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Dead & Dealing

By Artie Gallezi

Romance / Action

Prologue

Eric Northman was silently fuming at how his bar, simply named Dupuis's Bar, was doing.

It sat in an excellent location in a very busy shopping plaza with many little privately owned stores and a couple much larger corporately owned shops like Toys ' R Us and Sam's. He had been told it was one of the most sought after location in all of Shreveport. Still, he was unhappy with how little patronage his establishment was receiving. Despite his better judgement, he was having the feeling he had been tricked. Then he shook it off. He had paid a great deal of money to secure the bar's location and his human proxy was not foolish enough to betray him. Plus there was also the countless offers he had been receiving to sell and not one could be called small.

But all that seemed to count for nothing this night, he observed. He was sitting at the end of the bar with his back at the wall as he pretended to nurse a mug of beer while thought of ways to increase revenue. He could have some of the booths and tables removed to have some sort of dance floor and perhaps a small stage for live performances, but that seemed too drastic. He had already taken an ad out in several locals newspapers so it was not lack of knowledge that was the source. The prices of drinks were low enough for his tastes and he had caught the few patrons agreeing with this view.

His thoughts were interrupted by his human proxy, who also served as the bartender, approached him. "Master?"

"Yes, Alex?" Eric's tone suggested that whatever reason Alex had for interrupting him be better be good.

"There is phone call for you, master." Alex doing her best to not sound timid. "Should I take a message?"

"Who is calling?" Eric asked. "If they are curious if we are open to selling, tell them no."

"No. It's not them. It is on your cell phone. The one you had buy last week?" Alex said. "The caller ID says it is someone named Pam."

"Ah, I see." He held out a hand for the phone. "I will speak with her." Once he held the phone he said to Alex. "Take this beer away." Into the phone he said. "I am here."

"That could be anywhere." said a teasing female voice Eric knew belonged to his child, Pam. "Though I take it you are still in Shreveport."

"Yes." Eric asked. "To what do I the pleasure? Has Minnesota yielded all it has to offer as far as entertainment?"

"Yes, but that is not the reason I called you." Pam said seriously. "Have you noticed any of local Were acting strange or any sudden lack of them?"

"No, I have not." Eric was puzzled. "Why should that concern me?"

"Something is stirring." Pam said ominously. "Something in the far east among the Moshup Clan."

"Stop with the dramatics, Pam." Eric said firmly. "Now, explain."

"I met with vampire who had fled from the far east last night." Pam continued. "She was seeking her maker whom she knew was here. She fears there might be a war among the vampires and Weres."

"Where?" Eric did not like the sound of that. "Surely not every pack has joined against us."

"No." Pam reassured. "From what she said, the Weres of New York City and Long Island have a very large bone to pick with our kind." Pam paused. "She did not elaborate as to who began the hostilities, but rumor has it a pack attacked one of the sheriffs and his nest."

"Not a very smart move." Eric commented

"Yes, but what came next goes beyond very smart." Pam continued. "She said a visiting vampire was caught up in the battle captured a high ranking Were and devised a plan and completely wiped out the pack in the very same night."

"Impressive."

"That merely a small skirmish she says compared to what occurred a few months later." Pam sounded in awe. "Two, much larger packs, join forces and begin retaliating against another sheriff. The sheriff spends months searching for them and fails at every opportunity as does all those under his command."

"So he decided to call upon the aid of this vampire whom had solved the same problem for another sheriff." Eric concluded.

"Not right away. I would guess he did not wish to acknowledge he required any assistance in maintaining order." Pam said simply. "The Weres soon begin ambushing any vampire they see throughout the city including the sheriff's child."

"Then he calls upon the vampire." Eric guessed.

"No." Pam sounded smug. "The vampire came to him."

"What?"

"Because the sheriff did not issue a warning to those in his areas, he and his maker were captured." Pam's voice now had slight hint of awe and respect. "The way she heard was as soon as he awakens, he breaks his bonds, kills his guards, and frees the sheriff's child. From there he locates and rescues his maker before killing some sort of high ranking member and setting the whole building ablaze." A hint of fear mixed with Pam's awe. "He then finds their hidden bases they use for the full moon within the night and advises the sheriff to end the fighting and send a message to the other packs."

"Calm yourself, Pam." Eric warned. "What have I told you about such things?"

"Believe half of what you see, but none of what you hear." Pam recited lazily.

"It makes for an exciting tale, I grant you that." Eric admitted.

"In that case, I don't think I will be canceling my trip."

"Trip?"

"To New York City." Pam said. "I've been meaning to — "

"No!" Eric snapped, instantly leaning forward. "Don't you dare!"

"But — "

"I do not care what your reasons." Eric ordered. "Only a fool would enter New York now. To say nothing of the tension within the city."

"But it's Fashion Week in a couple of months!" Pam protested.

"What?"

"Fashion Week!" Pam repeated. "It is an industry event, lasting approximately one week, which allows fashion designers, brands to display their latest collections in runway shows. It allows both private and corporate buyers and the media to take a look at the latest trends."

"So?" Eric growled. It still surprised the lengths Pam would go for fashionable clothing. "Are there not other shows? In safer kingdoms?"

"Not in the country." Pam grumbled. "The rest of shows are in Milan and London."

"Then I suggest either arranging transportation and lodgings for those shows or simply wait until events settle down in New York." Eric offered. "As farfetched as what you have told me is, vampires do not flee without reason."

"That is true." Pam admitted.

"By the way, you would not happen to have a name for this upstart?" Eric explained. "He has certainly made enemies where he is."

"You think he'd seek refuge in Louisiana?" Pam asked. "He could easily seek shelter in Nevada or Texas. Or even to the European kingdoms."

"New Orleans is a mecca for us." Eric reminded. "With a high vampire population and Sophie-Anne's reputation, it would be the smart move and he is smart if anything."

"But would Sophie-Anne allow him to stay?" Pam sounded unsure. "He might literally bring enemies to her door."

"She would be beside herself. Once she hears of him, she will gladly extend her safety." Eric chuckled. "Between the two of them, I would not want to be on either one of their bad graces." Eric asked again. "So do you have a name? I might be able to improve my standing if I can barter his safety with the queen."

"His true name? I'm afraid none but the sheriffs know that." Pam sounded sorry. "The Weres do have name for him, however."

"What it is?" Eric asked.

"The Ductor." Pam asked. "I'm not sure what it means."

"It is Latin." Eric translated. "The Were are calling him The Leader."

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