The house was silent when Eric rose for the night. Usually that was a good thing, but given the very recent change in circumstances he wasn’t happy at all. And that only further frustrated him. Sookie was trouble. He felt it in his gut. What’s worse was that he felt like an idiot. Nora knew his weaknesses, as few and far between as they were, and she had used them against him. He was a sucker for pretty blondes, and she had known that all it would take was a whiff of Sookie’s scent and he would be hooked.
And it worked.
Eric stretched his long limbs and then sat up. There was a text message from Sookie, thanking him for loaning her the car and a picture of it as proof that she had arrived in Bon Temps without any damage to the sporty black Audi. Truth be told he didn’t give a fuck about the car. He was more concerned– whoa. No, not concerned. Okay, maybe a little concerned about Sookie.
Eric was certain that if something happened to her on his watch, the Authority had a stake with his name on it.
What a fucking nightmare this was. Why him? All he wanted was to run his area, toy with the humans that paid too much for drinks at his bar and find a decent feed and/or fuck to keep him from getting too bored. Instead, Nora dropped Sookie in his lap, almost literally.
His phone started ringing to the tune of the title score from Psycho. Pam was calling.
“Northman,” he said when he answered.
“Word came back. Herveaux’s father was drained,” Pam informed him. “That makes five.”
“I’ll be at the bar by midnight. When you get Sookie’s clothes, bring them to the Ironwood house and leave them in the living room,” Eric instructed.
“Color and fabric preference?”
“Red and not wool.”
“Got it,” Pam said, and hung up.
Eric tossed his phone aside and thought over the murder victims. Sarah Newlin, Frannie Quinn, Felton Norris, Selah Pumphrey and Jackson Herveaux were all victims of the Commandment Killer.
Frannie was a born again christian that got involved with the Fellowship after the king of Nevada basically turned her weretiger brother into an indentured servant. John Quinn was working off his mother’s gambling debts and had traded his life for hers after she staked the vampire that sexually assaulted her. There was no known reason for Steve Newlin to want Frannie dead.
Felton Norris was a werepanther from Hot Shot, just outside of Eric’s territory. As one of the two natured, he was pretty much genetically predisposed to hating vampires. He had attended the Fellowship’s Light of Day Academy, but had been kicked out when his addiction to methamphetamine was brought to light. Unlike with all of the other victims, there was bad blood between Newlin and Norris, but there was no direct evidence putting Newlin at the crime scene.
Selah Pumphrey was a real estate agent from Minden. She worked for one of the top selling agencies in all of northern Louisiana. She was originally from Arkansas, and got involved with the Fellowship after nearly being drained by a nest of vampires looking to buy a house she was showing in Clarice. Selah and Steve had met several times in the wake of her attack. She was damn near their spokesperson once she was well enough. Selah sold her story to anyone who would listen, but then it was discovered that she had been dating vampires prior to the attack… and her hospital bill had been paid by Bill Compton.
Selah had still been working with the Fellowship, renouncing any and all ties to vampires, repenting for her sins and poor judgment in the past. Selah was scheduled to give a talk in Houston when she was murdered. Steve Newlin was staying in the same hotel as Selah, but again there was no direct evidence or clear motive for the murder.
So far, if it was Steve Newlin, he had very wisely selected his victims. What threw the whole thing off was the exsanguination. There were no puncture marks on the bodies to indicate how it had been done, which should have eliminated vampires altogether as potential suspects. Of course there were conspiracy theorists out there trying to prove that these killings were the work of the government, but that didn’t make much sense either.
Eric didn’t know what to make of it all, but given that the Authority had sent Sookie to do some digging into the matter made him think it was a little more than possible that a vampire could be involved. If Newlin had a partner of the fanged variety, that would be a PR nightmare for Nan Flanagan and the AVL. With the big push for the VRA to pass, even the tiniest hiccup could result in the amendment not passing. If that happened, Eric was going to thank his lucky stars he didn’t have to hear Nan’s tirade.
Since there was time to kill and he had showered that morning, Eric grabbed his laptop and decided he’d get some work done before going out to Bon Temps to get Sookie.
There were security agents moving through Gran’s house with SWAT team precision. It was rumored that most of the guards assigned to regents were military trained, and it showed in the way they moved through the house. One room at a time, the house was declared to be clear.
The security team cleared out and once they had retreated, Bill Compton appeared from a convoy of vehicles. It was slightly pretentious considering his house was right across the cemetery, but Bill wasn’t just any vampire anymore. He was dressed in a dark blue suit with his hair gelled into place. What struck Sookie was his coloring.
Eric was pale, but he didn’t look quite so corpse-ish. There was something about Bill that made the hairs on her arms stand up, but it wasn’t like with Eric. Bill made her anxious in a bad way. There was a sense of foreboding about him, something sinister.
“Mr. Compton, welcome,” Gran greeted. “Please do come in.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Stackhouse. It’s lovely to meet you,” Bill said cordially. “And Miss Stackhouse, your reputation precedes you.”
“Your Majesty,” Sookie curtsied the way Gran had taught her.
“Can I interest you in a TruBlood, Mr. Compton?” Gran offered.
“That would be delightful.”
“I’ll get it, Gran,” Sookie offered.
“Thank you, dear,” Gran said, and then practically giggled when Bill offered her his arm.
Sookie felt her hands tingle as she watched Bill escort her grandmother to the living room. It was a good thing she’d spent time recharging in the sun. The security team had checked the house for weapons and assassins, not realizing that Sookie was just as deadly as any rifle loaded with wooden bullets. She moved to the kitchen to get the TruBlood and tea Gran had started just as the convoy had rolled up to the house.
