I showed myself Amazed in the mirror. "Do tell," I said politely.
"You know my pack enforcer has been going out with your boss for a while."
"I know that." Cut to the chase.
"Well, she wants you to help her out with something, and since you two have had your differences … for whatever reason … she asked me if I’d call you."
Sneaky Jannalynn. This was like a double … fake something. It was true I liked Jannalynn much less than I did Alcide. It was also true (though perhaps Alcide didn’t know this) that Jannalynn suspected my relationship with Sam was far more than it should be between an employee and her boss. If this were the fifties, she’d be checking Sam’s collars for lipstick stains. (Did people do that anymore? Why did women kiss collars, anyway? Besides, Sam almost always wore T-shirts.)
"What does she want me to help her with?" I asked, hoping my voice was suitably neutral.
"She’s going to propose to Sam, and she wants you to help her set the stage."
I sat down on the end of the bed. I didn’t want to make faces in the mirror anymore. "She wants me to help her ask Sam to marry her?" I said slowly. I’d helped Andy Bellefleur propose to Halleigh, but I couldn’t imagine Jannalynn wanting me to hide an engagement ring in a basket of French fries.
"She wants you to get Sam to drive down to Mimosa Lake," Alcide said. "She’s borrowed a cottage down there, and she wants to surprise Sam with a dinner, kind of romantic, you know. I guess she’d spring the question there." Alcide sounded oddly unenthusiastic or perhaps unconvinced that he should be relaying this request.
"No," I said immediately. "I won’t do it. She’ll have to get Sam there on her own." I could just envision Sam imagining that I wanted him to go out to the lake with me, only to be confronted by Jannalynn and whatever she thought of as a romantic dinner-live rabbits they could chase together, maybe. The whole scenario made me acutely uncomfortable. I could feel a flush of anger creeping up my neck.
Alcide said, "Sookie, that’s not …"
"Not helpful or obliging? I don’t want to be, Alcide. There’s just too much room for disaster in that plan. Plus, I don’t think you understand Jannalynn too well." What I wanted to say was, "I think she’s trying to get me somewhere alone to kill me, or to stage some scene to make me look guilty." But I didn’t.
There was a long silence.
"I guess Jannalynn was right," he said, letting his dismay into his voice. "You do have it in for her. What, you don’t think she’s good enough for Sam?"
"No. As a matter of fact, I don’t. Tell her I …" I automatically started to say I was sorry I couldn’t oblige her, and then I realized that would be a big fat lie. "I’m just … unable to be of assistance. She can do her own proposing. Good-bye, Alcide." Without waiting to hear his response, I hung up.
Had his enforcer wrapped Alcide around her little finger, or what?
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," I said. I wasn’t sure if I meant Alcide or Jannalynn or both of them.
I fumed as I gathered my few things together. Help that bitch propose to Sam? When Hell froze over. When pigs flew! Plus, as I’d told Alcide, if I’d been fool enough to go out to Mimosa Lake, she’d have staged some drama, for sure.
As I locked Eric’s kitchen door behind me and stomped out to my car in my now-painful high heels, I said words that had seldom crossed my lips before. I slammed my car door shut behind me, earning a sharp look from a sleek, well-groomed neighbor of Eric’s who was weeding the flower bed around her mailbox.
"Next people will be asking me to be a surrogate mom for their babies, cause it would be inconvenient for them to carry their own," I said, sneering in an unattractive way into my rearview mirror. That reminded me of Tara, and I tried her number again, but with no better result.
I pulled in behind my house about two o’clock. Dermot’s car was still there. When I saw home, it was like I gave myself permission to run into a wall of weariness. It felt good that my great-uncle would be waiting for me. I grabbed my little bag of dirty clothes and my purse and trudged to the back door.
Tossing the clothes bag on the top of the washer on the back porch, I put my hand on the knob of the kitchen door, registering as I did so that two people were waiting inside.
Maybe Claude was back? Maybe all the problems in Faery had been solved, and everyone at Hooligans would be returning to the wonderful world of the fae. How many problems would that leave me with? Maybe only three or four big ones.
I was feeling honestly optimistic when I pushed the door open and registered the identity of the two men seated at the table.
Definitely an OSM. One man was Dermot, whom I’d expected. The other was Mustapha, whom I hadn’t.
"Geez Louise, where have you been?" I thought I was going to yell, but it came out as a startled wheeze.
"Sookie," he said, in his deep voice.
"We thought you were dead! We were scared sick about you! What happened?"
"Take a deep breath," Mustapha said. "Sit down and just … take a breath. I got some things to tell you. I can’t give you a full answer. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s really a life or a death."
His statement cut off the next seven questions poised to pour off my tongue. Tossing my purse on the counter, I pulled out a chair, sat, and took a deep breath as he’d advised me. I gave him all my attention. For the first time, I absorbed his ragged appearance. Mustapha’s grooming had always been meticulous. It was a shock to see him rumpled, his precise haircut uneven, his boots scuffed. "Did you see who killed that girl?" I asked. I had to.
He looked at me, looked hard. He didn’t answer.
"Did you kill that girl?" I tried again.
"I did not."
"And because of this situation you referred to, you can’t tell me who did."
I was sickeningly afraid that Mustapha was trying to tell me, without spelling it out, that Eric had killed her-had ducked out of the house after I’d shut myself in the bathroom. Eric could have lost his temper, projected his anger with himself onto Kym Rowe, and tried to make things right between him and me by snapping her neck. No matter how many times during the previous night I’d told myself such a premise was ridiculous-Eric had great control and was very intelligent, he was simply too aware of his neighbors and the police to do such a lawless thing, and such an act would simply be irrational-I’d never been able to tell myself that Eric wouldn’t have killed her simply because doing so was wrong.
This afternoon, all those bad thoughts I had entertained came crashing back as I stared at Mustapha.