While I worked that night, I went over and over the events of Saturday at Eric’s house. I served beers on autopilot. By the time I fell into bed, I found I couldn’t remember any of the conversations I’d had with customers and co-workers.
Tuesday was another black hole. Dermot came in and out without saying much. He didn’t look happy; in fact, he looked anxious. When I asked him a question or two, he said, "The fae at the club, they’re worried. They wonder why Claude left, when he’ll return, what will happen to them when he does. They wish they had seen Niall."
"I’m sorry about Niall’s attitude," I said hesitantly. I didn’t know if I should broach the subject or not. It had to be a painful one for Dermot, Niall’s son, to be so pushed aside and disregarded.
Dermot looked at me, his eyes as pathetic as a puppy’s.
"What’s Faery like?" I asked, in a clumsy attempt to change the subject.
"It’s beautiful," he said immediately. "The forests are green, and they stretch for miles and miles. Not as far as they used to … but still they’re green and deep and full of life. The shoreline is stony; no white sand beaches! But the ocean is green and clear…." He stood, lost in dreaming of his homeland. I wanted to ask a thousand questions: How did the fae pass their time? Did creatures like Bellenos mix with the fairies? Did they get married? What was childbirth like? Were there rich and poor?
But when I saw the grief in my great-uncle’s face, I kept my curiosity to myself. He shook himself, gave me a bleak look. Then he turned to go upstairs, probably to seek consolation in House Hunters International.
That night was notable only for what didn’t happen. Eric didn’t call me. I understood that his out-of-town company had the biggest claim on his time, but I felt almost as shoved aside and disregarded as Dermot. As far as I was concerned, the vampires of Shreveport weren’t speaking to me, consulting me, or visiting me. Even Bill was conspicuously absent. Mustapha was presumably still searching for Warren. Ambroselli was presumably searching for the killer of Kym Rowe.
Normally, I was a pretty cheerful person. But I wasn’t seeing an end to this complicated situation, and I began to think there might never be one.
I made a creditable effort to leap out of bed with enthusiasm the next morning. I was rested, and I had to go to work, no matter what was happening in the supernatural world.
Not a creature was stirring, not even an elf. I ate some yogurt and granola and strawberries, drank some coffee, and put on some extra makeup since I was still feeling unhappy in general. I took a few minutes to paint my fingernails. A girl’s gotta have a little color in her life.
At the bustling post office, I used my key to empty the Merlotte’s mailbox, which served Sam for both business and personal use. Sam had gotten three envelopes from his duplex tenants. I riffled through the flyers that had been stuffed in the box and saw that the only bill worth worrying about was the electric bill. It soared in the summer, of course, since we had to keep the bar cool. I was almost scared to open it. I bit the bullet and slit the envelope. The total was bad, but not more than I expected.
Terry Bellefleur pushed open the glass door while I was tossing unwanted mail into the trash. He looked good: more alert, not as skinny, maybe. There was a woman with him. When Terry stopped to speak to me, she smiled. She needed some dental work, but it was a good smile.
"Sook, this here’s Jimmie Kearney from Clarice," Terry said. "She raises Catahoulas, too." Terry loved his dogs, and he seemed to have overcome his bad luck with them. His latest bitch, Annie, had had her second litter of puppies. This time they’d been purebred. I’d heard Terry talk about Jimmie when he’d found a match for Annie, but I’d assumed Jimmie was a guy. She very much wasn’t.
"I’m pleased to meet you," I said. Jimmie was younger than Terry. I put her at about forty. There were streaks of gray in her long brown hair, which hung nearly down to her waist. She wore baggy khaki shorts with a ruffled white peasant blouse and huaraches.
"I heard a lot about you," Jimmie said shyly. "You should come by Terry’s and see the puppies. My Tombo is the daddy. They’re just as cute as they can be. And we’ve got them all sold! We had to check out the homes they would go to, of course."
"Good job," I said. I was getting the information from Jimmie’s head that she was over at Terry’s a lot of the time. A lot. Just in my little peek, Jimmie seemed like an okay person. Terry deserved someone really nice; he needed someone really, really stable. I hoped she was both. "Well, maybe I’ll get a chance to see those puppies before they go to their new homes. I’m glad I got to meet you, Jimmie. Terry, talk to you later."
Before I headed to the bar, I needed to check on Tara, who hadn’t returned my calls. Maybe she’d gone to work today, too? Sure enough, her car was parked beside Tara’s Togs.
Inside, she was sitting at the wedding table, the one where brides sat to order their invitations and their napkins and anything else a bride could want.
"Tara?" I said, because the expression on her face was very peculiar. "How come you didn’t call me back? What’s ‘effaced’ mean? Does that mean you’re gonna have the babies soon?"
"Um-hum," she said, but it was clear her attention was on something else entirely.
"Where’s McKenna?" Tara’s assistant had been working more and more hours as Tara grew more and more great with child. Well, great with children.
"She’s at home. She’s been run off her feet. I told her to stay home today, that I’d work. Today’s my last day."
"You don’t look like you can work a whole eight hours," I said cautiously. Tara had gotten pretty snappish during her pregnancy, and the bigger she got, the more likely she’d become to give you her unvarnished opinion on almost anything-but especially if you said something about her stamina or appearance.
"I can’t," she said, and my mouth fell open.
"How come?" I said.
"I’m having the babies today."
I felt a thread of panic rise up out of my stomach. "Does … who all knows this, Tara?"
"You haven’t called anyone else?"
"No. I’m just trying to deal. Having a little moment, here." She tried to smile. "But I guess you better call McKenna and tell her to come in to work, and you better call JB and tell him to get to the hospital in Clarice, and you could call his mama. Oh, and maybe the ambulance."
"Oh my God! You’re hurting?" Oh, Shepherd of Judea!
She glared at me, but I don’t think she knew she was looking at me like she hoped I’d turn green. "It’s not too bad yet," she said with an air of great restraint. "But my water broke just now, and since it’s twins …"