There was awkward tension in Eric’s car as he drove over to the church where the DGD meeting was always held on Thursday nights. I had to direct him since he wasn’t familiar with the area and there were four different churches, one on each corner, at an intersection known in town as Christian Crossing. Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches were practically side by side, but it was the Methodist church that Gran went to for the DGD meetings. For worship we went to the Lutheran church.
In preparation for Sunday service there were a few cars in the lot at each church. To keep from having a great big traffic jam on Sunday morning, the churches had agreed to stagger their services. The Baptists were up first at eight, then the Methodists at eight thirty, the Lutherans at nine and the Presbyterians waited until nine thirty for their services to start. Friday nights usually there were last minute piano rehearsals, or maybe a special choir practice if there was something extra going on. Women’s Bible study sometimes took place on Friday night as well.
Eric pulled into the appropriate parking lot and easily found a space.
“How many houses of worship does one town need?” he asked as he cut the engine.
“There’s been talk of building a Catholic church lately,” I said with a smile.
Eric shook his head and got out of the car. I followed suit and met him around the back of his car.
“Does this mean you predate Christianity?” I smirked.
“It means that my people didn’t follow it, although not long after I was turned a majority of them converted. Personally, I never believed in your Jesus.”
“Heathen,” I teased.
Eric looked down at me with a dangerously lustful expression and said, “I seem to recall you engaging in a few sins of your own, Sookie. Did you rush to church every Sunday to confess?”
“No, but then I’m not Catholic. In my church we don’t have confession.”
“So as long as you don’t confess, you have committed no sin?”
“No,” I said, and lowered my voice a little in the hopes that Eric would do the same. “I’ve sinned, and I’ve prayed about it. In my denomination of Christianity there’s no middle man. My confessions are from my lips to God’s ears.”
“I see,” he nodded.
“I take that to mean you’re not a very religious person?”
“I’ve never had much use for religion,” Eric said as he sniffed the air.
When he started to walk I followed behind him.
“I believe, to this day, in the Old Gods of my people. When I do pray, I pray to Odin, Thor, Freya and lately to Vör.”
“Thor… the God of thunder, right?” I asked, and Eric smiled at me over his shoulder.
“What about the others?”
“Vör is the goddess of wisdom, which I seem to be lacking lately,” he admitted as he continued to sniff around. “Freya is the goddess of love, fertility and battle. It is Odin that rules them all. He is known as the All Father.”
“You know I always found it intriguing to have different gods to pray to for different things. I guess I kind of like the idea of having a one stop shop with the God I was raised to believe in.”
“Lazy,” he teased, and I scoffed.
“Is there really a god for everything?” I asked him since I didn’t really know much about the Vikings’ belief system.
“When in doubt, pray to Odin,” he said, and then smiled. “I’ve got her scent.”
The problem with that was that we were at the back of the church, and Gran had no business being back there. She should have come out the side door like usual. Only church employees used the back, and that was only if they were working in the office.
“She shouldn’t have been back here,” I said, and my emotions started churning.
“I smell another female from around that same time,” Eric informed me.
“How can you be sure it was a woman?”
Eric’s eyes met mine and he said, “Because pregnant women give off a distinct odor to me and I smell it here. Unless your grandmother immaculately conceived the second coming of Christ, she was with a younger female. Is anyone in her group expecting?”
I thought for a moment but shook my head. “The median age for someone involved with the DGD is probably at least fifty, and none of the younger girls are pregnant.”
“Well there was definitely a pregnant female here, but I lose the scent. That probably means she got in a car. There are some that could continue to track her but I’m not one of them. Just say the word and I’ll call in the best tracker in my retinue,” Eric offered.
“I don’t want to impose on you, Eric.”
“It’s not an imposition,” he said.
“Alright, then yes, I would very much appreciate it.”
He nodded and then pulled a cell phone from his pocket. Rather than dialing a number with it, he handed it to me. It was my phone, the phone I’d hurled at him the night I dumped him.
