I ended up giving my jeans to Kenya since I’d gotten blood on them when I knelt down to check on Gran. I also agreed to give a DNA sample along with my fingerprints so it would be on file for when results came back. Special Agent Sara Weiss was the agent in charge assigned to Sadie’s case. Her partner, Tom Lattesta, had the likeability of a cactus and the warm of a summer day on the North Pole. I wouldn’t exactly classify Agent Weiss as being the cuddly sort, but at least she didn’t judge me for being married to a vampire like her bigoted partner did.
With the mood I was in, I was tempted to ask Eric—when he arrived—to glamour Agent Lattesta into quitting his job and devoting his life to being a registered donor for vampires. That’d serve him right.
I answered every question they lobbed at me to the best of my ability, and about halfway through I had to stop because the things Agent Lattesta was thinking were just too awful for me to be in the same room with him. My shields were for shit because I was so stressed out and too mentally exhausted to try and keep them up. I needed Eric. I needed him for so many reasons, but his silence was at the top of the list. I was just going to have to make due until he could arrive.
“Agent Weiss, I’m sorry, but I need Agent Lattesta to leave,” I said.
“Excuse me?” Agent Lattesta gave me a snarly look.
I sighed and said, “I’m a telepath, you bigoted asshole. I’ve heard every awful thing you’ve been thinking since you walked into my Gran’s house.”
Agent Lattesta scoffed in disbelief while Agent Weiss looked intrigued.
“Bull,” Agent Lattesta said.
“Oh yeah?” I asked with a rising eyebrow. “Test me. Go ahead.”
My mother’s maiden name is Culpepper.
“Your mother’s maiden name is Culpepper,” I repeated and Agent Weiss’ eyes went wide. “And if those things you’re thinking could happen to my baby, I guarantee you that my husband will track down whoever is responsible for this and make that person suffer for a very, very long time.”
This was the one situation where I wouldn’t insist that Eric turn over the person responsible for the crime they committed. I would give him my blessing to do whatever he wanted with the miserable son of a bitch, regardless of their species.
“Your husband is Eric Northman, king of Louisiana?” Agent Weiss asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed without taking my eyes off of Agent Lattesta. “And he was around during The Inquisition.”
“Are you threatening me, Mrs. Northman?” Agent Lattesta asked me pointedly.
“Not at all. I’m merely informing you of a fact that anyone could find as a matter of public record,” I shrugged. It was true. Being that they were FBI agents they had access to information that was on record for all vampires, which included an estimated year of turning if a vampire didn’t know precisely when it happened.
“Eric Northman,” Agent Weiss said as she looked at a tablet or PDA of some sort. “He was turned in 1066 according to the paperwork he submitted.”
“That sounds about right,” I confirmed for her. “Agent Weiss I would love to cooperate in this investigation but your partner is giving me the creeps.”
“Tom, maybe it would be better if you checked in with the grandmother to see if she’s awake yet,” Agent Weiss suggested.
Again, Agent Lattesta scoffed. He clearly didn’t like the idea of being bossed around, particularly by women.
Later on when I wasn’t so busy I’d look around for the fuck I gave.
“Fine,” Agent Lattesta said in an almost petulant way.
My Sadie had better manners, but then I’d whoop her little behind if she behaved like that and she knew it.
Agent Weiss waited until she heard the front door close before continuing to talk.
“Sookie, please,” I interrupted her.
“Sookie,” she smiled just a tiny bit. “Could you tell me more about your relationship with your husband? It’s an unfortunate probability that someone close to your daughter was involved with her abduction. We have to eliminate both you and your husband as potential suspects before we can work our way out.”
I nodded since Andy had said pretty much the same thing earlier on, but in a much more accusatory way. I appreciated Agent Weiss’ approach to things.
“Sookie, I have two kids myself,” she shared with me. “I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you so if you need a moment—”
“No, no,” I shook my head. “I met Eric almost nine years ago at the bar he owns in Shreveport called Fangtasia. I was dating another vampire at the time and Eric was still a sheriff back then. Bill, the vampire I was dating, took me to the bar and Eric was there. We began a business relationship at that point but we didn’t become personally involved until a year later after Bill and I had broken up.”
