Leaning against a police cruiser were the Three Stooges. Surely there was no need for all three of them. And why on earth did they come here so early in the morning. I looked down at Sam, who let out a little whimper.
Sheriff Dearborn was the first to see me and took a step toward us, as we emerged from the woods.
“Out for a walk this morning, Sookie? Dog sitting?”
“You could say that.”
Apparently, Bud didn’t recognize the collie as Sam shifted into dog form. I wasn’t sure if that was lucky or not, but decided to take advantage of it and send Sam on home. During that brief exchange, he had taken a casual, but clearly protective stance in front of me.
Dean looked up at me and whimpered, clearly worried. In a very un-dog-like manner, he jerked his head to the side, indicating the side of the house. His gesture got me thinking. Maybe he was thinking about getting inside to get his clothes so he could help me out of whatever pickle I was in with the authorities.
Despite all the events of last night, I had been faithful to my nightly ritual and checked the locks on all the windows and the doors. Triple checked them. From where we were standing, Bud would see him if he shifted and went in through the back door. Andy and Alcee were parked at the front door. The only option would be to break a window.
There was nothing for it. Sam had to stay in collie form or shift back and be stark naked with Andy Bellefleur and Bud Dearborn for witnesses. Sure, they’d been there when Sam had shifted at the bar, but he had shifted back in private. Now was not the time. “Thank you, Dean. You better get on back home or your owners will be real worried about you. Come back when you want some company though. I’m always glad to see you.” With that I ruffled his ears and gave him a loving pat, sending him on his way.
Dean trotted off in the direction of the woods again, looking back over his shoulder and whimpering again for confirmation. I gave him a smile that was just a little too broad, my crazy smile that comes out when I’m stressed, and waved him on. I just hoped he would come back soon in human form.
From what I could get from Bud, Andy, and Alcee, I was in serious trouble. I had opened up my other sense to see what was going on, but couldn’t get much. By now, all of them believed in my telepathy. I don’t think any would admit to it consciously, but after I’d helped out Andy solving a missing child case, the police squad looked at me a little differently.
They were all working hard to think about other things. Andy kept thinking that I was innocent and that he didn’t want to arrest me, but mostly because he’d have trouble with Haleigh. (I’d helped stage his proposal, been in their wedding, and saved her teaching career after all.) Alcee, in typical form, was feeling smug that his hunch had been right about me all along. Before I’d always been of the edge of the trouble, but after his wife (incidentally my favorite librarian) had almost been collateral damage during an attempt on my life, he had been looking for an excuse to put me away. Bud was just trying his best to be Cool Hand Luke.
During my exchange with Dean, Bud had been watching me closely. He was looking me over closely, looking for any signs of injuries and watching my face for signs of stress and anxiety.
Well, I was pretty sure that he could find all that and more. I turned back with my smile frozen in place. “I was just about to put a pot of coffee on. Y’all are welcome to come in and have a cup. I’ve got some coffeecake too. Can’t visit with you too long though. I’ve got to head over to the bar for the morning delivery.”
Not sure why I decided now was the time to turn on my Suzie Homemaker and Hostess charm, but I didn’t see what choice I had. At the invitation, Bud started to follow me toward the back door.
Remembering last night, I paused at the door having just remembered that I’d left my bloody clothes to soak in a bin on the washer. Hoping he hadn’t noticed my hesitation, I turned back to Bud. “Sheriff Dearborn, why don’t you go around to the front and I’ll let y’all in.”
His eyebrows went up and I heard him wonder at my insistence, but he shrugged and made his way around to meet me at the front door with Andy and Alcee in tow.
I quickly mounted the stairs and threw my soaked clothes, some bleach and enzyme cleaner in the washing machine, and turned it on hot. Knowing I didn’t have much time I gave the bin a quick rinse in the utility sink and headed for the front door.
As I approached the door, that’s when I found out why my second set of visitors had come. I heard it straight from Bud’s head. He was thinking that he would not put much past me since I was dating a deader and running with shifters. He was thinking that I had killed Arlene.