Being helpless didn’t suit me at all, and the witches sat there with stunned expressions thanks to the appearing and disappearing act of that damned fairy. For the second time in recent memory I had a headache, and not just because of the gunshot wound to my skull. I was torn. On the one hand, Pam was missing and she needed to be found before she was forced into making a child she didn’t want, or she was killed simply to get back at me. On the other, Sookie had been whisked away by a powerful fairy, and I could only assume she had been taken back to the fairy realm.
I knew damn well I wouldn’t be getting Sookie back before the fairies were ready to hand her over, I just wasn’t sure why they wanted her. I probed the bonds I had with both of the missing women in my life. Sookie was alive, but barely so. With Pam I couldn’t really tell what her condition was, only that she hadn’t met the true death yet.
On top of all that I still had a silver bullet working its way out of my skull, burning a path out just like it had going in. It was agony, but it was nothing compared to the clenching I felt in my chest where my silent heart was starting to break at the thought that I might never see Sookie again. What if the fairies never brought her back? It was a distraction I didn’t need. I needed to focus and I needed to come up with a plan to get both of the women in my life back.
And heads were going to roll for this.
The bullet finally popped out of my head. I needed blood, and not that synthetic bottled shit. I needed human blood, and my instincts had me grabbing for Amelia since she was closer. She stiffened with panic at first, but then she tilted her head and offered her neck to me. I didn’t think twice before dropping my fangs and sinking them into her jugular. I was aware enough of what I was doing not to take too much, and I was elated to find that her blood did nothing for me.
There was no urge to drink my fill and then throw her down to satisfy other needs. The blood I wanted, and the body I wanted to share those things with had been taken from me. My Sookie was gone, and I took no pleasure whatsoever in feeding from another woman. I wasn’t sure how Sookie was going to feel about it when she learned I’d fed from Amelia, but I hoped that being shot in the head would be a reasonable enough excuse for her to let it slide.
I felt the wound heal itself and stopped drinking from Amelia as soon as I could feel my skin knitting itself back together. The least I could do was heal her wounds for allowing me to drink from her, so I pricked my finger and did just that before letting her go. The biting hadn’t turned Amelia on in the slightest, which I was thankful for. When I pulled back she bravely reached up and let her finger hover over where the hole was repairing in my head.
“Amazing,” she muttered under her breath.
“Mr. Northman are you okay to proceed?” Octavia Fant was all business, and I appreciated that.
“I’ll be fine,” I assured her. “Thank you, Miss Broadway, for your offering.”
“No sweat,” she said as she lowered her hand. “Does it hurt?”
“For heaven’s sake, Amelia, he was shot in the head,” Octavia said as if her protégé should know better.
“Yeah, but don’t vampires feel pain differently than humans?” Amelia looked to me.
“Not when it’s a silver bullet lodged in their dome,” I said, and stared down at the offending piece of metal.
“It was silver?” Amelia’s eyes went wide, and then she picked up the piece of silver.
“Give me that,” Octavia took it from her. “We can use this to locate your child. Her blood lives in you, yes?”
I nodded and from there on out Octavia was busy giving Amelia orders to get the locator spell started. I continued to probe my bond with Sookie, in hopes of getting something other than a signal of life from her. I pushed feelings into it so that if she was doing the same she would know I was alright. It took a few minutes for Amelia’s blood to heal my brain, but once it was done I was back to my normal self.
Since there was nothing I could do about either Pam or Sookie being gone, and I didn’t know enough about magic to be able to assist Octavia I was relegated to pacing the room like a caged lion. I watched them blend herbs and other things together. They began to chant once all of their necessary ingredients were assembled, and then a little ball of pink light took form in the room.
“Follow the light, Mr. Northman. It will lead you to your child,” Octavia told me, and then the light began to move.
It was a good thing I could fly and move quickly because the light wasn’t about to wait for me to move at human speeds. I actually appreciated that as well since time was of the essence. Trying to monitor both bonds was a tricky thing and I wasn’t used to it. Pam and I generally kept our almost mute, just loud enough to be able to sense the other’s presence and location. I didn’t need to muddle myself in her feelings since, more often than not, they were present right there on her face.
