Tiffany: “If you’re just now joining us, what you’re seeing is video footage of an altercation occurring on Sunset Boulevard just a few moments ago. That’s right. Lions and tigers and bears were prowling the streets of downtown L.A.”
Talbot: “Gee Tiffany, I don’t remember any tornadoes in your weather forecast from last night. So, does tonight’s call for flying monkeys?”
Tiffany: “Very funny, Talbot. If you paid more attention to what’s going on around you and less to the wrinkles you’re constantly checking for in a mirror when you’re not on camera, you might be better informed. But since you chose to go the obvious Judy Garland route instead of Detroit, Cincinnati, and Chicago, I would say your chances of broadcasting a future NFL game are highly unlikely.”
Talbot: “About as unlikely as you being the next Al Roker, but contrary to your shoddy reporting, I do pay attention enough to know these appear to be the same masked men who turned up on the red carpet at the Academy Awards. However speculation is still running amok as to who they might be.”
Tiffany: “They’re all wearing black leather getups, so of course you paid attention to that, but…amok. Ten points to you for using it correctly in a sentence. And you’re also correct that no one has learned their true identities.”
Talbot: “I’ll take the ten points, but you should remember the camera adds ten pounds and layoff of the booze when you go home – alone – every night. But speaking of leather getups that make my heartbeat run amok, the tall blond who had flown off with the injured woman the last time, actually stuck around this time. And – now, I could be wrong – but it looked like he stuck his FANGS into the bear’s neck?”
Tiffany: “I do love to point out when you’re wrong, so thankfully you’ve given me enough opportunities to do so in the past that I can live with admitting I do believe you’re correct. I saw fangs too. But what are we supposed to make of all of this? Men with superhuman strength? A man who can fly and has vampire teeth? And larger than life wild animals who turn into humans when they’re killed? I must have zoned out during those lessons in my Biology class.”
Talbot: “*cough* Hungover. *cough* I suppose we can assume they’re part of The Authority, who’d taken over our airwaves the same night as the awards ceremony, but we haven’t heard any more from them since. Unless of course, there’s someone else out there turning men into animals. And I don’t mean the guys I met at Hooligan’s last Saturday night. Heeyyy fellas…”
Tiffany: “Yes, well you do like to make an ass of yourself in more ways than one, so while you sit there and bemoan the fact you’ll never get your hands on any of the ones belonging to the masked men, let’s see what the people on the streets are saying. Our very own Maryann McHenry has just arrived on scene. Tell us Maryann. What are you seeing? What’s the vibe of the crowd like and what are they telling you?”
Maryann: “Talbot and Tiffany, the crowd here on Sunset Boulevard has grown even larger, with everyone coming to see the aftermath with their own eyes. Some have even brought handmade signs, hoping the four masked men will make another appearance. Here’s one arriving right now. Excuse me, Miss? Can you tell our TV viewers, what is your name, why did you decide to come down here, and what does your sign say?”
Jessica: “Hi! I’m um, Jessica. Jessica Hamby and I came down here because I was hoping to meet the guys – I mean men – who are keeping us safe from those…those…whatever in the heck they are. And my sign, I mean it’s just – you know – my way of saying thanks!”
Maryann: “You mean to say thanks by offering to have a…does that say, ‘Renesmee’?”
Jessica: “Uh huh! And I have red hair, even if he doesn’t. And he’s more of a dirty blond, so our immortal child could totally turn out to have the same dark auburn-y hair color.”
Maryann: “Uh huh. Thank you for your time…and for showing us why the American education system is failing our youth. But, Talbot and Tiffany, fans of the masked men aren’t the only ones lining the street. There are protestors here too. Tell me, sir. What is your name and why are you here?”
Steve: “I am the Reverend Steve Newlin and my parishioners and I have come to tell the world we will not stand idly by and allow Satan’s minions to take over the human race. Even those cute little yellow fellows are an abomination, walking around without pants and making weapons of mass destruction. Our society is going to Hell in a handbasket and I will NOT stand by and permit us to be carried away! Not even to Grandmother’s house!”
Maryann: “So you’re saying your hatred is not only irrational enough to include fictional characters, but you don’t discriminate in your hate. Everyone who’s not just like you is included. Now that we have that cleared up, tell me. Do you believe the men who appear to be fighting against those animal-like creatures in order to keep the rest of us humans safe are actually evil?”
Steve: “Do you hear yourself? OF COURSE THEY’RE EVIL! They’re all dressed as disciples of the Anti-Christ. The tall one can fly and has fangs! Only a dark alley deal with Lucifer himself could give someone those powers.”
Maryann: “Angels can fly. The Archangel Michael fought against Satan. So are you saying he was evil as well?”
Steve: “Blasphemy! I don’t need a bible lesson from the likes of you. Revelation, Chapter 20, verses 2 and 3 tells us – And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and cast a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more. I am here to remind the world that both sides who battle before us are the Devil’s spawn and neither should be trusted.”
