Drained: Chapter 1
Charlaine Harris owns these characters.
I sat shivering in my car in the Fangtasia parking lot even though it wasn’t cold at all. I was scared–more scared that I could remember ever feeling. My world had been turned upside down in a matter of hours and I didn’t know where else to turn—that’s how I found myself in the parking lot of Eric Northman’s bar.
I’d come here hoping he could help me, but the “closed for repairs” sign on the door and the empty parking lot gave me a foreboding feeling.
I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d felt good about anything, actually. It seemed the past few months had just been a long blur of grief and fear. I guess it had all started back when Bill first got sick.
He’d begun to lose his strength very gradually, and only admitted that something was wrong when I pointed out that he was paler than usual and seemed tired a lot, which made no sense. Vampires didn’t usually have variations in health. He stopped feeding from me and sleeping with me in case he had something contagious. He got so weak that he couldn’t even leave his house and I had to deliver his True Blood to him. I encouraged him to drink more than he felt he needed, hoping it would renew his strength, but his health continued its steady decline.
The night I found Bill’s house empty, I called the sheriff’s office to report him missing, but they said they’d have to wait 48 hours before opening an investigation. I was sick with worry, knowing Bill had been in no condition to defend himself, but I had no idea what I could possibly do to try and find him. I knew so little about the world of vampires, Bill having been the only one I’d ever really known.
It occurred to me one day to contact Eric Northman. I’d met him once at his bar in Shreveport shortly after I’d started dating Bill. Bill told me he was the sheriff of the area and so I hoped that meant he had some sort of law enforcement experience and could help me find Bill. But before I had a chance to drive up to speak with him, I got the news that a man had been arrested in Shreveport for kidnapping and draining Bill.
Sheriff Bud Dearborn came to the house one afternoon to tell me and seemed sincere when he said he was sorry for my loss. I was still reeling from my grandmother’s murder only months before and couldn’t seem to process the information that Bill was gone for good. I didn’t cry for two days, and went about my life as if nothing had changed.
It finally hit me when I was trying to fall asleep one night and I cried all night. The next day, I called my brother, Jason, and told him what had happened. He’d never been a huge fan of Bill’s, but he could tell I was hurting and told me how sorry he was.
I was getting ready for work when I got a call from a man named Michael McManus who identified himself as the district attorney of Shreveport.
“Ms. Stackhouse, I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m afraid I have some more bad news to deliver,” he said.
I couldn’t imagine what could be worse than learning of Bill’s death, but he went on.
“The man who was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of Bill Compton has committed suicide in jail. Sadly, you won’t have the satisfaction of a trial and seeing the man put behind bars.”
“How could he commit suicide if he was in jail?” I asked. I thought they watched the prisoners so things like that couldn’t happen.
“I’ll spare you the gruesome details. I can tell you that this man had a record and had been arrested for draining vampires before. He was a known dealer in vampire blood and probably an addict himself. He was a very bad man.”
“You know, Bill was sick before he was kidnapped, and now I’m wondering if that was a coincidence.”
“Yeah, was the drainer from around here? Did he know Bill? Could he have made him sick somehow to weaken him? Or at least known he was sick? I know it sounds crazy, but I guess I just still have a lot of unanswered questions.”
“Well, I’m afraid we may never get the answers because the man who was responsible is gone now. I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you for letting me know, Mr. McManus.”
“Please don’t hesitate to call if I can be of service to you.”
Even though I’d had no sleep and was exhausted from crying all night, I still went into work. I needed to feel like my world was still somewhat normal and work helped keep me sane.
I was about halfway through my shift when Sam came to me and said there were two men from the BVA who wanted to talk to me. I pulled up a chair at their table and introduced myself.
I was so tired that their names went in one ear and out the other. One said they were in Bon Temps closing up the investigation into Bill’s death. As he was rattling on about the suicide of the suspect, I caught from his brain that he liked my breasts and that it had been months since he’d had sex. I was used to inner monologues like that from men and ignored it.
My mind naturally wandered to the other man—the one who wasn’t speaking, and my breath caught in my throat as I heard him think If all of them are as easy to kill as Bill Compton, we should have this wrapped up in a few months.
I interrupted the man who was talking. “Um…can I ask you some questions? I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name,” I said.
“Pete. Of course.”
“Bill was sick before the kidnapping. He was very weak.”
Yeah, silver poisoning will do that to a vamp. “Really? I wasn’t aware of that,” he responded innocently.
“Do you think the kidnapper knew that somehow?”
Well, yeah, since we did the kidnapping. “There’s no way to know that, I’m afraid, since the man has died.”
