Chapter 47 – It still sucks in Vegas
July 9, 2004
“All kneel.” Every attendee in the room knelt at Quinn’s instructions while the Ancient Pythoness was guided to a seat on a large stage. She made a rising motion with her hands and the audience stood. “All other planned trials are now delayed pending the outcome of Jennifer Cater’s accusation against Sophie-Anne Leclerq.”
The Ancient Pythoness recognized the attendees and instructed them, “You may be seated.”
Sookie remembered Quinn from Sophie-Anne’s wedding. He was some kind of announcer or helper for the trials tonight; she was quite curious about his role but remained quiet. Her heartbeat was already too loud for her liking considering she and Quinn were the only breathers in the room; she didn’t want to add whispering to the mix. Quinn directed his look towards Jennifer Cater, seated in the front row of the audience. “Ms. Cater, you have the podium to make your claim.”
After bowing to the Ancient Pythoness she moved to the podium and began. “Last night, my beloved King went to dayrest with his treacherous wife, Sophie-Anne Leclerq. They were locked in their bedroom at the hotel here and nobody in our retinue saw anyone enter or exit the room until Sophie-Anne started screaming tonight.” She took a breath, acting as if she was overcome with emotion. “I hereby accuse Sophie-Anne Leclerq of murder with the motive of gaining Arkansas for herself.”
The Ancient Pythoness pointed to a seat next to her and spoke. “Ms. Cater, you may be seated here.”
Quinn returned to the podium “Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq, please join us onstage.”
Sookie watched as Andre escorted the Queen to a seat at the center of the stage, clearly for the accused to be on display. Next Quinn announced, “The representatives from Louisiana, please come to the stage.”
Shock crossed Sookie’s face. She figured Desmond or Amma would call her up for something specific, not for all of us to be on the stage. Her thoughts had kept her from moving and now Eric was tugging on her arm. Of course she rose immediately and walked forward ignoring the bad feeling in her stomach.
Quinn waited until all the Louisiana representatives were onstage then spoke once more. “Victor Madden, please join us onstage to be seated with Ms. Cater.”
Now Sookie WAS going to be sick. What in the hell was he doing as part of this? As if reading her mind, the Ancient Pythoness answered the question. “Mr. Madden has graciously offered to serve as the prosecutor for this trial as we had no one prepared. Mr. Madden, as Ms. Cater has already made the accusation, you may begin by questioning Sophie-Anne directly.”
“Thank you your Grace.” He moved to stand directly to the right of Sophie-Anne. “Your Majesty, do you normally die for the day with your husband?” With a fake look of sympathy, he added. “I ask this delicate question since it is common knowledge that you married for political reasons, not the relationship.”
“Peter and I did not normally die for the day together. We had some planning we were doing regarding our territories that was going to last longer than the dawn. We selected to work in his light tight bedroom since we both can stay conscious about 30 minutes after the sun rises.” She turned to look at the audience. “This is what happened. We worked until we both felt the pull, moved our work to the side of the bed and died. From there, I woke up next to the remains of my husband.”
“And where is all this work now?”
“I was moved out of the room to my hotel suite and locked in. I don’t know where my laptop or files are.”
The Ancient Pythoness interrupted. “I want the laptop and files located. One vampire from Louisiana and one from Arkansas will go retrieve these: Wybert and Jade. Please return with the evidence and information about its current location.” The two vampires walked from the room. “Victor, you may continue.”
“Thank you your Grace.” He offered with a bow, then turned back to Sophie-Anne. “You will inherit the entire territory now that Peter is dead, correct?”
“That is correct, yes.”
“SO you were the only one that had access. . . “
“Objection.” Desmond called out from the Louisiana group on the side of the stage.
Victor sneered. “Mr. Cataliades, this is not a human court of law, you forget yourself.”
“Mr. Madden, YOU forget YOURself. You are making summary remarks based on facts not already discussed. You have not presented proof that that Sophie-Anne was the only person with access to their bedroom.”
“I beg to differ. Ms. Cater already informed this room that the room was locked and that no Arkansas representatives saw anyone enter or exit the room.”
“Certainly she said that, but the witnesses mentioned have not been questioned, nor has anyone considered that someone could have been lying in wait in the attached bathroom, and simply scurried out in the confusion that followed the discovery of King Threadgill’s remains.” He turned to the Ancient Pythoness. “Your Grace, we simply have not established any facts yet. I must ask for time to meet with the Arkansas contingent to prepare.”
