"They take three, four cases at Vic’s," Duff said conversationally.
"Bigger bar." I began writing the check.
"I guess vamps are everywhere now."
"Um-hum," I muttered, filling it out carefully. I was serious about my check-writing privileges. I signed with a flourish.
"Even that bar in Shreveport, that one that turned out to be for werewolves, they take some blood drinks now."
"Hair of the Dog?" Hadn’t Mustapha mentioned a vamp who was hanging out at the Were bar?
"Yeah. I delivered there this morning."
"Huh." This news was unsettling, but husky Duff was a huge gossip, and I didn’t want him to know he’d shaken me. "Well, everybody’s got to drink," I said easily. "Here’s your check, Duff. How’s Dorothy?" Duff tucked the check into the zippered pouch he kept in a locked box in the passenger floorboard. "She’s good," he said with a grin. "We’re having another young’un, she says."
"Oh my gosh, how many does that make?"
"This’ll be number three," Duff said, shaking his head with a rueful grin. "They gonna have to take out some college loans, do it themselves."
"It’ll be fine," I said, which meant almost nothing except that I felt goodwill toward the McClure family.
"Sure thing," he said. "Catch you next time, Sookie. I see Sam’s got his fishing pole out. Tell him I said to catch some crappie for me."
When the truck had gone, Sam came out of the trailer and came over to the bar.
"You did that on purpose," I said. "You just don’t like Duff."
"Duff’s okay," Sam said. "He just talks too much. Always has."
I hesitated a moment. "He says they’re stocking TrueBlood at the Hair of the Dog." I was treading on shaky ground.
"Really? That’s pretty weird."
I may not be able to read two-natured minds as easily as I can human minds, but I could tell Sam was genuinely surprised. Jannalynn hadn’t told him a vampire was coming into her bar, a Were bar. I relaxed. "Come on in and let me show you something," I said. "I’ve been in there measuring."
"Uh-oh, you want to move the furniture?" Sam was half-smiling as he followed me into the bar.
"No, I want to buy some," I said over my shoulder. "See here?" I paced off a modest area just outside the storeroom. "Look, right here by the back door. This is where we need us some lockers."
"What for?" Sam didn’t sound indignant, but like he genuinely wanted to know.
"So we women won’t have to put our purses in a drawer in your desk," I said. "So Antoine and D’Eriq can keep a change of clothes here. So each employee will have their own little space to store stuff."
"You think we need this?" Sam looked startled.
"So bad," I said. "Now, I looked in a few catalogs and checked online, and the best price I found …" We continued talking lockers for a few minutes, Sam protesting at the expense, me giving him all kinds of grief, but in a friendly way.
After a token fuss, Sam agreed. I’d been pretty sure he would.
Then it was thirty minutes till opening time, and Sam went behind the bar to start slicing lemons for the tea. I tied on my apron and began to check the salt and pepper shakers on the tables. Terry had come in very early that morning to clean the bar, and he’d done his usual good job. I straightened a few chairs.
"How long has it been since Terry had a raise?" I asked Sam, since the other waitress hadn’t come in yet and Antoine was in the walk-in refrigerator.
"Two years," Sam said. "He’s due. But I couldn’t go giving raises until things got better. I still think we better wait until we’re sure we’re level."
I nodded, accepting his judgment. Now that I’d gone over the books, I could see how careful Sam had been in the good times, saving money up for the bad.
India, Sam’s newest hire, came in ten minutes early, ready to hustle. I liked her more and more as I worked with her. She was clever at handling difficult customers. Since the only person who came in (when we unlocked the front door at eleven) was our most consistent alcoholic, Jane Bodehouse, India went back to the kitchen to help Antoine, who’d turned on the fryers and heated up the griddle. India was glad to find things to do while she was at work, which was a refreshing change.
Kenya, one of our patrol officers, came and looked around inquiringly. "You need something, Kenya?" I asked. "Kevin’s not here." Kevin, another patrolman, was deeply in love with Kenya, and she with him. They ate lunch here at least once or twice a week.
"My sister here? She told me she was going to be working today," Kenya asked.
"Is India your sister?" Kenya was a good ten years older than India, so I hadn’t put them together.
"Half sister. Yeah, our mother would get out the map when we were born," Kenya said, kind of daring me to find that amusing. "She named us after places she wanted to go. My big brother’s name is Spain. I got a younger one named Cairo."
"She didn’t stick to countries."
"No, she threw in a few cities for good measure. She thought the word ‘Egypt’ was ‘too chewy.’ That’s a direct quote." Kenya was walking as she talked, following my pointed finger in the direction of the kitchen. "Thanks, Sookie."
The foreign names were kind of cool. Kenya’s mom sounded like fun to me. My mom hadn’t been a fun person; but then, she’d had a lot to worry about, after she’d had me. I sighed to myself. I tried not to regret things I couldn’t change. I listened to Kenya’s voice coming through the serving hatch, brisk and warm and clear, greeting Antoine, telling India that Cairo had fixed India’s car and she should come by to pick it up when she got off work. I brightened when my own brother walked in just as Kenya was leaving. Instead of sitting at the bar or taking a table, he came up to me.
"You think I look like a Holland?" I asked him, and Jason gave me one of his blankest stares.
"Naw, you look like a Sookie," he said. "Listen, Sook, I’m gonna do it."
"Gonna do what?"
He looked at me impatiently. I could tell this wasn’t how he’d expected the conversation to go. "I’m gonna ask Michele to marry me."
"Oh, that’s great!" I said, with genuine enthusiasm. "Really, Jason, I’m happy for you. I sure hope she says yes."
"This time I’m going to do everything right," he said, almost to himself.
His first marriage had been a mistake from the start, and it had ended even worse than it had begun.