Crime and Punishment

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Ellsey and I spent a few hours in her hotel room looking over catalogs to order new inventory for her shop. Around 2 a.m. there was a knock at the door and I excitedly thought Eric was back, although I couldn’t hear him thinking. But no, the door opened and Ellsey was swept into Seamus’ arms and a hot kiss. After a moment, I cleared my throat. I didn’t want them starting anything until I could get out of there to give them privacy.

Seamus stepped back, still holding her in his arms, and his eyes searched for the noise. He found me and grinned, “You are a serious cock block, woman.”

I laughed and followed him as he led us toward the couch and sitting area. “So, is it over?”

“All but the crying,” he joked. “Yeah, the tribunal was fast, but nasty. They came up with some new punishments.” He shuddered and continued, “The Viking should be back soon.”

“How was the trial part?”

“The sea dog? Well, his maker showed up, and let’s just say that didn’t go over well.”

“His maker showed up to defend him?”

“Ah, no. She wanted to kill him.”

“Felipe?” Ellsey gasped.

“No, Booker. She said she would not be responsible for this or any future infractions the fool was to make. After a little pushing and shoving to get her to the front, and then some yelling and finger pointing, it all worked out. Felipe was quite pleased that she was so upset with her child.”

“What did they decide to do to him?” I asked.

He winked. “Super secret vampire politics.”

“They’re killing him? Sending him to the sun?”

“Something like that. I think I’ll let Eric give you the details as he sees fit.”

There was another knock on the door and Seamus let Eric in. I stood to meet him and he pulled me into his arms, kissing me fiercely. Whoa.

Lover, I need you. Now. Let us go.

I turned to say goodbye and noticed Seamus already had Ellsey on the couch and was beginning to take her clothes off. Okay then. I grabbed my room key and phone and led Eric out into the hallway. Luckily our room was on the same floor, because my shirt was shredded by the time we got there.

We were barely inside the door when Eric had me on the floor and was ripping at my clothes. His pants were open and he was inside of me in an instant. He was biting me all over, taking little nips and sips and muttering in that ancient language I still didn’t know. Then he sank his fangs into my jugular and we both came. I was shuddering and Eric was growling as he drank. When I could breathe again he began brushing the hair out of my eyes and gently feathering kisses on my eyelids and nose.

He looked me in the eye for a moment and then sat up a little, drawing his fingernail across the tight skin on his chest. I held his eyes as long as I could and then moved forward to drink. He moaned a little and began moving slowly inside of me again. I licked at his wound and matched his slow rhythm. We took our time, and I came again as I felt his body tense for his own release.

We rested together for a few minutes there on the floor, and then he carried me to the bed. He sighed as he put his arms around me but didn’t say anything.

“Eric, is everything alright?”

“Yes, Lover. This whole weekend has just reminded me of what my life used to be like, and I had to get back to you and know that what we have now is real.”

I held his hands and tightened his arms around me. “It’s real, Eric. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Neither am I, Lover. Neither am I.”

We stayed like that for a while, just being together. Finally, I rolled over and faced him, putting my hand on his cheek. “Tell me what happened tonight at the trial.”

He looked me in the eyes and smiled sadly. “What did Seamus say?”

“He told us the Booker’s maker showed up to kill him but Felipe wouldn’t let her. He didn’t tell us the outcome of the hearing. He said it was up to you to give me the details.”

“Yes. Felipe was pleased Seychelle showed up to reprimand her child, but he would not give her the glory or the power to finish things. After a number of people testified against him, Booker began to look worse and worse. It sounds like he is the one that brought Lars into the plan. The king called him a traitor and a terrorist and announced he would be sent to meet the sun, chained to a tree in the bayou. That way either the sun or the gators will finish him.”

“That is disgusting.”

“Be glad I was not assigned to guard him from some kind of hunting blind to be sure he meets his final death. Simon was given that task.”

“Eew. You guys are brutal.”

He chuckled a little and leaned over to kiss me. I heard his cell phone start ringing in the other room with our abandoned clothes. Guns ‘N Roses “Sweet Child of Mine” was blaring.

I sighed, “That’s Pam’s ring tone. You’d better go get it.”

