Chapter One: Good Night, Sookie
Sookie grabbed the phone just before it clicked over to voicemail. With a reflexive glance at the caller I.D., she was not surprised when her grandmother’s voice spoke to her.
“Sookie, thank goodness you picked up!” Gran said breathlessly.
“What’s wrong, Gran?” the young blonde woman asked as she pulled her hair into a tight ponytail before looping it into a rather severe looking bun.
“It’s Jason,” the old woman said nervously as if the subject matter were enough to explain the situation.
Sookie grunted, “What has he done now?” She was haphazardly pulling her navy shirt on over the white A-shirt.
“He’s been arrested,” Sookie froze halfway down as she buttoned her blouse. “For murder!” The woman’s fingers were still clenching the button and the receiving side of the fabric as she remained stock still. “Sookie? Did you hear me? Are you there?”
“Yeah, Gran, I’m still here. Tell me absolutely everything you know as quickly as you can. I have to be at the station in thirty minutes.”
Her grandmother told Sookie all about the two women who had been found murdered in Bon Temps, whom they were both aware that Jason had known intimately. A clue about vampire bites was enough to get Sookie intrigued. “Okay, Gran, I’ll do everything that I can, but you have to keep it quiet. If word got out that I was looking into an active case involving a family member, things could get ugly fast,” Sookie explained. “I’ll get as much information as I can,” she assured before giving a few more calming croons and hanging up. “Stupid fucker,” she grunted while she unlocked the safe where her gun was kept, and quickly holstered it.
Leave it to my brother to cause me this kind of trouble, Sookie thought as she grabbed her keys off of the entryway table of her apartment. She would try and see if she could find some pictures of the murdered women as well as some background information on them. Her German Shepherd sisters watched while she went to the door.
“Be good, Mags! Junes, don’t go picking any fights with your sister! Love you, guys,” Sookie told them routinely as she went out the door.
Ever since leaving Bon Temps over five years ago to pursue a career with the Shreveport Police Department, Sookie had spent little time back there. Of course, she called her grandmother several times a week and visited at least once a month, but she never wandered into town. Her reputation there was tumultuous at best. Most of the locals were unsettled by her “hyper-perception,” and the ones who were not afraid feared whatever problems her position might cause them due to Sookie’s appointment as the youngest female detective in Shreveport history. That career move had cost her a couple of friends, one being her own brother when she refused to pull strings to get him out of a DUI. The other friend she had lost was Tara who kept a distance from her telepathic friend for fear of her cousin’s, Lafayette, freedom.
It was all for the best, Sookie reasoned to herself on a near-nightly basis. Life was easier without friends or much family. The only person in her hometown who would claim her was her Gran, and Sookie liked it better that way.
There was far less to lose when no one loved you.
Sookie waved distractedly at the greetings, going straight to her desk, and ignoring the stack of files sitting on the table. Instead, she hopped online to check into web articles regarding the murders of the women in Bon Temps. She was grateful to see their pictures in the same article with the most recent story about the identical deaths. Once her paperwork was completed, she printed out a copy of the images, and then Sookie left her desk to retrieve the paper.
“What are you up to, Sookie?” Must be after dark, Sookie thought with annoyance.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to use such familiarity when you talk to me, Compton?” Sookie snapped at the vampire. Not even a week ago, William Compton had strolled into the precinct offering his services as a confidential informant concerning Shreveport’s vampire bar. Rather than wasting thousands in supplies and man hours on the fruitless raids, Bill had offered to call the police department whenever he witnessed illegal activity.
“But we work together!” Bill tried to laugh in a kindred way.
Folding up the paper she had printed, Sookie pocketed it before turning on Bill. “First off, you are an informant, not a colleague, Compton. As useful as you may prove to be, I trust informants about as far as I can throw them. Secondly, my actual colleagues don’t even call me Sookie. They call me Detective. They call me Stackhouse, but unless you’re my Gran or my brother, you will never call me Sookie.”
