Eric sent out a mass text to all of the vampires in his area to let them know that the Authority would be coming to Fangtasia. It would give the vampires on-site the chance to clear out if they wanted to. Anyone who was fool enough to attempt feeding on a human in public deserved what they got anyway, but if they did it in front of those brainless V-Feds they deserved the wooden bullet to their chest cavity. There were signs all over Fangtasia to remind vampires there was no feeding on the premises, but at least once a month someone got caught doing it. Vampires weren’t allowed in human bathrooms for a reason. The bathrooms weren’t traps, and a dinner bell didn’t go off every time a human took a piss.
Although that would be a novel way to go about things if public feeding ever became legal.
Eric shook the thought from his head and stood behind Sookie as she marched herself right up to Bill. She showed no fear and there was more determination than anything else in her blood. Her confession in the car had completely pulled the rug out from under Eric, but he would deal with that later when Sookie was asleep. For the time being he needed to focus on seeing what information they could get on Victor Madden.
The former sheriff of Area 5 was a tyrant, Eric knew that much. Victor was greedy and power hungry. The queen demanded a twenty percent tribute each month from each sheriff, and because she got weekly finance reports from them she knew precisely how much money she should be taking in. That money included the ‘tax’ that was levied on the underling vampires by the area sheriffs. Those taxes were also in addition to what vampires paid the American government.
Being a vampire was expensive.
Victor had flubbed on his finance reports on the regular. He was skimming money off the top. He told the queen he was asking for fifteen percent from the average vampire, and twenty-five from business. Those numbers seemed normal and accurate. No one asked any questions. The queen was receiving her tributes every month and as long as she could keep buying useless trinkets, she was happy. Regents pay a debt as well that goes directly into the AVL in hopes of getting the VRA passed.
The Great Revelation wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took a full century of planning before it happened. In the decades prior to the Revelation, the Authority got a little more hands-on than they usually did when it came to the vampire power structure. They needed to carefully consider who was going to be representing them, should their version of government and chain of command ever become common knowledge among the humans. Victor Madden, it was decided, wasn’t really the kind of vampire they wanted going in front of a camera and making a long-winded speech.
Eric had heard about the Authority ‘retiring’ sheriffs and regents who didn’t meet their criteria for the “New Dawn,” as some of them were calling it back then. To Eric it didn’t seem that fucking difficult. You tell the Authority what they want to hear, that humans aren’t walking sides of beef and that tearing out a neck in front of a crowd is bad, and you get to keep your undead life until they make you jump through the next hoop. Shockingly, there were plenty of vampires who were either too dumb, or too full of themselves to get with the program. They never got to meet the “New Dawn.”
But anyway, word got back to Sophie-Anne that she was being ripped off. Spies from Victor’s area were informing her that they were paying twenty-five percent in tributes and businesses were paying thirty-five. Victor was skimming thousands of dollars a months from his vampires and using the money to line his own pockets. Of course the queen was outraged by what was happening right under her nose. If anyone was going to rob the vampires in her retinue blind, it was going to be her.
At least that was what Eric had been told soon after taking over Area 5.
“Bill, I need to ask you some questions,” Sookie said, staring up at Bill who was still strapped to the St. Andrew’s cross.
“Ask anything,” the vampire staggered his words. No doubt he was starving and probably wishing to meet the true death with all the whammies Sookie had put on him in the last couple of days.
“Did you ever meet my grandfather, Earl Stackhouse?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Bill shook his head. “Heard rumors… queen was interested…”
“So you weren’t serving the queen back in 1993?” Sookie asked him.
“No,” Bill said. “I was in Mississippi then with Lorena.”
Of course he was.
“Why did you come back to Louisiana?” Sookie asked, since Bill had never really told her the truth there. He had always claimed it was to take over his ancestral home after Jesse Compton died two years before, but that was… hell, for all Sookie knew the queen had come here to drain the old man so Bill would have a convenient place to live. “Did the queen kill Jesse?”
