Once Flood was through telling Dearborn he could more or less kiss his ass per the Governor (I’d had no idea Victor was that well connected), he and Andy stood to the side while the ‘reeeal poh-leese’ did their job. I might have felt bad for them if just once they made the argument that they’d known Adele for years. That they wanted to do right by her by bringing her killer to justice. But instead all of their complaints only amounted to a pissing match.
And all it got them was a drowning in the yellow sea of Shreveport’s finest.
I knew both Sookie and Jason were in a bad way when they didn’t come out to see what the fuss was about. Neither one had said a word and the only signs of life they’d shown were the death grip they maintained on one another’s hands and the stray tears that continued to leave their eyes. I was worried enough that I was contemplating calling for an ambulance to come and check them out when Flood entered the room and knelt down in front of them. He spoke softly enough that I wasn’t able to hear what he said, but whatever it was made Corbett smile and Sookie lean forward to hug him.
So I didn’t care what he’d said. Whatever it was had my seal of approval if it got that reaction from her.
And my approval extended to Alcide as well when the sound of his voice drew my attention back outside and I heard him bark, “State your business.” Turning to look back out over the yard, I saw his menacing stance in front of the three interlopers made him appear just as large as Compton, Merlotte, and Lanier were all put together. And none of them had the nerve to do anything more than take a step backwards while mumbling out their pitiful reasons for being there.
Herveaux wasn’t impressed and once he’d heard their excuses, he wasn’t interested either. All it took was him straightening his shoulders and turning his glare up a notch for them to continue on their trek back the way they’d came and I was grateful. Not just for his ability to do what I couldn’t do by getting them to leave, but for never using that tactic on me.
Although it could have something to do with his fear of Sookie’s reaction if he had. After all, she did hit hard.
When I noticed Chow’s van finally pull up the driveway I went outside and directed him to park on the side of the house, so he could come and go through the backdoor that opened directly into the kitchen. Sookie and Jason had already seen enough and I didn’t want them to have to see Adele’s body leave in the bag she would be placed in, but at least there was a small saving grace now that the rest of the civilian hoard had left under Herveaux’s harsh glare. Something about all of them showing up like that still tickled at the back of my mind, but I didn’t have time to figure out what it was, so I dismissed it for the time being and concentrated on the task at hand.
The CSU team had just finished up in the kitchen and moved on to work on the rest of the house, taking pictures and fingerprinting around the door. Since the backdoor was still locked and there were no signs of forced entry, they assumed the killer had used the front door. Both mine and Sookie’s fingerprints were already on file thanks the nature of our jobs and Jason’s had been taken when he’d been questioned over Maudette’s death. Adele kept her home as clean as a surgical operating room and Jason said the last visitor, who wasn’t one of the three of us, he’d known about had been Bill Compton more than
a month earlier on the night I’d first met everyone.
I’d expected to get a little bit of grief from Chow over being tasked to come all the way to Bon Temps for a case that rightfully shouldn’t have been ours. I was sure Victor filled him in on who the victim was and possibly why he would be taking the case, but I still thought Chow would at least look perturbed over the added chore and the added miles he’d been forced to put on the van. Instead he surprised me by giving me a half-guy hug as soon as I met him at the back of the van and offered sincerely, “I’m sorry for your loss, Eric. But at least you know if there’s anything to find during the autopsy, Victor will find it.”
All I could do was say, “Thanks,” and stand there feeling stunned again.
As horrible as the reasons were for finding out I could depend on Victor and Chow to have my back, once again I could only attribute it to having Sookie in my life. Until her, I’d only ever felt any sort of camaraderie with Corbett. But now, both with and because of her, I was finding out I had more friends than I’d known about.
And given the circumstances, it was a bittersweet realization to have.
I needed to not feel useless. Both Herveaux and Flood were already doing what they could to help the Stackhouses and I needed to feel like I was doing something too. So I did the only thing I knew how to do and helped Chow carry his stuff into the kitchen, standing watch as he prepared Adele’s body for transport, while using the care he would likely show his own grandmother. I’d worked with him at crime scenes before so I knew he was treating Adele’s body differently. I was guilty of it too, having become jaded a long time ago when it came to dealing with dead bodies, so I was grateful he thought enough of me to not do the same with her. Once he was done I helped him load her onto the gurney and down the back steps to the van, but it wasn’t until he turned to face me after shutting the doors that I realized I’d been crying.
Pulling a pack of tissues out of his pocket, he handed them to me and said, “I promise I’ll take good care of her Eric.”
I choked out a sincere, “Thanks,” and stood there until I could no longer see his tail lights, trying to tell myself I was being ridiculous. I could still see Adele. Continue to have conversations with her like I’d been enjoying over the last month, but it didn’t make me feel any better. It wasn’t the same.
