I slept well. The stress of the day before, combined with all of the physical activity with Eric completely wore me out. I supposed the little bit of blood loss didn’t help matters much but I didn’t regret doing it. I stayed in bed until almost noon, but then forced myself up to shower, get dressed and start my day.
The shower felt good, if only because I was definitely in need of it. I dressed comfortably in a pair of jogging pants and a baggy old sweatshirt. It was a good day for a fire, but first I was going to need to get Jason over to chop firewood for me. I could do it but it took me much longer. I supposed that might not be true since I had Eric’s blood in me, but I needed to talk to Jason anyway. Obviously I couldn’t tell him about the tracker that was hot on Gran’s trail, but I wanted to know what he thought we should do if Abe lost Gran’s scent.
Eric was insistent that Abe would find her, and I hoped that he was right, but having a backup plan couldn’t hurt. When I got down to the kitchen I started a pot of coffee first thing. There were only five or so hours until sunset so there wasn’t much time to fill before Eric rose for the night. While I waited for my coffee to brew I called Jason.
“What’s up, sis? You hear from Gran yet?” he answered on the second ring.
“No, not yet. You?”
“No,” he said dejectedly. “Something ain’t right here, Sook. I tried talkin’ Bud into lettin’ us file one of those missing persons things but he said it was too soon. Besides, there ain’t no indication she went against her will.”
“Nothing other than behavior that’s out of character for her,” I sighed.
Oh, and the fact that she was fucking missing.
I swear sometimes I thought the entire department was just lazy. Usually the only real crime we had was people running the only red light in town, or the occasional foolish high schooler trying to sneak into Merlotte’s on a fake ID. Stupid since no one needed to see a license around these parts to know who was of age.
“Well maybe if they had to do something other than get a cat out of a tree they might remember how to do real police work,” Jason nearly shouted in his frustration. “You know I was at Merlotte’s last night and Andy Bellefleur was in there flirting with Arlene?”
Jason was gossiping? Well that was new. What did he care?
“So he coulda been out lookin’ for Gran but instead he was tryin’ to become her next ex-husband.”
I wanted to chastise Jason for that but I couldn’t. It seemed every time I turned around Arlene was getting engaged, married or divorced. Honestly it was a bit of a miracle she only had two kids. I felt bad for Lisa and Coby though. They were good kids but their mother was a hot mess. There’s always something with her.
“Jase a friend of mine has a private detective friend of his looking into things,” I told him. Calling Abe a private detective was a stretch but it’d satisfy Jason.
“That’s great, Sook! He found anything so far?”
Didn’t I just answer that question? The brightest star in the heavens my brother wasn’t.
“Not yet. If that changes you’ll be the first to know. Bud called last night to tell me he put a BOLO out on Gran’s car. He said if she doesn’t come home today that we should go in tomorrow to fill out the missing persons report. I can take care of that if it becomes necessary,” I told Jason.
“Yeah, that’d be good. If I go in there I’ll just get annoyed with Andy and end up getting arrested or something.”
That was probably true. Jason and Andy didn’t generally get along so well. I got the impression that Andy was a little jealous of my brother. Andy was dangerously close to being Bon Temps’ answer to Barney Fife. He wasn’t smooth with the ladies, particularly good looking, nor did he have the most endearing personality. Jason was charismatic, good looking and definitely had a way with women. Jason had everything that Andy wanted, but everything isn’t the way it probably seemed.
It would be easy to assume that Jason had everything but that wasn’t true. Andy hadn’t exactly lived a bad life, and a lot of the reason he was so unpopular a lot of the time was because he was such a grouch. We all have bad days but with Andy it was like he never got off on the right foot. He was always grumbling about something, always complaining about being short changed one way or another. It got annoying to listen to a grown man whine so much.
Now Jason might be a lot of things but a whiner isn’t one of them. Because of the jealousy, Andy had really busted Jason’s balls back when Jason was still in high school. Andy was a grown ass man that couldn’t seem to stop getting on Jason’s case for one reason or another. It bordered on harassment and it would have continued if it wasn’t for Gran having a word with Bud about it.
Of course, Andy resented that, too.
“Well I’ll wait and see what the detective finds and if we don’t hear anything from Gran by tomorrow morning then I’ll go down to the sheriff’s office to file the report,” I said.
“That works. Shoot, I gotta go, Sook. I’ll call ya tomorrow,” he said.
Before I could say goodbye he was gone but I was used to that. Jason was only minimally aware of the rest of the world a lot of the time. The rich, warm smell of coffee filled the room as it finished percolating. I got a mug down from the cabinet and the creamer from the fridge. The red light on the answering machine was blinking so I started the messages playing back while I got my coffee fixed up the way I wanted it.
