Chapter 9

I woke up the next morning with a start. Immediately on edge, I cast out my sense to see who all I had to contend with on my second morning in jail. I picked out that Mustapha had replaced Bubba again. That gave me some odd bit of reassurance that Eric was still on my team. I chose to take it as a show of support – no matter how indirect it felt. A little voice reminded me to be thankful for the small things, but I was feeling extra wary.

After Eric didn’t show up the night before, I was haunted by nightmares of his marriage to Freyda. I dreamt the whole thing from Quinn officiating right down to beautiful golden embroidery on the well-tailored wedding dress. Fit for a queen.

I felt a twinge of guilt mixed with satisfaction that my dream-self had interrupted a couple versions of the wedding ceremony wielding that darn ceremonial knife. I was glad to know that even my subconscious self was still up for a fight.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well at all on my second night in jail. I kept waking with the hope of seeing Eric at my window, only to be greeted by the nearly full moon.

Morning wasn’t looking much better. While I couldn’t expect to be bright eyed and bushy tailed, I opted to take a page out of Kennedy’s “jailhouse beauty tips” book by trying to be as presentable as possible. I almost giggled at the thought of asking Kennedy to come on down to the jailhouse to do my hair and make-up. Instead, I decided to take change. To get things rolling, I called out to Mustapha, who in turn called out to Andy Bellefleur to enter my cell block.

After a few minutes and the jangling of keys, Andy entered my cell block with a Wal-Mart bag in hand, followed closely by Mustapha. From their body language, it was clear that relations hadn’t improved in that corner.

“Sookie, your brother dropped off clothes for your court appearance today. Kenya will supervise while you change for court. You’ll have about an hour to get ready.”

“Thank you, Andy.”

“I’ll give you a few minutes with your, um, visitor.”

With that, Andy sat down my bag and left Mustapha and I alone for the first time since he had been assigned my daytime guard duty.

“Please, Mustapha. Tell me what’s going on out there.”

“I’m not hearing much these days. Just on guard detail for you.”

Mustapha, whose real name was KeShawn Johnson, had spent hard time in jail. Since he was a Were, I couldn’t easily make out his thoughts, but I could tell he wasn’t thrilled about spending his days in jail even though he was on the right side of the bars and could leave at the end of the day. Realizing that my attempted start to get news wasn’t working, I decided to switch topics.

“How’s Warren? I’ve been so worried about him.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Through his signature sunglasses, I couldn’t tell what Mustapha was thinking. Now that Warren was presumably safe and in recovery (thanks to me having Bill donate his super-healing blood), he was back to maintaining his Zen-like demeanor. Cool as a cucumber. Given my role in Warren’s rescue and treatment, I felt I deserved a bit more appreciation. My frustration showed on my face.

After some more thought, Mustapha responded.

“Warren’s nearly recovered. He had some kidney damage from the dehydration, but the vamp blood sped up his healing.”

I smiled. My deeds were in fact noted. Thank the Lord for that! “Well, I’m glad to hear it.”

I could feel that my smile was just a little too wide. Whenever I was stressed, I fell back on this slightly manic smile that put regular people on edge. It was usually other people’s thoughts that made me smile this way, but today it was plain, old nerves. Since I was about to go to my first court hearing after being charged with murder, I figured I could excuse myself for being awkward.

Mustapha clearly wasn’t going to volunteer more, so I switched to “20 Questions” mode.

“Have you been in touch with Sam or Alcide?”

Mustapha stared at me over the edge of his glasses. From the look in his eyes, I could tell he wasn’t comfortable talking to me. On one hand, I had saved his friend. On the other, I was the wife (for now) of his vengeful and very deadly employer. It was a difficult line to walk, especially after a brazen act of disloyalty.

I tried not to show my impatience, but pressed my advantage. “Look, I need to know what’s going on. I hope they have talked to Sheriff Dearborn about the party we had at the ranch.”

Mustapha nodded.  “Yes. They’ve been here.”

I nodded and sent out a silent prayer of thanks. It wasn’t exactly a lot of information, but I was comforted to know that they had both been questioned. I didn’t want to come straight out and ask if Eric had gotten the message to each of them about my alibi, but assumed that Mustapha would have clued me in if there was something to worry about. I kept having a sneaking suspension that Eric delegated that task to avoid dealing with Sam. Likely Sam was better off for it.

Having a solid alibi might be enough to exonerate me. I didn’t want to consider the possibility of spending another night in jail. I wondered briefly if Sheriff Dearborn would grant me a Word of the Day calendar if I couldn’t post bail. Unfathomable.

“Have you been by Eric’s house?”

Mustapha eyebrows raised at that. As Eric’s daytime man, Mustapha took care of all Eric’s regular-business hour needs, mostly running errands and coordinating with daytime help. After his lapse in judgment – major lapse – I wasn’t so sure that Mustapha was still working in that capacity. After a long pause, Mustapha responded.

