Chapter Two: Marla
Waking the next morning, Sookie lay in bed ensconced between the bodies of Mags and Junes. The warm bodies of the German Shepherds snuggly enveloped her. Mags was slighter than her sister, more agile beneath her steel black coat. Junes was heavier-set and sturdier. Powerful muscles loomed threateningly beneath her red and black fur.
A hand flopped onto either side of her body to scratch between Mags’ shoulders and Junes’ hindquarter. Being encased by the animals while she slept helped to keep the nightmares away, not just the horrible dreams that came from the thoughts of those who shared her building, but the memories of the cases she worked.
Normal cops were haunted by the images of the crime scenes. On more occasions than Sookie wished to recall, she had seen detailed memories of those crimes. She had witnessed enough horrific things in her own time as an officer.
Today she would be seeing yet another haunting memory. Today she would see just what all had become of Marla Jacobs during her second interrogation with the husband.
Crawling out from between her dogs, Sookie went into the bathroom and got ready to start her day. Mags and Junes waited patiently at the door while the detective put her hair up in her usual, smooth ponytail. Clipping the leads onto their collars, she took them for their morning run before coming home to shower and dress for work.
“Good morning, Detective,” a few colleagues greeted as she entered the bullpen.
“Mornin’. Any news on Marla Jacobs?” Sookie asked as she locked her firearm in her desk drawer and started to buckle down into the paperwork neglected from the previous day.
“Yeah,” answered an older detective named Burns who leaned against her desk, arms over his chest, “we found the rental Jacobs used.”
“Did the proprietor confirm whether Marla returned with Jacobs from their tour?” she asked.
“The owner, Jim Guidry, said Jacobs told him Marla went straight to the car when he went to get his collateral back on the airboat. Guidry showed us the vehicle, but confessed he hosed it down like he usually does after a rental is returned. We’ve got CSI going over it, looking for any biological evidence,” Burns updated the younger detective.
“I see. Has Mr. Jacobs come back in for questioning?”
“Hmm,” Sookie hummed to herself thoughtfully.
“I know that face,” Burns laughed. “You’re suspicious about something.”
“Not really suspicious,” she murmured. “I’m more hopeful.” She surprised herself at her admission.
“Hopeful? What, that we’ll find evidence?”
“That we’ll find Marla,” She could not get Eric’s comment off of her mind.
“A body would really help.”
“I think she might be alive,” Sookie rose from her desk and retrieved her gun from the drawer. “Can you give me the address of the rental?”
Burns’ jaw slung open in surprise. “Why do you think she’s alive?”
Sookie shrugged, “Because I just don’t see a guy more worried about a baseball game than keeping a straight face during interrogation taking the time to do a good job murdering his own wife. Jacobs is a lazy, self-loving ass with an ego. I get the feeling he clubbed her and dumped her. If she was only stunned, she might have come to before drowning or getting caught up by a gator.”
“That’s unreasonably optimistic.”
Sookie put her hands on her hips while she looked up at the ceiling. She was quiet a moment, as if contemplating just how unrealistic she was being. Finally she looked back at Burns and laughed, “Well, if I’m not, this job will kill me!”
Admittedly, Jim Guidry was considerably useless. He could not say for certain whether he had seen the wife, and his memory of Marla returning with her husband was circumstantial. He believed well enough that she had come back, but his memory had poorly fabricated an image of her return rather than genuinely witnessed the event.
“Did you note how much gas they used?”
“Of course. ‘Bout half a tank,” Guidry offered.
“Mind if I take their boat out?” Sookie asked.
“Be my guest. You’re gonna pay the rental, right?”
“Of course,” she agreed.
“Then she’s all yours. I’ll fuel her up.”
Soon, Sookie was pulling away from the dock in the direction that the rental owner remembered the couple departing several days ago. Fortunately, rentals were down this season, and the Jacobs had been Guidry’s only customers that week. It was easy enough for him to recall the couple from nearly five days ago.
Coasting the bayou until she had spent about a quarter tank of gas, Sookie killed the engine and listened to the sounds of the swamp. The insects were humming loudly, nearly drowning out the sounds of birds that squawked in the distance. Every so often a wet flop of a gator slapping back into the waters rented the air.