Eric pulled on some pants and listened as Pam gave him a more accurate run down of the damage and injuries incurred the night before at Fangtasia. I cleaned up our torn clothing by the door and changed into some pajamas. Using the hotel phone, I ordered room service for a snack and waited to get an update from Eric.

He was just hanging up the phone when someone knocked on the door to our suite. I could not hear anyone thinking outside so I had no idea who it was, but clearly it was a vamp. I started to walk towards the entry, and Eric gently pushed me out of the way.

“No, Sookie. I will see who it is.” He was sending soothing thoughts through the bond but I could tell he was still on alert; apparently the trial and the attack at home last night were heavy on his mind.

When the door opened, I was glad that Eric had pushed me away. I couldn’t have been responsible for my salutation (word of the day) upon greeting the king. I was tired of his crap and ready to go home, but I knew we had at least one more event to attend for Felipe before we could leave the following evening.

“Northman, Miss Stackhouse,” he said as he entered with his body guard. “I hope you had a pleasant evening at the hotel, Miss Stackhouse.”

I was really over him this weekend, but maybe he was trying to be nice. “Yes, your highness. It was lovely.”

“Eric, I have some final things to discuss with you before the closing gathering. I need you to come to the board room with me.”

Eric nodded and gave me a quick kiss before following the king out the door. It was about 4 a.m. and we had an hour until the closing ceremony, or whatever Felipe wanted to call it. From what I could get out of Eric and Ellsey it was basically a toast and nothing more. With Eric gone I was anxious to hear what Pam had to say about the attack on Fangtasia, so I called her myself.

“Sookie. Are you asking me to repeat myself?”

“Yes, Pam. Eric left with Felipe and I just wanted to find out if there was anything I should know?”

“I do not believe there is anything specifically for you to worry about. Barry seems to be correct that the attack was aimed at David. Felicia is saying it is related to your curse, but she says it may be lifting since no one was killed.”

I asked about the humans that had been injured, and Pam assured me they had been contacted and informed that Eric would cover all of their medical bills. Two waitresses had quit because of the attack, but there was always a line of fangbangers ready to step in. Repairs had begun, and she expected David to be up and around the following evening. He was staying in a secret location on Eric’s property and would not be allowed to leave until he had spoken with Eric. She did not recognize any of the vampires, but had already sent security footage to Bill to see if he could identify anyone in his data base.

I let her get back to supervising the contractors and finished getting ready for the king’s farewell.

I’m not sure how much later it was, but the next thing I knew, Eric was lifting me from the couch and carrying me to bed. I sighed and muttered something about the toast and he laughed, telling me I had slept through it. He got us undressed and laid down with me, promising me we would go home when we woke up.

The reality was we left when he woke up, but either way, we were on the road. We stopped at the bar before going to the house to check on the damage and the progress of repairs. Several windows were boarded up as we drove past the front of the bar, and I could feel Eric’s anger rising.

When we entered Fangtasia, he was thoroughly upset about the damage to the actual bar itself. Apparently he had salvaged it from somewhere in Key West that had been destroyed in a hurricane. It had been a beautiful bar made of mahogany, but now it was being removed piece by piece. Eric was carrying-on to Pam in another language and pointing at things in a catalog. I don’t think he was pleased with some of her decisions, but you had to admit, she had the crews working hard to get the place back open.

After Eric had calmed down a bit, we headed for the house. Pam was following us, and Bill was already there. He had apparently been chosen to wait for David to wake up and to keep him there for our arrival.

We were sitting in the dining area and Eric was ready to start interrogating David to find out what he knew when Seamus arrived. He gave Pam a hug and came in to the dining room.

“Just checking in, Sheriff. I intend to spend some time in your district, so I thought I’d stop by on my way to Ellsey’s.”

“How very proper of you,” Eric said with a slight smile. “You may even be of use. Did you hear about the attack on my bar last evening? It seems our new bartender was the target.”

“I heard a little…” he started, but then he seemed to get a good look at David. “Oh shit.” He looked right at the bartender. “You are so screwed, kid.”

If looks could kill the undead, David would have met his final death right then. Eric was practically fuming. “Seamus, do you know David?”

