Shit. Shit. Shit. I nearly fainted, but somehow I stayed vertical and opened the door. I could only hope that my face did not betray me. This was definitely an “Oh shit” moment and not the first of the day. After so many years of practice hiding my reactions to hearing people’s thoughts, I had gotten pretty good at keeping my face blank, but I wasn’t sure any amount of practice had prepared me for this.
As I pulled back the door, I motioned for them to come on in and have a seat in the living room.
“I’ll just be a minute, putting on the coffee and a quick moment to change. I had to take the dog for a walk real early and didn’t expect company this early.”
I flashed one of my too bright smiles and hustled to the bedroom. “I’ll be two shakes of a lambs tail.”
I wanted to keep listening in to them, but started shielding to pull myself together. First, there was the shock of understanding Arlene was dead. After she’d been complicit (word of the day) in an attempt on my life with her Fellowship of the Sun buddies and then shunned Sam for being a shifter, there was no love lost between us. At the thought, I felt my blood boil after all Sam had done for her. Then it hit me again. Arlene was not just dead, but murdered.
That was a different matter. Oh, lord. What was going to happen with her kids, Coby and Lisa? Not my immediate problem. I’d have to get through the morning before I could even help in that quarter.
I just needed to change and answer the questions I could. I was not involved in this, so surely I would just answer a few questions and head on over to the bar.
I slipped on my Merlotte’s uniform to show that I was planning on heading to work. I put my hair in a tight ponytail, high on my head. Looking in the mirror, I decided that I needed to add a little color to my face and dashed on some blue eye shadow and mascara, but not too much.
Standing back, I looked myself over in the mirror. Given that I’d been walking through the woods and crying in the graveyard, I looked surprisingly good. Kennedy would not give me high pageant marks, but I was presentable for the Bon Temps police at least.
As I walked to kitchen to put the coffee on, I registered that there were only two brains in the living room. The other had wondered on back to the porch where the washing machine had gone silent. My heart stopped for an instant, but then my resolve took over and I got to making the coffee.
With the coffee brewing, I pulled out the Entenmanns’s coffee cake box, slicing thinner pieces than I would for welcome guests and making a tray with napkins and plates.
As I picked up the tray, I straightened my spine and held my head high. I could do this. Then, as I took a step around the kitchen table, I remembered having to step over the very dead body of Donald Callaway, the antiques dealer that had met his untimely death after threatening me in an attempt to take the cluviel dor. While I hadn’t killed him, I hadn’t minded much when Mr. Cataliades had broken his neck.
That line of thinking only led to a murder review . In short order, I had relived all the murders that I had committed with my own two hands, not to mention all the deaths I had been party to. Sookie Stackhouse, that certainly isn’t going to help in your current situation. You chose to your survival over that of your enemies. You made the choices you had to for you and yours. Pull it together, girl.
I had given myself a similar prep talk many a time, but now I needed it to really work. I pasted my smile on my face and carried the tray into the living room.
As I entered the room, Bud and Andy looked at my expectantly. I just smiled and asked if Alcee had taken off. Bud and Andy shifted uncomfortably and muttered something about Alcee taking a look around.
Bud decided to jump right in. “Sookie, we need to take you on down to the station. We’ve got some questions we need to ask about a murder that took place last night.”
For a brief moment, I saw the flash of a sword and Jannalynn’s head flying off her body. I shook myself and worked to focus. I knew better. That was pack business. Alcide would never have let the police find her body. At least not this quickly. Plus, it would not have been the Bon Temps police that would have been first on the scene. Then my heart dropped.
I flashed to yelling at Alcide and chasing him off with a loaded weapon. A loaded weapon that I had fired and then hid in the woods. Double fuck a zombie. Maybe Alcide had come to warn me that the police would be headed my direction and I had not given him the chance to tell me.
I smiled back at Bud. From the look on their faces, this was clearly not the right reaction. At least, not the right reaction for an innocent person. “Bud, I’d be happy to stop on by after I take in the delivery at the bar. I can’t be late for that. I told Sam I would take care of it.”
“Well, Sookie, we can’t wait for that. You’ll need to come on in now. It is real important that we talk to you now.”
“Bud, it’ll just take an hour and I’ll be right there. I promise. There’d be no harm in that, right?”
“Sookie, I’ve known you all your life,” Bud started, but taking me and Sheriff Dearborn by surprise, Andy interrupted.
“Bud, I’ll take her on over to Merlotte’s, then bring her to the station.” At that Bud’s eyebrows went up, but he nodded briefly.
I smiled at Andy to thank him, but was cautious about appearing overly enthusiastic. “I’ll just go grab your coffee.”
As I scooted out of the room at lightening speed, Bud stopped me in my tracks with a simple question. “Sookie, you forgot to ask who was murdered.”
