Eric was waiting in the cover of the trees on the side of the road. He was kneeling on the Rogue he and Pam had captured, even though the man seemed to be unconscious. Eric was just as wet and dirty as Pam, and his fangs were still out. I saw blood streaked on the unconscious man and I wondered who it belonged to. Since I couldn’t hear any thoughts I was sure he was out cold.
“Did he tell you anything?” I asked Eric.
“I didn’t ask,” he said. “Taking him out in the open wasn’t ideal so we needed to do things as quietly as possible so we wouldn’t attract attention.”
That made sense. Without Eric asking me to I went back to the van and opened the back doors so he could put the unconscious Rogue back there. The man was hogtied and when Eric got him into the back of the van he secured the ties with a pair of chains attached to the van itself. If the Rogue woke up he was going to have a hell of a time getting free. Once he was secured in the back of the van I climbed up on the passenger’s side while Eric got behind the wheel.
“So where are you going to question this guy?” I asked when we were on the road headed back toward Bon Temps.
“We have a designated location for that,” he answered.
“What about Gran?”
“What about her?”
“Are you going to glamour her into forgetting all of this ever happened?”
“I’ve given that some thought,” he admitted. “Pam and I have argued about this. She’s aware that your grandmother knows what we are. She is also aware of what you are. Your grandmother already has knowledge of the supernatural and has demonstrated her ability to keep it to herself. I think she can be trusted to keep this quiet.”
I felt relief at that. I’d told Eric I didn’t want him to glamour Gran but that didn’t mean he was going to honor my request. On the drive back I noticed the shift of Eric’s eyes as he checked the various mirrors, probably to make sure we weren’t being followed.
“What about his motorcycle?” I asked since I had last seen it in the parking lot at the hotel.
“His pack will eventually find it there. I’m assuming he was sent with orders, so someone will come looking for him when he doesn’t check in.”
“What if Hadley goes back to the hotel?”
“That’s already being taken care of,” he said. “I made a phone call to Abe since he knows the address.”
So she’d be glamoured again, as would Remy.
“This time they’ll have no memory of contacting your grandmother at all.”
I didn’t really like the idea of messing with people’s minds like that but it was for the best. Gran would probably be pissed off about it but after that night I hoped she might understand why it was important to cut contact off with Hadley. She was trouble, plain and simple, and as long as she was around she was putting the rest of us in danger.
Pam called when she arrived in Bon Temps and safely delivered Gran at home. We weren’t far behind and pulled up to the house a short time later. The Rogue in the back was still out cold. Gran was sweeping the front porch, of all things, while Pam was bringing Gran’s things into the house.
“Gran, what are you doing?” I asked her even though it was obvious.
“We have company,” she said as if I should know better and I probably should have.
Gran was nothing if not house proud.
“How did things go with Pam?”
“Oh just fine,” Gran smiled. “She’s a zippy little driver though. Those NASCAR fellas could take lessons.”
I looked to Eric who was decidedly amused by Gran’s reaction to Pam and reached for his hand to keep my mind quiet. My interaction with Pam had been fairly limited and the first real personal conversation we had, she had told me to quit being ignorant so I was a little put off by her. She may have had a point at the time but I wasn’t ready to hear it just yet.
“I’m going to go with Eric and Pam for the interrogation in case I can pick up on something he’s not saying out loud,” I told Gran. “I don’t know if I’ll be home before sunrise.”
Gran looked at Eric and said, “I trust that you’ll keep my granddaughter safe.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said respectfully. “In fact, if you have no objections to it I would prefer that Pam remain here just on the chance that we have been followed.”
I knew Eric had been checking but I assumed he hadn’t seen anyone or there would have been phone calls to Pam to let her know he suspected a tail.
“I have no problem with that,” Gran said. “Oh but what will she do when the sun comes up?”
“She’ll go to ground,” Eric said as Pam came outside.
