guest in the living room was Copley Carmichael. Why Amelia's dad was here, I had no clue. I scrambled to assemble a couple of sandwiches, poured some water, and put two kinds of chips by his plate so Marley could pick what he wanted. Then I sat down at the table myself and finally got to drink my coffee and eat my toast. I still had some of my grandmother's plum jam to spread on it, and I tried not to be melancholy every time I used it. No point in letting good jam go to waste. She would have certainly looked at it that way.
Marley returned and sat down opposite me with no sign of discomfort. I relaxed myself.
"I appreciate the work," I said after he'd had a bite of his food.
"I got nothing else to do while he talks to Amelia," Marley said. "Plus, if she's still here all winter, he'll be glad if she can have a fire. Who cut that wood for you and didn't split it?"
"My brother," I said.
"Humph," Marley said, and settled into eating.
I finished my toast, poured myself a second mug of coffee, and asked Marley if he needed anything.
"I'm good, thank you," he said, and opened the bag of barbecue potato chips.
I excused myself to take a shower. It was definitely cooler today, and I got a long-sleeved T-shirt out of a drawer I hadn't opened in months. It was Halloween weather. It was past time to buy a pumpkin and some candy... not that I got many trick-or-treaters. For the first time in days, I felt normal: that is to say, comfortably happy with myself and my world. There was a lot to grieve about, and I would, but I wasn't walking around expecting a smack in the face.
Of course, the minute I thought that, I began to brood on bad things. I realized I hadn't heard anything from the Shreveport vampires, and then I wondered why I thought I should or would. This period of adjustment from one regime to another had to be full of tension and negotiation, and it was best to leave them to it. I hadn't heard from the Weres of Shreveport, either. Since the investigation into the disappearance of all those people was still active, that was a good thing.
And since I'd just broken up with my boyfriend, that meant (theoretically) I was footloose and fancy-free. I put on eye makeup as a gesture toward my freedom. And then I added some lipstick. It was hard to feel adventurous, actually. I hadn't wanted to be fancy-free.
As I finished making my bed, Amelia knocked at my door.
"Come on in," I said, folding my nightgown and putting it in the drawer. "What's up?"
"Well, my father has a favor to ask you," she said.
I could feel my face settle into grim lines. Of course, there had to be something Copley wanted if he'd driven up from New Orleans to talk to his daughter. And I could imagine what that request was.
"Go on," I said, crossing my arms over my chest.
"Oh, Sookie, your body language is already saying no!"
"Ignore my body and speak your piece."
She heaved a big sigh to indicate how reluctant she was to drag me into her dad's stuff. But I could tell she was tickled pink that he'd asked her to help him. "Well, since I told him about the Vegas vampire takeover, he wants to reestablish his business link with the vampires. He wants an introduction. He was hoping you could, like, broker that."
"I don't even know Felipe de Castro."
"No, but you know that Victor. And he looks like he's got his eyes on his own advancement."
"You know him as well as I do," I pointed out.
"Maybe, but what's more important is that he knows who you are, and I'm just the other woman in the room," Amelia said, and I could see her point - though I hated it. "I mean, he knows who I am, who my dad is, but he really noticed you."
"Oh, Amelia," I moaned, and for just a moment felt like kicking her.
"I know you won't like this, but he said he was ready to pay, like, a finder's fee," Amelia muttered, looking embarrassed.
I waved my hands in front of me to fan that thought away. I was not going to let my friend's father pay me money to make a phone call or whatever I had to do. At that moment I knew I'd decided I had to do this for Amelia's sake.
We went to the living room to talk face-to-face with Copley.
He greeted me with far more enthusiasm than he'd shown on his previous visit. He fixed his gaze on me, did the whole "I'm focused on you" thing. I regarded him with a skeptical eye. Since he was no fool, he picked up on that immediately.
"I'm sorry, Miss Stackhouse, for intruding here so soon after my last visit," he said, laying on the smarm. "But things in New Orleans are so desperate. We're trying to rebuild to bring the jobs back in. This connection is really important to me, and I employ a lot of people."
