Chapter 1 – The Letter
Laughter, no that’s not right. Cackling, evil cackling is what Eric heard before Pam made it to his office door. Ginger, his absent minded staff supervisor was working tonight; perhaps she’d worn two different shoes, again. Or perhaps she finally realized that the names on the lockers next to hers: Mary Ann and Lovey were in fact jokes. It was a few minutes before the bar opened so he didn’t think a customer had caused that much fun for Pam. Finally, Pam had reached the door and knocked WHILE she opened it, such a disrespectful child, and he saw what had caused the laughing. Holding her head high while Pam had been laughing, apparently at HER, was an older distinguished lady. Pam stopped her personal fun enough to introduce his visitor. “Master, Mrs. Genevieve Burke to see you. She insisted.” The lady walked into the room in her pink suit, modest heels and short cropped perfectly styled hair and Pam just laughed again.
“I think that’s enough Pam. Please ensure we’re ready for our opening.”
Pam left feeling a bit put out that Eric didn’t join in the laughter; he was such a bore lately. She decided to toy with Ginger even though there were a few things that she should be doing before opening, she figured nobody would notice. When Eric first called her back to Louisiana to help with the bar, she wasn’t that thrilled but he was so happy to see her, it was almost infectious. She dove into the work with him and shortly after the reveal they opened Louisiana’s first Vampire bar, Fangtasia. Sure others had followed, but those bars never cut into their business. They had to turn away patrons every night. Some came for the walk on the wild side, some came to be close to any vampire and many came to be close to her maker. Eric Northman had, in just days after the opening, earned a reputation as the vampire to see in northern Louisiana. The ladies couldn’t resist. He was tall – 6 and a half feet – had broad shoulders, a narrow waist, beautiful piercing blue eyes and golden long hair. Though she preferred women and had never been with Eric in a sexual way, she could see the appeal. For Pam, the appeal of the reveal and the bar was the smorgasbord of beautiful women who threw themselves at her. She never wanted for a fresh fuck and feed any night and frequently many times a night. In the beginning, her Master enjoyed that benefit too. Lately he hardly glanced at a fangbanger. Pam shook her head, dismissing her thoughts and went in search of her victim. “Oh Ginger! Come entertain me.”
Meanwhile, in his office Eric moved to stand when Mrs. Burke entered and he now put out his hand, “Mrs. Burke, I’m Eric Northman, how can I help you?” Mrs. Burke was surprised by this; she’d been told that vampires didn’t shake hands.
“Genny please.” She answered after she got over her shock and shook his hand.
“Eric. Won’t you have a seat?” Taking one of the wooden seats in front of his desk; he gestured to the other.
“You’re a hard man get in touch with.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’ve been sending letters and calling for you at Viking Industries for weeks. Well, some of my staff has as well. I apologize for coming just before opening to your bar and surprising you, but I felt I had no other choice. Clearly your employee didn’t feel my presence here was appropriate given her reaction, so I’ll be as brief as possible and get out of your hair. I take it 70 year olds in pink suits aren’t the norm here?”
“Hardly. That employee, Pamela Ravenscroft in case she didn’t introduce herself properly, is my child – my vampire child – you are aware of that type of relationship?” Genny simply nodded. “I apologize for the difficulty in reaching me. The receptionist at Viking is overly cautious about putting anyone in touch with me directly, though I should have at least gotten messages. I’ll follow-up tomorrow. I can’t imagine what would be so important though. Can you enlighten me?”
“I represent the Make a Wish organization in Louisiana. That’s a group that grants wishes to children who are fighting life threatening illnesses. I’ve come to find you because I have a wish that’s related specifically to you.”
His eyebrows went high in his head at her words. ‘What could I possibly have to do with a sick child?’ He wondered. “Is it a donation of some sort? My businesses are hardly something I would consider attractive to a child.”
“No it’s you PERSONALLY. I think the easiest thing to do is provide you the letter I’ve tried to send you. I take it since you don’t know what this request is, you haven’t seen that either.”
She handed Eric a letter – it was a copy as he could see what looked like crayon for the signature, but couldn’t smell the wax. Moving his gaze from the signature back up to start the letter, he read while Genny watched:
Dear Mr. Northman:
My name is Hunter Stackhouse and I am in Shreveport Parish Hospital. I’m 4 years old and I’m writing to you to make my final wish. There’s a nice lady sitting here, writing down everything I say for you. Hopefully she is writing it all; I’m only starting to read so I have to trust her. Anyway, I’m dying, I know this. There ain’t nothing anyone can do. When that happens to kids, they get to make a wish. Some kids ask for trips to Disney, or to meet their favorite baseball star. I don’t have that kind of wish.
