“Oh God!” Sookie moved around Jason but he pulled her back before she could get very far.
“Sook, no, you can’t touch her,” Jason pulled her from the kitchen.
“What if she’s not dead? She could still be breathing! Jason we have to… we can’t just… don’t give up!” Sookie yelled at him.
“She’s gone, Sook,” Jason said gently. There was no way Tara had survived the gunshot wound to the head.
Sookie shook her head furiously, squeezing her eyes closed in denial. When she heard something from Jason’s mind about brain matter on the back door, her stomach turned and she stepped to the side before throwing up on the dining room floor. Jason made a phone call, presumably to the sheriff’s office, to get Andy out there along with the new coroner. Ever since the MaryAnn incident, Mike Sullivan decided it was time to focus solely on the funeral home he ran.
“Sook, you okay?” Jason rubbed his sister’s back after getting off the phone.
“This can’t be happening,” Sookie said to herself.
“Why don’t you go on outside? Is that vampire of yours coming?”
“Eric. His name is Eric,” Sookie reminded him.
“Right, Eric. Is he coming? Maybe you should call him,” Jason suggested.
“He’s coming,” Sookie said as she stood up slowly. She could feel Eric getting closer and closer to her. “I need some water.”
“Bathroom. I can’t let you back in the kitchen,” Jason said sympathetically.
Sookie moved like a zombie but stopped short of the stairs. She dropped her shields just to be sure and when the only brain she detected was Jason’s she started up the stairs. The last thing she needed was to be ambushed upstairs in her bedroom. Sookie headed to the bathroom and filled her little plastic cup with some lukewarm water. She swished it around her mouth before trading the cup for her toothbrush.
Her eyes avoided the mirror while she brushed away the bitter, bile taste in her mouth. Her mind was racing but not really thinking of anything in particular. The world felt like it was spinning around her and nothing really made much sense. All she wanted was for Eric to appear and let herself get wrapped in his silence.
Sookie finished brushing her teeth, put the toothbrush back in its holder and splashed some water on her face to get rid of the mascara tracks from her tears. Her legs wobbled and she moved to the side to sit on the edge of the tub. She was still perched there when she felt Eric’s presence. In the blink of an eye he was in the bathroom with her, kneeling down in front of her. Gently, he lifted her chin with his fingertips.
“Tara’s dead,” Sookie managed to get out before the tears returned, her grief welling in her eyes and clogging her throat.
Eric pulled her into his arms and held her while she sobbed. He knew what grief felt like. Perhaps more to the point, he knew what grief compounded by guilt felt like. He’d been too busy getting frisky with one of the servants back when he was human to properly help defend his mother and baby sister. His own father had died in his arms, and the spiteful seed of revenge that was planted in him took 1,000 years to come to fruition. Even worse than that was feeling Godric’s death. Losing his maker was, perhaps, the most painful experience of his long life. He had tried everything he could to get Godric to reconsider but the decision had been made. There was nothing to be done but let it happen and then grieve the loss.
More humans began to arrive and while Sookie was still sobbing in his arms, he carried her to her bedroom and sat with her on the edge of her bed. Down in the kitchen he could hear the police talking with the coroner, tracking the evidence to try and make sense of what had happened. Jason relayed what little information he’d been given by Sookie and Eric felt relief when Sookie only entered the house after Jason had a chance to check it out first. Pictures were being taken and the body was being moved.
Tara had died of a single gunshot wound to the head. She’d been shot at close range and had most likely died instantly. The house was being fingerprinted all over again but it would be near impossible to distinguish old prints from new ones. The biggest clue that something wasn’t right was the back door that had markings on it like someone had forced their way into the house. Given the fact that someone had broken into Sookie’s house once already with the intention of killing her, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Tara had been shot by mistake.
Once again a bullet meant for Sookie had found its home in another person she loved. Was it on purpose or just sheer incompetence on Debbie’s part? Eric could smell the werebitch in the house. His tracker would be arriving shortly and if it weren’t for the fact that weres had such a distinct smell, Eric would be worried the scent would be lost.
Footsteps coming up the stairs made Eric shift his position to a more defensive one. No way was he letting anyone near Sookie at that moment, not even her brother. Jason appeared in the doorway, his eyes red rimmed and full of concern for his sister.
