“I will not allow Sookie to be placed in the center of danger,” Bill said in his smooth southern accent. “She will stay in Bon Temps where she will be safe.”
Sometimes I wondered if I should have left him out of the discussion. “First of all, Bill, Sookie is well aware of the plan and on board. Second of all, I know you have issues with Eric, but if you’re not on the team you are welcome to trot your happy little ass back out the door.” I raised my eyebrows at him in an unspoken question. “No? Okay then, back to business. Quinn, you’re the one planning this event so you will have the best chance of getting everyone in place. You prepared to play secret agent man?”
Quinn leaned back in the booth sideways, his long jean-clad legs crossed at the ankles, utterly at home in the middle of Fangtasia. “Don’t you know it babe. I owe Eric, so I’m definitely in. We’re a small group, but fierce. Since none of you will be able to carry inside the compound, I will greet each of you during the event to inform you where the weapons are hidden. Don’t worry, there’ll be enough for everyone, and then some,” He chuckled and was about to go on when the front door opened and a tiny vampire with black and red spikey hair bounced in.
“Sign on the door says closed. Are you unable to read or is it just past your bedtime young lady?” I strode across the room and the woman’s laugh echoed with joy and mayhem. Don’t ask me how she did it, but it was impressive none the less. Thalia and Palomino were already on their feet, hands at their weapons. Quinn and Bill tensed, but remained seated. Only Bubba was unfazed.
“Well, well, well. Eric didn’t warn me that the snark queen would bite my head off the moment I walked through the door. Hi Bubba!” She waved enthusiastically to the happy vampire and I froze in place, as did everyone else in the bar, well except Bubba. I was definitely confused.
“Hey Win, how ya doing? You made it to Oklahoma okay then?” Bubba bounded to his feet and walked over to embrace the newest addition to the vampire party. She smiled and hugged him back, Bubba lifting up her slight frame, her feet dangling and swinging back and forth.
Finally able to gather my words, it wasn’t often I found myself speechless, I asked, “Would either of you like to explain just what the hell is going on?” It took a moment for Bubba to set her back on her feet. “Sooner rather than after I rip her head off.”
“Oh chill out. You must be Pam. Eric sent me to check in with you. He was worried.” She leaned on the bar nonchalantly; head cocked to one side, and looked at me with a knowing grin. “Of course you are. You are exactly who he’d have as his number two. I’m Winifred. Eric saved my life once and I’m back to repay the favor. Looks like you all were having some kind of a party.”
“Well now, isn’t this a pleasant surprise. You have impeccable timing, so welcome. We were just planning our own rescue mission. Any way you can help with that?”
She walked behind the bar, grabbing a True Blood out of the fridge and popping it in the microwave. She was silent for the time it took to heat it up and came back around, and perched herself on a barstool.
“Well I don’t know much about his plan, other than what Bubba has told me: that is that he has other people on their way. So this small entourage, as well as his allies, stands a better chance working together. I don’t have much to add other than that, but I’m happy to pass along any plans we come up with here. There’s a human there who’s also helping him named Barry. He’s acting as a sort of go-between for Er’s people on the inside.”
I raised my eyebrows at her shortened use of his name. “It seems you know him pretty well then.”
“As I said, he saved my life, or at least my undead existence. We spent time together in Detroit in the 80’s, but I’ve been wandering since then. When Bubba found me in Chicago and told me he needed help, I dropped everything to do exactly that. Now, interestingly enough, I find myself here, amongst you all. Do you need to know if he has any birthmarks or is there some secret password Eric forgot to give me?” She crossed her legs, her fabulously clad foot tracing impatient circles in the air.
Ooooh she was good. “First of all, great boots.” She beamed at the compliment and waved her hand for me to continue. “Second of all, if you’re Team Eric then I should probably introduce you. Thalia is the woman with the dark wavy hair and the tan blond next to her is Palomino. They don’t say much, but they can kick your ass seven ways to Sunday. Bill is the glowering dark-haired fellow who never outgrew his accent or his manners.” Bill glared at me at my description of him, but I thought it was apt so I just smirked at him and continued, “You know Bubba already, obviously. But rounding out our little group, Mr. Tall, Bald, and Tattooed, is Quinn. He’s the one planning the Halloween party, so he’ll be another point of contact within the viper’s nest. After we finish up here I’ll take you to meet the other two members of our team: Sookie and Karin.”