“I don’t know him. I remember him from a vamp bar in Buckhead outside of Atlanta. That was, oh, five years ago?”

“And why is he, as you said, screwed?”

Seamus actually chuckled. “Because if he’s your new bartender and he’s the reason your bar got attacked, then he didn’t come to you honestly.” He looked at David and shook his head. “You may have covered your tracks, but you didn’t do any research on who hired you. The Viking will kill you himself before allowing you to bring this shit down on him.”

Pam interjected with a look of dread on her face. “What bar in Buckhead?”

“The Bait Shack.”

There was a collective tensing of the vampires in the room. Pam hissed and Bill gasped while Eric practically came out of his chair. All of the calm I could send meant nothing. I had no idea what was happening, what this Bait Shack meant, but it was bad.

Through gritted teeth, Eric spoke to David. “Explain. Now.”

David put his chin up. “I quit, that’s all. And I moved here.”

Eric actually laughed, but it was not a pleasant sound. “You don’t just quit working for Gill. How long were you on his circuit?”

Still defiant, David said, “Fifteen years.”

“Then you clearly know that quitting wasn’t an option. Why did you leave?”

“I was done.”

“You would rather meet the sun than work for Gill anymore? Because that’s what will happen when he catches up with you.” Eric shook his head, “Did you expect me to protect you? You are nothing to me.”

“I was hoping I wouldn’t get caught.”

Pam spoke up, “I know that Gill believes his staff is his property, but this one isn’t even a great bartender. Sure, he attracts women, but he can’t mix a drink to save his life. Why come after him?”

David’s shoulders slumped a little, and I recognized something human in him. She was right – it wasn’t about the drinks. I felt sick, but I knew I was right. He’d been used.

“What did you do besides work behind the bar?” I asked.

His eyes flew to mine and then hit the floor. I think if I hadn’t been drinking Eric’s blood regularly I wouldn’t have seen it. No one else seemed to understand. Eric was thinking about how soon he could turn David over to Gill. Bill and Seamus were searching for something using the laptop, and Pam was looking me like I had lost my mind.

I put my arm on Eric’s shoulder and told David, “Take a walk outside with Thor.”

Eric turned to me with a questioning look on his face.

I thought hard at him, We need to talk. You can’t turn him over to Gill.

What? Lover, you can’t save him.

Eric, send him outside. Please. I’ll explain.

Fine. And though I knew he thought I was delaying the inevitable, he turned to David and spoke, “Bartender, go outside with the beast. I’ll call you in a moment.”

David and Thor headed out the sliding door, and everyone looked at me. “You really don’t get it, do you?” I said looking around. “It’s not about the bartending.” Seamus finally seemed to catch on. I could see it in his eyes, but no one else. “If you look that good and you can’t make a great drink, how else would someone use you?”

“Agh. I can’t even believe Gill would be so low,” Seamus said.

Eric was looking at me like if he stared hard enough he would figure it out. “What?”

“They used him as a whore,” Seamus said, rolling the ‘r.’ The word didn’t sound any better with his slight Irish brogue.

“Sookie, you always think the worst, and you have such a vivid imagination,” Bill said with disbelief.

Pam looked like someone had poured cold water over her. Vampires were sexual creatures, but it was always on their own terms.

Eric raised his eyebrows at Seamus and me. “That is an interesting theory. Is there evidence of Gill doing anything like this in the past?”

Seamus shrugged his shoulders. “You know Gill. I don’t believe his business practices are entirely on the up and up, but I haven’t heard anything like this. But I do think Sookie is right. What kind of references did he give you?”

“I called bars in three major cities,” Pam said. “He checked out fine.”

“But none of them were owned by Gill?”

“No. They were smaller bars, mostly human owned by AVL supporters.”

Eric was piecing the puzzle together. “So he moonlighted to put enough money away to escape and build a resume.”

Bill was shaking his head. “How did he think he’d get away with it? We’ve all heard stories about what happens when someone leaves without a trade from one of Gill’s bars.”

I put my hand up. “Sorry to be the human in the bunch, but I haven’t heard the stories. Who is Gill, and why is he such a bastard?”

