FIFTEEN MINUTES EARLIER (than the previous chapter)
The day before, Alcide had offered her a key to his apartment, but Sookie had turned him down because she couldn’t think of any reason why she would need it; after all, she’d planned to be with him while she was in Jackson.
“Why didn’t I plan on bein’ staked and having to spend the night in the vampire king’s mansion,” she muttered to herself sarcastically.
Sookie huffed. She didn’t bother to pound on Alcide’s door; her telepathy had already told her that no one was inside of his apartment.
By some miracle, Eric had grabbed her purse off of the floor at Josephine’s, and she quickly opened it to phone Alcide, berating herself for not calling him from the road. She growled when she realized her cheap cellular phone was deader than a vampire and then chastised herself again for not remembering to turn it off. She knew from experience that it quickly ate up its battery life—even when it wasn’t in “roaming” mode.
Sookie sighed long and hard before weighing her options.
The first idea she had was to walk to Janice’s hair salon. There, she could wash up a bit—at least her hair. Plus, Janice would have a phone (and Alcide’s number, since Sookie hadn’t memorized it), so Sookie could call her Were friend and let him know about the vampire in his parking garage.
Sookie looked down at the ill-fitting clothing she’d been given by Bernard, the vampire who’d been flirting so shamelessly with Eric the night before. Clearly, Russell didn’t have many (if any) female houseguests, for she’d been given a T-shirt and a pair of sweats that clearly belonged to a male—likely Bernard himself. She’d needed to roll the waist-band of the sweats to make them stay on her body, and the T-shirt was quite loose—which was probably a good thing since she didn’t have a bra. As she looked at the thick socks on her feet, she grunted. Bernard had had no shoes to offer, so she’d had to operate in just socks during her rescue of Bill—since her high-heels weren’t exactly “stealth friendly.”
As it turned out, it had been a good thing that she’d left them off, for they wouldn’t have been “fight-with-Lorena-friendly” either.
Still, she’d managed to make it to the car with her heels; she’d wrapped them in the shawl that Alcide had given to her—which had also somehow made it from Josephine’s to Russell’s mansion (probably also due to Eric). She sighed with frustration at herself for leaving the bundle (with her shoes) in the Lincoln. If she was going to trek the ten or so blocks to Janice’s salon, she would have to do it in her heels—despite how ridiculous she would look.
Of course, she could just drive the Lincoln to the shop, but she was reluctant to do that because Bill seemed somehow safer in the parking garage (since it was underground) than he would be elsewhere. Sure—he was under a blanket in the trunk—but she’d not exactly been thorough in making sure he was wrapped tightly because she had been in a hurry! Plus, the thought of just a blanket and a potentially un-light-tight trunk being the only things protecting Bill from the sun was not comforting to the telepath—despite the fact that clouds had started to gather from the west.
But—then again—parking the car somewhere like behind Janice’s business might make Bill safer in some ways. After all, Russell’s Weres probably wouldn’t think to look there—even if they did come looking for Sookie.
On the other hand, she didn’t want for Bill to awaken hungry in a more highly-trafficked area, such as that in which Janice’s shop was located. Indeed, Sookie realized that she’d been counting on Alcide being with her when she opened the trunk that night—just in case Bill wasn’t fully in control.
The vampire hadn’t seemed violent and he’d not tried to bite her as they’d made their way to the Lincoln that morning, but the very fact that it had been daytime might have been responsible for his docility.
No—if she went to Janice’s business, she would walk there. Sookie wasn’t about to endanger more people than was necessary in case Bill’s injuries drove him to look for fresh blood. Plus, the last thing vampires needed was for people to capture a video of a rabid, blood-covered vampire with their cellphones!
She cringed at that thought, even as she looked at the floor in front of Alcide’s door.
Honestly, a preferable idea over walking ten blocks—in heels—was just sinking down onto the floor and waiting for the Were to return. She could visualize herself leaning against the doorjamb and taking a nap, and that thought seemed pretty good to her in that moment!
However, what if Alcide didn’t come home before nightfall? Would she be able to control Bill?
Additionally, what if one of Alcide’s neighbors thought she was a vagabond—which (she had to admit) was exactly what she looked like in that moment—and called the police?
Speaking of neighbors—another option was to start knocking on the doors of Alcide’s neighbors. If she could find someone willing, she could use his or her phone. If the neighbor had a copy of the Yellow Pages, then Sookie could look up Janice’s business’s number. From Janice, she could find out Alcide’s cell phone number and call him.
Sookie sighed, continuing to weigh that option. But walking ten blocks (even in ill-fitting sweats and heels) seemed preferable to knocking on random doors since, given her luck, she would knock on the door of a troll or something!
“And then there’d be a damned riddle to solve!” she muttered wryly.
Another option would be to drive the Lincoln (with Bill) to Bon Temps and have Sam help her. She considered that for a few minutes before remembering that (because of an abysmally slow shift) she had only five dollar bills in her purse—certainly not enough for the gas she’d need to get to her home town.
