Another vampire? I wasn’t even aware another vampire was missing, and one had just been dumped at my bar? What the hell was going on? I let Pam explain how a vampire named Nicholas had been pushed from a van, much the same as Nerissa had just days before. Pam checked our list of residents and found that he was temporary, staying with a small nest on the west side of the city while his house in Area 4 was being renovated.
“I’ve already contacted Linnea,” Pam was drumming her fingers on my desk.
“I’ll call Ludwig. I’m on my way.” I didn’t want to leave Sookie, but this matter required immediate attention. I hung up and slipped the phone back in my pocket.
“What’s wrong?” Sookie asked nervously.
“Another ill vampire was dumped outside the bar. I have to go,” I got up reluctantly.
“I could come with you?” Sookie offered.
“It’s best if you don’t. I’m not sure I would be able to get you home before dawn and as much as I wouldn’t mind having you as a guest in my home, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be trapped all day.” I smirked at her. The idea of waking up next to her…I had to stop that train of thought before I abandoned Pam and my responsibilities.
“Another time, I guess,” Sookie shrugged.
“It won’t always be like this, Sookie.”
“Yes, it will. You’re the boss. When shit happens, you have to go deal with it.”
These were extenuating circumstances. The fact that Nicholas hadn’t been reported missing wasn’t much of a surprise, considering his stay in the area was only temporary. I wondered if Linnea, the sheriff of Area 4, kept records as detailed as the ones Pam and I kept about our residents. That was another phone call I was going to have to make on the flight back.
Sookie walked to the door with me and had her hand on the doorknob when I leaned down to kiss her goodnight. I’d kissed her several times in the past and it never ceased to amaze me how easily she gave in. She protested all the time about her feelings but her lips always told me something different than her words. That kiss goodnight was no exception.
“Goodnight, Sookie,” I practically purred in her ear when I pulled back.
There was a dazed expression on her face as she nodded and said, “Goodnight, Eric.”
“I’ll see you soon.” I promised her, then stepped outside.
On the flight back I made yet another call to Dr. Ludwig, but she had yet to return. My next call was to Linnea over in Area 4 to see if she’d heard anything about missing vampires in her area. One vampire being abducted was a fluke. Two meant there was something very wrong happening. I made a mental note to arrange a mandatory meeting for all of the vampires in my area once I had a little more information from the other sheriffs. I needed to know if it was just my area that seemed to be effected, or if it was a statewide issue.
“Northman, how can I help you?” Linnea skipped the formality of a hello, which was fine with me. Pleasantries weren’t necessary.
“A vampire of yours by the name of Nicholas was dumped in my area this evening. He’d petitioned for temporary residency while his house was being renovated in your area. I was wondering if anyone had reported him missing to you?”
“Nicholas?” Linnea paused, I presumed, to think. “I recall the vampire you’re referring to, and no, he hasn’t been reported missing. You say he was dumped in your area?”
“Yes. A van pulled up behind my bar and pushed him out while the vehicle was still moving. Pam spotted him on the security camera. She was able to get a license plate number. She’s already alerted a connection we have in the police department.” I explained to Linnea.
“I’ll ask around and find out if he was into something he shouldn’t have been.” Linnea offered.
“That would be very kind of you. Out of curiosity, you haven’t had any other vampires from your area go missing, have you?” I asked her as casually as possible.
“Not that have been reported. Is this something that happens regularly in Area 5?” I could hear the sneer in her voice.
I smirked instead of hissing at her like I wanted to.
“Not until recently. I suspect there might be a cell of drainers working in the area.” I told her since it was a better answer than, “I don’t know.”
Linnea did hiss and said, “I miss the old days before the vermin knew what our blood could do.”
I couldn’t blame her there. The Great Revelation had its benefits and drawbacks, just like any other time progress was made. In the old days it was harder to maintain a safe resting place without sending up the alarms. Feeding was also more difficult without tipping off the humans. Now we had special security companies to outfit our homes to keep us safe during daylight hours. The trade off was that, in order to lull the humans into feeling secure with our existence, we had to educate them about our ways. Granted they got a fluffy representation of what our world was like, but there was enough truth mixed in with the bullshit to make our lives difficult. In the end, it all came down to balance.