Maryann: “You’ve conveniently left out Revelation, Chapter 20, verse 1 which says – And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having a key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. Couldn’t one then surmise the masked man who can fly might very well be that angel and it is he who is laying hold on those beasts?”
Steve: “Again, I don’t need a bible lesson from you.”
Maryann: “Okay. So, aside from picking and choosing bible verses that can be twisted to suit your narrow minded viewpoints, what do you hope to accomplish with your presence here? I see you and some of your minions – I mean – parishioners have armed yourselves with crosses, garlic, and mirrors. Was the local Home Depot out of pitchforks?”
Tiffany: “Mirrors! Talbot, it looks like they thought you would be there.”
Talbot: “At least there are other people who want me to be around, Tiffany. But I’m sure your bartender is missing you.”
Steve: “Well…yes. I mean this IS Los Angeles, so the only pitchforks we could find came from costume shops that were part of a set, with matching horned hoochie mama outfits. Talk about unholy. But we have no fear. GOD will protect us from evil.”
Maryann: “Annd…now I’m going to walk away to protect my sanity from you. There you have it, Talbot and Tiffany. Different viewpoints from both ends of the spectrum. I can’t believe I gave up going to law school for this.”
Talbot: “I don’t know why you gave it up either. You clearly still haven’t given up your penchant for arguing.”
Tiffany: “You’ll have to put your unwanted two cents on hold, Talbot. I’m just getting a new report through my ear piece. What is that? Are you sure? Ladies and gentleman in our viewing audience, our station has just received an uncorroborated claim that one of the masked men is none other than billionaire CEO of Northman Incorporated. Eric Northman himself.”
Talbot: “Consider that report confirmed! I knew I recognized that ass!”
Tiffany: “Believe him, ladies and gentlemen. He’s the Rain Man of ass identification.”
Talbot: “Tiffany! You say the sweetest things. Don’t believe a word I wrote about you on my blog.”
“Godric, are there more?”
I doubted they only sent two wolves to the house, but it could’ve been possible. If they thought Sookie had been left undefended, they wouldn’t have expected to put up with much resistance.
If Sookie was who they’d come for.
It wouldn’t have been the first time they tried to use her to get to me, but the only other thing they would want was my formula for the superhuman serum.
And they could have it.
Over my not-quite-dead-but-close-enough body.
“Four more,” Godric replied. “Two are trapped in the hallway at the top of the stairs and two more in the outer vestibule, leading into the lab.”
“Alive?” Jake asked, still sounding leery of the invisible deadly defender.
“Of course,” he replied, sounding not quite smug, but something close to it. “Their paths would not have led them to Sookie.”
While I wanted nothing more than to go to her, she was better off staying in the panic room until we dealt with the other four men – wolves – whatever. But knowing her, if she saw on the surveillance system that we were back at the house, she might very well decide to come out and join us.
Wolves or no wolves.
“Godric, I command you to override the control panel, so Sookie can’t let herself out of the panic room until we’ve dealt with the others,” I ordered, using the one word that was written into his programming that he couldn’t disobey when I alone said it.
It was a failsafe I’d added at the very beginning on the off-chance he grew to become some sort of uncontrollable monster. I could command him to wipe his own programming – for all intents and purposes killing himself – if I had to and he had to obey me. But I’d only ever used it one other time.
The time when I’d sent Sookie away, after I’d been attacked and woken up with fangs and a hunger for blood, when I forbid him from contacting her.
“That takes balls,” Jake managed to whistle out through his teeth. “Telling him to do anything where his woman is concerned.”
“Very funny,” I glared.
Sookie was mine.
But before I could think too long and hard on whether or not I needed to add that truth to Godric’s central programming – it probably couldn’t hurt though – I turned to the guys and said, “Let’s split up into groups of two and get them secured before she convinces him to open the door.”
I wouldn’t put anything past her ability to coax Godric into doing anything, in spite of his programming.
Both of them were stubborn and fast learners.
We left the dead bodies to deal with last and split into groups of two, with John and I heading down to the lab to deal with the two there, while Al and Jake headed up the stairs.
Readying ourselves for a fight, I ordered Godric to open the pocket door that kept them trapped and deflated a little, seeing two men lying on the ground.
“I thought you said you didn’t kill them,” I wondered aloud.
But no sooner had I said the words when my senses picked up their heartbeats, with Godric answering at the same time, “I didn’t kill them. I merely reduced the oxygen levels of the enclosure until they passed out. To allow them to destroy the walls in an attempt to free themselves seemed counterproductive to your goals. You have enough to do. Replacing the walls shouldn’t be one of the items on your list.”
Chuckling, John walked forward and pulled a pair silver handcuffs he had strapped to his back and put them on one of the guys, saying, “Are you sure you don’t want to make him a body? Imagine how much more useful he would be if he could move around.”
“He’s useful enough as he is,” I smirked, hauling the cuffed intruder up off of the floor, while John secured the second one.