“Not much.”

I nodded. Exactly what I thought. Not wanting to make a big deal of that, I decided to cut to the chase.

“Has Freyda, you know the Queen of Oklahoma, been at the house? When you were there?”

“No.”

I was ashamed of the clearly desperate tremble to my voice. I shot for casual, but missed by a mile. Thankfully, my pleading look hit a soft spot, so Mustapha continued.

“I spent the last couple nights taking care of Warren, so I wouldn’t know.”

I forgot that practically no time had passed between the Were showdown and this morning. Two days in jail felt quite a bit longer. I tried not to imagine having to spend weeks here waiting for a trial to play out.

Mustapha didn’t feel like talking, and from his answers, I decided he didn’t have much information to share on the whole, so I quieted down and set my mind to Freyda.

I thought through the few things I knew about her, trying to ignore the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous. Literally. My stomach churned as I remembered Bill’s assessment of her merits and prediction that Eric would be attracted not just to her beauty but her power.

At the memory of that conversation, my jaw tightened, and my fingers curled into fists. Maybe without meaning to, Bill had delivered some low hits. To be fair, he was probably just trying to prepare me for what he thought was likely, but thinking of it now, I just wanted to throttle him. For all the good it would do me since I could hardly make a dent with anything short of silver or, for that matter, a stake. I smiled at the thought despite myself. Plotting the murder of my ex-boyfriend and some-time friend wasn’t likely to help me out of the morning of my first day in court.

Besides, this territory was too familiar. I needed to think not of why Eric would choose her, but how to get her to choose someone other than Eric. That was something I could chew on. I hoped I would get to do it from the comfort of my porch swing this afternoon with lemonade in hand.

I swooned at the thought of sunshine and lemonade. Kenya interrupted my reverie about overthrowing HRH Oklahoma. Just like that, I was back in jail and facing my first public appearance after my arrest. My heart fell straight out the bottom.

“Sookie, it’s time to get ready for court.”

I tried to give Kenya a smile, but just didn’t have the heart for it. She motioned for Mustapha to step out of the little hallway that ran in front of the cells and handed the Wal-Mart bag with my clothes through.

As I pulled out my clothes, I was thankful that Jason had picked out something court-appropriate. A little voice in my head told me his fiancé Michelle must have helped him with the selection, not to mention getting him out of jail. I sent up another silent prayer of thanks for Jason’s good luck in choosing his second wife.

I was pleased that I was still in the habit of praying and not just praying to get out of jail. Gran always said that prayer of thanks and hope for others counted more in God’s eyes. I wasn’t too sure, but I was hoping I wouldn’t be answering for a murder I didn’t have a hand in. I thought a prayer in that vein might not serve me.

I laid the clothes out on the bench in my cell, as Kenya turned to the wall to give me some semblance of privacy. I sure was missing that damn calendar. On the bright side, my little stay in jail gave me a bonus of saving up a few words. That was another thing to look forward to at home.

I dressed quickly into what I thought of as my Sunday clothes. Jason had picked a pretty summer dress with a conservative neckline. I bought the dress thinking it would help cover any stray bite marks from my lovemaking with Eric, but it would do just fine for today. I got a little hot and bothered thinking of the last occasion I had that required this extra bit of cover up and then forced myself to focus.

The shoes he threw in didn’t quite match, but were conservative and sensible. For good measure, he’d also included a small box with my cross necklace. It wouldn’t hurt to look the part of a good Christian girl for court. No one would suspect someone dressed like this of strangling a single mom with an apron.

As that thought crossed my mind, it was quickly followed by the worry that many people might not find it that surprising after all. People always thought I was off. Not just off: they thought I was crazy.

I couldn’t blame them. Most of the time I was able to hide the fact that I could hear the private thoughts around me. Sometimes it showed in my pained express, my too-bright smile. Crazy Sookie.

For the past couple years, I added to the crazy part by dating vampires and working for a shifter.

This line of thinking wasn’t doing me any good. It showed in my face too because Kenya tried to give me reassurance with a small smile and a squeeze to my forearm, as she escorted me from my cell out to the lobby of the police station, where Alcee Beck was waiting.

With my police escorts on each side of me, I walked into the sun and felt its warmth on my face. A shout rang out from beyond the patrol car. I didn’t catch the words, but the tone was nasty. Menacing. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and the adrenaline put all senses on the alert.

I immediately put up my shield to block out the thoughts that would go with those words. As Alcee and Kenya hustled me to the car, I caught sight of a group of FoTS followers protesting on the lawn, chanting to string me up. I added that contingent to the list of unpleasant business I would have to attend to once I was out on bail. Fundamentalist psychos. No problem. I would worry about them once I was out.

Clearly, this day was off to a rocky start. I just hoped that the courts would look at this a little more kindly.

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