I put my ‘shields’ back on before facing the Inquisition.
”Where the hell have you been, Sook? You should have been here two hours ago!”
”Relax, Jason. I got lost. Took the wrong exit.”
”Jason, dear, why don’t you go grab your sister’s luggage?”
Thank God for Gran. Reluctantly Jason went outside and let out a gasp at the view of my rental.
”Great car, sis. Let me guess, one of His?”
”No, but I’m pretty sure He’s the one who arranged for it.”
Of course He had arranged for it. It was a brand new cherry red Corvette C6 ZR1, too flashy for my taste and with not enough trunk load. Gran grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me what could only be described as a bear hug.
”My little Sookie… It’s so good to have you with us. I was so worried about you, all alone in that big city. ”
I laughed. ”Do I have to remind you that I was born and raised in that big city, Gran? You should worry more about me getting lost on the roads of Northern Louisiana.”
”Pish posh. Now, you must be hungry? I’m pretty sure those airlines lunch are not worth good old fashioned Southern comfort food. Tell me, what would you like me to cook you?”
”Don’t trouble yourself, Gran. How about we eat out tonight? No cooking, no cleaning?”
Jason dropped my two pieces of luggage down by the stairs and quickly nodded.
”How ’bout we all go to Merlotte’s?”
”Merlotte’s?” I asked.
”That’s a nice bar and grill, about 10 minutes drive from here, dear” explained Gran. ”That’s where Tara Thornton and her cousin works. You remember Tara, right Sookie? You two used to always play together when you came down for the summer.”
Of course I remembered Tara, albeit it had been probably nearly 15 years since I last saw her.
”Well she’s a barmaid there and her cousin Lafayette is a cook.”
I frowned. ”Lafayette? I don’t think I remember him.”
”You might not. He was never in Bon Temps during the summer. Oh and I have to tell you, before you met him… He is… Young Lafayette is quite… flamboyant, if you know what I mean. But he’s a real sweetheart, you’ll see.”
Gran went to grab her purse and keys while Jason whispered in my ear.
”Flamboyant is code word for gay. And Lafayette is as gay as a fairy. Always trying to hit on me.”
”Jason! Not all fairies are gay!”
We were interrupted by Gran, who had apparently had enough time to changed into one of her the dress she always wear to her Descendants of the Glorious Dead meetings. I looked at Jason in his sport jacket and at myself in a pair Daisy Dukes and white blouse. I clearly was underdressed or they both were overdress.
”Oh, Gran… Let me change real quick, will you?”
”Why? You are perfect like that, sweetie. Come on, I’m sure you are starving.”
We pilled up into Jason Escalade, Gran riding shotgun and me sitting in the back.
”That bar and grill… You said it was called Merlotte’s, right Gran?” She nodded. ”Would it belong to a Samuel Merlotte by any chance?”
”It sure does, Sam Merlotte moved down to Bon Temps a couple of years ago. He owns several houses as well. Why?”
”I want to kill two birds with one stone. I need to speak to him about some properties He would like to acquire.”
Gran frowned. ”Did you know about it, Jason? I would thought He would have asked you, since you are already in the area. He sure didn’t told me when he came last Sunday for dinner.”
”Oh, yeah, didn’t you know Sook? He comes every Sunday night to have dinner with Gran” explained Jason, making air quote to dinner. ”It’s what I call their History Club meeting. But Mrs Fortenberry thinks He’s Gran’s suitor.”
”Jason Stackhouse! Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and stop spreading Maxine Fortenberry’s gossip. And for your information She comes too! We have amazing conversation about the evolution of fashion. She has such nice tastes!”
”You haven’t seen what She wears at work” muttered Jason under his breath.
A smile creeped on the corner of my mouth. I knew what he meant. I had seen what They both wore when they were on display at their bar and compared to the pink and pastel She normally wore off duty it was quite a contrast.
”Here we are!”
Merlotte’s Bar and Grill met my expectations. A Southern watering hole/family dinner. Several cars were parked and I checked my shields just in case. We were welcomed by a brunette waitress whose bored look vanished the moment she spotted Jason.
”Oh my God! That’s Jason Stackhouse! Yummy as hell… And loaded too. I mean he works for that Vamp and he’s a lawyer. If only I could get him into bed with me… A lawyer’s wife, I wouldn’t have to work in this damn shit hole. But who’s the blond bimbo? And why is he with his old hag of a grandmother…”
I put on my ‘Crazy Sookie’ smile, the one I wore when I was cross-examining an hostile witness. ”Hi, table for three, please.”