The final option she considered was just returning to the Lincoln and waiting out the day. She could sleep in the car and check periodically to see if Alcide had returned; she recalled him saying that he had meetings that day, but figured he’d be home at around 5:00 p.m.
She frowned. It had been only a little after 9:00 a.m. when she arrived in the parking garage. The thought of being alone in the car all day wasn’t appealing in the least—despite the fact that she’d been contemplating staying in it to guard Bill not half an hour before. Plus, she really didn’t want to risk Alcide’s not being present when Bill woke up, so she needed to figure out how to contact him before nightfall.
She sighed and looked at the floor again before determining that her best course of action would be to go grab her shoes from the Lincoln and then walk to Janice’s salon. That way she wouldn’t have to worry about the car—or whether the trunk was completely light-tight.
Ideally, Janice would help her get in touch with Alcide, who would give her some advice about the safest course of action from there. And—if her luck turned—she might even find a diner on the way there because her stomach was growling loudly!
She found herself grateful for the five one-dollar bills in her wallet. She figured that she’d, at least, be able to get a bowl of soup and some bread.
Of course, as she contemplated her rumbling stomach, she couldn’t help but to think about all the “ones” she was missing out on because she’d not been able the work for the past few days.
She found herself hoping—more like praying—that her fee for Dallas would arrive soon; indeed, she wondered if it would be bad manners to mention the payment to Eric. Property taxes were coming up, and she’d also been trying to tuck away a little bit of money to hire an accountant to help her with her taxes that coming April. Losing Gran and inheriting the farmhouse—with its mortgage—was going to make her taxes so much more complicated than they’d ever been before, and math had never been her strong suit.
“I’ll forgo the soup,” she sighed to herself, even as she hoped Janice might let her take one of the apples that was kept in a bowl on the front counter of the salon.
Having made her plans, Sookie wearily made her way to the elevator; she couldn’t help but to feel the weight of fatigue hitting her. It had already been a long day, and it couldn’t have been past 9:15 a.m.
Even before the elevator door slowly creaked open, she knew that she wouldn’t be alone for her ride down. A woman and her son had entered the elevator on the floor above her. The little boy had awoken with an ear infection, and his mother was worried about his fever, so she was glad that his pediatrician had been able to fit them in for an emergency appointment.
As she stepped onto the elevator, Sookie contemplated asking to borrow the woman’s phone, but then discarded the idea because Janice’s number would have to be looked up, and the woman was in a hurry.
Also, the woman had begun assessing Sookie as soon as she entered the conveyance. Indeed, she was wondering if Sookie’s shoeless state had anything to do with the stains on her socks—stains that looked suspiciously like dried blood to the woman.
Sookie had only one thought: Fuck!
She looked down. It was a testament to how messed up her life had become that she’d not noticed the blood until that moment. She hadn’t been able to help getting some of Bill’s blood on her socks as she’d helped him to the car. Or—it could have been Lorena’s blood. Thankfully, the rest of the clothing she was wearing was black so that any blood she’d gotten on the sweats was not showing.
“Red mud,” Sookie said with a forced chuckle when the woman thought about calling the security guard for the building to have him check out Sookie. “I managed to step in a big patch of it, and—since I didn’t want it on my boyfriend’s carpet—I took my shoes off.”
“I hate the soil around here,” the woman observed, satisfied by Sookie’s explanation. “I’m from Ohio where the dirt’s brown—like dirt ought to be. Here—you never know what you might get.”
Sookie nodded. “You’re right about that.”
The woman and her son got off on the first level of the parking garage, and Sookie sighed with relief when no one was waiting to get onto the elevator from there; she didn’t need more questions about her bloody socks! Frustratingly, the door didn’t seem anxious to close. The telepath—her shields completely down so that she could monitor her surroundings—hit a button that indicated that it would cause the elevator doors to shut faster. But those doors still took their time squeaking to a close. Indeed, Sookie had previously noticed that the elevator in Alcide’s building was slow at just about everything it did, but taking the stairs had seemed too daunting, considering how tired she already was and the fact that she had a long walk ahead of her.
Because she’d not done it before, Sookie pressed the G-3 button for the lowest level of the parking garage and then leaned tiredly against the wall of the elevator.
However, she didn’t allow herself to completely relax. Instead, she pushed out her telepathy to the point of almost pain in order to monitor the minds in the garage. She didn’t hear anyone close to her as the elevator passed level G-2, but—as it approached G-3—her heart felt like it was falling into her stomach.
She sensed a being of the two-natured variety, and she knew exactly who it was!
By no means was Sookie an expert at distinguishing one Were or shifter from the next, though she was beginning to sense Alcide’s mind better, even if his specific thoughts (unless they were targeted directly at her) were no more than reddish, swirling noises in her mind. Still, his mind was getting “familiar,” just as Sam’s seemed “familiar” to her now. Since she’d learned about what he was, Sookie could also distinguish that Sam’s mind was different from a werewolf’s mind. She couldn’t quite explain that difference, but it was something she innately recognized.