“Who’ll go to ground?” Pam quirked an eyebrow.
I could just imagine Pam digging herself a hole to rest in for the day. Then I started to wonder how she would get herself adequately covered over without assistance from someone. Gran certainly wasn’t going to be out back with a shovel moving that much dirt.
“There’s Jason’s old room,” I suggested. “We converted it to a light tight space so Eric could stay there. All Pam has to do it push the dresser in front of the door and it’ll block out the last of the light and act as a security measure if someone else tried to get in the room during the day.”
Gran gave me a look that told me she would be expecting me to explain later how that happened.
“What do we do about Hadley?” Gran asked, switching gears.
“She won’t be contacting you,” Eric informed her. “Until her problems are dealt with it’s best that she stays away from you.”
“It’s for our own good, Gran,” I added. “You know the people who are looking for her are dangerous.”
I knew Gran hated the idea of leaving Hadley to fend for herself but there had to come a point when even she could see that our hands were tied. Hadley was a grown woman. She may not have known what she was getting herself into at first but from all she’d told me she had been aware for quite some time of what was going on with the Rogues. She had gotten involved with a mated male and she knew how possessive and jealous their mates were.
“We all have our day of reckoning,” Gran said sadly.
At that moment I hated Hadley for putting Gran in this position. As usual she was selfish I her pursuits and wasn’t thinking about the kind of toll it would take on anyone else. She knew Gran wouldn’t be able to turn her away if she asked for help and no doubt she played up the pregnancy to get Gran on her side. Her manipulation made me want to wring her neck. Kin or not, there are some things that just can’t be forgiven and this hot mess brought the possibility of getting us all killed.
For the moment it was wisest to get back on the road and since Pam was fine with staying behind with Gran, and Gran didn’t seem to mind having Pam around, Eric and I got going. Eric promised to keep Pam informed on what was happening and I promised Gran I would call to check in the following morning.
“So what do we do now?” I asked once we were on the highway.
“Now I call Colonel Flood, the packmaster of the local Were pack and see if he has any interest in gathering his troops to deal with the Rogues,” he said as he pulled his cell phone from the inner pocket of the leather jacket he was wearing.
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then this man will be glamoured into never drinking vampire blood ever again and joining a new, respectable pack.”
That seemed simple enough… assuming Eric didn’t have to kill him.
We ended up in the middle of nowhere, in a little cabin not too far from one of the many bayous in the great state of Louisiana. I could hear the hissing of gators in the distance and it dawned on me that feeding a person to the gators was a great way to dispose of a body. While Eric got the Rogue situated the way he wanted him with his hands shackled at the wrists and the chains dangling from the heavy, sturdy beam running across the ceiling of the cabin. He’d released the restraints on the Rogue’s feet and they were just barely touching the ground.
“I’ll be right back,” Eric said, and then disappeared from the house for only a couple of seconds before returning with what looked like a black medical bag.
“What’s that?” I asked nervously.
“Pam likes to call it our bag of tricks,” he said as he pulled on a pair of leather gloves. “Silver burns vampires,” he explained as he pulled a length of chain from the bag.
“Does it burn werewolves too, or is that just a myth?”
“It’s a myth, as far as I know,” he told me. “But a werewolf is just a susceptible to dying from a gunshot wound as any other human. Whether or not the bullet is silver doesn’t matter.”
Eric pulled a few other things out of the bag that made me cringe. Pliers, a small blow torch, a paring knife… I didn’t even want to think about what he was going to do with those things and I hoped that I could glean whatever information from the Rogue I could before Eric had to employ those things.
Sensing my dread, Eric stopped what he was doing and turned to me.
“If you’re not comfortable with this I understand,” he told me. “This is the ugly side to the world I live in, Sookie.”
“Do you enjoy torturing people?” I asked since it seemed like a perfectly logical question.