“I’ll put the word out if you’ll pass on whatever intelligence you have on the cell. In the meantime, I can send someone to collect Nicholas. He’s my problem.” Linnea sounded less than thrilled.
“I already have a call in to Ludwig. I wasn’t at the bar when Nicholas was dumped, but I believe the other vampire who was has silver poisoning.”
Another hiss escaped Linnea before she said, “Doesn’t sound like drainers to me.”
Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. Drainers would be much easier to deal with.
“Could it be the Fellowship?” Linnea suggested.
“It’s another avenue worth investigating. I haven’t heard about them having any cells in the area but we’ll look into it.”
“I’ll do the same on my end. If there’s nothing else, I have a pair of centuries old whiners in a dispute over a pet that needs my attention.”
“That’ll be all. Until later, Linnea.” I said pleasantly and hung up.
I landed behind the bar and went straight downstairs. Pam was griping about blood on her shoes. It was obvious Nicholas was in a very similar condition to Nerissa.
“He has no children, Eric. His maker has been dead for decades. We might lose this one.” Pam told me as she handed over another bag of human blood.
If he had silver poisoning and no one to donate blood, he was on borrowed time even more so than usual. We needed Ludwig and fast.
It was two more days before Dr. Ludwig was able to make it to Fangtasia to see the vampires loitering in my basement. It was an awful, disgusting mess down there. Pam was convinced we were never going to rid the place of the stench it had taken on, and had gone so far as to suggest we burn the bar down entirely and rebuild. That idea was quickly vetoed, though I did share her sentiment.
Wherever Dr. Ludwig had been, it hadn’t changed her wry sense of humor. “So, Vampire, what’s got your knickers in a twist?”
“Two vampires who can’t seem to hold their blood. I suspect silver poisoning.” I motioned to Nerissa and Nicholas.
Dr. Ludwig moved to where the vampires were stretched out. Nicholas was on the floor, having refused to take the table from Nerissa. Neither spot was very comfortable but at least they were in a light tight environment and were being guarded at all times. Since she was so small, it was easy for Dr. Ludwig to examine Nicholas. She checked all sorts of things, looking for signs of silver poisoning I wouldn’t have known to check for.
When she was done with Nicholas, she set up her little step stool and checked Nerissa over the same way. She asked several questions about the amount of blood they were able to keep down and how long they’d spent in silver. Unfortunately, neither of them had much memory of the time they were abducted.
“I don’t think this is silver poisoning. I’m going to take small samples of your blood for analysis. Whatever this is presents like silver poisoning, but I think it’s something else entirely.” Dr. Ludwig explained, then proceeded to prick Nerissa’s skin with a needle.
She waited for the blood to pool, then swiped it away with her fingertip. Before any of us knew what was happening, she sucked the blood from her finger. I knew better than to ask Dr. Ludwig what she was doing. All I’d get was a snappy comeback where she’d ask me where I’d studied medicine. Truthfully, I did study medicine but that was back in the seventeenth century. Humans were willing to let you bleed them back then if you could prove you were a trained physician.
Dr. Ludwig took a sample of Nicholas’ blood as well just the same way as she had Nerissa’s. She pulled a vial from her bag and swigged the liquid inside. I didn’t know what breed of Supernatural Dr. Ludwig was and she would have told me to go to hell if I asked. I figured she was part demon somewhere in her bloodline, but she would never tell me that. I didn’t know what we were waiting for. Ludwig closed her eyes and smacked her lips together.
“Nope, not silver poisoning,” she pronounced.
“How can you be sure?” I asked, knowing I was going to get sarcasm before I got the truth.
Instead I got the mother of all glares which was just as good as any scathing comment she might have made.
“The elixir in that vial enhances the chemical compounds present in the blood. I didn’t taste silver.” Well, that certainly cleared things up. “Are you vampires resting during daytime hours?”
“Not for more than a few minutes at a time,” Nerissa said and Nicholas seconded that.
“Are you feeling the urge to feed or hunt?” Dr. Ludwig asked and they both answered negatively.
