Pamela roughly dropped a box on Eric’s desk. “Do I even want to know?” she asked. Her tone oozed sarcasm.
“Aww, you opened it?” he said, seeing the return address on the flap.
“Protocol, Eric. You’d cut up my credit cards if I let a bomb get through the mail room.”
“Too true. Let’s see what we have here.” He rubbed his hands together and rummaged through the Styrofoam packing peanuts. Pink puffs showered across the floor.
“Mother of God!” Pam said when he pulled out a handful of bubble wrap and a glass bottle. It was plastered in holographic children’s stickers that sparkled in the harsh overhead light. “I’d rather we got the bomb. What is that?”
Eric’s eyes shined with amusement. He dug out two more bottles, each sporting similar homemade labels. “I believe, dearest Pamela, that it is blood fit for a 12-year-old girl.”
She pursed her lips. “Your idea of foreplay is getting creepier by the decade.”
He hummed in thought. “Would you believe me if I said I’m not even trying to bed this one?”
“No, I wouldn’t. Whatever sick game this is between you, your maker, and the bloodbag, leave me the hell out of it. It’s getting weird.”
“Too weird for you, Pam?” he said, distracted by his gift. The petite blond stomped around picking up the packing materials, knowing she would be expected to incinerate the evidence immediately.
Eric dismissed her with a flick of his hand. He wiped down each bottle carefully with rubbing alcohol to rid them of any traces of human scent and set them on the edge of his desk where they might be noticed. It was an utterly kooky thing to do, but Rosalyn’s unexpected gag gift could not be better timed. He was expecting Godric this evening. There would not be a more natural chance to inquire about his maker’s mail if he’d dreamed it up himself.
It was not long before Eric heard the distinctly squeaky thwack of someone coming down the staff-only hall in flip flops. It was accompanied by the tittering click of Pam’s overpriced heels. He surfaced from the paperwork he had been plowing through to see her usher in the family patriarch. “Grandsire has arrived, Maker.”
“So he has,” Eric said, looking him up and down. Godric sauntered in with his hands jammed deep in the pockets of a pair of slouchy grey sweatpants. He sported a backwards baseball cap and a hoodie. As Pam closed the door, she gestured at her grandsire’s outfit and threw her hands up in total frustration.
Godric took his hat off and set it on his progeny’s desk, then ran a hand through his lustrous brown locks. “Please tell me you rushed a fraternity,” Eric said, tossing a stack of tax files aside.
“No,” he replied, not seeing the humor in the joke. He scrubbed meanly at his face with the cuffs of his sweater, rubbing off the powdery blush he had used to make his pale cheeks appear more human. His garments reeked of hot grease and cheap beer.
“So?” Eric said.
“She’s Fae, Eric. Not much, but I’ve no doubt it is why Compton is here.” Eric swore. He had suspected as much when the strange woman and the vampire spy came into his club three days ago. With little experience in the elusive creatures, his maker had agreed to drop in and do a quick bit of undercover work for him at her place of employment. “I am warning you right now, you stay clear of that woman. Fairies are your worst nightmare.”
“Mmm. But tasty, no?” Eric had never actually eaten one, given their rarity, but they were rumored to be deliriously intoxicating.
“They are as vicious as they are temperamental and fickle.” Godric’s eyes drifted momentarily to the edge of the desk, then back to his progeny. “I am not joking. Do not make me command you.”
“Aww, I love it when you boss me around. I get all nostalgic.”
He ignored Eric’s snark. “I find it hard to believe there just ‘happens’ to be a lost Fae child wandering around in – what is that backwater called?”
Godric wrinkled his nose. “In Bon Temps. Someone has left her there to hide her, for reasons we have yet to understand.”
“She’s still an asset in my area. What if Compton means to remove her? How can you expect me not to intervene? The queen could be trying to entrap me – make me look incompetent.”
“You let Compton fool with her until we know more. Mark my words, son: it will be only a matter of time before he destroys himself over her. Accursed creatures, the Fae.” Godric was clearly disturbed.
“‘Observe, reflect, and play the long game’?” Eric asked. It was the motto his maker had always used to warn him against hasty decisions. Godric bit the inside of his cheek and nodded. “What did you think of the shifter’s bar?”
“Merlotte’s? It is truly vile. You can hear the humans’ organs clogging as they stuff their faces with garbage.”
Eric’s mouth twisted into an amused smirk. “You want a change of clothes?”
Eric dug out a shirt with the Fangtasia logo and a clean pair of his own running shorts from a cupboard. When he turned to hand them over, he caught his maker glancing back at the desk. “Oh, you noticed my gift?”