Nothing would ever be the same. Death was final no matter what.
I wiped the evidence away from my eyes and cheeks, trying to calm myself enough to go back into the house. I didn’t want to upset Sookie and Jason even more with my own grief, so I took several deep breaths and looked around the yard hoping to find something else I could distract myself with. And I found my distraction in the form of Andy Bellefleur.
While Dearborn continued to bark at the nearest state trooper, ranting and raving about how this was his town and Shreveport ain’t got no business being here, Bellefleur was pacing like a caged animal a few feet behind them. Even in the darkness of the yard I could tell his face was beet red and see him huffing air into his lungs, while clenching his fists until his knuckles were white as he wore a path into the lawn. He only stopped long enough to growl at Amy’s car as she passed him by – maybe because she didn’t seem too concerned about how close she’d come to hitting him – but I couldn’t say that I blamed her after the way he’d acted towards her.
I know I wouldn’t mind having him as my new hood ornament.
But watching the spectacle they were making of themselves was enough to get my mind off of other things. Spencer was the next to leave, drunkenly weaving his way down the driveway, and his departure seemed to be the catalyst for Dearborn to realize he wasn’t going to win this fight now that a third of his army had surrendered. Looking at Bellefleur, he snarled out, “Come on Andy,” before getting in his car and kicking up more gravel as he tore off down the driveway. And Bellefleur followed his boss’s lead after taking a good long look at the house.
A look I couldn’t quite describe.
He looked equal parts saddened and pissed off. I guessed it was because of Adele. I knew from our afternoon at the fair she looked to be about the same age as his grandmother Caroline and Adele really was loved by the entire town. Perhaps that included Bellefleur and it was why he was so angry. That she’d been murdered literally on his watch. And now he was being forced to stand down and let someone else investigate her death.
If he hadn’t been such an asshole, I might have felt sorry for him.
But with nothing left to keep me distracted, I headed back into the house. Sookie and Jason were nowhere to be seen and the CSU Team were packing up their equipment, so I walked over to stand next to Flood and Herveaux so I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.
“You did a good thing Northman.”
My eyes met Flood’s hearing his voice and I could see he was struggling with himself somewhat. He’d always avoided me like the plague after the whole ordeal with Corbett’s murder and I had always acted like I didn’t notice. I didn’t get any enjoyment over making him uncomfortable with my presence and I understood why he felt the way he did. I couldn’t really blame him considering the reasons why, so I always gave him a wide berth when I could.
It was the least I could do for someone both Corbett and Sookie thought so highly of.
“Calling Herveaux and Madden,” he explained after a moment of staring back at me. “If your boss hadn’t pulled some pretty powerful strings and we hadn’t been brought in at the start, then valuable evidence could have been lost. Those yahoos don’t know their ass from the hole I would’ve buried theirs in if they’d fucked up this case. I know Sookie cares about you a lot. She’s been happier than I’ve seen her in a long time, so it’s good to know you’re worth her time.”
Corbett’s jovial question hung in the air for a second before he added, “I told ya he’d like you once some time went by.”
I guess when you had all of eternity eight years didn’t seem so long.
“Sookie is worth it,” I replied.
My admission earned me a nod and a pat on my shoulder before he turned to Herveaux and said, “Let’s go. There’s not much else we can do tonight. Hopefully the CSU Team got useable prints from the door and Madden said he’d be doing the autopsy first thing in the morning.” Looking back at me he said, “Take care of our girl and you call me if either one of them need anything.”
“I will,” I agreed and shook both of their hands before watching them walk out the door.
I shut it behind them – and made sure to lock it too – before turning to face the almost empty room. Now that everyone else was gone, but not knowing where Sookie and Jason were, I asked in a whispered voice, “Did Adele say how long she’d been home before she was attacked?”
Corbett’s expression became livid, but he reined it in and responded, “Yeah. She said she’d only been here for a few minutes. Long enough to carry everything into the house. So maybe five minutes tops.”
“I can move so much faster now!” Adele gushed as she moved into the room through the wall.
She looked so elated I couldn’t help but smile and say, “Well now that drywall is no longer a hindrance, I can see why.”
“Oh you hush,” she chuckled. “I was talking about my old lady aches and pains. They didn’t make the trip over with me, but my favorite outfit did.”
She twirled on the spot and ended in a ‘Ta da’ pose, making both Corbett and me smile again, before I said, “You should be happy about that. And keep in mind how lucky you are if you come across a naked guy running around who says ‘dude’ a lot. He wasn’t so lucky and neither are we since we can see him.” Wanting to get my point across so she wouldn’t be blindsided by his buck nakedness, I added, “All of him.”
