Home > Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)(13)

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)(13)
Author: Charlaine Harris

The doorman was just as startled to see me as I was to see him. He wasn't a fairy--but he was fae. I'd met fairies who'd filed their teeth to look the way this creature's did naturally: an inch long, pointed, curved slightly inward. The doorman's ears weren't pointed, but I didn't think it was surgical alteration that had made them flatter and rounder than human ears. The alien effect was lessened by his thick, fine hair, which was a rich auburn color and lay smooth, about three inches long, all over his head. The effect was not that of a hairstyle, but of an animal's coat.

"What are you?" we asked each other simultaneously.

It would have been funny . . . in another universe.

"What's happening?" Sam said behind me, and I jumped. I stepped all the way inside the club with Sam right on my heels, and the heavy metal door clanged shut behind us. After the dazzling sunlight, the long fluorescent bulbs that lit the hall looked doubly bleak.

"I'm Sookie," I said, to break the awkward silence.

"What are you?" the creature asked again. We were still standing awkwardly in the narrow hallway.

Dermot's head popped out of a doorway. "Hey, Sookie," he said. "I see you've met Bellenos." He stepped out into the hall and took in my expression. "Haven't you ever seen an elf before?"

"I haven't, thanks for asking," muttered Sam. Since he was much more knowledgeable about the supe world than I was, I realized that elves must be pretty rare.

I had a lot of questions about Bellenos's presence, but I wasn't sure if I had any right to ask them, especially after my faux pas with Sam. "Sorry, Bellenos. I did meet a half elf once with teeth like yours. Mostly, though, I know fairies who file their teeth to look that way. Pleased to meet you," I said with a huge effort. "This is my friend Sam."

Sam shook hands with Bellenos. The two were much the same height and build, but I noticed that Bellenos's slanted eyes were dark brown, matching the freckles on his milky skin. Those eyes were curiously far apart, or perhaps his face was broader across the cheekbones than normal? The elf smiled at Sam, and I caught a glimpse of the teeth again. I shuddered and looked away.

Through an open door I glimpsed a large dressing room. There was a long counter running along one wall, which was lined with a brightly lit mirror. The counter was strewn with cosmetics, makeup brushes, blow-dryers, hair curlers and hair straighteners, bits of costume, razors, a magazine or two, wigs, cell phones . . . the assorted debris of people whose jobs depended on their appearance. Some high stools were set haphazardly around the room, and there were tote bags and shoes everywhere.

From farther down the hall Dermot called, "Come into the office."

We went down the hall and crowded into a small room. Somewhat to my disappointment, the exotic and gorgeous Claude had a completely prosaic office--cramped, cluttered, and windowless. Claude had a secretary, a woman dressed in a JCPenney women's business suit. She could not have looked more incongruous in a strip club. Dermot, who was evidently the master of ceremonies today, said, "Nella Jean, this is our dear cousin Sookie."

Nella Jean was dark and round, and her bitter-chocolate eyes were almost a match for Bellenos's, though her teeth were reassuringly normal. Her little cubbyhole was right next door to Claude's office; in fact, I conjectured that it had been converted from a storage closet. After a disparaging look at Sam and me, Nella Jean seemed more than ready to retreat to her own space. She shut her office door with an air of finality, as if she knew we were going to do something unsavory and she wanted nothing to do with us.

Bellenos shut Claude's office door, too, closing us in a room that would have been crowded with two of us, much less five. I could hear music coming from the club proper (or rather, the club improper), and I wondered what was happening out there. Did strippers rehearse? What did they make of Bellenos?

"Why the surprise visit?" Claude asked. "Not that I'm not delighted to see you."

He wasn't delighted to see me at all, though he'd invited me to drop by Hooligans more than once. It was clear from his sulky mouth that he'd never believed I'd come to see him at the club unless he was onstage stripping. Of course, Claude's sure everyone in the world wants to see him take off his clothes, I thought. Did he just not enjoy visitors, or was there something he didn't want me to know?

"You need to tell us why Sookie's feeling more and more fae," Sam said abruptly.

The three fae males turned to look at Sam simultaneously.

Claude said, "Why do we need to tell her that? And why are you concerning yourself with our family affairs?"

"Because Sookie wants to know why, and she's my friend," Sam said. His face was hard, his voice very level. "You should be educating her about her mixed blood instead of living in her house and leeching off her."

I didn't know where to look. I hadn't known Sam was so opposed to my cousin and my great-uncle staying with me, and he really didn't need to give his opinion. And Claude and Dermot weren't leeching off me; they bought groceries, too, and they cleaned up after themselves very carefully. Sometimes. It was true that my water bill had jumped (and I had said something to Claude about that), but nothing else had cost me money.

"In fact," Sam said, when they continued to glare at him in silence, "you're staying with her to make sure she'll be more fae, right? You're encouraging that part of her to strengthen. I don't know how you're doing that, but I know you are. My question is: Are you doing this just for the warmth of it, the companionship, or do you have a plan in mind for Sookie? Some kind of secret fairy plot?"

The last words were more like an ominous rumble than Sam's normal voice.

"Claude's my cousin and Dermot's my great-uncle," I said automatically. "They wouldn't try to . . ." And I let the thought trail off dismally. If I'd learned anything over the past few years, it was not to make stupid assumptions. The idea that family would not harm you was a stupid assumption of the first order.

"Come see the rest of the club," Claude said suddenly. Before we could think about it, he'd hustled us out of the office and down the hall. He swung open the door to the club proper, and Sam and I went into it.

I guess all clubs and bars look basically the same--tables and chairs, some attempt at decor or theme, an actual bar, a stage with stripper poles, and some kind of booth for sound. In those respects, Hooligans was no different.

But all the creatures that turned to the door when we entered . . . all of them were fae. It came to me slowly and inevitably as I looked from face to face. No matter how human they looked (and most of them could "pass"), each one had a trace of fae blood of one kind or another. A beautiful female with flame red hair was part elf. She'd had her teeth filed down. A long, slim male was something I'd never encountered before.

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