“I agree that we don’t have the facts, but we will discover them all here, together.” She replied. “Have the Arkansas HUMANS join us please. I understand they have been detained today for their protection.”
From the back of the room, Fons bowed and left the room returning about 15 minutes later with 8 humans. At The Ancient Pythoness’ request, two chairs had been added to the stage while the attendees waited for Fons to return.
“Victor, you may question the humans first about the day’s events.”
“Thank you your Grace. Of course, Sophie-Anne could have glamoured them.”
Desmond chimed in next. “And the actual killer could have glamoured them as well. It’s something both sides of this trial may need to deal with.”
“Well, let’s see what we learn from the humans first, shall we?” The milky white eyes of her Amma captured Sookie’s attention. She knew she couldn’t ‘really’ see her, but she felt the focus anyway via her visions as she’d described to Sookie before. Sookie was sure she knew of her ability to read glamour so she prepared to be called next.
Victor sat with the first human and after a few short questions established that they were in the common room of the Arkansas suite and no one entered or exited the King and Queen’s bedroom. The same story held for each witness and Victor stood smugly and said he detected no glamour.
“Mr. Cataliades, you may question the witnesses now.”
“Thank you your Grace, but first I must ask if the vampire, Lyle Martinez is in the room.”
A voice from the back called out. “I am.”
“Your Grace,” Desmond started, “I request that Mr. Martinez be permitted on stage to check the humans for glamour. It is my understanding that extensive glamour and detecting glamour is his unique gift.”
“He may join us on stage, and I concur that his gift is as you stated. Please Mr. Martinez, come question these humans and alert us if any have been glamoured regarding these events.”
It only took Lyle 20 minutes to question the humans and establish that all had been glamoured recently. His gift was not precise enough to determine if they had been glamoured before Sophie-Anne and Peter retired to their bedroom or after. Both sides seemed at an impasse on who had glamoured the humans and why. The Ancient Pythoness kept the room quiet as she appeared to ponder the situation. After 10 long minutes, she spoke. Sookie knew what was coming. “Sookie Northman, please come forward.” Eric knew it too and without asking for permission or stating any words, he escorted her himself. They both bowed to the Ancient Pythoness and waited for instruction.
“Mrs. Northman, I would like you to read these humans.”
Now Victor called out. “Objection.” While Eric really wanted to say something about Victor using the word that he had called out Desmond for using but he refrained. “Your Grace, Miss Stackhouse’s ability is reading minds, not reading glamour.”
The Ancient Pythoness answered Victor. “Incorrect. She can read glamour, and please remember that her name is Mrs. Northman.”
“Begging your pardon you Grace, I believe we should test that so the room of witnesses here can be sure.”
“Of course. Mr. Martinez, Mr. Madden and Godric will each glamour a separate human from our donor pool. Fons will write out the glamour to be implanted, share it with each of you, then seal the instructions in an envelope until we are ready to confirm Sookie’s readings. Will that work for you?” Victor thought for a moment and finally agreed. “I’m glad you agree Madden. Fons, take the vampires out of this room and execute the glamour portion of the test. Mrs. Northman will remain here while we wait.” She turned to Sookie. “Sookie, please have a seat.
The preparation took about 15 minutes and the glamoured donors were brought in, one at a time for Sookie to read. The process of reading glamour took longer as it had with Lala, but with Eric’s blood Sookie was not made as tired. The donor’s still whimpered from the pain, but since the glamour was light they didn’t scream like Lala did. In the end, Sookie found the content of each glamour and the collective in the room agreed that she could in fact read glamour. As she turned in her chair, relaxing for just a moment at having established her skill, a few things happened too fast for her to register. One moment she was sitting up, the next, she was sprawled on the floor with 225 pounds of Viking vampire spread on top of her. Her guards and other vampire friends were immediately on alert seeing the knife in Eric’s back. The realization hit her: Someone had thrown the knife at her; someone wanted to kill her. The same realization hit Eric as Pam used a scarf covered hand to yank the knife from his back and his wound healed. “Stay with her.” He barked and he rose to the top of the room to look from the higher vantage point. Knowing he needed more information, he spoke to Godric and Thalia, both looking towards the back left of the room. “What did you see?”
