It felt like the world was closing in on me quickly. I could hear Rosy talking but none of her words were registering in my brain. All I could think of was Sadie being gone. I froze, completely stuck. It felt like I couldn’t breathe. How could someone take my baby?
The call waiting beeped in my ear and I looked at the display to see Eric’s face. My fingers moved quickly to take his call.
“Sadie’s gone!” I yelled in a panic. “I went to lunch with Tara and when I got back she was gone! Someone took her, Eric! Our baby is gone!”
The tears and sobs came as the reality of the situation started to sink in. I could hear the sirens in the distance of the police coming this way. I could only imagine Jason’s face when he got the call that there had been a break-in at Gran’s house and his grandmother was hurt and his niece was missing.
“Sookie!” Eric’s loudness snapped me out of my hysteria. “Where is Quinn?”
“I gave him time off,” I said. “He said his mother was having one of her episodes and I called for a replacement but Mustafa hasn’t arrived yet. Oh God, Eric, what if they hurt her? What if they…” I couldn’t get myself to finish the question because the thought was just too awful to entertain.
“Did you call the police?”
“Of course I did!” I yelled at him. “Gran tried to fight whoever it was that took Sadie. Oh God, Gran…” I trailed off again and ran from the second floor to the living room where Gran was still unconscious. “Eric, Gran’s bleeding from… everywhere.”
“Fuck,” he cursed angrily. “Did you see anything strange, Sookie? Think. Has anyone been to the house that doesn’t belong?”
“No,” I shook my head even though he couldn’t see it. Tears were pouring out of my eyes and my nose was running.
I could see Gran was breathing but she was looking awfully pale from the blood loss and I was worried about her arm.
Eric cursed in his mother tongue and then said, “I can hear the police coming. Tell them everything you can. I’m going to call the security team and have them come to you. Karin and I will leave Rhodes as soon as we can. Whatever you do, do not go after Sadie, do you hear me?”
“Sookie, answer me,” Eric said.
“Yes, I heard you,” I sniffled and stroked Gran’s hair back from her face.
“Write down everything you can think of so you don’t forget it. I’ll come to you as soon as I can. We will find her,” Eric said.
I nodded again and the line went dead.
Moments later I heard a car come skidding to a stop outside the house. Footsteps moved quickly over the gravel to get up the front steps and inside.
“Oh fuck me,” Jason muttered as he came toward me. “Sook, don’t touch her. Don’t touch anything. What the twirly fuck happened here?”
“I don’t know,” I sniffled. “Gran was like this when I came home. The front door was wide open, the window was broken and the screen door was off its hinges at the top. I searched the house and Sadie’s gone, Jason. I don’t know where… I don’t know…”
I lost myself to sobs again and my big brother helped me up off the floor. He held me while I sobbed into his chest, terrified of who might have taken my daughter.
“Maybe she ran off,” Jason suggested. “Whoever did this to Gran must have scared her. Maybe she just run off to hide until she thinks it’s safe to come back.”
“No,” I shook my head. “I would hear her, Jase. I can’t even hear Gran right now.”
I could, however, hear my brother’s thoughts since my mental state meant my shields were for shit. The cop side of his brain was already working in overdrive, sifting through his training to start dealing with this.
“Come on, let’s go outside. We’re going to need to make room for the paramedics,” Jason said as I heard more sirens coming up the driveway.
He led me outside and sure enough, an ambulance was coming with a squad car behind it. After Bud Dearborn retired from the sheriff’s office, Andy Bellefleur ran for the job and won.
“Stackhouse, what the hell are you doin’ here? You can’t be in on this investigation. It’s a goddamn conflict of interest,” Andy thundered.
“This here’s ma family, Andy. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. Consider me on a leave of absence until further notice,” Jason said, holding his ground.
My brother set me on the porch swing where I would be out of the way while the paramedics rushed inside with their supplies to take care of Gran. I felt like a zombie. My mind was racing and I wanted to go inside and help, but I knew I would just be in the way. I wanted to tell Andy everything I knew, but I didn’t know a damn thing other than I came home to find Gran knocked out and Sadie gone.
“The truck,” I mumbled. “Jason! There was a truck. When I was coming back from Merlotte’s I saw a pickup truck swerving around on Hummingbird Lane. I even pulled off to the side and—oh my sweet Jesus.”
Blonde hair. I had seen blonde hair in the truck. Sadie. What I had assumed was a drunken redneck had to be Sadie’s kidnapper speeding away.
My stomach turned and I launched myself off the swing so I could throw up in Gran’s flowers. It felt like everything I ate that day was trying to evacuate my system all at once and Jason knelt beside me to rub my back while I threw up.