Frowning now, Sookie reached over the swamp with her telepathy, searching for Marla. It was substantially difficult given that she had never met the woman. Her range was also considerably shorter when listening to strangers. Still, in the bayou there were few human minds to listen for and Marla should have been a beacon.
Unless she’s really dead, Sookie thought audaciously.
Starting the engine back up, Sookie went a little further into the swamp. After all, the rental owner had stated they used ‘about a half a tank.’
Please… Stop… Please… Help… Please… Please… See me…
Sookie cut the engine swiftly, whirling around.
Please… Oh God, please see me!
“MARLA!?” Sookie called. “MARLA GRANGE!?” she used the woman’s maiden name. “HELP ME FIND YOU MARLA!”
A wet plopping sound hit the air, and Sookie spun quickly to see the ripples of a small stick bobbing in the water. Letting her eyes wander above to where the twig must have fallen, the detective saw the drooping limb of a willow; the sallow arms of a woman in its boughs.
“MARLA!” Sookie cried, kicking the engine back on and speeding toward the trees. Checking for any nearby gators before clambering out of the boat, Sookie was scaling the willow soon after. “Marla, how you doin’? I’ve been lookin’ for ya.”
Are you an angel? Did I finally die?
“I’m a detective with the Shreveport P.D. We’ve all been real worried about you, Marla,” Sookie assuaged her fears of death. “Are you hurt anywhere? Can you move at all?”
“… Tired…” Sookie had never been happier to hear a person speak.
“Oh, I bet you are,” Sookie laughed shakily. “I’m gonna get you outta this tree. You think you can help me?”
Marla shook her head with exhaustion, yet, despite her disbelief at being able to move, she still reached for Sookie. “Don’t leave me behind!”
“I won’t. You’re comin’ back with me,” Sookie promised, wrapping Marla’s arms around her neck. It took a great deal of willpower for the telepath not to cringe at the other woman’s contact. Marla was reliving her trauma on a continuous loop, and it was bordering on physical pain for Sookie to remain mentally connected to her memories. “You think you can hold onto me? Don’t let go now.”
Marla’s weak hold tightened only marginally, and Sookie held her tightly with one hand as she scuttled back on the bough toward the base of the tree. Thankfully, Marla had only managed to climb the first row of branches, and as Sookie squirmed toward the trunk, she was close enough to the ground to lower Marla down first before jumping to the swamp floor herself.
“Okay, Marla, I’m gonna pick you up and take you back to the boat,” Sookie told her lifting Marla into her arms.
Once the women were safely on the airboat, Sookie radioed back to the rental shop informing the owner to contact paramedics and the police department. She told him to let emergency response know that she had found Marla Jacobs. Alive.
“I still can’t believe it!” Trent roared, raising his shot glass to Sookie. “All of Louisiana is a big-ass bayou, and you find a missing woman in it on your first trip out!” He clinked his shot glass with Sookie before they each downed their drinks.
“It was luck,” Sookie mumbled. “Nothing more than heading off in the right direction and knowing how much fuel I needed to start my search. Marla was hanging out in a tree. She wanted to be found, so she made sure she was visible. That’s all.”
“Don’t talk it down, Stackhouse!” Murphy, a fellow detective, snarled. “That woman’s alive because of you. Don’t forget that. Especially don’t forget to remember this moment as often as possible, ’cause it don’t happen often that we find an abused wife alive after a husband decided he wanted her dead.”
“I’ll remember that,” she murmured. “Well, I should be getting home.”
“It’s not even nine!” Trent complained. “You can’t end the party now!”
“Sorry, I have to take care of the dogs,” Sookie apologized without sounding apologetic. It was rare that she indulged her department’s sense of camaraderie, but she had turned down the offer of barhopping far too many times this month. It would have been suspicious if she had not caved after such an enormous victory. “Have another round for me.” She threw down enough money to buy her department another set of drinks and left.
Leaving the bar, Sookie began walking to her apartment which was only half a block up the street. Shortly after being out of the bar’s glowing windows, Sookie’s back tensed with the sensation of being followed. Preparing for a confrontation, her eyes swept every possible attack point as her hand resisted going to her holster. She had been drinking, and the last thing she wanted was a run-in with IA over discharging her weapon under the influence.