“My apologies, Detective,” Sookie’s eyebrows rose at the attitude dripping from his voice when he used her title. She had to wonder about the claim of how old this vampire was. He had said he was around 150, though Sookie would have guessed he was adding a digit, and he was actually 15 by the disrespect he showed to authority.
Bill Compton walked away from the detective and Sookie went back to her desk, trying very hard not to roll her eyes at the vampire’s actions. Ever since he arrived, Compton had tried on several occasions to ask her out on dates, meetings, get-togethers, or parties. Even if he had not been an informant, Sookie would have still been suspicious of him. No one dated Sookie Stackhouse. She had resigned herself to a life of an old spinster by the age of fourteen; already owning two German shepherds and living in an apartment by herself nearly cemented her preconceived expectations of her life’s outcome.
Sitting down at her computer, Sookie read up on the vampire club that had made Shreveport oh-so-famous. It failed to give her an idea about any dress code, but Sookie could assume it was Goth. She already knew that an undercover operative would be out of the question. After her sex trade bust a year ago that had launched her career and earned her the promotion to Detective, Sookie’s face had been all over the newspapers. They were all candid shots, but vampires tended to be considerably observant. She could not risk being caught questioning anyone.
Instead, Sookie studied the images of the girls for quite some time, memorizing their faces so she would recognize them in the patrons’ heads at the bar. Perhaps someone would remember whom they were with. It really was too bad she could not read vampire minds.
It was quite the trade-off; she had realized back when she was a rookie patrol officer. She had pulled over a dark minivan late one evening, and had turned on the lights. Her first solo night canvassing for moving violations, and she managed to pull over a vampire!
Of course, she had not known that at the time.
When Sookie had approached the car, anticipating some soccer mom’s sob story about trying to get to and from the gas station with a secret pack of cigarettes after the kids had finally fallen asleep, she realized that the mind coming from the van was silent.
Her hand had inched towards her hip, greatly unsettled by the vacancy of thoughts, but she resisted touching her gun. After having joined the police force, Sookie had discovered the existence of Weres and realized what all of those red, snarly minds were. Somehow, she really came to like Weres, even though they never admitted what they were and she never asked. Now that she had the knowledge that so many had chosen to be firemen, police officers, and paramedics, it had brought immediate respect toward them.
Sookie tapped on the window of the minivan, not at all surprised to find a blonde woman behind the wheel wearing a Mary Kay pink sweater set. “License and registration, please, Ma’am.”
“Mmm, what a delicious lady in uniform,” the driver purred at her, and Sookie raised her eyebrows in surprise. Okay, maybe not the complete run of the mill soccer mom, Sookie had thought as she accepted the I.D. and paperwork.
“Do you realize that you were driving 60 in a 40-mile zone, Miss… Ravenscroft?” Sookie had asked.
“I did, but it was not a big deal, right, Officer Stackhouse?” Sookie’s brow furrowed at the woman’s easy cadence. Most women would be sobbing or screaming at her by now. At least there should have been excuses flying.
“Actually, it’s a very big deal. That’s twenty miles per hour over the assigned speed limit. Have you been drinking this evening?” Sookie asked, but she knew the blonde speed demon was sober by a complete absence of alcohol’s scent or strong aromas of perfumes to mask its presence.
“I wouldn’t mind having a drink with you,” The driver was practically purring at her. “Would you like to have a drink with me, pretty officer?”
“No thank you, Ma’am,” Sookie told her before going back to her cruiser and running Pamela Ravenscroft’s record. Finding it clean of any prior moving violations or outstanding warrants, the officer returned to the van and finished writing out the ticket. With a bemused smile, she handed it and her documents to the adventurous soccer mom. “I lowered the speed from reckless endangerment, but it’s still a hefty fine.”
“Why did you lower it?” the woman asked in surprise.
“Because you didn’t whine or make excuses, and even a girl in uniform can be flattered despite whether the interest is mutual or not,” Sookie had waved at the soccer mom as she headed back to her cruiser.
It had been almost a year later that vampires had come out of the coffin, and Sookie came to realize that the “soccer mom” had been a vampire, quite possibly, a vampire trying to use “glamour” on her.
