Drained: Chapter 14
I asked for directions to the vampire palace when I got gas just before getting to New Orleans. I drove past it once and was stunned at the mobs of people even at that late hour. There were police cars all around it and barricades holding back the crowds. I drove on for several blocks before I found a parking space and checked the street signs to make sure I could leave my car there for a while if I needed to.
Then I got out and started walking. As I approached the people surrounding the palace, I began to weave my way through the crowd. Many people held candles and were praying for the vampires. Some just seemed to be curious tourists. As I got closer to the building, I saw a group holding signs with messages of hate: Vampires are demons, God hates vampires, Burn the vampires out. I stopped reading and kept pushing through.
When I got to the barricades, I could see yards and yards of flowers and cards strewn across the sidewalk. There were even some little stuffed animals and more than a few little stuffed Draculas, as well as balloons. Beyond the gifts, uniformed police officers stood all around the perimeter protecting the building.
I looked past the police guards at the tall structure that was oddly without windows and wondered if Eric was inside.
I called out to the nearest officer. “Excuse me! Officer?”
I had to repeat myself a few times, but when I caught his attention, he stepped forward and said, “Yes, ma’am.”
“I need to get inside the palace.”
“That’s not possible, ma’am.”
“Well, then, I need to speak to one of the vampires.”
“You’re welcome to call the palace to get a message to one of the vampires, but they’re unavailable right now.”
“I’ve been trying to call for days, and can’t get one on the phone.”
“What about … uh … donating blood? How can I donate?”
“Donations can be made at the main library. Just walk four blocks that way and then take a right. You can’t miss it. The vampire infirmary is in the basement.” He gestured to my left.
I fought back through the crowd and began walking towards the library. I had no idea what I was going to do, but at least it was a place to start.
The library was also heavily fortified with security, both human and vampire. When I told an officer that I wanted to be a donor, he directed me to a desk just inside the door of the basement.
I reluctantly handed my ID to the man checking people in and he asked me to fill out some paperwork while he copied information from my license. Once we’d gotten the paperwork squared away, he handed me a little brochure and asked me to wait in a chair down the hall.
I seemed to be the only new donor and sat alone while I read all about the risks of blood donation and the rules for interacting with the vampires.
A tall blonde woman in green scrubs came out after a few minutes and called my name. She led me into a small office that had been set up as a makeshift hospital room.
“Thanks so much for volunteering, sweetie,” she began.
“You’re welcome. Would it be possible to speak to one of the vampires?”
“If you’d like. A lot of people just want to donate and leave, but that would be nice if you wanted to visit with them. Some of them are very friendly. Some aren’t.”
“That would be great.”
“Just lie back now.”
I watched her put a needle in my arm while I made a fist. Within minutes, I’d filled a little plastic bag with my blood and was sipping a cup of orange juice.
When the nurse left with the blood, I sat up and felt a little light-headed. I willed myself to get a grip and was feeling stronger by the time a young black man came in and introduced himself as Allen.
“Okay, so let’s get you started.” He handed me a pad of paper and a pen. “Only approach the vampires that are awake. If they seem unfriendly at all, just go on to the next one.”
“Okay,” I responded.
“Ask their names and what they’d like. Offer books, magazines, newspapers. We also have laptops and cell phones for their use. Just make notes who wants what and bring it back to the desk where you checked in. Got it?”
“Have you dealt with vampires before?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Good. Don’t be afraid. These are too weak to hurt you anyway.”
“I’ll see you in a bit then.”
Allen escorted me into a huge room that had little dividers set up between cots. Every cot had a body on it and there were probably thirty or so cots.
I began down the first row of five cots, but all the vampires in the beds were asleep. They had that same pale, haggard look that Eric and Bill had had.
On the next row, I found one awake and sitting up. He was very handsome (as most vampires are) with long black hair and very blue eyes. He was almost feminine in his beauty. He smiled as I approached him.
“Hello, I’m Sookie.”
“Hello, Sookie. I’m Alfredo.”
“Can I get you anything tonight? Books, newspapers? A laptop?”
“I’d love today’s paper.”
I jotted it down.
“You don’t by any chance know Eric Northman, do you?” I asked.
“He’s a friend of mine, and I need to see him. I think he’s in the palace, but I can’t get inside. Could you help me?”
“Sweetie, they won’t even take my calls and I live there. It’s closed up as tight as Fort Knox right now.”
“Well, thanks, anyway. I’ll get your paper.”
I moved on and spoke to several more vampires, but got similar stories. When I came to the last row, I found a small Indian woman awake, and she seemed to be waiting for me.