“Eric,” Jason spooked a little. Their last meeting hadn’t exactly been a friendly one.
“Jason,” Eric stared hard at the human.
“Sook, how ya doin’?”
“How do you think?” Sookie snapped at him and wiped her eyes.
“Look, I know… I need you to come on downstairs and talk to Andy for a minute,” Jason told her.
“We need your official account of what happened when you got here. Are you sure you didn’t see no one?” Jason moved closer to the bed and knelt down.
“I didn’t come into the house until you were here. I got as far as the front door, smelled gunpowder and called you. After I told you, I called Eric. Then I sat in the Range Rover. I didn’t see anyone else leave the house,” Sookie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She felt woozy all of a sudden.
“When’s the last time you ate?” Eric kissed her forehead.
“Last night, I think,” Sookie didn’t sound too sure and her head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.
“You think?” Jason’s eyes widened and he looked to Eric. “You don’t know when you ate last but I bet you been feedin’ Eric.”
Eric growled and Sookie put her hand over Eric’s to keep it in place on her knee, instead of shooting out to wrap around Jason’s throat. “Don’t go blaming Eric for anything, Jason. I should have eaten something before I left the house earlier but I was running late.”
“Stay here,” Eric shifted Sookie to her bed and kissed her head again. “I’ll get you something.”
“The kitchen is off limits until they finish processing everything down there,” Jason advised.
“Doesn’t matter,” Sookie shrugged. “There isn’t much food in there anyway.”
“I called Lafayette,” Jason trained his eyes on the floor. “He’s gonna be makin’ the arrangements over at Sullivan’s.”
Sookie nodded, having expected as much. “I should call him and see if he needs any help.”
“You need to eat something first,” Eric insisted gently.
“Merlotte’s is closest,” Jason offered.
“You tell me what you want and I’ll get it for you,” Eric tucked some of Sookie’s hair behind her ear.
What she wanted was one of Gran’s pecan pies, some fried chicken and all the other Sunday dinner trimmings but Merlotte’s was easiest, so she settled for a burger Lafayette and some fried pickles instead. Eric went to go get her the meal she wanted while Jason walked her downstairs to give her statement to Andy.
“Got any idea where she was headed?” Andy asked after Sookie finished relaying her story.
“I think she was going back to New Orleans but she never said for sure,” Sookie said numbly, pulling one of Gran’s blankets a little tighter around her shoulders. She wanted to start a fire but she had no intention of spending the night in the house.
“Tara have any enemies I should know about, other than the usual suspects?”
The list that came to mind involved vampires but none of them could have shot her since they were all dead for the day. The only other prospect was Marnie but seeing as how she was dead too, that didn’t seem to be much of an option either.
“She’s dead because of me,” Sookie kept her eyes on the floor. “That bullet was meant for me, not her.”
oOo ~ oOo ~ oOo
Eric sat beside Sookie on his bed while she slept his laptop open and resting on his legs. She’d been asleep since before they’d even gotten back to his house. After eating, she’d curled up in his lap, looking for a little silence with all the brains in the house. He was more than willing to oblige her.
The tracker Eric had sent for was able to catch Debbie’s scent and was working to locate the bitch. It had occurred to him sooner to go that route but he had been content to let the humans deal with her. Since it was obvious they were incompetent and Debbie wasn’t backing down, Eric decided he was going to handle things his way.
Sookie shifted on the bed and whimpered quietly. He could feel her panic, suggesting she was dreaming. He put the laptop off to the side and stretched out next to her. He gathered her in his arms and stroked her hair. She settled a little and her panic faded. Quietly he whispered the old Sagas in her ear, recounting as much Norse lore for her as he could. While she would have no idea what he was talking about, that wasn’t the point. Just the sound of his voice, soft and even in her ear seemed to make a big difference.
Eric went into downtime with his arms wrapped around Sookie. As soon as she was awake, his eyes popped open, giving the impression he had been alert the whole time she was asleep. She turned her face to his and smiled sadly.
“You stayed with me this whole time?” she seemed surprised.
“Where else would I be?” he kissed her nose.
“I know you didn’t like Tara, but thank you for being here for me,” she burrowed against him.
“She was your friend. That is what matters,” Eric rubbed her back.
“I should call Lafayette and see if he needs help,” Sookie stretched.
“It’s after midnight, lover,” Eric informed her.