Of course, Sookie came to find that the Weres she worked with were becoming increasingly curious about her. They had never seen a human cop be able to pull over a vampire and write a ticket, and Sookie had done so several times. She distinctly remembered hearing one of them think, amusedly, that Sookie had successfully pulled over the Sheriff’s child. This had horrified the rookie cop at first, thinking she had given a ticket to one of her colleague’s kids. Not that she felt being a cop’s child should grant a free pass, but it still had her nervous for weeks.
Sookie’s thoughts moved from her first vampire moving violation and returned to researching the club she would be surveilling that night. It was owned and operated by Eric Northman, a name with which Sookie was not unfamiliar. His money made circuits around the police station as well as other strategically placed campaign donations. She had never actually met him though. Some of the cops in the Vampiric Unrest Department as it jokingly was referred to had mumbled about the business vamp. He was short-spoken and to the point, very no-nonsense, and subliminally intimidating. Sookie was not sure what that meant, but to her, it would define him as if he had “dangerous” written all over him, in spite of never actually displaying said “danger” openly.
The detective found it odd that she had never seen a visualization of Eric Northman in the minds of her colleagues. More than a fair share of them knew the vampire and had spoken with him, yet none seemed to dwell on his appearance. Sookie considered the possibility that Eric Northman’s appearance would be underwhelming and nothing to really commit to memory.
“You’re thinking awfully hard,” interrupted Benjamin Trent, a Deputy First Class whom she had gone through cadet training with, as he leaned against her desk.
Sookie shook her head. Trent had been the first Were she had come to know, and quite possibly the closest individual she had to a friend anymore. “You’ve gone on raids with the Unrest Department, right?”
Trent’s eyebrows rose comically at her sudden question, “Yeah, once or twice until Northman made that big campaign donation, and ‘suddenly’,” he threw air quotes around the word, “the Chief and Mayor didn’t think there was so much sinnin’ going on in Fangtasia.”
Sookie scrunched her face thoughtfully, but she was actually focusing quite hard on Trent’s own thoughts hoping to glean an image before asking, “Did you ever see Northman?”
“Nah,” he said, “He wasn’t there the nights I was in on the raids.”
“Oh,” she replied, disappointed. It would have been nice to know whom she should be looking to see.
“Stackhouse!” her Captain called from across the bullpen. “I need you in Interrogation One.”
Sookie rose from her desk and walked toward her Commanding Officer, “What’s up, Captain?”
“Missing wife,” he began. “Got the husband in Interrogation One. She went missing three days ago. Her name’s Marla Jacobs. I need you to work your magic, and find out what he knows.”
The department had discovered Sookie’s talent of hyper-observation and utilized it frequently to obtain information about suspects whom they could not get enough evidence on to warrant a polygraph. Of course, hyper-observation was just the cover Sookie gave for her telepathy, but her colleagues had come to accept and respect her abilities.
“On it, Captain,” Sookie told him heading to the room.
Sookie entered the Interrogation room with a grim attitude. She had known the truth even before walking through the door. Mr. Jacobs had killed his wife. Her body was in the bayou, and most likely would never be recovered.
“Good evening, Mr. Jacobs,” Sookie greeted with false bubbliness, examining the All-American-Boy in front of her. Daniel Jacobs could not have been more than twenty-four years old, with his ash blond hair parted off center and swept across his tan face. His hazel brown eyes were narrowed into frustrated slits.
Jacobs groaned as yet another cop came into the room to question him. He was fed up with the “good cop, bad cop” game, and just wanted to get home in time to watch the opening game of the Atlanta Braves.
“I don’t know where she is. I filed the freakin’ missing person’s report! Why would I do that if-”
“Well, Mr. Jacobs,” Sookie interrupted him, “to be frank, we have many people filing reports on people they know are never coming back. It’s actually a common thing, what with bayous full of ‘gators ready and willing to destroy evidence,” Sookie watched the man’s face tighten. “Wow, first guess, right out of the gate, huh? You were so poised before. Sure, you had the anger amped up to hide your tells, but I mention the bayou, and your face went whiter than a flour cake!”