One, I didn't think Copley Carmichael was hurting for business even without the contracts for rebuilding the vampire properties. Two, I didn't for a minute think his sole motivation was the improvement of the damaged city; but after a moment of looking into his head, I was willing to concede that accounted for at least a fraction of his urgency.
Also, Marley had split the wood for the winter and carried a load in. That counted for more with me than any appeal based on emotion.
"I'll call Fangtasia tonight," I said. "I'll see what they say. That's the limit of my involvement."
"Miss Stackhouse, I'm indeed indebted," he said. "What can I do for you?"
"Your chauffeur already did it," I said. "If he could finish splitting that oak, that would be a great favor." I'm not a very good wood splitter, and I know because I've tried. Three or four logs done, and I'm wiped out.
"That's what he's been doing?" Copley did a good job of looking astonished. I wasn't sure if it was genuine or not. "Well, how enterprising of Marley."
Amelia was smiling and trying not to let her dad notice it. "Okay, then we're settled," she said briskly. "Dad, can I fix you a sandwich or soup? We have some chips or some potato salad."
"Sounds good," he said, since he was still trying to be just plain folks.
"Marley and I have already eaten," I said casually, and added, "I need to run to town, Amelia. You need anything?"
"I could use some stamps," she said. "You going by the post office?"
I shrugged. "It's on the way. Bye, Mr. Carmichael."
"Call me Cope, please, Sookie."
I'd just known he was going to say that. Next he was going to try being courtly. Sure enough, he smiled at me with exactly the right blend of admiration and respect.
I got my purse and headed out the back door. Marley was still working on the woodpile in his shirtsleeves. I hoped that had been his very own idea. I hoped he got a raise.
I didn't really have anything to do in town. But I had wanted to dodge any further conversation with Amelia's dad. I stopped by the store and got some more paper towels, bread, and tuna, and I stopped by the Sonic and got an Oreo Blast. Oh, I was a bad girl, no doubt about it. I was sitting in my car working on the Blast when I spied an interesting couple two cars away. They hadn't noticed me, apparently, because Tanya and Arlene were talking steadily. The two were in Tanya's Mustang. Arlene's hair was newly colored, so it was flaming red to the roots, caught up at the back in a banana clip. My former friend was wearing a tiger-print knit top, all I could see of her ensemble. Tanya was wearing a pretty lime green blouse and a dark brown sweater. And she was listening intently.
I tried to believe they were talking about something other than me. I mean, I try not to be too paranoid. But when you see your ex-buddy talking to your known enemy, you have to at least entertain the possibility that the topic of you has come up in an unflattering way.
It wasn't so much that they didn't like me. I've known people all my life who didn't like me. I've known exactly why and how much they didn't like me. That's really unpleasant, as you can well imagine. What bothered me was that I thought Arlene and Tanya were moving into the realm of actually doing something to me.
I wondered what I could find out. If I moved closer, they'd definitely notice me, but I wasn't sure I could "hear" them from where I was. I bent over like I was fiddling with my CD player, and I focused on them. I tried to mentally skip over or plow through the people in the intervening cars to reach them, which wasn't an easy task.
Finally, the familiar pattern of Arlene helped me to home in. The first impression I got was one of pleasure. Arlene was enjoying herself immensely, since she had the undivided attention of a fairly new audience and she was getting to talk about her new boyfriend's convictions about the need to kill all vampires and maybe people who collaborated with them. Arlene had no hard convictions that she'd formed for herself, but she was great at adopting other people's if they suited her emotionally.
When Tanya had an especially strong surge of exasperation, I zoomed in on her thought pattern. I was in. I remained in my half-concealed position, my hand moving every now and then over the CDs in my little car folder, while I tried to pick out everything I could.
Tanya was still in the pay of the Pelts: Sandra Pelt, specifically. And gradually I came to understand that Tanya had been sent here to do anything she could to make me miserable.