“Eric, I can’t take this.” I tried to give the phone back but he wouldn’t take it.
“The tracker will need to be able to contact you,” Eric reasoned. “I don’t want to keep anyone waiting if he doesn’t locate her until sunrise.”
Eric had a good point so I thanked him and slipped the phone into my purse. He pulled another phone from a different pocket and made the necessary call. I stood quietly until Eric asked me for a description of Gran. I guestimated her weight and knew she was about my height. I had a picture of her on my phone so I forwarded that to Eric so he could forward it to whoever he was talking to. Once all of the arrangements were made we had to go back to my house so the tracker could get Gran’s scent.
I thought about calling Jason but didn’t know what I would say to him.
“Gran is still missing, but don’t worry my former Dom has a team of vampire trackers looking for her.” Yeah, that’d go over brilliantly.
“We’ll find her, Sookie,” Eric insisted and reached for my hand as he drove us back.
“I hope so,” I said. I hated to be greedy about it but I prayed that when she was found, she’d be found alive. That didn’t seem like too much to ask for.
It didn’t take long to get back, especially since Eric knew where he was going. I wasn’t anxious to test whether or not his airbags worked, but I wasn’t going to nag him on his driving skills either.
“So can I ask you a slightly silly question?” I asked as he took a corner way too fast for my liking.
“Yes, I have car insurance,” he smirked.
“Good to know but that wasn’t my question. I was wondering if you ever thought you’d be driving a car back when you were human.”
“Back then it was a miracle if there was enough food to keep the people in my village fed through the winter. A car would have been furthest from my mind,” he replied. “Not to mention, I enjoyed traveling by sea. I couldn’t imagine rolling into battle in a Honda.”
I laughed at that. I imagine one decorated with war paint and some village idiot type hanging out the sunroof, playing the drums and screeching out a war cry. Through it all the ride inside the Honda remained smooth.
“I like boats too. When I was younger I used to take an old rowboat out to the middle of this pond and just float in it for hours,” I recalled. “Gran was determined for Jason and me to be good swimmers on account of what happened to our parents so I’ve always been a pretty good swimmer. Sometimes I’d go out on the water to read or sunbathe. Other times it was to escape when… nevermind.”
Eric kissed my knuckles and said, “You were smart to get away from him. Not all children in your situation are so lucky.”
“I know,” I said quietly. I didn’t want to talk about him. “Let’s talk about other things. That subject is better left for another time.”
“Perhaps, but we should still discuss it,” he said.
There wasn’t much point if Eric was only here to help me find Gran, and so far that was all he had expressed any interest in. He had offered to resume my training if I wanted it, but he hadn’t said boo about what he wanted. We pulled up to the house a short time later and he parked in front as he usually did.
“If I decided I didn’t want a vampire in my house could I withdraw their invitation?” I asked randomly as we walked up to the house.
He didn’t ask if I was going to take back his invitation and I respected him for that. Eric followed me inside and I went to the kitchen to take the plate I’d made for Gran out of the oven. The answering machine was blinking so I played back the messages.
“Sookie this is Bud Dearborn,” his voice filled the room and I stopped in my tracks. “Kenya informed me that Adele’s gone missing on you. I can’t start a formal investigation but I put a BOLO out on her car. Kevin did a sweep of the parish and we didn’t find anything suspicious. If we do you’ll be the first to know. If Adele comes home please call the office. If you haven’t heard anything by the day after tomorrow come down and file a missing persons report. I’m awful sorry I can’t do more. You take care now.”
Yes it was frustrating that the police seemed to be sitting on their hands. Every episode of Law & Order I’d ever seen where someone got kidnapped the police talked about time being of the essence. It seemed to me that waiting for the police to help was a big waste of my time. Hell, Eric might have Gran found before Bud could start a formal investigation.
“Sook, I still ain’t heard from Gran. Now I ain’t hearin’ from you either. Will ya call me back when ya get this so I ain’t worried about ya all night?” Jason requested and I smiled at his concern.
