35 A Pale Horse Named Death
I was just beginning to think it was time to head home when the Hep V vampires attacked. The social erupted into complete chaos, humans were screaming and running and healthy vampires were fighting infected vampires. A vampire approached me looking confused. "You aren't a human, but you aren't a vampire either," he said.
"I'm vampire enough to kick your sorry ass," I said. I attacked him and with a branch from a fallen tree I staked him. I stood up covered in goo and looked around. "Rachel! Sookie!" I called.
"Lily, help!" I turned to see Willa fighting off an infected vampire, who was trying to attack a group of humans that she was shielding. Willa and I were still not the best of friends, but without Eric in between us, tolerating her had become a lot easier.
I attacked the vampire and pushed her away from Willa. "Get those humans out of here!" I told her. I fought the vampire until there was a sharp whistle and she, as well as all the other infected vampires, disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.
I looked around at the scene; there were a couple of dead humans and lots of piles of goo, it was impossible to tell whether they had been infected vampires or not. I saw Rachel standing alone and I ran to her. "Are you okay? Where's Alcide."
"I'm fine, he's okay. He ran after Sam. Those vamps took Nicole."
"Oh my god."
"They took Holly and Arlene, too," Jason told us. There was a loud strangled cry, followed by a few shorter ones. We turned towards it. Sookie approached the car and we followed behind her.
Lettie Mae Daniels, Tara's mother, knelt on the ground in a pile of goo. "They killed her, they killed my Tara."
We managed to get everyone inside so we could treat injuries and regroup. I had set Rachel up at the bar with Lafayette and they were talking quietly and drinking heavily. Alcide and Sam came back inside and I quickly joined them, Bill, and Andy. "Any luck?" I asked.
Sam shook his head. "No, we lost their scent."
"They'll be nesting," Bill noted. "They'll go for abandoned buildings to sleep in during the day."
"Jason, you take Violet and check out the old Reeve's place, I'll go to the slaughterhouse," Andy instructed.
"I'll come with you," Bill told him.
"Like hell you will," Andy argued.
"We need to get these people home safe," Sam said.
"I can help pair the vampires with a human to protect," I offered. Sam nodded and motioned for me to follow him.
I sat at the bar with Lafayette drinking straight out of a bottle of whisky he'd handed me. "I didn't even want to come to this stupid social," I mumbled.
"I'm surprised you aren't the number one supporter of Sam's plan."
I rolled my eyes. "It's not that I don't like the plan, it's a good idea. It's just that I don't even know why I'm still here, Lala."
"I've been asking myself the same damn question." He shook his head. "But me, I grew up in this dump. You don't belong here, you never have. You should take your man and run before one of you turns up dead."
"In what world do you get to leave the ring and declare victory?" I asked dryly.
Lafayette shook his head. "Sugar, don't make this your fight. Run before it all comes crashing down."
I looked around. "Looks to me like it's already crashed."
"Not for you, not yet."
Alcide came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. "Let's get you home."
"Take my advice, Rayray."
I stood up and let Alcide lead me out to his truck. We didn't talk the entire way back to our apartment. When we got to our room he finally spoke, "You ok?"
"Tara's dead and they took Nicole." I shook my head. "I wish I could take Lafayette's advice. I wish I could leave. But then who takes care of Sookie, and Jason, and Jessica, and everyone else?"
"They aren't your responsibility."
"I know, and I can't even help them. I'm just a stupid human! I can't save anyone."
"You need some rest, you'll feel better in the morning."
"Will I? Because Tara is still going to be dead and those Hep V vamps are still going to be hunting us."
"I can't promise you it's all going to be okay, but I will be here for you. If you want to go, we'll go."
"When this is all over, when Holly and Arlene and Nicole are back, I want to leave. Can we do that?"
"Sure, we can go anywhere you want."
"New York, or London, or somewhere else completely different. A city where we can be anonymous and we don't have to worry about people knowing every single damn thing that happens in our life. I want a clean slate."
"Then let's find those fangers and start our new life."
The following morning we met everyone at the church again. We were late, due to me dragging my feet as I did every morning. Andy, Jason, Sam, and Sookie were talking in hushed voices away from the rest of the parishioners. Lily appeared by my side and I jumped, six months later and I still wasn't used to my sister being a vampire. "Good, you're just in time."
"For what?" I asked. I stifled a yawn, whishing I hadn't passed up Alcide's offer of a second cup of coffee that morning. I hadn't exactly slept peacefully the night before.
"Sookie found a dead girl in the woods."
"Someone we know?" I asked.
Lily shook her head. "No, that's the thing. Sook said she's never seen her before. We were hoping to track down where she's from; maybe these new vamps came from the same town. You didn't recognize any of them did you?"