Dr. Ludwig circled Nerissa, then reached into her bag for what looked like a crystal or quartz. She laid it Nerissa’s chest and just waited. The crystal began to glow, then changed from bright green to a deep blue color. The light went out just as suddenly as it appeared and the crystal went back to being the same shade of pink it was before it lit up. The process was repeated on Nicholas with the same results. Whatever they had, it was the same.
“You need to contact a witch.” Dr. Ludwig dropped the crystal back in her bad.
“Why is that?” I didn’t want anything to do with witches, if at all possible.
“Because whatever has infected these two is there by magic. There is nothing in their blood to suggest silver poisoning or that Hep-D or Sino Aids are present. The crystal tells me they’re tainted with magic of some sort. A witch will be able to tell you whether the magic is organic, mystical or dark. If you cannot locate a witch, I suggest you speak with the Colonel’s shaman. He should be able to tell you what sort of magic has been used.” Dr. Ludwig advised.
“What do we do in the meantime? How do we cure this?” I asked her.
“It looks like what humans would call Consumption. You can keep feeding these vampires, but they won’t be able to hold it down until they’re cleansed of the magic, and for that, you’re going to need a witch. That’s assuming you aren’t deal with the fae.” Dr. Ludwig gave me a pointed stare.
The Fae. I didn’t need a problem with the fairies. I steered clear of the Fae. I knew how dangerous they were. Then I remembered mention of a fairy in my journal and wondered if this wasn’t somehow payback for her getting involved with vampire business. I growled at the realization I was going to need to make more phone calls, this time to Niall Brigant to find out what the problem was. As far as fairies went, Niall was a bit more rational than most. If there was a bounty out for an injured fairy he would at least be open to discussing it before taking this any further.
“Contact a witch, Vampire, and do it soon. They won’t survive for much longer as they are now.” Dr. Ludwig warned and closed up her bag. “I’ll send my bill.”
Then she was gone.
After Dr. Ludwig left, I thought about just dropping in on Sookie. I’d promised I would see her again soon, but decided to call first. She would consider it the polite thing to do. Besides, I had no way of knowing if she was home. I went up to my office and called her. What I got was her answering machine.
“You’ve reached Sookie. Please leave a message at the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as I can. Have a great day.” Her smooth, southern voice was warm and inviting.
I waited for the beep and then started talking, “Sookie, if you’re there, I must speak with you…” I paused and waited to see if she’d answer. “Sookie? Since you’re not there at the moment, I’ll try you at the Shifter’s bar.”
I hung up and was about to call Merlotte’s when I remembered Octavia. She had yet to return any of my calls, which was annoying. It was late being that it was nearly midnight, and probably too late to call the average human. Perhaps reaching her during the day would be easier. I’d have to leave word with Bobby to contact her on my behalf. Maybe I’d have better luck that way.
Pam strutted into the office with bare feet, staring mournfully at her destroyed pair of shoes.
“Cheer up, Pam, they’re just shoes,” I forced myself not to smile. Pam’s love of shoes or really anything having to do with fashion was intriguing to me.
Her pale blue eyes narrowed at me and she said, “These are vintage shoes, Eric. I can’t just replace them.”
“And yet, the sun will rise again in just a few hours.” I mocked. If I weren’t her maker, I have no doubt she would have hurled one of those shoes at my head.
“Should I contact the Colonel?” Pam asked.
“I don’t want to involve the Weres unless we’re left with no other options. As it stands, Sookie and I are on better terms. There’s a witch in her area I’ll attempt to contact.” I told Pam.
Pam eyed me closely and I knew she wanted to say something, but she kept her mouth shut. “That’s a good idea, Eric.”
Yes, Pam definitely had something she wanted to say. Not that she didn’t agree with me a great deal of the time, but she wasn’t usually one to toss out compliments like that. Being robbed of the ability to say anything she wanted to say, she went with that.
“What is it, Pam?”
“What is what?”
“What do you want to say?”
“How did you know about the witch in Sookie’s area?” Pam asked me.
There was no harm in telling her at that point, so I grabbed my journal from a hidden compartment in my desk and held it up. “I wrote this while I was being housed with Sookie. It’s a full accounting of what I experienced while I was there.”
