Terry took a quick look at the dining room through the serving window at Merlotte’s. It was hot as balls back in the kitchen, but from the twin peaks poking out of Holly’s shirt, you could tell Sam had the air conditioning cranked in the dining room.
He dropped some chicken fried steak another batch of fries in the hot grease before turning to get another look at his wife, Arlene. Damn, he still liked the sound of that. He was a lucky man. She was a beautiful, kind woman. And she was smart; he thought so anyway. She was trouble though, that was for sure. She’d been through a lot. Married four times before she agreed to marry him, and now there was the baby. Her other kids were older and Mikey seemed to really be stressing her out. She had gotten some crazy ideas in her head that the baby was evil or possessed by her dead husband Reneé, but everything he read on the Google said that women were pretty hormonal for the whole first year after they had a baby. He figured she’d calm down after a while.
Arlene had baby Mikey in a carrier on her chest as she waited tables. They couldn’t really afford a sitter so when they both had to work she just brought the baby with her to the restaurant. So far Sam hadn’t complained, but there was that one day when he’d called her a redneck breeding machine, but he hadn’t really been himself that day.
“Terry!” Arlene barked at him though the window before she dinged the ‘order-up’ bell at him.
“What? Jesus. Tits. America. You scared me! You know not to sneak up on me, baby. You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you.”
Terry suffered from PTSD after his time in the Gulf War. He’d been known to drop to the floor when he heard a car backfire, and he sometimes got a little lost staring into the blades of the ceiling fan, but he didn’t carry a gun, so Arlene knew he was full of shit.
Arlene rolled her eyes at the ridiculous phrase Terry had picked up from Andy recently. “I need that chicken fried steak for Mrs. Fortenberry. She’s gettin’ fidgity and I’m afraid she’s gonna eat the baby.”
“Comin’ up, Sugar.” He pulled the baskets out of the fryer and shook the grease off, waiting a few seconds before dumping them each onto a plate. Slopping a scoop of coleslaw beside the steak and fries, he took the dish to the counter, but held it just out of his wife’s reach. “Give me some lovin’,” he teased.
“Terry! Not now!” she huffed, irritated.
“Aw, come on, baby.” He’d been watching her for hours and just needed a little kiss.
“Don’t ‘baby’ me. I’ve been on my feet over four hours lugging this baby around and my boobs are leaky. Give me the meat, Terry, now.”
He was properly chagrined as he lowered his eyes and handed her the plate. “Sorry, baby.”
“Hmph. You can make it up to me later,” she muttered as she walked away, her hips swinging and gum smacking. Baby Mikey was asleep, his little face buried between her leaky breasts.
The remainder of the lunch rush passed without incident. Arlene was refilling salt shakers after finally getting Mikey to play quietly in his pack ‘n’ play with his baby doll. She didn’t know what it was about that scary doll that calmed him down, but it did.
Andy Bellefleur wandered in, hitching up his pants and heading straight to the window to the kitchen.
“Terry,” his gruff voice called. “You got my steak ready? I don’t have much time. Gotta get back out on patrol, you know?”
Arlene knew there wasn’t that much to patrol in the Bon Temps area and something had been off with Andy lately anyway. He’d been twitchy and moody, even treated Holly all weird giving her mixed signals when he showed up then ran out on their lunch date.
“Sure thing, Andy,” Terry answered him with a nod. “I made it how you asked, but I thought you liked your steaks well done. When’d you start liking it so rare?”
He bristled at his cousin’s questions. “I don’t know. Just tried it one time and liked it. What do you care?”
“Don’t care really. Just observing. I’m good at that, you know? Did a lot of that in the war…”
Terry’s eyes clouded over a bit and he got lost in his head. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed before he turned to make his way out of the kitchen towards the store room. Andy felt bad that he’d somehow pushed his cousin back into his painful memories, but before he could call out to Terry, his harpy wife started yelling.