Sandra Pelt was the sister of Debbie Pelt, whom I'd shot to death in my kitchen. (After she'd tried to kill me. Several times. Let me point that out.)
Dammit. I was sick to death of the issue of Debbie Pelt. The woman had been a bane to me alive. She had been as malicious and vindictive as her little sister, Sandra. I'd suffered over her death, felt guilty, felt remorseful, felt like I had a huge C for "Cain" on my forehead. Killing a vampire is bad enough, but the corpse goes away and they're sort of... erased. Killing another human being changes you forever.
That's how it ought to be.
But it's possible to grow sick of that feeling, tired of that albatross around your emotional neck. And I'd grown both sick and tired of Debbie Pelt. Then her sister and her parents had begun giving me grief, had had me kidnapped. The tables had turned, and I'd held them in my power. In return for me letting them go, they'd agreed to leave me alone. Sandra had promised to stay away until her parents died. I had to wonder if the elder Pelts were still among the living.
I started up my car and began cruising around Bon Temps, waving at familiar faces in almost every vehicle I passed. I had no idea what to do. I stopped at the little town park and got out of my car. I began to stroll, my hands jammed in my pockets. My head was all in a snarl.
I remembered the night I'd confessed to my first lover, Bill, that my great-uncle had molested me when I'd been a child. Bill had taken my story so to heart that he had arranged for a visitor to drop by my great-uncle's house. Lo and behold, my uncle had died from a fall down the stairs. I'd been furious at Bill for taking over my own past. But I couldn't deny that having my great-uncle dead had felt good. That profound relief had made me feel complicit in the assassination.
When I'd been trying to find survivors in the twisted debris of the Pyramid of Gizeh, I'd found someone still living, a vampire who wanted to keep me firmly under his control for the queen's benefit. Andre had been terribly wounded, but he would have lived if an injured Quinn hadn't crawled over and snuffed Andre out. I'd walked away without stopping Quinn or saving Andre, and that had made me several degrees more guilty of Andre's death than of my great-uncle's.
I strode through the empty park, kicking at the stray leaves that came my way. I was struggling with a sick temptation. I had only to say the word to any of many members of the supernatural community, and Tanya would be dead. Or I could set my sights on the source and have Sandra taken out. And again - what a relief her departure from the world would be.
I just couldn't do it.
But I couldn't live with Tanya nipping at my heels, either. She'd done her best to ruin my brother's already shaky relationship with his wife. That was just wrong.
I finally thought of the right person to consult. And she lived with me, so that was convenient.
When I got back to my house, Amelia's dad and his obliging chauffeur had departed. Amelia was in the kitchen, washing dishes.
"Amelia," I said, and she jumped. "Sorry," I apologized. "I should've walked heavier."
"I was hoping that my dad and I understood each other a little better," she confessed. "But I don't think that's really true. He just needs me to do something for him now and then."
"Well, at least we got the firewood split."
She laughed a little and dried off her hands. "You look like you have something big to say."
"I want to clear the decks before I tell you this long story. I'm doing your dad a favor, but I'm really doing it for you," I said. "I'll call Fangtasia for your father no matter what, because you're my roommate and that'll make you happy. So that's a done deal. Now I'm going to tell you about a terrible thing I did."
Amelia sat at the table and I sat opposite her, just like Marley and I had done earlier. "This sounds interesting," she said. "I'm ready. Bring it on."
I told Amelia all about it: Debbie Pelt, Alcide, Sandra Pelt and her parents, their vow that Sandra would never bother me again while they lived. What they had on me and how I felt about it. Tanya Grissom, spy and sneak and saboteur of my brother's marriage.
"Whoa," she said when I'd finished. She thought for a minute. "Okay, first off, let's check on Mr. and Mrs. Pelt." We used the computer I'd brought back from Hadley's apartment in New Orleans. It took all of five minutes to discover that Gordon and Barbara Pelt had died two weeks before when they'd attempted to make a left turn into a gas station only to be hit broadside by a tractor trailer.