”Follow me” she said, quickly showing us to a booth.
She left us some menus before telling us our waitress would be with us in a moment.
”Do you know her, Jason?”
Looking up his menu, he simply said, ”That’s Dawn Green. She’s a regular at His bar. Saw her a couple of time when I was there for business. Apparently she’s quite the fangbanger.”
As soon as the word escaped his mouth, Gran’s hand stroked his.
”Don’t say that awful word, Jason Stackhouse. It’s not poor Dawn’s fault if she’s emotionally dependant.”
”Spending all her free time flirting and fu… and having sexual relations with vampires doesn’t really help with the emotional dependency, Gran.”
A thin red head came up to our table with a pen and a paper pad.
”Hiya Mrs Stackhouse! Haven’t seen you in awhile…”
”Good evening, Arlene dear. How are Coby and Lisa doing?”
”They’re doing great. René is watching them tonight…”
”Tell them I said hi. You know my grandson Jason, right?”
”Yeah, the lawyer from Shreveport, right?”
”And this young lady is his sister, my granddaughter Sookie. She just moved from Boston. Sookie dear, this is Arlene Fowler. I told you about her, I babysat her children from time to time.”
”Oh, yes. Gran keeps praising how well behave they are.”
I also remembered how she told me the poor woman had been married three times already and was heading to her fourth husband.
”Well, what can I bring you tonight?”
After some suggestion from Gran and Jason I opted for a glass of Sweet Tea and Merlotte’s famous Lafayette’s Burger.
”I’ll be back with your orders shortly.”
I looked around the establishment, looking for Sam Merlotte. I had been given some basic information about him, but not a lot. After excusing myself I went to the bar where an African-American woman was mixing drinks.
”Good evening… You’re Tara, right? Tara Thornton?”
”Depend who’s askin’… And you are?”
Wow, rude. And here I thought all girls who had grown up in the South were supposed to be nice, sweet Southern Belle type.
”I don’t know if you remember me, I’m Sookie Stackhouse, Adele Stackhouse’s granddaughter. I just moved here from Boston.”
With a rise eyebrow Tara said. ”Oh, yeah. The girl from the North. Welcome to Bon Temps, I guess.”
”Thank you. Could it be possible to speak to Mr Merlotte?”
”SAM!” she yelled toward the back of the bar.
A second later a man appeared, clearly annoyed. ”What the hell Tara! Don’t yell in front of the clients!”
”Well if you’d spent more time behind the bar, I wouldn’t have to yell. Here, someone’s asking for you. I’m taking my break.”
And with that she left.
”But you just took a break 20 minutes ago…”
Sam Merlotte was 5’10 with light brown hair and blue eyes. So definitely not my type. But then again I didn’t really have a type, more like an ideal. He went behind the bar and looked at me curiously.
”Hope she’s looking for a job… She’d look great in the uniform… What the… She reeks of fangers! God, I better not hire her. One fangbanger on the payroll is enough…”
”No need to resort to name calling, Shifter.”
The moment the word shifter escaped my lips he grabbed me by the arms and pushed me toward what I soon discover was his office.
”Who the hell are you?!”
I rolled my eyes. ”My name is Sookie Stackhouse, Shifter. I’m a lawyer for AIK, I’m here to talk to you about a plot of land you own that my client would like to acquire. Oh and unlike that waitress you’re lusting after, I am NOT a fangbanger.”
My little speech left him, well speechless.
”Now, can we sit and talk about my business proposal? Or do you need time to recover?”
”What the hell is she? Stackhouse… Could she be related to Mrs Stackhouse…”
”Yes, I’m Adele Stackhouse’s granddaughter. And I’m a lawyer. Oh and a telepath.”
”A telepath? What…”
”Don’t look so surprised. You’re a shifter, Vampires came out of the coffin a couple of years ago, I’m pretty sure you’re aware there are Weres so a telepath? No big deal.”
”She says she’s no fangbanger… But the smell…”
I sighed. ”Look, I smell like vamps because I work for vampires. Working for them doesn’t automatically make me a fangbanger. I knew you were quite narrow minded in the South, but come on! You’re a shifter! You shift into any animal you wants, that’s even creepier. You can shift into a cat or a dog and play Peeping Tom. I’m pretty sure you’ve already done it with that Dawn girl…”
”Stay out of my head!”
