Pam was on him, as soon as Eric closed his office door. “You are taking her home?” she spat. “You are letting her go?”
“Her telepathy does not extend to vampires,” he replied coldly.
“So she says!”
“What images or threats did you send her way?” Eric snapped. He took a step closer to Pam and glared at her. “Because I can assure you, Sookie did not ‘hear’ anything from me.”
Upon Sookie’s admission, while he did believe what she said, he had not hesitated to mentally test her, and it had not appeared that she had received anything coming from his head. A part of him was relieved, not only that Sookie seemed to be telling them the truth about her telepathy, but that she also had not seen or heard any of the colorful things going through Eric’s mind since they had met.
“We know nothing about her,” Pam reasoned. “She could be with them.”
Eric contemplated the idea and dismissed it. “As what, a spy? Sent here to dine with us?”
“She only dined with you, Eric. The ad was for a personal assistant, and here you are, taking her out to dinner!”
“Are you not the one who presumed her to be stupid?”
“Exactly! A snake in the grass! Do you think it is coincidence that just as she shows up, one of your staff is abducted? The vampire who happens to have been dating your recently drained day-man?”
Pam made an interesting point, but before Eric could respond, his office door flung open.
“You know,” Sookie started, her hands on her hips, “even though y’all talk too quiet for me to hear you, I can still tell you’re standing out here.” She stared pointedly at both of them. “It’s like two big holes, hovering outside the door.”
“You can sense the presence of vampires?” Eric clarified, interested.
“I guess. I mean, yeah, I can tell where you are.”
Pam was livid. “And you’re okay with her being out there,” she huffed, swinging her arm aside, “doing who knows what?”
“Who knows what where?” Sookie asked, confused. “What are you two arguing about? Are you firing me?” The thought made her panic.
Pam laughed and folded her arms across her chest. “Fire you? No, Sookie, we’re considering finding you a permanent home next to your friend in the basement.”
The look on Sookie’s pale face kept Eric from backhanding his Child down the hallway. “You will close your mouth, and you will not say another word to her,” he hissed at Pam, causing both women to flinch away from him. The situation had escalated too quickly, and Eric was grateful he had only ever turned one Child. Pam stepped back and leaned stiffly against the wall, her eyes on the floor.
“What is she talking about?” Sookie asked quietly. “Who’s in the basement?”
“The drainer.” He paused to study her, wondering if anything Pam had suggested were possible. There was one way to find out. “Come.”
Sookie found herself flanked by the two vampires as they moved down another hallway. “Where are we going?” she asked nervously.
Eric punched several numbers into a keypad and opened a large door. “Down.”
“Eric,” she pleaded, her voice breaking. “I don’t…I wouldn’t…” She could feel Pam’s cool hand on her back, keeping her moving. “Please!”
He turned to look at her, confused. “Why are you crying?” His eyes immediately shifted to Pam. “What have you done to her?” he demanded.
“She is afraid,” Pam said simply.
“I told you I would not harm you,” he said, pausing at the top of the steps.
“You told me you would take me home,” she mumbled, embarrassedly wiping at her cheeks with shaky hands.
“And I will,” Eric replied, taking her hand in his. “Sookie, I wish for you to read this man’s mind.” If it turned out the drainer knew her, Eric would deal with that then.
“I already did!” she protested. “I told you about him! I don’t want to go down there!”
“I wonder why that would be?” Pam asked to no one in particular.
“Enough!” Eric shot her a warning look and turned his attention back to the frightened human clinging to his hand. “I will not force you. But if you intend to work for me, this is the type of situation in which you may be involved. Should you choose not to, know that there are many others of our kind, who will not offer you a choice.”
Sookie blinked, not believing what he was implying. “So do it, or else?” she asked incredulously.
“For fuck’s sake!” Pam blurted out. “As if he would allow anyone to come near you, let alone hurt you! Must we stand here and fucking debate this? Do your job, Sookie, and then you can get the hell out of here. Hurry up, before it’s dawn, and we’re all stuck in the basement!”
Sookie cringed at the idea and tried to straighten her dress. “Okay.” She believed what Eric had said, that he wouldn’t hurt her, and she wanted to believe Pam’s words. Hadn’t she agreed to take the job, vague as its description was? Hadn’t she decided to grab onto her life with both hands and take it where she wanted it to go? What she couldn’t remember, though, was seeing the interrogation of a drainer in the basement of a vampire club on her to-do list.
Eric nodded and led the way down the steps, opening another large door at the bottom. “What do you hear?” he asked seriously.
Sookie looked around, squinting into the darkness. “I can’t see.”
“He asked what you could hear,” Pam said drily, switching on a light. There was little to see in the large, bare room. Utility cabinets lined one of the walls, and there was no furniture. Sookie’s eyes adjusted to the brighter light and she gasped.
Sprawled on the floor lay the man, his ankle shackled, a large chain tethering him to the cement floor. Sookie pursed her lips to keep them from quivering and blinked rapidly. “Where exactly do you think he’s going to go?” she asked carefully. Images of the vampire Felicia flickered through Sookie’s memory, and she sadly realized, these vampires were no better than the drainers.
“Read him,” Eric said, ignoring her question.
“So you can’t,” Pam surmised.
Sookie wanted to remind Pam, that she wasn’t supposed to speak a word, but instead she approached the figure on the floor. “Not like this.”
“Is he asleep, or did you do this?” Sookie asked, crouching look closer.
Pam snorted..”At some point along the way, he stopped struggling.”