We looked at each other, our noses wrinkled. "Ewww," Amelia said. "Bad way to go."
"I wonder if she even waited till they were in the ground before she activated the Aggravate Sookie to Death plan," I said.
"This bitch isn't going to let up. You sure Debbie Pelt was adopted? Because this totally vindictive attitude seems to run in that family."
"They must have really bonded," I said. "In fact, I got the impression that Debbie was more of a sister to Sandra than she was a daughter to her parents."
Amelia nodded thoughtfully. "A little pathology going on there," she said. "Well, let me think about what I can do. I don't do death magic. And you've said you don't want Tanya and Sandra to die, so I'm taking you at your word."
"Good," I said briefly. "And, uh, I'm willing to pay for this, of course."
"Poo," Amelia said. "You were willing to take me in when I needed to get out of town. You've put up with me all this time."
"Well, you do pay rent," I pointed out.
"Yeah, enough to cover my part of the utilities. And you put up with me, and you don't seem to be all up in arms about the Bob situation. So believe me, I'm really glad to do this for you. I've just got to figure out what I'm actually going to do. Do you mind if I consult with Octavia?"
"No, not at all," I said, trying not to show that I was relieved at the idea of the older witch offering her expertise. "You got it, right? Got that she was at loose ends? Out of money?"
"Yeah," Amelia said. "And I don't know how to give her some without offering offense. This is a good way to do it. I understand that she's stuck in a random corner of the living room in the house of the niece she's staying with. She told me that - more or less - but I don't know what I can do about it."
"I'll think about it," I promised. "If she really, really needs to move out of her niece's, she could stay in my extra bedroom for a little while." That wasn't an offer that delighted me, but the old witch had seemed pretty miserable. She'd been entertained by going on the little jaunt to poor Maria-Star's apartment, which had been a ghastly sight.
"We'll try to come up with something long-term," Amelia said. "I'm going to go give her a call."
"Okay. Let me know what you-all come up with. I got to get ready for work."
There weren't too many houses between mine and Merlotte's, but all of them had ghosts hanging from trees, inflated plastic pumpkins in the yard, and a real pumpkin or two sitting on the front porch. The Prescotts had a sheaf of corn, a bale of hay, and some ornamental squash and pumpkins arranged artfully on the front lawn. I made a mental memo to tell Lorinda Prescott how attractive it was when next I saw her at Wal-Mart or the post office.
By the time I got to work, it was dark. I got out my cell phone to call Fangtasia before I went inside.
"Fangtasia, the bar with a bite. Come into Shreveport's premier vampire bar, where the undead do their drinking every single night," said a recording. "For bar hours, press one. To schedule a private party, press two. To speak to a live human or a dead vampire, press three. And know this: prank calls are not tolerated. We will find you."
I was sure the voice was Pam's. She'd sounded remarkably bored. I pressed three.
"Fangtasia, where all your undead dreams come true," said one of the fangbangers. "This is Elvira. How may I direct you?"
Elvira, my ass. "This is Sookie Stackhouse. I need to speak with Eric," I said.
"Could Clancy help you?" Elvira asked.
Elvira seemed stumped.
"The master is very busy," she said, as if that would be hard for a human like me to understand.
Elvira was definitely a newbie. Or maybe I was getting kind of arrogant. I was irritated with "Elvira."
"Listen," I said, trying to sound pleasant. "You get Eric on the phone in two minutes or he'll be mighty unhappy with you."
"Well," Elvira said. "You don't have to be a bitch about it."
"Evidently I do."
"I'm putting you on hold," Elvira said viciously. I glanced at the employee door of the bar. I needed to hustle.
Click. "This is Eric," he said. "Is this my former lover?"
Okay, even that made things inside me thud and shiver in excitement. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," I said, proud of how unshaken I sounded. "Listen, Eric, for what it's worth, I had a visit today from a New Orleans bigwig named Copley Carmichael. He'd been involved with Sophie-Anne in some business negotiations about rebuilding the headquarters. He wants to establish a relationship with the new regime." I took a deep breath. "Are you okay?" I asked, negating in one plaintive question all my cultivated indifference.