Pam blinked but said nothing more. She thought for a moment, then nodded.
“Sookie will be around more, Pam.” I warned her.
“Are you taking her as your mate?” Pam tried not to sound too interested, but my blood in her told me there was trepidation there.
“What is the human expression? Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, I think.” I leaned over to shut down the computer.
Pam said nothing else. She went to the closet and selected one of a dozen spare pairs of shoes she kept there. I knew she had a pair of sneakers in one of those boxes. She hardly ever wore them, but I knew they were there. Instead, she grabbed a pair of black pumps that still left her about six inches shorter than me.
“I’m making a trip out to Bon Temps. I won’t be back here tonight.” I told her, knowing the bar was perfectly safe in her hands.
She nodded just a fraction of an inch, but that was all the acknowledgment I needed from her. I flew to Bon Temps, rather than driving. I landed in the parking lot at Merlotte’s. It was just after twelve thirty. There were two cars left in the parking lot and one of them was Sookie’s. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed the number for Merlotte’s.
“Merlotte’s,” Sookie’s voice greeted me.
“Good evening, Sookie,” I purred into the phone and felt something akin to an emotional shiver.
“Hi,” her voice was a little higher, like she was nervous. “What can I do for you, Eric?”
That was a dangerous question for her to ask, since I could think of a great many things she could do for me. Making her blush, however, was a quick way to ensure she hung up on me and that would be counterproductive.
“I need to speak with you. I was hoping you might be able to put me in contact with the witch you work with.” I came right out with it.
“Uh, well, she’s not here right now.” Sookie said nervously. “Listen, Eric, I’ll be done here in about ten minutes. Can we finish this then?”
“I’ll wait for you at your house.” I told her.
She whispered, “There’s a spare key under the front step.”
It wasn’t a very good hiding place but crime wasn’t really much of a concern in a town like Bon Temps. As far as I knew, there hadn’t been much in the way of crime since Rene Lenier murdered those pathetic fangbangers and Sookie’s grandmother. Still, there had to be a better place to hide a key.
“I’ll wait outside. See you soon, Sookie,” I said and then hung up.
I walked around the bar and then launched myself into the air again. I flew over Bill’s house. The first floor was dark, suggesting he wasn’t home. There was a car parked around the side of his house but that didn’t mean anything. I flew on and landed in Sookie’s backyard on the other side of the cemetery. I’d been on the ground for about thirty seconds when I caught the scent of something that didn’t belong.
Werewolf. Why was I smelling werewolf on her property? To my knowledge the only Were Sookie was remotely friendly with was Herveaux and I knew he was out running with his pack since it was a full moon. The only shifter I was aware of that lived in Bon Temps full time was the one Sookie worked for, and the smell of shifter was different than that of a Were. I couldn’t place who the smell belonged to. It was just another item on a long list of unknowns and it was really starting to aggravate me.
I took a quick flight around Sookie’s property to make sure there was no one hanging around that didn’t belong. When I heard the sound of tires crunching on gravel a few hundred yards away, I returned to Sookie’s house. I landed right near her driver’s side door and reached to open it for her.
“Jesus Christ, Shepard of Judea!” Sookie’s hand fluttered over her heart. “I hate it when vampires sneak up on me like that.”
“My apologies, dear one.” I extended a hand to help her out of the car.
“So, what’s the rush?” Sookie asked as we walked to the back porch.
“Dr. Ludwig finally returned from her conference,” I didn’t want to say anything more until we were inside the house, just on the chance I had missed something.
“And?” Sookie asked as she opened the door.
I had a strange sense of deja vu, and pushed my way in front of her, shielding her from the blow that wasn’t going to come.
“Eric?” Sookie shoved me. “You’re heavy, you know?”
“Again, my apologies,” I stepped away from her and into the house, continuing to shield her. I smelled Were, but I couldn’t place where I’d smelled it before.
“What’s with you?” Sookie asked as she dropped her purse on the counter and kicked off her shoes.
“I smell werewolf.” I said as I began to move around her house.
“You what?” Sookie’s sudden panic gave me pause. “Where? In my house?”
“It was stronger outside, but yes, I smell it in here, too.” I continued to move.