Bill was taking breaths he didn’t need, more than likely to try and garner more sympathy for himself. All it did was piss Sookie off.
“You can knock it off with the heavy breathing routine, Bill! You haven’t needed to take a breath in over a century,” Sookie said, wanting to hit him. She didn’t know if that impulse was her own, or that of the very annoyed Viking that had her back.
“Came to New Orleans to get away from Lorena,” Bill started. “I had spent the last twenty years exclusively at her side. I needed a break. When I got to New Orleans I had to check in with the queen. She asked if I had any special skills, and I told her that I had worked as a procurer for Russell Edgington in the past, but didn’t mention my blood tie to him as he is my grand-sire. When I told the queen that I was originally from Bon Temps, she asked me if I remembered a family by the name of Stackhouse. I told her that as a human, the Stackhouses had been my neighbors.
“I was granted permission to move into Area 1 of Louisiana, and the queen asked me to join her court after seeing that I was very proficient with computers. She set me up with projects to do to bring her monarchy up to date, and even a little ahead of the curve. As the Great Revelation got closer, the Authority started to tighten up its rules on public feeding, turning humans against their will and the like. I had been living with the queen for just over a year when she brought your cousin Hadley back to the compound.
“A year after that the last living Compton was killed by what human authorities determined were natural causes. In reality, he was drained by Sophie-Anne’s former second, and it was covered up. Andre didn’t make it past the Authority’s rigorous screening process before the Great Revelation, something she has never forgiven the Authority for, by the way, since Andre was her child,” Bill revealed.
Andre was Sophie-Anne’s child? She had managed to keep that a secret. It also explained why she was constantly defending the creepy little shit to everyone that came across him. Eric had considered beheading the little bastard on several occasions but had no interest in being jailed in a silver coffin for twenty years because of it. Besides, the Authority had done the dirty work, and really, who was Sophie-Anne going to complain to? The Authority didn’t have a complaints department.
“All the while Hadley was talking about her cousin in Bon Temps who had the ability to hear other people’s thoughts. Hadley talked about everyone… Adele, Jason, your parents… she didn’t know that the queen was compiling the information, or had plans to put all of it to use. The more the queen doted on Hadley and gave her the attention she desired, the more Hadley talked. Sophie-Anne kept Hadley around until I had made contact with you. Once I had my blood in your system, the queen felt Hadley was more of a liability than she was an asset, and decided it was time to get rid of her to keep her from talking,” Bill said.
Sookie gave herself a minute to process what Bill was saying. It all made sense, and the fact that he wasn’t avoiding her eyes like he had done previously told her that he was telling her the truth for a change.
“What was Victor Madden like?” Sookie asked.
“I’m not terribly familiar with him. I know that he was robbing the queen and his retinue here in Area 5. He owes millions of dollars to those vampires that he stole from, but it’s unlikely they’ll ever see their money again. When the queen found out what he was doing she started the process of having him removed as sheriff, but then her spies alerted her that a coup was being planned. Somehow word got back to Victor before Sophie-Anne could act on the information she had been given, and he fled to Nevada. When Felipe de Castro refused to put Victor into a sheriff’s position, Victor killed the sheriff of Area 3.
“Felipe called the Magister. Victor was taken into custody. Because the Maker of the sheriff that was killed had already met the true death he was sentenced to a century in a coffin bound with silver. He won’t be coming above ground until 2102,” Bill told her.
Sookie looked to Eric. She was out of questions, but she thought Eric might have some. He stepped forward and asked, “What are the queen’s ties to Russell Edgington now?”
“They’re negotiating a marriage contract,” Bill said. “As you know Sophie-Anne’s finances are a nightmare. She spends money before she has it, and her debt has grown immeasurably high. Mississippi isn’t a rich kingdom, but Russell’s personal fortune is considerable. I suspect that once she and Russell are pledged she will more than likely try to take him out so that she will inherit his kingdom.”
“But not his personal fortune,” Eric looked to Sookie. “Russell turned his blood bonded child, Talbot, a little over three hundred years ago. I would imagine Talbot would inherit Russell’s personal fortune.”
