With the situation I found myself in I would usually contact Pam to consult on the best course of action. Odds were we would be formulating similar plans so Pam would already be plotting and preparing to take action. I never realized how much I delegated to her until she wasn’t there to delegate to. For a moment it felt like I was missing a limb—my right hand, to be exact.
What I had in Pam’s place was Sookie. Not that it was a bad thing since she had proven more than once that she was quite intelligent and creative. Perhaps it was her outsider’s perspective that allowed her to see the simplest things. My brain was trained to think in terms of political maneuvering, which meant I saw most situations like a chess match. I had to think three moves ahead with three possible outcomes for each of my potential moves. Sookie, on the other hand, could sit back and connect the dots. It would be lazy to presume that Stonebrook would do something predictable.
I certainly hadn’t expected him to be able to take Pam.
“We need to change the location of the reconstruction,” I announced. Not that what had happened to Nerissa and Nicholas wasn’t important, but they had already been found.
More and more I got the feeling Sookie might be right about Mary Elizabeth and Kevin being turned by the missing vampires, and whatever spell had been cast over them was blocking their Maker’s bond. It made complete sense, actually. If the point of turning those people was to create chaos then it stood to reason Stonebrook would block the bond of their maker.
“To Pam’s house?” Sookie asked, and I nodded.
“Petri said the only thing he smelled on the premises was vampire. So either Pam wasn’t taken from there, or the property was mystically cleansed,” I explained.
“Are you sure it’s not possible that Pam decided to go into hiding?” she asked me.
“She wouldn’t do that without telling me, not to mention Pam isn’t one to run from a fight. Pam can be exceptionally lazy and disobedient at times, but she’s extremely loyal. She would never leave me to deal with this alone,” I insisted. The entire time I spoke my fury rose higher and higher until I realized Sookie was backing away from me. “I’m sorry, Lover, I’m not angry with you for asking. It was a perfectly logical question to ask.”
Sookie stopped backing away from me, but her nervousness didn’t fade. I gingerly stepped closer to her, tentatively reaching out to hug her. She looked like a frightened, cornered animal that might attack if I moved too quickly. I knew I could take whatever she might throw at me, but I wanted her to calm down. I really didn’t like it when she was afraid of me, especially not now when I needed her help and trust.
“I know you’re not angry at me,” Sookie said when I had her pressed against me. Her arms wrapped tightly around my waist as she snuggled into my chest. “And I’m worried for Pam too. I don’t want her to get hurt or turn someone she doesn’t want to turn just because this is some sort of sick game to Mark Stonebrook.”
I didn’t want any of those things either. Pam hadn’t mentioned anything about wanting to be a maker yet. In fact, I knew she wasn’t very keen on the idea. It wasn’t because she despised what she was, but because being a maker was an enormous responsibility. There were so many things to teach a child, and being a maker in this new world where we lived freely out in the open would make it difficult for a newborn to comprehend the Old Ways.
For centuries I had moved from place to place with my maker, on my own, or with Pam without putting down roots. At times it was out of necessity, while at others it was simply because I enjoyed traveling. Knowing how to make my way through the world without being detected was an invaluable skill, and one I had taught to Pam before I allowed us to settle anywhere.
She had complained almost relentlessly about having to sleep in the earth, but it was a much better alternative to resting in a vulnerable spot where we might be discovered during the day. There were certain benefits to living in the wind and I was confident in Pam’s ability to do so if such a thing ever became necessary. There were no guarantees that humans wouldn’t turn on us at some point. Vampires incapable of hiding themselves would be the first to meet the true death.
“Do you remember anything about Hallow’s coven? Where they hang out or conduct business?” Sookie asked me. “Maybe if I can track down some of the surviving members I can get a read on them.”
“I don’t want you going anywhere near them alone,” I told her. I appreciated her offer of help but I wouldn’t sacrifice her or put her at risk.
“Well if all of the witches are also werewolves then maybe there’s something that Alcide can do,” she suggested.
