Sookie forced herself not to frantically search around the dimly lit club to find the owner of the thoughts she’d just heard. Eric was nowhere to be found, Pam was too close for comfort, and Sookie couldn’t help but wish it were the other way around.
“There’s a guy,” she said slowly, stalling for time as she tried to form a plan in her overactive mind.
“Cut to the chase,” Pam said impatiently.
“Where exactly is…my boss?”
“On his way.”
Sookie pursed her lips and focused on Pam’s face as she cast her mind out again. Whomever it was plotting against Eric was very close to calling it quits for the evening, and while that seemed to Sookie like a good idea for everyone involved, she knew she couldn’t let the opportunity pass. “Tell him to come in through the back,” she said, apparently with enough authority in her voice that Pam arched an eyebrow while whipping out her phone. “And then let me know when he’s here,” she said absent-mindedly, sneaking a glance around the room.
Much to Sookie’s surprise, she’d been able to exclusively keep just the thoughts of the man she believed to be looking for Eric foremost in her head. An image of the ass of one of the waitresses popped into her mind’s view, and Sookie quickly singled out from where it came. “Gotcha,” she whispered.
Pam followed Sookie’s gaze and scowled. “Flannel and vest?” she hissed.
“Cripes, maybe you should put me at the door,” Sookie replied. “He doesn’t even match.” She was disappointed in herself that she hadn’t thought of that sooner, screening everyone who entered Fangtasia.
“Excellent idea,” Pam agreed, looking at her phone. “He’s in his office.”
Sookie nodded and squared her shoulders. “Don’t let him leave,” she whispered, shooting her eyes toward the man. An image of a snarling Pam, pinning the guy to the floor suddenly popped into Sookie’s head, though it came from her own imagination. “Send him a drink or something. Waylay him…without touching him,” she added.
“Obviously,” Pam said drily.
“He’s here for Eric,” Sookie blurted, suddenly realizing she hadn’t really told Pam anything. “I’m gonna suggest we follow him or something, so I didn’t want him to see him-“
“Go,” Pam said, prodding Sookie toward Eric’s office. “Understood.”
The door to the office swung open before Sookie could knock, and she found herself face to chest with her tall employer. “Who is it?” Eric demanded, pulling Sookie inside.
“Hey!” Sookie squealed, shuffling her feet so as not to fall. Eric quickly righted her, but held onto her arms. “Where’ve you been?”
“Cleaning up the mess left after Felicia.”
Sookie looked up into his serious face and immediately felt bad. “I’m sorry, Eric.”
He studied her for a moment before releasing her. “You seem more concerned than her Maker did,” he admitted. “Regardless, it makes her disappearance easier to ignore, I suppose.”
Sookie tried to ignore how sad that made her feel and blew out her breath. “There’s someone out there looking for you,” she said nervously. “I was thinking maybe we should follow him…?” she offered, her voice trailing off.
“What did you hear?”
She ran her hands through her hair, trying to twist it on top of her head, while Eric openly took in her body as she did so. “He thought about leaving, since he hadn’t seen you, and that maybe he should call his boss.”
“He could be waiting for anyone,” Eric argued.
“I saw Robbie in his head, Jesse’s brother. And you.”
Eric nodded before tucking a stray piece of her hair behind her ear. He let his hand come to rest at the base of her neck, his thumb grazing her collarbone. “We’ll leave through the back and wait in Pam’s car.”
Sookie nodded, the only thing she felt able to do with Eric’s cool fingers sending chills along her overheated skin. “Wait,” she said hoarsely. His touch once again had sharpened the images and voices in Sookie’s head, and she unconsciously gripped Eric’s wrist. “He’s texting someone,” she said, rattling off the numbers the man entered into his phone.
Eric pulled out his own phone, leading her down the hall to the exit. “Pam has it. Come, before he leaves.” Once outside, he paused, unsure as to whose vehicle they should drive. The interest of the group of drainers had not abated, and Eric considered that at some point, they could move beyond scoping him out at his club. Neither he nor Pam had gone down for the day in their primary homes since the night following Felicia’s disappearance, when Sookie had confirmed Felicia had been abducted. The photo of Eric swirling around James Weston’s mind had cemented their decisions, and Eric was now cursing himself for not including Sookie amongst those most at risk.