“You’re just worried Sookie really will run away with him,” he laughed.
But at least I couldn’t fault him when it came to protecting her at all costs.
And maybe that was why I preferred he remain corporeal in cyberspace only.
Godric and I were so similar it might not take much for Sookie to decide she wanted him over me.
The relationship they already had was so extensive, if he had the ability to make her cum, she wouldn’t need me at all.
“That’s it!” John laughed out accusingly. “You’re really worried she’d choose him over you.”
I wasn’t about to admit it, but thankfully I didn’t have to when Godric interjected, “He has nothing to fear. After informing Sookie of my Maker’s command to keep her locked up, like a common maiden in distress, she has refused to speak to me. I hope you’re happy Eric. Now Sookie is angry with me.”
“She’ll get over it,” I laughed and – quite frankly – felt relieved, hearing there was a little trouble in their cyber paradise, so I added, “And so will you.”
Meeting Alcide and Jake on the main floor, they were mirror images of John and I, each carrying an unconscious naked man.
“I don’t suppose you’ve gotta dungeon somewhere on your palatial grounds, do you?” Jake asked.
“No,” I sighed. “But I suppose my parents never imagined one might be needed when they had the house built.”
The house was my father’s wedding gift to my mother and all of my happier childhood memories had taken place here. When my father died, everything had been left to me and I hadn’t been able to part with it.
It had been updated over the years, but the main structure and layout remained the same. Even the lab downstairs had been the same one my father used to tinker in.
I didn’t realize it until then that we weren’t so different after all.
I would probably descend into a spiral of self-destruction too – like my father had when my mother died – if something were to happen to Sookie.
I’d been thinking of talking to her about taking the same serum I’d given the guys. Not only would it make her stronger and lessen the chances of anyone succeeding, if they tried to take her against her will, but it could very well lengthen her lifespan.
The calculations I’d done on my own told me I would likely live a lot longer than the average human, as would the guys.
I didn’t even want to imagine a world where I lived, but Sookie didn’t.
But knowing it would take three days for the transformation to be complete, I also knew now wasn’t the time. I knew myself well enough to know I wouldn’t be able to leave her side until she opened her eyes and I knew the transformation was a success.
I couldn’t afford to be out of commission for the seventy-two hours Sookie would be dead to the world.
Besides, I wanted her to choose to be with me for however long because it was what she wanted. Not because she was frightened of being kidnapped again.
“So what do you want us to do with these four?” Alcide asked. “I don’t know about you three, but I don’t particularly enjoy having a naked guy thrown over my shoulder.”
“That’s not what your dad told me last night,” Jake taunted.
“What?” Alcide guffawed, with Jake’s eyes scrunching up and you could practically see the lightbulb coming on above his head when he backtracked with, “Wait! That didn’t come out right.”
“It’s okay, little buddy,” Alcide taunted. “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one deserves to live in a closet. So if this is your way of coming out to us, then I for one accept you as you are.”
“Fuck you,” Jake huffed, looking both embarrassed and amused.
“Sorry buddy,” Alcide offered apologetically. “I don’t swing that way.”
And then his voice took on a taunting tone, when he smirked with, “Just ask your mom.”
“That’s enough,” John ordered and wisely changed the subject, by looking at me and saying, “The underground garage is probably the best place to keep them for now. Not that we have to worry about anyone hearing them, but there’s room down there where we can build temporary cells to hold them in, while we get some answers.”
Nodding my head in agreement, we all carried our loads down into the underground garage, where Jake was only too happy to volunteer to move some of the cars out of the way.
And Alcide was only too happy to fight him over the keys to my Maserati.
While the guys hung back to deal with the prisoners, I quickly took the two dead bodies down to the lab, so I could do autopsies on them later on and then bolted to my bedroom to finally free Sookie.
Hopefully, she wouldn’t be too pissed off at being damseled.
Punching the code into the panel to unseal the panic room door, the airlock sounded with a soft whoosh as the door slid open. The room was equipped with a separate ventilation system than the house, in case someone flooded the air ducts with toxic chemicals to either incapacitate or poison whoever was inside.
Everything was buried underground underneath the house and was why the master bedroom was on the ground floor. It made the panic room built into the closet less vulnerable to attack, with everything for its security running straight into the room through ground underneath it. All of that could be accessed through a panel in the floor within the room, but unless you tunneled your way in from the bottom, it was impossible to tamper with.
A fact only one other person had known and he was dead.
At least that had been my working theory, until the door slid open to reveal not only Sookie, but the man I had inherited more than just my house from.
Because while it wasn’t my hand that held a frightened Sookie in his grasp, with a thumb on the plunger of the needle pressed against her neck, it was my eyes staring back at me, when he greeted me with a jovial, “Son! Since you refused to come to me, I decided to come to you. Now that you’ve dealt with my men, I’m glad you could finally join us.”
“Dad?” I choked out in disbelief.
Not only was my father alive, but he was The War Maker?