I knew there was a part of him that had to derive some sort of pleasure from the sometimes violent acts that we had partaken in together in his Playroom, but I had never gotten the impression that he was a sadist. There was a big difference between being his pet and his slave, although it may not seem so to an outsider. I wasn’t interested in being a slave and I had made that clear to him.
“I enjoy getting the information I am attempting to obtain. If it requires using pain as a motivation to get a person to give up that information, then I will cause it,” he explained.
“Can’t you just glamour him into telling you what you want to know?”
“Glamouring doesn’t always work on werewolves, unfortunately. Something in their otherness prevents it from being fully effective.”
There was a pause while I thought about what I might witness. I didn’t like violence. I didn’t like the idea of someone dying, but then I reminded myself that this man, whoever he was, had put himself in this position. While it was true he probably hadn’t anticipated capture by an ancient vampire, that didn’t make what he was doing any less wrong. He was stalking an old woman in the hopes of getting to a pregnant woman who had wronged a member of his pack. If I had to choose between Gran and the Rogue, I would choose Gran every time.
God forgive me, but I would.
“If it gets to be too much for you just leave the cabin and go straight back to the van,” Eric said as he went to the sink to fill a bucket with water.
I nodded and took a few deep breaths to calm myself a bit. I needed to be on point and focused. The faster I could get whatever was going on in the Rogue’s head, the faster we could be done with all of this.
Colonel Flood had expressed little interest in getting involved with the Rogues and their business, according to Eric. The local werepack wasn’t strong enough to take on the Rogues alone and until the other packs were willing to rise up against the Rogues they were going to continue to be a problem. Gratefully, the Rogues mostly congregated in Mississippi. They had come over the border in hopes of finding Hadley.
“That girl better get herself good and hid,” Colonel Flood had told Eric. “If they don’t go after her personally, they will go after her young. It’s only a matter of time before they get their way.”
It seemed to me that if the other packs banded together the sheer number along should be enough to defeat the Rogues, but since they weren’t willing to work together and take a stand against these bullies things were going to continue the way they were. Eric had told me that there was a hierarchy in the vampire community. He was a sheriff who reported to a queen and I had to wonder who the queen reported to since there seemed to be an authority higher than her. I wondered if the werewolves had a similar form of government among their kind.
At the moment that didn’t matter, however. What mattered was the bucket of water sitting at Eric’s feet that must have been cold since it was steaming. His gloves were still on.
“Are you ready?” he asked me.
“I think so.”
He nodded and then turned to consider the Rogue for a moment. Eric reached into the pockets of the werewolf and when he found a wallet he handed it to me. The light in the room was dim, but there was a heavy duty flashlight sitting on the counter not too far away. I opened the wallet and the identification inside gave me a name.
“Coltrane Webster,” I read aloud. “The address says he’s from Jackson, Mississippi. He’s thirty-seven.”
That got me wondering if he had kids somewhere. When I looked up at his hands I didn’t see a wedding ring but that didn’t mean he wasn’t married. Somewhere back in Mississippi was there a Mrs. Webster sitting at home, praying her husband would come back in one piece? I wouldn’t know the answer to that question until Coltrane woke up. Frankly I was impressed that he was still knocked out.
His head was slumped forward, his body was limp and more like dead weight every time Eric moved him around. The blood that I had seen smeared on him before was his own, thanks to a nasty bite he’d received on his shoulder at some point during the battle. I had no idea whether it was Eric or Pam that had bitten him, not that it mattered either way.
“Coltrane,” Eric said in tone that might have been cheerful if it didn’t make my skin crawl. When calling the Rogue’s name didn’t work, Eric slapped him instead.
The slap didn’t work and that was when Eric picked up the bucket of water. I took a few more steps backward to make sure I didn’t catch any of the splash, and watched as Eric tossed some of the water onto the Rogue. With a startled gasp Coltrane lifted his head and sputtered to get the water out of his face.
“What the fuck?” his voice was raspy and immediately his mind kicked in.