“I slept that long? Ugh,” she groaned and sat up. “I should be helping him make arrangements.”
“In the morning. For now you should get your rest. Are you hungry? There’s fresh food downstairs. I had Pam make a delivery for you.”
“No, I’m okay for now,” Sookie hugged her knees to her chest. “Have you heard anything from the tracker yet?”
“Not yet,” Eric shifted so he was sitting up as well.
“What are you going to do with Debbie when you find her?” Sookie asked, bracing herself for an extremely violent answer.
“What would you do?” Eric asked out of sheer curiosity.
“What I’d want to do and what I would do are two very different things. I’d want to stab her in the eye with one of Pam’s shoes,” Sookie told him and Eric smiled at her answer. Pam might actually be willing to sacrifice a pair of her precious pumps if it meant they would be used as an implement of torture. “What I’d actually do is turn her in to the police. But what I’d do isn’t the important thing since you’re the one with a tracker looking for her.”
“When he locates her he’ll inform me. I’ll send Pam to pick her up and she’ll be brought back to Fangtasia to be interrogated,” Eric told Sookie.
“Interrogated? Like Lafayette was interrogated?” she arched an eyebrow.
“I’m considering it,” Eric nodded.
Sookie wasn’t sure how she felt about that. There was a part of her that was screaming for some old school, eye for an eye kind of justice. On the other hand, her Christian upbringing demanded she be the bigger person and show more mercy than Debbie had. Rather than asking what Jesus would do, Sookie asked herself what Gran would do. How would Gran deal with a situation like this?
Unequivocally, Sookie knew Gran would say it wasn’t her place to judge. When Debbie met her maker that was when the true judgment would take place. The question really was more about how Debbie was going to meet her maker, and not if. One way or another, Debbie Pelt’s days were numbered.
Sookie climbed into Eric’s lap again, content to enjoy the silence while it lasted. He wrapped his arms around her and twirled her hair around his fingers. They stayed still until Sookie abandoned him to go pee. She was hungry, finally, on top of it and decided she’d go raid the fridge downstairs.
Eric followed her down and while she debated over what to eat, she told him about her visit to the office building earlier on. “Turns out the place is managed by a bunch of vampire haters so that’s not gonna work out after all,” Sookie sighed and pulled a box of frozen mac ‘n cheese from the freezer.
“Are they activists?” Eric asked and Sookie shrugged.
“I don’t know. I didn’t dig around enough to find out but we could take a trip back there if you think it’s worth looking into,” she offered.
“No, that won’t be necessary.”
The truth was that Eric was pretty well versed in the local anti-vampire terrorist cells. A quick internet search of the building management’s company name would tell him most of what he needed to know. If they were a threat, he would put a little more energy into neutralizing them. Connections with the Fellowship of the Sun were grounds for immediate swift and immediate action, as far as he was concerned. Extremists like the people who followed Steve Newlin couldn’t be reformed.
“It’s too bad. The space would have been perfect for me to start out in,” Sookie started the oven as she talked.
“We’ll keep looking until you find something you’re comfortable with,” Eric assured her.
“Oh, hang on a minute!” Sookie whipped around to face him. “Since the office would be a public building, does that mean I wouldn’t be able to rescind an invitation?”
Eric fought back the grin that wanted to break free. He hadn’t considered that either. “You think outside the box. I like that about you. And to answer your question, I think you’re right.”
“So then the safest thing would be for me to build a place?” Sookie looked discouraged. “Well then this is never going to happen. I don’t have that kind of cash lying around.”
“I could loan it to you,” Eric offered, knowing there was no way in hell she would let him outright pay for the construction.
Sookie looked at him nervously. “I’m not sure mixing personal relationships with business ones is a good idea. I appreciate the offer but…”
“What? You’ll make the money back quickly, Sookie, if that’s what you’re worried about. If I didn’t think you would verbally skin me alive, I would suggest paying for the construction outright.”
“Hell no! Eric, I couldn’t let you do that.”
“I know,” he smiled at her. “You don’t have to say yes right away but it’s an option you have available to you. We can draw up a contract and everything if you want. I’ll even charge you interest if it’ll make you happy.”