“Not if Sophie-Anne kills him, too. You know how bonded children are,” Bill interjected.
That was a good point. If a vampire turned a bonded child, they wouldn’t survive long without each other. If Russell died first it would be almost impossible for Talbot to live for very long without his bonded. The desire to meet the sun would be overwhelming, and more likely than not, Talbot would give in to the impulse. Russell might be able to withstand the pressure for a little longer considering his age, but there were no guarantees.
Eric explained all of this to Sookie who was doing her best to keep her head above water. A lot of information was coming her way very quickly and she was trying her best to figure out how all the pieces fit together.
“Is Russell aware of Sookie’s talents?” Eric asked.
“He knows of her telepathy. Lorena was able to figure that information out when you called her into Dallas,” Bill sneered at Eric.
That had been a tactical error, in hindsight. While it was true it had kept Bill away from the Fellowship temporarily, it hadn’t all worked out the way Eric had planned it. The last time he had seen Bill and Lorena together (before Bill came to Louisiana), they were in San Francisco happy as clams in draining the humans in Eric’s area and fucking with Pam’s business. Even a century later Eric was proud of his progeny for standing up to Bill and Lorena. She had shown such promise, even if the way Eric ended up turning her had been less than ideal.
But that was a completely different subject, and he needed to stay focused.
“So he doesn’t know that I’m a fairy?” Sookie asked.
“If he does it’s because Sophie-Anne told him in hopes of sweetening the deal of their marriage contract. Bringing a telepathic fairy to the table is something Russell can’t do, but it helps to even the keel a little,” Bill explained.
“Why does Sophie-Anne want me?” Sookie asked.
“The telepathy is just a bonus,” Bill said, and shifted a little on the cross. “She can use that to bring in the money that she’s hemorrhaging. She owes the IRS millions in back taxes, so she’s hoping to put you to work for her so she can pay down her debt. But more importantly, she wants your blood because she thinks it will act like a sunscreen for her. I have already told her that any protection your blood offers us runs out very quickly. Sophie-Anne refuses to listen.”
“Typical,” Eric almost sighed beside Sookie. “The Authority will be here at midnight to take you in. I will give my statement to whomever is here to take it. Sookie will not be present when the Authority arrives for obvious reasons. Is there anything else you wish to tell us?”
Bill looked directly at Sookie and said, “I know you have absolutely no reason to believe me when I say this, but I am sorry for all the things I’ve done to you. You didn’t deserve any of them.”
“You called me one of Eric’s whores,” Sookie folded her arms over her chest, and Eric’s fangs punched out of his jaw.
Before there was a chance for Bill to argue that silver tipped cane was moving up the inside of his thigh. Bill howled in pain, and much to Eric’s surprise, Sookie didn’t flinch away from the violence. She didn’t get off on it either, though.
“You knew what you were doing when you bit me in the back of that trunk, didn’t you?” she asked Bill.
Eric took the silver away and Bill was back to panting for air he didn’t need, but then got himself under control again.
“I didn’t know we were going to be brought back here. I assumed we would be going to Mississippi. I’m still confused as to why we were brought back to Bon Temps,” Bill admitted.
Eric went after Bill’s other thigh with the silver tipped cane and said, “That didn’t answer Sookie’s question.”
“Yes!” Bill screamed, and Eric removed the silver. “Yes, I knew what I was doing when I bit Sookie. I was wounded and needed blood.”
“So then you always call your female meals whores when you bite them, is that it?” Sookie asked, not believing that half-assed way of his of taking responsibility.
Frankly, it didn’t really matter in the long run what Bill thought of her, or her relationship with Eric. It wasn’t any of his business, and as far as Sookie was concerned she could dress any way she damn well pleased and Bill could just fuck right off if he didn’t approve. Having decided she’d had enough, Sookie turned to go. Bill was still whimpering behind her but she didn’t look back at him as she started to ascend the stairs.
For all she knew, she’d looked Bill Compton in his eyes for the very last time.