Coltrane’s thoughts weren’t coming in the way a regular human’s would. With him I was mostly getting colors in my head. It was sort of like a TV with bad reception. I tried to focus in on what he was thinking but all I was getting were flashes of things, like still frames from a movie or something. Maybe touching him would help but I didn’t like the menacing feeling I got from what I could pick up from him.
“Fucking fanger,” Coltrane growled, struggling against his restraints. “What the fuck am I doing here? Who’s the hot piece of ass back there?”
I stayed quiet and tried to concentrate more on his thoughts than what he was saying.
Bitch looks like Hadley, I picked up from him.
“He knows Hadley,” I said. I might not get much more than that but at least it was confirmation of some sort. For some reason I sincerely doubted he’d been sent by Hadley to keep an eye on Gran.
“You’ll watch your tongue when you speak to my lover,” Eric said in a sinister tone of voice.
“If she’s anything like Hadley she’ll take all comers,” Coltrane tried to smile.
Eric stepped into his line of sight so he couldn’t see me anymore.
“She isn’t your concern,” Eric said. “Who sent you here?”
“Fuck you,” Coltrane responded.
“You’re not my type,” Eric said and then slapped Coltrane hard, but not in the face. He hit the werewolf’s stomach, which I thought was an interesting choice, but then again Eric was quite strong. Coltrane wheezed in attempts to get some fresh air into his lungs. “I have all night and for all I care you can hang there until sundown. Just tell me what I want to know and this will be over.”
“You’re going to kill me either way, fanger, so just get it over with. I ain’t telling you shit,” Coltrane said between gasps for air.
Eric moved closer to the wolf and in a blur of motion he had the guy’s boots off. He reached for a pair of pliers and my stomach did a little flip-flop.
“What’s your business with Hadley?” Eric asked.
I braced myself for whatever might come next. My eyes squeezed shut since I didn’t want to watch if Eric did what I thought he was going to do. I tried to tune of all the exterior noises and reach out with my mind to Coltrane’s but since I didn’t really know what I was doing I didn’t know if it was working. What I did see was Hadley’s little house in Red Ditch.
“Eric,” I said quietly to get his attention.
He stepped backward without taking his eyes off the werewolf. He bent his knees so I could whisper to him.
“He knows where Hadley lives. She’s not safe there,” I told him.
Eric growled at that. Honestly I didn’t know how much more of his time he was going to want to devote to my fool cousin. Already I knew he was only doing this for me. In his own way he cared. I wasn’t fool enough to think it was love, but he cared.
Coltrane’s refusal to answer Eric’s question resulted in the loss of a toenail by pliers. His screams were enough to twist my stomach in knots. I wasn’t prepared to witness someone being tortured and I wondered if Coltrane wasn’t right about Eric’s intention to kill him regardless of the intelligence we gathered.
What surprised me was when Eric bit into his wrist and then showed the Were the wound. As soon as the smell of Eric’s blood hit Coltrane’s nose he started to make canine-like sounds, sort of like a dog scratching at the back door because it was anxious to catch whatever little critter might be scampering on the lawn. Only Eric was no errant squirrel; he was a very old, very powerful vampire. It seemed almost cruel to tease the ailing werewolf with his blood.
“Tell me what I want to know and I can make the pain stop,” Eric said, getting closer to Coltrane. He got so close that Coltrane could almost swing his body within licking distance. Blood was running down the inside of Eric’s forearm and would soon drip from his elbow if Coltrane didn’t make up his mind.
“Kill me, Northman. I’m not the only one tracking Hadley. The whore will pay for what she’s done, and when we’re done with her maybe we’ll come back for the clone behind you. I can smell your fear almost as easily as I can smell your cunt, pretty lady,” Coltrane said just before a vicious punch was thrown that resulted in what sounded like cracking bones.