“Damn it,” Arlene snapped. “Now look what you’ve done, Andy. It’s been hard for him having to live in your granny’s house since the fire. Too much change. Why’d you have to stir him up? You know better.”
“This ain’t my fault,” he muttered, then spoke a little louder. “Get off my back, Arlene. Getting mixed up with you has him all screwed up; don’t you go blaming it on me.”
The baby started crying and Arlene scooped him up to hold him on her hip. She rubbed Mikey’s back as she raised an eyebrow at Andy and unloaded weeks, maybe months, of frustration on him.
“You listen here, mister. I don’t know what’s going on with you but you ain’t been right. What the hell was with how you treated Holly the other day? You took her flowers with you when you ran out on her – how could you do that? How dare you hurt her feelings like that. You’ve never been a mean person, but that was downright nasty. Now you’re questioning Terry when all he did was ask you a question? You should be ashamed…”
He heard her voice continuing with her tirade, but the words didn’t register anymore. The thoughts in his head drowned her out as they screamed at him to get her to shut up so he could eat his food and go find some V. He knew he was running out of time before the real withdrawal set in and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
His thoughts moved to figuring out how to get his hands on more vampire blood and he almost smiled when he thought about killing two birds with one stone. Literally. He could use Arlene’s dumb ass to bait a trap to catch his own vampire to drain. Well, not drain, just siphon. He imagined letting the vampire feed off of the skanky redhead so they’d be nice and full. Since figured that vampires got sleepy when they were full like humans, that would be his opportunity to pounce. He’d gotten some of that liquid silver and figured he’d spray the vampire’s eyes so they couldn’t I.D. him, then he’d take enough blood to get him through til he could find another dealer. Maybe in Shreveport. Or Dallas. He might have to go a little farther to buy his V so the local vampires didn’t find out what he was up to.
Shaking his head, he realized Arlene was still bitching him out. He looked in the kitchen, but Terry was still off getting his head together. He mumbled something at Arlene that could have been “whatever” or “what the fuck,” she wasn’t really sure, before turning on his heel and leaving the bar. He had shit to do and a habit to feed.
Five hours later…
“Terry will be better off without her,” Andy justified to himself as he waited in the bushes for Arlene to leave Merlotte’s. He knew his cousin would be there for at least another hour cleaning the fat traps, and that Arlene had already insisted that he hold onto Mikey while she had some time on her own. She really wasn’t much of a mother. Andy had seen that with her older kids during that weird time in the town that no one quite remembered. Andy knew that their MeeMaw Bellefleur would help Terry raise Mikey once she was gone and at least he would have a shot at a better life.
He was practically a social worker, helping out like he was.
Arlene, as predicted, huffed out of Merlotte’s around nine, and Andy was ready for her. She shrieked as he jumped out of the bushes, rope in hand.
“Christ on a cracker, Andy, you scared the Jesus right out of me,” she choked out, once she calmed down. “What the hell are you doin’ out here in the bushes?”
“You’re going to come with me, Arlene. I…I have some work for you.”
“I just worked a double, Andy. Last thing I’m interested in is more work.” She put her hands on her hips. “I just want to take a load off for an hour until I’ve gotta put Mikey and the other kids to bed. That little bugger is heavy.”
Andy knew it was now or never. He grabbed the redhead and clamped his hand over her mouth. “My cousin’s way too good for the likes of you. He’s too damn nice, stickin’ with you when that baby that ain’t even his.”
Arlene tried to scream from under his hand, but to no avail. Even though Andy was going through heavy withdrawal, he was still much stronger than her. He dragged her off to his cop car, tying a blindfold on her, before tossing her in the trunk. He drove off towards the pond near the Stackhouse property; he always felt like there was something off around that place. Lately it was like it was a portal to hell or another world.
He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the car, cutting her leg open as she scraped along the housing for the taillights. Pursing his lips, he nodded. That’d work. He wouldn’t have too hurt her himself if she was already bleeding. He pulled her the rest of the way out of the car, not being to careful about it, and she cursed at him for tearing up her favorite jeans. He pulled the blindfold down and tied it around her mouth like a gag to get her to shut up.