Adele’s eyes went wide as she processed that little tidbit of information and when she was through she looked at me and asked, “How is it you can see us? Have you always had your gift or did it come to you by accident? A bump on the head or something like that?”
I wasn’t surprised she’d called my curse a gift. I’d already learned Adele could find the silver lining in any situation. A habit she likely picked up having Corbett for a son and Jason as a grandson. And I couldn’t argue with her over it now that I finally had a reason to appreciate it.
“I don’t know how or why,” I admitted. “I’ve always been able to see people other people couldn’t see. But I didn’t realize I was seeing ghosts until I was seven or so.”
When I watched one of them impale my teacher with their bayonet.
“And your parents?” she asked innocently. “Do either of them have your gift too?”
The topic of my parents had only come up once during our weekly family dinners and my obvious discomfort over the topic allowed me to get away with answering noncommittally that we weren’t all that close. I couldn’t tell any of them the truth back then, but now that the body was out of the bag – so to speak – I replied truthfully, “No. And when I tried to tell them about it they put me in therapy and acted like I was a freak of nature they were afraid of rubbing off on them. I guess I am a freak, but it’s not contagious.”
God knows we’d rubbed on each other enough that Sookie would’ve caught it by now if it was.
“Bullshit!” Adele declared, making Corbett and me gape back at her. I’d never heard her say anything that couldn’t be said to a priest in the middle of a sermon, so hearing her cuss like that was akin to hearing a cat bark. A dog meow.
The two just didn’t go together.
“I’m sorry Eric, but your parents aren’t fit to scrub my toilets,” she snarled. “That they could ostracize their own child instead of acknowledging how unique and special you are is bullshit. God saw reason to bless you with a gift, but He certainly made you earn it by cursing you with assholes for parents.”
“Gee Momma,” Corbett chuckled. “Don’t hold back on our account. Tell us how you really feel.”
“Look at him!” she railed while pointing at me. “He’s bright and kind and exactly what every good parent would hope for their child to grow up to be. He’s a doctor for Christ’s sake! And he’s even better than I knew because he managed to do it in spite of being raised by wolves in Stepford clothes!”
She’d dismissed her own murder as being her fault for being so dense as to believe she would be safe in her own home of some fifty odd years without locking the door. Instead of mourning her untimely death and listing the things she’d never gotten around to doing, she’d done nothing but talk about all of the benefits her new state of being came with.
Her favorite outfit.
Minus her aches and pains.
Not even doors, drywall, and support beams could slow her down.
But hearing my parents didn’t throw a tickertape parade to celebrate my curse had her ready to spit nails.
The Stackhouse family might as well be wearing Team Eric t-shirts.
It made me wonder how Jason would take the news if I shared my secret with him. It also made me wonder if Adele could whoop him from the grave if he didn’t take it well. I decided I would leave that decision up to Sookie for now and tried to get us back on track before Adele somehow managed to have a ghostly heart attack.
She was that worked up.
“Speaking of clothes,” I segued. “Adele, did you see anything? Shirt cuffs? A watch or gloves on the killer?” I knew he’d come up from behind her, but I still had hope she’d seen something we could use to identify him. When she calmed down enough to think about it, she eventually shook her head in the negative, so I asked, “What about sounds? Did he say anything? Did you hear a car door slamming? Anything?”
“No,” she replied. “I guess I was lost in my own thoughts, but I can’t remember hearing anything at all.”
The farmhouse was quite a ways back from the road. Granted it didn’t see a lot of traffic, but still the killer would’ve been taking a chance their car could be seen if they’d left it there and walked to the house. Any car parked on that road would stand out.
And that tickling in the back of mind came back with me asking, “Do you think it could’ve been Bill Compton?”
He lived right next door, so no car would be needed. And his footsteps across the field wouldn’t make any sound at all. I couldn’t imagine why he would want to kill Adele unless it was to hurt Jason. But seeing as how he still carried a torch for Sookie, it didn’t make any sense to me that he would want to hurt her in the process.
But crazy, by definition, didn’t always make sense.
“Bill?” she asked and added, “Why would he want to kill me?”
“To get back at Jason,” I answered.
It was no secret there wasn’t any love lost between them and Adele thought about it for another minute before she finally shook her head and said, “No.”
“Momma,” Corbett argued. “Just because he acts like he walked straight out of Gone with the Wind doesn’t mean he’s a gentleman.”
“That’s not why,” she chastised. Looking back and forth between both of us, she explained, “It’s his aftershave. Back when they were still in high school I overheard Jason and Hoyt laughing about how they’d fooled Bill into thinking Sookie’s favorite scent on a man was Aqua Velva.”
Before I could become concerned over not smelling like Aqua Velva, Corbett laughed out, “She hates that smell!”