I went into further detail, explaining more about our relationship, including the blood bond because I figured that would come into question as the FBI dug deeper and deeper into our history. When I finished telling her anything I could think of that might be helpful to her investigation I said, “Agent Weiss, I understand why you need to investigate Eric and me but I know he couldn’t have done this. Our relationship is solid and if you knew what we went through to have Sadie… he couldn’t have done this. He would never hurt me this way on purpose and he certainly wouldn’t have a motive to take our daughter from me.”
Agent Weiss nodded appreciatively and asked, “What about Sadie’s bodyguard? You said Mr. Quinn needed the day off to assist his sick mother?”
“Yes. Quinn’s mother has PTSD and every now and then she goes on these… benders, for lack of a better term. Quinn is the only person that can calm her down so he asked to go tend to her,” I explained.
“And there’s no chance that he could be involved in this?”
“Quinn? Never,” I said firmly. “He loves Sadie.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I have a lie detector in my head,” I reminded her. “If he had ulterior motives for staying her guard I would know about them and you can bet your career that I would tell my husband about it if I thought we trusted someone untrustworthy to guard our daughter.”
“You told Sheriff Bellefleur that you thought maybe Jannalynn Hopper might be responsible for this. What makes you think that?”
“I’m close friends with her boyfriend, Sam Merlotte. I used to waitress for Sam years ago and during that time he had a thing for me. Another one of the waitresses, Arlene Fowler, is a local loudmouth and she told Jannalynn about it. Ever since then, she’s given me the evil eye every time I’ve come into Merlotte’s,” I told Agent Weiss. “I know it would be a stretch that she would go to the extreme of kidnapping my daughter to get back at me, but I suppose it’s possible.”
“And Crystal Norris?” she asked, consulting her tablet again.
“Crystal Norris is my brother’s ex-wife. She and I don’t exactly like each other and before they were married, I tried to talk my brother out of it. They divorced after my brother caught her cheating with another man in town,” I explained. I left out the part about how, as a part of werepanther laws, I had no choice but to break her father’s hand.
It had taken me a while to get over having to do that because I liked her father. Calvin Norris was a hard worker and a good man. I was angry at Jason for dragging me into his mess, but mostly I was angry at Crystal for not keeping her vows. Not only did she hurt my brother with what she’d done, but she’d forced me to hurt an innocent person as a part of her cultural practices.
Agent Weiss added to her notes and I assumed both Jannalynn and Crystal would be questioned by agents to see what, if anything, they knew about Sadie’s disappearance.
“What about the vampire you said you were dating? Is there a chance he might still have feelings for you?” she asked.
Wasn’t that a can of worms she wanted to open?
“Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to Bill without my husband being present in years,” I said honestly. “Vampire culture is very specific when it comes to protocol for a vampire approaching the human companion of another vampire. I’m in a unique position because my husband happens to be the king of Louisiana.”
I really didn’t want to get into explaining vampire protocol to her, mostly because I was afraid that in my weary mental state, I’d say the wrong damn thing and Eric would have to glamour it out of her head again. I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I probably should have been.
The good news was that sunset was rapidly approaching and I was certain Eric would fly at breakneck speeds to get to me as quickly as possible. I hoped Agent Weiss was prepared to see what Hurricane Eric was capable of because he was more than likely going to take over her investigation and she would be powerless to stop him. Then again, he might be content to just let the humans do their thing, chasing their tails.
Honestly, I was sure someone supernatural had to be involved. I doubted this was a random thing that had happened. I poked around in Agent Weiss’ mind while she fiddled with her tablet to see what she was thinking. Her thoughts weren’t as grizzly as Agent Lattesta’s had been, but they still weren’t pretty. I realized rather quickly that she saw Sadie’s disappearance like a giant jigsaw puzzle and only a few of the pieces had been put into place so far. I was going to have to keep an eye out—so to speak—to see how that puzzle progressed.
“After your husband arrives we’ll put you two in front of the media,” Agent Weiss said without looking up from her tablet. “Sadie’s picture has already been circulated to news organizations locally, as well as to stations in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi just in case she’s been taken over state lines.”