Walking down towards the pond, he carried Arlene over his shoulder while she kicked at him and tried to scream. He tied her hands behind her back and sat her down, leaning her back against a tree, then he tied her to it. Mumbling to himself, he set out a bear trap that he hoped would snag a vampire when it was drawn to Arlene’s bloody gash. Heading back to into the trees, he used a broken branch to brush away his footprints and sprayed some C’Mere Deer he used for hunting to cover his scent. He tucked himself behind a tree, used to sitting in a deer blind or at the occasional stakeout or roadblock, waiting for a vampire to come for the dumb bitch moaning and bleeding. He started to get fidgity after about five minutes and he blamed it on the damn V. That shit was really doing a number on him. His mouth watered at the thought of getting his hands on more.
The snapping of a twig brought his head up and a blur of motion moved through the woods before stopping next to Arlene. A young looking male vampire squatted next to her, eying her injuries and her predicament. Andy had never seen the vamp before, but that didn’t really mean anything, he just hoped the fucker was hungry.
The vampire looked around, as if trying to sense if anyone else was around. Andy did an internal fist-pump at the thought that his C’Mere Deer had fooled the vamp. But his celebration was too soon. The fanger turned his head towards Andy’s hiding spot, narrowed his eyes and growled before taking off at vampire speed back the he’d come from.
Shit. Fuck. Double Damn. What now? Andy banged his head against the tree trunk so hard that he was going to have a goose egg and Arlene continued to writhe around and moan. He debated going up there and kicking the cut on her leg to start the bleeding again, but he heard the sounds of a car coming up the old two track towards him. It was driving too fast for the rutted road, coming quick and then screeching to a halt. He was about to bolt when he heard a voice calling out for them.
“Andy! Arlene! I know you’re here!”
Terry was heading home and had just locked up the bar when he noticed something shiny in the parking lot.
His heart fell when he saw what they were. Arlene’s keys. He looked back into the darkness and saw her car parked there. He clutched Mikey close. “We’ll find her, buddy. We’ve just gotta. I can’t raise all you kids and Felix on my own.”
Mikey gurgled up at him, his tiny mouth wobbling. Terry knew that face. He was hungry.
Terry took a few deep breaths and then did what he knew was right. He called the police. While he was waiting for them, he sat on the steps at Merlotte’s, head in his hands, worried that the one person who had halfway accepted him was gone forever.
“What’s goin’ on, Terry?” Holly questioned as she sat beside him. Merlotte’s didn’t have a sous-chef, so each night one of the waitresses had to do some prep-work in the kitchen for the following day. It had been Holly’s turn that night. “You look like someone killed Felix.”
“I think Arlene’s been taken,” he sobbed, unable to hold in the tears any longer.
“Arlene’s been taken?” Jason Stackhouse asked, overhearing the conversation as he walked up the steps. “I couldn’t tell what you were sayin’ on the phone.”
“Who would have taken her, Terry?” Holly questioned. “Did she have any enemies?”
Jason and Terry snorted at the same time but Terry spoke first. “Sure, she pissed off lots of customers and she has three ex-husbands that’re still alive, but ain’t nobody wants her dead or nothin like that.”
Jason looked thoughtful. “She has been kind noisy about how she doesn’t like vampires.”
Terry’s eyes, full of fear, shot to Jason’s. “You think the vampires took her? Oh no. Oh no. What am I gonna do?”
“Hey now, sweetie. No need jumping to conclusions,” Holly tried to calm him. “Right, Jason? We don’t know what happened. Maybe she went home with someone else and they’re gonna drop her back off here. Did you call her cell phone?”
“We’re out of minutes,” Terry said sadly. He was starting to think dark and twisted, worried thoughts. What could have happened to Arlene?