"Yes," he said, his voice intensely personal. "Yes, I am... coping with this. We are very, very lucky we were in a position to... We're very lucky."
I let out my breath very softly so he wouldn't pick up on it. Of course, he would anyway. I can't say I'd been on pins and needles wondering how things were going with the vampires, but I hadn't been resting very easy, either. "Okay, very good," I said briskly. "Now, about Copley. Is there anyone around who'd like to hook up with him about the construction stuff?"
"Is he in the area?"
"I don't know. He was here this morning. I can ask."
"The vampire I am working with now would probably be the right woman for him to approach. She could meet him at your bar or here at Fangtasia."
"Okay. I'm sure he'd do either one."
"Let me know. He needs to call here to set up an appointment. He should ask for Sandy."
I laughed. "Sandy, huh?"
"Yes," he said, sounding grim enough to sober me in a hurry. "She is not a bit funny, Sookie."
"Okay, okay, I get it. Let me call his daughter, she'll call him, he'll call Fangtasia, it'll all get set up, and I've done my favor for him."
"This is Amelia's father?"
"Yes. He's a jerk," I said. "But he's her dad, and I guess he knows his building stuff."
"I lay in front of your fire and talked to you about your life," he said.
Okay, way out of left field. "Uh. Yeah. We did that."
"I remember our shower together."
"We did that, too."
"We did so many things."
"Ah... yeah. Okay."
"In fact, if I didn't have so much to do here in Shreveport, I would be tempted to visit you all by myself to remind you how much you enjoyed those things."
"If memory serves," I said sharply, "you kind of enjoyed them, too."
"Oh, yes."
"Eric, I really need to go. I got to get to work." Or spontaneously combust, whichever came first.
"Good-bye." He could make even that sound sexy.
"Good-bye." I didn't.
It took me a second to gather my thoughts back together. I was remembering things I'd tried hard to forget. The days Eric had stayed with me - well, the nights - we'd done a lot of talking and a lot of sexing. And it had been wonderful. The companionship. The sex. The laughing. The sex. The conversations. The... well.
Somehow going in to serve beers seemed drab, all of a sudden.
But that was my job, and I owed it to Sam to show up and work. I trudged in, stowed my purse, and nodded to Sam as I tapped Holly on the shoulder to tell her I was here to take over. We switched shifts for the change and convenience but mostly because the night tips were higher. Holly was glad to see me because she had a date that night with Hoyt. They were going to a movie and dinner in Shreveport. She'd gotten a teenager to babysit Cody. She was telling me this as I was getting it from her contented brain, and I had to work hard not to get confused. That showed me how rattled I'd been by my conversation with Eric.
I was really busy for about thirty minutes, making sure everyone was well-supplied with drinks and food. I caught a moment to call Amelia soon after that to relay Eric's message, and she told me that she'd call her dad the minute she hung up. "Thanks, Sook," she said. "Again, you're a great roomie."
I hoped she'd think of that when she and Octavia were devising a magical solution to my Tanya problem.
Claudine came into Merlotte's that evening, raising male pulses as she sauntered to the bar. She was wearing a green silk blouse, black pants, and black high-heeled boots. That made her at least six foot one, I estimated. To my amazement, her twin brother, Claude, trailed in after her. The racing pulses spread to the opposite sex with the speed of wildfire. Claude, whose hair was as black as Claudine's, though not as long, was as lovely a hunk as ever posed in a Calvin Klein ad. Claude was wearing a masculine version of Claudine's outfit, and he'd tied his hair back with a leather thong. He was also wearing very "guy" boots. Since he stripped at a club in Monroe on ladies' night, Claude knew exactly how to smile at women, though he wasn't interested in them. I take that back. He was interested in how much money they had in their purses.
The twins had never come in together; in fact, I didn't recall Claude setting foot in Merlotte's before. He had his own place to run, his own fish to fry.