It was a distinct possibility since we weren’t more than a few hours from the borders of any of those three states.
“A BOLO has been issued for the truck you described to Sheriff Bellefleur. Is there anything at all about the license plate that you can remember?” Agent Weiss asked me.
I closed my eyes and thought hard. This was a time when it would have been useful for Barry, the only other telepath I’d ever met, to be close by. There were times when I could pluck out a memory a person couldn’t recall on their own. I could see little details they couldn’t, and I was sure Barry could do the same for me.
“No, I’m sorry,” I said regretfully. “It all happened to quickly for me to catch anything.”
“It’s alright,” Agent Weiss said, although I knew she was disappointed I couldn’t give her more.
I was disappointed in myself.
The doorbell rang and I got up to see who was at the door. I was surprised to see Mr. Cataliades there, although I probably shouldn’t have been. It hadn’t occurred to me to call a lawyer, but it made complete sense.
“Mr. Cataliades,” I greeted him as cheerfully as I could.
“Mrs. Northman, your husband asked me to be here with you during questioning,” he said.
“Please come in. I’ve already been talking with Agent Weiss,” I said as I led him into the dining room. “Mr. Cataliades, this is Special Agent Sara Weiss with the FBI. Agent Weiss, this is my attorney, Mr. Damon Cataliades.”
The two legal professionals shook hands.
Feeling my inner hostess spring into action, I asked, “Can I get anyone something to eat or drink?”
“No thank you, Mrs. Northman,” Mr. Cataliades said as he took a seat at the table.
“Tea would be nice,” Agent Weiss said.
I felt the same, so I excused myself to go start the water. The demon lawyer and the FBI agent began to discuss the case without me and I just barely made to it to the counter beside the stove before I dissolved into sobs again.
§ ☼ §
Two hours after sunset there was a command center, of sorts, set up in Gran’s backyard. A miniature FBI field office was out there and I wasn’t permitted into the area without Agent Weiss’ invitation or supervision. I felt absolutely useless just waiting around. Every goddamn time the phone rang my heart leapt up into my throat. The FBI attempted to put a tap on my cell phone but quickly discovered that my phone was encrypted and they would need consent from Eric before they did it.
He owned the security firm that powered our phones and they were encrypted for a reason. They ended up having to obtain a subpoena to serve to the company before anything could happen, and even then they checked with Eric before doing anything. What the FBI didn’t really seem to understand was that, in comparison to Eric, their resources were shit. Because of Eric’s position, we had access to services, technologies and a few other things that would probably give the FBI nightmares if they knew about it.
I was pacing in Sadie’s bedroom when I heard heavy footsteps approaching. I stopped suddenly and turned in time to see Eric walk into the room. My eyes welled and immediately I said, “I’m so sorry Eric.”
His arms were around me immediately, holding me close with his hands stroking my hair along my back. It was exactly what I needed. I couldn’t feel him in our bond, but I presumed it was because he had shut his side off so he wouldn’t overwhelm me with his emotions. There had been a time when Eric had claimed to hate having feelings and after becoming bonded to him, I understood why.
He was an extremely passionate person. Eric felt everything to the nth degree. There was nothing mild with him. When he loved, he did so to his very core. When he was angry, it made his blood boil. When he was sad, it dragged him deep into despair. When he was happy he was flooded with light.
I suddenly began to remember when I was in labor with Sadie and how Eric had legitimately absorbed a good deal of my pain when it became too much for me so I wouldn’t have to take drugs to get through it. Most husbands would make some offhanded offer about how they wished they could take the pain for their wives, but Eric actually did it. He held my hand through the whole thing, whispering encouragements to me and telling me how strong I was for doing this for us.
I remembered every push, every grunt and every moment that I thought about giving up before our baby came into the world with two lungs full of air that she promptly expelled for everyone in the building to hear. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.
“We have to get her back, Eric,” I sobbed into his chest. “I will never forgive myself if we don’t.”
Those things probably went without saying, but I needed to say them. I needed to say them to the one person in the world that could understand precisely what I was feeling and I needed him to open the bond just a little because I needed the comfort of knowing that I wasn’t alone.