“Sookie,” a voice boomed, making the detective cringe as she spun around at the sound of her name. Her hand clenched on the butt of her gun, however; she paused when she saw Bill Compton in the shadows of the alleyway.
“Damn it, Compton!” Sookie snapped, releasing her firearm and closing the catch on her holster. “Haven’t you heard of a phone? Who sneaks up on an armed person in the middle of the night?” she demanded. “And don’t call me Sookie!”
“Right, right. Detective,” he corrected. “I heard about you finding that missing wife. I thought I would offer to take you out for a drink to celebrate.”
Sookie resisted rolling her eyes. “Actually, some of the other officers took me out already. I’m just now heading home.”
“Not all of us are vampires. Some of us have lives,” she snarked.
“My apologies for saying so, but I think vampires live more than you do.”
Sookie snorted, “You don’t know me well enough to say how I live or don’t live.”
“I know that being a detective at your age and with your gender is not something you came by easily. What else have you sacrificed, Sookie? Friends? Family? Relationships?” Bill closed the distance between them as he spoke, and a flurry of scarlet covered Sookie’s face as he nailed down his suspicions. “When’s the last time you even had a man, Sookie?” he breathed into her ear. “Don’t you want to let go for just a little bit? I’ll let go with you.” He placed his hands on her waist, gliding his palm up her side. When his mouth tried to capture hers, Sookie jerked her face away.
“I told you not to be so familiar with me,” she whispered.
“When’s the last time anyone was familiar with you?” Bill asked just as quietly.
As he leaned in once more, Sookie clenched her eyes shut in panic. She had successfully deterred male interest in her for years. This sort of advancement was almost unknown to her. Most of the men who noticed her were quickly put off by her scowl or slightly masculine attire. Trent had jokingly told her she had ‘Fuck Off’ tattooed on her forehead. Why, all of a sudden, was a man trying to seduce her? Why, all of a sudden, was her body frozen? Why, all of a sudden; was she thinking of… Eric Northman!?
“Detective Stackhouse, is he bothering you?” a lilting drawl caused Bill’s shoulders to tense as he spun around.
“Ms. Ravenscroft!” Sookie breathed in relief. “No, he was just leaving.”
Bill scowled before acknowledging the other vampire. “Pam,” he huffed.
“Bill,” she said amusedly. Taking her tone as a sign of dismissal, Bill tore off into the dark night. “Has he been a nuisance to you?”
“That’s pretty accurate,” Sookie mumbled. “What are you doing out this way?”
“My residence is nearby,” Pam answered with a shrug. “You?”
“That’s my building,” Sookie pointed to the corner building on the opposite street.
“Oh, we are practically neighbors,” Pam smirked to herself before asking Sookie in a husky tone, “Mind if I come borrow a cup of sugar some time?”
“And what would a vampire need with sugar?” Sookie frowned.
“I could encourage you to lick it off my body,” Pam batted her eyelashes at the detective, making the mortal blush deeply. As Sookie sputtered to reply, Pam took pity and changed the subject. “Eric was crowing about you the remainder of last night,” she began conversationally.
“I don’t see why,” she replied confusedly.
“Let’s just say that Eric and I have a rather parallel taste in women.”
“Oh!” Sookie gasped breathlessly.
Pam pouted playfully at Sookie’s response, “And it would seem his parallel wins this time.”
Pam’s pout transformed into a smirk, “When I flirt with you, you flush out of embarrassment. When he flirts with you, you flush out of arousal. It is plain to see who could get you in their bed first. Of course, you were flushing out of anger when Compton had you cornered. You are just one blushing little rose, aren’t you? Or do you have a circulatory condition?”
“I’m just,” Sookie struggled for a word, “unaccustomed to advances like these.”
“Lesbians?” Pam guessed.
Pam snorted. “A beautiful creature like you must have men and women throwing themselves at your feet every few minutes. Why do you feign being unaccustomed to it?”
Sookie gave the vampire a sideways glance. “Because I’m hyper-observant. It unsettles people, and most don’t wish to know me. I also carry a badge and a gun.”