“You’re looking for Eric?” she asked.
Of course, I knew they could all hear me while I spoke to the others.
“He’s my sheriff. My name is Indira.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Is he alive?” she asked.
“Yes. He’s fine. I saw him earlier tonight, as a matter of fact. He’s in perfect health.”
“I’m very relieved to hear that. I hadn’t seen his name on any of the lists. Why do you need to see him?”
“I’ve had something bad happen.” I felt my eyes tear up, but kept going. “I need his help.”
“And you say you saw him earlier?”
“Yes.” I pulled the piece of paper with the palace phone number from my purse. “Do you know his handwriting?”
Indira looked at the paper. “Yes, I do.”
“Can you help me?”
“I won’t hurt you,” she added.
I had to trust her. Where else could I go? I stepped closer.
She inhaled my scent near my neck.
“You smell of him,” she said. “Are you his?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Can you prove it?”
I looked around and made sure I was hidden from view of the other vampires by the partition between the beds and then faced Indira as I lifted my t-shirt to reveal the healing bite marks on my chest.
I lowered my shirt and she said, “Hand me a pen and paper.”
I handed her my little pad and pen and she wrote out a note.
After she handed it back, I said, “Thank you very much. Can I bring you something? A book, magazine?”
“You’re very sweet, but no thank you.”
“I hope you’re feeling better soon, Indira.”
“Be careful. Don’t ask for Eric. Don’t draw attention to him. Good luck.”
I went back to the desk and delivered my list of requests. Another volunteer brought me the items on the list and I delivered them to the sick vampires.
Then I headed back to the palace with my note from Indira.
The officer I’d spoken to before handed my note off to another officer and I watched him disappear inside the building. I waited for what seemed like an eternity until he returned and I was escorted to the front door.
Once inside, a young Asian man introduced himself as Minh. A beautiful red-haired woman vampire stood silently and watched as Minh spoke to me. I tried not to gape at the opulent entry way (or the silent vampire guard) as Minh led me down a long hall and into an office. I sat across from him at his desk.
“So, you are looking for a job?” he began.
I figured I’d go with what Indira had said in the note. After all, it got me past the front door.
“Yes, I am.”
“You’ve been volunteering at the infirmary?”
“And have experience with vampires.”
“You come highly recommended. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, of course. We’re being even more cautious than usual under the circumstances.”
“You have two options. You can be on the night staff, work from dusk until dawn for ten dollars an hour, or you can live here with free room and board for no salary. Of course, you’ll have your days free.”
“I’d like to stay here and have no salary. I don’t have a place to stay in town.”
“Are you a student?”
“No. I just moved here and don’t really know anyone.”
“Okay then. Let’s talk about your skills.”
“I have waitress experience, and I can clean. I can also cook.”
“Great. We have openings in the kitchen. We’re a little short-handed at the moment. Do you object to being bitten?”
“No.” I knew that a yes answer would be a mistake, but I felt a little wave of nausea at the thought of being bitten by someone other than Bill or Eric.
“Good. Let me just make a copy of your ID and get you to fill out some paperwork.”
I knew that by giving Minh my actual ID and social security number, I’d be giving my location away to anyone who was trying to track me. But I also knew that none of those people would likely be coming into this very secure building.
While I was writing, Minh asked me to stand in front of a wall. Then he stood and took my photo.
“It’s for your employee badge,” he explained.
I signed several complicated-looking disclaimers while Minh made a copy of my license. Then he escorted me down another hallway and knocked on a door before opening it.
“This will be your room. You’ll share with Carla. She works in the laundry. Can someone help with your luggage?”
“Um, no, I can get it later. My car’s parked a few blocks away.”
“Okay. What are your sizes? Eight? Ten?”
“I’m an eight.”
“Seven and a half.”
“I’ll be right back.”
I sat on one of the twin beds and looked around the room. It was very spartan, like a college dorm room. Simple white bedspreads, a wooden dresser, nothing on the plain white cinderblock walls.
I felt numb. I couldn’t think of Jason. I couldn’t think of Eric. I had to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I was inside the palace, which was a huge accomplishment in itself.
When Minh returned, he handed me a uniform of plain black pants, a white dress shirt and black flat shoes. He was wearing the same thing.
“When you’re dressed, come back to the office and I’ll take you to the kitchen.”
“Thank you, Minh.”
I got dressed and hung my clothes up in the closet. There were two little safes on the floor of the closet that you could set with your own pin number. One was open, so I set my pin number and left my purse inside.