I smiled. I was having so much fun. I searched through my purse and handed him one of my business card.
”Call me when you’ll recover so we can talk about my proposal. My client is ready to offer you more than three times what the municipal evaluation is for the land between your bar and the lake. Think about it.”
When I went back to our table our meals were there and I was surprised by the amount of people surrounding it. Seems like Gran was quite the popular person.
”And here she is! Come here, Sookie dear, I’d like to introduce you to some people, even though you met them all those years ago. This is Bud Dearborn, our sheriff, Andy Bellefleur, one of our detective, and of course you remember Maxine Fortenberry and her son Hoyt.”
I politely nodded, even though I didn’t really remember any of them.
”And this is my granddaughter, Sookie. She just finished Law School and moved to Bon Temps.”
”Nice to meet you all.”
I lowered my shields a little, like I always did when meeting new people.
”A lawyer… I wonder if she’ll go work for the County DA. Adele is an old friend, I’m sure I’d be real good to have someone to trust in the DA office.”
”A lawyer?” asked Detective Bellefleur. ”My sister Portia’s a lawyer too. Got her office in town. She might be able to hire you if you’re lookin’ for somethin’. She went to Tulane.”
”Thank you very much, Detective Bellefleur, but that won’t be necessary. Jason and I inherited our father’s firm which is why I moved to Louisiana. Almost all our clients are in Shreveport. Oh and Tulane seems like a great university, it’s in New Orleans, right?”
”Yeah. And you? Where did you go?”
”Same as Jason, Harvard.”
”How in hell could the Stackhouses afford to send two kids to some fancy pants university?”
I tried not to react too much at what Mrs Fortenberry was thinking.
”Harvard, you say? Are you like old man Compton, Adele? Hiding away a fortune and living like a church mouse?”
Gran frowned at her ‘friend’.
”Maxine Fortenberry! How dare you talk about the dead like that! Jessie Compton might have been a miser, but it’s no excuse to speak of him like that now that he’s not here anymore to defend himself! ”
”And for your information, Mrs Fortenberry, both Sookie’s and my scholarship to Harvard were paid in part by our firm’s client. They wanted to best and did what they had to do to get the best.”
In that one moment I was so proud of my brother. At first glance you would take him for a lazy, good-for-nothing type of guy, but it was all a facade.
”See Hoyt, that’s what happened when kids are raised by single father in big horrible cities like Boston! No respect at all! You should be ashamed of your grandkids, Adele Stackhouse!”
Hoyt apologetically looked at Gran before following his mother back to their table. It was kinda odd to see a grown man close to Jason’s age act like a scared little boy next to his mother. Sheriff Dearborn and Detective Bellefleur quickly excused themselves leaving us three Stackhouses alone.
”Wow” I said. ”That woman is something!”
”Don’t judge her too hard, Sookie dear. Maxine Fortenberry didn’t have an easy life, you know.”
”Easy life or not, Gran, it’s no excuse to treat you like that! And have you seen how she treats her son? How old is he, anyway?”
”Same age as me, Sook. But he’s still living with his Mama and he lets her treat him like sh… like dirt.”
Gran sighed. ”So, how did it go with Sam Merlotte, Sookie? You weren’t gone that long…”
I thought for a second about what to say to Gran. Was I going to out Merlotte to her? Why not, she was quite open minded. She had taken the Great Revelation quite well, becoming fast friend with Them.
”It didn’t go well. I dropped my shields down a little and what I heard didn’t please me. First he thought I was applying for a job, then my smell repelled him. Started thinking I was a fangbanger.”
”He’s a shifter, Gran. Kinda like Werewolf, except he can shift into any animals. From the information I received he seems to favoured dogs.”
Anybody else would have freaked out at this revelation, but not Gran.
”I knew there was something fishy about him! Hey, is it why He asked me to keep an eye on him?”
”Gran? Something to say?”
She took a sip of her sweet tea and just sighed.
”Nothing surprises me anymore, sweetie.”
Jason and I both burst in laugh. We continue our dinner without any other interruption and left after paying and leaving quite an hefty tip to Arlene. We were heading toward Jason’s SUV when my cell phone beeped, alerting me of an incoming text message.
Hope you had a safe flight.
Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night.
PS Hope you liked your car
”Work?” asked Gran.
I smiled. ”Yeah. Guess work is really starting tomorrow night.”