“Calm the fuck down and tell me that again,” Herveaux ordered, not sounding calm at all himself.
“The fingerprints on the door. I left it open, but his fingerprints were on the door. His footprints were by Dawn’s car. God only knows what was missed at the gas station where the first victim was found. He was probably the first officer on the scene. Who the hell would question anything of his left behind anyway when he was the one doing the goddamn investigation?” I rambled out while fighting the steering wheel against the potholes on Hummingbird Lane.
“Eric,” he began. “I want to believe you, but that could just be shitastic police work. Circumstantial at best, but no D.A. is going to hang their hat on that. What motive does he have?”
“I don’t fucking know!” I yelled. It wasn’t like I could tell him I just so happened to run into Dawn’s ghost and she had filled me in on who her murderer was. He’d send backup alright.
For the guys in the white jackets who came to take me to my padded room.
I forced myself to calm down a little and tried to sound a bit more rational when I explained, “But his hand. His right hand. I saw him last night pacing in the yard, clenching his hands. He couldn’t form a complete fist with his right hand.”
“The bruising on all three victims indicates the killer doesn’t have the full use of their ring and pinky finger on their right hand,” he supplied, recalling what I’d told him less than thirty minutes earlier. Now sounding a bit more panicked himself, he asked, “How do you know he’s with Sookie?”
“I was just on the phone with her when she said he was at the door. She didn’t want to talk to him, but thought maybe he had news on Adele.”
I was pulling into the driveway by that point. I had no idea of how much time had passed since I’d hung up with her, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.
I just hoped I wasn’t too late.
“Why would she?” he asked. “She knows we’ve taken over the case.”
I’d turned off my headlights as soon as I’d made the turn towards the house, so he wouldn’t know I was there. The last thing I wanted to do was spook him into doing something to Sookie. Something I was hoping like hell he hadn’t done already.
“I don’t know,” I whispered because I was already climbing out of the car. It hadn’t occurred to me when she’d said it, but then I was tired. And knowing she got even less sleep than me, I assumed maybe she had the same excuse until I remembered we hadn’t talked about that aspect of the investigation. Sookie had been inside with Jason at the time of the pissing match and still in shock over Adele’s death. I had no idea of what she overheard so for all she knew they were working on the case together. She’d already left the room by the time I’d come back into the house and spoke to Flood about it. And the last time she’d interacted with Bellefleur, he’d been sympathetic to her. Kind. She wouldn’t view him as a threat.
Just like any of this other victims.
And I couldn’t let Sookie be his next victim.
I didn’t hear what – if anything – Herveaux said after that, hearing Adele’s frantic shout. She came running towards me and said, “It’s Andy! He’s got Sookie in the kitchen! He’s gone crazy!” She attempted to grab onto my shoulders and maybe I imagined it, but I could’ve sworn I felt something before her hands ended up passing right through me as she yelled, “He’s got his gun pointed right at my baby!”
“Alcide,” I whispered into the phone. “Bellefleur has Sookie at gunpoint in the kitchen. Send somebody over here right now.”
“Oh fuck! Don’t…”
I didn’t hear anything after that because I shut my phone and jammed it back into my pocket. Running back to the car, I pulled everything out of the glove box looking for her gun. Sookie usually kept her service weapon in there whenever we went anywhere, but my heart dropped when I found it missing. She must have taken it inside with her at some point.
But I was still going inside, with or without a weapon.
“Eric,” Adele cried. “Don’t let him hurt my baby.”
I had no idea of what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but there was no way I wasn’t going to do something. And it sure as hell wouldn’t be waiting out in the yard for someone else with a gun to arrive. Knowing they were in the kitchen, I hoped to use surprise to my advantage by coming through the front door.
But it was locked.
I didn’t have a key to the farmhouse, but Adele was already one step ahead of me and said, “Under the flower pot. There’s a spare key.”
She’d tried to kick it over in a panic and while she couldn’t, we both hesitated for a moment watching it wobble.