It wasn’t a terrible idea but given the track record I had with Herveaux he wasn’t exactly my preferred wolf to deal with. Colonel Flood was old enough and familiar enough with war tactics to be able to see a bigger picture than the average Were. It was obvious that Stonebrook had no respect for his second nature by dipping into so many different facets of the supernatural. He had broken a major law by consuming vampire blood which was only made worse by his use of magic.
To add insult to injury it was dark magic driven by greed, vengeance and malice. Mark Stonebrook was exceptionally dangerous and he needed to be stopped as soon as possible.
I hated to admit it but Sookie was probably right about needing to reach out to the Weres. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Stonebrook turned on the Weres as well and decided to start blackmailing them as well. There was no guarantee that was part of his plan but it was reason enough for the local pack to remain involved in thwarting Mark Stonebrook once and for all.
“I’ll call Colonel Flood tomorrow,” I promised Sookie. It was getting late and I didn’t want to wake the colonel just to ask him for a favor.
“That’s a good idea. Now where are you going to rest tomorrow?” she asked me.
“I’m not leaving here until I have no other choice. For now there is no evidence to suggest that my house has been compromised and it was warded by a shaman before I moved in,” I said, and then zipped up the getaway bag.
“You realize if I made that same argument you’d just scoop me up and take me against my will, don’t you?”
“We aren’t on equal ground that way, Sookie. Had I not been there when that pipe bomb was thrown into your house you probably would have been injured. My reflexes are faster, my senses are keener and I can fly. This is also my own home. I know all the ways out and I’m capable of creating new ones if it becomes necessary for me to do so,” I explained. Like it or not I simply had abilities that Sookie didn’t. “Trust me, Sookie.”
“I trust you,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about you.”
“I know you do. I feel it, remember?”
She nodded and took a deep breath before asking, “So what happens next? What do we do now?”
“Now we go to Pam’s house and I check her room myself to make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary there.”
“What are you looking for?”
“Anything that might tell me where she’s gone or if Pam was taken against her will.” I didn’t want to think that Pam would just disappear, but there was always that slim possibility that Sookie’s suggestion had been correct.
I didn’t want to launch a full scale search until I was certain that Pam hadn’t gone on her own free will. My gut told me she hadn’t, but there was the chance I could be wrong. Sookie put on her coat and shoes, and we went out to the garage together. The ride to Pam’s house only took about ten minutes. The house was dark when I pulled into the driveway.
My child didn’t keep her home as secure as I did, but she was also in a nest. I suspected that as she got older she would be less and less interested in sharing her home with vampires she wasn’t ‘related’ to. Sharing with a child, maker or blood sibling was different. Generally speaking those were vampires that could be trusted not to betray you, or to bring in an abundance of humans. As Pam built her personal fortune she would acquire more property.
As we entered the house I recalled the first home Pam purchased on her own. It was before I’d brought her to America for the first time. After she was turned we stuck to the United Kingdom for a while, traveling back and forth between England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland until it was time to move on. We had spent a great deal of time in Romania, Transylvania, Prague and the Balkans. We made our way through the Middle East and into India before moving on to Asia. We weren’t in Asia for long before talk of an uprising in Russia had us heading that way. We arrived in Moscow six months before the attack in St. Petersburg. That was the first time Pam met my maker, and she immediately decided she didn’t care for Ocella at all.
“It looks like a set decorator for an Audrey Hepburn film did Pam’s house,” Sookie said as she followed me from room to room.
I didn’t check all of the bedrooms. I could tell by scent which room belonged to who if I didn’t already know. Of course Pam had worked it out that she was in the master suite, which meant she had a walk-in closet as well as an en suite bathroom. Before I even opened the door I smelled Chanel coming from inside the room.
“Oh. My. God,” Sookie said when she stepped in behind me.
Pam didn’t do much of anything on a small scale. The opulence of her human life had carried over. My child had expensive tastes. Her clothing and shoes had nothing but designer labels on them, and I knew for a fact she never threw anything away unless it was impossible to get bloodstains out of the fabric. She had storage units packed to the gills with all of the clothing she had accumulated since she was turned. She had items from all over the world and every single piece that was ever manufactured by Chanel.
