Our shopping trip jolted me out of my rut of worry. When Tara went home, I sat down to make some resolutions.
I promised myself I would go in to work the next day, whether or not I heard from Sam. I had a part interest in the bar, and I didn’t have to get Sam’s permission to show up. I gave myself a rousing speech before I realized I was being ridiculous. Sam wasn’t denying me entrance to the bar. Sam hadn’t told me he didn’t want to see me. I had stayed at home of my own volition. Sam’s noncommunication might mean many things. I needed to get off my butt and find out.
I heated up a DiGiorno’s that night, since no one would deliver out on Hummingbird Road. Actually, the Prescotts, my neighbors closer to town, got their pizza delivered, but no one wanted to venture onto the long, narrow driveway to my house after dark. I’d learned lately (from the thoughts of patrons at Merlotte’s) that the woods around my house and along Hummingbird Road had a reputation of being haunted by creatures frightening beyond belief.
Actually, that was absolutely true – but the creatures that had sparked the rumor were now departed to a country I couldn’t visit. However, there was a dead man strolling through my yard as I tried to fold the cardboard disk that had been under the pizza. Those things are hell to get into kitchen garbage bags, aren’t they? I’d finally managed it by the time he reached the back door and knocked.
"Hey, Bill," I called. "Come on in."
In a second he was standing in the doorway, inhaling deeply to better catch the scent he was scouting for. It was strange to see Bill breathe. "Much better," he said, in a voice that was almost disappointed. "Though I think your dinner had a little garlic on it."
"But no fairy smell?"
The smell of a fairy is to vampires what catnip is to cats. When Dermot and Claude had been in residence, their scent had pervaded the house, lingering even when they were not actually there. But my fae kin were gone now. They’d never come back. I’d left the upstairs windows open for one whole night to dispel the lingering eau de fae, and that was no small step in this heat.
"Good," I said briskly. "Any gossip? Any news? Anything interesting happening at your place?" Bill was my nearest neighbor. His house lay right across the cemetery. In that cemetery was his headstone, erected by his family. They’d known Bill’s body wasn’t there (they thought he’d been eaten by a panther), but they’d given him a place of rest. It hadn’t been a panther that had attacked Bill, but something much worse.
"Thanks for the beautiful roses," he said. "By the way, I’ve had a visitor."
I raised my eyebrows. "Good one? Bad one?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Depends," he said.
"Well, let’s go sit in the living room while you tell me about it," I said. "Do you want a bottle of blood?"
He shook his head. "I have an appointment with a donor later." The Federal Bureau of Vampire Affairs had left that issue up to the individual states. Louisiana had permitted private registries first, but the state donor program was much safer for the donor and the vampire. Bill could get human blood under supervised conditions.
"How is that? Is it creepy?" I’d wondered if it might be like making a sperm donation: necessary and even admirable, but somewhat awkward.
"It’s a little . . . peculiar," Bill admitted. "The element of the hunt, the seduction . . . all gone. But it’s human blood, and that’s still better than the synthetic."
"So you have to go to the facility, and then what?"
"In some states they can come to you, but not in Louisiana. We make an appointment and go in and register. It’s a storefront clinic. In the back there’s a room with a couch. A big couch. And they show in the donor."
"You get to pick the donor?"
"No, Louisiana BVA wants to take the personal element out of it."
"So why the couch?"
"I know, mixed messages. But you know how good a bite can be, and there was going to be more than biting going on, no matter what."
"You ever get the same person twice?"
"Not yet. I’m sure they keep a list, trying to keep the vampires and the humans apart after they’ve met at the bureau."
While we talked, Bill had taken a seat on my own couch, and I tucked my legs under me in the big old armchair that had been Gran’s favorite. It was curiously comfortable to have my first real boyfriend as a casual visitor. We’d both been through a few relationships since we’d broken up. Though Bill had told me (often) that he would be very glad to resume our intimacy, tonight that topic was not on his mind. Not that I could read Bill’s thoughts; since vampires are dead, their brains just don’t spark like human brains. But a man’s body language usually lets me know when he’s considering my womanly attributes. It was really great, really comforting, to have a friendship with Bill.
I had switched on the overhead light, and Bill looked white as a sheet beneath its glare. His glossy dark brown hair looked even darker, his eyes almost black. He was hesitating over his next topic, and I was not as relaxed and comfortable all of a sudden.
"Karin is in town," he said, and looked at me solemnly.
I could tell I was supposed to be smacked in the face with this information, but I was utterly at sea. "Who would that be?"
"Karin is Eric’s other child," he said, shocked. "You hadn’t ever heard her name?"
"Why would I? And why should I be excited that she’s in town?"
"Karin is called the Slaughterer."
"Well, that’s silly. ‘The Slaughterer’ is just . . . cumbersome. ‘Karin the Killer’ would be way better."
If Bill had been prone to such gestures, he would have rolled his eyes. "Sookie . . ."
"Look at what a great fighter Pam is," I said, diverted. "Eric must really like strong women who can defend themselves."
Bill looked at me pointedly. "Yes, he does."
Okay, I was going to take that as a compliment . . . maybe kind of a sad one. I hadn’t set out to kill people (or vampires or werewolves or fairies) or to conspire to kill them or even to feel like killing them . . . but I had done all those things in the course of the past two years. Since Bill had walked into Merlotte’s and I had seen him – my first vampire – I had learned more about myself and the world around me than I’d ever wanted to know. And now here we were, Bill and me, sitting in my living room like old buddies, talking about a killer vamp.
"You think Karin might be here to hurt me?" I said. I gripped my ankle with my hand and squeezed. Just what I needed, another psycho bitch after me. Hadn’t the Weres pretty much cornered that market?