Of course I went over to say hi, and I got a comprehensive hug from Claudine. To my amazement, Claude followed suit. I figured he was playing to the audience, which was pretty much the whole bar. Even Sam was goggling; together, the fairy twins were overwhelming.
We stood at the bar with me sandwiched between them, each with an arm around me, and I heard brains light up all around the room with little fantasies, some of which startled even me, and I've seen the most bizarre things people can imagine. Yep, it's all there for lucky me to see in living color.
"We bring you greetings from our grandfather," Claude said. His voice was so quiet and liquid that I was sure no one else would be able to hear it. Possibly Sam could, but he was always good for discretion.
"He wonders why you haven't called," Claudine said, "especially considering the events of the other night, in Shreveport."
"Well, that was over with," I said, surprised. "Why tell him about something that had already turned out okay? You were there. But I did try to call him the other night."
"It rang once," Claudine murmured.
"However, a certain person broke my phone so I couldn't complete the call. He told me it was the wrong thing to do, that it would start a war. I lived through that, too. So that was okay."
"You need to talk to Niall, tell him the whole story," Claudine said. She smiled across the room at Catfish Hennessy, who put his beer mug down on the table so hard that it slopped over. "Now that Niall's made himself known to you, he wants you to confide in him."
"Why can't he pick up the phone like everyone else in the world?"
"He doesn't spend all his time in this world," Claude said. "There are still places for only our kind."
"Very small places," Claudine said longingly. "But very special."
I was glad to have kin, and I was always glad to see Claudine, who was literally my lifesaver. But the two sibs together were a little overpowering, overwhelming - and when they stood so close with me crowded between them (even Sam was having a visual from that), their sweet smell, the smell that made them so intoxicating to vampires, was drowning my poor nose.
"Look," Claude said, mildly amused. "I think we have company."
Arlene was sidling nearer, looking at Claude as if she'd spied a whole plate of barbecue and onion rings. "Who's your friend, Sookie?" she asked.
"This is Claude," I said. "He's my distant cousin."
"Well, Claude, nice to meet ya," Arlene said.
She had some nerve, considering the way she felt about me now and how she'd treated me since she'd started going to the Fellowship of the Sun services.
Claude looked massively uninterested. He nodded.
Arlene had expected more, and after a moment of silence, she pretended to hear someone from one of her tables calling her. "Gotta go get a pitcher!" she said brightly, and bustled off. I saw her bend over a table, talking very seriously to a couple of guys I didn't know.
"It's always good to see you two, but I am at work," I said. "So, did you just come to tell me my... that Niall wants to know why I called once and hung up?"
"And never called thereafter to explain," Claudine said. She bent down to kiss my cheek. "Please call him tonight when you get off work."
"Okay," I said. "I still wish he'd called me himself to ask." Messengers were all well and good, but the phone was quicker. And I'd like to hear his voice. No matter where my great-grandfather might be, he could wink back into this world to call if he really was that taxed about my safety.
I thought he could, anyway.
Of course, I didn't know what being a fairy prince entailed. Write that down under "problems I know I'll never face."
After another round of hugs and kisses, the twins sauntered out of the bar, and many wistful eyes followed them on their progress out the door.
"Hoo, Sookie, you got some hot friends!" Catfish Hennessy called, and there was a general tide of agreement.
"I've seen that guy at a club in Monroe. Doesn't he strip?" said a nurse named Debi Murray who worked at the hospital in nearby Clarice. She was sitting with a couple of other nurses.
"Yeah," I said. "He owns the club, too."
"Looks and loot," said one of the other nurses. Her name was Beverly something. "I'm taking my daughter next ladies' night. She just broke up with a real loser."
"Well..." I debated explaining that Claude wouldn't be interested in anyone's daughter, then decided that wasn't my responsibility. "Have a good time," I said instead.
Since I'd taken time out with my sort-of cousins, I had to hustle to sweeten everyone up. Though they hadn't had my attention during the visit, they had had the entertainment of the twins, so no one was really miffed.