“Neither of those would keep interested parties out… Unless you wanted it that way?” Pam guessed. “That would explain the ‘fuck off’ look that is constantly plastered to your face.” Sookie snorted. Pam and Trent would get along well.
“Hyper-observation isn’t as cool as it sounds. I see everything about a person when I meet them. I see the drunks, druggies, and abusers from a mile away. I see when I’m being lied to. I see when someone wants into my bed rather than my heart. And…” Sookie trailed off, unsure how to explain the conflict created by her telepathy. She might have been content with a one night stand if not for the fact she would have to listen to someone plotting the best way to escape after it was all said and done without any awkwardness or awakening her.
“I see…” Pam observed the woman’s persistent blush, and it made a smile tug at her lips. “You do not have many friends, do you, Detective Stackhouse?”
“What makes you say that?” the woman huffed.
“Because that was a rather forthcoming disclosure you just made, and you are a very introverted individual. For you to share such a thing with a stranger like me makes me wonder if you have so few people to talk to that you are spontaneously spilling your guts to me.”
Squaring off her shoulders, Sookie responded sharply, “I believe I should be getting home, Ms. Ravenscroft. Please, have a pleasant evening.”
Sookie stiffly turned and walked the remaining distance to her apartment before running up three flights of stairs and diving for her dogs like a lifeline.
“Oh, my girls,” Sookie mumbled into the dogs’ coats as they crowded her as she entered her apartment. “I missed you girls,” She hugged and scratched them in turn before changing into her jogging clothes and hooking their leads to the collars.
Down three flights of stairs, Sookie broke into a brisk jog as soon as she, Mags, and Junes were out of the apartment complex. After a quarter of a block, she was running so quickly that Junes was staggering to keep up, and Mags’ tongue was flopping ecstatically at finally getting up to her full speed, something Sookie rarely tempted.
Suddenly, as Sookie rounded a corner Mags yelped and back-pedaled while Junes lunged forward, growling between her panting breaths. Sookie, caught in the middle of the sudden change-up was spun around and dragged to the ground by Mags.
“Are you all right, Miss Stackhouse?”
Sookie groaned at the voice connected to the body that had caused the protective and flight instincts of her dogs.
“Mr. Northman,” Sookie grumbled, opening her eyes to the giant vampire, “is every vampire I’ve ever met intent on speaking with me this evening?”
“I do not know what you are talking about,” the vampire confessed.
“I’ve already had conversations with Mr. Compton and Ms. Ravenscroft this evening. Now I am having a conversation with you. That is all the vampires who have ever spoken to me… Well, aside from Grosse, the sex trafficker.”
“Hmm, let us hope he does not make an appearance tonight as well. If he did, I would be forced to escort him back to prison.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sookie accepted Eric’s hand as he offered her help from the ground. He even assisted Sookie in untangling herself from her dogs’ leads.
“I heard that you found the woman for whom you were searching. She is alive?”
“Yes,” Sookie murmured.
Eric nodded. “I am glad it ended so well.”
“It could have been worse,” Sookie agreed.
“It is quite impressive that you found her in the bayou.”
“Well, Marla’s tough and smart. She got herself out of reach of alligators but within view of a rescue party,” Sookie pointed out.
The vampire shook his head, “That is not what I meant.”
“What did you mean, then?”
“I meant that for you to go into the bayou and find her at all, let alone in three hours, is most impressive.”
“I just got lucky.”
“It is my belief that people who subscribe all of their accomplishments to luck do not truly believe luck had anything to do with it.”
“To what do you attribute your accomplishments?”
“Persistence,” he replied offhandedly.
“Fine, then, I was persistent.”
“Persistence takes more than a few hours, Miss Stackhouse.”
“It doesn’t have to.”
“True, but it is more fun that way.”
“You like the chase.”
“Only if what I am chasing is pleasant to look at from behind.”
Sookie blushed for some unknown reason. For a strange instance, she believed he might be referring to her, but quickly squashed the idea, despite Pam’s warning that it was true.
“Well, enjoy the run,” Sookie murmured, getting her dogs to heel so she could sprint once more.
“You as well, Miss Stackhouse,” Her eyes widened marginally as a fresh wave of blood flooded her cheeks. “With the dogs,” he explained, gesturing to the shepherds.
“R-right. Of course,” she mumbled self-consciously.