“Who was that?” Eric asked from behind me.
I covered the plate with Saran wrap and put it in the fridge. Eric had interrupted my cleaning after supper so I started that up again while we waited for the other vampire to arrive. While I cleaned I tried to think of a pregnant woman in town that would have been at the DGD meeting last night.
The only pregnant woman I knew in town was Macy Madison and she definitely wouldn’t be at the meeting. Heck I didn’t think she even went to church so she really didn’t have any business being there.
I could feel Eric watching me while I cleaned up the kitchen but neither of us spoke. I wasn’t good at sitting back and doing nothing when I was stressed out. I felt the need to keep moving and to be productive. It helped keep my mind focused on something other than whatever was bothering me.
“Do you think I’m overreacting?” I asked Eric after a few minutes.
“I think if this is unusual for your grandmother then there is cause for concern,” Eric said, and that helped to settle me some. At least I wasn’t being a nutter for no reason.
“What worries me is that she hasn’t called. If Gran went off to help someone she would have called by now. That’s what makes me think she didn’t go on her own,” I told him.
The doorbell rang and we both headed for the front door. Eric gestured for me to open it, and a man stood on the other side. He looked to be in his late thirties and was dressed like it was casual Friday.
“Sheriff,” he said respectfully when he saw Eric standing behind me.
“Abe,” Eric greeted. “Sookie, this is Abe. He’s my number one tracker in this area. Abe, this is Sookie Stackhouse.”
“How-de-do?” I smiled at him and Abe smiled back. “Won’t you please come in?”
“Thank you,” Abe said politely and stepped inside. “So who am I looking for?”
I let Eric do the talking. He explained about Gran going missing the night before and I showed Abe to her room. Like Eric had done, he sniffed around until he was sure he had her scent, and then the two vampires left for the church together. Since there was nothing else for me to do but wait, I called Jason to let him know I was okay and that I hadn’t heard from Gran. I was curious about the Dawn situation but I could only handle one family crisis at a time, and finding Gran was a much better use of my energy than trying to sort out Jason and Dawn’s relationship.
After I got off the phone with Jason I locked the front door and went upstairs to start a bath. I sent Eric a text to let him know the kitchen door was unlocked and then started to get undressed. If Abe couldn’t locate Gran I didn’t know what I was going to do. The search would continue through the police but I worried she might never be found. There were too many things living in the shadows now and it made me wonder what else was out there. Vampires, shapeshifters, oracles… what else was lurking that humans didn’t know about? How many supernatural creatures did I do business with every day and I just didn’t know it?
Did it even really matter?
It seemed prejudicial to assume that just because he was a vampire, Eric ran amuck drinking the blood of everything with a pulse. So what if he couldn’t go out in the daylight? Yes, that was a little inconvenient, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. I could explain that as an allergy to sunlight. The bigger issue for me was later on down the line. What if Eric and I could make things work and I decided I wanted a child? He said he couldn’t give me one, at least not biologically, but would I be okay with adoption? Would that be good enough for me, or would I demand to have a baby of my own?
I knew that conversation was a long way off but it was something I needed to think about. As I sank into the perfectly warm water I did my best to turn my mind off entirely. For just a little while I didn’t want to think about anything other than how nice the water felt and how relaxed I was. And it was going well until I heard footsteps, followed by a knock on the bathroom door.
“May I come in?” Eric asked from the other side.
He had already seen me naked so why not?
“Yes,” I answered and the door opened.
Eric stepped into the room and said, “Abe was able to get her scent. He thinks she did leave by car. It might take a while to find her but if anyone has the ability, it’s Abe.”
“Thank you, Eric. I really do appreciate you doing this for me.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. His eyes were staying on mine and not traveling my body like I thought they would.
“So, can I ask you about something completely unrelated to Gran being missing?”
“Do you know anything about Callisto’s connection to the Oracles at Delphi?”
