Deadlocked (Page 58)

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12)(58)
Author: Charlaine Harris

There was a keypad outside. Though I felt dismayed, Bill didn’t seem worried. He looked down at his watch and then knocked on the door. There were some faint beeps inside, and Palomino swung the door open. She was balancing a room service tray on one hand. Laden as it was, that was an impressive achievement.

The young vampire was wearing the same outfit I was, and she looked mouthwatering in it. But at the moment, her appearance was the last thing on her mind. "Get in!" she snapped, and Bill and I entered the grungy back corridor. If you got to enter the Trifecta as a guest, it was glittery and gleaming and full of the constant machine noise and the frantic human yearning for pleasure that fills all casinos. But that wasn’t for us, not tonight.

Wordlessly, Palomino set off at a fast clip. I noticed that she was able to balance the tray perfectly, no matter how much her speed picked up. I scurried after the two vampires along the beige-painted corridors, marred with scratches and chips. Everyone back here was in a hurry to get where they needed to be, either at a work station or out the back door to go somewhere more pleasant. They were saving their smiles for people they cared about. I saw a half-remembered face among the grim horde, and after I passed I recalled that she was one of the Long Tooth pack. She didn’t let on by a twitch or a smile that she knew who I was.

Palomino strode ahead of us, her light-brown skin looking warm even though she’d been dead for years, her pale hair bouncing over a depressingly tight butt. We hustled onto a huge elevator. Instead of being lined with mirrors and shiny rails, this one was padded. The staff elevator was obviously used for bringing up palettes of food and other heavy items.

"I hate this f**king job," Palomino said as she jabbed a button. She glared at Bill.

"It’s only for a little while," he said, and from his voice I could tell he’d told her the same thing many times before. "And then you can quit. You can quit dating the Were, too."

She was mollified and even managed to smile. "He’s on the fifth floor, in 507," she said. "I walked all over this damn hotel tracking him, but since they didn’t station guards outside the room, I couldn’t pinpoint it until last night when I took in the room service tray."

"You’ve done a good job. Eric will be grateful," Bill said.

Her smile glowed even brighter. "Good! That’s what I was hoping! Now Rubio and Parker may get a chance to show their skills." The two vampires were her nestmates. They were not great fighters. I hoped they did have other skills.

"I’ll present that to Eric in the most urgent terms," Bill promised.

The staff elevator stopped, and Palomino handed the tray to me. I had to use both my hands. Lots of food and three drinks weighed it down. She pressed the Doors Closed button and began to talk very quickly.

"Keep your head turned away, and they’ll think you’re me," she said.

"No one would think that," I said, but after a second I could sort of see it.

Palomino was naturally brown, and I was very tan. Palomino’s hair was paler than mine, but mine was as abundant and long. We were much the same height and build, and we were wearing identical outfits.

"I’m going to go be conspicuous out front," she said. "Give me three minutes to get within sight of the security cameras. I’ll meet you at the back door ten minutes after that. Now, get off the elevator so I can go."

We got off. Bill held the tray for me while I took my hair out of its ponytail and shook my head from side to side to increase my resemblance to the vampire.

"As long as you had her here, why couldn’t she have done this?" I hissed.

"This way she can be visibly elsewhere," Bill said. "If Felipe suspected her complicity, he could have her killed. He can’t do that to you. You’re Eric’s wife. But that’s a worst-case scenario. We’ll pull the trick off." He pulled a khaki fishing hat out of his back pocket and pulled it over his head. I forbore to comment on the way he looked.

"What trick?" I asked, instead.

"Well, it is a sort of conjuring trick," he said. "Now you see him. Now you don’t. Remember, there are two guards in there with him. They’ll open the door, and your job is to make sure it stays open. I’ll come in and do the rest."

"You couldn’t just break the door down?"

"And have security here in two minutes? I don’t think that would be a good plan."

"I’m not sure this is, either. But okay."

I marched down the hall and knocked on the door of 507 with the knuckles of my left hand, managing this by kind of wedging the tray into the corner formed by the door and its frame. I smiled big at the peephole and took a deep breath to let my chest do its thing. I sensed the appreciation through the door. I counted the heads inside the room: three, as Bill had told me.

The tray was not getting any lighter, and I was conscious of a definite relief when the door opened. I could hear Bill’s footsteps coming up behind me.

"All right, come on in," said a bored voice.

Of course, both of the guards were human. They would have to be on duty during the day, too.

"Where you want this?" I asked.

"Over there on the coffee table’ll be fine." He was very tall, pretty heavy, with very short gray hair. I smiled at him and bore the laden tray over to the low table. I squatted and slid it into place. The other guard was with Colton in the bathroom, waiting until I left to emerge; I read that right from his brain.

The room door was still open, but the guard was standing close to it. After a second’s anxious search I spotted the plastic folder containing the check and handed it to the hulk without getting closer to him. He made a little face but moved nearer, his hand extended, the door he’d released beginning to swing shut. But in slid Bill, moving smoothly and silently at the man’s back. While I kept my eyes fixed on the folder, Bill reached up and around to hit the man in the temple. The guard dropped like a sack of wet oatmeal.

I grabbed a napkin from the tray and wiped my fingerprints off the tray and the folder while Bill shut the room door.

"Dewey?" said the man in the bathroom. "She gone yet?"

"Uh-huh," Bill said, deepening his voice.

The second guard must have sensed something was up, because he had a gun in his hand when he opened the bathroom door. He might have been prepared with weaponry, but he wasn’t mentally prepared, because at the sight of two strangers he froze, his eyes widening. It was just for a second, but that was all it took for Bill to leap onto him and sock him in the same place he’d hit the hulk. I kicked the gun under the couch when it fell from the guard’s hand.