I had been right there. If I had just gotten home a little faster or if I hadn’t been so naïve about her safety, Sadie would still be here. I could have told Quinn to wait until Mustafa got here, but no… I let him go and it got my baby kidnapped.
“This is my fault,” I said through my sobs and coughs.
“What?” Jason asked, clearly confused.
“I let Quinn go earlier. I shoulda kept him here until Mustafa… it’s my fault Sadie’s gone,” I sobbed.
I hated feeling useless and helpless, but that was exactly what I was.
A few minutes later I was still sobbing when Gran was brought out of the house on a gurney.
“What’s wrong with her?” Jason asked, leaving my side to check on Gran.
“Looks like a dislocated shoulder and a severe concussion. She’s got multiple lacerations and abrasions. Bruising on her stomach indicates she may have been kicked or stomped. We’re going to take her over to the trauma center in Monroe since she may have internal injuries that might require surgery to repair,” the paramedic said. “She sure put up a fight.”
That was Gran. No way would she just let some stranger come into her house to begin with, but she was obviously ready to give her life to save Sadie’s. I would expect nothing less from her.
And my guilt was compounded by about a thousand.
Not only was my baby missing but Gran was seriously hurt because I had been careless. This was exactly the sort of thing Eric had been trying to prevent by insisting on Sadie having a guard at all times. I had foolishly let my guard down for just a minute and it was enough for someone to slip through the cracks and abscond with my daughter in his clutches.
I was sure the kidnapper had to be male because even though Gran was up there in years, she was still fairly spry. No way would I want her to tell me to pick my switch, I’ll just say that. I watched as the paramedics started to move again and without realizing it, I was moving in their direction. I needed to see her.
“Wait,” I said when I realized my feet where moving on their own.
The paramedics stopped briefly for me so I could lean down closer to Gran’s ear and whisper an apology and a thanks for trying to protect my baby. Jason pulled me back and said, “They need to take her, Sook. We’ll go see her soon.”
“Go with them,” I told Jason.
“What?” he sounded surprised.
“Go with her. I don’t want her to be alone and I need to be here in case Sadie calls or comes back. Go on,” I insisted. He couldn’t help with the investigation anyway and I could always call Tara for support if I needed it.
Bless my brother for looking torn for a moment as he tried to decide where his energy was better spent, but my insistent look pushed him to follow the paramedics. He got into his cruiser behind the ambulance. I watched with tears in my eyes as both vehicles sped down the driveway, sirens blaring, as they headed for the trauma center in Monroe.
“Sookie,” Andy’s gruff voice got my attention and turned to look his way. “I need you to tell me everything from the beginning.”
So I did. I told him everything I had done that morning from the time I woke up, minus the little details of bodily functions, and by the time I was finished recounting the whole story I was back to sobbing. I was a total mess and I wanted Eric more than anything. I wanted his silence so I didn’t have to hear Andy thinking how it was possible this was a sexually motivated crime and there was a possibility that my baby could be sexually assaulted before she was ultimately murdered.
Having been a victim of molestation as a child myself, it made my stomach turn again to think of Sadie having to go through that. The next thing I knew, I was back with my head in the bushes as my stomach tried to empty itself all over again.
Only there was nothing left.
So I knelt there, hunched over and heaving, until Kevin and Kenya showed up to start marking evidence and take pictures. To my surprise, Sam arrived a few minutes later looking scared and confused as to what was going on.
“Jason called,” he explained when I looked at him. “He said something about Adele being hurt and Sadie being missing.”
I nodded and said, “She’s gone, Sam. Someone took her.”
“Aww dammit,” he muttered and helped me up off my knees.
Sam wrapped me in a comforting hug that I definitely needed at that moment. He sat with me while the police did their thing, trying to piece together what happened before I got home. When I was finally let back inside I noticed there was a blood trail that I hadn’t seen before. The fight had been nothing short of legendary considering Gran more than likely had at least a few decades on her attacker.
“Is anything missing from the house, Sookie?” Andy asked me when we reached the living room.
“You mean other than her daughter?” Sam snapped at him, and I put a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t think so,” I told Andy. “I can check Sadie’s room and see if any of her clothes are gone.”
“Do that,” Andy told me. “If you have a recent picture of her I’ll need it so we can get it out to the media. We’ll issue an Amber Alert for her. Your… her uh…her father he uh… he has connections to the underground?”
“He’s the vampire king of Louisiana, Andy,” I said wearily. “Yes, he’s got connections. Eric knows people all over the world.”
“And where is he right now?” he asked me.