She was the first human he ever met who wasn’t interested in seeing what they could get from him. Although, he technically still owed her for keeping him in her house while he was cursed. In a lame attempt to keep him from suspecting she had feelings for him, she had insisted she be paid for her services. That way she could say she had taken him in for the money and not because she cared.
“I’ll think about it,” Sookie conceded and that, in itself, was a small victory.
“That’s all I ask,” Eric continued to smile at her.
oOo ~ oOo ~ oOo
The next night Sookie went back to her house to clean up. Eric had offered to call in a cleaning crew but enough strangers had been traipsing through her house lately. Sookie was adamant she do it herself. She’d spent the day helping Lafayette make arrangements for the funeral. An autopsy was going to be performed but the funeral was scheduled for the following day.
In truth, it would be a memorial service. Tara had made it clear in the past she wanted to be cremated when she died and since her body was in no condition for a viewing anyway, cremation made the most sense. It didn’t take much to get the word out that Tara had died. Sookie planned to stay out of Bon Temps as much as possible to avoid hearing the thoughts of other people in town.
She felt guilty enough already without hearing other people thinking Tara’s death was somehow her fault. Or worse, somehow Tara’s death would be linked back to vampires. Sookie knew she was on onto something when she turned on the news, only to find Bill making an official statement in regards to Tara’s death.
“I knew Tara Thorton personally. She was a strong woman with fierce loyalty to her friends. Her death comes as a great surprise to all of us and I, personally, will do all I can to help find the person, or persons, responsible for this heinous act,” Bill pledged on live TV.
“Fuck me runnin’,” Sookie muttered under her breath.
“What was that?” Eric asked as he walked into his kitchen.
“Bill’s on TV talkin’ about how beloved Tara was,” she shook her head. “He hated Tara.”
Did Bill ever tell the truth about anything?
“From all I can gather, your friend was a difficult person to like,” Eric stopped to kiss the top of Sookie’s head.
“You didn’t know her,” Sookie sighed. “She… what happened with MaryAnn messed her up pretty bad and then she met Franklin and it just got worse from there.”
Eric bit his tongue. Sookie was distressed enough without him running off at the mouth. While it was true his knowledge of the things Tara had been through was limited, he’d heard the things the two women had said up in Sookie’s attic. He also knew what he saw the night he was cursed. He’d heard Sookie and Tara talking the night Tara had attacked him with fire poker. Ultimately, he got the impression that Tara was a very scared woman hiding behind her rage and it was making her act foolishly.
“I keep thinking about my Gran and what she would say about all of this,” Sookie leaned back against Eric’s chest while he rubbed her shoulders.
“What would she say?”
“I don’t know. Part of me thinks she’d be disappointed in me for not doing more for Tara, but then she always told me I’d never be able to help someone who didn’t want it. It just feels like there’s something more I could have done,” Sookie closed her eyes.
It had been a long day. She’d spent the better part of it out in Bon Temps and had returned just after sunset. Now that she was done making phone calls and arranging for a luncheon that would take place at Merlotte’s, Sookie was just about done in for the night. All she wanted was to take a hot bath and go to sleep.
“When is the funeral?” Eric asked her.
“Day after tomorrow. Since Tara’s being cremated we can have the service anytime we want. I’ll be going with Jason, so I won’t be alone,” Sookie promised him.
“Good,” Eric kissed her head again. “Pam has Debbie. She picked her up about twenty minutes ago.”
Sookie whipped around so fast she almost fell off the stool she was sitting on. “What are you going to do with her? Pam didn’t kill her, did she?”
“Pam was given strict orders to take the were into custody and bring her to Fangtasia without doing any more harm than absolutely necessary. It’s my understanding that Debbie tried to fight and may have dislocated her elbow as a result,” Eric informed her and she winced.
“That can’t feel good.”
“It’s not pleasant,” Eric said, having experienced it himself in the past. “It’s not fatal, however.”
“So you’re just going to chain her up in your basement?” Sookie arched an eyebrow.
“For tonight, yes. A little time in silver may get her to cooperate more fully later on,” Eric reasoned.
Silver wouldn’t burn a werewolf like it would a vampire but it was definitely irritating to the skin and it was deadly if they were shot with it. Add to the mix that Debbie was going through withdrawals from her V addiction, and she would be climbing the walls in no time. Turning herself in to the human authorities might even sound like a nice vacation in comparison to what the vampires were capable of doing to her. Hell, if they wanted to, they could torture her within an inch of her life, give her vampire blood and then start all over again. They could keep it up for years and there wasn’t a damn thing Debbie could do about it.