The light moved south out of Shreveport and then a little east until it started to drop down. I looked below and noted what looked like a large, stinking swamp not more than fifty yards away. It was a great place to dump a body, and when I probed my bond with Pam again I got no reaction from her. She was alive, that much I knew, but even though she was right there—according to the light—I couldn’t feel her location. The bond should have been screaming at me that Pam was right below me, but I felt nothing.
I listened closely to whatever I could, filtering my hearing for voices only. Pam was completely silent, leading me to wonder if she was even ‘awake’ at that moment, or if she had put herself in downtime. Or worse, had she been spelled like the other vampires? There was only one way to find out, but I wasn’t about to go in alone. I carefully lowered myself to the ground and as soon as my feet touched the light Octavia had provided me with went out.
As soon as the light went out I began to levitate again so I wouldn’t leave tracks on the ground. I would, however, be leaving traces of my scent so I hovered higher above the house. Lights were on in what looked to be maybe a two bedroom house, but I didn’t hear anyone inside. If Pam was inside that most likely meant that she was either spelled or bound in silver, maybe both, and it was at that point that being able to feel her pain would come in handy. If she was injured I would know it, but I felt nothing.
I slowly moved away from the house and began to check out the land surrounding it. To the north of the swamp I spotted five relatively fresh graves that didn’t shouldn’t have been there. Two of them were open, leaving to me to wonder if they had yet to be filled, or if those were the holes where Nerissa and Nicholas may have been buried before they were dumped outside the bar. Sookie’s theory about Nerissa and Nicholas being makers certainly held water, so I decided to go on down and see if I could scent anyone familiar.
I was careful, though, to make sure there were no traps along the way. The last thing I needed was a silver net dropping down on top of me. I did smell Nerissa and Nicholas there, along with Kevin and Mary Elizabeth. That didn’t confirm that Sookie had been correct but it was safe enough to assume that she had been. At that I launched up into the trees again and probed my bond with Sookie. She was still AWOL, location wise, and not responding to any of the calls I attempted to make to her.
Calling her was different than calling to Pam, but I knew if she was able, she would feel the pull to respond to me. I was beyond frustrated with both situations. I wanted to tear the house apart, but then realized that it wasn’t warded. There was no magic attached to the house where Pam was supposedly being kept. I needed Sookie back. I needed for her to tell me how many were inside the house, and if they were humans, Weres or vampires. Setting up a reconnaissance mission on the house would be dangerous for the vampires in my area considering what had been happening to them, and I couldn’t afford to lose any of the few vampires that remained in my area whom I trusted.
Once I was certain of the coordinates and I’d gotten all of the information I possibly could about the house, I took to the sky again and sped back toward Shreveport.
I landed outside of Fangtasia and it looked like it was business as usual with customers coming and going like they usually did, but when I walked inside it was another story. The humans were glamoured into sitting still in their seats. No one was dancing, buying drinks or trying to entice a vampire into biting them. It was like walking into a wax museum, only the statues had pulses. Customers were being let in and out at regular intervals, being sent outside to smoke cigarettes or retrieve things from their cars, only to come back in and then sit down again.
Meanwhile vampires were clustered together, some of them in downtime while others were speculating about why they had been called in to Fangtasia again so soon.
“Send them home,” I said, gesturing to the dazed humans who weren’t moving without being told.
I went straight back to my office with Clancy right behind me.
“Did you locate her?” he asked.
“I did, but I have a feeling it’s a trap,” I told him as I fired up my laptop.
“But Pam lives?”
“For now.” I sat down and waited for the computer to load so I could send an email to the other sheriffs in the area. Mark was currently doing his dirty work in Area 4, which was Linnea’s territory, and I was fairly certain she wasn’t going to be too happy when I told her about it.
“What do we do now, sheriff?” Clancy asked.
“Wait out front with the others. I need to make a call. I’ll be out directly,” I said, and waited for Clancy to close my office door before I reached into my pocket for my phone.
I had planned on dealing with this all on my own, but that wasn’t going to happen, not when Sookie was missing as well. Linnea picked up on the second ring, and I was sure she was sick of hearing from me as well.
“What now, Northman?” she asked.
