A yard away, Trudi was cut down by a shotgun blast.
The dyed dark red of her hair turned another shade of red and her open eyes stared at me forever. Chuck, the bartender, was only wounded, since the structure of the bar itself offered him some protection.
Eric was lying on top of me. Given my sore condition, that was very painful, and I started to shove at him. Then I realized that if he were hit with bullets, he would most likely survive. But I wouldn't. So I accepted his shelter gratefully for the horrible minutes of the first wave of the attack, when rifles and shotguns and handguns were fired into the suburban mansion over and over.
Instinctively, I shut my eyes while the blasting lasted. Glass shattered, vampires roared, humans screamed. The noise battered at me, just as the tidal wave of scores of brains at high gear washed over me. When it began to taper off, I looked up into Eric's eyes. Incredibly, he was excited. He smiled at me. "I knew I'd get on top of you somehow," he said.
"Are you trying to make me mad so I'll forget how scared I am?"
"No, I'm just opportunistic."
I wiggled, trying to get out from under him, and he said, "Oh, do that again. It felt great."
"Eric, that girl I was just talking to is about three feet away from us with part of her head missing."
"Sookie," he said, suddenly serious, "I've been dead for a few hundred years. I am used to it. But she is not quite gone. There is a spark. Do you want me to bring her over?"
I was shocked speechless. How could I make that decision?
And while I thought about it, he said, "She is gone."
While I stared up at him, the silence became complete. The only noise in the house was the sobbing of Farrell's wounded date, who was pressing both hands to his reddened thigh. From outside came the remote sounds of vehicles pulling out in a hurry up and down the quiet suburban street. The attack was over. I seemed to be having trouble breathing, and figuring out what I should do next. Surely there was something, some action, I should be taking?
This was as close to war as I would ever come.
The room was full of the survivors' screams and the vampires' howls of rage. Bits of stuffing from the couch and chairs floated in the air like snow. There was broken glass on everything and the heat of the night poured into the room. Several of the vampires were already up and giving chase, Joseph Velasquez among them, I noticed.
"No excuse to linger," Eric said with a mock sigh, and lifted off of me. He looked down at himself. "My shirts always get ruined when I am around you."
"Oh shit, Eric." I got to my knees with clumsy haste. "You're bleeding. You got hit. Bill! Bill!" My hair was slithering around my shoulders as I turned from side to side searching the room. The last time I'd noticed him he'd been talking to a black-haired vampire with a pronounced widow's peak. She'd looked something like Snow White, to me. Now I half-stood to search the floor and I saw her sprawled close to a window. Something was protruding from her chest. The window had been hit by a shotgun blast, and some splinters had flown into the room. One of them had pierced her chest and killed her. Bill was not in sight, among the living or the dead.
Eric pulled off his sodden shirt and looked down at his shoulder. "The bullet is right inside the wound, Sookie," Eric said, through clenched teeth. "Suck it out."
"What?" I gaped at him.
"If you don't suck it out, it will heal inside my flesh. If you are so squeamish, go get a knife and cut."
"But I can't do that." My tiny party purse had a pocketknife inside, but I had no idea where I'd put it down, and I couldn't gather my thoughts to search.
He bared his teeth at me. "I took this bullet for you. You can get it out for me. You are no coward."
I forced myself to steady. I used his discarded shirt as a swab. The bleeding was slowing, and by peering into the torn flesh, I could just see the bullet. If I'd had long fingernails like Trudi, I'd have been able to get it out, but my fingers are short and blunt, and my nails are clipped close. I sighed in resignation.
The phrase "biting the bullet" took on a whole new meaning as I bent to Eric's shoulder.
Eric gave a long moan as I sucked, and I felt the bullet pop into my mouth. He'd been right. The rug could hardly be stained any worse than it already was, so though it made me feel like a real heathen, I spat the bullet onto the floor along with most of the blood in my mouth. But some of it, inevitably, I swallowed. His shoulder was already healing. "This room reeks of blood," he whispered.
"Well, there," I said, and looked up. "That was the grossest – "
"Your lips are bloody." He seized my face in both hands and kissed me.
It's hard not to respond when a master of the art of kissing is laying one on you. And I might have let myself enjoy it – well, enjoy it more – if I hadn't been so worried about Bill; because let's face it, brushes with death have that effect. You want to reaffirm the fact that you're alive. Though vampires actually aren't, it seems they are no more immune to that syndrome than humans, and Eric's libido was up because of the blood in the room.
But I was worried about Bill, and I was shocked by the violence, so after a long hot moment of forgetting the horror around me, I pulled away. Eric's lips were bloody now. He licked them slowly. "Go look for Bill," he said in a thick voice.
I glanced at his shoulder again, to see the hole had begun to close. I picked up the bullet off the carpet, tacky as it was with blood, and wrapped it in a scrap from Eric's shirt. It seemed like a good memento, at the time. I really don't know what I was thinking. There were still the injured and dead on the floor in the room, but most of those who were still alive had help from other humans or from two vampires who hadn't joined in the chase.
Sirens were sounding in the distance.
The beautiful front door was splintered and pitted. I stood to one side to open it, just in case there was a lone vigilante in the yard, but nothing happened. I peered around the doorframe.
"Bill?" I called. "Are you okay?"
Just then he sauntered back in the yard looking positively rosy.
"Bill," I said, feeling old and grim and gray. A dull horror, that really was just a deep disappointment, filled the pit of my stomach.
He stopped in his tracks.
"They fired at us and killed some of us," he said. His fangs gleamed, and he was shiny with excitement.
"You just killed somebody."
"To defend us."
"To get vengeance."
There was a clear difference between the two, in my mind, at that moment. He seemed nonplussed.
"You didn't even wait to see if I was okay," I said. Once a vampire, always a vampire. Tigers can't change their stripes. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. I heard every warning anyone had ever fed me, in the warm drawl of home.
I turned and went back into the house, walking obliviously through the bloodstains and chaos and mess as if I saw such things every day. Some of the things I saw I didn't even register I'd seen, until the next week when my brain would suddenly throw out a picture for my viewing: maybe a close-up of a shattered skull, or a spouting artery. What was important to me at the moment was that I find my purse. I found that purse in the second place I looked. While Bill fussed with the wounded so he wouldn't have to talk to me, I walked out of that house and got in that rental car and, despite my anxiety, I drove. Being at this house was worse than the fear of big city traffic. I pulled away from the house right before the police got there.
After I'd driven a few blocks, I parked in front of a library and extricated the map from the glove compartment. Though it took twice as long as it should have, since my brain was so shell-shocked it was almost not functioning, I figured out how to get to the airport.
And that's where I went. I followed the signs that said RENTAL CARS and I parked the car and left the keys in it and walked away. I got a seat on the next flight to Shreveport, which was leaving within the hour. I thanked God I had my own credit card.
Since I'd never done it before, it took me a few minutes to figure out the pay phone. I was lucky enough to get hold of Jason, who said he'd meet me at the airport.
I was home in bed by early morning.
I didn't start crying until the next day.