“No, no, no,” Sookie waved off his aggressive tone. “I’m not here to listen. I’m here to watch. Watch every little feature on your face while I figure out how and when you hurt Marla.” The telepath vividly saw the man on an airboat to tour the swamps. “Now, the question is, did Marla go with you to the bayou, or did you take her body there?” Dark brown hair, almost mahogany in the sunlight. An excited glean in blue gray eyes. A dainty foot in a baby blue Converse stepping onto the landing of the airboat. “I’m going to bet she went there with you,” Mr. Jacob’s jaw tightened. “Hmm…it looks like I’m right again. How do I do it? Well, if she went with you to the bayou, you must have been going under the guise of touring. So, you would have had to rent a boat. What do you think will happen when I canvas the rental spots with your and Marla’s pictures? Do you think someone will recognize you?”
“Lawyer!” he suddenly said.
“That’s fine. I have enough to start with,” Sookie rose from her seat and left the room.
“Good job, Kid,” the Captain patted her back on her way past the Observation Room door. “You’ll be the youngest Lieutenant at this rate!”
Sookie smiled distantly when the Captain walked away to start printing handout pictures of the Jacobs’ to some of the Field officers to begin the canvassing.
“Lieutenant…,” Sookie sighed when she went back to her desk to clear her paperwork and head home.
“Cop, homeless person, cop, brimstone evangelist… Ugh!” Sookie turned away from her closet in frustration. She had no idea what to wear to Fangtasia! The vampires would know she was a cop the second they saw her, but the humans would be distracted analyzing her if she stood out too much. Sookie knew better than to try and be covert around the Fangtasia vampires. It would be better to be forthcoming, but if she was, then word could get out that she was investigating a case outside of her jurisdiction.
Sookie looked in the closet again. Something she had heard about Eric Northman was that he was a bit of a horndog. Not that she would jeopardize her glorified status as a spinster just to ‘pump’ the vampire for information, but perhaps standing out just might not be a bad thing, especially if she put her assets, that made her bullet proof vest maddeningly uncomfortable, to good use.
Taking out her red and white flowered dress, Sookie looked at it sadly. She had never worn it before. There had been a moment three years ago when Trent had been thinking about asking her out. Sookie had bought the dress on the pretense of wearing it on their first date. Later that week, Trent met a Were named Jenna, and that was the end of that dream. Trent and Jenna would be celebrating their first wedding anniversary next month.
“Better late than never,” Sookie sighed, slipping off her clothes and putting on the dress. She left her hair down and grabbed a red clutch, throwing her badge and off-duty firearm in it. Next, she put on a light layer of make-up, and went down three flights of stairs to her car, knowing she would be walking up those steps barefoot later. She had almost twisted her ankle for every flight of stairs in her red heels.
Putting her purse on the passenger seat, Sookie sat in her blue Toyota for a second taking calming breaths. Once she pulled into the Fangtasia parking lot, there was no going back. If Jason did not forgive her for her lack of assistance with his DUI after this, she would have to call him a lost cause.
The drive was short, and the only sounds in the car were Sookie’s calming breaths. For as many times as she had faced danger in the last six years, she had never been more terrified than she was now, not for her safety, but for her career.
“This is stupid. I’m not investigating,” Sookie reasoned with herself. “I’m just checking things out. Looking for reasonable doubt… Investigating,” she sighed with resignation. “Whatever! Family first! Jason’s not a killer, and I can’t let him get railroaded. Driving drunk was his own dumb fault, but this isn’t.”
Pulling into the parking lot of Fangtasia, Sookie saw a face that took her breath away. Her hair might have been pulled into a severe looking ponytail, and her pearls had been replaced with a spike studded collar, but Sookie recognized the flirty soccer mom instantly.
Getting out of her car, the detective approached the vampire at the front door. “Good evening, Ms. Ravenscroft,” Sookie hoped that she might be able to play off this acquaintance to her advantage.
Pam looked at the buxom blond who had approached her. “Well, if it isn’t Officer Stackhouse,” she purred. “Lovely in uniform and in a dress. Absolutely perfect.”