“Should I drive?” Sookie asked, rousing him from his thoughts.
“No.” Eric swore under his breath and took an uncharacteristic step backward toward the shadow of the building, pulling her with him. It had been centuries since he felt physically vulnerable, and he knew it was in part due to the woman at his side. He felt Sookie slide her hand into his and tug gently.
“Let’s find out who’s behind this,” she suggested softly, and Eric wondered if Sookie understood the scope of what she was saying. He knew she couldn’t, as he hadn’t explained half of what was at stake to her. He was, he realized, going to get her killed.
“We will take Pam’s,” he decided, hustling them to a non-descript minivan. It would be unobtrusive, and easily replaceable.
“Is this tinting even legal?” Sookie wondered aloud, squinting to see through the windshield while she fastened her seatbelt.
“You do not need to see,” Eric reminded her and drove to another parking space so as to view more of the lot. “Answer your phone.”
Sookie jumped slightly and dug through the bag between her feet. She hadn’t heard it and scrambled to stop the vibration of the call. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“Who is it?”
“No one,” she said, zipping her bag. “I’m at work, remember? No personal calls.”
Eric assumed who the ‘person’ was calling her and scowled, turning his attention back to the door to Fangtasia. Pam had drifted outside, and she nodded to signal him. “He’s coming out,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, I know,” Sookie quipped, tapping her temple. “He drives a motorcycle, by the way.”
“Good.” The loud noise of the machine’s engine would make it easier to follow from a distance. “How close do you have to be?”
“A few hundred feet, maybe?” she speculated. When she’d been younger, Sookie had enjoyed testing her telepathy, but the novelty had worn off as she grew up. “I haven’t tried farther than that in a long time.”
They both watched as the man exited Fangtasia and approached, as Sookie had known, a motorcycle, parked along the street lining the lot. He started the bike and took off, and Eric waited a few seconds before following.
“He couldn’t have captured you alone,” Sookie observed, leaning her head against her window and closing her eyes.
“He could not have captured me.”
“Glad I’m riding with you, then,” she joked, patting him on the forearm. If she had to guess, she felt the motorcycle was heading for the highway. “He needs gas,” she said suddenly. “And he’s going to make a phone call.”
They watched the motorcycle turn toward a gas station as Eric pulled into the lot of bank next to it. He lowered his window and cut the engine. “Can you hear him?”
Sookie nodded and leaned across Eric to see, bracing her hands on one of his thighs. “Yeah.” The motorcycle was parked at one of the pumps, and while the rider waited for the tank to fill, he took out his cell phone. “Can you?” she asked.
“Yes.” Eric unconsciously rested his hand on the small of her back as they both honed in on the conversation.
“It’s Robbie, I see him in his head.”
“He is confirming my absence,” Eric added. “I cannot hear to whom he is speaking, though.”
Sookie nodded and leaned further out Eric’s window. “The guy in the suit just flashed through his head!”
“He called him Brown, wondering how ‘pissed’ he would be.” Eric was silent for a moment. “He also refers to him as the ‘good deacon.'” A low growl vibrated from Eric, and Sookie shrank back into her seat.
“Robbie will call him back,” he said, whipping out his phone and texting someone.
“Why are you so mad?” she asked, watching the motorcycle drive away from the station. “Don’t you want to follow him?” When Eric continued to ignore her, she poked him in the arm. “What did you hear?” she demanded. She knew she hadn’t heard much, but at least they confirmed the man’s involvement with Felicia’s drainers. What Sookie couldn’t understand, was why they were still sitting in the bank’s parking lot.
Eric hissed into his phone a few times, and she assumed he was talking to Pam. Sookie supposed it didn’t bother her that he needed to talk to his partner, but it irked her to be reminded she was the hired help. She wondered if vampires and humans were ever friends and doubted it.
