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Dead But Not Forgotten

Charlaine Harris

  Ace Anthologies Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner









  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

  A Penguin Random House Company

  Copyright © 2014 by Charlaine Harris, Inc.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

  ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-14050-9

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Harris, Charlaine.

  Dead but not forgotten : stories from the world of Sookie Stackhouse / edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner.—First edition.

  pages cm

  ISBN 978-0-425-27174-2 (hardback)

  1. Stackhouse, Sookie (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Paranormal fiction, American. I. Harris, Charlaine, editor. II. Kelner, Toni L. P., editor. III. Title.

  PS648.O33D42 2014




  Ace hardcover edition / December 2014

  Cover illustration by Lisa Desimini.

  Cover design by Judith Lagerman.

  First published as an audio book by Audible.

  The Edgar® name is a registered service mark of the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



  Ace Anthologies Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

  Title Page


  Introduction by Charlaine Harris

  NOBODY’S BUSINESS by Rachel Caine

  TYGER, TYGER by Christopher Golden


  TAPROOT by Jeffrey J. Mariotte


  LOVE STORY by Jeanne C. Stein

  THE MILLION-DOLLAR HUNT by Jonathan Maberry

  BORDERLINE DEAD by Nicole Peeler


  DON’T BE CRUEL by Bill Crider

  WHAT A DREAM I HAD by Nancy Holder

  ANOTHER DEAD FAIRY by Miranda James

  THE BAT-SIGNAL by Suzanne McLeod


  WIDOWER’S WALK by MaryJanice Davidson




  I have to admit I was dubious about this project when Steve Feldberg at Audible first proposed it. I thought it would be strange to see my characters from someone else’s viewpoint, and I thought it would be embarrassing to invite other writers to jump into my characters. But as I mulled the idea over for a few weeks, it occurred to me that I had already seen my characters from another viewpoint, on True Blood. Maybe seeing them through another prism would be just as interesting.

  Gradually, I began to see how much fun this project might be, especially with Toni L. P. Kelner, friend and coeditor on so many anthologies, riding shotgun. We made up a list of writers who had let me know they’d enjoyed the books. To my pleasure, they all seemed excited at the idea.

  I have been delighted with the stories we received. Each one has provided me with a sort of affectionate good-bye to the world where I lived for so long, and the people I created to populate that world.



  Rachel Caine was enthralled by Kevin and Kenya, the Bon Temps police officers who appear in most of the Sookie books. She wanted to see more of their personal lives and to find out exactly how they came to realize they were really made for each other. Here’s Rachel’s version of their vampire-imperiled courtship, which also involves swamp water, addicts, and other assorted romantic shenanigans.


  Hoo boy, it was hot. Though saying it was hot in Bon Temps, Louisiana, was a little like saying water was wet; even this late in the season, well into what probably felt like fall in other parts of the country, it was a sticky, steamy day. Like most other days.

  Kevin Pryor reached for the controls of the air-conditioning on the police cruiser, but before he could get to them, his partner, Kenya Jones, was already there, expertly adjusting the knobs to get just the right mix of dry and cold. She also got out a thermos full of cold water, wetted a small washcloth, and handed it to him.

  “Are you saying I stink?” he asked her, and made quick use of it, swabbing his filthy, sweaty face, neck, and hands. Not much he could do about the shirt; it was going to be one of those challenges that might be too big for regular laundry, and his mother would give him a lecture about taking better care of his things even though he was a grown-ass man.

  Kenya didn’t quite smile. “I wouldn’t say that.” Which was her way of saying that she was too polite. In fact, he smelled like rot and swamp, because he’d had to bend over and fish out the rotting suitcase from the green, stagnant pond and open it up to be sure there wasn’t anything unpleasant in it, like body parts. There hadn’t been. Just somebody’s sad mess of clothes and some papers too rotted away to read.

  They’d gotten the call about a suitcase floating in the pond just an hour ago, and both of them had, without discussion, decided to put it at the top of their to-do list. Bon Temps was a sleepy little backwoods place, but it still had its more-than-fair share of meth-heads, criminals, losers, and killers.

  Some of their killers were vampires.

  He didn’t like to think all vampires were killers, because some of the ones he’d met, like Bill Compton, generally seemed to be good people, wanting to live whatever kind of life they had without trouble, but he understood that there was a spectrum in the undead, like there was in the living. Good and bad and shades between. One thing he’d learned early on as a cop: People were rarely on one side of the line or the other. Good people did bad things. Bad people did good things. You had to take it on a case-by-case basis.