Sookie frowned at the vampire’s bored tone. “All I told you, is that I saw images in his mind.” She looked back at Eric and shook her head. “I know he’s seen horrible things, but I don’t know that it’s him doing them.”
“We can hash that out later,” Pam suggested smoothly. “All we need right now is a name, perhaps an address.”
Sookie yanked on the long chain attached to the man’s belt, pulling out a wallet from his pocket. She fished out a small piece of plastic and stood back up. “Here,” she said, flicking the license toward Pam, who deftly caught it. “I won’t even charge you for that little piece of investigative work.”
She marched past the two of them and was stopped by Eric’s hand on her arm. “Don’t,” she said angrily, turning where she stood on the step. “I’ll type up everything I can remember for you and send it to you.”
“You are leaving?” they asked in unison.
Sookie glanced at her watch and smiled. “My five hours are up, Eric. Unless you have an urgent matter?”
Eric hid his smirk and pulled her car keys from his pocket. “I assume you wish to use the company car to drive home?”
“You would seriously refuse to let me use that car just to keep me here?” Sookie asked in disbelief, which brought a burst of laughter from Pam.
“You noticed the human chained to the floor, did you not?” she asked Sookie. “You two are priceless.” Pam moved to the steps, whispering in Sookie’s ear as she passed her. “Make sure you demand a raise,” she advised, snickering as she left.
Sookie rubbed at her eyes and sighed. “I’ll read him when he wakes up, Eric. I promise.”
He waved her off and picked up her hand again, guiding her back up the steps. “I know that you will.”
“I should get going.”
“I will drive you.”
He handed Sookie her purse from his office and herded her through the back door to the car. Pam had been right, but for the wrong reason. Eric was not okay with Sookie being out there, but not because he didn’t know what she was doing. He was concerned with what might be done to her. “Allow me to take you, to know that you arrived safely,” he said, opening the car door for her.
Sookie was too tired to argue, so she agreed. “Thank you.”
They were silent leaving Shreveport, both deep in thought. “You did well this evening,” Eric said finally. He was impressed, and he knew the little he had seen that evening of Sookie’s gift was a small glimpse of what she was capable.
“You think?” Sookie wasn’t proud of her tears, or her fear.
“You are human,” Eric said, as if it were an acceptable excuse for something. “This is all…new.”
She snorted and shifted in the seat. “You think I don’t know ugly, Eric?”
“You seemed shocked.”
“To see the human chained to the floor?” she asked, mimicking Pam. “I wasn’t shocked, I was disappointed.” She regretted saying it, but it was the truth.
“I shouldn’t have said that. Sorry. I’m your employee, you don’t need my approval.”
Some part of him did. “I do not wish to unnecessarily harm anyone,” he explained. “I am not like most Sheriff’s.” He was not like most vampires, his age alone attesting to that.
“Huh?” Sookie was sure he had compared himself to a Sheriff. “You’re also a cop?”
“We have not discussed much, have we?” He was amazed, as close as he felt to this strange woman, they knew very little of each other. “I am not a ‘cop.’ It is a vampire title.”
“Like Mr. or Mrs?”
Eric chuckled. “Were it that simple. No, like the leader or figurehead of a region. It is a political title.”
Sookie let out a long ‘oh.’ “Like a mayor or governor. An official.”
“Yes, like that. Although, I do enforce the law.”
“Like a Sheriff,” she said, suddenly understanding. “Oh.”
“You still do not approve.”
She shook her head and looked at him. “No, I do. Sort of. I mean, it makes more sense. So you’re not actually taking the law into your own hands back there. It’s your job.” Sookie hadn’t thought much about vampires, and that they might have come ‘out of the coffin’ with rules and ways of living all their own, but it did make sense to her.
Eric was relieved she understood so quickly. “It is my job. I am obligated to uphold our rules. And those of humans as they affect us,” he added. “You read the signs behind the bar.”
“I guess I’m not sure I understand your penalties,” she admitted.
“They may be a bit harsher than you are used to,” he agreed.
“Yeah.” Sookie was surprised to see the sign to Bon Temps and laughed. “Should I bother to ask how you know to get to my house?”
“No.” Within minutes, he parked in front of the farmhouse she called home and cut the engine. “There are things we must discuss.”
“Did you want to come in?” she offered.
He did, but it was too close to dawn. “Another time.” Sookie lived too far from him, in his opinion, but that discussion would have to wait. “Are you aware, that for a vampire to enter your home, it requires an invitation?”
“Yeah, I think I knew that.”
“I would ask that you do not extend such an invitation to anyone but Pam or me.”
Sookie shrugged, as she didn’t know any other vampires. “Okay.”
“To remove an invited vampire from your home, rescind the invitation.”
“And they have to leave?”
“Yes, even against their will.” Eric paused to see that Sookie understood. “Do you recall, the other night, when I commanded that you look at me?”
“I’d like to forget it.”
“Regardless. I was attempting to glamor you.” When Sookie looked at him blankly, he went on. “Vampires can mentally persuade humans to do our bidding.”
“That is just…creepy. You were trying to do that to me?” she asked.
“It was unintentional. My point is, I was unable to do it. I do not believe you can be glamored.”
“Well, good. Because it’s rude.”
“Well, good,” he repeated, “as it will keep you alive.” Her unease was palpable to him. “I would not reveal that, or your telepathy.”
“No shit,” she mumbled, and he laughed. “What have I gotten myself into, Eric?” she asked softly.
Eric smiled. “Nothing I can’t get you out of,” he promised.