Coltrane’s pain radiated in my head. I saw the starburst and then a flash of what looked like me at the center of a group of men that looked similar to Coltrane. They were all burly, stocky men. Everyone was naked and they were all trying to get me to pleasure them at once and in various methods. If this asshole thought I was going to let them gangbang me he had another thing coming.
“You can just get that nasty image out of your mind right now, mister,” I piped up from behind Eric. “You’re not my type either.”
Eric growled at that as well and then he was reaching for the blow torch. I didn’t know what he was fixing to do with that but I wasn’t sure I wanted to stick around to find out. Since Eric had told me to just leave if I became uncomfortable at any point I simply turned and left the cabin. I was just about to walk out when I heard the unmistakable whoosh of flames coming to life. It was a good thing we were in the middle of nowhere because I wasn’t even out to the van yet and I could still hear Coltrane’s screams.
For the moment I was glad I couldn’t clearly read Coltrane’s thoughts. I got into the van and locked myself in. God only knew how long Eric was going to be in there doing God knows what to Coltrane. Maybe the kinder thing to do would be to just kill the werewolf and get it over with. Then again Eric didn’t seem to be interested in doing the merciful thing.
While I sat there in the van I asked myself if I thought I could handle being in situations like these in the future. If I wanted to be with Eric I was going to have to accept that there were times when things like this would happen. I would see ugly, violent things and I would have to figure out how to reconcile the Eric I knew with the one inside the cabin doing unspeakable things to another person.
Coltrane may not have been innocent but my Christian beliefs made it difficult for me to think it was okay for anyone other than God to make a judgment over who should live or die. I still believed that if I had to choose one life or another that I would pick my own over Coltrane’s. I wouldn’t take pleasure in his death the way Eric probably would though.
While I sat in the van I stared at the woods that surrounded the cabin and all of a sudden a third mind registered nearby. I looked around, searching for who it belonged to but saw no one. It wasn’t like Eric’s black hole or Coltrane’s snarling fuzz of colors. It wasn’t human either. No, this mind was like a white light to me. There was something peaceful about it but I couldn’t get a read on it either. I couldn’t even get a good location on it, I just knew it was somewhere nearby.
In some ways I felt like it was a waste for me to come along. I hadn’t been very helpful I garnering any new information and I simply didn’t have the stomach to watch whatever methods Eric was planning to employ to get Coltrane to talk. My gut told me that it was an exercise in futility, that Coltrane wasn’t going to tell Eric anything. But it couldn’t hurt for me to keep listening, just on the chance that he gave up some sort of information. So I closed my eyes and emptied my mind of everything but what was going on in Coltrane’s. There were more flashes of color interspersed with more still frames. It was hard to tell if what I was seeing were memories or fantasies of the future.
I spotted Hadley in his head a few times. She always looked strung out and I was able to piece together from those images and the few words I could pick up that Hadley had been willing to trade her body for drugs. That included vampire blood. I didn’t know that vampire blood could be a drug. I was going to have to ask Eric about that later.
He hadn’t mentioned that to me before, only that vampires were very protective of their blood. It made sense. With all the magical properties it had I could understand why. I could only imagine what human scientists would want to do with a captured vampire, and with their weaknesses to silver and sunlight it wouldn’t be impossible to catch one. That got me thinking about the likelihood of whether or not vampires ever truly would reveal themselves to the human world. That seemed like it could be dangerous.
Even if they were faster or stronger than humans they weren’t invincible. But Eric hadn’t committed one way or another about his kind’s plans for the future. What I did see in Coltrane’s mind was also enough to let me know that Eric had quite the reputation in the supernatural world. Coltrane knew who Eric was immediately, and it seemed this wasn’t necessarily the first time they met but I couldn’t be sure about that.
Time seemed to pass slowly, dragging on at a snail’s pace until finally Coltrane’s mind went silent and then disappeared. I could only assume the werewolf was dead and pray that Eric had been able to get something more out of the werewolf before killing him.