Sookie smiled easily at the vampire. “I thought I recognized you while I was driving past.”
Pam tilted her head curiously. “Past? You pulled into the parking lot specifically to come here. I do not mind being flirted with under false pretenses, but do not lie so overtly.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “You gonna let me in?”
“Depends. Are you the narc for a raid?”
“Now that, I believe. Go on in,” Pam tilted her head toward the door. “Eric’s been chomping at the bit to meet you.”
Sookie did not know if she should feel unsettled by that or not. Rather than wilt, she asked coyly, “And why is that?”
“A human who cannot be glamoured? What vampire would not wish to know such a mortal?” Pam shrugged as if this should be obvious. “Go on in.”
Attempting to keep her impervious façade, Sookie squared her shoulders and entered the vampire bar with an easy smile on her face. She tried not to revert to her ‘Crazy Sookie’ smile of adolescence, but it was proving difficult when she realized that she was better known than she had thought. Every vampire she passed looked at her curiously, recognition on all of their faces.
In the center of the bedlam that was Fangtasia’s dance floor was a dais hosting a rather impressive-looking chair that Sookie could only think of as a glorified throne. The throne was vacant at the moment, and the telepath humorously considered that Eric Northman was probably a short, unimpressive male who needed a stage to make himself be seen and noticed. Another hundred-something-year-old child, Sookie thought with annoyance.
Going to the bar, Sookie ordered a gin and tonic. Nothing said ‘not on the job’ like a hard, alcoholic beverage, and the detective wanted nothing more than to assure the population of the club that they were not under surveillance.
“Officer Stackhouse,” a smooth voice rumbled near her ear, “or is it ‘Detective’ now?”
Sookie turned to have her eyes and head needing to tilt far back to see the face of the individual who had spoken to her. Standing before her was an Adonis seen only on GQ magazine covers. His golden hair hung in waves near his chin, his eyes were as blue as the ocean, and he was so tall that the woman needed to take a step back to fully appreciate his stature. Well muscled arms, but a lean, powerful frame wrapped in pale, vampire skin.
“It’s Detective now,” she said, trying not to sound breathless, but at his smirk she knew that she had failed miserably.
“Shall I call you Detective Stackhouse or Miss Stackhouse then, seeing as you are off duty?” He pointed at her gin and tonic.
“Whichever you prefer,” she told him in a response so accommodating that it felt foreign to her.
The vampire tilted his head contemplatively. “Well, given that you are not here on business, I believe I would rather call you Miss Stackhouse. Perhaps we will come to more familiar terms by the end of the evening.”
“You seem to have me at a disadvantage, Mr…?”
“Northman,” he smiled in a rather disarming way. Delight flickered in his eyes that she did not know who he was on sight.
Northman!? Sookie reeled momentarily, but kept her face expressionless. He was not at all what she had imagined, although she could definitely see the subliminal danger her colleagues had thought in relation to him. Everything about him, from his frame to the way he held himself screamed ‘POWER.’
“It’s a pleasure, Mr. Northman,” Sookie nodded at him slightly, knowing that vampires preferred not to shake hands.
“I believe the pleasure is all mine,” he let loose another impressive purr with his words.
“Are you part-cat, Mr. Northman? You sure seem to purr often,” Sookie smirked at him jokingly.
“Most women appreciate it,” He grinned right back at her. “A mouth that can make quick vibrations is quite appealing to the ladies.” Sookie did not doubt that, but had never considered the enjoyment one could receive from such a technique. Her body responded in a way that she really wished it had not. She could feel her nipples harden, and her hand crossed her chest to rub her arm briskly. “Do not feign cold, Miss Stackhouse. I can smell you thinking of the possibilities,” Sookie’s face blushed minutely at his observation. “A blushing officer. How sweet.”
“Not really,” Sookie snapped, trying to hide her embarrassment.
“Is it true that you cannot be glamoured?” he asked when he felt her arousal subside with her unease.
“Care to try and find out?” She raised her eyebrows in challenge.