Well, of course I hadn’t asked. I’d heard it straight from him. To be more specific about it, I’d lifted the thought from his head, but no one had said anything out loud. Oh, hell.
“Bud, I’m sorry. I am a little in shock about another murder. I’ve just been at Gran’s grave. Hearing that another murder had occurred here, especially after just thinking about how horribly Gran had died, I just…” I trailed off.
Bud nodded sympathetically. He’d grown up with Gran and known her all her life. He had seen me lose my parents, then Gran, as well as weather a time when the town thought my brother Jason was a serial killer, even possibly Gran’s killer. Yes, he could understand why news of another murder might throw me.
I didn’t intended to, but I started crying. Both Bud and Andy looked away. In a small, trembling voice, I asked the question I should have asked from the start. “Who was it?”
“Arlene. So, Sookie, you’ll understand why it is important to get as much information as we can. She was your friend, and there’s the kids to think about.”
Now, my tears really started to flow. Both men looked away again. Thank goodness my bundle of nerves was helpful in this instance. “Of course. Well, I’m about to miss the delivery window. If Andy can drive me over, we’ll be at the station in about an hour.” I could hear the pleading in my voice and hoped that they interpreted it as spill over emotion from talking about Gran’s murder and the news.
Bud nodded again. As he and Andy were getting up from the couch, I heard Alcee Beck’s purposeful walk approaching from down the hall.
“Sheriff, you’ve got to take a look at this.”
Alcee motioned to Bud, who moved past me with a speed I wouldn’t have expected from a man his age toward the laundry room.
I followed with Andy just behind me, but I was caught up short as Andy grabbed my arm. With a determined expression on his face, he looked me in the eyes and shouted thoughts at me. With the physical contact there was no way I could miss his message. “Sookie, they think you’ve killed Arlene. I hope you have an alibi.”
Before Andy could tell me something I didn’t know, I heard Bud’s voice. “Sookie, would you like to tell me why there’s blood your wash bin?”
From his head, I understood that Arlene’s death had not been particularly bloody, so he didn’t think that the blood here at my house was linked to Arlene. Thank goodness! Regardless, both he and Alcee thought it just added to the list of things that were mighty suspicious about me.
“Bud, I was on hand when Sam cut himself prepping at the bar. I helped clean him up, but got some blood on my clothes. I needed to wash it out.”
Now I was really regretting that Sam hadn’t shifted back this morning. We really needed a shared story now. I knew if they got a blood sample and tested it that the blood would match Sam’s. There might be some of Jannalynne’s in there, but it would mostly be his. I would just have to hope that the sample matched up with Sam.
Between all the guests, invited and not, traipsing in and out of my house this morning, I hadn’t had time to come up with a story for my whereabouts. Hell, I had not even gotten a chance to get my story straight with Sam on last night.
“Sorry, Sookie, with this evidence on our hands, you’re going to have to come straight to the station.”
Evidence, my round, rosy ass! “Sheriff Dearborn, that’s not evidence that’s laundry! In order for it to be evidence, you’ve got to have a warrant. I’m pretty sure you don’t have a warrant to search my house, much less my laundry.”
I had watched enough Law and Order that I was pretty sure I had gotten that right. I had invited the three of them in though, so maybe I was on shakier ground than I thought. As I was thinking this through, Andy was back to sending me messages.
He was still holding my arm and squeezed a little tighter, as he thought, “Careful there, Sookie.” I stood there willing him to explain more, but he did not give me much to work with.
Andy’s thoughts proved to be a dangerous distraction though because Bud had made a decision.
“Sookie, I am placing you under arrest. Now don’t give us any trouble.”
And just like in Law and Order, he read me my Miranda rights without skipping a beat.
I froze. Without realizing it, I stood stalk still while Alcee handcuffed me and started to steer me out of the house. I was in shock, as Bud opened the back of the patrol car and Alcee lowered me in.
As he put his hand over my head to make sure I did not bump it on the way in, I nearly laughed thinking that it really was just like on television. That’s when it hit me. I was under arrest.
Bud and Alcee got in the front seat. Andy got in the car behind us. As the two patrol cars pulled out of my drive, I caught sight of Sam for the second time this morning.
This time, he was in human form, clothed, and driving Terry Bellefleur’s truck. From the look on his face, I could tell he was every bit as shocked about seeing me in the back of a squad car as I was. He also looked scared too.
I gave him a weak smile and shook my head. I reached out to him with my mind, trying to ignore the thoughts of Bud and Alcee in the front. Sam’s thoughts were usually a bit fuzzy to me, but now he was broadcasting reassurance.
As we made the turn onto Hummingbird Lane, Sam joined the entourage that was taking me to the Bon Temps police station to be booked.