“I know,” Adele smiled ruefully. “But ever since then, no matter where I run into him and whether or not Sookie is expected to be around, Bill has always smelled like he bathed in it. He was wearing it earlier today when he stopped by to say hello to me at the fair.” She chuckled softly and said, “It’s so strong it’s made my eyes water at times, but I know Sookie never liked him like that. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.”
Even though he could have showered away the smell before coming over, I couldn’t come up with any reason why he would if his intent was to kill Adele. And her sound reasoning ended a third of the tickling in the back of my mind. Compton was the only one in my opinion who would’ve had the easiest opportunity thanks to being their neighbor. But Merlotte’s wasn’t that far away. A ten minute jog at most. He could’ve left the bar and returned in plenty of time before Mike Spencer had gotten the call. Lanier could’ve been anywhere. But I couldn’t come up with any reason why they would be the killer and talking it over with both Adele and Corbett didn’t give me any more reason to believe either one of them could be responsible. But without any other suspects on the horizon I decided to send a quick text to Alcide along with my weak reasoning for them to be considered.
They just gave me a bad feeling.
And apparently it was enough for him because Alcide replied moments later with, “On it.”
I could really get used to being taken seriously.
“Eric,” Adele said once I read them his response out loud. “Forgive me for saying so, but you look like the walking dead.”
Corbett laughed that I should be so lucky as to look as good as them, so he learned the hard way she could still at least wallop him before she added, “Why don’t you go lie down and try and get some rest?”
Hearing her mention rest made me have the Pavlovian response of yawning and I was suddenly too tired to argue with anyone. My feet shuffled me towards the couch, with me assuming both Sookie and Jason were upstairs in their childhood beds. But I didn’t want to assume I could just climb into bed with Sookie.
Not with her father and grandmother standing there and able to come in whenever they felt like it.
But I didn’t get far before Adele said, “My room.” I looked over at her, wondering if I heard her wrong and if not, preparing to tell her I didn’t feel right sleeping in her bed. I imagined it would only upset either Sookie or Jason – or both. But before I could even open my mouth she added, “They’re both in bed in my room. Jason was already asleep before I walked in here.” She paused for a moment while her face lit up with pride as she added, “But as soon as he was Sookie whispered out that she wanted you to join them when we were done talking.”
The fact Sookie knew about my curse had slipped my mind.
The fact she knew I would want to try and get answers as soon as I could said she knew me well.
And the fact that she accepted all of it was made clear by her whispered request into the darkness of her grandmother’s bedroom.
Both Corbett and Adele remained in the living room as I made my way down the hallway. The bedroom door was ajar, as was the adjoining bathroom, so I was able to see with the light that had been left on inside to spill across the room.
Jason was lying on his side on one side of the bed facing Sookie. His left hand was still holding her right while she ran the fingers of her left through his hair, but when she noticed me she used it to pat the space on her other side.
I crawled in behind her and she moved enough so that we were pressed against each other before she whispered out, “The bed smells like Gran so we wanted to sleep in here before it faded away.” My heart hurt a little hearing the sadness in her voice, but she sounded in better spirits when she asked, “How was the paranormal powwow?”
It still felt so weird for her to acknowledge my curse. And weirder still that she was okay with it.
Weird, but good.
“I wish you could’ve heard it,” I whispered in return, meaning it in more ways than one.
“Me too,” she sighed, pulling my arm over her body and hugging it against her chest. “So don’t leave anything out and tell me everything.”
And so I did. I told her everything we’d talked about. From Adele’s twirling ‘Ta da’ to Aqua Velva man. Jason shifted a little when Sookie snorted out loud hearing why Compton made Adele’s eyes water, but she probably would’ve woken him completely if my arm hadn’t held her back from shooting upright in the middle of the bed when I told her about Adele’s ‘bullshit’ declaration.
“Gran must’ve been really pissed,” she surmised. “I’ve never heard her cuss. Not even when Jason set the yard on fire because if the grass is burnt up we won’t have to cut it every week.”
I made a mental note to keep matches away from Jason and laughed softly, “From the look on Corbett’s face, I would guess he hasn’t heard her cuss either.”
It looked like he’d managed to somehow shit his pants.
Sookie and I continued to whisper talk long into the night. There were more stories told and more tears were shed. Hearing how her father’s new favorite pastime involved trying to scare the shit out of me made tears of a different kind leave her eyes as she nearly shook Jason awake with her silent laughter. It felt so good to finally be able to tell her things I’d wanted to share with her from the start. Adele’s death was the only regret I had in the otherwise best day of my life. And when I eventually heard her breathing even out as she finally fell asleep, it was only then – with her safe and sound in my arms – that I finally allowed sleep to take me too.