“Would you like me to run with you?” Eric asked carefully.
“Er… No. Thanks.”
“I could trail a little behind,” he offered in a raspier voice.
“No, thank you, Eric,” she replied breathlessly.
“Another time, then, Sookie.”
Just as he had the night before, Eric Northman was gone the next time she blinked.
Finishing her run for the night, much slower this time to Mags’ great disappointment, Sookie returned to her apartment in a sort of daze.
She could not remember a time when she had felt so off-center. Were her hormones battling her so fiercely now that even Bill Compton had managed to hasten her breathing?
No, she reasoned. It had not been Compton or his words that had sent her heart into a frenzy. It had been the thoughts they provoked about a certain tall, broad, blond Eric Northman. When Compton had asked when she had last been familiar with a man, she had thought of how Eric’s first name had felt spilling from her lips, and how sexy her name sounded husked by the giant vampire. She had a brief fantasy in that moment, pondering familiarity, where she let Eric into her bed.
Of course the fantasy ended very abruptly once he was laid out in her bed. She knew what would come after they were naked. Her over all absence of any experience at physical intimacy would be made abundantly clear, and Northman would snort dismissively her way. What hundred-something-year-old vampire would want to waste his time teaching a woman how to have sex when she was well into her twenties and should at least have the basic knowledge and mechanics down?
Sookie flopped onto her bed tiredly, curling a pillow under her head as Mags and Junes hopped up to circle thrice, and snuggled up against her stomach and backs of her knees. Both dogs let out simultaneous sighs as they sandwiched their mother, seeming to know she was spending too much time in her head again.
Burrowing her head into her pillow, Sookie contemplated, for the thousandth time in her life, just finding a random stranger and letting him have his way with her. Perhaps if she tried very hard, she could ignore his thoughts while he fucked her. Maybe she would even get a glimpse at pleasure during the act. A one night stand would not be very difficult to find. Sookie was well aware that her appearance could at least attract a single evening of company from a stranger.
Furthermore, if she was willing to chance it, why not go for a vampire? At least their mind would be silent to her. At least she could get lost in her own sensations and not dragged out of arousal by stray thoughts and fantasies of her partner. Maybe she could find a younger vampire that would not be put off by her inexperience?
Sookie groaned at the thought of putting herself in that sort of danger though. She had heard about how unrestrained the young vamps could be. It would be more likely she would suffer injuries if she bedded a fledgling.
Wondering idly if going her entire life without sex would be better than experiencing it even once, Sookie groaned at the longing ache that throbbed through her internal walls. Her body was craving more than usual lately. It screamed and sobbed at the notion of eternal celibacy.
With another exasperated groan, Sookie shimmied onto her back and muttered, “Junes, Mags, go to your crate.” The dogs hopped off of the bed obediently, and Sookie pulled the blankets over her body as she wriggled out of her clothes.
When she was naked, Sookie ran her fingers down her neck towards her chest. She squeezed her round breasts firmly before playing halfheartedly at her nipples. Quickly, she grew tired of increasing her tension, and instead plunged her hand down between her thighs for a swift release. The orgasm was pitiful, though better than when she first started allowing herself to masturbate earlier that year. She was becoming more successful at getting herself off. She rarely tired out her hand before cumming these days, but still managed to leave herself in an even worse predicament on occasion.
Maybe I should get a vibrator…she thought passively while her body longed for another orgasm, but she knew she did not have the endurance, physically or mentally, to provide it.
Lying in bed catching her breath, Sookie waited until her heart and breathing evened out before going to the bathroom and washing herself. When she came back to bed, she was both irritated and amused to find it perfectly dry.
I can’t even turn myself on enough to leave a wet spot; she thought bemusedly as she crawled under the covers once more and summoned her dogs back to bed.
She could not stand masturbating with her dogs in the room. It made her feel as though she was corrupting their innocence. Of course, Mags was currently sniffing at her crotch curiously, so Sookie had to wonder how much innocence they had to begin with.
“Ew, Junes, don’t!” Sookie snapped when Junes tried to lick the hand that had previously worked overtime between her owner’s thighs. Tucking the tempting hand under her pillow, Sookie rolled onto her side and fell asleep.