Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest. Thank you for always loving me, SeriousCrush.
On a very personal note, I would like to extend my thanks, once again, to all of you who came to my defense and helped me process the stupid negative reviews I’ve been getting on ff. I honestly can’t thank you enough for your love and support, because without it, I wouldn’t be here. As a thank you, I’ll be posting a spoiler for a little tiny hot story I’ve been working on. 🙂
Chapter 8: Revelation
Sookie slept most of the day but when she woke, her body still ached. She was grateful that she was working the dinner shift.
When Bill showed up at Merlotte’s, she leaned over to him and said, “I’m not going anywhere tonight.”
His eyes registered hurt for a split second, and then it was gone. “Actually, I came here to tell you I’ll be gone for a few nights.”
The events of the previous evening had made her rethink her relationship with Bill, such as it was, but even then, she was still curious about his trip. He didn’t elaborate.
“I guess that’s fine.” She frowned. He hadn’t come to get her permission. It just seemed strange that he was so casual about leaving but still took the time out of his busy schedule to tell her.
“I care for you a great deal,” he said stiffly.
“I care for you too, things are just kind of complicated with you, aren’t they?”
“They would be complicated with Eric too.” Eric’s name came out as a snarl.
Jealousy didn’t suit him. It made his handsome features downright ugly.
She didn’t have time for petty arguments about whom she belonged to. She had work to do. She had to find a killer. That was when she remembered what Arlene said the night before. “Excuse me.”
She turned away from Bill and walked straight toward Arlene. “Can I have a word with you in the ladies?”
Arlene smiled and nodded, thinking Sookie had finally lost her mind.
When they were alone together, Sookie whispered, “I meant to ask you about what you said last night.”
“What’d I say?” Arlene scratched her head.
“About everything being okay at home.” Sookie listened to Arlene before she answered.
“Rene mentioned something about the lights not being on. Is something wrong with your power? You didn’t miss a bill did, ya?” Concern twisted her smile into a frown.
Why was Rene at her house? She couldn’t think of a reason he’d be at her house, without Arlene. And then it hit her. What if Rene was the Bon Temps Strangler? A sickening lump sunk to the pit of her stomach. If it was true, Arlene had no idea. Sookie plastered a smile on her face. “Oh, I need to replace the outside light, it burned out,” she lied. “Sorry to drag you in here. I guess I should get back to my tables.” She needed to tell Bill what was going on.
Sookie suspected most of the men in town at one point, but Rene was always off the list because he was a family friend and a good dad to Arlene’s kids. All that changed with the thought of him lurking outside her house.
Now, she needed help. For once, having a strong vampire stalking her at work seemed fine. She deflated when she turned the corner. Bill was already gone. Now what was she going to do? She couldn’t call the police, she had no evidence.
She had to tell someone, and then she saw Sam. He had been a reliable friend in the past, so he seemed like the perfect choice.
When she finally got his attention, she nodded down the hall toward his office. His eyes were filled with sorrow, silencing her.
“They’re coming for Jason.”
“Who is?” How had she missed that information in all her listening?
“Andy and Bud. They think he’s the one who’s killing those women. The knife you turned in is the same kind Jason uses.”
“There’s um, evidence that he was with them the night they were killed, too.” Sam looked at his feet, but Sookie caught a glimpse of what was going on inside his head. Videotapes. The police had been really quiet about that.
Sookie grimaced and then shook her head. “They’re wrong. It’s Rene.”
“Arlene’s Rene?” He looked like he was going to laugh.
She nodded her head emphatically. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not crazy.” A chuckle escaped his mouth, pushing her over the edge. “Whatever. Don’t believe me. But I’m not going to sit around here waiting for him to kill me.” She grabbed her purse from his desk and threw her apron down. She only had one more chance to get help.
Sookie’s heart raced as she sat outside Fangtasia. She tilted the rearview mirror and looked herself in the eyes. “What are you thinking? Eric’s not going to keep you safe.” Unless he staked another vamp for her. She shuddered at the thought of being splattered with paranormal entrails.
But the truth of the matter was that he was her last hope. She pulled the elastic away from her ponytail, letting her hair cascade over her shoulders. It was a slight improvement.
Once inside, she scanned the room and found him immediately. Eric was in the same chair he’d been in the first night she visited Fangtasia: surrounded by fangbangers and Pam. Pam saw her before he did. She smiled, probably waiting to see if Sookie would punch him in the face again.
As Sookie approached, Eric straightened his back and barked orders at the humans around him, making them go away. “Miss Stackhouse. What a surprise.”
“How’s your carpet?” she blurted out.
Amusement danced in his eyes. “Stained. How’s your side?”
She rubbed it. “Sore.” She cleared her throat. “Can I talk to you in private?”
Eric didn’t respond, he just got up and walked toward his office. Sookie followed him. When they got inside, she stared at the floor. It was remarkably clean. “Not as bad as I was thinking.”