My wish is for my Mommy. She gave up everything so she can stay with me every day here at the hospital and she’s real tired. She needs a break and a fun surprise. I hope you can help. We both saw you when you came to the dedication of the new open MRI Machine at Good Shepherd Hospital about 6 months ago. I was in that hospital back then. Well, Mommy thought you were just beautiful (that’s what she said, I didn’t say that about a dude – sorry!). She needs a date. She needs to get out beyond the times I’m in dialysis and the one night a week when Uncle Hoyt comes with his friend Jessica to sit with me. Why does she need a date? ‘Cause when she does leave my side she either works or goes to Gramma Fortenberry’s to do laundry and cook.
If I can get them to come on an extra night, will you take my Mommy out on a date? Oh, and don’t worry about whether there’s a Daddy married to Mommy. My Daddy is dead, I never met him so I don’t miss him or anything, but Mommy’s all available for ya.
Oh and she knows you’re a vampire, but she don’t care ‘bout stuff like that.
Thanks for reading.
Floored. Eric was floored at both the innocence AND maturity at the letter. “Was this really what HE said?”
“I wasn’t the one to take the letter request, but I’ve been assured by my volunteer in Shreveport that those were his words.”
“Are all children diagnosed as terminal this matter-of-fact about their deaths?”
“It’s not unusual.”
“You said your volunteer in Shreveport, are you not from here?”
“No, I live in Baton Rouge. Truth is Mr. North . . . Eric, I have two volunteers locally, and they were hoping you would just respond to the letter and decline the request. When it was apparent we weren’t getting through to you, I knew we needed to try you here and they are both a little too scared to come to a vampire bar.”
“You traveled here to deliver this to me?” She nodded. “That’s commitment.”
“These children deserve their wishes. I’ve been running this group for fifteen years and we’ve never declined a child their wish. For many children, the wish helps them battle their conditions. I’ve seen that myself with some of the kids I’ve worked with.”
“How did you get involved? It seems that there’s something really driving your dedication.”
“I lost my own son when he was only eight years old. He was sick his entire life and then died. His wish was to swim with dolphins – and this was before the popular and easily attended attractions for that were available. I had to jump through hoops for my son and it was worth it. I’d NEVER seen him smile as he did that day. He did come back with more spirit for fighting his disease, but in the end the disease won. I want every kid who needs that joy to have that chance.”
“So you’ve got a perfect record and if I said ‘No’ I’d ruin that for you?”
“In a nutshell you are correct. Though I don’t want you to do something that you would consider a burden as it would be easily seen by Hunter that you don’t want to do it – that wouldn’t make him happy either.” She paused for a moment and he could see she was mulling over something. “Honestly, I thought you would throw me out already or whoever answered the door would prevent me from even meeting with you.”
“Well, at the risk of offending you, the only reason Pam brought you back is because she thought I would share her laughter.” Genny raised her eyebrow. “She enjoys making fun of humans. I have to admit that sometimes I can’t resist sharing in her fun – especially with some of the desperate types we see at Fangtasia. In any case, I apologize for her behavior but recognize that it’s the behavior that got you in the door.”
“What about not throwing me out. You’re actually considering this, aren’t you?”
“That’s all I’m getting?” He hesitated and she saw a flash of hurt across his eyes. Hurt was something she recognized and she saw it clearly. “I’m sorry I pushed.”
“No, I don’t think about it all that often. I lost one of my children in his fourth winter. Back when I was a human I mean. I lost another right after her birth, my wife died with the baby. Losing a baby was hard, but losing my son was harder because . . . “
“You knew him, enjoyed him.”
“So you said fourth winter. You’ve been around for a while I guess.”
“Over 1000 years.”
“Wow. My brother-in-law teaches history. He’d love to meet you.”
“It’s a shame other humans don’t see that as an opportunity and see us instead as something to be feared or exterminated.” She gave him a blank look. “Well, I guess there are some vampires that should be feared. Given specific circumstances, I guess that would include me.”
“Well, the religious idiots that preach garbage about killing vampires are wrong. But, I would think you’d be pretty scary with your fangs down. NOT that I’m asking to see that; I’m here on business.” She pulled a file out of her large bag. “I thank you for sharing your history and I’m sorry for both our losses.” He nodded in accord.
With a gesture towards the file he asked his next question. “Is that for me? What happens from here?”
“If you’re willing, you go meet her. I can go with you and handle introductions.”
“I do have to do some research. I hope you understand, I’m a wealthy man and I just need to consider if anything. . .”
She put her hands up. “Say no more Mr. Northman. We’ve vetted out the situation as we always do. Since this request is so personal, I thought you might be concerned. The problem here is – well – information about the family is private as it’s covered by HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act . . .”
“I’m familiar with that.”
“That was easy, but that means I can’t GIVE you information from the file.” She held the file in her hands and then purposely set it in on the desk, spinning it to face him. “I’m confident that there is nothing dubious going in though.” Suddenly she stood and the file pushed just a few inches closer towards Eric as her hand was still on it when she moved. “I do need to freshen up before I hit the road though.”
He got her meaning immediately – at 70 she’d earned the right not to be subtle. Eric offered, “I think barring any problems we can come to an arrangement. It’s only one date after all. What’s her name?”
“Sookie, Sookie Stackhouse from Bon Temps Louisiana.”