“My child has been taken,” I started, figuring that would get her attention. I was right. She hissed her disapproval. “She was taken out of her home just before sunrise this morning. A witch was able to do a locator spell on her, but there was something off about the location where the light said she would be.”
“What’s the location?” Linnea asked. “And why are you calling me?”
“Because the location,” I gave her the coordinates, “is in your domain.”
“Fuck me,” Linnea muttered. “If you’re calling for permission to poach in my territory, you’ve got it.”
“Actually, I’m hoping that you’ve got a few good fighters who are itching to join us. A little extra muscle never hurt anyone.”
Linnea said, “I’ll pass the word along. How down are your numbers?”
The two of us talked strategy for a bit before Linnea ultimately invited me to come to her home with the vampires I would trust to lead teams that would help me extract Pam from wherever she was being held. Linnea would be running the second flank just on the chance that something happened to me and I was unable to continue. It was a possibility I was loathe to entertain, but a possibility nonetheless.
When I got off the phone with her I went out to the main area of the bar. The humans were all gone and it was strange not to see Pam standing there with her arms folded, looking bored while she waited for me to speak. Sookie wasn’t sitting on the dais, or standing at my side. Everything felt all wrong.
“Pam has been taken,” I announced, and had I been in a room full of humans there would have been gasps and fluttering hands, but I was in a room full of vampires.
The bloodlust was nearly overwhelming.
“She has been tracked to a swamp in Area 4. Linnea has consented to assist us in Pam’s extraction. You are here because you all owe me fealty, and because Pam is my only child and second in command. Tonight Linnea is dispatching some of her people to do some recon on the location where Pam is being held. Tomorrow at sundown we will regroup here, and then go to Area 4. Tonight I will go to Linnea’s home to hear what intelligence her people were able to gather. Thalia, Clancy and Indira will accompany me.” I stared out and searched for those three faces.
All three of them were present, and nodded their agreement to come along. Good. I didn’t need any disciplinary problems or whiners. Thalia was one tough bitch, and damn near impossible to catch on foot, even for a vampire of my age. Indira was also a fierce fighter and stronger than the average vampire. Clancy didn’t have any special gifts that I was aware of, but he was Pam’s nestmate and a partner in our business so I felt he deserved a special place in the search party.
“I suspect Mark Stonebrook is behind all of this. That means we are dealing with a werewolf that drinks vampire blood and practices dark magic. I will be in contact with Colonel Flood to find out if he has any pack members that have gone rogue recently, and a coven from New Orleans is in the area to provide mystical opposition to any dark magic Stonebrook may attempt to use. Until further notice, or until I have Stonebrook’s head, you will go to ground,” I ordered.
Going to ground was the simplest way to ensure that it would be difficult for Stonebrook to get his paws on any of the other vampires in my retinue. The young ones were easy to spot since they were all looking rather confused about what the term ‘going to ground’ meant. In my mind I saw Pam rolling her eyes and muttering in Norse about the state of vampire youth, and how lazy they were. It always amused me to hear Pam comment on the laziness of others.
If Pam caught the irony she completely ignored it.
My patience was spread far too thin at the moment to deal with uneducated newborns and judging by the look on Thalia’s face she wasn’t very amused either. Putting a plan together would be much easier once Linnea’s people had done their search.
“Check-in before sunrise is still mandatory and you will report to Clancy—” I stopped speaking suddenly when I felt something in my bond with Sookie twitch.
Like Niall it was gone as quickly as it had come, but I had felt her. My lover was not only alive, but that little flash of her feelings told me she was royally pissed off. That gave me hope. If she was angry I knew it would fuel her, and Sookie was, quite possibly, even more determined than I was when I got angry. Once Sookie made up her mind about something there was little to no chance of changing it.
That little blip wasn’t enough to tell me where she was, but I knew the fairies came and left by portals that allowed them to move from one realm to another. The fae were notorious for their love of woodland areas, which led me to believe there may have been a door somewhere in the woods near Sookie’s house. With that in mind I finished up the last of what I needed to say to the present vampires. Nicholas and Nerissa would be unable to fight the following night, but they would come along so that the spell that was cast over them could finally be lifted.
One way or another, the following sunrise would be the last Mark Stonebrook ever saw.