“I didn’t know I could do that,” she said, staring wide eyed.
“I didn’t either.”
Corbett never mentioned being able to move anything before, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it and quickly got the key to let myself into the house. I left the door open for the Calvary I hoped was on its way and could hear Sookie’s voice asking, “Why Andy?”
Any fleeting thoughts I had on coming up with some sort of plan to burst into the room and overpower him flew out the window when I came up to the kitchen doorway and saw them. Sookie was standing with her back against the counter on the opposite side of the room, while Bellefleur sat in one of the kitchen chairs with his gun pointed right at Sookie. His back was to me, but he was too far away for me to jump on him without a running start and giving him the opportunity of being able to get at least one shot off.
Corbett was there too, standing in front of his daughter in a way for him to take the bullet that could come her way at any moment. But he couldn’t.
And I couldn’t risk it.
I couldn’t risk losing her.
When Sookie’s eyes landed on me her own surprise gave me away and Bellefleur’s expression darkened even further when he turned to see me standing there.
“Ah…ah,” he said, waving his gun at Sookie because she’d taken a step forward the moment his eyes weren’t on her. I prayed like hell she wouldn’t do something that could get herself hurt. I’d been impressed when I watched her take down the mugger in the park on the day after we’d met, but I wasn’t in love with her then.
And I couldn’t stand the thought of her doing anything that could end up with her dying now.
“You stay right where you are Stackhouse,” he ordered and thankfully she backed up again. Glancing at me, he added, “And you, Mr. Medical Examiner. You go stand over there beside her where I can keep an eye on you.”
I walked towards her, but instead of standing beside her, I took Corbett’s place in front of her and pressed her into the counter with my back. I had no way of knowing if the bullet would pass through me and into her, but it was the only thing I could think of doing to try and protect her.
His eyes narrowed at me while my eyes narrowed onto his right hand gripping the gun. I could easily see the weakness in his ring and pinky fingers and said, “It’s over Andy. The police are already on their way. They know you’re the killer.”
“Bullshit,” he declared and reached down below the table to his belt. Grabbing the handcuffs at his back, he threw them at me and said, “Now cuff your hands behind your back. I’ll deal with you in a minute.”
I caught them on reflex, but when I didn’t do as he said right away, he moved his gun upwards to aim it at my head and said, “Do it or I’ll shoot you first and take care of your girlfriend next.”
Sookie’s hands had been clutching my sides, but I felt her lean forward and press her lips against my back as she whispered, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I half expected him to have a casserole in his hand when I opened the door, but he had a Beretta instead.” Leaning her entire body against my back, I could hear the sadness in her voice when she said, “I love you Eric. Don’t ever forget how much I love you.”
The sound of defeat in her voice made my heart sink, but I did nothing to stop her when she reached around and took the handcuffs from me, doing as Bellefleur had ordered. Once my hands were secured behind my back, she took a step to the side of me and repeated her earlier question of, “Why Andy? Why would you kill Gran? Why would you kill any of them?”
“You remember what you said to me at the fair?” he snarled. “About your brother beating me like it was freshman year football tryouts all over again?”
I remembered and could see her nod in my peripheral, but my eyes wouldn’t leave the gun in his hand, while my ears strained to hear the sounds of sirens closing in. But there was nothing but silence, so he went on explaining, “It was your brother who cost me my spot on the team. He took a cheap shot during practice and broke my hand. It was my throwing arm and it’s never been the same ever since. My life had been going good up until then when he ruined everything! I’m a goddamn Bellefleur! My ancestors made this town, but does anyone care? Does anyone show me any kind of respect? No! Nobody gives a fuck! Instead your white trash family gets all the praise. Your brother’s on the goddamn road crew while I’m a deputy sheriff, but as soon as he walks into a room all eyes are on him. Everybody wants to hang around him and soak it up like he’s the fuckin’ sun. Me? Ain’t nobody lookin’ at me twice.”