Sookie could hear Gran and Bill chattering away in the living room, but so far their conversation wasn’t very interesting. Sookie pulled the phone Eric had given her from her pocket and sent him a text to let him know that Bill had arrived. The pendant on her necklace started to warm, as it always did, whenever the tiny camera inside it was activated. No doubt there were officials back at headquarters watching and listening.
Audiologists and special technicians would refine the footage later to clarify the conversation taking place in the living room. Sookie had two cell phones on her, but it was Eric’s phone that was set to vibrate. Bill would hear it anyway, but there was no sense in letting it make a bunch of noise if he sent multiple texts.
Sookie loaded all of the drinks onto a tray and then went to the living room to join the conversation. Gran knew Sookie had questions that needed answering so the hope was to get the shop talk out of the way quickly so that Gran could ask her Civil War questions until Bill was whisked away for his next appointment.
Despite the warnings that were screaming at her from the depths of her being, Sookie slapped on a happy face and politely served Bill his TruBlood.
“I hope you don’t mind O-Neg,” Sookie said.
“Not at all,” Bill replied with a charming smile. “Thank you, Miss Stackhouse.”
“You’re welcome, and it’s just Sookie, please.”
“Alright, but only if you call me Bill,” he responded, and Sookie nodded.
She got busy pouring tea for herself and Gran, and it was Gran who asked, “Mr. Compton, what do you think of these awful murders Reverend Newlin is suspected of having committed?”
Well, it wasn’t as subtly done as Sookie would have introduced the topic, but there it was. Bill switched gears from friendly neighborhood vampire king to concerned politician, like he was bucking for reelection and pandering to his constituents. Reading people’s minds had also taught Sookie a great deal about body language, and all the clues it gave away. She had learned all the tricks people could use to try and distract a listener from their words with their actions.
So when Bill reached over to place one of his cold, undead hands on top of Gran’s, it was all Sookie could do to keep from zapping him but good to get him away from her. The vampire had barely said ten words to her, and already Sookie was convinced she could never trust Bill Compton.
Her instincts were better than any lie detector on the market.
“It’s an awful thing to see a leader of a flock go astray,” Bill said in a mild, almost sad tone.
Sookie laughed. She couldn’t help it. The response was obviously ridiculous coming from a vampire. There were no TV cameras around for Bill to pander to. There was no need for this – what Gran would call – horse puck.
“Sookie,” Gran reprimanded. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Compton.”
Gran had next to zero tolerance for rudeness or disrespecting one’s elders, and Sookie had just offended Gran both ways with her laughter.
“It’s quite alright, Mrs. Stackhouse,” Bill said. “What do you find so humorous, Sookie?”
“Your nonsensical answer,” Sookie said bluntly. “You know I work for the Authority, which gives me access to a great number of vampires. It also allows me to separate lip service from the AVL and what vampires really feel about things. Not a single vampire I’ve met feels genuine compassion for a man that would gladly commit genocide if given the chance to do so.”
Bill looked properly chastised, while Gran looked a little angry. Sookie was goading Bill on purpose. She suspected that Mr. Nice Guy act only went so far, and when his buttons were pushed in the right order, he could be as deadly as any other vampire.
“Sookie, I do not support Reverend Newlin’s organization–”
“Good, because it would be treason if you did,” Sookie cut him off.
“Susannah!” Gran snapped. Sookie was going to have damage control to do later.
“As a human, I was a Christian. I understand the important role the Reverend plays to his flock. While I may not agree with their views, the wonderful thing about this country is the guaranteed freedom to practice the religion of one’s choosing, and to speak one’s mind. Any sympathy I may feel is for the poor lost souls that may have followed a false prophet,” Bill replied in a calm, even tone. Sookie hadn’t rattled him.
But she was certain that she could. She just needed to push the right button. Her position allowed her more knowledge about the case than the average individual would have. Sookie had been sent along with Nan Flannigan when the Authority had first been brought in on the case. She had listened to the minds of the FBI agents assigned to the case to ensure they weren’t holding anything back. Sookie had jotted down notes, listening for names, potential suspects or any suspicions the FBI might have that they weren’t willing to share.
Sookie also checked them to make sure they hadn’t been glamoured. Both agents were clean from a glamour perspective, but there had been attempts to withhold information which was disappointing.
The phone Eric had given her buzzed in Sookie’s pocket. She pulled the device and smiled the same way she had when she was a young teenager and Justin Timberlake appeared on the TV screen. “Excuse me, Bill, my master requires I call him,” Sookie said, and then fired off a text to Eric to warn him of her intent to call.
“Your master?” Bill looked surprised. Sookie had warned Gran, so she reacted only with a smile.
“Anyone I might know?”
“Oh yes. He’s one of your sheriffs,” Sookie said, still smiling. “Eric Northman.”
There was a twitch in Bill’s smile for the briefest of moments before it went back to normal. It was a tiny break in character, but Sookie knew she was onto something. Eric had mentioned there was some bad history between him and Bill, but he hadn’t offered any further explanation. Now Sookie’s curiosity was piqued.
“I wasn’t aware you and Sheriff Northman knew each other,” Bill said.
“We met recently. It was just one of those things where our eyes met, and boom, instant connection.” Sookie chose her words carefully.
Bill smiled again, but it wasn’t the same smile as before. There was something a little forced about it. Sookie knew that smile; she had one just like it for those occasions when she heard someone thinking something nasty.
“Please excuse me. I’ll be back,” Sookie said, and then left the room. She had taken things as far as she could in one night. It was better to pull the plug now when she was sure she had Bill on her hook.
If she requested a second audience with him, she was certain she would get it, just as sure as she was that Bill would be listening in on her phone call.