The walls of Pam’s bedroom were painted a soft pink. Her four poster canopy bed was an antique and weighed a damn ton. It was a good thing we were vampires or moving her bed would be extremely difficult. The carpet was plush and a soft shade of gray. Pastels battled all over the room, making it very obvious it was a feminine space. As if that wasn’t enough there were lace curtains, hand-painted jewelry boxes and a vanity table overflowing with cosmetics.
“Cheese and rice,” Sookie muttered as she looked around the room.
“Wait until you see the closet,” I said, and turned to open the doors.
It was packed, as usual, but very organized. Pam had tried to explain her system to me once, but about three seconds into it I went into downtime. Pam wasn’t at all amused. It would be damn near impossible for me to know if something was missing, but that was part of the reason I wanted Sookie to come along. She would know what sort of things a woman wouldn’t flee without.
“Does it seem like anything is missing?” Sookie asked.
“I was hoping you could tell me,” I said, and then shoved some of Pam’s shoes out of the way to find the release I knew was there.
When I did the shelves moved forward and slid to the left to reveal a vault, of sorts, where I knew Pam kept her emergency getaway bag. I had personally packed it for her and insisted she keep it somewhere safe. We also had bags in the basement of the bar with duplicates of all the false identification I’d purchased. The bag was right where it belonged.
I pulled it from the closet while Sookie looked around, and a quick count of the passports and cash told me that Pam hadn’t taken any of that stuff with her before she disappeared.
“Trying to figure out what someone like Pam would take is difficult,” Sookie said as she looked around. “What I couldn’t live without and what Pam can’t live without… I don’t think you could get two lists that are more different.”
That was true.
I wasn’t seeing anything out of the ordinary in Pam’s room, nor did I catch the smell of anyone that shouldn’t have been there. In fact, the room was almost too clean. Maybe Petri was right, and a cleansing had been done to cover the tracks of the persons involved in removing Pam. There were no signs to indicate she had been taken by force, but it was obvious that she hadn’t fled either.
“Hey Eric?” Sookie called to me curiously. She was standing in front of Pam’s vanity. “The perfume bottle is knocked over.”
I rushed to Sookie’s side, and sure enough the bottle of Chanel No. 5 was resting on its side instead of being upright. Everything else on the table was where it belonged. Makeup brushes were standing tall in their cups, tubes of things were lined up, a jar of cold cream was facing forward… the only thing askew was the bottle of perfume. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something. When it came to her belongings Pam was a stickler for putting things away with precision. If that bottle was askew like that it wasn’t because she had left it that way on purpose.
Or maybe she had.
Pam had to know that if she went missing that I would come looking for her, and her bedroom would be the first place I’d search for clues. I pulled my phone from my pocket and placed at call to Octavia Fant. We were definitely going to be needing her services.
“Mr. Northman, what can I do for you?” she asked when she answered.
“Ms. Fant my child has been abducted. I need for you to do a locator spell on her,” I told her.
“Give me the address and we’ll be there as soon as we can,” she said.
I gave her Pam’s address and after we hung up I started to plan.
“Is she coming?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, she is. I need to call in the other vampires in the area,” I said, and sent out a blast text message to all of the vampires in my area to tell them to head to Fangtasia.
“What can I do?” Sookie asked.
I wasn’t sure what her role in saving my child was going to be but I knew there was no way Sookie was going to allow herself to be sidelined, no matter how much I wished she would just sit this one out.
“Eric, please, Pam helped get Jason rescued. I owe her. Plus she’s important to you and she’s sort of a friend,” Sookie reasoned.
I smiled and said, “Lover, I know you well enough to know that you’ll help whether I want you to or not.”
“Does that mean you’re not going to fight me on this?” she looked at me with surprise written all over her face.
“I have a much bigger battle ahead of me and that one I have a snowball’s chance at winning,” I smirked. “But don’t get used to this.”