Mikey started to cry and from the way Terry started to twitch, Holly knew she needed to take the baby inside and find him something to eat. She grabbed the diaper bag next to Terry and patted his shoulder. “It’ll be all right, sugar. You just let me take care of Mikey here for a minute and get your head together.”
While she heated water for his bottle, she changed the baby’s diaper real quick, knowing he’d be out like a light after eating. She took the bottle out of the hot water bath and tested the temperature on the inside of her wrist before settling down at the bar. Mikey took to the bottle right away and settled down, blissfully closing his eyes as he drank in big gulps.
Jason wandered in and gave her an sheepish look. “I’m just gonna use the phone in here. Andy ain’t answering on the cell phone.”
She didn’t want to tell him that his logic was seriously flawed, so she kept her mouth shut and nodded politely.
He had his back to her, speaking quickly and what she supposed he thought was quietly, to leave a voice-mail. “Andy, it’s Jason. I need your help, man. We got what’s gonna be a missin’ persons case if Arlene don’t turn up. Damn, man, where you at? You better not be out all messed up on V again or off somewhere trying to get more. I told you you gotta get your shit together with that. It’s bad news, bro. All right. Call me back. Maybe I’ll go try to get you on the police radio. Um. Okay. Bye.”
Jason smiled at Holly and headed back outside, oblivious to the surprise in her eyes.
Andy was on V? That explained a lot. Holly thought about the way he’d acted when he showed up for their lunch date and the things people had been saying about his sloppy appearance and mood swings. She’d seen addicts in her life, and when she put the pieces together, everything fit for Andy. She shook her head, chastising herself for worrying about Andy and how he got his fix when Arlene could be missing.
Suddenly, it was if all of the thoughts in her head lined up on a grid and came together to make a perfect line. She looked down and Mikey was asleep, occasionally taking a suck from the bottle. She pulled it away and watched him for a few more seconds, making sure he was really sleeping, then put him down in the pack ‘n’ play.
When she stepped outside Terry was still sitting on the stoop, his head in his hands, while Jason was next to the police cruiser, trying to raise Andy on the radio. She told Terry the baby was sleeping and made her way to the car. Both men were too distracted to realize she was leaving.
Once she got out onto the main road, she wondered where Andy could have taken Arlene and how he would use her to get V, because she was sure that’s what this was all about. It was a full moon and vampires would be out and about, but she didn’t know where to find any. Sookie would. There were always vampires around her.
That was it. There were always vampires around her. And her home. Holly whipped the car around and made her way towards Hummingbird Lane. She was glad that she’d gone with Sam to check the house after Sookie first disappeared so she knew where it was. She was about to turn into the driveway when she had a thought; he wouldn’t take Arlene to the house. He’d go somewhere more secluded…
She saw another driveway beyond the nice one with all the new gravel and headed for that one. It was more of a two-track, over grown with weeds, but the plants were crushed and it was obvious that someone had recently driven over the path. There was a ‘No Trespassing – Stackhouse Property’ sign and Holly knew that she’d chosen the right drive.
She drove a little faster, her imagination getting the best of her as she worried about both Andy and Arlene. Pulling up behind Andy’s cruiser, she slammed the car in park and jumped out. Making her way down the trail towards the pond, she called out for them.
“Andy! Arlene! I know you’re here!”
Up ahead she heard some moaning and saw Arlene tied to a tree just off the walkway. Holly cringed inside. Jason had been right. Andy was doin’ V and he was not playing with a full deck as of late.
Holly approached them cautiously, and put her hands out in front of her. “Now Andy, you don’t want to do this. Step away from her, and we can all go home. None of us have been ourselves lately.”
Andy looked at her, his face wild. “Holly, now don’t you get involved with this.”
Holly winced. “Andy, I know I don’t know you very well, but people in this town, they like you, and I know they don’t think you’re capable of this. Once you do it, there’s no turning back. She’s a mother, with kids who need her, a husband who needs her. Come on now. I know you’re messed up. Lord knows, we’ve all been a little messed up from time to time, but don’t do this. You’ll ruin your life and hers.”