“In Rhodes for a vampire summit. He’s staying at the Pyramid of Gizah hotel with the other sheriffs. He’ll be flying back tonight with his child, Karin,” I told him.
“You sure about that?” Andy asked.
“I just talked to him. He called while I was on the phone with Rosy,” I said.
“Ain’t he vamper? Don’t they… aren’t they dead during the day?” Andy asked without bothering to try and hide his little bit of disgust with my choice of mates.
“It’s complicated, but Eric knew something was wrong so he called to check on me,” I said.
“Complicated?” Andy snorted. “Sounds like we got ourselves a suspect if you ask me.”
“What?! No, Andy, Eric would have no reason to take Sadie!” I yelled at him and Sam held me back when I took a step closer to the fidiot that suggested my husband would have Gran violently attacked just to take our daughter from me.
“Happens all the time,” Andy shrugged. “Most kidnappers are related to the child in some capacity.”
“I’m telling you it wasn’t Eric. He can’t go out in the daylight, so how in the hell would he have done it?” I pointed out.
“Then how’d he know something was wrong? He a psychic, too?”
“No!” I wanted to hit him. This wasn’t any of his business, except I had to tell him so I could clear Eric as a suspect. “Vampires can share a bond with a human that allows both parties to sense each other’s location and feelings. That way, if for instance, this had happened at night and I was here without him, Eric would know that I was in trouble and where to find me. He would know if I was injured, scared, happy or anything else just by my emotions.”
“And he can feel all that while he’s… dead?” Andy looked at me with the same disbelief that was in his voice.
“It’s true,” Sam offered. He’d come out as a shapeshifter two years before when werewolves decided to make themselves known.
I wanted to tell Andy this wasn’t going to be some simple, open and shut case. He was going to have to put down the beignets and café au lait and actually do the job he was elected to do, but I kept that to myself. Truthfully, Andy was just doing his job but he was being damn lazy and selective about it.
“Well if it wasn’t her father, who might want to take her?” Andy asked.
I sighed and rubbed my temples while I thought.
I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. The only people I can think of locally that might want to hurt her for some backward ass reason would be Jason’s ex-wife Crystal Norris or maybe Jannalynn Hopper.”
“Jannalynn?” Sam sounded stumped as to why I would give her name.
“She hates me,” I reminded Sam.
“She don’t hate you,” Sam shook his head. “Besides, she couldn’t have done this. She’s in Kentucky right now visiting her family.”
“How do you know that?” Andy asked Sam.
“Because she’s my girlfriend,” Sam answered.
“You mean that cute little brunette with the big br—” Andy cut himself off when he saw the glare aimed at him from both Sam and me. He cleared his throat—and his head—and continued, “I’ll still need to talk to her. When is she due back?”
“She just left three days ago so she won’t be back until Saturday,” Sam told him.
The list of supernatural creatures that might have an interest in taking Sadie was considerably longer and my money was on one of them, but at least by giving up Jannalynn and Crystal as potential suspects it would keep Andy from feeling like he was chasing his tail too much.
I watched as Kevin and Kenya started to pack up their crime scene investigating stuff that included blood samples, fibers and other little pieces of evidence. I went back to Sadie’s room to see if anything was missing from the things I’d packed for her. The room was in disarray, probably from Sadie trying to hide, but none of her clothes were missing except for what she had been wearing the last time I saw her.
“Nothing’s missing from Sadie’s room,” I told Sam. “She was wearing a neon pink and white dress the last time I saw her and she had sparkly pink shoes on.”
I gave Andy Sadie’s height and weight, eye color, birthmarks… everything I could think of. I forwarded every picture of her I had on my phone to him. I had taken one the day before when we had stopped at one point because a butterfly and landed on her finger and I couldn’t help but think it was so out of place for a butterfly to be out at that time of year.
I should have known then that it was a bad omen but I had shrugged it off.
“I’m going to call this in and get additional help. We don’t have all of the resources we need to handle a case like this,” Andy said, which surprised me. By his thoughts I knew it wasn’t laziness that was provoking him into making the call; it was concern for my daughter. “If your daughter was taken across state lines, that makes it federal, so I’ll be contacting the FBI. I would advise that you stay here until further notice. When your husband gets into town I’ll need to speak with him.”
I nodded and said, “Well do anything and everything we can to cooperate with this investigation, Andy. Please, just… find my baby.”
“I’ll do what I can, Sookie,” he said earnestly and I believed him.
The idea of a child going missing and staying missing on his watch didn’t sit well with Andy Bellefleur and I appreciated that. It made me feel like we had a chance in hell of bringing Sadie home.
In the meantime all I could so was pray and wait for sundown.