Eric sighed, but Seamus spoke, “He’s a well know club owner in the vamp world. He owned big clubs in major cities even before the reveal. Now they just draw more people, humans and vamps alike. You name it; he’s done it. During prohibition he made bathtub gin and ran moonshine out of the Appalachians. He’s had illegal gambling in a lot of his places, but now he owns a casino in Atlantic City.

“His philosophy as far as his vamp staff goes is that they are all his children, and he’s a possessive parent. You don’t apply for a transfer, ask for a promotion or quit when you work for him. Gill makes those decisions and let’s you know. If he doesn’t like you he trades you for someone else with another bar owner.”

Pam continued for him, “There’s a story about a waitress that was called by her maker while working his club in New York City. The bar he owned then was in Times Square and it was packed all of the time. You’ve heard us say that you cannot deny it when your maker calls. You must go.”

Oh, I knew alright. Bill had abandoned me for that bitch maker of his, thanks for reminding me.

She went on, “The waitress didn’t know what to do but was so drawn by her maker that she left a message for Gill and headed out of the city. His henchmen caught up with her outside of Chicago. After they killed her again, he sent money to the Kings of both Illinois and New York State that basically doubled what he would have been fined. At the time we weren’t totally organized, so nothing really came of it at Tribunal, but he sent a message to everyone that he’d rather pay a fortune than lose an employee. By not paying her maker he made a point that his staff owe loyalty to him and leaving him was not an option.”

Eric ran his hand through his hair. “So losing an asset, like I’m sure he would consider David, in his stable would be quite a blow. He sent me a sign to send him back, or else.”

“Why didn’t he just kill him?” I asked.

“He respects Eric too much. He couldn’t risk killing anyone else in the attack,” Bill answered.

Eric stood, “I believe I must speak to David myself. Pam, I will see you tomorrow night at the bar. Bill, please continue to research Gill’s business practices. I’m intrigued that none of us have heard about this before.” They both nodded and gathered their things to leave. Seamus stood and began to follow them. “Irish, it will be good to have you around again.”

Seamus gave a little salute and headed out.

“Eric…” I started.

“Yes, Lover. I will need to speak to him alone. Vampires are not modest by any means, but I will not ask him to speak the details to anyone else.”

I unpacked and checked my e-mail while Eric went outside. I glanced out the window and saw them throwing a tennis ball for Thor. I hoped Eric was not too hard on David and that we could find some way to help. What had been done to him was inexcusable.

I was tired and really glad to be home. I wandered into the bathroom, the hotel had been nice, but there was nothing like the shower here. I turned on the water for a long, hot shower. About half-way through, I felt Eric coming closer. I took my time shaving and using my shower puff to scrub, but he never joined me. When I was finished, Eric helped me out of the shower and wrapped me in a lush black towel.

“You okay?”

“Fine. Come, I’ll brush your hair while you put on the lotion I like.”

It was his way of saying he wasn’t ready to talk about it. He seemed calm through the bond, but I could sense he was deep in thought. He led me to the bed and began brushing my hair after he towel dried it. I was totally relaxed and just enjoying the feel of the brush on my scalp as I rubbed lotion on my legs and arms.

When he finished, he put his arms around me with a sigh. “It is as you thought. He was used to entertain Gill’s wealthy clients for years.”

“Is there anyway to help him? We can’t send him back.”

“There are still some things I need to know before I make definitive plans.”

“Like what?”

“I need to find out more about Gill’s business practices, and I need to find David’s maker. I have several ideas, but I will not risk harm coming to my people.” He kissed the top of my head. “I don’t want to think about it anymore tonight. Let’s sleep. I need to hear your heartbeat and clear my head.”

I sighed and let him pull us up the bed to stretch out. I loved that the sound of my heart and breathing were relaxing to him. He said it reminded him of the rhythmic sound of waves. Sleeping with him was always better for me as well. The feel of his thumb rubbing small circles on my skin and the weight of his chest against my back relaxed me and put me at ease.

“Thank you,” I whispered as my eyes grew heavy.

“For what?”

“For letting me be involved in something you would have kept me from before.”

“We walk together now, Sookie. I meant that.”

“Together,” I sighed, drifting off, but before I fell asleep I thought I heard him repeat the word back to me as well.

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