"So you have a special place to stow people," I said. "I’m sure Jannalynn has a special place, too. You been thinking about where that might be?"
"Jannalynn’s from Shreveport," Alcide said. "So, yeah, I’ve been thinking. She lives in the apartment above Hair of the Dog, so that’s out. No place there; besides, we’d have heard Warren if he’d been stashed there, or we’d have smelled him."
"If he was alive," I said, very quietly.
"If he wasn’t, definitely we’d have smelled him," Alcide said, and Mustapha nodded, his face expressionless.
"So where does she have of her own, a place she could be fairly sure no one else would go?"
"Her mom and dad retired to Florida last year," Alcide said. "But they sold their house. Our computer guy who works at the tax assessor’s office couldn’t find anything else in Jannalynn’s name."
"You sure that house sold? In this market?"
"That’s what she told me. And the sign was down, last time I went by," Alcide said.
Mustapha stirred. "It’s on a big lot, and it’s pretty far out of Shreveport," he said. "I was out that way once, driving with Jannalynn, when the pack was courting me. She said she used to ride dirt bikes out there. They had horses, too."
"Anyone can take down a sign," I said.
Alcide got a call just then and talked to the pack members who’d secured my abductors. They were on their way to Alcide’s farm. "You don’t have to be too civil," Alcide said into the phone, and I could hear the laughter that came from the other end of the line.
I’d been struck by another thought, and as we went out to Alcide’s car, I said, "I guess growing up as a full-blooded Were in Shreveport, Jannalynn would be pretty much bound to know all the others around her age. Even the kids who weren’t full-blood."
Alcide and Mustapha shrugged, almost in unison. "We did," they said, and then smiled at each other, though their growing tension made that hard to do.
"Kym Rowe was half-Were and not much older than Jannalynn," I observed. "Her folks came out to my house. Her dad’s Oscar, a full Were." Mustapha stopped in his tracks, his head bowed. "Mustapha, was it Jannalynn who made you let Kym into Eric’s house?"
"Yeah," he said, and Alcide stopped and turned to him. His face was hard and accusing. Mustapha said to both of us, "She told me she had Warren. She told me I had to let this Rowe girl into the house. That was all I had to do."
"So it was her plan," I said carefully. "Her plan. To get Eric to drink from this girl?"
"No, it was not her plan," Mustapha said clearly. "She was hired to find a Were girl willing to carry it out, but it was the plan of this dude named Claude. I’ve seen him at your place. Your cousin?"
I was shocked. I was more than shocked.
And the first coherent thought I had was, If Dermot was in on this, it’ll break my heart. Or I’ll break his neck.
In our long drive through the night to Jannalynn’s parents’ former place, I had more time than I needed to think, or maybe not enough. I was scrambling for some solid foothold, some sure thing. "Why?" I said out loud. "Why?"
"I sure don’t know," Mustapha said. "The day I came to your house on the run, it was everything I could do to sit at the table with that Dermot and not try to choke it out of him."
"Why didn’t you?"
"Because I didn’t know if he was in on it. That Dermot, he’s always nice, and he seems to have a lot of love for you. I just couldn’t see him stabbing you in the back like that. Or taking Warren, either, though I could see he might think that wasn’t so bad-not knowing Warren, hardly knowing me."
I had to assume it had been Claude’s blood that had made Kym so irresistible to Eric.
"Dammit," I said, and leaned forward to bury my face in my hands. I was glad to be sitting in the backseat where neither of them could see my face.
"Sookie, we’ll figure all this out," Alcide said. He sounded very confident and strong. "We’ll get this all taken care of. We’ll clear Eric with the police."
From which I understood he was scared I’d start crying. I could sort of sympathize with that, and, anyway, first things first. I was kind of beyond crying. I’d already shed enough tears.
Glancing out the window, I saw we were now in a suburban area where the lots were at least four acres; maybe this had been out in the country once upon a time, until Shreveport had grown.
"It’s right around here," Mustapha said, and when we saw a white fence bordering the road, he said, "This is it. I remember the fence."
There was a horse gate across the driveway, and I hopped out to move it because I just wanted to get out of the car. They drove through and I followed them. It was completely dark out here, no streetlights. There was a security light in the front yard, but that was it. No lights on in the ranch-style house or in the freestanding garage a few feet behind it, where the driveway terminated. A dilapidated swing set rusted in the front yard. I pictured little Jannalynn playing on it, and found myself picturing a swing hitting her in the head.
I grimly erased that image and joined the two men who’d gotten out of the car to stand uncertainly in the noisy night. The crickets and all the other myriad bugs of Louisiana were having a concert in the woods that bordered the property. I heard a dog bark, far away.
"Now we break in," Alcide said, and I said, "Wait."
"But-" Mustapha began.
"Be quiet," I said, finally feeling that there was something I could do rather than get swept into events as they passed me by. I sent out my other sense, the one that had shaped my life, the one given me at my birth by the demon Mr. Cataliades. I searched and searched, looking for the signature of a mind, and just when I was going to give up, I felt a faint flicker of thought. "There is someone," I said very quietly. "There is someone."
"Where?" Mustapha asked eagerly.
"In the attic over the garage," I said, and it was like I’d fired off the starting gun. Werewolves are creatures of action, after all.
There were outside stairs on the side of the garage, which I hadn’t seen. The sharper eyes of Alcide and Mustapha had, and up they swarmed. Mustapha, catching a scent he recognized, threw back his head and howled. It made my hair stand up. I moved to the foot of the steps, and though I still couldn’t see much, I could make out the two figures on the landing above beginning a furious motion. It accompanied a rhythmic thud. I realized the two men were throwing themselves against a door. There was a ka-BANG that had to be the door flying back, and then a light came on.