  “That was strange, wasn’t it?” Kenya asked as she rewetted the washcloth and ran it over her exposed skin. He found himself watching that too closely, mind going blank, and had to blink and look away. Kenya was off-limits, obviously. First, she was his partner. Second, she was just about his polar opposite in every way—Amazon tall, rounded, built like Venus, if Venus could bench-press the weight of a grown man. And she was black, which didn’t matter to him a hill of beans, but he knew it ma
ttered in the landscape of Bon Temps society. Such as that was. It most certainly mattered to his mother. She didn’t even like him riding with Kenya all day; after all, she was from a generation that had gotten all froth-mouthed over those people going to the same restrooms.

  He loved his mother. He just didn’t like her very much.

  “You mean the suitcase?” he asked, dragging his mind back to the case—the literal case—they were working on. “Could have been some pissed-off boyfriend tossing his girl’s clothes in the water during an argument. Or somebody’s idea of recycling. No sign of foul play, at least. It’s just junk.”

  Kenya nodded. She was frowning a little bit, but there hadn’t been anything in the suitcase that either of them could point to as something that shouldn’t have been tossed out. If there had been ID or a passport or cash or jewelry, that’d be one thing, but an old, scarred Samsonite with one good latch filled with threadbare clothes . . . “All right,” she said. “I’ll write it up in case something comes up on it. I checked missing persons. We got three, but none of them would fit the clothes in that bag.”

  The clothes had been for a generously sized woman without much sense of style. Generic stuff, sun-faded from flapping on a laundry line. Which, now that Kevin followed that train of thought along the tracks, didn’t exactly support the theory of a spat with a girlfriend. Women of that age, and that particular style, didn’t generally go in for fiery domestic arguments. When those kinds of women had fights, they were quiet, full of resentment, and the parties involved rarely threw things into stagnant ponds out of spite.

  “Maybe we ought to head back,” Kenya said, and cracked open the window. “I am not going to be friendly all day long with that shirt.”

  It did stink pretty bad, and he could feel the sticky chill of it now that the A/C was drying the fabric, slimy against his chest. In this job, you tended to get accustomed to bad smells; a couple of bodies rotting in the hot Louisiana summer adjusted your nose real fast. But this was different.

  “Right,” he said, and put the cruiser in gear. “Back to the barn.”

  Nothing in Bon Temps was a long drive, unless you went out into the fringe communities, and that was mostly about the quality of the roads, not the distance. So in under five minutes they were back on what passed for the main drag. They passed Merlotte’s, which looked like it had a decent midday crowd going. He found himself craving lunch all of a sudden, and he caught Kenya’s longing glance in that direction, too. Last thing he wanted was to wear swamp stink into a restaurant, though. Shower, fresh shirt, and then lunch.

  Of course, it never happened.

  They were a block away from the station when Marie Sandeman came running out in the street towing her ragged little boy along behind her and waved them down as if she were bringing in a jet for a landing.

  “You’re kidding,” Kenya said, and glowered at the woman. Marie was none too stable at the best of times, and this didn’t look like it was going to be one of her better days. She hadn’t combed her hair, and she probably hadn’t slept much, either, from the dark rings around her eyes and the pale, sweaty set of her face. Thin as a stick insect, so thin he could see her ribs under the crop top she was wearing. Her kid didn’t look much cleaner, but at least he was better fed. Kevin sincerely hoped that the broad, dark smear on the boy’s cheek was mud.

  “You gotta help me!” Marie shouted, and pounded on the hood of the police car for emphasis.

  “Oh hell, she did not,” Kenya said, and had her door open before Kevin could turn off the engine. “Marie Sandeman! Take your hands off the car!”

  Marie held up her hand in a trembling pledge to be good as she stepped back. Kenya fixed her with a blank, intimidating stare as Kevin exited the vehicle and came around to the front of the car near Marie. Kenya held back. It was the normal way they approached someone like Marie. He’d made his peace with the fact that in their partnership, he was the less intimidating one.

  “You gotta help me,” Marie repeated. Her little boy crumpled up a corner of his dirty, oversized Superman T-shirt and stuffed it in his mouth. His dark eyes were as wide as dinner plates. “He’s in my house!”

  That changed things, and Kevin heard it in the tone of his partner’s voice as she said, “Who is, Marie?”

  “My dealer—” Her brain must have caught up with her mouth, because she stopped midconfession (it would have been drugs) and looked sideways. Marie was a real bad liar. “His name’s Quentin. He won’t leave. He’s tearin’ shit up in there!”

  “Is he high, Marie?” Kenya managed to sound warm and calm and strong all at the same time. Mostly, Kevin figured, it was for the boy’s benefit. They’d handled Marie so many times that kindness had generally gone out the window, along with Marie’s self-respect.

  “Probably . . . ?”