Toward the end of my shift, Copley Carmichael walked in.
He looked funny alone. I assumed Marley was waiting in the car.
In his beautiful suit and with his expensive haircut, he didn't exactly fit in, but I got to give him credit: he acted like he came into places like Merlotte's all the time. I happened to be standing by Sam, who was mixing a bourbon and Coke for one of my tables. I explained to Sam who the stranger was.
I delivered the drink and nodded at an empty table. Mr. Carmichael took the hint and settled in.
"Hey! Can I get you a drink, Mr. Carmichael?" I said.
"Please get me a single malt scotch," he said. "Whatever you've got will be fine. I'm meeting someone here, Sookie, thanks to your phone call. You just tell me the next time you need anything, and I'll do everything in my power to make it happen."
"Not necessary, Mr. Carmichael."
"Please, call me Cope."
"Um-hmmm. Okay, let me get your scotch."
I didn't know a single malt scotch from a hole in the ground, but Sam did, of course, and he gave me a shining clean glass with a very respectable shot of it. I serve liquor, but I seldom drink it. Most folks around here drink the real obvious stuff: beer, bourbon and Coke, gin and tonic, Jack Daniel's.
I set the drink and cocktail napkin on the table in front of Mr. Carmichael, and I returned with a little bowl of snack mix.
Then I left him alone, because I had other people to tend to. But I kept track of him. I noticed Sam was keeping a careful eye on Amelia's dad, too. But everyone else was too involved in their own conversations and their own drinking to give much mind to the stranger, one not nearly as interesting as Claude and Claudine.
In a moment when I wasn't looking, a vampire joined Cope. I don't think anyone else knew what she was. She was a real recent vamp, by which I mean she'd died in the past fifty years, and she had prematurely silver hair that was cut in a modest chin-length style. She was small, maybe five foot two, and she was round and firm in all the right places. She was wearing little silver-rimmed glasses that were sheer affectation, because I'd never met a vampire whose eyesight wasn't absolutely perfect and in fact sharper than any human's.
"Can I get you some blood?" I asked.
Her eyes were like lasers. Once she was really giving you her attention, you were sorry.
"You're the woman Sookie," she said.
I didn't see any need to affirm what she was so sure of. I waited.
"A glass of TrueBlood, please," she said. "Quite warm. And I'd like to meet your boss, if you would fetch him."
Like Sam was a bone. Nonetheless, she was a customer and I was a barmaid. So I heated a TrueBlood for her and told Sam he was wanted.
"I'll be there in a minute," he said, because he was getting a tray of drinks ready for Arlene.
I nodded and took the blood over to the vampire.
"Thank you," she said civilly. "I'm Sandy Sechrest, the new area rep for the King of Louisiana."
I had no idea where Sandy had grown up, but it had been in the United States and had not been in the south. "Pleased to meet you," I said, but not with a whole lot of enthusiasm. Area rep? Wasn't that what sheriffs were, among their other functions? What did that mean for Eric?
At that moment Sam came to the table, and I left because I didn't want to look inquisitive. Besides, I could probably pick it up from his brain later if Sam chose not to tell me what the new vampire wanted. He was good at blocking, but he had to make a special effort to do it.
The three engaged in a conversation for a couple of minutes, then Sam excused himself to get back behind the bar.
I glanced at the vampire and the mogul from time to time in case they needed something more to drink, but neither of them indicated a thirst. They were talking very seriously, and both of them were adept at maintaining a poker face. I didn't care enough to try to latch onto Mr. Carmichael's thoughts, and of course Sandy Sechrest was a blank to me.
The rest of the night was the usual stuff. I didn't even notice when the new king's rep and Mr. Carmichael left. Then it was time to close everything out and get my tables ready for Terry Bellefleur to come in and clean early in the morning. By the time I really looked around me, everyone was gone but Sam and me.
"Hey, you through?" he said.
"Yeah," I said after another look around.
"You got a minute?"
I always had a minute for Sam.