Without a word to her, Eric started the minivan and began to drive back the way they had come. “I guess you can just drop me off,” she offered.
“Pam will meet us with your car.”
“Meet us where?”
“At one of my…homes,” he said.
“Why?” It made no sense to her. “Eric, what’s going on?”
“What is a ‘good deacon’?” he asked, in lieu of answering her.
“A deacon’s the minister of a church below a priest. This guy Brown’s a deacon?” she asked incredulously.
“I am not sure. It was said in a derogatory fashion.”
“Huh.” Sookie thought back to her images of the man in the suit. “He could be, I guess. He did look a little ‘church-y.’ Or maybe that’s how he looks or acts to these guys. You know, like calling one of your smart friends ‘Professor.'” The look on Eric’s face confirmed that vampires most likely did not have friends. “How the heck does someone like that know you, though?”
Eric debated how much to tell the telepath he had already put at so much risk. “The man on the motorcycle said, if the good deacon weren’t so fucking hopped up on V all the time, he’d tell him to drain the big fucking vampire himself.”
“No!” Sookie’s jaw dropped as she stared at Eric. “The guy hiring the drainers is addicted to V? That makes no sense! It’s gotta cost way more to pay someone to do the draining, than it does to just buy the blood yourself! What the hell is going on here?”
Eric screeched the van to a halt outside a warehouse. “What do you mean?”
“This is where you live?” Sookie asked, lowering her window. “It’s not what I expected.”
“Answer me,” he said impatiently.
“About what?” she answered just as huffily. “Okay, first we have the drainers. Then we have Brown, who’s an addict.” Sookie stared at Eric’s stony expression in disbelief. “Holding up a picture of his target! I mean, yes, if he’s an addict, I’m sure the vampire blood is an added bonus, but it has to be more than just some guy hiring drainers! I’m just saying, I think he’s working for someone. Someone who doesn’t care that he’s addicted to vampire blood, and is willing to hire a bunch of cut-rate drainers to capture the local Sheriff. Maybe the fact Brown is hooked on V, and a leader in some church is actually a draw for whoever’s behind this. I’d think it’s kind of a big deal to take down another vampire, especially you, Eric.” Sookie turned her attention back to the building in front of them. “You know anyone like that?” she said mildly.
Sookie was about to go on, when Pam popped up outside the van’s window, her sudden appearance causing Sookie to shriek. “Jesus, Pam!”
Pam stepped back to allow Sookie out and slammed the van’s door. “Did I surprise you?”
“I’ll just be taking my keys and going home, thanks,” Sookie said, holding out her hand. “Where’s my car?”
“Inside,” Pam said, tilting her head to the warehouse. “I’ll just be taking my keys and going home, thanks,” she mimicked, and Eric threw them to his Child.
“Meet us here tonight,” he said, holding his hand out to Sookie.
Pam nodded and paused by the driver-side door before getting in. “I took an interesting phone call after you left, Sookie. A…gentleman was looking for you.” While Pam watched the pair drive off after the motorcyclist, her phone rang. It only took a few seconds for her to realize, the caller was calling from the parking lot, which Pam found curious.
“Who was it?” Sookie asked, wincing as Eric’s grip on her hand tightened.
“I did not recognize him.” Pam had seen the caller in his car, unknowingly speaking to her as she watched. And while Preston Pardloe was very polite, he was also very nonhuman. “Were you expecting to meet someone at the club this evening?”
“No,” Sookie replied, confused. “I wouldn’t, not while I was working.” She also doubted she’d choose to meet someone at Fangtasia on a night she wasn’t working. “Was it someone confirming my employment?” She had filled out direct deposit forms with her bank, she remembered.
“He knew where you worked.”
“Should I be worried?” Sookie asked honestly, looking at Eric, and Pam snickered.
“Tonight, Pam,” Eric reminded her, leading Sookie away.
“Wait, my keys,” she said, glancing back to the minivan.
“You do not need them.”
“Well then, how am I going to get home?”
Eric led her to the side of the building, and she stumbled along the darkened sidewalk. “You are not going home,” he said simply. “You’re staying here. With me.”