“Er mentioned Karin, wanted me to get the skinny on her too, but he didn’t say anything about a Sookie. Is that her real name?”
“Unfortunately, yes. She’s the impetus for Eric’s rescue. Freyda broke her and Eric up when Appius forced the marriage and it caused some, how shall I put this… friction between the two of them. Though Bill disagrees, I really hope those two crazy kids get back together.”
“Though it was unexpected, I am glad to see that you guys seem to be doing the whole planning a liberation thing. So what exactly is the plan?”
I let Quinn take the floor and he laid everything out. The night went smoothly and I felt better knowing that we had another person on the inside. It would make it easier to get information to Eric before we stormed the fortress. I wouldn’t want to ruin any plans that he had simply because we were uniformed.
We finished up in a couple of hours and everyone broke up to go their separate ways. Thalia and Palomino stayed to open up the bar for the rest of the evening and I gathered up Bubba and led Winifred towards the vehicles. She drove a mustang and I told her to follow me out to Sookie’s house. It didn’t take long and I had to admit that I was interested to see what Sookie’s reaction would be to this little spitfire. I was betting that when she got past the whole knowing Eric thing, they’d adore each other.
“Winifred, I should warn you, Sookie can be a bit intense sometimes.” I only thought it fair to give her the heads up.
“Please, call me Win, everyone does. Winifred was my Gram’s name. I still can’t hear it without thinking about her. She passed a few years after I was changed. It was my disappearance that did it. I wish she would’ve been around when vampires went mainstream, but, well it didn’t work that way. And don’t worry about Sookie, if Eric loved her I’m sure I will too.”
I chuckled to myself. “Well, you’ll see, but I like her too if that counts for anything, she just takes a bit of getting used to, and Bubba is very protective of her too, just a warning.”
“Easy peasy. Done and done.” I shook my head and indicated that we should get on the road. I called Karin on the way, told her we’d be there shortly, and to expect two cars. We pulled into the driveway and up to Sookie’s house. The security light came on and Karin sauntered out of the woods behind to greet us.
“I let Sookie know that you were on your way, so she’s waiting for you in the house. These two must be Win and Bubba.” I nodded and she gave a cursory glance at the two of them. “How do we know she can be trusted?”
We crossed the yard and I explained the situation. Sookie greeted us, opening the door and grabbing Bubba in an excited hug.
“Bubba! It’s so good to see you again. You’re doing good?” Her smile was genuine though I could see her glancing in the direction of Win. This ought to prove interesting.
“Yes, Miss Sookie. I was on a mission for Mr. Eric,” he said proudly. “But he said I could visit with you after ‘cuz I missed you.” The smile on his face was genuine and I was glad of it.
“I missed you too Bubba. Hi Pam, you and Karin can come on in.” She stopped in front of Winifred, arms crossed over her ample chest. “But you…I don’t know you and I don’t know if I can trust you. Karin said you were coming, but how do I know you aren’t just here to spy for Freyda? Why should I give you permission to come into my house?”
I’ll give it to the littlest vampire, she didn’t even blink. “Because I’m here to help save Eric and since I can tell by your posture that you’re still quite in love with him, I’ll assure you that we’re not like that. He saved my life once. I owe him.” Sookie looked over her shoulder at me for acknowledgement. Finally, she was getting smarter.
“She’s on our side Sookie, you can give her permission to enter.” She stepped back into the house.
“Winifred, please come in.” She walked away from the door and, now that we were all inside, headed to the kitchen. “I heated up some True Blood for you all.”
We gathered in the living room and Sookie brought us the drinks. When she was seated I started to fill her in on the newest developments.
“Win here came to check in on us. She’s seen Eric in Oklahoma and let us know that he has people on the inside. She mentioned a human named Barry who’s also been helping him.”
“Barry the bellboy,” Sookie interrupted. “Skinny, brown hair?” She looked questioningly in Win’s direction.