Clancy reported that he sent the employees home from the bar and put up the closed to the public sign that was reserved for Monday nights and any other time there was business that needed to be handled. But then after a moment I thought maybe it might be better to give the impression that we were going about business as usual so I sent him a text to tell him to open like it was any other night. He could make due with an all vampire staff for the evening.
“They’re here,” Sookie said a few minutes later while I was trying to figure out how I was going to get my child back.
“I’ll meet you out front,” I told her and for some reason I felt the urge to kiss her like I was about to go into battle.
I thought about the prospect of never seeing her again, and how if Pam could be taken from me it was entirely possible that Sookie could be as well. I poured everything I felt for her into the kiss and the bond until she had to pull away to breathe. I held her face in my hands and stared into her hypnotic blue eyes.
If anyone hurt her they would wish they had never been born.
“What was that for?” Sookie asked with a smile.
“I love you,” I said the words out loud. Her smile got bigger for a few seconds before it collapsed on itself.
“You think we’re going to die, don’t you?” she demanded angrily.
“Hardly,” I said with confidence.
“Then why else would you say that to me? You hate having feelings.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “And yet they refuse to go away where you are concerned. After we have Pam back I will be showing you just how much I mean those words,” I leered at her and gave her perfect backside a squeeze and a slap before sending her on her way.
I heard Amelia and Octavia talking as they exited their car out on the driveway, and I turned toward the bookshelf that was really a decoy. A Murphy bed would fit in the compartment behind that unit, but instead I knew that was where Pam kept her weapons. I knew where the trip was on it since I had designed the unit myself, and as soon as I hit it, the unit began to swing open to reveal the weapons stashed inside.
Only it hadn’t gone too far when I caught the smell of gunpowder at the same time the gun rigged inside discharged. The painful sensation of being shot was compounded by the use of a silver bullet that lodged itself directly in my brain and knocked me flat on my back. I roared in fury and pain, and it brought Sookie running toward me.
I was unable to speak, most likely thanks to the location of the bullet in my brain. That meant I was unable to warn Sookie when she came running into the room to check on me.
“Eric!” she said in a panic that matched what I felt in her blood.
I tried to will myself to calm down so she would know I was alright even though I couldn’t speak at the moment. The disability was only temporary. As soon as the bullet dislodged itself from my brain I would start to heal but it was going to take a moment for the process to begin.
Only it turned out that I didn’t have that kind of time, and thanks to the chaos of Sookie, Amelia and Octavia all talking at once, none of them heard the gun cock itself again and I was forced to helplessly watch as my bonded was shot in the back at point blank range.
“Sookie!” Both women screamed and knelt to attend to her.
My instincts took over, the dangerous vampire in me rose to the surface at the sight of my lover laying there in a wounded heap on my child’s plush imported carpet. I could feel the bullet in my brain working a reverse path, my body in a sudden rush to expel the silver, but it was crippling my other movements. The silver burned as it worked its way out.
Obviously the shot wasn’t meant to kill me, only delay me from getting to Pam any faster. But Sookie was the wildcard in all of this because the injury she had sustained could conceivably kill her if I didn’t act quickly to get the bullet out of her and heal her wounds.
“Get. Away. From. Her.” My words were staggered but came out in the menacing tone I meant for them to, and the witches backed away from Sookie’s lifeless body.
I could hear her heart beating so slowly she was near death and her breathing was ragged, suggesting that she may have sustained a punctured lung from the gunshot. I crawled over to her and turned her face toward mine. Her eyes were closed and there was blood on her chest. The bullet had gone through her, and judging by where the blood was pooling on her chest she definitely had punctured a lung. She rasped for breath and I was raising my wrist to give her blood when there was the unmistakable sound of a fairy popping into the room.
“Back away, vampire,” Niall Brigant’s voice ordered from behind me.
“She’s mine, fairy,” I said as I fought through the pain in my head to bite my wrist.
“Wrong. She’s mine,” he said, and dosed me with what felt like sunshine.
I screamed in agony and fell away from Sookie’s body. Again I was rendered helpless as Niall bent and scooped Sookie up off the floor. Before I regained the ability to move, Niall popped out of the room, taking Sookie with him.