“What are these?” Godric leaned forward and picked up a bottle. “‘Friendship is Magic?'” he said, reading the label. “Why are there cartoon horses on this blood?” My Little Ponies pranced and shook their glittery manes, sending rainbow colors skipping about.
“What? You don’t ever get any fan mail since the Great Revelation?” Eric asked.
“No. Well, not like this.” Eric made a noncommittal sound. It was his age old signal for his maker to continue. Getting him to talk could be like pulling teeth. “Just a few postcards lately.” Godric turned the bottle in fascination.
“Postcards?” Eric pressed. “From where?”
“Random places. Tacoma. Newark. Arlington.”
Airports, Eric registered immediately. “And what do they say? Are they undying declarations of fealty to you? Propositions for long nights full of passionate, reckless sex?”
Godric suppressed a weak smile. “No. Just quotes.”
“Romantic quotes? Loooooove quotes?”
“Oh would you back off?” he snapped, clinking the bottle down. “They are literary quotations, if you must know.”
“Tell me one,” Eric said, crossing his arms.
Godric hesitated, then sheepishly pulled out his wallet and withdrew a battered piece of cardstock. It had been folded and refolded many times. Eric carefully opened it to reveal a famous oil painting of Yosemite Valley. It was a lush landscape filled with light and water and life. He flipped the it over. The message was written in block letters, but he was fairly certain he recognized the hand.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” – Norman Maclean
Eric furrowed his brow. “It’s sad.”
“I like it.”
“It sounds fucking sad!”
“No, child. It is beautiful. Does it not describe us perfectly?”
Eric shook his head and handed back the postcard. He was bewildered by the Celt who turned him so long ago. “Whatever. I like my…” he picked up another bottle “…’Hello Kitty Juice’ better.”
Godric took it and sniffed the cap in suspicion. It appeared to be factory sealed. “You don’t know who sent this?” He rolled the bottle in his hand, testing its weight and viscosity.
Moments ago Eric was about to throttle Ros for sending his maker melancholy cards when she had promised to help, but he suddenly saw she had given him another perfect opportunity for a little sleight of hand. “I suppose it is a secret admirer. The box didn’t have a return address.” Eric snatched up the third drink. “I’ll have this one. What do you think? It’s probably safe.” He spun it around. “‘The Power of Mjölnir!’ Sounds about my speed.” A blond hulking superhero on the sticker thrust a hammer into the sky. There were also, inexplicably, little hearts and balloons pasted on it.
Eric casually popped the container into the microwave on his bookshelf. “Don’t drink that. It could be poisoned,” Godric warned.
“With what? Ooh, maybe it’s tainted with fairy!” He waggled his eyebrows.
“I don’t like it, Eric,” he said in a growl. The microwave dinged and Godric grabbed the bottle away from his progeny before he could taste it. He snapped the cap off and took a fast drag. “Mmkkkch!” he gagged, quickly throwing a wrist over his mouth to keep from spraying it everywhere. “It tastes like burnt dog!”
“Fuck, that’s probably B Pos. Hold on, maybe one of these is O.” Eric quickly zapped the ‘Pony’ blood, this time leaving off a few seconds on the timer since his maker found it overheated. “Check this one.”
Godric took a very tiny sip, lips curling back in anticipation of something foul. He swallowed hesitantly, then ran a tongue over his teeth. A shadow of something illegible passed over his features. It was not quite a cringe.
“What’s wrong? Is it contaminated?” Eric went for the bottle, but Godric jerked it away possessively, taking another tentative drink. The Viking managed to keep his face schooled with a look of grave concern. All he wanted to do was thrust his fist in the air in victory.
“It tastes…funny.” He pursed his lips, searching for the right description. “Remember when we made that run on the Papal whorehouse?”
“Mmm, of course. In the 16th century?”
“It’s kind of like that. Like used up Medici courtesans and sullied altar boys drowned with an imitation Chianti. It’s disgusting.” He drank again, thinking.
“Hm. No, our courtesans drank themselves sick with that pricey Brunello stuff. Or was it Vin Santo?”
“Vin Santo,” Godric said wistfully. “But they cut it with water. Don’t you recall? We had to bring it to them in cases. They hardly had 10 florins between the lot of them after we robbed the church.” He passed the bottle and Eric feigned taking a swig.
“Oh right. But that Floriana – or no, Francesca was her name – her voice was divine. I can still see her sitting on that windowsill overlooking the canal. She was like a songbird, so full of music.”
“I rather remember you liked her more for her erotic artistry.”
“Either way, her throat was great.” Godric rolled his eyes. “Which was the one with the wicked wit and the even keener pen? She kept writing all those scathing pamphlets? You had to glamour her out of jail twice.”