“You killed my Gran because you’re jealous?” she shrieked and my body automatically leaned towards hers. She was losing it. I’d never seen her really lose it before, but I was undoubtedly seeing it now.
It was understandable, but it wasn’t going to help matters.
“I killed your Gran because she took the prize that rightfully belonged to my grandmother!” he yelled back in return. He became eerily calm a split second later, only highlighting the level of crazy he’d descended to, and said, “Now I felt a little bad about it after because I liked Adele, but I felt worse for my own grandmother. She looks forward to that contest every year and every year she takes home the prize until this year. She’s up there in years now, so who even knows if she’ll be around next year to try again. Coming in second broke her fuckin’ heart, so I broke Adele’s fuckin’ neck to keep her out of the running next time. Your whole fuckin’ family just won’t quit fuckin’ with mine!”
The more I listened to him – the more I stared at him – the more regret filled my veins. I missed the bruising pattern on Dawn’s body. I missed the signs he couldn’t completely close his right hand while I watched him clenching his fists over and over. I’d been too focused on the wrong people the night before. Too focused on the men who – in my mind – all seemed a bit too fascinated with Sookie. I let it cloud my judgment. I let it make me overlook Andy Bellefleur as a possible suspect. If I hadn’t done all of those things, I could’ve ended his killing spree last night when we had backup. We wouldn’t be standing here right now, staring down the barrel of a gun.
And if Sookie died here tonight, it would be my fault.
He seemed to be on a roll now. Finally able to brag about his psychosis now that he had a literal captive audience and said, “The night I killed that trashy Pickens girl I’d stopped by the bar. As soon as Jason saw me he started goin’ on and on about how fuckin’ great the football team did once he became the quarterback. Not once did he ever apologize for breaking my hand. Not once did he ever show any remorse for ruinin’ my fuckin’ life. And when everybody and their fuckin’ brother in the bar agreed with him that night, it was the last fuckin’ straw. There ain’t no secrets in this town, so everybody knew Maudette was a whore that liked to be choked and it wasn’t no secret your brother was with her. She was the one to tell me the cameras at the Grab-It Kwik were broke. She was the one who asked me to stop in and check on her from time to time when she worked the graveyard shift alone, so she didn’t think twice when she saw me that night. I stared right into her eyes when I choked the life out of her and all I could do was smile, knowing Jason would be the prime suspect. Hell, his name was the first one I mentioned to Bud. I’d driven by his place beforehand so I knew he was home. I even got out and looked into his bedroom window, so I knew he was sleeping alone for once and there wouldn’t be anyone who could say where he was that night. But it wasn’t enough for the DA to charge him.”
He paused in his rant long enough to seem as though he was trying to kill Sookie with nothing more than a look when he finally said, “You know, I was in the station that day when you came to see Bud. I heard everything you said. Poor little Sookie Stackhouse didn’t get her way for once when I got the job you wanted. Well you know what? I ain’t no fuckin’ Roscoe P. Coltrane and payback is a bitch Daisy Duke because you did the same goddamn thing to me!”
“What?” she asked. “What are you talking about?”
“I applied for the academy in Shreveport the same time you did, but you got my slot. Do you think I want to work in some backwater bayou where the biggest crime is a bunch of teenagers drinking down by the lake? You think I enjoy having Jane Bodehouse’s DUI’s as my only collars? No! But because of some nepotism bullshit because your daddy was too dumb to stay alive on the job or some affirmative action women’s rights bullshit, you got the job over me.”
Corbett growled out loud and I could practically hear the ranting and raving going on in Sookie’s head, but thankfully that was where it stayed. Instead she sounded incredibly calm, like she was talking to a frightened animal, when all she said was, “I didn’t know. I had no power over who they would hire and I didn’t pull any strings. I applied for the job just like you Andy.”