“What kind of life do I have? I live with my grandma and I’m an addict. What do you care anyway,” he grumbled.
“Oh, Andy,” she sighed, feeling sad for how defeated he sounded. “You’re just mixed up. You’ve got plenty to live for. You’ve got lots of friends and the town needs you. Sheriff Dearborn is full on retired, you can’t leave the town to Jason to protect. He’s a sweet boy, but he just doesn’t have what it takes.”
Andy smirked at her comment about Jason. “He ain’t that bright; that’s for sure. He’s a good kid though.”
“And you could help him be a good police officer, Andy,” she met his eyes, “but not if you go through with this.”
“Aw, hell. You’re probably right but Arlene ain’t never gonna keep quiet. I’m probably going to jail over this anyway.”
“You let me worry about that,” she said quietly. She knew a spell or two that would help Arlene forgive him and forget the time she’d spent tied to the tree. “Why don’t you go sit in the car and I’ll go get Arlene untied?”
He nodded, glad she had a plan because his brain was too exhausted to come up with one. He supposed that’s how he ended up in this situation to begin with.
A few minutes later, Holly knocked on the window of Andy’s cruiser, startling him. “She’s in the car. I need you to put in a radio call to make sure Jason’s not still at Merlotte’s.”
“Yeah, okay. I can do that,” he said with a nod. As he followed Holly’s car to the main road, he used the radio and called Jason, telling the rookie to meet him at the strip club in Monroe because someone had called in a tip Arlene was there. He knew Jason would get distracted there and be gone for a few hours.
They pulled around the back of the bar and Terry ran over to meet them.
“Arlene? Oh, baby! I was so worried! Are you okay?” he asked, pulling his wife into his arms.
“I’m okay,” she said weakly. “I’m real tired. I went for a little walk, you know for a little alone time. I knew as soon as I got home the kids would be chattering and pulling at my shirt and I just couldn’t take it today, but then I got lost.I don’t know what happened… I must have tripped or something.”
“I think she hit her head,” Holly added.
“I must have,” Arlene agreed. “And I scratched myself on something. I should have known better than to walk through the woods. Me and mother nature don’t really get along.”
Andy snorted and Terry hugged his wife ferociously as they made their way into the bar.
“You’re sure you’re all right?” Terry asked again as he rubbed a hand over her hair, it had some twigs in it and her eye make-up was streaked from crying.
She glanced around at the three of them them looking so worried about her, and she couldn’t take it anymore. She wasn’t all right.
“I never wanted a storyline of my own,” Arlene sobbed, as Terry stroked her back to comfort her. “I just want to raise my kids with the man I love, work at my job, maybe raise a little hell on my days off. I’m not Sookie Stackhouse, runnin’ off with vampires or hearin’ people’s thoughts. I never wanted any of this. Once Reneé died, I…just wanted a bit of peace.”
Holly nodded. “And you can have that now. Go on, live your quiet little life. You can pop back in now and then and throw a bigoted line in here or there like you were meant to do, but you’ll never again have to deal with likes of fuckery like this.”
Terry nodded. “I need your help raisin’ the kids and Felix. I don’t want him doin’ nothing to take you away from me.”
“He can’t hurt you now,” Holly added. “I put a very powerful third tier character spell on both of you. You’ll be a part of the background forever, destined to remind Sookie that people aren’t to be trusted.”
“I’m just fine with that,” Arlene sniffed. ” We we never meant to be lead characters. I don’t like all that supernatural mumbo jumbo. Me and Terry just want to be left alone.”
Holly nodded. “Exactly. You hate that supernatural mumbo jumbo. That’s all you need to remember. Andy?” Holly glanced over at the rather broken man sitting at the bar. “You need to dispose of that doll. There’s something not right about it.”