“Why are you here?” Eric moved quickly and shut the door.
Her pulse sped up. “I think I know who the Bon Temps Strangler is.”
Eric raised his eyebrow. “And what do you expect me to do with this information?”
Her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. “Well I don’t know. Help me?”
“Do you want me to kill him?” Eric’s eyes lit up.
“No. There’s already been enough killing. I just thought you might want to…”
“Get mixed up in a case where police already suspect vampires?” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Why isn’t Bill helping you?”
She rolled her eyes. She’d had enough jealousy for the night. “Forget I even asked. I’m going to warn my gran.” She should’ve done that to begin with.
Sookie couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Eric didn’t stop her. Her eyes burned with tears. One after another, the people keeping her hope alive disappeared. The drive to and from Shreveport had cost her nearly two hours of time.
Time was not on her side.
She sped down the long driveway to her brother’s house and stopped abruptly when she saw how dark the house was. And then she remembered: it was Friday night. Gran’s Descendants of the Glorious Dead meetings were Friday nights, and although it was nearly ten o’clock, it wasn’t unusual for a meeting to go that late. Jason was probably out on a date. Either that, or Andy and Bud had already made a move on him and he was in jail. She’d sort that out as soon as she made sure Gran was okay.
With her keys in her hand, she walked toward the front door.
Headlights switched on, blinding her. She hadn’t even checked to see if she was alone. She held her hand up to shield her eyes and called out, “Jason?”
After a few steps toward the truck, she stopped dead in her tracks. A snarly mess of hate assaulted her as the killer’s thoughts filled her head. Boots crunched on the gravel when he got out. As he made his way toward her, his headlights illuminated the length of rope hanging slack from his hand. Sookie dropped her keys.
She willed her feet to move, but her body was paralyzed with fear. Rene stood a few feet away, backlit by his truck, giving him an angelic glow. A step closer and she could see the bitterness on his face.
“You deserve to die. Just like the rest of them.” A fine spray of spit accompanied every word. And then she saw them, Dawn, Maudette, and three other girls she didn’t recognize. Beaten, choked to death, and then raped.
Tears stung the corners of her eyes for the second time that night. He was thinking about how he was going to kill her. How sweet it was going to be to steal the life from her body. She couldn’t get out of his head, his thoughts pulling her down into a spiral of darkness.
Her flight instincts finally kicked in and she bolted, but she’d only gone a few feet when he hit her hard. Toppling her body like a linebacker coming after the quarterback. Her knees hit first, followed immediately by her face. Blood gushed out of her nose and pain shot to the front of her skull.
“You think you can run from me? Whore!” He was on top of her, forcing her face farther into the ground. He paused and flipped her body. He didn’t want her face down. He wanted to see the light leaving her eyes.
Sookie tried to scream as she struggled under him, but his calloused hand clamped down on her throat and squeezed. Stars burst behind her eyelids as her brain was deprived of oxygen. Her arms flailed, hitting him ineffectually. Rene laughed, a mean, dark laugh and squeezed tighter. He was delighted by the gurgling sound she made with each ragged breath.
She was sure she was going to die right then and there, and then her hand fell onto the knife he carried for work around his belt. Just like the one he’d left in her door. She wedged it out of its holder and pushed it as hard as she could into the softness of his belly.
Rene cried out and released his grip on her throat.
Sookie took a deep, raspy breath. Pain shot through her chest. She gritted her teeth and pushed on the knife, using both hands to jab it inside his body. There was more pain from her left shoulder. Blood oozed down the handle of the knife, his warm stickiness coating her fingers. She pulled the knife out in a swift movement and Rene fell backward, still clutching his gut to stop the bleeding. She couldn’t move and made mental notes of the various parts of her body that weren’t working right.
Her eyes closed. They were too tired to stay open. Her ears worked though, and someone was walking toward her. Dread gripped her as she waited for Rene to finish the job he started, but the moment never came. She focused her eyes and couldn’t help but smile when she found Eric’s face hovering above hers. And then she was in his arms as they moved toward Jason’s house.
“Invite me in.”
“Come in.” Each word was punctuated with agony. Sookie winced and tried to swallow, which came in a close second in the pain department.
Eric handled her gently and placed her on the couch. It didn’t seem so funky or itchy with Eric by her side.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get here. I had business and I had to look up your brother’s address.” As he spoke, Sookie noticed his fangs were on full display. It wasn’t too surprising since she was covered with blood again.
As much as she wanted to say something, closing her eyes seemed like a better option.
Some time later, Eric’s voice drifted back to her conscious mind. “The police are almost here. I wasn’t. Understand?”
Sookie tried to nod, but it hurt too much. When she opened her eyes, he was gone.
There I go…blurring the lines again…on to Sookie’s Present: Chapter 9