“Master,” Thalia spoke first, “my best guess is the knife came from that corner.”
After checking that Sookie was surrounded by the Louisiana contingent, he didn’t wait for additional information and flew, glaring down at each vampire in the area trying to wrench the guilt from them just by his stare. It didn’t take long for two vampires to surrender the knife thrower. Eric questioned them before pulling the attacker to the stage. “You saw him throw the knife?”
The woman spoke first. “I saw rapid movement; I cannot guarantee he threw the knife. My guess is his gift is speed. Since your child was smart enough to use her scarf to grab the knife, you can check fingerprints.” The male vampire next to her concurred: he too had seen only a blur at his side.
Once back on stage with the accused, Eric asked for the knife as he looked at the accusers hands. Using his superior eyesight, he compared the friction ridges from the fingers he grasped to the impressions left on the handle of the knife. He sneered a moment later and offered, “I see a match; does anyone need to concur?”
Of course Victor felt the need to say something. “I think it should be confirmed to be sure we are not wrongly accusing . . . what’s your name?”
“To be sure we are not wrongly accusing Anthony Tamm.” He called to Franklin Mott, known for his gift of almost microscopic vision. “Franklin, can you join us?”
The room was quiet and Franklin compared the fingers and the knife, which only took a moment, and he declared, “The Northman is correct. This vampire last handled this knife. I believe he is the attacker of Mrs. Northman. There is another set of prints on this knife, and if we find another vampire for comparison, I can confirm the owner of those.”
“You attempted to kill my bonded, my WIFE. I demand your death after you provide the information you know I want.”
The accused vampire cursed himself for agreeing to kill the telepath. He’d been assured he wouldn’t be punished in any way, and that the need to kill her was only a last resort. He wanted to see if he could bargain for his life. “I will give you the information you request in exchange for my life.” He spoke with his attention on the Ancient Pythoness hoping she would see reason.
“You knew Mrs. Northman was bonded to the Viking, did you not?”
“I did.” He figured honesty was the best policy while he was begging here.
“The punishment is death. The Northman has already needed to turn a blind eye” she turned to Sophie-Anne before continuing, “to vampires being left alive after an attack on his bonded. The choice is Northman’s.”
Sophie-Anne panicked a bit. The information from the knife thrower could help prove her innocence. However, she was also keenly aware that she was the cause of the comment from the Ancient Pythoness and that Eric would not settle for less than his death. She actually fidgeted a bit while she waited for his decision.
“Thalia, restrain this trash.” Once he was within her hold, Eric continued. “This is the plan. My WIFE will carry on with reading the pets and guards from Arkansas, being sure to look for glamour. If we don’t have satisfaction from that read, you will be offered a chance to answer questions and provide PROOF on whatever information you share.” He moved to kneel where Sookie sat on the floor; Pam’s arms were protectively around her. “Sookie, are you able to continue now?”
“Yes, I want to get to the bottom of this.”
He smiled at her strength, kissed her brow and requested a new seat be brought in for her comfort while she conducted the interviews.
Sookie interviewed the humans while the audience watched through her circle of protective vampires and one really pissed off Were: Alcide had been notified by Pam of the attempt on Sookie’ life and came barreling into the room to join her other guards. His appearance at the door caused a bit of a disruption, but the Ancient Pythoness quieted everyone and granted him passage.
The first four pets, she found, had left the Arkansas suite by receiving invitations to the restaurants or hotel lobby. When Sookie read into the glamour that Lyle had previously found, she discovered these four had only been glamoured into leaving the room when they were called out. It wasn’t the glamour that was of interest though, it was the vampire responsible: Jennifer Cater. Sookie turned to the vampire who had returned to the audience while she was reading the humans and scowled at her.
“Jennifer Cater.” The Ancient Pythoness called. “Join us back onstage.” She gestured to Quinn. “Place a chair right next to Ms. Leclerq for Ms. Cater.” That order was telling: The Ancient Pythoness was clearly accusing Jennifer Cater.
The situation escalated when the fifth man was seated for an interview with Sookie. She announced after only reading him for a moment that he had recent glamour. “I can see the spots and now that I’ve dug, it’s from the Arkansas suite during this trip.” Placing a hand to his arm so she could improve her read, Sookie continued to work and pushed on his black spots for information. “The glamour was before daybreak. He. . .” She stopped and looked to Eric.