“I don’t know about the bellboy part, but he fits that description. Freyda has him under her thumb there. Eric’s gonna give him his freedom if any of us survive. Which, with the addition of the group you guys have assembled, seems more likely.”
Sookie seemed agitated. “How did she get him? He was with Sam’s mom in Texas.”
“Guess he got snatched up when she was at work. We didn’t have much time to talk, but he gave me the little bit of info that he could. He seems pretty good all things considered.” Win took a sip of her True Blood and settled back against the chair that sat opposite Sookie.
“Well he better be. Man, I’m gonna kill Freyda twice for this.”
“Hold on now tiger, Freyda is Eric’s, he made me promise. Besides, no offense, you’re human, there isn’t much you can do to her.” Win stared directly at Sookie, daring her to argue.
“Eric is mine. Don’t you think otherwise.” Sookie began to stand and I put my hand on her arm to calm her. Bubba had started off the floor where he sat at Sookie’s feet, but one look in his direction and he settled back down.
“Sit down blondie. She’s well aware that Eric’s yours, though he might be glad to hear it.” She looked properly abashed at my reminder that the she had treated him pretty poorly the last time she’d seen him.
Win just laughed. “You weren’t kidding, were you? She is a little tough to take.”
“Don’t antagonize her Win, I just met you and I like you, but I’ve got her back.” I didn’t need to break a cat fight that Sookie would inevitably lose. She might have spunk, but she didn’t have much in the way of fighting skills. Hmmmm? There was an idea and something that needed to be remedied.
I decided to broach that subject and diffuse the situation in the same breath. “So Sookie, how would you feel about fighting lessons? You really should learn to defend yourself and you wouldn’t be as much of a liability.” I saw a dozen responses flicker across her face.
She settled for, “Ya know, that isn’t a bad idea. I can’t believe I haven’t learned yet. Do you think you could teach me to use a sword?” Her eyes brightened at the thought. I saw Karin’s face show that she was a bit more impressed with Sookie and this decision.
“I don’t think that we have time before Halloween, but we could work our way up to that definitely.” I liked this idea more and more. Maybe she wouldn’t be so helpless after all.
“Awesome! It’s a plan. When can we start?” She looked like she wanted to get started immediately.
“Hold your horses. There’s no time tonight, but if you wanted I could stop by after you get out of work tomorrow. We should probably get together on a daily basis, but since you are barred from Fangtasia, we’ll have to do it here.”
“It’s a deal,” she quickly agreed. “Now I’m sure that’s not the reason you came over tonight.”
Win jumped back into the conversation. “No you’re right. We came over to introduce me to you and Karin. Figured it be good for the team if we knew each other. I’ll be running info to Eric on the inside.”
“I can see how that’d be helpful,” she readily agreed. “How is he?” She asked a bit quieter than she’d been just moments ago.
“He looked good. Barry said that the Queen’s been pretty rough on him, but that he’s holding up. I think she thinks she’ll break him, but it’ll never happen. She was evidently smart enough to make it to Queen, but she’ll never outwit him. She’s not even in the same league.”
Sookie nodded in agreement. “No way. My Viking is a complete badass.” I looked shocked at her language since I’d never heard her swear before.
Bubba shook his head disapprovingly. “Miss Sookie, ladies don’t use that kind of language.”
“You’re right Bubba, I’m sorry, but it seemed fitting.” He beamed up at her and she returned the smile. “Alright. So what else did you all figure out tonight?”
I told her everything. She paid close attention. She had already known that she was going straight into the lion’s den, but not that she was the lynchpin. Nervous energy filled the air around her. It was risky, but the perfect ploy.
We spent the rest of the evening and well into the morning laying everything out. Bubba described the rest of the team we hadn’t met yet and I felt good by the time we left, knowing that we actually stood a chance to free Eric and bring him back home. I left Bubba with her when we departed for the night. He would stay with her for a few days so that Karin could take some time to take care of a few things that we needed. I promised Sookie I would come back over tomorrow night and that we would start her lessons. It would be quite the shock to Eric to see his little fairy princess kicking ass and taking names. I couldn’t wait.