“Good morning, this is Rita Collier from Renard Parish’s hall of records calling for Sookie Stackhouse in regards to your resume. I was hoping to schedule an interview with you, so if you could call me back I would appreciate it,” she said, and left me a callback number to reach her at.
I wrote the number down on the pad Gran kept near the phone and then erased the message. There were no other messages so I got to making my breakfast. I fried up a couple of eggs and made myself some toast. Before I sat down I went out to the front to get the morning paper so I could read while I ate.
As usual there wasn’t much going on in town. There were notices about when trick or treating was allowed in town. Since we were so far out of the way we didn’t get many kids out by us. The bigger problem was teenagers trying to hold séances in the cemetery.
They had a tendency to get a little rowdy and end up on our property. Since Gran’s hearing wasn’t what it used to be the noise didn’t bother her, it was the mess they left behind that got under her skin. I had to agree that it was rude to leave trash on someone’s lawn, but they didn’t seem to care. That is until Terry Bellefleur took to patrolling the woods on Gran’s behalf to keep the little hooligans away until I got home from Merlotte’s. I didn’t think it was necessary but it gave Terry something productive to do, and Gran enjoyed his company.
After breakfast I cleaned up and decided to take another tour of the back roads to see if I could spot Gran’s car somewhere. Abe had said he tracked her all the way to Red Ditch, so before I left the house I looked on a map to see where that was. The nearest small town to us was Hotshot, and you practically needed a passport to go there. Hell, it was like being on another planet. I didn’t have any friends that lived there. I didn’t even like passing through. There was something creepy about Hotshot, like that town would be the perfect setting for a horror movie about a family of redneck psychos that get their kicks skinning their victims or something like that. From the time I was young, Gran warned me about that place. As a result, I stayed away.
Red Ditch was east, probably about an hour and a half away from Bon Temps. It was a little before two. If I hurried I could probably get there and back before sundown, but I wouldn’t know where to look when I got there. I didn’t know how big the town was, nor did I know my way around. If it was a small place like Bon Temps it might not take long to search, but if it was bigger like Monroe that was another story.
I decided I’d hold off on Red Ditch. If Eric wasn’t busy maybe he’d want to go with me. Or, at the very least, he could contact Abe. I didn’t know if I could really be of help to Abe but it was worth a try. That got me thinking about the pregnant woman Eric said he smelled. Was she still with Gran in Red Ditch? If she was we needed to be on the lookout for her as well.
I grabbed my keys, purse and phone and then headed out to the car. Of course, it was just my luck that the damn thing wouldn’t start. If I didn’t know any better I’d think that Eric had done something to it, but there hadn’t been time for that. I sighed and went back inside to see about getting Tray Dawson out to come take a look at it. Whatever was wrong better not cost me an arm and a leg to get fixed or I was just going to junk the car. It was so old that it wasn’t really worth putting that much money into anymore. I loved that car but I wasn’t stupid; I knew it was on its last legs.
Tray was busy but promised he’d swing by on his way home. For a moment I considered taking Eric’s car but I had no interest in invoking his wrath because I scratched his baby or blew out the transmission. Jason had taught me how to drive stick but I wasn’t very good at it. I wasn’t about to see if I had improved by driving Eric’s car. You know, the car that costs way more than I make in a year. In fact, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I had to work five years just to pay off that car—nevermind all of my other bills.
Since I wasn’t going anywhere I decided to go back inside to call Rita. Only I barely made it to the back porch before I heard this strange humming sound, like when the TV is left on but the cable is turned off. It was the kind of frequency that hits the ear and seems to travel down the spine, forcing you to figure out where the noise is coming from so you can make it stop. I turned around and as the sound started to crackle and pop like an old record skipping on a phonograph, a person started to take form. I had no idea what the fuck was happening, but my body was frozen in place when I probably should have been running like my ass was on fire.
As the person’s form became more solid I knew who I was looking at. Callisto.
About damn time she showed up.
“About time,” I tapped my foot in frustration.
“One doesn’t rush the Pythia. She is an old, cranky woman who answers questions at her leisure when it suits,” Callisto said. “Not to mention I needed to make a stop to visit my God, as I am ever His faithful.”
The smile on her face told me the visit had gone quite well. Did she really make me wait so she could have a divine booty call? That was just fantastic.
“So what did you find out?” I asked her. Hell, I wasn’t even sure why she left.
“The Raven is a symbol of Apollo, brother of the great Dionysus,” she said as she presented my necklace to me.
“So Apollo is quite the amorous god. The fruits of his many affairs transcend humanity,” she said with a smirk.
I crinkled my nose and asked, “What does that mean?”