“Sookie, you can speak.”
Taking a huge breath to steady herself, she continued knowing this was ‘it’. “Ms. Cater pre- glamoured this man to go into the King’s bedroom after dawn and kill him, then leave. I can see from his memory that Jennifer actually let him in the bedroom from inside the room. I can see an open closet door as well, so he guessed that Jennifer hid in there while our King and Queen worked, though he is unsure how she stayed awake after dawn to open the door. He forgets everything from that since she glamoured him AFTER she was in back in her bedroom. He was instructed to walk out of her room, sit down and believe he had never left the sofa.” Her last words were almost drowned out by the screaming man next to her. Since the glamour was extensive, the pain he felt was like Lala’s when she read glamour. Sookie was exhausted herself, and her Amma could see it.
Desmond walked towards Jennifer. “Will you please inform us of your vampire gift?” Silence from Jennifer. Knowing of Sookie’s difficulty with Bill Compton, he hated to make the next request, but he needed to seal Jennifer’s fate and save the Queen. “Your Grace, I understand that William Compton has included vampire gifts in his database, can we pull him from the vendor hall for confirmation.” As soon as Sookie stiffened, he offered an apologetic smile.
“No need Mr. Cataliades, I purchased, or rather one of my handmaidens purchased the database. Her vampire gift is the ability to fight the dawn. It is how she was able to hide in the bedroom until both Peter and Sophie-Anne were at rest.” She turned her gaze towards Jennifer. “Isn’t that how it happened?” She stood and announced, “Sophie-Anne Leclerq, I hereby exonerate you for the death of your Husband, King Peter Threadgill of Arkansas and Louisiana and I hereby name you as the sole monarch of both territories.” She focused her blank gaze on Jennifer Cater. “Jennifer Cater, you have been found guilty of treason and murder by conspiring to and having King Peter Threadgill killed in his daydeath. You will be put to death “ She nodded and a vampire standing with Fons moved to the stage quickly and staked Jennifer. “Eric Northman, you may extract your final justice from Anthony Tamm for the attempted murder of your wife and bonded.” With no words or preamble, Eric stepped in front of Anthony and ripped his head off.
“Court is adjourned for 30 minutes while we clean the stage and prepare for the already scheduled trials. Sookie Northman, Franklin Mott, and Lyle Martinez are hereby dismissed with the thanks from this court for providing assistance. I also acknowledge Jade Flower and Wybert for gathering the evidence requested, but it is no longer needed. Please ensure that Sophie-Anne Leclerq is given both laptops and all the files.”
Near the front and to the left a vampire stood and spoke out. “Your Grace! I beg a moment before we suspend.”
She smiled her toothless smile and simply said, “Request denied.”
“But your Grace. . .”
“Your request for the use of Mrs. Northman’s skills in your own upcoming trial is denied. Do not ask me anything further or I will pass judgment now without the trial.” He bowed and left the room. She moved close to Eric to whisper. “Ask the tiger to help you out of here, I have a short meeting to attend, but I will have a handmaiden call to check on Sookie shortly.”
After being escorted to a private room to the side of the hotel courtroom, the Ancient Pythoness moved to her meeting location in secret. “Good evening.”
“Pythia. How is the Summit?”
“Telling. I have grown very fond of my granddaughter-in-law. I need to be sure your first promise is ready before I allow Felipe near her. I will not have her go through all the pain I have seen unless you have the formula done.”
“The first babies though, this is not for them.”
“You have made your feelings on this very clear.” She held out a black container. “This should be the sample you need. How long will it take before you can deliver?”
“That is all you have. One week. Otherwise, I will find another way and I will have Eric pull her before . . . well before.”
“You act as though I like what’s coming.”
“You treat this like business. I am protecting her heart.”
“She’s my kin too.”
“Forgive me if I doubt your feelings Niall. You are gaining much here for your son.”
“Do not insult me Pythia. You and I have negotiated many times and you’ve benefited just as many times as well. It’s how you and your handmaidens can travel the world without detection.”
“I do not deny the gifts I have from you. Teleporting is almost a necessity for my security; you know that you old fool. I just did not risk someone’s wellbeing for my own benefit.”