“Just like you,” he mocked. “Yeah? Well I’m a cop just like you, so I made sure to drop Dawn’s body in your jurisdiction just to see if you were as good at being a detective as I would’ve been. I stopped by Merlotte’s that night, so I knew your brother was sauced. I waited for him in the parking lot so I could nail him with a DUI, but then he had to go and leave with that slut Dawn. When I came up on her later on that night and she was all alone with a flat, it was like God was givin’ me another chance. So I took it. Your brother’s hound dog reputation made it too easy to find women he’d be linked to. And I knew you’d go stickin’ your nose into the investigation on a count of him being your brother whether you got the case or not. Hell, I even made sure to stomp around on the ground when I ditched her car in the woods, but you almighty egotistical Shreveport PD dumbasses still didn’t figure it out! Maybe I should a dug my heels in and carved my fuckin’ name into the dirt so you all would finally get a clue!”
His face was beat red with his blood pressure likely at a dangerous level. I hoped like hell he would just drop of a heart attack right then and there, but instead he took a few deep breaths to calm himself and mumbled, “But then that fuckin’ Hoyt had to go and be his alibi. You Stackhouses get all the fuckin’ luck and I just can’t catch a fuckin’ break.”
Were we supposed to feel bad for him?
When the silence only grew after his psychotic rant, Sookie finally broke it and asked, “So now what? What are you going to do, Andy? What do you think you’ll accomplish by killing me? Opening a spot on the Shreveport police force?”
I couldn’t stand hearing her talk about her death in any context. With my own emotions running so high, I couldn’t tell if she sounded as though it was a certainty because she felt that way or if she was just stringing him along and trying to buy us some time by talking to him. In either case I felt the pain in my chest hearing her words, just as much as I felt the pain of the handcuffs digging into my wrists while I tried to force my hands free. But even if she’d only clicked them shut once – and she hadn’t – my hands were too big to fit through the bracelets.
“It’ll hurt your brother,” he replied without hesitation. “Just like it hurt me to come home last night and find my sister in tears because your brother led her on at the fair. She said he sweet talked her away from Bill Compton and then ditched her because she’s a good girl, so he could run off with that whore Amy.”
If I murdered everyone I’d ever felt slighted by, the sheer number of bodies I left behind would’ve made the FBI dub me Vlad the Impaler.
“And then I’m gonna pin all of the murders on your boyfriend here,” he added.
“What?” I asked, unable to stay quiet any longer now that he’d drawn me back into their conversation. “What motive would I have? I’d never even met Maudette Pickens and I was with Sookie when Dawn and Adele were killed.”
As soon as the words left my lips, I realized my own error just as he answered, “Oh yeah? Is that on record somewhere? Did you ever have cause to give a statement? Do you remember using an ATM or your credit card the night Maudette was murdered to prove you weren’t there? Because with Sookie dead I can’t see how she’ll be able to be your alibi.”
The answer to all of those questions was no. And she’d only gone on record as my alibi for the K I S S I N G in a tree incident.
“You see,” he began in a tone of voice like he was telling a story.
It turned out to be a fucking fairytale and a nightmare all rolled into one.
“I was out on patrol tonight and seeing as how Mrs. Stackhouse was murdered here on the previous night, I decided to stop by the house to check on things and to offer my condolences, since I’d been too upset myself to do it the night before. But when I got outta my car I heard the most hellacious fight going on between the two of you. From what I could tell it seems Sookie here figured out you were the killer and she was trying to break things off with you right before I heard the gunshot. And when I ran inside it was just in time to see you put a bullet in your own head. The icing on the cake will be the fact, as far as I can tell, you’re the only guy she’s ever dated that her brother didn’t have a bad thing to say about. He actually likes you, so it’ll only hurt him even more to know he didn’t spot the signs his baby sister was dating a serial killer. And I’ll get to sit back and smile while I watch him die a little bit at a time when he’s left to bury his sister and his grandmother all by himself. If I can’t take his life away by sending him to prison, well then this is almost as good.”