Both Arlene and Terry agreed, things hadn’t been right since he came to town, but their lives had gotten even worse since that damn scary doll had shown up.
Andy lifted his head from his hands, and his sad eyes met Holly’s. “Will you come with me?”
She gave him a knowing grin. “I sure will.”
It was three in the morning, the witching hour for those that believed in such things, when Holly and Andy drove back out to the lake at the old Stackhouse property, the doll that had caused all this mess safely secured in a vat of fryer oil in the trunk of his squad car.
“Andy, you need to get some help for your V-addiction. I think you’re a great guy, and you know, I’d like to get to know you better, but I’ve seen what vampires and addiction can do to people, and I can’t get swept into that world again.” Her eyes met his. “Would you do it for me?”
Andy looked into Holly’s pretty eyes. He’d liked her for weeks, which was practically an eternity in True Blood time. “Yeah, I think I could give that a shot.”
“I know of a good place in Shreveport that would be able to fix you right up,” Holly said with a grin, patting his shoulder. “It’ll be good, you getting clean.”
Andy nodded, as he knew she was right. “Let’s get rid of this fucked up doll.”
The two of them lifted the vat from the trunk and carried to the lake, both unconcerned with the environmental ramifications of what they were doing. They both gasped when the ghost of a young black woman appeared in front of them.
“No,” she wept. “Where’s my bébé?”
“He’s not your baby,” Holly said, matter of fact. “Your baby died a long time ago, just like you. Now go in peace, ya hear?”
“I want my bébé!” The woman screamed from the middle of the lake. “My bébé!”
Holly muttered some things in a language that Andy didn’t understand, and the woman slowly began to fade into the lake, her screams becoming muted and finally silenced.
“Some of them don’t go easy,” Holly said, shaking her head. “She was a very powerful spirit.”
“How do you know all about this stuff?” Andy asked curiously.
“Let’s save some chitchat for our first real date,” Holly said, patting his arm.
The two of them trudged back through the woods, but were distracted by some moaning off in the distance.
“We should go investigate,” Andy said begrudgingly. “If not, I’ll likely just have to deal with it tomorrow.”
Holly nodded. “It’s the right thing to do, really.”
They walked toward the noises, and it was soon apparent that there were at least two of whatever were moaning and panting, and from the trail of clothing and undergarments that began to appear, it quickly became obvious that the moans were sexual.
“Shit. Sounds like some couple’s just out here fucking.” Andy knew that stranger things had happened in these woods.
Holly shook her head. “He could be rapin’ her. We have to make sure.”
Andy shrugged. “All right. We’ll check it out then.”
As they approached, they saw two figures moving against each pressed up against a big tree, Andy raised an eyebrow as he recognized Jason’s sister Sookie, who was a known fangbanger. He resisted the urge to charge in and bite the big vamp’s leg, knowing that Holly most certainly wouldn’t approve, and the vamp would probably kill him for trying.
“Is that Sookie…and that blond vampire that attacked Marnie?” Holly whispered. “Holy shit. He’s got her up against a tree.”
“We could go help her,” Andy said, peering into the darkness, wondering if there would be any way a few drops of some vamp fluid would make his way into his mouth if they interrupted. They both watched for a little too long as Eric ravaged Sookie, both of them unconcerned with the world around them.
Holly shook her head. “I don’t think she wants our help. Looks like she’s enjoyin’ it.”
Andy nodded. “I heard sex on V is amazing…”
“No,” Holly said bluntly, punching his arm. “You’re going to clean up your act, mister, and then we’ll talk. Now let’s get out of here before they notice us.”
They got back into the car and headed into Bon Temps. She put her hand over Andy’s on the seat and he gave her a knowing smile. She’d stopped him from majorly fucking up in the woods, saving his life in more ways than one.
The night was quiet as they left the woods behind them, but Holly’s spell over the lake made it churn strangely in the middle, the ripples reaching all the way to the shore.
She could never have known what she stirred up.