I thought for a moment, and then shook my head. "No, I don't think so."
"We're going to take a look at the body, maybe she's got some ID or something."
I frowned. "I don't think I can handle seeing another body so soon after last night, is it okay if I sit this one out?"
Lily nodded. "Sure, I'll give you a call when we find out where she's from."
"Yeah." I turned to Alcide. "Can we…" I searched my mind for something I needed to do other than go home and wait.
"Let's drive back to Shreveport and get some breakfast," Alcide suggest. To Lily he said, "We'll catch up with you all later."
"Drink some coffee, I can tell you need it," Lily said. Her grin obviously forced.
"Will do," I mumbled. I let Alcide put his arm around my waist and lead me back to his truck.
Without Rachel and Alcide, our group drove out to the woods where Sookie had seen the body. Andy grumbled on the way about dead ends, and Jason talked animatedly in an attempt to lighten the mood. When we reached the woods we all piled out and Sookie led us to the girl. "There she is."
Jason knelt down next to her. "Animals got to her," he said, picking up her hand, which had clearly been gnawed on. As my stomach churned, I was very glad Alcide had taken Rachel home.
"I hate to be morbid, but does she have any fingerprints left?" Sookie asked.
"Don't need 'em." Jason reached into her pocket and pulled out her wallet, he presented a card to Andy triumphantly.
Andy looked at it and rolled his eyes. "This is a Starbucks card." Jason quickly pulled out the girls ID and handed it to Andy. "Mary Beth, from Saint Alice."
"That's just a few towns over," Sookie said.
"I'll call their sheriff," Andy said. He stepped away, dialing on his phone. After a moment he sighed. "No answer."
"Guess we're taking a road trip to Saint Alice."
As we returned to our cars, I considered not calling Rachel. She was obviously not in any condition to be out in the field with us, but I knew she'd be upset if I left her out of this. Plus, having Alcide around might come in handy.
She answered on the first ring. "Find anything?"
"Yeah, we're going to drive out to Saint Alice and see what's going on," I told her.
"You think the Hep V vampires are nesting there?" She asked.
"I don't know, but that's where the dead girl was from. You don't have to come with us, I just thought I should let you know."
"That's only like…" I heard her mumble something to Alcide and the she returned to the phone. "Five minutes away. We'll meet you guys there."
Saint Alice was a ghost town. As we drove down the main street, we didn't encounter a single person. What we did find was grim, boarded up shops with spray paint graffiti reading "HELP US" and "LEAVE US IN PEACE." We stopped the cars and got out slowly. I walked down the street reading the desperate cries written on every building.
I heard another car pull up and turned to see Alcide and Rachel getting out. Rachel stopped in front of the church and read the words written on the side of the building. Alcide put an arm around her.
"Guys!" Sookie called. We all made our way to her at various paces. Behind the hardware store, in an empty lot, was a giant hole. I knew from the smell what I would find when I got closer, but I couldn't help myself. Piled on top of each other, in a hole the size of a city block, were hundreds of bodies. I turned and put my arm out to stop Rachel from getting anywhere near it. "They killed or took everyone."
Andy shook his head. "Let's go to Mary Beth's house, maybe there's something there." He didn't sound hopeful.
The whole town felt like death. It was as if the ghosts of these poor people had left their emotional threads of terror, and despair behind and they had tangled the town in a net of desolation. We went into the home of the dead woman and the house didn't feel any different. "This is her," Sookie said.
We walked into the kitchen where a pizza dinner was still laid out. "How long do you think they were here?" Lily asked.
"Hard to say," Andy said.
Jason bit into a piece of pizza. "Two and a half days ago."
"So this was one of the last towns to be hit before they turned to Bon Temps," Sookie said. "Why would they stay here?"
"Sometimes it doesn't feel like you have a choice," I mumbled.
"Let's spread out and see if we can find anything," Sam instructed. I followed Sam and Sookie upstairs, Alcide right behind me. Lily stayed on the ground floor with Andy and Jason.
"That is two day old pizza, Jason, put it down," I heard her reprimand.
Sookie and Sam walked into one room and I walked into another. It was a nursery and there was a crib in the corner. I walked towards it, empty of course. "Everyone is dead, even the kid." I shook my head, trying not to hold back the tears that had been threatening to spill since I'd gotten into town. "I can't even blame those vampires, you know? They're sick. They didn't ask for this either."
Alcide put his hand on my shoulder and I turned around and hugged him, pressing my head against his chest and finally breaking down. "We aren't going to let this happen to Bon Temps."
"But it's not just Bon Temps, it's everywhere. Hep V is everywhere. We can't stop this and we can't outrun it either."
"Then we fight it."
"It'll be sundown soon, we should get going," Sam said from the doorway.