  Kenya nodded to Kevin and got back into the cruiser. He delayed long enough to say, “You go get yourself a soda or something, Marie. Don’t go home until we deal with this, all right?”

  Marie might not be as smart as your average set of tools, but she understood an opening when she saw one. “Ain’t got no money,” she said, and took on a stubborn, defensive look. “Ain’t my fault, I had to run out of there so fast!”

  Kenya didn’t so much as blink. Kevin sighed, pulled out his wallet, and gave Marie a five, which she snatched from his fingers with rabid eagerness.

  She looked down at her little boy as she stuffed the cash in her pocket. “See? Cops ain’t always bad. Just mostly.”

  Kevin shook his head and slammed the car door as Kenya flipped on the lights. No need for the siren. Marie didn’t live that far away, and there wasn’t any traffic to speak of between them and the destination.

  “I already hate this day,” Kenya said. “You know we have to go in her house.”

  “I know,” he said. “Bright side is, you won’t notice how bad my shirt stinks anymore.”

  Marie’s screen door was pretty useless, with a half-busted top hinge and most of the screen ripped into sharp-edged tatters. Old damage, rusty at the ends. Behind it, the front door hung wide open.

  “Don’t look good,” Kenya said. “Left or right?”

  “Left,” Kevin said. She nodded, made a silent three-count, and eased into the darkness, going right. Kevin moved with her. They clicked their lights on within a second of each other.

  It wasn’t better than the last time he’d seen the place. The floor was choked with discarded clothes, broken toys, bottles . . . basically the worst footing in the world if they had to move fast. Kevin swept the corners with his flashlight, but there was no sign of an intruder, unless you counted the roaches scurrying to avoid the glare. The stench of old diapers and rotting trash made the swampy aroma from his shirt seem almost soothing.

  It was also hotter than hell. He guessed Marie had forgotten to pay the electric bill again, or else couldn’t afford to. What she could afford was meth, and he spotted some on the coffee table, right next to the open pack of fruit snacks her kid had probably been eating. Time to call social services again.

  He heard the shuffling sound the same time Kenya did, and both their lights moved to pinpoint the doorway that led into the kitchen. Kenya moved like a tiger as she closed the distance from the other side, and despite the fact that this was damn dangerous, Kevin couldn’t help admiring her. Moments like these, she was so beautiful it hurt. Not that he’d ever say so.

  They paused on either side of the kitchen doorway, and Kenya gave him a nod, which was their sign that she’d let him go in first and low, while she covered high. They both moved their lights to converge, and pinned the intruder in place in the beams.

  He wasn’t exactly—right. Kevin took that in at a glance—the wide, wild, red-rimmed eyes; the matted long hair; the pallid face and red lips. Maybe he’d come to Marie’s house looking to score.

  He was holding a dead cat. That was why his
lips were so red, and dripping.

  “Jesus,” Kenya said. She sounded disgusted. “Drop the cat and put your damn hands up.”

  He dropped the cat, all right, but it turned out that in his other hand he had a gun, and he used it. He shot wild; the bullet buried itself in the wall a good three feet to the right. Kevin fired back and heard Kenya do the same.

  One of them must have hit him, because the junkie yelped and staggered back as he dropped his gun.

  Kevin surged forward. “Down! Get down on the floor!” A fate worse than death, to lie on that floor, but his heart was ripping itself loose in adrenaline-fueled pounding, and he wasn’t feeling particularly sympathetic.

  The wild man bared stained teeth at him and knocked Kevin out of his way as easily as if he were a blow-up toy. It felt like being hit by a sledgehammer in the chest, and Kevin was aware of leaving the ground, a second of motion, and then a hard, rattling impact against the solid bulk of the refrigerator.

  Kenya let out a wordless yell and fired, but the man was damn fast as well as damn strong, and she missed him as he smashed through the cloudy back window of the kitchen, launching himself out to the straggly grass of the lawn. He was already at a dead run when Kevin staggered forward to look. He couldn’t seem to get his lungs to work, and for a panicked second or two he thought his chest had been crushed . . . and then his paralyzed solar plexus let go, and he whooped in a hungry breath.

  Kenya was right there, holding him up while he got his legs under him again. “You all right?” she asked, and he nodded without speaking and motioned her on. She gave him a doubting look but kicked open the back door and sprinted after the intruder, who had already vaulted the back fence.

  Get it together, Kevin told himself, and stumbled through the mess of the living room out to the front yard, then to the cruiser. Once inside, he caught his breath and turned the key. It was as if gunning the engine started something inside him, too, and he snapped back into focus with a vengeance. Still shaking, but this time it was with pure, white-hot rage.