“She will survive.”
She sneered at his lack of compassion and ordered him, “Take what you came for and leave. I will see you in one week.”
Back at the Summit, Eric had gathered his entourage to leave the Grand Hall. Hating to ask the tiger for anything since he knew he’d offered to ‘save’ Sookie from him; he turned and begrudgingly asked for help. Needing to dig deep and put on some pleasantries, he made his request. “I need to get out of here with Sookie without going through this room or the common hotel areas at all. Can you help me?”
“Follow me.” The tiger hated that the beautiful sweet human had been used by the vamps in such a way, but based on his discreet observations during the Summit it was evident to him that Sookie loved the vampire. He lucked out and ran into one of Sookie’s Were guards and he even confirmed their relationship was genuine. Still he couldn’t keep his mouth shut on what he thought was a huge injustice for Sookie. So while he walked them through an empty corridor he asked, “Why did you let the AP use her like that? It obviously exhausted her and exposed her gifts to a roomful of monarchs.”
Trying to keep the peace, Alcide responded since he heard Eric growl. “Quinn, it’s not your place man. You don’t want to provoke Eric now. Take a clue from the rest of us.” He motioned with his hands. “Even his child is standing a good 10 feet away for a reason. Back off.”
The group remained quiet as Quinn wove them through the corridors and finally to outside the hotel. “We’re at the back, so you’ll need to walk this path, “he pointed,” and it will take you to the fro. . .”
Before he had finished his sentence, Eric was up in the air with Sookie in his arms. Clearly affected by the reading of glamour, she was nearly asleep already. He didn’t need to tell anyone he was returning her to their suite. Alcide was on the phone already calling Potts. “I suggest you get Glad and Diantha from the suite they share with Eric and Sookie and tell them he’s on his way and he is very much in protector mode.”
“Got it, thanks for the warning. She is well?” Since Alcide was with Potts when he got the call about the attack on Sookie, she was concerned about the outcome from the evening, but he had firmly told her to stay put.
Alcide heard knocking and a hushed conversation, he guessed it was Potts telling the Dae girls to leave. “She is tired, but unharmed. Given what we were told about her presentation, she’s likely to be a bit off during the day. We’ll need to be supportive.”
“Of course. Since the Dae girls are here and can protect Eric in his daydeath, I can focus on Sookie. That is IF she emerges from their room.”
“We’ll get her through it. At least she has Russell and Bart’s pledging to look forward to.”
“Is that safe?”
“Northman ripped the head off the vampire who threw the knife at her. He was onstage with an audience. I think his reputation will keep her safe and Pam just left the group to petition for extra guards around the stage during the ceremony.” Potts could hear the noise grow and the sound of an elevator ding. “I’m in the elevator; I’ll see you in a minute beautiful.”
“Ok hon. I see Northman now. They made it back safely and Sookie is already asleep in his arms.”
Back in Eric and Sookie’s suite, Eric undressed Sookie, washed her face and placed her gently in their bed. She never stirred and he wasn’t surprised since he’d felt her exhaustion through the evening. This wasn’t good for the baby at all. He decided to call her doctor. Once the phone answering service was on the line he requested a call back. “This is Eric Northman. My wife is a patient and we just discovered she is now pregnant. We are out of the area but my wife has suffered some extreme trauma so I need Harold to call me back.”
“Mr. Northman, we have a situation here in Louisiana.” He heard some clacking. “I see that you also work with Dr. Ludwig, I’ll call her service and she can call you back.”
“Don’t bother with that, I have a direct line to her. Before I ask about the doctor, can you explain why you have access to my wife’s files at an answering service?”
“Oh Mr. Northman, I am not an answering service. The nurses at Dr. Finard’s all take shifts to answer his phone 24X7. I have the same access I would have at the office and you know all of us signed confidentiality agreements. All his nurses, except for his wife, are Were’s. It’s the only way to keep the secrets of our supe patients.”
“Very well then. So tell me, where is Dr. Finard? We are paying for 24X7 access and were not informed he had any breaks planned.”
“Mr. Northman, Dr. Finard and his family are missing. He simply didn’t show up to the office last Wednesday. After the police investigated his home at our request, they called in the FBI since there was evidence of a struggle. Mr. Northman, the FBI is sure that Dr. Finard was kidnapped.”