Eric had a pretty good poker face, I’d give him that. Of course he had more than 1,000 years to master it.
“The Oracles at Delphi gave prophecies for the god Apollo. Their wording was cryptic and sometimes seemed as if they were speaking in riddles. It was a great honor to be chosen as an oracle. The greatest of those oracles was a priestess that became known as Pythia. There is no exact record of when she was turned, but today the Pythoness is one of the oldest of our kind.
“The temple at Delphi where she once spoke her predictions for Apollo was only active the nine warm months of the year. When Apollo left for the winter, the oracle ceased to give her prophecies. In Apollo’s place was Dionysus, god of wine and madness. His followers, the maenads, frequented the temple where they gathered to celebrate their god. It was there that Callisto met the Pythia. Their friendship, if you can call it that, has spanned millennia. Even now, as an old blind woman, Pythia still sees what the rest of us cannot.”
“So that means Callisto isn’t human either. She’s a maenad?”
“And she went to ask an ancient vampire about me?”
“All because of what she saw on my necklace. That’s interesting.”
“What was on your necklace?”
“The Latin words ‘non sibi’ and then a raven pulling out its feathers to give to its young.”
“Interesting.” Eric seemed intrigued and knelt down beside the tub so I was a little more comfortable. “Is the necklace old?”
“I honestly don’t know. It looks old but I don’t really know where it came from. Gran gave it to me when I turned sixteen and she said it was a gift from a distant relative.”
“That’s definitely interesting.”
“What? You look like the wheels are turning in that head of yours.”
“Every breed of supernaturals has their traditions and ways of celebrating new life the same as humans do. Latin is most closely associated with demons-”
“Demons?!” I sat up in the tub. “Whoa, whoa are you saying that I have demon relatives?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Eric said calmly. “Latin isn’t exclusive to demons, only most closely associated with that breed.”
“What about vampires?” I asked.
“Vampires blend in with humans and we adapt to fit the culture and time we are living in, hence why I speak so many languages. Norse, my mother tongue, is one that I will always teach my children because it is the language I think in. It’s also a language that most vampires wouldn’t recognize unless they speak Icelandic.”
“Get back to the demons. Why would a demon give my Gran a necklace for me?” I asked.
“Who gave the gift isn’t as important as what the purpose of the gift is,” he said. “Sixteen years is a long time for someone to hold onto a gift. What makes that necklace so important and why was it hidden with your grandmother?”
“You think someone hid it with her?”
“I think if it was a gift from a supernatural being that’s a very distinct possibility,” Eric said.
“Well isn’t that just great?” I sighed and sank back against the tub. “Of course Gran isn’t here for me to ask about this when I need her.”
Eric stood up suddenly and pulled his phone from his pocket.
“Who are you calling now?” I asked.
“No one,” he said, and then turned the phone around to show me a picture of a rather dapper looking gentleman in a tuxedo. He was leaning on a beautiful hand-carved cane, and his flaxen hair was secured loosely at the nape of his neck. He looked familiar to me but I couldn’t quite place where I’d seen him before.
“Who is that?” I looked up at Eric. “I feel like I’ve seen this man before but I can’t remember where.”
“His name is Niall Brigant,” Eric said and my eyes went back to the picture.
The man’s eyes were similar to my own. He kind of made me think of what Jason might look like in forty or fifty years, but that was ridiculous. If we had a relative by the name of Niall I would remember that. Family trees were studied and committed to memory in my part of the world the same as a person’s phone number or address. Niall isn’t really a name someone forgets.
“So why are you showing me his picture?” I asked.
“Because he is supernatural, and his people are known for giving a gift like your necklace,” he explained.
That officially got my heart pumping a little faster.
“And what kind of supernatural is he?” I asked, even though I was afraid to hear the answer.
“Niall Brigant is a very old, very powerful fairy,” Eric told me.
I let those words rattle around in my brain for a few seconds before I said, “Shut the fuck up.”