When my head lifted I saw bloody tracks on his cheeks from his tears. I hated it when Eric cried, if only because it was so completely out of place for him.
I pulled his face to mine and kissed him softly, hoping it would offer him some comfort.
“I need to feel you Eric, at least a little,” I said against his lips.
I felt the bond open just a hair and it was enough to tell me that what was raging inside of him was an intense concoction of emotion, but it matched my own. I hated that it made me feel better, but it did.
“Do they know anything?” he asked me.
I shook my head, “No, not much. I’ve only given them names of two potential suspects and I think it’ll mostly be busy work for them. I don’t think a human did this.”
“Neither do I,” Eric agreed. “I sent for Rasul to come up. He’ll be organizing the search here. Where is Bubba?”
“I haven’t seen him. He probably decided to stay away with all of the extra people around here.”
Bubba walking around amidst humans that would only see the undead form of a very famous face would probably drive him insane. Bubba, while polite as all get out to the people he was familiar with, didn’t particularly like large crowds of humans anymore and for good reason. He didn’t like being reminded of his human life, which was why hearing him sing was such a big treat for everyone.
“He’ll turn up when he’s ready. I’ll check with Thalia at Fangtasia to see if he surfaced there,” Eric said as he pulled his phone from his pocket.
“What do you need me to do, Eric? I’ve felt useless for hours and just sitting around the house waiting is driving me crazy,” I said.
“There’s nothing for us to do but wait. The FBI has their investigation and we’ll have ours, but we need to stay here and do what they tell us to do,” he said as he dialed a phone number.
It turned out he wasn’t calling Thalia at all, but a company that specialized in making spaces light tight for a vampire. Since we were going to be staying here for the time being, modifications were going to need to be made to the house. Eric arranged for a crew to come out to do the work and then called Thalia to check in on things. There was no sign of Bubba, but Thalia would keep her eyes open for him.
“Where’s Karin?” I asked when I realized she hadn’t come into the room with Eric.
“She’s meeting up with Palomino,” he said.
Palomino was an expert tracker that had an even keener sense of smell than most werewolves did. It was a relief to hear that she was on the case and gave me another tiny ray of hope that Sadie might really be found before something too terrible to even think about happened to her.
“We should probably go introduce you to Agent Weiss. She’s been waiting for you so a press conference can be called,” I told Eric.
He followed me across the hall to Gran’s bedroom so we could use her bathroom to wash the bloody tears off his face.
“Tray Dawson is guarding your grandmother’s room at the hospital,” Eric informed me as I cleaned up his face. “I didn’t want anyone to have a chance to finish what they started with her since she’s a living witness.”
“Do you think whoever took Sadie intended to kill her?”
“It’s possible and I’m not willing to risk her safety,” Eric said. “Would you like to go visit her?”
I nodded as I rinsed the washcloth off.
“Yes, I would, but I’ve been waiting here for you and I’ve been answering questions since I reported all of this. Eric they… they think you might have a hand in Sadie’s disappearance,” I warned him.
He growled at that and I felt his anger flare up.
“I would never do such a thing!” he growled again.
“I know, and I told them that. You have no reason to do it, but Agent Weiss explained that usually a child is kidnapped by someone that knows them.”
“I should have been here,” Eric said.
“Eric there’s no way either of us could have known this was going to happen.”
Our eyes met and I could see the guilt in his eyes the same as I was sure he could see it in my own. I’d been thinking all day long about the things I could have done differently to prevent this from happening, and I was sure Eric was doing the same.
All of a sudden he perked up like something occurred to him. “I smell Merlotte on the premises. Was he here today?”
“Yes, he was. Jason called him after he left for the hospital to be with Gran. He didn’t want me to be alone,” I explained.
“We need to talk to him. There are too many unfamiliar scents in here right now but he was here early enough to tell us if he smelled anyone unfamiliar,” Eric said.
“I’ll call him right now,” I said, and hustled from the bathroom.
It might only be a small lead Sam could provide us with, but it was better than the fuck all we currently had.