His eyes were positively crazy while he stared directly into mine. He actually believed everyone would buy that crock of shit. He didn’t know about the forensic evidence Victor had found. He didn’t know I’d already told Alcide he was there with a gun pointed at Sookie and I wasn’t about to tell him. I didn’t want to piss him off even more or make him become more erratic in his desperation. But I still had to stall for time because I couldn’t hear any sirens in the distance, so I wracked my brain and spit out the first thing I could think of by saying, “Ballistics. They’ll know it was your gun when they run ballistics.”
“Will ya looky there,” he mocked. “Looks like you snagged yourself a doctor and a part-time detective, Sookie.” Turning his eyes back to me he said, “Well Sherlock, then I guess it’s a good thing this here is Sookie’s gun, huh? You all should learn to lock up your car. You of all people should know by now you can’t take being out in the middle of nowhere for granted.”
And hearing Sookie’s small gasp beside me told me she knew we were fucked too.
I wouldn’t know Sookie’s gun from any other. Hers was the same make and model as nearly everyone else’s on Shreveport’s police force, so I didn’t think anything about the one in his hand looking identical to it.
And I couldn’t think of a way for either one of us to get out of this mess if backup didn’t arrive soon.
Our only backup for now was in the paranormal form. Both Corbett and Adele had been standing silently at our sides, but seeing the determination rise up on Bellefleur’s face was enough to make me grasp at straws as he said, “Alright. Enough yappin’. It’s time to get this show on the road. I don’t want to be up all night doing the paperwork on y’all.”
“What if I told you we’re not alone?” I asked. “What if I told you both Sookie’s father and Adele are here in the room with us right now and if you do anything to Sookie, they will haunt you until your dying day.” Not only did I desperately hope today was his dying day, but it was true. And if he managed to live beyond today, not only would he have Corbett stalking his every move, but he’d have me and Adele there too.
Because even with the two of us standing side by side and staring down the barrel of her gun – a gun we’d just been told would be murdering us both – I still couldn’t fathom a world where Sookie didn’t live.
“Are you seriously trying scare me off with ghosts?” he asked incredulously. “Because if you are, you’re making my case for you being a whack job even easier.”
“It’s true!” I offered even though I had no way of proving it. Turning my eyes to look directly at Corbett, I ordered, “Show him. Move something on the table and show him you’re really here.”
“What?” Corbett asked. “How in the hell am I supposed to do that?”
“I did it!” Adele offered. “I kicked the flowerpot on the porch and made it wobble!”
She didn’t waste another second and moved over to the table where she tried to slap the napkin holder from the tabletop, but only succeeded in making the paper napkins sway in the breeze.
“Did you see that?” I asked Bellefleur, hoping like hell he did. “The napkins moved.”
Barely, but they did move.
“There’s a cross breeze in here,” he answered skeptically, with his eyes glued to the napkins. When nothing else happened he turned his hateful glare back onto me and snarled, “You’re just fuckin’ with me. Just like the rest of the fuckin’ Stackhouses.”
He stood up then and raised the gun chest level with Sookie as he said, “Bye bye Sookie. Tell your dad I said fuck. You.”
Everything after that happened quickly. Just as his finger was squeezing the trigger both Adele and Corbett ran towards him and made a combined attempt at shoving his raised arm, but I couldn’t rely on them being able to succeed.
I couldn’t breathe knowing I was about to lose Sookie.
I couldn’t let her die.
So I acted on instinct and jumped in front of her just as I heard the shot being fired. And my eyes saw Bellefleur’s go wide – just like his aim – when they’d succeeded in moving his arm just a little.
But it was just enough.
Just enough for me to take the bullet meant for Sookie.
I felt it enter the right side of my chest, but I couldn’t tell if it made its way through me and in to her. The searing pain was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, but hearing Sookie scream out my name instead of in pain told me she was alright.
Told me she wasn’t dead.
Told me she had a chance to make it out of there alive.
I landed on the floor in the exact same spot Adele’s body had been the night before and the last thing I heard was another loud explosion right as the darkness took over my mind.