Eric tilted his head in that contemplative way again and Sookie wanted to shake him like a bobble-headed doll. “I have no reason to try. It is rather uncouth to glamour unnecessarily, although I have it on the best authority that you are not able to be taken in by our ‘charms’.”
“Pam,” Eric nodded in agreement.
“If she told you, why did you ask?” Sookie demanded though not as sternly as she would have liked.
“I was curious if you were aware of your immunity,” he explained.
“Ah, well, I am. That sex trade bust last year made it pretty obvious. A vampire was running that show,” she told him irritably.
“Yes, I know. I was looking into the circumstances when you stumbled across him,” Eric was maintaining eye contact the entire time he spoke and Sookie felt herself being drawn into the deep, blue pools. Very few dared to look her in the eyes, and she found the unfamiliarity of an unwavering gaze hypnotic.
“Why were you looking into it?” Sookie frowned.
“I rule over the vampires in this particular Area. Human trading has been outlawed in recent years. Of course, we are far more discrete than sirens and flashing lights.”
“I pulled fifteen women and five men from that building. What’s discrete about that?” Sookie ground out.
“How I would have dealt with Michael would have been much different.”
“A slap on the wrists?” Sookie guessed with visible disapproval.
“I cannot discuss the ramifications of such an act. It is a concern of Vampire Law. However, once your human justice system is finished with him, he will have the vampire system to endure next,” Eric assured.
Sookie, at last, took a sip of her drink and looked at the sweating glass a moment. “So, you’re in charge of the vamps in this area?”
“Heard of a couple of murders in Bon Temps?” she asked.
Eric’s eyebrows rose at the question. “I did not believe Bon Temps was in Shreveport’s jurisdiction?”
“It’s not. Why do you think I’m drinking a gin and tonic?” Sookie said pointedly.
Eric gave her an entertained gaze. “I have heard that the women had vampire bites, so, of course, it was brought to my attention. I can assure you their deaths were not related to vampires.”
“Not related, or not committed by?” Sookie made him clarify his answer.
The vampire paused before he replied. “Not committed by.”
“Do you know what vamps had them?”
Playing with the edge of the napkin on which Sookie’s drink rested, Eric answered, “I tasted the one most recently murdered. I cannot say who sampled the first dead girl.”
“Her name was Dawn, the one you used.”
Eric frowned. “Do you really think it is as one-sided as using? I give back plenty for what I get. She gave me her blood, and I gave her my body in repayment. Sometimes it is as simple as a transaction, other times, I might feel compelled to maintain a business arrangement if our encounters are worth it.”
Sookie scowled at that. “It’s always all business with you vamps,” Sookie sucked down the rest of her drink.
“Not always, but most often,” Eric defended halfheartedly. “An eternity is a long time, Ms. Stackhouse. One does not commit so easily. Even mortals, in your limited time on this earth, have frequent changes of heart.”
Sighing at the turn in conversation, Sookie told him, “It was nice meeting you, Mr. Northman.”
“One drink and you are ready to go?” Eric was only moderately surprised. “I feel used.”
“I have work in the morning.”
“In Shreveport or Bon Temps?” he smirked knowingly.
“Shreveport. Dead woman to find.”
“If you must find her, how do you know she is dead?” At Sookie’s hardened gaze, Eric shrugged as though to say ‘I suppose you would know better than I’ before offering, “You know, a vampire could be very useful at that, especially if you have a starting point.”
Sookie looked at him warily. “I think we’ll manage just fine.” Picking up her clutch, she said, “Good night, Eric.”
“Good night, Sookie.”
The woman turned to look at him in surprise, but he was already gone. She had just called a man by his first name. Maybe it was the gin. The vampire at the bar had made her drink pretty strong, and she did not normally imbibe. Maybe it was the simple cadence of their conversation. Maybe it was the fact that she had just been talking to a walking God.
Whatever the reason, Sookie had broken her first commandment. Never get on a first name basis.
Still, she had broken her rule, and Eric had called her by her first name as well.
It was so simple. No underlying messages. No insinuation.
Good night, Sookie.
That was all.