“In modern language it means the object of his affection doesn’t need to have a pulse to capture his attention,” she said. “To put it crassly, he’ll fuck anything.”
Oh. Well then.
“He had an affair with the essence of a tree once,” Callisto laughed. “Never let him near the wine on midsummer’s eve. He’s trouble, that one, and they all say that Dionysus is the problem.”
“Isn’t he the god of wine, chaos and madness?” I asked.
“And sexual frenzy,” she grinned.
Oh boy. I had no idea where she was going with all of this.
“So what does any of this have to do with my necklace?” I asked her. Talking to her was a little like talking to the damn Mad Hatter. Internally I giggled over the possibility of her asking me why a raven was like a writing desk.
“What do you know about fairies?” she asked.
“Fairies? Like Tinkerbell?”
“I don’t know what that is,” she said with a blank expression.
“She’s this pretty little thing with wings and a sassy attitude,” I explained.
Callisto continued to give me the same blank look and it took everything I had not to roll my eyes at her.
“I know nothing about fairies, apparently,” I sighed.
Callisto started her pacing as she told me what she knew about fairies, which wasn’t a whole lot. She informed me that they were beautiful creatures that loved music and loved to dance. Their idea of music wasn’t quite the same as a human’s idea of music, and it wasn’t uncommon to see them dancing under the full moon. I still wasn’t sure what that had to do with me or my necklace but I had to assume there was a point.
But I didn’t interrupt her train of thought. Getting her to focus was difficult enough and I was starting to understand why it had taken get so long to speak the Pythia… Whatever that meant.
“Long, long ago there was a fairy by the name of Bronya that was banished from the isle of Eire. She traveled east until she heard the lyre of Apollo and couldn’t help but stop to dance. She came at the change of seasons when both Apollo and Dionysus occupied the temple at Delphi and fell under the influence of each of them. It was the lyre that lured her in and the frenzy that lowered her guard when Apollo took the form of one of her kind so he could mate with her.
“Bronya became pregnant with the child of a god that night. Apollo is the god of music, poetry, plague, oracles, medicine, knowledge, light…and sun. Light is the yin to the yang of darkness. What creatures revel in darkness?”
“Vampires,” I whispered as a cryptic feeling started to fall over me.
“Bronya bred a new type of fairy when she birthed the child of Apollo, Sookie. Because of this one child every descendant of that line is god touched and contains a special kind of light within them. Light, the sun, they are the mortal enemies of dark things and yet they belong together. Your talisman bears the mark of a raven, one of the symbols of Apollo. You are of his line, Sookie.”
And my life just got a little bit weirder—just when I didn’t think that was possible.
“Not to sound like a broken record, but what does that mean?” I asked her.
“It means that you possess the light of the fae, and that you have been touched by Apollo,” she smiled at me.
“Okay,” I said, still unsure of what that meant, exactly. “And what about the talisman? Why is that important?”
“Because a child of each generation of Apollo’s line receives a special gift when they are ready to receive it,” Callisto said as she came closer to me.
A crown made of leaves materialized out of thin air and she precisely placed it on my head.
“Laurel is another symbol of Apollo,” she explained. “You are ready to receive your gift. I felt it in you the night we met.”
“And what gift is that?” I asked nervously.
“Non sibi…a gift that is selfless in nature. You are strong in spirit and in character. Apollo trusts that you will not abuse what he is giving you.”
Dread. Dread was what I was feeling because I had a feeling she wasn’t talking about a new car or a monetary gift.
“The Pythia does not see,” she said, “Apart from what is in here,” she touched her temple.
“Am I going to go blind?” I asked in a panic.
“Hardly. In fact, Apollo has decided that you shall not only see better, but hear better as well,” she smiled at me.
Great, so a lifetime dose of vampire blood bestowed to me by my ancient god relative. I looked around for a few seconds wondering where the video cameras were. Ashton Kutcher had to be lurking, waiting to tell me I was part of the most elaborate episode of Punk’d ever filmed. That didn’t happen, of course, and before I could ask Callisto what she was talking about with hearing or seeing better, she was gone.
I sighed and shook my head. Maybe I should consider seeing a mental health professional. I was sure I’d lost my mind in some capacity. Gods, vampires, maenads, fairies, shapeshifters… It all sounded completely insane. When, exactly, had I stepped into a parallel universe?
I went into the house and took off the crown I’d been given. So far I wasn’t hearing or seeing things any differently. For a moment I thought maybe x-ray vision was part of the package, but when I trained my eyes on a closed cabinet I didn’t see its interior in my mind except from memory. If Apollo had blessed me with a gift it was defective. Then again it was probably best not to complain. I put my talisman back on and went to the phone to call Rita.
I needed a dose of reality as quickly as possible.