“Gods, yes. Arabella! I had forgotten her. Scandalous political views!”
Eric passed the bottle back to his maker who, lost in recollection, took it and drank. He pressed for more details and the two reminisced for the better part of an hour, sipping (or fake sipping as it were) and laughing in turns. It had been three months since the AVL’s gala. Three months. Eric tried to sweep the number from his mind. It was too distressing.
If Godric knew he had been misled into eating, he made no comment. He wiped the back of his mouth with a hand and left the bottle when they were done, shaking his head. “That has plastic in it. It’s killing the humans, you know.” He left without further ado, sandals flapping noisily down the tiled floors of the club.
Eric briefly wondered whether being around the Fae hybrid had whet Godric’s appetite, but he quickly dismissed the idea. The Stackhouse woman’s blood had held no unique allure for him when they had met. It was her slithering snake of a choice in dates along with the admission about the telepathy that tipped him off about anything unusual. No, he decided, looking at the empty bottle of Royalty Blended left sitting on his desk. The inexplicable variable here was Rosalyn Murray. Who would ever think to send such a fantastically odd thing to a vampire? He was equal parts baffled and intrigued.
Too pleased to resist, Eric collapsed onto his leather couch with his phone.
In the dead of night, the city beyond the cold glass of Rosalyn’s hotel room was silent and twinkling. She had been staring out the window for hours, unable to sleep. Every time she had to return to D.C. in the past few months, her insomnia had grown worse. The city was overrun with fake smiles and helmet hair and young people who had been conned into thinking that all dreams should fit neatly inside ballot boxes. She had been awash in double-tongued ideas like ‘re-districting’ and ‘bottom lines’ and ‘poll numbers’ and it made her head throb. She could not believe how difficult it was to simply right one single law that was so clearly prejudiced and motivated by human fear and hate. It was eating at her. She was tired and despite all the assurances of her supporters, she was pretty sure she was alone in this battle.
Somewhere over the hum of the room’s A/C unit, deep in the recesses of her purse, she heard her phone buzz. The sound roused her from her troubled thoughts. There was only one person who texted her so late. She went to hunt the device down, leaving a misty outline of a handprint on the windowpane. It lingered a moment, then disappeared.
Horizon Wireless~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Bat. Level [U_]
Thursday 3:49am EST
You brilliant, utterly bizarre hippy.
I adore you and want to crawl inside your brain and play.
What did I do now?
Sending pic. Totally clean, scouts honor.
Rosalyn squinted at the thumbnail picture before downloading it. It looked like something on a desk. Declaring it safe, she opened it. It was a shot of one of the silly blood synthetics she had mailed Eric two weeks ago. He must have just received them. The image was followed up with another text.
Entertained company 2nite. The old man drank it, not me. Was entranced by sparkly ponies…
Lol. Great news. Very happy to hear.
Also, Thor was a B+. NASTY. (and blasphemous). Thought I made myself clear.
By my count, u still owe me 2 drinks.
Hmm. Limited stock available. Smurf Blood only. Leaves your teeth blue.
Genius. You should be in marketing.
News getting you down or problem at work?
Meh. Having trouble with the AVL’s lobbyist. He’s kind of a dick. You’re in politics, can I pick your brain about him?
I AM CALLING.
“Where are you?” Eric was furious and his tone brooked no argument.
“I’m in Washington. What’s wrong?”
“What in the name of the nine fucking realms are you doing with the AVL’s lobbyist on Capitol Hill?”
“I’m trying to get this petition rolling for education reform. It’s really been slow going.”
“I thought you were doing consulting work – getting your night class program started at more colleges! Is this not why you have been traveling?”
“Wait, what? I’ve been doing that too, but…How did you know I’ve been on the road?”
“It is my job to know!” he bellowed in panic. “Explain yourself!”
“The hell I will! Explain yourself, mister! Have you…” Her voice dropped into a hiss. “Oh my god, have you been spying on me?!”
“Goddammit woman,” He quickly recalled the post stamp from the card Godric had showed him. “Arlington, Virginia. You were in DC two months ago?”
“Yes, but – ”
“And Newark. Please for the love of the gods tell me you weren’t in New York.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I was. I don’t see what the – ”
“At the AVL headquarters?”
“Of course, I had to meet with Nan Flannigan in order to – ” Eric swore a stream of obscenities. Rosalyn heard loud banging and slamming in the background. “Just what is going on, Eric? You’re freaking out!”
“What is ‘going on’ is that I have exactly two hours, twenty-eight minutes, and nineteen seconds to get to D.C. before sunrise.”
“What?” The line went dead before Rosalyn could get an answer.