My heart began to race, but I focused on staying cool. “I don’t know much about vampires, I’m afraid. Bill was the only one I’ve known. Is it common for them to get sick?”
They’re all getting sick from the silver nitrate in True Blood. And they’ll all be dead soon enough. “Well, there are a number of viruses that can affect them.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize that. I just wish I had done something … you know … helped him somehow. I just didn’t know what to do.”
Well, I’m buying a house in Aruba and planning an early retirement as soon as the scum are all dead. “There’s probably nothing you could have done. Please don’t worry yourself.”
Pete stood and handed me his card, saying, “Please call us if you have any questions. We’re closing the case now that the perpetrator is dead.”
I thanked them and shook Pete’s hand. In the moment we touched, I saw an image of Bill pale and lifeless with a tube coming from his arm as he lay on a cold stone floor. I turned and shook the nameless man’s hand and saw an image of a meeting in some sort of conference room with about ten people in dark suits. It was too quick for me to see any faces.
As soon as they’d left, I ran into Sam’s empty office and sat down. My heart was beating wildly and I could feel the sweat on my upper lip. The men from the Bureau of Vampire Affairs had kidnapped Bill and probably drained him until he was dead. And apparently, he had not been sick, but likely poisoned. No wonder his condition had worsened when he stopped feeding from me and drank more True Blood.
I had no idea what silver nitrate was, but I knew that vampires could be subdued with silver, so it made sense that drinking True Blood with some sort of derivative of silver in it would make them sick.
I knew I had to tell someone what I’d discovered. More vampires were likely sick and being drained at that very moment. I pulled my cell phone out of my apron pocket and began to scroll through my numbers.
The thought of trying to explain myself to a dimwit like Bud Dearborn was not appealing. Like everyone else in this town, he thought I was crazy. And he’d been completely worthless in investigating Bill’s disappearance.
I came to my recent calls and hit “call” when I saw Michael McManus’s number. He was the district attorney in Shreveport—someone of much higher authority than Bud Dearborn. He answered, fortunately, and I began to tell him my story. When he asked me how I knew what I told him, I said that I’d overheard the men from the BVA talking at their table.
“You did the right thing in calling me, Ms. Stackhouse. I’ll look into this right away.”
“Thank you so much.”
“Have you called anyone else?”
“Good. For your own safety, please don’t mention this to anyone else.”
He assured me that he would take my story very seriously and I hung up feeling a little less shaky.
I finished my shift and left for home more exhausted than usual since I’d had no sleep the night before. I let my shields down as soon as I left the bar, which was a good thing, because as I approached my house, I “heard” people.
I pulled over and parked on the side of the road and watched the entrance to Hummingbird Road for a moment. An unmarked police-looking car turned and drove towards my house, and I knew that there were even more people waiting for me there.
I turned around and drove towards the interstate and got on, heading nowhere in particular. Had the men in Merlotte’s sensed that I knew what was going on? I began to panic.
I pulled my cell phone from my purse and called Michael McManus again.
“Ms. Stackhouse. How are you?”
“Not good, Mr. McManus. There are police cars at my house. I think those men from the BVA are having me arrested or something. What should I do? Can you help me?”
I realized I’d left Pete’s card in Sam’s office at work and didn’t know his last name, so I couldn’t tell Mr. McManus who he was.
“Yes, of course. Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. I’m getting into my car now and can meet you in Monroe in about 30 minutes.”
I looked up to see a sign on the interstate: Monroe 12 miles.
“How did you know I was headed towards Monroe?”
There was a beat of silence before he answered, “I didn’t. Is that where you are?”
I closed the phone, rolled my window down, and chucked the phone out the window.
I took the next exit, and found a windy back road that lead me towards the road to Shreveport. I decided that I needed to pay a visit to Eric Northman.
I’d been afraid of Eric when I first met him and didn’t think I could trust him, but sadly, he seemed like the safest bet for me at the moment. If I could tell him what I’d learned from the BVA agents, maybe he could investigate it himself and maybe he could protect me until this was straightened out. I knew I couldn’t go home.
As scared as I was, my fear actually increased when I pulled into the Fangtasia parking lot and saw the sign indicating that it was closed. Eric was my last hope and I had no idea what was going on here.
I parked my car and closed my eyes and focused, trying to control my fear. I felt a human and a void where a vampire should be. I got out of my car, heading for the front door of the bar. My knees felt wobbly and I felt drained—drained of hope. I approached the door and wondered whether I’d made a mistake coming here for help. But I had no idea what else to do. I raised my hand and knocked on the door.