Debbie Pelt’s mind had been different from any other two-natured being she’d encountered. Sookie figured that the difference was because she was a werefox instead of a werewolf or shifter. Debbie’s thoughts were tinged in violet and orange, and there was a strong echo of sorts within them. Undoubtedly, she was easier to “hear” than Alcide and Sam. Indeed, she was like listening to a human who was yelling through a tunnel.
But the nuances of the differences between two-natured creatures were not at the forefront of Sookie’s mind as she looked frantically at the buttons on the elevator.
There were nine buttons for the floors of the building’s apartments. There were three buttons for the garage floors. There was a button labeled “call.” There was a “door-open” button that would hold the doors open if needed. And there was the “door-close” button that she’d pressed repeatedly not thirty seconds before.
“Fuck!” she muttered to herself as none of the buttons seemed able to stop the elevator from inevitably opening at G-3!
For a moment, Sookie contemplated hitting the “call” button, but held back. Likely, the call wouldn’t even be answered for a minute or two and—even then—what would she say? “Hey there! A werefox wants to kill me. Could you send help? And—oh—she’s thinking about how good my vampire boyfriend—actually ex-vampire boyfriend—tastes right now. Oh—and the ex is the vampire in the trunk of the white Lincoln. He was starved and tortured by his maker—who I killed earlier today—so watch yourselves with him.”
Likely, anyone answering her call would believe her to be a teen playing a prank!
Or an escapee from an insane asylum.
No—the call button didn’t seem like such a good idea right then.
Nor did Sookie hold out any hope that Debbie would be out of position to see her! From the nature of the werefox’s thoughts, it seemed certain that she was at the Lincoln’s trunk, and the vehicle was parked in a space only twenty feet or so from the elevator—a space with a clear line of sight to the elevator!
Where there was absolutely nowhere to hide!
Sookie braced herself mentally—and physically—as the elevator door began to creak open. She had already pushed the button for the top floor before it was done opening. And then she began pushing the “door-close” button. She tried to keep herself calm, and she did a decent job of it—at least until the elevator door seemed to stall—fully open—and she saw Debbie turn toward the elevator, her teeth stained red with having just taken blood from Bill.
The telepath saw the recognition in the werefox’s eyes and “heard” the murderous, jealous rage in her thoughts.
Yep—her attempts at calm were gone after that!
Frantically, Sookie kept pushing the button that would protect her from the rabid-looking werefox—at least for a while. She had no idea what her next move would be once the elevator doors closed—if they closed in time—but she was hoping for a chance to plan something.
Of course, the old elevator doors seemed to be deciding which side they were on—before they lurched. But they still weren’t closing!
“Please just fucking close!” Sookie muttered urgently, as Debbie dropped Bill’s limp arm and licked her lips.
The werefox was clearly savoring the thought of an upcoming hunt, and time seemed to stop as the two women looked at each other. Sookie hit the “door-close” button again before retreating toward the corner of the elevator when she saw Debbie’s eyes go from brown to yellow in a split-second.
Finally making their choice, the elevator doors started closing, even as the werefox grinned and then charged.
A single question rocketed through Sookie’s mind. Which was faster: a werefox on V with a grudge or an old creaky elevator?
As if by some miracle, it seemed as if the doors were now all in on being on Sookie’s side—as they neared each other. Fearing that if Debbie pushed the “up” button, the doors would open again, Sookie leaned forward to press the “close-door” button again. And she kept pushing it in a flurry.
But just as Sookie felt certain that the elevator doors were closed, a hand thrust inside the elevator. On instinct, the telepath moved to try to push it out again, but her effort was futile as a second hand joined the first and then worked with its partner to peel open the now-complaining elevator doors. Once again, Sookie retreated toward the furthest corner of the elevator. She had no weapons, but she’d had vampire blood and intended to fight for her life.
For what it was worth.
As Debbie’s face came into view, she almost seemed to be foaming at the mouth even as she smiled sinisterly.
Dropping her purse, Sookie raised her hands, praying to God that her first fist-fight would go her way—praying to God that a telepath with an ancient vampire’s blood could beat a V-addled werefox.
“Oh—good! You want to play!” Debbie panted excitedly as she stepped inside the elevator. Sookie realized that the werefox intended for the doors to close—that she wanted to trap herself into the confined space with Sookie.
The telepath didn’t want to play that game. Desperate, she lunged toward the “call” button, but Sookie was headed off by a blow to her head.
She teetered on her feet, trying to stay upright. But then there was another punch, and this one made her world go black.
A/N: I know it’s been a while since I posted any of this story, but it’s back now! I’m planning on a chapter a week (on the weekends) now that I can devote my attention to this story’s completion.
I hope I was able to build up some anxiety-inducing suspense at the end of the chapter. I could visualize this scene very well in my brain, but getting it to the page was a challenge. Fingers crossed that it was effective.
Oh-and you have probably picked up on this already: the chapter names in this story are all going to be titles of songs Elvis recorded. So if you are ever like-“that’s an odd chapter title”-you can blame Bubba! 😉
Please let me know if you have anything thoughts on the story.
As always, many thanks to kleannhouse and Sephrenia!