“Eric, the only werewolf I have knowingly invited into my home is Alcide and he hasn’t been here since before I went to Jackson. Are you sure it’s not my brother you’re smelling? He’s a werepanther now.” Sookie’s voice took on an edge of sadness, as did her blood.
“Is he running with Hot Shot?” I asked over my shoulder.
“Calvin said he’d take care of him,” Sookie sighed and began to go through her refrigerator. “Thirsty?”
“I’m fine, thank you.” I didn’t want True Blood.
What I wanted was pulsing quickly through Sookie’s veins, but I figured that wasn’t on the menu. I did a quick sweep of her house and hissed when I realized her daytime hiding place for vampires had been discovered by whomever had been in her house.
“Sookie!” I called from the hallway outside the bedroom.
She came running almost immediately. “What?”
“Did you leave the house like this?” I pointed into the bedroom and she gasped.
“My stars,” she mumbled and stepped past me into the room.
“I take that as a no,” I sighed and moved closer to the closet. I inhaled deeply to trap the scent.
I could feel Sookie’s fear and frustration rising in her blood.
“You know, I’m getting real damn tired of the Supernatural Community thinking they can use me as their punching bag,” she spun on her heel and stomped out of the room.
I followed behind her and watched while she pulled food out one plastic container at a time. She selected one with some sort of brown meat and mounds of white and what looked to be beans. She put the container into her microwave and started the machine.
“Tell me more about Dr. Ludwig’s visit,” she said when she calmed down some.
“Dr. Ludwig tested their blood and found no traces of silver. She suspects the reason for their inability to hold down blood or rest during the day is due to magic. It seems they have a vampire’s version of consumption. She performed a test with a crystal that confirmed they are contaminated with a magic of some kind, but couldn’t say if that was the source of the illness. That’s why I need to speak with your witch friend as soon as possible.” I told Sookie while she moved about the kitchen gathering silverware and something to drink.
“And you think Holly will be able to help?” Sookie brought her plate with her to the table and sat down to eat.
“I need a witch that can be trusted. It is my understanding that your friend had no interest in joining with Hallow’s coven. If she, herself, cannot help me she may have the name of someone who can.” I watched as she cut into whatever it was she was eating.
Sookie took her first bite and chewed thoughtfully before swallowing and saying, “Holly probably won’t be too anxious to talk to you, Eric. She just wants to be left alone. She has a little boy and she doesn’t want him to get caught up in all this and get hurt because of it.”
“I have no interest in her child,” I said casually.
“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to hear that, but I don’t think it’s going to matter a whole heck of a lot. I’ll give it a shot all the same. It’ll have to wait until at least tomorrow, though. It’s too late to call her now and I’m not sure if I’ll see her at the bar or not. Holly and I don’t usually talk much outside of work.”
“Please, Sookie, this is important,” I said as politely as possible.
She set down her fork and took a drink of what I believed was milk. I could so clearly hear her throat open and close with every swallow. Her heartbeat increased and I knew when she started breathing again, those sounds would be louder than usual as well. She set down the milk and reached up to remove the elastic from her hair.
“I’ll do what I can, Eric, but I can’t make you any promises,” she sighed as her hair tumbled down her back.
The scent of her shampoo wafted toward me. How it had held that scent with all the beer, grease and redneck floating around Merlotte’s I’ll never know. I smelled those things as well, but none of it was as strong as the soft, sweet scent of the soap she’d used. She was exhausted, but determined to finish eating. I reached under the table and pulled one of her feet up into my lap.
“What are you doing?” Sookie quirked an eyebrow at me while I removed her sock.
She squirmed slightly when I started to rub her foot, but she relaxed instantly. Like the rest of her, for the most part, her feet were small. I knew when I’d hit the right spot when she dropped her fork again and sank a little in her chair. The noises she made were exquisite and for a moment, I wondered if they were the same noises she’d made while we were in bed together.
“You should finish eating before it gets cold,” I nodded to her plate.
“You’re distracting me,” her voice was breathy.
“I can stop if you like,” I smirked at her.
“Don’t you dare.” Sookie glared at me and picked up her fork.
I smiled while she resumed eating.