But then Debbie wasn’t worth that sort of time, effort or attention. Debbie was a nuisance but she wasn’t a big time threat. Russell Edgington, the Authority or even the Fellowship of the Sun… those were the things Eric worried about becoming an issue. Debbie was just a silly werebitch who had fucked with the wrong human and that was easily solved with a single bullet to the brain.
“I need to call Alcide and let him know,” Sookie started to get up and paused when she felt Eric’s irritation. “What? Why are you getting all uppity?”
“Let me deal with Herveaux,” Eric insisted. “You have enough on your plate right now.”
“I can handle a simple phone call, Eric. Besides, you’ll just get testy with him and he already feels bad enough about me being in this mess,” Sookie pointed out and reached for her phone that was on the kitchen table.
“Why do you need to call him at all?” Eric failed to see the logic behind it.
“Because I promised I would keep him updated on what was happening. He’s my friend and I would hope that if the situation was reversed, he’d do the same for me,” Sookie opened her phone and began to scroll for Alcide’s number.
Eric didn’t like it but short of grabbing Sookie’s phone out of her hand and snapping it in half, there wasn’t much else he could do. He stayed right where he was so he could hear both sides of the conversation and the fact that Sookie wasn’t trying to push him from the room, or looking for a more private place to talk things over lightened his mood a little.
“Herveaux,” Alcide said when he answered the call.
“Hey, it’s Sookie,” she sounded every bit as tired as she felt. “Listen, I uh, I don’t know if you saw the news but my friend Tara was murdered in Bon Temps yesterday.”
“Yeah, I heard. I was going to call you earlier but there was a situation at one of my old job sites that needed tending to and I wasn’t sure if you’d want to talk when Eric was around,” Alcide said and Eric narrowed his eyes.
“Actually, Eric’s standing right here so he can hear you just fine,” Sookie said and felt a little spike in Eric’s anger. She covered the mouth piece on the phone and said, “Well you are. Don’t look at me like that.”
“I can still hear you clear as a bell, Sook. Weres have good hearing, too,” Alcide informed her.
Eric opened his mouth to say something but Sookie beat him to the punch and said, “The point is that Debbie is the one who killed her.”
“Yeah, I figured as much. I heard through the grapevine about Eric getting shot.”
What the fuck? How did Alcide know about that? Sookie hadn’t told him. She’d meant to call him but so much had happened there just wasn’t time for it. Could one of Bill’s guards overheard something and let it slip? Leaks from the king’s private office couldn’t be a good thing, especially since the general public wasn’t supposed to know about werewolves. Shit.
Eric left the room then, cell phone in hand, presumably to make a phone call to Bill. Sookie returned her attention to Alcide where it belonged. She sat down at the kitchen table.
“Sook, I’m sorry about your friend. I’m sorry you’re caught up in this at all. Is there anything I can do?” Alcide asked.
“No, not really. Eric sent a tracker after Debbie and Pam picked her up about a half hour ago. She’s being held at Fangtasia and I don’t know what they’re fixin’ to do with her,” Sookie admitted.
She didn’t need to say that it was more than likely that Debbie would end up dead when all was said and done. Sookie gave Alcide the details for the funeral and he promised he would be there.
“You don’t have to. You didn’t really know Tara all that well.”
“It’s not about her; it’s about you. Eric might not like it, but we’re friends; he’ll get over it,” Alcide said gruffly.
Sookie snickered and said, “You clearly don’t know Eric very well either.”
“Better than I’d like,” Alcide retorted. That was fair.
“Then I guess I’ll see you the day after tomorrow. Take care of yourself,” Sookie said.
“Yeah, you too,” he said and then they hung up.
Sookie set her phone down on the table and just stared at it for a moment. She couldn’t shake the feeling like there was something else she should be doing, but she didn’t know what that thing was. In the end, she decided she would get a fresh start in the morning. She turned off the television and the lights before going upstairs. Eric was in his office with the door closed and Sookie didn’t bother checking in with him before heading on to the bathroom to start the water for her bath.
She’d just settled in the hot water when Eric appeared in the bathroom doorway and asked, “Room for one more?”