As Alcee drove away from the police station, I felt both officers relax. Kenya was thinking of what level of protection I might need whether or not I posted bail. Apparently, the Bon Temps police had their hands full with FoTS followers since my arrest for Arlene’s murder. From her thoughts, I couldn’t quite piece it together, but it was clear that they had received a number of threats. Kenya seemed more worried for me if I made bail. I appreciated her concern, but I wanted out all the same.
Alcee was just glad to be away from the mob. While he had no trouble playing bad cop in the black community, having to lay down the law with a crowd of angry, white churchgoers was another thing altogether. He added that to the list of reasons that he did not like me.
Within a few minutes, we pulled away from town and were well on our way to the Renard Parish Courthouse. Since Bon Temps was so small, our little town didn’t merit one.
I looked behind the patrol car a couple times to see if we were being followed. I wasn’t a bit surprised to see a motorcycle pull in behind us with Mustapha and Warren. Both Alcee and Kenya spotted them just a moment after I had. Alcee let out a grunt of disapproval, but didn’t comment. Kenya was much more practical, glad for the extra firepower and prepared to overlook the fact that a sawed-off shotgun wasn’t covered under Louisiana’s concealed carry laws.
I hadn’t noticed Warren’s choice of weapon, but was glad the little shooter was there. Apparently, he was prepared for close combat. When I turned back around, I noticed Kenya scrutinizing me in the mirror. I raised my eyebrows in question, but she just shook her head and clucked her tongue like my gran used to do.
We made the rest of the drive in silence. As we neared the courthouse, it was clear that the FoTS had organized a welcoming committee for me here too. Luckily, Sheriff Dearborn anticipated this, so he and Andy were on hand. It was a much smaller group, and my heart swelled with thanks when I saw that the other side of the lawn was full of my friends and the little family I had left.
As Kenya helped me out of the patrol car, I put up my shield and kept my face expressionless. Passing by Jason, Michelle, and Sam I gave them a small smile of recognition. Behind them, I caught sight of the entire Merlotte’s staff, including Terry Bellefleur. Knowing that Sam had closed down the bar for my hearing brought tears to my eyes. After all the trouble from the shifters reveal, Sam had worked hard to reestablish his place in the Bon Temps community, even putting in the obligatory appearances at church. Now he was throwing in his lot with an accused murderer. Well, an accused murdered who had saved his life. I shook my head at the thought, but was grateful just the same.
Behind the bar staff, a couple Weres from the Shreveport pack nodded at me. Apparently, Eric wasn’t the only one providing for my protection. It looked like Alcide hadn’t rescinded my “friend of the pack” status, even though I shot at him. Given the trouble I was in, I was glad to cash in that well-earned chip.
We got to the courthouse steps without incident. Among the crowd, there was one photographer sent over from the local paper who took a couple pictures. I lifted my hands to check my ponytail, but quickly remembered the cuffs. I couldn’t wait to get them off.
Kenya and Alcee ushered me into the courthouse with Andy and Sheriff Dearborn taking up the rear. This time, I made it in doors with only a few shouts in my direction, but I had recognized Arlene’s latest man, the one who spit on me after my arrest. I sent out another silent prayer of thanks that I hadn’t suffered that indignity again, especially with the photographer on hand.
We walked into the lobby and headed for a small holding cell for prisoners awaiting trial. I was surprised to see Beth Osieki had expanded my defense team to include one demon lawyer. Mr. Cataliades still looked worse for wear with his normally impeccable suit a bit worn around the edges, but still perfectly acceptable for our little parish courthouse. In fact, I was pretty sure he would seem flashy to about any country judge.
Beth gave me a reassuring smile and then glanced at her new partner. Mr. Cataliades gave her a brief nod and turned to address me.
“Miss Stackhouse, it seems you are in need of some legal counsel.”
“Glad you were able to make it, Mr. Cataliades.” If he was going to be formal about it, I could too.
Beth relaxed a bit. She was relieved to see that I knew this strange man. She couldn’t quite figure it out, but he felt strange to her. For a regular human, Beth Osieki was observant, but also working hard to keep the world around her normal. I couldn’t blame her and, besides, I was pretty darn sure that the world wasn’t ready to hear that there were demons walking around in the flesh.
Beth and Mr. Cataliades took turns explaining the process to me as we waited. Before long, they left to take their places in the courtroom. The bailiff came for me after a few minutes and we entered the courtroom through a little side door.
The little courtroom was full to the gills with the strange mix of spectators from the lawn. In the official setting of the courtroom, the crowd’s edge was gone. There was still tension in the air, but I was sure there wouldn’t be any real trouble during the hearing and I knew Mustapha and Warren were outside ready for whatever would come after.
Just after I got seated, the judge, the honorable Judge Sutter, entered the courtroom and started the proceedings. I recognized him from a few lunch visits at Merlotte’s, but didn’t know him enough to say hi on the street. Sure, I knew his people. The Sutters were another old family in our parish. Not wealthy like the Bellefleurs, but respected for their service in the war. Judge Sutter was real into reenactment from what I’d heard and an active member of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead, so he knew Gran. That could only help me.
Judge Sutter managed the proceedings with cool efficiency. The case was introduced, my attorney waived the reading of the case and entered my plea, and then the prosecutor made an argument for keeping me locked up. I was so nervous once the hearing started that I couldn’t block out thoughts anymore, so my mind just got flooded with the thoughts of everyone in the courtroom. It took everything I had to keep my face straight.
The whole hearing took about twenty minutes. After a few minutes consideration, the judge announced that he would set bail.
At his words, I was able to focus for the first time. Bail. The answer to my prayers.
“Miss Stackhouse, you are accused of a grievous crime. A murder of a single mom and a former friend of yours if I am to believe the prosecutor.”
“With your family history, I know that you won’t be thinking of leaving our fine parish.” He looked around at my family and friends, clearly indicating to them that he would hold them each personally responsible if I skipped town.
“Bail is set at $70,000.”
I closed my eyes. It was going to be hard to part with that kind of money. That was more money than I would make in three years. A little more than my old house was worth. I said a silent prayer of thanks to Claudine. Not only had her kind gift helped me save the bar, now it bought my freedom if only for a couple weeks.
I had a lot of ground to cover. I had a murderer to catch, a divorce to and a wedding to stop. Thinking it over, I decided that my first stop on the way home had to be the old Compton place.